30 September 2010

Budget Tips For Everyday Life

1. Budgets may be a pain but they are essential for a healthy financial life.

They're the only practical way to get a grip on your spending - and to make sure your money is being used the way you want it to be used.

2. Creating a budget generally requires three steps.

- Identify how you're spending money now.

- Evaluate your current spending and set goals that take into account your long-term financial objectives.

- Track your spending to make sure it stays within those guidelines.

3. Use a chart on your computer to track your progress.

If you use a personal-finance program such as Quicken or Microsoft Money, the built-in budget-making tools can create your budget for you.

4. Don't drive yourself nuts.

One drawback of monitoring your spending by computer is that it encourages overzealous attention to detail. Once you determine which categories of spending can and should be cut (or expanded), concentrate on those categories and worry less about other aspects of your spending.

5. Watch out for cash leakage.

If withdrawals from the ATM machine evaporate from your pocket without apparent explanation, it's time to keep better records. In general, if you find yourself returning to the ATM more than once a week or so, you need to examine where that cash is going.

6. Spending beyond your limits is dangerous.

But if you do, you've got plenty of company. Government figures show that many households with total income of $50,000 or less are spending more than they bring in. This doesn't make you an automatic candidate for bankruptcy - but it's definitely a sign you need to make some serious spending cuts.

7. Beware of luxuries dressed up as necessities.

If your income doesn't cover your costs, then some of your spending is probably for luxuries - even if you've been considering them to be filling a real need.

8. Tithe yourself.

Aim to spend no more than 90% of your income. That way, you'll have the other 10% left to save for your big-picture items.

9. Don't count on windfalls.

When projecting the amount of money you can live on, don't include dollars that you can't be sure you'll receive, such as year-end bonuses, tax refunds or investment gains.

10. Beware of spending creep.

As your annual income climbs from raises, promotions and smart investing, don't start spending for luxuries until you're sure that you're staying ahead of inflation. It's better to use those income increases as an excuse to save more.

28 September 2010

Fears Over Debt Management Companies

Oh dear. It is not a very bright day for debt management companies. With the news pouring in of more and more companies who face losing their license, one cannot help but feel worried and vulnerable.

Following an enquiry from The Office of Fair Trading, it has been discovered that as many as 129 firms are guilty of some degree of malpractice. The wrongdoing ranges from giving out biased or influencing advice (when in fact it should be impartial and honest) to misleading advertising and even some firms posing as ‘free’ government organisations.

This news shows that going it alone on the internet in search of these firms can be very risky indeed, especially when we know that by the end of this year alone, over £250 million will be paid to debt management companies.

Price comparison websites offer you a safe environment to get advise and/or help if that is what you choose. The companies have already been reviewed by the website and so you can be sure that the companies they showcase are respectable.

27 September 2010

To Pay Or Not To Pay

For the 2010/2011 academic year, interest rates for student loans are now either 1.5% or 4.4%. The rate varies depending on when you took the loan out i.e when you first started university. If you started university between 1990 and 1997 then you will be subject to the 4.4% interest rate. After this the 1.5% applies, depending on whether the Bank of England’s base rate stays at 0.5%.

Interestingly statistics show that the number of outstanding loans for the latter, comes in at a whopping 3,300,000, with the old school 4.4% loan coming in with 355,000 outstanding loans.

We are now a whole generation of Britons with student loans as so many of us go down the higher education road. So what does it mean when people say that student loans have no real cost? This is said because there is no real interest cost because the most you will ever pay is the rate of inflation i.e the rate at which prices are rising. Therefore, a student loan is essentially very different from other commercial loans where you must pay back extra cash on top of inflation rates.

To question is then is it worth paying back your student loan? An article I read today argued that in actuality, you are much better off putting that monthly payment into a high interest savings account, or into another investment because over a ten year period, you would have earned back enough money to pay off your loan, and more. The article was saying that you should prioritise those things with higher interest rates such as credit card bills and bank loans as your student loan is not going to gather much interest at all. Low interest loans do not need to paid off quickly; even if they sit unpaid, they will not collect a huge amount of interest at all. You might be better off not paying it off in this case.

