6 signs your debt is out of control

Warning! 6 signs your debt is out of control

We’ve all been in debt, and most of us still are. The difference is whether our debt is controlled, or whether the bailiffs are knocking at the door demanding their money back.

Speaking to friends who have been in debt, I’ve put together 6 signs that you’re struggling;

1. You’re always in your overdraft. Ok so I have an overdraft and I don’t really consider it a debt. It’s just tiding me over for the month until the next pay check. But if you’re finding you’re always at your overdraft limit, read the warning signs. Not only are you spending money which isn’t technically yours, but your bank has the ability to take away overdraft facilities if they think you’re in trouble.

2. You always use your credit card. If you’re using your credit card for more than just the big purchases and emergencies – for the weekly shopping for example – take note.

3. You hate the postman. If your post drops through the door and you immediately file it into the bin, it’s a sign that you don’t want to read anything telling you you owe money.

4. You’re behind on the big things. Rent and council tax are priority expenses. If you’re behind with either of these – you’re in trouble.

5. You take credit to pay credit. Paying off one credit card with another is a flag for your financial health.

6. You’re considering a payday loan. If you’re considering a payday loan but you’re not completely sure you can pay it back, you’re in trouble.

If any of these points apply to you, be careful. Have a look at your spending and make sure you draw up a budget and stick to it. Cut up your credit cards and try to cut back on living expenses. We all know it’s not easy, but you’ll thank me in the long run.

Holiday homes – not as fun as they appear

Holiday homes – not as fun as they appear

Right now, 5.4 million of us are considering buying abroad. Spain and the Balearics islands are the top dream destination, followed by France, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, the Caribbean, Florida and turkey. Personally, I fancy a little pied-a-terre in Portugal.

Sounds lovely doesn’t it? A place to escape to. But be warned. Holiday homes are the biggest waste of money ever.

Did you know that the average holiday home owner visits their holiday home just twice a year? 2/3 of holiday home buyers expected to visit their dream second home far more when they purchased – but between family commitments, lack of cash and work schedules those homes in the sun stay forlorn and forgotten.

So even though I probably wouldn’t be going to my imaginary house of fun in Portugal that often, I’d still be paying for it. Aside from the purchase price, which at the moment wouldn’t be a great buy as the pound is down 20% against the euro; there are local property taxes, legal fees and mortgage admin charges.

After these hefty initial fees, factor in furnishings, maintenance, repairs, insurance, utility bills, taxes and possibly a cleaner or monthly service charge.

Despite all of this, I still dream of my place the sun. I just need to answer these questions for myself;

Do I really want to go to the same place on holiday, year in, year out? Will I have the time?
Can I afford all the costs mentioned above?
Have I visited enough to know the location of the property – how far is it to the nearest town?
Do I know a decent lawyer to handle the transaction?

Of course, if you plan to retire and spend 6 months of the year at your holiday home it makes more sense. Otherwise, think twice. The reality of a second sun drenched home may not be as beautiful as it appears.

Buying shares? Read this to find out which are gaining from the weak pound…

Buying shares? Read this to find out which are gaining from the weak pound…

I’m thinking of investing in shares this year even though I have never done so before. The pounds fall against the dollar has left companies reaping rewards and there could be further profits as the trend continues.

Investors are benefitting from a number of ways since sterling lost 7pc against the dollar in January. Of all dividends paid to FTSE companies, 42pc are paid in dollars. This means an income boost for British blue chips and a benefit for UK equity income funds.

I expect the pound to be under pressure for some time as the bank of England continues to try to stimulate recovery through low rates and ‘money printing’ quantitative easing. This in effect weakens the demand for the currency which then falls in value.

My advice is to invest in established, shareholder focused, dividend paying companies. Royal Dutch Shell and GlaxoSmithKline are two to consider.

Also in my favourites list are BP and British American Tobacco. Both are global firms where the dividend is paid in dollars.

If you want to invest in a less common name, try Spirax-Sarco engineering, Spectris and Halma – all members of the FTSE 250.

