Is Better Urban Planning the Answer to the Jobs Crunch?

It only makes sense that major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston have more job opportunities than a small town in a rural state. A greater concentration of people means more businesses, which means more jobs and more money.

However, what many people do not realize is many jobs in urban areas go unfilled, even when the economy is sluggish. It’s not that the jobs themselves are necessarily undesirable, but there aren’t enough workers to fill them. This is in large part because those workers who would be willing to move from rural areas to urban areas are unable to find adequate, affordable housing that would allow them to reside in the city and take on those roles. The result is the dreaded “urban sprawl,” unplanned low-income housing areas and, ultimately, stagnation in terms of creativity and entrepreneurship.

In some cases, cities themselves are to blame for this problem. Many cities, in their quest to maintain the aspects that set them apart from other cities, inadvertently create an environment that is inhospitable to growth. They want to maintain the best aspects of their city, such as green spaces, distinct neighborhoods, cultural environments and sometimes a sense of exclusivity that sets them apart from other cities. However, as a result these cities fail to create the infrastructure that encourages business development — or even fills the already available jobs.

The solution is a greater commitment to urban management and allowing officials with training in public administration and planning to develop growth plans that will meet the needs of city residents while also opening up additional job opportunities.

Cities and the “Creative Class”

Gentrified JobsAuthor Richard Florida launched an ongoing debate with the publication of his book “The Rise of the Creative Class.” In the book, Florida argued that cities were vital to the “creative class.” In the past, the economy has relied on agriculture and then industry, however, the future economy will be based more on ideas than on physical products, and thus there is a need for more creative thinkers and entrepreneurs. Urban environments, Florida argues, are the breeding grounds for such creativity.

However, he cautions the most effective urbanization is not simply in building skyscrapers and packing as many people as possible into a few square miles. Instead, he argues for “walkable cities,” with neighborhoods and communities designed for multiple uses with adequate services and easy access to transportation. Such communities encourage the exchange of ideas and the fostering of creativity, which will form the background of the new economy — while also creating jobs.

The Role of Urban Management

The term “urban management” often raises images of planners focused on preserving business, green and historical districts, or on developing open space into yet another strip mall. While in some cases, these tasks are part of the urban mangers role, when it comes to supporting the creative class and creating an urban environment that welcomes workers, urban management plays an even greater role.

More specifically, urban managers can encourage the jobs growth in their cities by:

  • Developing strategies and solutions for housing, both in the city limits and the surrounding suburban areas. Ideally, neighborhoods should be multi-use, meaning they mix housing and business, with accessible services nearby.
  • Maintaining green spaces and walkable areas. Surveys indicate both city dwellers and those considering a move to the city value open space, such as parks or preservation areas, and are more inclined to live in areas where there is adequate space for recreation. Some experts also argue creating such open, walkable areas also encourages the free exchange of ideas, as residents have a place where they can meet each other and share ideas.
  • Develop solutions to allow for more density without sacrificing quality of life. Studies show greater population density leads to greater productivity, higher wages and more jobs — all important aspects of the American economy. Experts argue by making cities easier to live in the economy would experience a much faster and healthier recovery.

Cities already account for more than 90 percent of America’s GDP; by 2054, experts predict more than 70 percent of Americans will live in urban environments. By taking steps now to make those urban environments more livable, the future will be more creative, innovative and fulfilling.

5 Out-of-the-Ordinary Careers Ideal for the Highly Organized

You’re so organized, people tease you for it. Translate your talent into a career that requires your organization skills. You might picture the only career for an organized person is in a general business office, but there are many options for the highly organized you might not have considered. Whether it’s been a dream of yours to work in the medical field or in the hot-button political industry, there’s a job for your talents.

Health Care

Combine your passion for helping people with your talent for organization with a career in patient care services administration that offers stable work and competitive wages. Start off as a nurse or medical assistant for insight into the demands of the jobs and for ideas on how to streamline and transform the medical facility’s practices. Focus on administration as you earn your advanced degree and become a medical facility’s go-to person for providing health care efficiently in your community.

