Feeds:
Posts
Comments

As I drove to work in the morning, I saw a car shaking a little erratically as it suffered behind a car a bit too slow. It switched into the other lane of a two lane road but again it was stymied by another slow car so impatient, it switched back almost clipping another car in the process. Over and over again, the car switched lanes back and forth and in the end, had ended up back where it had originally started. Now, I’m all for switching lanes once or twice if I’m really stuck behind an incredibly slow vehicle but this was just getting ridiculous. I wanted to pull that guy over myself and sit him down and tell him to just “Stop!”. Besides, he could save a lot of money if he just had a little patience. How?

Save on Petrol/Fuel

All this rapid acceleration and decceleration was just wasting a lot of gas which with it being £5.50 or more per gallon around here was a LOT of money.

Save on Car Service

I’m not an automobile expert here but I’m sure that all this swerving back and forth has got to be tough on the tires. Not to mention this guy may have been lucky not to get hit by another car this time but things are unpredictable and I’m sure he’s gotten or will get into a few accidents that could have been wholly preventable. This means getting his car fixed over and over again when he didn’t have to.

Save on Car Insurance

Speaking of accidents, even minor accidents when happening multiple times will make an insurance company take pause. The insurance companies still want to make sure they have a profit in the end and if they’re always paying claims since most of the time, it’s this guy at fault, then they’re definitely going to raise his premiums.

Save on Medical Bills

Ok, if this guy gets in a car accident, he has a likely chance of getting hurt or at the minimum: whiplash. Also, this guy’s rather impatient and even his car seemed a bit stressed. Stress, whether it be from daily life or simply the fact that he has to pay more on gas or auto service or auto insurance, is definitely not good for one’s health in the long run (heart disease or high blood pressure to name a few).

This guy could potentially be paying hundreds of dollars more and all he gets in the end is that he arrived at work 5 minutes earlier than he could have. Is it worth it? That’s for him to decide.

With the alarming rise in unemployment as a consequence of the economically difficult times being faced, the prevalence of pay and hour cuts are becoming analogous to the incidences of redundancy amongst the population. Losing an income can place a significant financial strain upon a household, so what strategies can be utilised to financially readjust to these new circumstances?

1. All Chips In: Re-Evaluate Your Income

One of the most crucial parts of facing the challenge of redundancy is financially treading water until the regular money in lost income can be replaced. In looking at how much money enters your household each week or month, you will be more able to attribute priority to expenditures. It is important to remember that in identifying how much money enters the house, there is no requirement to look solely at wages earned from formal employment: for example, if eligible, some families can claim benefits to bolster their income.

2. Big Fish: Identify Key Expenditures

There are always expenditures that are vital to be outlaid in order to maintain any household and it is important that these take precedence over more minor outflows. Once the total income of a home has been established, a list of all outgoings can be established. The most crucial of household payments to be met normally include mortgage or rent payments, taxes in various capacities, bills for utilities such as electricity and gas, and money allocated for food.

3. Small Fry: Identify All Other Outgoings

Once the major expenditures that are necessary to be met in order to maintain the running of a household have been identified, the next step is undertake is to list all other outgoings. Many individuals typically use bank statements from previous months to recognise all other expenditures. In identifying where money is leaving the house, it is possible to make concessions or eliminate payments in order to readjust to the new figure in income. For instance, challenge yourself with a mantra of “was that a necessary item/could I have bought it cheaper elsewhere?” when attempting to justify expenditures.

4. Befriend Your Creditors

This is not to say that adding your credit card company to your list of Facebook friends is wise! With the accessibility of personal credit it is likely that some of the expenditures identified are likely to be repayments towards debts. In the instance of not being able to make full payments where a company requires, it is vitally important to communicate with your creditors as soon as possible to alert them to your altered circumstances. Typically, many creditors will be willing to negotiate repayment, providing you make a concerted and determined effort in showing that you are keen to make as large a payment towards your debt as you are possibly able.

5. Laurels Are Not Resting Aids

Surviving indefinitely on a reduced income is not always financially possible and so it is vital to begin searching for a new job immediately following redundancy. Many individuals view being laid off as a slight against their personal ability, however in this economy it is more likely for workers to be made redundant because the business is unable to sustain wages, rather than as a result of the worker’s ability. It is important to practice resilience and to consider every job as a possible source of income as opposed to a career choice since the job market has a lot of recovery required before careers can be facilitated again however the employment market is already beginning to show signs of recovery.

This article was provided by David Brown – a freelance writer with extensive experience in the area of debt information and currently writing for the debt advice website IVA.net.

