• Budgeting for Traveling and Using a Great Rewards Credit Card to Help Along the Way

    by  • July 8, 2014 • Tagged: , , ,

    Learning about different cities, cultures and customs is educational and exciting! Everyone loves to visit different places, whether it is to visit friends or family or for a vacation. You may be wondering if it is possible to travel more without spending a lot of money. It is possible, with careful budgeting and using a travel credit card to its fullest potential. The best way to do this is to analyze your needs and then look for a credit card that will benefit you the most.

    The card that should place itself at the top of your list is the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card since it got the received the most rave reviews on comparison portals like MileCards.com. It is a useful credit card that offers plenty of perks and benefits, and when combined with good budgeting and smart shopping, it will allow you to travel more often with your hard-earned money. One of the biggest perks for cardholders is the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, which allows you to travel with a companion free for at least one year, wherever you go!

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    Just for applying for the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card and spending $2,000 in the first three months of opening the account, you will be awarded with 50,000 points. This is enough for two round-trip, economy class tickets with Southwest Wanna Get Away fares in the continental United States. The only cost to cardholders is the government taxes, which can be as low as $10 per ticket. This is definitely one of the best bonus offers available.

    When purchases are made directly with Southwest Airlines or AirTran, you will earn double points for each dollar spent on travel, another budget bonus. Double points are also awarded at A+ Rewards and Rapid Rewards Hotel and rental car partners. Purchases made directly while traveling with Southwest Airlines, such as inflight meals, Wi-Fi sessions or movies and video games will earn you double miles as well.

    Budgeting involves living within your predefined spending limits. You can use coupons, shop sales, dine at home instead of eating out and shop with a grocery list so that you don’t over spend and are not tempted to buy items you don’t need. Just cutting out a coffee every morning on your way to work can save over $300 a year! Using your Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card to pay for everyday purchases, like gas, groceries, dining out and movies will earn you one point for every dollar spent. Large purchases, such as furniture for the house, insurance for your home or car and telephone and cable or utility bills can help you accumulate more points. Make sure ahead of time that you can pay for large purchases with the credit card so that you earn points.

    Savvy cardholders will want to enroll in the Rapid Rewards dining program. Just for registering the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card, you will earn 300 bonus points. There are thousands of participating restaurants, bars and clubs across the United States that participate in the program. Every time you pay with the Rapid Rewards credit card, you will earn four reward points per dollar spent. This is another great way to earn additional points. You may think this goes against your budgeting plans, but it is okay to eat out every once in a while, especially if you are earning bonus points that can be used towards free travel!

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    The Companion Pass with Southwest Airlines is one of the best airline perks available. When you earn 110,000 points with Southwest, you are awarded the Companion Pass. The pass allows you to travel with a selected companion, such as your mother, a friend or spouse every time you fly with Southwest! It is based on a calendar year, so if you earn the 110,000 points in September, you will have the pass for the remainder of the current year, as well as for the entire following calendar year! The 50,000 bonus points earned for applying for the card count towards earning the pass too. Earning the pass can be straightforward. Points earned through Rapid Rewards partners qualify towards earning the pass. If you qualify for the card and spend $2,000 with Southwest Airlines on your Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card in the first three months of having the card, you will have 54,000 points. This gets you more than half way there! By budgeting your travel and eating expenses to make the most of your card offers, you can save money on future travel with your companion.

    Research the different card offers to find the right one to help with your particular budget. There are several offers that could be helpful at keeping your travel spending in check.

    Loan Shark Guide

    by  • July 3, 2014 • Tagged: 

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    With research suggesting that the number of illegal money-lenders operating in the UK continues to soar, read our handy guide to how to spot a loan shark and what to do if you fall victim to one.  Our guide covers the definition of a loan shark, how to handle a loan shark as well as the steps you may take to identify a loan shark.

    What is a loan shark?

    A loan shark is an illegal money – lender who will typically offer cash instantly, in exchange for poor repayment terms and may threaten violence if money is not repaid according to their expectations.

