You Have to Spend Money to Make Money – The way banking is going

You Have to Spend Money to Make Money – The way banking is going

If you pay for goods with a cashback credit card, you get a certain percentage back for each £1 you spend. So that literally means you’ll get paid for spending!

You can find out which is the best cashback card on the market by comparing the cards on the internet.

 When deciding which one to go for, bear in mind that some cards have tiered rates of cashback. So if you spend more than say £10,000 a year on the card, you may qualify for a higher rate than if you only spent £1,000.

 There’s an easy way to get around this if you trust your partner. Take out an associate card which he or she can use. This means every £1 your partner spends will build up cashback on your card as well, increasing your total spend. Just be aware that you – and you alone – are still responsible for paying the entire bill, including anything your partner spends.

 It can be hard to get your head around paying for even the smallest items with your cashback card, but it really is worth it when those pennies start to add up. And it’s a great feeling handing over your card and knowing you’re getting something back, too.

Finally, don’t forget that purchases you make over £100 are covered under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, something you just don’t get by paying by debit card.

So, in a myriad of ways, you really can be significantly better off. But make sure that you always pay off your balance in full each month – or the money earned in cashback will be negated by the interest you will have to pay on your debt.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! – Preparing for 2014

Budgeting in January

The tinsel and turkey is gone, ‘auld lang syne’ has been sung and the debris of Christmas and New Year festivities recycled. Even the Boxing Day sales started in November and we finally got paid in January. January is a long month for many.

The only thing to complete our start to 2014 is of course those bank statements and credit card bills that have arrived.

January is traditionally a ‘lean month’ for many and given that we may spend a few dark evenings in until payday, by “servicing” your money, it will put you in good stead for the rest of the year.

How to Plan for January and February ….

Food – reassess your food bills. Could you buy it cheaper? Read the offers, check them out and use them, but if the rest of your grocery list is cheaper elsewhere, then go elsewhere.

  • Heating Bills – Fuel prices are going up. Go online and compare costs by using utility switching services – you will probably find a cheaper deal. Turn your thermostat down just a couple of degrees.
  • Petrol – make a mental note to write down the cheapest fuel station prices as you drive buy. Do not just keep going to the same service station you usually do. Filling the tank is expensive and you can save a few pounds each time by shopping around.
  • Insurances – There are usually cheaper life insurance, house insurance and motor insurances out there. Get some quotes.
  • Credit Cards – if you do have card debt, do not just leave it on the same card. At the end of special offer or interest free balance transfer periods, credit card company interest rates increase to as much as four to five times your mortgage rate. Get your card bills out, consider paying them off from low interest bearing savings accounts now or switch to another nil balance transfer.
  • Television – do you really need the all inclusive TV subscription?
  • Internet – there are always better deals out there for your data allowance and often include free landline calls.
  • Mobile Phone – check out your allowance on your tariff. Did you really use all those inclusive minutes and texts? Could your tariff be changed to a cheaper one?
  • Gym Membership – if you have one, do you get value for money? Would a bicycle, walking, running or swimming be cheaper but just as effective?

Better to be safe than sorry – Home Insurance at Christmas

Home Insurance at Christmas

Following on from my last post I thought i’d follow up with an insurance post to cover you even further this Christmas.

Christmas is an expensive time of year and what with all the gifts and food you will be buying, you’re likely to have an increased amount of goods stored in your home.

But what happens if something goes wrong – can your Home Insurance help to protect all your hard work?

Check your policy. On most, your carefully chosen Christmas gifts are protected automatically by your Contents Insurance.

Once you’ve done all your shopping, if your food or domestic purchases are lost or damaged on your way home, home insurance could pay up to £1,000 towards replacing it. Plus, if frozen food gets damaged in your freezer due to an accidental change in temperature it can provide cover to replace it.

Colder weather and longer nights can mean that problems like burst pipes and break-ins increase during the winter. While home insurance can’t stop these things happening, it can help lessen the impact. Make sure you’re covered for these kinds of issues and if it’s offered by your provider, a home emergency service is also a good idea.