Volunteer Coordinator

No matter the cause that speaks to you, there’s an organization that provides support and aid to address the need. Although sometimes a strictly volunteer position, a volunteer coordinator is such an essential person in the typical charity’s operations that it’s more often a paid position perfect for a highly organized individual. As coordinator, you’ll be in charge of distributing supplies, budgeting donations and tasking volunteers and employees with the work to be done. You may also be in charge of efforts to get more volunteers and spread information about the organization.

Academic Researcher

Not everyone has the drive and analytical mind required for thorough academic research, but highly organized people often do. If you’re passionate about a subject, an academic research position may prove to be an even more rewarding career for you than professor or teacher. As a researcher, you’ll be in charge of collecting and analyzing data, running trial experiments (if appropriate for the subject), pouring through previous research and sources and producing unique conclusions. You’ll write papers, give presentations and meet with other likeminded individuals for engaging discussions about your field of study.

Political Consultant

If you’re passionate about politics, put your organizational skills to use as a political consultant. Rather than tying yourself only to campaigns, as a consultant, you’ll be in a position to manage a person from her initial interest in campaigning through her campaign and even with her image after election. You can switch from one candidate to another or even from one party to another as you earn a reputation in the field. Perform market research for a candidate’s viability and the issues most important in her district, brainstorm ideas for an election and manage the politician’s public image through speeches, appearances, websites and social media.

Financial Advisor

Whether it’s a person in his twenties eager to know when he’ll be able to afford a home and how much he should have in the bank to start a family or a couple nearing retirement wanting to make sure they have enough money to live off in their post-career years, people need financial coaching at every stage of life.

As an organized person with a passion for numbers and accounting, you’ll be able to put together a viable financial action plan for each of your clients based on income, assets and financial goals. Because life doesn’t go as perfect as planned, you’ll also be expected to adjust plans as necessary to reflect a job loss or decrease in wage, a divorce or a change in goals. Because you’re highly reliable and have a keen insight, counseling people about their financial goals will prove an excellent use of your talents.

The International OCD Foundation estimates between two and three million American adults have OCD. Whether you’ve gotten an official OCD diagnosis or you simply notice you have a strong desire to keep things organized, channel your talents into a stable career. People may tease that you’re too uptight, but there are careers in a variety of skills looking for people who can commit to the hard work necessary to keep things operating and organized. Stop focusing on the drawbacks of needing organization and celebrate the advantages by looking into an interesting career.

Online Shopping Resource – One Central Location To Save You Money

Shopping is a necessary aspect of life, but it can be bothersome when product costs add up quickly. Shopping online becomes more costly when shipping and handling costs are calculated. Luckily, shopping online can be beneficial in that product costs can be easily compared against competitors this way. Following a number of money-saving tips can make the overall shopping experience much less expensive.

Use Online Coupons
Using coupons helps shoppers keep track of the latest deals in their favorite stores. Some stores even feature multiple retailers from which customers may use coupon codes or take advantage of sales. These coupons offer significant savings that other shoppers may overlook. If similar stores feature deals on the same item, compare the prices with a coupon provider that lists multiple stores at once, such as Chippmunk. Coupons can also be used in-store. Some online coupons can be printed and used just as those found in flyers and shoppers’ guides.
Make a List
Write down every type of item to be bought, and categorize them for easy searching. Next write a maximum price to spend on each item. From these plans, create a total that is within budget and only shop for items that fall within their individual budgets.When deciding on the target price always round up in order to avoid going over the allotted budget and to leave extra money after everything has been purchased. Keeping track of each expenditure helps guarantee that no purchases are forgotten or that impulse buying does not occur. Any money left over can be saved for emergency purchases.

Shop in One Place
One-stop shopping is a great way to save in comparison to buying multiple items from various specialty stores. Shopping at one store is easier and less time-consuming and may result in reduced shipping cost and sales tax. Some sellers will combine shipping costs into one shipment.There is an added advantage in accumulated purchase costs as well. Many online retailers offer free shipping once a certain amount has been spent. Buying all necessary items at one store helps the total increase to meet the spending requirement. Along with free shipping, some retailers will even throw in a free gift.