    Why loan sharks should be avoided

    Loan sharks will typically offer loans on very bad terms to their ‘clients’. As such, in repaying a loan shark you stand little chance of actually being able to repay the loan and you will usually end up paying interest and being in a perpetual cycle of debt followed by rising repayments.

    A loan shark will generally also exert undue pressure for ‘clients’ to borrow more money, for example they may suggest that another loan is taken out in order to repay existing debt.

    Perhaps the best reason to avoid loan sharks is the consequences someone faces if they borrow money and cannot afford to repay it. A loan shark will pursue debts relentlessly, engaging in underhand tactics to reclaim the money loaned.

    There is a sliding scale of severity in terms of the tactics some loan sharks will employ to retrieve money, with some resorting to mean intimidation tactics and invasion of privacy, to others who will resort to violence in order to scare people into making repayments. An example of intimidation tactics can range from ‘milder’ cases where debtors are threatened with ‘legal action’ and harsh legal consequences of non payment when in reality these have been made up, to loan sharks who threaten to ‘sell’ the debt on to people who will attack property and people in order to secure repayments.

    Check if your lender is registered

    All legal lenders within the UK need to be registered on what is called the Financial Services Register. Any lender who is not registered is an illegal lender and may be subject to prosecution or criminal sanction for operating an illegal money lending service. If you are in any doubt as to the credential of a lender, don’t take their word for it; ask them for proof they are a licensed lender, or check the Financial Services Register for free.

    Consider whether a reputable lender can help

    If you are in debt you may wish to think about approaching a licensed, reputable lender like Wonga. These types of lenders will display their credentials on their advertisements and will happily explain how you may double – check these. Our recommendation is to focus on the larger and substantially more ‘public’ loan providers as companies of this scale value PR much more than trying to hoodwink a few customers.

    Don’t let a loan shark into your home

    Loan sharks will frequently try to gain access to their victim’s home in order to resort to illegal tactics to recover the money. As such you should never let a loan shark into your home. You can install a ‘peephole’ on your front door, or a lock with a chain so that you can find out who is at the door without having to open the door fully, or at all. If you suspect that a loan shark or an agent of a loan shark is at your door you should remain calm and ask them to leave.

    Report illegal money lending

    Many people simply do not realise that it is an offence to lend someone money if you are not a regulated, registered lender. An illegal money-lender, or loan shark therefore has no legal authority to demand money to be repaid under any circumstances and if reported to the police an illegal money lender can be arrested and have property confiscated. There have even been some cases of loan sharks being asked to repay their victims or face being sent to prison.

    Get independent financial advice

    There are many agencies in the UK who offer free financial advice to people in debt. You should remember that being in debt is not a criminal offence and if you are in debt this is something that must be addressed responsibly. A debt counsellor can work out a budget for you and will advise you of legal procedures that protect your when under financial strain such as bankruptcy, an IVA or a Dent Management Plan.

    Your input: we would love to hear it!

    Why not post a comment if you feel you have been affected by any of the issues we have discussed in this blog?

    How to Cruise on a Dime

    by  • May 23, 2014 • Tagged: 

    Cruise holidays are some of the best deals out there for budget travellers. All-inclusive cruise deals mean that most food, accommodation and transportation are all nicely wrapped up into one very reasonable sum for a journey that can vary from the Caribbean to Asia.

    With a range of amenities that are included in the cost of a cruise holiday, there are also some things that are considered ‘extras’. For budget travellers determined to keep holiday costs down, here are some of the best tips and tricks to avoid exorbitant extras blowing a holiday budget out of the water.

    Consider currency

    Many cruise lines offer charges in dollars or sterling which means travellers aren’t constantly consumed with calculations of exchange rates and even worse – fees.

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    Image by Christopher, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

    To tip or not to tip

    Some cruise lines offer a one-off tip fee in the base price of the holiday. Tipping every helpful hand encountered on a holiday can quickly add up, so it’s wise to look for options where this is already accounted for.

    Day trips

    Cruise lines make a pretty penny acting as an on-shore travel agent for ship passengers. Savvy travellers should source tours or even taxi drivers independently to save money on excursions. It’s important to ensure that the company is reputable and that they can deliver you back to port at the specified time otherwise it’s possible to quite literally miss the boat.