Make a saving budget

With the food and petrol prices constantly rising in the face of the global financial crisis, cutting unnecessary spending and saving money is of ever increasing importance. By cutting out some luxuries from our lives we can avoid debt and save money.

When shopping, keep a look out for special offers, sometimes you can even pick up top branded products cheaply if they are on offer. Otherwise, try to buy supermarkets own brand products and stay away from brand names. Often, the quality of the product is the same for a cheaper price. Buying things in multipacks can also help to save money in the long run.

Shop around. Try shopping at a different supermarket and see if you’re shopping works out cheaper. This could be especially helpful if this supermarket is closer to home. Look out for petrol vouchers with your shopping and find out which supermarket offers the best loyalty card system.

Create a budget for the week, month or even a year. Sit down and work out all your incomes and expenditures, this way you know how much you have to spend on yourself over a given period. If you have cash left over try and save it. This could be by having one less drink on a night out or not having a weekly takeaway, over the year this will add up to a big saving. Some financial advisers will help you budget free of charge so it’s worth arranging a meeting with one to see what advice they can offer you on saving money.

Around the house this winter, layer up rather than turning the heating up! Heating bills are ever increasing due to rising gas and oil prices so by wearing extra clothing you can save money on your heating bill. The same can be said for your water bill, take showers rather than baths and avoid using the dishwasher where possible. As for electricity, turn off lights when they are not being used and try to avoid leaving electrical appliances on standby.

The cost of petrol has risen massively and even a short journey now costs a substantial amount in petrol costs. Avoid driving when you can, walk or take a bike. Not only will this save you money but it’s great for your fitness! You may also want to find out how to drive more efficiently, i.e how to use less petrol. Guides as to how to do this can be found online.

Last week I looked at how proactive (or not) mobile phone providers are about keeping customers on the most cost-efficient tariffs.

I promised that I would be back this week to bring you tips and tricks on getting the best deal for yourself in the absence of any help from your mobile phone company. I also asked the five main network providers – 3 Mobile, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone – to share their tips.

My tips for getting the best tariff and saving money:

  • Work out exactly how many minutes and texts you actually use each month. Look back at your last three bills and find out how much you’ve been using. If you are signed up to a deal where you receive a large amount of inclusive minutes and texts each month but you only use a fraction of them – or not getting enough –  then it’s time to act.
  • Make a note in your diary so that you know when your contract expires. You can usually begin shopping around and negotiating up to two months from the end of it.
  • Check out comparison sites such as BillMonitor, uSwitch, moneysupermarket and OneCompare. These sites will find you the best contracts for your specific needs.
  • Ofcom has a useful leaflet on getting the best deal. And before you switch to a new network, you can check the coverage in your area by visiting the Ofcom site and using the coverage maps provided.
  • If you’re unsure about signing up over the phone, ask for the information to be posted to you.
  • Switching to online billing can help you save money.
  • Don’t settle for the packages you see online or in mobile phone shops. Ring a service provider and haggle prices down or deal up.
  • Be prepared to say you want to close your account and switch to another network. This seems to be the key to being offered the ‘secret’ deals which are not usually advertised but are brought out as incentives to keep customers who threaten to quit. Of course you may really want to quit.
  • Whether you’re threatening to quit or really making the switch, ask your provider for your Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) code – the number you need to switch networks and keep your existing number. The mere mention of it should spark some action.
  • Switching to a new network should be painless because mobile providers are obliged to switch your old number over to your new network within five days and many do it much quicker. In the meantime, you’ll get a temporary number so that you’re not left without a phone.
  • Once you have switched networks, don’t forget to follow-up on any refunds due from your old provider. Check final balances carefully because some phone providers will not make an automatic refund if the account is in credit – something which is more likely if you pay by direct debit. Some companies, such as Orange, send customers a cheque automatically. T-Mobile refunds the balance automatically, but only if it is more than £20. If it’s less than this, customers must call a number to request the money. Vodafone customers must also call to request a refund.

What to avoid

Cashback – If you’re tied into a cashback system then you’re certainly not guaranteed to be better off. For instance, your mobile provider may offer you a deal of £15 a month, but in order to claim it you will have to pay £30 a month up-front and then send off your bills at the end of your contract to get the refund. Last year consumer campaigners Which? called for a ban of cashback deals after receiving hundreds of complaints from mobile phone customers who failed to receive their money. Ofcom – which was also flooded with complaints – has now introduced regulations but you might want to avoid cashback deals altogether.