Now’s the time to buy shares – and I’m jumping in with both feet.

Redundancy: a guide to debt and overdraft

Redundancy: a guide to debt and overdraft

Since the financial crisis, getting made redundant has become all too common an event. Unemployment has been falling somewhat recently, but thousands of people are faced with the problem of meeting mortgage payments and servicing other debts after losing their job.

While you may have every intention of returning to work as soon as possible, it’s amazing how quickly your finances can spiral out of control without any money coming in each month. From missed bill payments to interest charges on credit cards, getting out of debt can be extremely tough.

The trick is not to panic and just keep trying to land a new job. In the meantime, here’s a look at a few options if you are made redundant.

Prioritise outgoings

For most people being made redundant should mean a reduced income rather than none at all. With what money you do have coming in it’s vital to prioritise the most essential payments – mortgage, utility bills etc. If you have car finance, you’ll probably need to keep paying this as you’ll rely on your car for getting to interviews and for doing a new job.

Benefit entitlement

As soon as you’re made redundant, in addition to searching for a new job, you should find out what benefits you are entitled to. You might be surprised by how much you can receive, which could go a long way to alleviating money worries while on the job hunt.

Mortgage help

If you own your own home you may be entitled to mortgage support. For example Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) Payments is a scheme that helps you keep paying the lender. You may be entitled to this if you are claiming one of the following benefits: income support, income based job seekers allowance or income related employment and support allowance. Payments will start 13 weeks after you claim benefit and are usually made direct to the lender.

Consolidate debts

While earning, it’s easy to chalk up debts on overdrafts and credit cards and be able to keep servicing them. But once you’ve been made redundant it becomes a little trickier. If you think you will not be able to meet repayments, you may wish to consider debt consolidation. This allows you to pay off your existing unsecured debts and reduce payments into one affordable monthly outgoing. As long as you haven’t missed any of the payments your credit rating should not be affected.

Debt management

If you have outstanding credit card debts and overdrafts that need servicing while you look for work, a debt management plan can help. It is an informal arrangement between you and your creditors with the aim of reducing the level of debt and monthly repayments without the need for further credit. It’s very widely used and allows people to only repay what they can afford each month. As soon as you’re back in work you can up your repayments and clear the debts.

Cutting the Cost of Air Travel

Cutting the Cost of Air Travel

Budgeting for a holiday can be tricky. Unless you opt for an all-inclusive break the aspects such as accommodation, transport and dining can add up to unexpected costs and leave you feeling anything but relaxed. Air travel is one of the biggest holiday expenses but there are several ways to save money when it comes to organizing your flight.

Booking a Flight

Low cost airlines are giving consumers more and more options these days. If you’re flying short-haul within Europe, be sure to compare popular destinations like Barcelona with more unusual Eastern capitals such as Tallinn in Estonia. If you’re set on one particular location, price comparison sites can be a good way of finding out which airlines have the best deals to your chosen destination.

The good news is that many locations around the world can now be reached for impressively low prices. Popular destinations in Asia are becoming more accessible, with cheap flights to India in 2013 in abundance and airlines going to places like Sri Lanka opening up new direct flights from London only this year.

Getting to the Airport

Taking a taxi to the airport is tempting, especially if you’ve got an early start, but by planning ahead you could take advantage of a cheaper transport option. Some low cost airlines provide their own minibuses from coach and rail stations, which typically cost very little. Alternatively, try national coach services which operate round the clock to various UK airports, avoiding the need to stay in airport hotels.

On the Plane

Shopping online and choosing ‘no-frills’ airlines should save you a significant amount of money. Bear in mind, though, that many of these airlines cut costs by limiting baggage allowances and online refreshments. To avoid being caught out at the check-in desk find out about the baggage allowance for each person beforehand and ensure that you have stuck to it. Weight and size guidelines should be published on the airline’s websites or in your booking literature.

To avoid spending money on expensive in-flight snacks take a sufficient amount of food onto the plane with you including treats for kids so that they won’t be tempted by the goodies in the in-flight catalogue.