    Don’t eat into your budget

    Many ships feature main dining rooms that offer fancy meals at very high prices. Most people aren’t interested in dressing for dinner every night of a holiday, or paying premium prices to do so. There are plenty of companies that offer freestyle options which offer a wider variety of choice when it comes to restaurants at reasonable prices.

    Treat yourself – smartly

    Spa treatments are a great way to really indulge in the rest and relaxation that a cruise holiday is all about. Many ship spas offer reduced rates right at the beginning of a journey and especially on days when the ship is in port. Take advantage of this timetable and book treatments accordingly. Alternatively it’s possible to get a discount on services by booking multiple treatments at once.

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    Image by Vincent Lock, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

    Booze cruise

    There are few more sublime holiday experiences than sipping a cocktail on the Lido deck as the sun sets behind the ocean horizon. For budget travellers though, the cost of the drink can over overshadow the experience as a whole. Many cruises offer pre-bookable drink packages which usually come out costing about £10 per day and include everything from a morning mimosa to the most civilised of nightcaps.

    Cruise holidays are extremely economical. For savvy travelers who like to make the most out of holidays while paying less – there are few more appealing options than the flexibility and all-inclusive offerings of a cruise ship. By following a few helpful tips, travellers can live it up and rest easy as they sail the high seas.

    Best Money Tips for Single Parents

    by  • May 22, 2014

    If you are a single parent, trying to have enough money for everyday bills is hard enough. Yet, you want your children to have an enjoyable life. Follow these money tips to save money and have enough to cover your bills without the worry.

    Keep an Emergency Account

    An emergency account is necessary for every household. This is useful for emergency repairs around the home or to your vehicle. It’s also good to have to help pay down medical or educational expenses.

    Most emergency accounts are held at the bank, but for single parents, having extra cash at home is good. This is in case you need to order food in one night if you are attending a sick child, need medicine, or need to fill your gas tank again.  Having an emergency fund will also help you from having to borrow cash.  But if you need a loan there are a few decent need cash now places online.

    Second-Hand Purchases are Acceptable

    As a single parent on a budget, you should understand there is nothing wrong with certain second-hand purchases. Children clothing is a great example. They are growing so fast, they will soon outgrow expensive clothing.

    This is not to say you don’t need to dress your child in name brand attire. To do so, purchase gently used clothing and other popular items at stores such as the thrift store, Ebay.com, and ToysShare.com. Other second hand items that can save you money include toys, cribs, bedding sets, DVD’s, and books. Purchasing these items from consignment stores can save you hundreds a year.

    Take Your Child to Free Events

    You don’t have to break the bank to give your family a good time. Many free events are in your city. Check with your local library or your city’s official website. A few activities include trips to the zoo, bike riding in the park, fishing, and trips to the museum. During the summer, enjoy fun family sports at the beach.

    Budget for Groceries, But Purchase Food Last

    It’s good to set a budget for everything including groceries. Now, once you have budgeted, set your grocery money aside, and purchase your food after you’ve paid your bills.

    The reason being is that it’s easy to overspend when grocery shopping, especially if you have the children with you. If you purchase more than you’ve budgeted for, you can find yourself in the hole, left trying to find a way to cover your important bills such as utilities, car note, and rent.

    If you do find yourself short on your food budget, consider stopping into your local food pantry for basic supplies.

    Participate in Your Employers 401k Plan

    Finally, never leave money on the table. As a single parent, you may feel you need every dime of your paycheck to go towards the household bills. But placing away 2-5% of each paycheck adds up, especially if your employer matches your contributions. This is a great way to place a few hundred dollars away a year, and borrow against it if you need to, instead of taking an emergency loan.

    Fixed vs Variable – Which Home Loan to Choose

    by  • May 12, 2014 • Tagged: ,

    I couldn’t imagine that when we started this blog on New Year’s Day in 2006, that I would ever be writing that we are now homeowners. As far as blogs go ours is fairly ancient. We started out as young-ish 20 somethings with a net worth in the red, and now we’re older, have a family, have a positive net worth, and now own property. Actually, the bank owns the property and we’re borrowing it from the them.