Take Advantage of Holiday Sales
Retailers offer largely publicized sales at multiple points during the year. Some of the most common include Labor Day, President’s Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, among others. These holiday sales present the chance to find coveted items at drastically reduced prices.

Stay on the lookout for these bargains and take full advantage. Buy items that are most important, and avoid buying anything just because of its low price. Online stores often honor these same sales and will feature special discounts in addition to those available with coupon codes.

Buy in Bulk 
Items such as toiletries, diapers and cleaners cost more when purchased individually. When bought in cases, the costs of each unit are much less. For items such as toilet paper or dish detergent, this technique is a necessity. These items are used constantly and frequently need to be replaced. Buying many units at once saves the time and frustration of running to the store each week. In addition to the reduced unit price, some stores offer further discounts for items that are purchased by the case.

Finding products at lower prices is not always a difficult task. Many stores will advertise when they feature sales on certain items. For those that have no sales, there is often a code or coupon that will save money regardless.

Your Essential Guide to Cash and Investment ISAs

Individual Savings Accounts (or ISA) are a great financial planning tool. The UK government introduced ISAs in 1999 to encourage UK residents to save for the future. Although the name implies a savings account, ISA is not a regular savings account. ISA offers a tax-free way to save and invest. You’re entitled to keep the money earned from your ISAs, without paying tax on interest, dividends, bonuses and capital gains.

There are two types of ISAs: cash ISA and investment ISA (stocks and shares). In the tax 2013/14 year that runs from 6 April 2013 to 5 April 2014, you can invest up to £11,520 in ISAs. You can choose to invest the full amount in an investment ISA or save up to £5,640 in cash ISA, with the remaining balance of £5,640 in an investment ISA.

With cash ISA rates low, is it better to switch to an investment ISA? Here are some important things to consider when comparing the two:

Length of investment

A cash ISA is more suitable for short-term savings and it’s a better choice if you prefer liquidity. In contrast, investment ISA is ideal choice for long-term investment if you can afford to set aside your money for at least 5 years or longer. However, the value of your investment may go down and there is no guarantee that you’ll make a profit.

ISA flexibility

Your cash ISA can include cash deposited in banking and building society accounts as well as life insurance policies, shares in companies, and stakeholder medium-term products that fail to meet the qualifying conditions for investment ISAs. On the other hand, with investment ISAs, you can buy into individual shares, corporate bonds, equities, unit trusts, investment trusts, open-ended investment companies (OEICs), exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and gilts. With so many investment products to choose from, you should keep your portfolio simple and diversified to mitigate risks.

Where to open an ISA

You can open a cash ISA account with an ISA manager such as a bank, building society, and National Savings and Investments. Select ISA managers who are approved by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and authorized by the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA). For an investment ISA, you need to be invested on an investment platform such as Interactive Investor, in order to access the wide range of investment products. The investment platform allows you to hold your investments in one place, monitor your portfolio performance and rearrange your investments. Most investment platforms also offer trading tools such as market news, company news and reports, and learning guides. Some investment platforms may offer ‘self-select’ ISAs that enable you to choose a variety of shares and securities to build your portfolio.

Different platforms offer different range of investment choices and charge differently. Make sure you find out from your ISA manager about the charges of managing your ISA and whether there are penalties for early withdrawal and switching from one ISA manager to another.

ISA restrictions

While you need to be at least 18 years or over to open an investment ISA, you can open an adult cash ISA on your 16th birthday. Many investments that qualify within an ISA carry certain other restrictions. For instance, you can only invest in foreign shares that are listed on a recognised stock exchange. You need to weigh up the pros and cons of buying individual foreign shares in your portfolio.

For tax purposes, people who qualified for an ISA include residents in the UK, a Crown employee such as a diplomat or a member of the armed forces who is working overseas and paid by the UK government. An ISA cannot be hold jointly with, or on behalf of, another person.