Christmas also sees a dramatic rise in the numbers of fires and accidents in the home. According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, (ROSPA), around 80,000 people suffer accidents and injuries in their homes during the Christmas holidays every year. Many of those happen in the kitchen during food preparation, while putting up decorations – or worse, as a result of faulty fairy lights or unattended candles.

As well as taking necessary safety precautions, remember that when your home is filled with party guests and overexcited children, accidents can happen. Make sure that your home contents insurance provides you with comprehensive cover for common breakages as well as fire and accidents.

How to Save Money on Christmas Food and Drink

How to Save Money on Christmas Food and Drink

Not long to go until Christmas day now!!! Is everyone as excited as I am? I love this time of year, spending time with the family, opening all the presents but more importantly eating well.

If you’re entertaining this festive season, you might be worried about the cost of the food and drink you’re going to have to buy for your guests. Food and drink can cost a fortune, so this is where you really need to shop around to get the most for your money.

Ask your guests to bring something to the party

If you’re having family and/or friends round for Christmas dinner, why not ask them to bring a starter or a pudding or some booze? After all, you should give as well as receive.

Stock up at the deep discounters

The likes of Aldi, Lidl and Poundland all have brand name products (both food and drink) at low prices so stock up a couple of weeks before Christmas. Just make sure you stick to your shopping list.

Compare prices at the big supermarkets

Shop around in the big stores to find out where you can get the cheapest festive ingredients.

Make it, don’t buy it

It’s actually much more expensive to buy things like mince pies, pigs in blankets and stuffing ready-made than it is to make them yourselves. Your own versions will probably taste better too.

Use your loyalty points

If you have Nectar or Clubcard points, you could put them towards the cost of your Christmas food and drink. Just bear in mind that they are actually worth more if you use them for other rewards.

Use your leftovers

Make sure you use your leftovers, either straight away or by freezing them for later.

Trade Uranium as a Commodity

This is a short guest post by my buddy Jo who resides in Canada and love everything to do with trading metals. What he doesnt know isn’t worth knowing. 

Uranium is an odd commodity.  It strikes a nerve with many people.  Some people are for it (it doesn’t give off any CO2) and others are against (dangerous i.e. Fukushima/Chernobyl).  Doesn’t matter how you feel about it there is some solid evidence coming in that its bottom is near or has arrived already.

Uranium is a commodity that needs to be mined.  At today’s prices not many people are interested in opening a mine and digging for it.  People out in the field (CEO Admir Adnani of Uranium Energy Corporation) figures for people to get interested in the good, it needs to trade for about $80 (US) per pound to make it attractive.    As we can see we are far from that.
Everyday more and more nuclear plants are coming into service.  Four more are being built in the US alone and many more around the world.  Most of Frances power is nuclear.  Iran is pushing to be allowed to produce nuclear power.  Japan shutdown all there nuclear plants after Fukushima but there are signs that japan may have to bring them back into service as other forms of energy are quite expensive and a massive strain has been placed on their electrical grid because of this.
Come 2014 a little known fact is about to take place that is to change the landscape of the uranium field for the foreseeable future.  The US has had a nice luxury in this department.  US and Russia signed a deal several years ago help Russia clean up its old nuclear weapons. Russia was to ship their old nuclear warheads to the US to dispose of them.  This helped the US by getting a large amount of their uranium for a cheaper price (just disassemble the warhead and you have uranium).  In 2014 this deal is up and there is no indication that Putin will continue the deal.

5 Festive Scams to Avoid

5 Festive Scams to Avoid

 Using Smartphone’s and tablets to do Christmas shopping can seem a lot easier than battling the crowds. But going digital offers cyber crooks an opportunity to use scams tailored to the season in order to steal personal information for identity fraud and spread malicious software.

Here’s what to watch out for this year from those dodgy little buggers!

Text scams

Should your mobile number get into the wrong hands you might be exposed to a text scam. A crafty crook can send text messages promising free gifts or prizes. But following the link might encourage you to share personal details that can leave you exposed to identity theft, or ask you to download something that contains malware that infects your device.

Phoney e-tailers

If you plan to do most of your Christmas shopping online, beware of fake websites posing as legitimate retailers. You should check names and web addresses carefully for subtle differences that indicate the site is a fake and wherever possible limit your shopping to known and trusted names.

