Financial Budgeting, Income, Costs and Hints (Part 1 of 5)

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The 1st of a 5 part series covering aspects of Personal Financial Budgets and moving forward.

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Part 1 is: Create and Maintain a Budget

The first step to avoiding the troubles of financial debt is to create and maintain a budget. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds, don’t worry.

First off, create a list of all your monthly income and also a list of your monthly expenses. When determining income, list all sources including alimony, child support, side jobs, etc. In calculating expenses, be sure to include housing, food, transportation, utilities, entertainment, etc. To gain an accurate reflection of actual expenses, sit down each night and write down expenses, just make sure to save receipts. Determine if your income covers all of your expenses. If the answer is no, then some expenses need to be reduced.

Adjust expenses. If it is a small discrepancy, it may mean reducing some minor expenses like entertainment or cell phone plan. If the deficit is larger, you may need to downsize your vehicle or living arrangements. If your income covers all of your expenses, you still may want to trim some of the excess fat off your spending habits. This can free up extra money for things such as vacations or college funds for your children.

Additionally, consider if you need to add new categories. Some areas that are often overlooked are debt reduction, emergency savings funds, and retirement savings. An emergency fund ensures there is an adequate amount available to cover unforeseen events (car emergency, etc), should it arise. This will eliminate the need for using credit which can quickly damage your budget.

There are several advantages to sticking to your budget. Firstly, most people have set financial goals that they would like to reach in the future. Sometimes it may be a trip, a brand new car, or a college education. A budget can help people save money to make these goals a reality. Additionally, many people are crushed under heavy consumer debt. Without a disciplined pattern of spending, it is virtually impossible to make much headway in reducing debt. A personal budget will provide the necessary framework to begin eliminating these inflated account balances.

If executed properly, a budget will allow a person to simultaneously meet their expenses, place money into savings, and pay back outstanding debts. Therefore, it is anyone’s best interest to create and implement a budget.

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About Dormant Bank Accounts

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It’s estimated that up to ?bn may be sitting unclaimed in UK dormant bank accounts. Could you be entitled to a share?

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Banking experts estimate that up to ?bn may be sitting unclaimed in UK bank accounts that have gone ‘dormant’. What does this mean, and could you be entitled to a share in this huge amount of idle money?

A bank account goes dormant when, in the words of the British Bankers’ Association, a bank and a customer ‘lose touch with each other’. What this usually means in practice is that a customer has either passed away or moved house, and the bank haven’t been told and are unable to locate the account holder some time later.

If there are no transactions on an account over a period of around 12 months, the bank will write to the account holder at the last known address to ask them if they wish to keep the account open. If no reply is received, then the bank will change the status of the account to ‘dormant’. This means that from now on, no statements, chequebooks or other correspondance will be sent out to the customer.

The money in the account will still earn interest at whatever the normal rate of that account is, and the bank will still keep track of the account balance and keep a record of the last known address of the holder.

There are two main reasons for an account being made dormant. The first and most obvious one is to save the banks the administration costs of sending out statements and the like when there is no activity on the account from month to month (other than that initiated by the bank itself, such as interest payments).

The more important reason however is to guard against identity fraud. If a bank continues to send statements to an address when the account holder is no longer there to receive them, it is all too easy for these documents to end up in the hands of fraudsters, who could use the sensitive information they contain to begin a campaign of ID theft.

Most dormant accounts will have very small balances, but some will inevitably contain a substantial sum, often those belonging to someone who has passed away. If you think you may be entitled to money held in a dormant account, you can make a claim by filling in a form available from the bank in question.

You will need to give your reasons for making a claim, such as that the account belonged to a close relative whose estate was passed to you. You will also need to prove your own identity, and your connection to the original account holder if applicable.

If the bank don’t agree that you’re entitled to take over the account, you have the right to pursue an appeal, where your claim is re-examined. If the appeal fails, you can take your claim to the Financial Ombudsman Service, whose decision is final and binding.