The best way to get the deals when arranging a flight is to be flexible. Although this is not always possible, booking your tickets midweek or even flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday can get you significant savings if you can manage it. Book your connection such as bus and train travel at least three weeks ahead where possible and try to arrange any car rentals before you arrive as well, to take advantage of online discounts.


Qatar Airways flying high thanks to millions of Facebook fans

Qatar, expat hotspot and entrepreneurial magnet with billions of dollars up for grabs thanks to massive infrastructure spending on the FIFA 2022 World Cup competition. And the banks, modern and forward-looking. Competitive, too. If you’re looking for a competitive business credit card in Qatar then you’ll easily find one given the current spending frenzy.

Fan of Qatar Airways, the state-owned flag carrier? Millions of Facebook users certainly are. In fact the airline has now exceeded the 2 million mark in terms of Facebook “likes”. This makes Qatar Airways the fourth most popular airline across the industry.

Remarkably, the airline only launched on the social media site in April 2011. And much of its incredible fan growth has happened in the past year, due to a wide variety of promotions including fan engagement, exclusive airfares, and the airline’s sponsorship of the world’s most popular football club, FC Barcelona.

According to the airline, growth on Facebook has been a bi-product of its broad content initiatives, where its aim has been to bring unique glimpses into the airline’s expansion, operations, sponsorships, employees and culture. Additionally, the airline has launched exclusive Facebook Fan Fares, enabling its fans to avail discounts on air travel.

Contests have also played a significant role in building the airline’s popularity on the social web. During the year, the airline has launched popular promotions such as: “To Maldives, With Love,” “Be a VIP at the FC Barcelona Asia Tour,” and most recently “Where’s the Panda?”

The airline has cemented its strong social media presence across the social media landscape using not only Facebook, but other major sites, too, such as Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest and others. Using all of these has allowed the airline to build relationships with its expanding customer base. As a result, it has gained tremendous insights into the attitudes and opinions of its customers toward the Qatar Airways brand and received many great stories and product suggestions from its large fan base.

But if Qatar Airways is flying high, the same can’t be said about the country’s political clout across the Middle East which, according to some commentators at least, appears to be on the slide. Certainly, Qatar has been instrumental in providing backing to strife-torn Egypt, for example, lending strong financial support to the regime of the now deposed  Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected president who was removed from power by the army after mass protests.

Now relations between the two countries appear to have drifted yet further amid ramped-up tensions after the return by Egypt of $2 billion deposited by Qatar in its central bank following the failure of negotiations to convert the money into a three-year bond.

The Financial Times says the decision to return the funds at a time when Cairo is relying on support from Gulf states to shore up its foreign currency reserves is another sign of worsening relations between the two countries.

According to the Financial Times article, Cairo felt able to dispense with the Qatari cash because it has received $12 billion in support from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait – all of which were uneasy about the accession to power of the Muslim Brotherhood and which immediately welcomed the ousting of Mr Morsi.

Qatar, a staunch ally of the Islamists, emerged as the largest aid donor to Egypt after the 2011 revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak as president, giving Cairo $7.5 billion in loans and grants during the year Mr Morsi was in power.

Read the full Financial Times article here (registration may be required).

Buying big ticket items from abroad, and how to get them home for cheap

There are many reasons why you might want to make a big purchase overseas and need to arrange safe and reliable transportation to get the item home.

It could be that a luxury indulgence or a potentially lucrative investment catches your eye while you are on holiday, or you could be deliberately searching for a unique item such as a classic car that you can only find abroad.

Whatever the reason, it is important to adopt a cautious approach when buying expensive items in a foreign country and to make sure your possessions and finances are protected.

Read on to find out more about some of the popular reasons for making big purchases overseas and some of the finer points of the process.

Special buys and bargains

One of the main motivations for buying a significant item abroad is to get hold of something that is rare or unavailable at home.

A good example is cars. People with a passion for classic American automobiles or Japanese sports cars, for instance, may not be able to find that next big investment in the UK.