Festive travel scams

Travel is a big part of the festive period and many will be looking for the best deals online. Cyber thieves are well aware of this and use bogus offers for great deals to trick bargain hunters into entering credit card details and other private information.

Bogus gift cards

If you’re planning on buying a gift card for a loved one, make sure it’s official. Gift card deals are sometimes promoted via ads on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites. These third-party websites might be selling bogus gift cards that will leave the recipient red-faced when trying to cash it in.

You’re better off going direct to a retailer.

Fake charities

The festive season can move people to reach out to those less fortunate, but scammers are on hand to take full advantage of this generosity, setting up fake charity sites to pocket donations. Be on the lookout for bogus charities using copied text and logos in emails or on websites.

Don’t Forget to Include Your Christmas Tree in Your Christmas Budget

Don’t Forget to Include Your Christmas Tree in Your Christmas Budget

When people budget for Christmas they often forget to include two things – the tree and the decorations.

Buying a new Christmas tree every year, whether artificial or real, makes no sense financially. If you have an artificial tree and use it year in, year out, this is likely to be the best value for money even if you paid slightly more to buy it in the first place because you are getting a lot of use out of it.

However if you’re thinking of buying a brand new tree this year you may want to buy a real tree. Instead of dumping the tree after the festivities are over, consider planting it in your garden or in a large pot to take care of for the following year and use it again the following Christmas. This can be real value for money as you’ll be getting the authentic Christmas tree look and smell but for years on end.

An even better way to save money on the initial outlay for this is to buy a Christmas tree directly after Christmas – trees being sold off in January can be bought at dramatically cut prices and you can then plant it in your garden to enjoy all year until Christmas comes round again.

You might also consider renting a Christmas tree instead of buying a brand new one if you don’t want the hassle (or don’t have the room) to re-plant your tree each year. Look online for companies who deliver the Christmas tree of your choice to your door for you to enjoy for the festive period, and then pick it up again in January to be re-planted for the rest of the year – just make sure you compare the cost with buying your own.

Decorating your home during the holidays is one of the most enjoyable parts of preparing for Christmas, but it can be all too easy to over-spend on buying brand new decorations at premium prices in November or December. Instead of buying brand new, always look through your old decorations from previous years and see how you can make use of them. It may be with a bit of polish you can restore your old decorations to their former glory thereby saving you having to splash out on new ones.

Stop! Start overpaying your mortgage with your savings

Stop! Start overpaying your mortgage with your savings

You may have heard some people talk about overpaying their mortgage – but what does that mean? As a renter, I could probably afford to overpay on a mortgage if I had one due to the high cost of renting. But would it be worth it?

Because you’re paying your lender off more quickly, the interest you owe on your mortgage also reduces. Over the long term, this will probably have a dramatic effect on your finances as well as reducing your mortgage term. Of course, there’s the added bonus that the more of the mortgage you pay, the more of your home you actually own. If you ever want to remortgage, this equity is likely to give you access to the best rate deals.

Because the base rate has fallen so dramatically in recent years, many borrowers have been able to overpay simply by keeping up their usual monthly mortgage payment.

So, in general overpaying on your mortgage with any savings you may have is a great way to use that money. However there is one glaringly obvious downside – if you use your savings to overpay your mortgage, you can’t get that money back. So if you were ever to need savings in the future, you wouldn’t have the option to use the money you had paid to your mortgage.

Some mortgage lenders will actually let you borrow back the money you have overpaid or make under payments providing you have an overpayment buffer – but make sure you check this thoroughly before considering your overpayments.

In summary, I think it’s best to stick to one rule – only overpay what you can afford.

How to Combat Vampire Energy

How to Combat Vampire Energy

The word vampire conjures up images of fangs, black capes and stocking your homes with crucifixes and garlic. The stereotype that should be attributed to vampires is stealing money from your wallet. The modern vampire is stealing energy through your electrical sockets, the term ‘vampire’ energy or sometimes referred to as ‘phantom’ energy is the power used when a device is not ‘off’ but on ‘standby’. A lot of people think this is solved by simply turning your television off by the power button rather than with the remote, however it’s much more likely that your phone charger which isn’t charging anything is why your electrical bill is so high. Vampire energy has been estimated to be around 10% of the electrical energy used by a typical household, so by metaphorically ‘staking’ this vampire energy you could save up to 10% on your bill. So how do we do this?