    Is there still a crisis going on?

    Buying a house never really entered our collective brains until recently, and I hadn’t been keeping track of how the mortgage situation was going since the crash of 2008. Were people still being foreclosed upon? Were more homes being built and bought? So off I went to do some research. After realizing that really not much has changed, I plugged in our numbers to various housing calculators and landed on a price of house that both Her and I could agree upon. After that, we went about seeking out vendors to provide to us a home loan. This was harder than we thought it would be.

    Take my money

    On the advice of every financial resource out there, we went comparison shopping to get a loan. We started by getting the recommendations of mortgage brokers from trusted family and friends (as opposed to our shady underground ones, I guess) and started calling around. Weirdly enough, it didn’t really seem like any of them really wanted to talk to me. I would ask about their mortgage products (what a silly term) and they seemed like they were very, very exasperated that I didn’t do my homework. Well then, I’ll do my own homework.

    There’s really only two main options: Fixed vs Variable

    At the end of the day, what you’re looking at are fixed-rate vs variable-rate mortgages. Interest rates in fixed rate mortgages, if you haven’t figured it out by the name, stay constant for the life of the loan, whether it be 5, 15, or 30 years. They’re nice if you don’t like surprises (I generally do, but not BAD surprises) and like to pay the same amount for a very, very long time. Variable rate mortgages have interest rates that can…wait for it…vary over the life of the loan. Of the most well known are the adjustable-rate mortgages, in which the rate low and stable for a short amount of time (a teaser rate), and then changes yearly based on the moon cycles, tides, and the prime rate (okay, only the last one). An example would be a 5/1 ARM, where the interest rate stays fixed for the first five years, then may change every year after that.

    Interest-ing things to consider (haha get it?)

    With a fixed-rate interest mortgage, you’re actually paying less over time, assuming that inflation takes its toll. Also, like I said above, your payment will never change over the life of the loan, which makes cash-flow predictions and budgeting easier.

    With a variable-rate interest mortgage, the increase in interest rate after the initial teaser period might increase your monthly payment to an unsustainable amount. Some may ride out the teaser payment period and try and refinance at the end of the period, but then if you’re doing that then you may have bought too much home. These loans are popular among those who buy homes and flip them, as they assume that they’ll unload the home before the interest rate resets.

    Our decision

    As we were looking for our “forever” home, we didn’t want any surprises in the long run. After I did my due diligence, I decided that a fixed-rate mortgage was right for me and my family. I still called around to find the best rate, and definitely negotiated both the home and mortgage costs. We’ve now been in our home for a few months, and I can say that it’s been the right decision for us.

    Can You Write Your Own Will?

    by  • December 18, 2013 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    It’s a common misconception that you have to hire an attorney to write your own will. Yes, an attorney will know how to draft a will properly and they know your state’s estate laws, but there are plenty of legal websites out there that can help you draft just as good (if not better) of ... Read more →

    Getting Rid of the For Sale Sign: How to Get Approved for a Home Mortgage Loan

    by  • November 24, 2013 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    The dire straits of the economic recession are still taking their toll, especially within the struggling real estate market. There are millions of people throughout the United States who are eagerly searching for ways to qualify for a mortgage loan so that they can get the keys to their new home as soon as possible. ... Read more →

    Ways to Save Money on Sports Shoes

    by  • November 13, 2013 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    If you’re a sportsperson then taking care of your body will be essential and your shoes will be far more than a fashion statement. There are many different models of sports shoe for each sport. Some are better than others and some are cheaper than others. The trick to buying the perfect sports shoe is ... Read more →

    Vegas Baby!

    by  • October 1, 2013 • Tagged:   • Comments

    When we started our blog, we were freshly engaged, and had started to plan our wedding. Readers of our blog know that we had some expensive ideas for the wedding and not many of you agreed with our decisions. We went ahead with our own plans anyway a few years after that first post. Five ... Read more →