Auto Trader points out that purchasing a vehicle abroad and importing it can also offer good value for money and help buyers beat waiting lists at home.

The possibility of bagging bargains is another attractive aspect of buying expensive items overseas. In a Christmas shopping guide published in November last year, the Post Office revealed that designer clothing labels are up to 61 per cent cheaper in American cities than in the UK.

Britons shopping in the US can also find savings of up to a third on potentially expensive products such as toys, electrical goods and fashion accessories, according to the research.

Staying safe

It is essential to be cautious and ensure the proper protections and assurances are in place when making any big purchase, but it is particularly important to take a careful approach when buying overseas.

Firstly, make sure you are 100 per cent certain about the product you are buying. Do some research beforehand and make sure that you have a good inspection of the item, looking for any relevant trademarks or signs of certification, before money changes hands.

It is also crucial to ensure you are dealing with a reputable seller. Don’t be sucked in to making an impulse buy if you are not entirely certain about the individual or organisation you are buying from. Try to get some guarantees from local authorities or previous customers.

Paying with a credit card and getting an itemised receipt are strongly advised, as this ensures that you have a detailed record of your purchase.

Transferring cash and arranging delivery

Once you have done your research and are happy to go ahead with the deal, it could prove beneficial to use an international transfer service to ensure you have enough cash available for the transaction.

This approach offers a number of advantages, such as exchange rates that are up to four per cent better than those available with banks, no commission charges and the support of a dedicated currency dealer.

Transactions are available to destinations all over the world, from countries in Europe to more far-flung nations like Japan, the US and South Africa.

Another logistical concern to bear in mind is the possibility of having your purchase delivered home, which will be necessary if it is too large, heavy or fragile to transport yourself.

The website Independent Traveler points out that you will need to choose between having the merchant arrange shipping – which may not be an option with smaller sellers – or sending it personally.

You will want to take precautions to guarantee the safety of your goods, such as taking out dedicated insurance. If you are overseeing delivery yourself, ensure the item is securely packed and that the box is properly labelled with details of the contents.

The retirement age is rising – are we ready to deal with it?

The retirement age is rising – are we ready to deal with it?

By 2020 both men and women will be expected to work until the age of 66 before they can collect their state pension. Money and retirement are intrinsically linked, and the two topics have never been so prevalent in the national psyche since the government unveiled its plan to deal with the issue.

For years women have been able to retire at 60 and men at 65, so while this is a small increase for men it represents quite a drastic rise for women.

And the news isn’t going down well. A recent study by Engage Mutual found that the majority of British adults preferred to retire at 60 – which means women are happy with the current system and men would prefer their state pension to be brought forward by five years.

The findings are from a study of 1,500 adults aged 50 and over, which considered their financial, emotional and recreational needs.

Why is the retirement age rising?

Like a lot of other countries, the UK’s population is living longer. As life expectancy increases it means more people are drawing state pensions for longer, which is putting an unprecedented financial strain on the Treasury. That’s why, in 2012, the coalition announced that they would start to link state pension age with life expectancy – which could see today’s 20-year olds working well into their 70s.

Are we prepared to work longer?

Of course, when we prefer to retire is something personal to each and every one of us, however there are signs that we are prepared to work longer. Earlier this year, the number of people aged 65 and over in employment reached one million for the first time.

One in five of those surveyed by Engage Mutual said that they had no problem working past the age of 65. Eighty per cent of them said they still had plenty to offer the workplace, while 71 per cent enjoyed the companionship of their work colleagues and 41 per cent admitted they weren’t looking forward to retirement.

Why do we want to retire at 60?

The main reasons for wanting to retire at 60 are social. Broadly speaking, we want to retire at an age when we’re still reasonably active, both physically and mentally, so we can spend time with grandchildren, enjoy good health, travel abroad and spend our hard-earned savings. The worry is that if we retire later, we won’t be able to have fun with the family and do the things we’ve been saving up for all our working lives.

However, more than 90 per cent surveyed felt that being in your 50s and 60s is still young.