It is something to think about anyway before you go rushing into paying off that student loan...

20 September 2010

Minimising The Cost Of Divorce

With the cost of divorce so high these days, perhaps couples will think twice before heading to their nearest divorce lawyers. It might even encourage couples try and resolve their differences rather than to eternally agree to disagree...you never know.

According to experts, divorce costs are at an all time high and back at pre-global financial levels. The rising costs have much to do with key amendments to family, superannuation and tax laws in recent years, which means that there is a wider range of assets being split in marital property settlements. Even the superannuation savings of de facto couples can be divided.

Adding to this is the news that more couples are breaking up after longer marriages and thus the accumulated wealth that must be divided is proportionally higher. It is estimated that the number of couples getting divorced between the aged between 50-55 has quadrupled in the last ten years.
With statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing that 40 per cent of marriages are likely to end in divorce, couples should enter into marriage with an acute awareness of the facts. Australia saw as many as 47,000 divorces in 2008.

It would be wise to construct a pre-marital contract which states terms of a divorce if a couple were to split, rather than wait until its too late. A secured pre-marital deal might be essentially unromantic but nobody knows what will happen after marriage. It is wise to be prepared and realistic. A pre martial contract can ease some of the stress and financial difficulties of a divorce.

16 September 2010

Consumer Confidence Dwindles- Fight Back!

With today’s report from the Office of National Statistics revealing that retail sales have dropped in the month of August, we have to wonder whether we Britons have hidden our wallets away and resigned ourselves to evenings spent in watching X Factor and playing backgammon.

With more ominous data pouring in as a result of the terrible environmental and humanitarian floods disaster, major retailers have warned us that the price of cotton is set to sky rocket due to the cotton plantations being demolished in the flood waters.

However, I wonder whether the statistics truthfully reflect our shopping sentiment. I for one know that just because the price of cotton is on the up and despite the negative data released today, when I want to shop, I will. I think most people share this sentiment, and as Britons we are, as a nation, fairly resilient when it comes to financial crises.

Here on Which Way To Pay we showcase a number of different credit cards, which although they are not the answer to all financial problems, can be extremely useful when you need a bit more financial flexibility. Simply having a credit card helps you to build up a good credit rating so even if you are not intending to use a credit card, it is definitely worth applying for one.

Have a good day,

Which Way To Pay

15 September 2010

Clothing Prices Set To Soar

The price of cotton is set to soar. Believed to be linked with the large scale floods in both China and Pakistan, the price of raw cotton is up from ten cents a pound to an unbelievable rise of 83 cents a pound in the last month alone, along with the rise in VAT to 20 per cent.

This drastic increase will hit low budget high street chains such as Primark and H&M most forcefully seeing as these stores use cotton as their majority material. Consumers will have to rethink their perception of the store which is most notably known for selling £2 t-shirts and £4 jeans.

Primark Finance Director John Bason warns: “The pricing environment is a tough one for the consumer.” Customers will have to start thinking about the impact these environmental changes will have on them.

Consumer campaigners are angry at retailers for changing the prices, only when it benefits them. Campaigners have been urging retailers for years to increase their prices in order that long suffering foreign workers are paid more fairly.

Dominic Eagleton, from Action Aid comments: “For years, major retailers have been telling us they want to put prices up to help foreign workers-but don’t want to upset customers over here. This statement though, would suggest that when it suits companies they can raise prices after all if they want to.”

09 September 2010

Claiming Online

Using a claims service has never been easier - simply click on a particular firm's website, fill out an initial form regarding your claim and you will generally be contacted within a short space of time.

There are so many types of claims, and for each one there are countless specialist services - injury claims, PPI claims, work claims, credit card fee claims...

But is it safe to use an online claims service? Well, as long as they are regulated and registered, run by people that are either trained lawyers or solicitors or claims experts you should be in the right hands. If in doubt it is possible to visit a standard solicitor (such as a famiily solicitor).