Changing You Spending Habits

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It is every one dream being a millionaire and retiring with a healthy bank account, but how many people can actually achieve it? So few. This is largely due to lack of discipline in building up their retirement fund and poor spending habits. While building a retirement fund requires time, you can accelerate the process by making incremental but positive changes in your spending habits. Here are seven ways that you can change your daily lifestyle for more positive results in y…

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It is every one dream being a millionaire and retiring with a healthy bank account, but how many people can actually achieve it? So few. This is largely due to lack of discipline in building up their retirement fund and poor spending habits. While building a retirement fund requires time, you can accelerate the process by making incremental but positive changes in your spending habits. Here are seven ways that you can change your daily lifestyle for more positive results in your spending habits:

1. Have you ever noticed how much time you spend sitting in front of the television? The longer you sit, the worse it is for your blood circulation. Besides, the time you free up can be used for more useful tasks such as teaching your kids or learning a new skill.

2. If you are an avid reader, use the public library whenever possible. There is no need to buy the latest books from bookstores like Borders unless it is in a category that does not fit into a public library. The public library will usually acquire popular titles after some times. Learn to be patient.

3. If you are a smoker, start reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke each day. Over time, you may be able to quit smoking completely. Besides saving money by not buying any more cigarettes, your health will also improve and this means a huge saving in your medical bills.

4. Use a bicycle if the destination is within 30 minutes by car. This helps promote blood circulation in your body and also reduces environmental pollution. You can also save on gasoline and parking fees.

5. Dine at home more frequently. You can experiment with different recipes and save some money at the same time. In addition, you are honing your cooking skills and this could be very useful for the home dining experience.

6. Bring your own coffee to office. Many people like to drop by a Starbucks or similar coffee outlet and end up spending a few dollars or more on a cup of coffee. You can potentially save many dollars each week just by making your own coffee at home and bringing it to your work place in a Thermos. Besides, who knows, it may taste better than the coffee from Starbucks! If you really cannot live without Starbucks coffee, consider getting a Starbucks rebate card. You can use the rebates to redeem free Starbucks coffee after you have accumulated enough points.

7. Do more walking than driving. If you can reach your destination within ten minutes by car, consider leaving the car behind and walk instead. You will save money on gasoline and parking fees. This can easily add up to a few thousand dollars a year.
These seven ways are a good start for changing unhealthy spending habits. However, you should continue to research and incorporate more healthy habits that contribute to the building of your retirement fund. By re-investing the money saved from using these tips, you will be many steps ahead of your peers and closer to your retirement goals.

Avoid Financial Disaster with Good Planning

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You never know when financial disaster – job loss, illness or natural catastrophe – will happen. But you can take a few simple steps to be prepared, just in case.

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It’s tough to get by financially in today’s fast-paced life. With mortgages, car notes and massive amounts of credit card debt, most people struggle to get by from month to month. With most people doing what they can just to pay their bills, few people are prepared for the unlikely event of a financial disaster. They come in many forms; a storm like Hurricane Katrina, a loss of job, or a sudden illness can break anyone who isn’t prepared for an unexpected interruption in their financial life. But it isn’t all that difficult to make preparations that will help you in times of a money crisis. All it takes is a bit of planning ahead of time.

Here are a few things that will help you be prepared for the unexpected:

Get an ATM/Debit card – You may not regularly use cash or have a need for a debit card, but there are some circumstances where it may be necessary. People from New Orleans who were temporarily displaced by Hurricane Katrina would have benefited from having access to cash even while away from home. If you don’t use one regularly, get one anyway and keep it in a safe place.

Sign up for direct deposit – With direct deposit, you will know that your paycheck will be in your bank account even if you cannot, for whatever reason, physically get to your bank. This will help you in the event of illness or natural disaster that may have your local bank temporarily closed.

Sign up for online bill paying – You can pay bills even if you aren’t at home via the Internet. You don’t have to use the service, but it may come in handy at a time when you least expect it.