Catch the Vampire

The best way to catch this vampire energy is to track it. A plug-in meter, such as the Kill-a-Watt meter, will enable you to hunt down the worst offenders. Some equipment uses a lot of energy because it’s old or inefficient, appliances like refrigerators which have to be 24/7 could be pouring money down the drain if it’s an old model. Replacing these will save money in the long run and it’s a good investment. Whilst you may not find any big discoveries if you’re technology is up to date, you can still find out what’s the biggest energy drain in your house, if you leave your phone charger plugged in all day then you can figure out how much that’s actually costing you. An energy meter can make you more aware of your consumption and make you think about how you could make a change.

Access the Danger

Once you’ve caught the vampire energy, you should be able to figure out how much it’s costing you in electricity bills. If you’re energy usage is actually quite low, it may not be a problem with vampire energy, you might just be paying too much for electricity. Depending on what tariff you’re on or who provides your energy, you may be getting overcharged, Energy Helpline can help you figure out how much money you should be paying.

Kill the Vampire

Killing vampire energy is easy once you’ve caught it and accessed it. If you have old microwaves or fridges, it’s likely that they are draining lots of energy, the only way to deal with that is to metaphorically kill it but actually kill it by chucking it out. If you find that your energy is being drained by chargers or consoles then a simple power strip or extension cord makes it easier to turn everything off without going round and turning electronics off individually. If you appliances that are rarely used but are always on standby, then unplug them, it may a bit more effort when you eventually want to use them but your wallet will thank you.

So get out there and slay some vampires!

How to invest in precious metals

This is the 2nd in Guest Posts from my Canadian buddy Joe who is seriously clued up on trading in metals, specializing in silver trading. We met in Australia and he has shared his passion for finance with me for years, even if our homelands are now 1000’s miles apart. Money talks…

How to invest in precious metals

There are several ways to investing in precious metals.  There is always own the physical metal.  Put it in storage and pay the fee and you know the metal exists for when there is a rainy day.

Owning mining stocks can be a big plus or minus depending on how they turn out.  If you invest in juniors they are especially volatile but the payout could be huge.  I would do minimum risk.  Only invest in what you’re willing to lose.  Make sure you to a lot of research such as look up the team that runs the operation.  Make sure they are turning a profit (which is tough in this market). Even though they may be big players (Barrick gold or Gold Corp), read there press releases.  These two big guys have lost mines and barrick took a $10 billion dollar right down earlier this year.  Juniors are where I would look with a few dollars and just sit back and hope it pans out.  The big guys generally won’t pay out like the juniors.

Options are another route to take.  Options are bets that the price will go up or down from today and you make the difference on either way your bet.  You can also sell options saying you don’t think a share or stock will drop to a certain level and collect a couple dollars while you sit on the stock.  Be prepared to pay up if your bet goes sour.

There are also futures contracts and exchanges.  Good luck on that one.  Anyone who has followed this market can see it’s extremely volatile.  Most trading done on the COMEX market is settled in cash.  When you travel east Shanghai has just set up an exchange and they settle their contracts with physical gold.  The COMEX still dictates the prices worldwide as they are much bigger than the Shanghai exchange but this is an interesting area to keep your interest in.  They are only about a year in.

ETFs are another one that people seem to dabble in.  They are good as they play on a variety of stocks (kind of like a mutual fund) or some are on the bullion themselves, but they are way more liquid.  You can buy and sell them much easier than owning stocks or bullion.  Usually there is a small fee tied to them so look into that before getting into it.

Finally we have mutual funds.  Mutual funds take in the sector and a manager breaks down the weighing of the shares to their discretion and trades on behalf of the parameters set out by the fund.  You pay into these funds and there usually are minimums to pay and should find out if there open ended or close ended.  Open ended means the funds can keep growing where as a close ended means there are only so many shares (capital) available for the fund.  Also beware of the exiting fees related to these.  There are penalties for leaving early or just plain leaving at all.  Read all the fine print on these bad boys before you sign up.

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