    INFOGRAPHIC: Be A Premier Performer at Tackling Debt

    by  • September 26, 2013 • Tagged:   • Comments

    The number of individuals living with debt in the UK is on the rise. As of July, the total amount of personal debt held by individuals was right around £1.426 trillion. This is partly the result of the global economic recession which caused a high percentage of redundancies but it’s also on a count of mismanaging ... Read more →

    We’re Buying a House…Sooner or Later

    by  • September 19, 2013 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Sadly, after almost nine years of renting an apartment and stable rent payments, we’ve decided that we need to get a bigger place to live. Our financial lives were pretty simple the past few years, even with the addition of a new family member. We’ve decided to turn our world upside-down and look for property ... Read more →

    Five Steps to Setting Up Your Online Business

    by  • September 10, 2013 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    There are several online services that allow you to sell products, whether those products are hand-crafted wares, antiques, or even baked goods. Of course, getting your online business up and running can be a little daunting, depending on how complex or competitive your industry may be. These five steps can help you achieve a no-sweat ... Read more →

    Planning a Holiday on a Budget

    by  • May 31, 2013 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Trying to plan a holiday when money is tight can be hard, especially if you’re planning a break for the whole family. There are lots of ways to save money though, so going away somewhere nice doesn’t have to break the bank. Firstly you should think about where you’d like to go. It’s almost certain ... Read more →

    How Small Savings Can Go a Long Way

    by  • May 14, 2013 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Even if I am exceptionally good at saving and budgeting money I often forget about small expenses, and whoever said “Don’t sweat the small stuff” obviously didn’t have an expensive daily coffee habit. Despite being organised and striving to be financially secure, if I look at my weekly purchases there are so many small ways ... Read more →

    Choosing the Best Gas Supplier for Your Large Business

    by  • May 8, 2013 • Tagged:   • Comments

    Organising energy providers and paying monthly bills is an arduous task for homeowners and small businesses, let alone large businesses and enterprises. Ensuring that the process of organising and paying for large business gas supply is streamlined and simple will mean that the person in charge of the utilities will have an easier time of it. As ... Read more →

    Creative Ways to Tackle Debt

    by  • March 28, 2013 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    Many adults find themselves swimming in credit card debt, car debt, house debt and other types of debt. This can be very stressful and you might feel like you’re walking through every day with a gorilla on your back. Whether you’re dealing with unsecured or secured debt, eliminating it from your life will make a ... Read more →

    Don’t Spend Your Savings!

    by  • March 13, 2013 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Maybe it’s a problem unique to me, but every time I used to find a way to trim my budget, I ended up just spending the savings. Spending My Savings Prime example – I used to spend roughly $3 per workday on coffee drinks, which multiplied by 20 workdays a month, meant that I coughed ... Read more →

    Insurance for Pubs

    by  • March 8, 2013 • Tagged:   • Comments

    A pub isn’t like most other businesses, and has specific problems that may arise that are unique to it, such as loss of license, damage caused by customers, and potential injury to members of staff. Ideally, these types of incidents will be few and far between but, if they do occur, it will be important ... Read more →

    Top Eight Ways to Deal with Spousal Debt

    by  • March 6, 2013 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Dealing with financial matters is very important for any married couple. It may make or break a relationship as the future of the family is at stake. It is the job of every couple to make sure that they are financially secure. But in certain circumstances the expenditures may go over the set limit. There ... Read more →

    How Plastic Can Actually Help

    by  • February 22, 2013 • Tagged:   • Comments

    In the financial services industry, experts often give credit cards the lion’s share of the blame for consumers accumulating debt. Although credit cards can definitely cause problems if they are not used correctly, they can actually be good when in the right hands. If you’re concerned about how credit cards can hurt your financial situation, ... Read more →

    Income Insurance as a Way to Protect Against Debt

    by  • February 21, 2013 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    If you have an income, you should be thinking about income protection insurance. Many of us protect our cars with car insurance, we protect our bodies with health insurance, and we protect our homes with home insurance. Nevertheless, many of us seem to overlook protecting our income. Most households rely on at least one salary coming in, ... Read more →