Save some emergency cash – Financial experts recommend that you save at least three months’ worth of financial expenses. That’s difficult, but every little bit can help. Try to cut back on a few unnecessary items, such as that tall latte you buy every day. It adds up, and you never know when you may need to access that emergency cash.

Set up a home equity line of credit – Unlike a home equity loan, which provides you with a lump sum of cash right away, a home equity line of credit provides you with cash that you can use a little at a time, and only when you need it. If you don’t actually take any money out, you don’t have monthly payments. But if an emergency strikes, you’ll have cash available. This can be particularly helpful if you find yourself out of work for a short period of time. Your bank won’t lend you money when you are out of work, so plan ahead of time and the money will be ready when you are.

A little bit of planning can go a long way when a financial emergency strikes. If you plan for it now, you will have fewer worries later.

Avoiding High Interest

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Frequent flier credit cards are a unique way for consumers to reward themselves wile spending money.

Avoiding High Interest

Frequent flier credit cards are a unique way for consumers to reward themselves while spending money.

There is, however, a hefty price to pay for spending while earning-interest rates average 16.99 percent on airline mileage credit card balances.

As consumers look for alternative choices to managing debt, the inevitable hunt for a low-rate balance transfer begins. Innovative companies such as E*TRADE FINANCIAL are making it easier for consumers to transfer their balances to a low-rate card while preserving their ability to earn rewards on the card of their choice.

Instead of the standard one-time balance transfer, the E*TRADE Mileage Maximizer Account is an automated balance transfer system that allows customers to transfer their balances on higher rate credit cards to a lower rate credit card each and every month. Low-rate credit products like these allow consumers to reduce the interest paid on balances, paving the way for effective debt management.

So celebrate the rewards you get from your airline mileage credit cards-take that trip, upgrade your seat or turn the miles into a charitable gift. But be smart-don’t pay for those benefits with an exorbitant interest rate and manage the balances you are carrying down to a low interest rate.

Finding The Right Credit Card

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Some people feel loyal to certain credit card companies, it’s only natural when you’ve had them for so long, but why not see if they can offer you a better card?

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I remember the lecture my mother gave me a few weeks before my first day of college. She sat me down and said, “I have something important to tell you.” Right about then is when I rolled my eyes and braced for the, “Young men are the devil’s spawn and should not be trusted,” and the, “You are going to a place where there will be great temptations,” speech. What I got was not really a lecture, but a talk about how it was time to start building my credit.

I really never gave that topic much thought. I always thought that getting a credit card was for grown ups, and Lord knows I didn’t quite feel like a grown up at the time. She told me I should start thinking about applying for a credit card. She also warned me if I did so, she would NOT bail me out if I started charging up the world. That alone scared me. I had a full time job, but what if I couldn’t handle the payments? What if I went temporarily insane, and decided to charge everything I could. It was too much for me, and I told her, I didn’t want to hear any more nonsense about me getting a credit card.

She of course persisted for the next two weeks, and I finally told her that I would look into it. I then asked the million dollar question, “How do I find the one that is best for me?” She blank stared me. Then she blink. Then she shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know, that’s your problem.” Cue the crickets.

So there I was, eighteen in 1992, trying to get a credit card, but not knowing where to start. Luckily on the fist day of classes, I was in the school book store and found an ad for a student credit card. Without giving it much thought, I applied and to this day I still have a card from that company. Was that the best way of going about it? Probably not. I suppose if I did the research I could have found a card with a better interest rate, or a better limit.

Now days, the internet has changed the way people research topics. I’ve found the best way to find a good product is to find a site that helps you compare similar products side by side. Are you interested in credit cards that offer airline rewards? How about credit cards that offer hotel and travel rewards? Maybe you are just looking for the credit card that would be right for your business, or one with low interest rates. There are even credit cards for poor credit.