Retirement concerns

Retiring earlier would obviously have financial implications. Unsurprisingly, 60 per cent of those surveyed worry about being able to afford to live, while 54 per cent worry about how they will pay unexpected bills and costs.

Working to a later age could be the answer to building a better pension and securing your future for the extra year’s we’re living.

Find out if you’re ready for retirement by taking Engage Mutual’s light-hearted quiz: Are you ready to retire?

Don’t Give Up Hope Just Yet in Your Financial Struggle

There are thousands of college aged individuals, young adults, adults with families, and even the elderly who are all struggling to get by and tend to live paycheck to paycheck. And as the cost of living continues to rise, it doesn’t seem this form of “barely getting by” will change for many any time soon.

If you find yourself or someone you know in a financial rut, keep in mind that there are still a good amount of alternatives that can be used and efficiently implemented to make the required amount of extra income needed to make a financially suitable living. Such alternatives consist of, but are not limited to: getting a short term loan like auto title loans, taking up a second job, getting a revolving line of credit, having a yard sale in your neighborhood, moonlighting, selling items online, etc. Some, none, or even all of these scenarios may or may not be possible for someone but the good news remains, there are still plausible alternatives.
Auto title loans: Auto title loans are short term loans that may be perfect for those who own their own vehicle and may not have a good enough credit score to get a more traditional loan. Loan amounts generally range from $500 up to half of the vehicle’s total value.
Second job: Taking a second job requires a lot of time and effort to go into making it worthwhile, but if you can find a part-time job that doesn’t interfere with your current occupation this is a great way to get a head start efficiently.
Revolving line of credit: A revolving line of credit is a specific type of credit that doesn’t have an exact fixed amount of payments, as opposed to an installment credit. If you’re still not too sure what a revolving line of credit consist of, take a look at several companies that do offer it to make your own opinion.
Yard Sale: Selling unwanted items that may be taking up space around your home is one of the oldest, but still extremely efficient methods to earn extra money. BONUS: you get to get rid of a lot of clutter that may be lying around your home.
Moonlighting: Moonlighting is similar to taking up a second job but it really involves using a skill that you have in order to make a profit. Giving guitar lessons for example is a perfect and profitable type of moonlighting case.
Sell items online: There are many sources available online to sell your unwanted items for a fair price, sometimes for well more than what you thought the item was worth. Such sources like eBay and Craigslist have all proven successful for people worldwide.


Attention Students! Stretch your budget

Attention Students! Stretch your budget

Everyone knows that students are a broke bunch. I remember eating rice for days on end in my student digs since I couldn’t afford anything else. However, according to a report, students are becoming more frugal than ever.

Annual living costs came in at £9,500 a year, down from £11,000. It’s the first time in 3 years that this has fallen.

Food and travel were the main things that fell by the wayside – grocery shopping dropped by 3% and transport spending fell to £75 from £116.

Obviously the cost of living is rising – therefore modern day students are cutting back even more on their spending.

Here are some tips I used to stretch my budget when I was at uni:

When looking for somewhere to rent, don’t pay letting agents a registration fee. Legally they can only charge for services such as credit reference checks when they’ve found you a place.

Make sure your deposit is protected. Landlords can no longer keep your deposit in their own account and must place your deposit within the tenancy deposit scheme within 30 of receiving it. You should get full details of where your deposit has been registered.

Make sure the inventory is accurate. Sure it’s time consuming, but you’ll thank your lucky stars you checked when you come to move out and you’re being charge £20 for a missing serving spoon which was never there in the first place.

Remember, students don’t pay council tax. Also, check whether your belongings are covered on their insurance policy as ‘contents outside the home’ before buying your own contents insurance.

Shop around. Student specials are everywhere, from bank accounts to broadband providers.

Do a bulk buy at the start of term at a cash and carry or suchlike for items like laundry detergent, toilet roll and tinned food.

Join a cash back website – make money back on anything you buy online.

I think the majority of my cash went on drinking when I was at uni. Throw parties at home and tell everyone to bring their own drink – it’s a much cheaper way of having a great night with friends.

Powered by WordPress