Insurance – Most mobile providers will try and sell you insurance, but if even if they offer you a policy which is free for the first couple of months, the chances are that you will forget to cancel it and end up paying much more than you need to for the rest of the year. For instance, £6 a month may not seem a lot but it adds up to £108 over an 18-month contract. Worse still, you may also find that the policy you’re offered is full of exclusions and is no use whatsoever if you do need to make a claim. Accidental damage or losing your phone – the very things you’re most likely to claim for – are often not covered by rip-off phone insurance. It’s also worth checking whether your phone is already covered – often through household insurance or your credit card. Again, read the small print so you know what exclusions there are. If you break or lose your phone a lot then shop around for insurance on CompareTheMarket.com or try TalkCover.co.uk. You may find it’s much cheaper to insure several phones at the same time.

Freebies – It’s hard to ignore the lure of a free gift and these are increasingly popular and desirable. From GHD hair straighteners to a Wii or laptop, some providers will stop at nothing to entice you onto a certain tariff or contract. But will you really use the tariff you’re signing up to? According to research carried out by moneysupermarket.com in 2009, we waste over £250-worth of mobile allowance each year – more than 1,600 wasted minutes and over 1,800 wasted texts per person. So the extra cash you pay for the tariff you’re not using could have bought you the ‘free’ gift anyway.

What the big five mobile providers say:

3 Mobile:

  • Know what you need from your phone – if you use email a lot, then make sure you’ve got an inclusive plan that includes free email. If the internet is your thing, then make sure you’ve got enough of a data allowance to fit your usage patterns – especially if you are on a smartphone and use all the different applications and programmes available. When we introduced The One Plan, the idea behind it was to offer the vast majority of customers all the data, texts and calls they would need every month at one simple price point – so there were no complicated bills with add-ons and access packages.
  • Pick the right network – if you do more than just make calls and send texts (ie browse the internet, use social media or want to stay in touch with emails etc) make sure you’re on a 3G phone with a strong 3G network. Always use the coverage checker facility on the network you are considering to check you will have reception in the areas you use your phone the most.
  • Don’t fall for ‘unlimited’ deals – there’s always a limit and make sure you look at what it is. We’re a firm believer in offering complete transparency – using the words ‘unlimited’ or ‘fair use policy applies’ as little as possible. Our first step in this direction was the launch of the One Plan (see below for more information).
  • Do your research – not all tariffs are the same and, especially when taking on a long contract, it’s worth looking at what you’ll be getting and paying for each month. And check that the phone you are being offered does do the things you want it to do.

02:

  • Don’t always think price. Think ‘what is the best value I get as a customer?’
  • Do I get an early upgrade? Do I get value back?
  • What extra experiences do I receive?
  • Have I got a good signal where I am?
  • What’s the Customer Service like?

Orange:

  • Customers should look at what’s included in their talkplan allowance compared to their actual usage in any given month. It could be that overall customers are better taking a higher level talkplan which gives them more inclusive minutes, text, browsing and therefore helps to save money on their total bill spend. Customers could benefit from adding an additional bundle which offers a cheaper rate than if they just paid the standard rates. For example, for minutes, texts, mobile internet browsing, roaming, IDD and MMS.
  • Also, make sure to check what extra benefits the operators offer you as deals like Orange Wednesdays and Magic numbers offer enhanced value.

T-Mobile:

  • Work out what you want from your mobile contract – is a great phone the most important thing? Or are you looking for flexibility? Think about how you are going to use your phone – is it for texts, phone calls, internet or all of the above? You can do that yourself or talk to our expert advisors in store or on the phone and let them help you to find a great plan to suit you.
  • We’ve made it much simpler for our customers with easy to understand and great value pay monthly plans and we’ve made sure that even our contracts are flexible. Our customers get a flexible booster included in their plan which they can change every month to suit how they want to use their phone. They can choose from unlimited texts, unlimited internet on their phone, international calling, roaming, unlimited calls to other T-Mobile customers or unlimited calls to landlines.

Vodafone:

  • If you already have a phone, a SIM only plan might suit.  This allows you the flexibility to take a contract as short as just one month.
  • Some devices are sold exclusively by networks.  For example, Vodafone is the only network to offer the HTC Legend.  It’s worth checking this out, if you want a particular phone.
  • Consider customer service as part of your choice – Vodafone offers a variety of ways to get in touch – on the phone, on email, through our forums or on Twitter – @VodafoneUK.
  • Finally, Vodafone offers great deals through its Twitter service – @VodafoneUKdeals.  Get in contact with them if you want to find out what’s hot at the moment.