Some people feel loyal to certain credit card companies, it’s only natural when you’ve had them for so long, but why not see if they can offer you a better card? Your time is precious and getting the best credit card for you is important to your lifestyle.

Handling Your Money Effectively

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There is inflation every year. You cannot stop an increasing in living expenses as prices of consumer goods increasing all the time. Saving money becomes an extremely difficult task to do. Here are some solutions for saving a little so that you can still meet your needs and still find ways to trim off a little for the future.

1. Budget ?Get one and stick with it! And set aside at least a small portion for savings while you’re at it; savings for your future, your retireme…

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There is inflation every year. You cannot stop an increasing in living expenses as prices of consumer goods increasing all the time. Saving money becomes an extremely difficult task to do. Here are some solutions for saving a little so that you can still meet your needs and still find ways to trim off a little for the future.

1. Budget ?Get one and stick with it! And set aside at least a small portion for savings while you’re at it; savings for your future, your retirement, your education, your vacation, whatever. Head to your local office supply store for planning workbooks or budget sheets to use. Or head to your favorite search engine and type in, “budget planning?for hundreds of sites with articles, free downloads, tips, ebooks and other resources to help with your budget setup and follow up.

2. Plan Ahead ?Make sure to plan for emergencies and the unexpected, like an appliance break down or garage door malfunction. Even if you can only set aside $50 or so each monthly, place it in an account and earmark it for this “Miscellaneous?fund. Then when things go wrong, and they will ?nothing’s perfect ?you’ll be better prepared.

3. Non Monthly Items – Work out a monthly payment for items that you don’t pay monthly and set this up in your regular monthly budget. For example, for items like annual home owner or renter insurance, quarterly water bills and automobile insurance payments and annual trash bills, take the amounts and determine what they would be monthly. Then list the items on your budget log and pull these amounts aside, saving them in your account for those purposes. This way, when the bills hit, you won’t be caught off guard and have to scrounge for the payments.

What works well, instead of handling multiple savings accounts for each company owed, is to use index cards and one savings account. Create one index card for each bill. Then simply log the amount you’re setting aside on the card and deposit it into your savings account. Keep the index cards with your savings passbook to remind you what the balance covers. The total of all your index cards should equal the balance in your savings account. (Make sure to create an index card for your regular funds that you are saving each month in step one above and a card for your Miscellaneous fund in step two above).

So next time you get paid, take three giant steps forward. Grab your index cards, follow your budget and invest in yourself and your future. Get a grip on your money handling.

Check Out These Check Facts

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Checking accounts have changed and you may want to spend some time checking out the changes and how they affect you.

Check Out These Check Facts

Checking accounts have changed and you may want to spend some time checking out the changes and how they affect you.

To start, checks are being processed more quickly these days. This means that when you write a check the money may be deducted from your account sooner. To avoid bounced checks, be sure you have enough money in your account at the time you write a check. A bounced check charge could cost you $25 per check or more.

Here are some other changes you should make note of:

• Some of your checks may be converted to electronic funds transfers from your account-called electronic check conversion. Your check is now like a debit and the money may come out of your account sooner. If you don’t want the checks you write to pay bills converted, contact your creditors to find out how to opt out. If you need a copy of a check that was converted, you will have to contact your bank, which will then contact the creditor who converted your check.

• Some of your checks may be processed as a check (instead of being converted), but the banks may exchange payment information electronically. Banks do this by creating “substitute checks.” Substitute checks are special paper copies of the front and back of the original check. When banks use substitute checks, the money may come out of your account sooner.

• The items listed in your checking account statement may look different from one another. Some items may be listed by check number and others may be listed by the name of the company you paid. Always review all of the charges listed on your account statements to make sure they match your receipts or records.

If you have questions about how your checks are processed, contact your bank, savings and loan or credit union.

Remember, under federal law you are protected against errors in your account when electronic funds transfers are used. But you have to read your bank statements each month or go online to check your account transactions. And you need to notify your bank as soon as you spot an error.

Budgeting For Emergency Funds?

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Emergency funds are considered to be a necessity as far as financial security is concerned, since it can provide one with financial resources that one can resort to and depend on when an emergency arises such that when one is sick and have the burden of paying huge medical bills, or unexpected home or major car repair.

When one has no emergency fund, one can be obliged to acquire debt on your credit card that might take several years to repay with interest that would late…

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Emergency funds are considered to be a necessity as far as financial security is concerned, since it can provide one with financial resources that one can resort to and depend on when an emergency arises such that when one is sick and have the burden of paying huge medical bills, or unexpected home or major car repair.

When one has no emergency fund, one can be obliged to acquire debt on your credit card that might take several years to repay with interest that would later cost so much more.

However by putting an extra thirty to fifty dollars every month in an individual “emergency savings account?one can be secured with what emergency the future may bring. In doing this, it is recommended that one regards the emergency fund as an additional bill, to be punctually paid each month.

Yes, one can and should budget and allocate the extra money for emergency fund, as this is very significant when one refers to his “financial future? Here, the goal is to create savings from budgeting your income; the emergency savings should ideally be equal to at least three months your living expenditures.

What’s important is that you should steadily put a certain amount of money aside, and only use it for real emergencies.

Not like an investment, the success of one’s long-term savings funds does not really count on the amount of return or interests but on placing a fixed amount of money away constantly and steadily so to have immediate access to it at all times.

In spite of one’s financial status, the initial step in the process of constructing an emergency fund is by knowing where your money is presently being consumed or spent.

When one recognizes and determines where one’s earnings are spent, then it will be easy for one to choose and make a decision where to trim down expenses. In other words, budget.

Budgeting is putting or setting aside money for anticipated and unanticipated future use. It is here that one sets up a goal so as to save. So set an emergency fund as your goal.

Checking, savings, money market accounts and “certificates of deposits? are great places to keep one’s cash that might be needed on quick notice.

The amount saved from budgeting can either go to your savings goal, emergency fund or both. One could utilize the money saved from budgeting financial expenses by saving half of it to your savings account and half of it for emergencies. This way, you achieve your goals in savings and at the same time put in funds for emergency use. It’s your choice.

Earn While You Shop: Find the Right Reward Program for You

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Point-based reward programs are proliferating. You can earn enough miles to fly to Paris just by using your credit card or you can accumulate points that can be spent like cash merely by shopping at your favorite stores.

Earn While You Shop: Find the Right Reward Program for You

Point-based reward programs are proliferating. You can earn enough miles to fly to Paris just by using your credit card or you can accumulate points that can be spent like cash merely by shopping at your favorite stores. But with so many options available, how do you know you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck?

The following tips will help ensure that you pick the right program for your needs.

* Know your lifestyle. Choose a reward program that fits your priorities and lifestyle. If you travel a lot, try air mile travel reward programs like www.milesource.com.

Similarly, if you like outdoor activities, look for a credit card like the Cabela’s Club Visa, found at www.cabelas.com. You can earn points, in the store and online, that can be redeemed for all types of hunting, fishing and camping gear.

* Reap your rewards. Select a reward program that doesn’t add an expiration date to your hard-earned points. If it does, make sure you know the date and use the points before you lose them.

* Look for flexible rewards. Avoid choosing reward programs that tie you into redeeming points only at specific vendors. Look for more flexible options like FreeStyle Rewards, found online at www.freestylerewards.com. It lets you build points by shopping online at more than 175 participating merchants. You redeem your points for a debit card that can be used anywhere MasterCard is accepted, online or offline.

* Click ‘n’ save. Select online shopping reward programs that provide gateway access to your most frequently visited stores. You’ll find everything you need, save money while you shop and build points as you go.

* Share the wealth. How would you like to make point donations to family, friends or charities? Select a reward program that allows you to do so.

* Compare. Just like you would compare merchandise prices, compare point-based reward programs by considering what’s important to you and determining which ones will fit your needs.