Have your say…. have you suffered a mobile phone rip-off?

Please leave your comments below…

In the past few months, the UK has gained its longest ever 0% balance transfer deal and then beaten the record several times over. The best card now offers a full two years interest-free and competitors aren’t far behind. Considering the credit card providers warned at the beginning of the year that new rules to protect consumers (mandatory high-to-low repayments, for example) would result in poorer deals all round, that’s quite a result.

Or is it?

Super-long 0% balance transfer credit card deals require super-spotless credit records: high earnings; no missed payments and certainly no more serious debt action such as CCJs. The top deal at the moment even specifies that, excluding a mortgage, cardholder’s debts must constitute less than 10% of their income. So, in other words, balance transfer applicants must be waving pretty languidly and certainly not drowning: the most vulnerable need not apply. In 2009, admittedly not a great year for credit card applications in any case, Uswitch research found that a full 57% of balance transfer credit card applications were rejected, the highest proportion of any card type.

In total, the researchers estimated, £3.5bn of credit card debt was stuck accruing interest because consumers were unable to move the balance. Even now, the top, two-year balance transfer is reported to only accept 50% of applicants and indications are emerging that even that estimate is being generous. Then there are the fees. To move to a 0% balance transfer, consumers must pay a fee upfront which is usually about 3% of the transferred balance. Transfer £5,000, about the average debt according to Credit Action, and that’s £150. For the proportion of consumers that can access them and then pay back within the interest-free period, 0% balance transfer credit cards are obviously a good deal.

They can save hundreds in interest payments. But the indication is that the deals are, increasingly a lifestyle choice (i.e. a way to defer payments that could, in reality, be more or less made upfront) than an option for anyone with anything even approaching a debt problem. That would be fine except that, as 0% deals increase, APRs are still increasing and risk-based re-pricing is becoming ever more common.

In other words: those with anything other than the best credit reports are paying through the nose and there’s little they can do about it. The real kick in the teeth is the footprint that rejected credit card applications leave on credit files.

That footprint means subsequent applications (for at least three months after the knock back, just when cardholders need them most) are less likely to be successful. We hope those reading this will bear that in mind alongside everything else in this article next time they hear the 0% deal sirens calling.

This is a guest post from Choose, a news, reviews and price comparison site that specialises in 0% balance transfer credit cards.

In the wake of Borders recent announcement it’s folding up shop, those holding gift cards from the bookstore chain may have cause for concern. While the second-largest bookseller says it’s presently honoring gift cards, shoppers are well advised to use up their balances before it’s too late. We faced a similar situation when Blockbuster and Circuit City filed for bankruptcy and are likely to do so again. To ensure consumers don’t get left in the lurch, here are a five lessons we’ve learned from these experiences.

1. Move Fast
Store liquidations usually begin rapidly — this Friday for Borders — so it’s often best to use up gift cards online, rather than wait until you have time to visit a retail store. Borders liquidation website says all 399 remaining stores will close by September, but they may start writing the final chapter on your local store much earlier.

2. Research the Bankruptcy Status
Borders was refused bankruptcy, meaning they had no choice but to liquidate. Other retailers, however, filed for bankruptcy and turned things around. Sometimes a company that’s filed for Chapter 11 is allowed by the bankruptcy court to honor its gift cards. California, however, specifically requires merchants in bankruptcy compensate gift card holders.

3. Consider the Company’s Stability
If you hear tales of other merchants threatening to close shop, research their financial stability via such sites as BBB.com and Forbes Risk List. (Stores considered at-risk by Forbes presently include Rite Aid and Zales.) Also, ScripSmart.com regularly updates its list of “Gift Cards to Avoid.”

4. Use It or Sell It
If you’ve received a gift card for a merchant you wouldn’t frequent, don’t wait until a store goes out of business. You can exchange gift cards for cash right now on such sites as GiftCardGranny.com and receive up to 95 percent of the card’s value in cash.

5. Use a Credit Card
If you’re concerned about a retailer’s financial stability but still want to buy a gift card, do so using a credit instead of a debit card. You can then ask the card issuer to withhold payment until you’re sure of the merchant’s status.

###
Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc.. She is available for in-studio, satelite or skype interviews. As a nationally recognized media source, Andrea has been featured on NBC Today Show, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, ShopSmart Magazine, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. To view recent interviews or for more savings tips visit AndreaWoroch.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

For all media inquiries, please contact Andrea Woroch at 970-672-6085 or email andrea@kinoliinc.com.

Feel free to share “Gift Card Advice as Borders Closes the Book on Business” with your audience.