In each tax year, you can only subscribe to one cash ISA and one investment ISA. However, you can choose different managers in different years. Hence, there is no limit on the number of different ISAs you can hold over time.

Whichever type of ISA you choose, it is important to have a good knowledge of the investments you want to hold and design your investment strategies that reflect your desires, goals, and risk threshold. If you’ve not used an ISA before, a lower-risk cash savings option may be a good start, before moving onto investment ISAs.

Image by Images Money, used under Creative Comms license

Dubai Adds Value to any Business Enterprise

Dynamic, forward-looking, innovative, entrepreneurial – descriptive tags which underline why so many foreign companies both large and small are attracted to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Persian Gulf. And add to the mix an astute financial services sector always ready and willing to offer a raft of value-added services, ranging from the simple business banking account to the more complex payments and cash management services vital for the well-being of any profitable company.

Glitzy, glamorous Dubai, the largest city in the UAE, is an obvious magnet for the investor, the business entrepreneur and also the millions of tourists who visit every year. It’s not hard to understand why given the city’s penchant for massive infrastructure investment and spending over recent years. Now man-made islands, five-star hotels and gigantic shopping malls, not to mention the tallest man-made structure in the world, the incredible 2,716.5 foot Burj Khalifa, all add a wow-factor which few cities anywhere can match.

The Oxford Business Group (OBG), a global publishing, research and consultancy firm which publishes economic intelligence on the markets of the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America, says Dubai’s economy continued its post-crisis recovery, expanding by around 4.7 per cent in the second quarter of 2013. Much of this was down to growth across the rest of the UAE in a range of sectors, mainly trade, financial enterprises, transport and communications, real estate, construction and manufacturing.

Economic data showed non-oil sectors dominating the UAE’s GDP figures, with the share for trade at an estimated 28 per cent, 16 per cent for manufacturing, 14 per cent for financial enterprises, 13 per cent for real estate and 8 per cent for construction.

Dubai has witnessed a continued recovery in the real estate sector since the beginning of the year, where the average price per square metre of residential apartments increased by about 25 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2012. Like other important sectors in the emirate, the Dubai Financial Market also performed very well since the start of 2013; its General Index recorded a 12.7 per cent growth by the end of March, showing investors’ interest in the capital market.

The activities and events organised in the emirate have also contributed much to attracting the large number of tourists and visitors from various countries, with the Dubai Shopping Festival and Global Village, the region’s first cultural, entertainment, family and shopping destination, adding to the many festivals and exhibitions held throughout the year.

Indeed, rising demand and the recovering economy are driving growth in Dubai’s retail sector, with a sharp increase in new mall space suggesting that it is beginning to shake off the doldrums of the global economic crisis of 2009.

And with the economy rebounding, projects previously put on hold have been reactivated and new developments are being put into the pipeline. The flow through the development pipeline is expected to become stronger throughout the second half of the decade, as new projects are completed and some existing retail spaces expand to maintain their competitive edge.

For more on the UAE and other countries in the Middle East, check out the OBG website here.

Save Money Driving – Fuel Saving Tips 26 – 30

This is a Guest Post by Todd @ Fearless Dollar — it’s part of his 5 site series on How To Save on Gas Money.

Are you driving to see family this holiday season? Taking a road trip to see the fam can be cheaper and more (or less) convenient than taking a flight.

If you haven’t noticed, in the past 10 days fuel prices have dropped 50 cents in many areas across the country. But don’t be deceived, they’re still a lot higher than they were just 5 years ago.

If you want to save money on driving, here’s our 5 site series on saving fuel. I’m posting across five websites, so make sure to check out all the tips!

Fuel Saving Driving Tips

Tips 1 – 5 Fearless Men

Tips 6 – 10 Fearless Dollar

Tips 11 – 15 AllThingsFinance.net

Tips 16 – 25 American Debt Project

Tips 25 – 30 Daily Tips Blog

What burns gas more than anything?

A. Frequent and sudden acceleration

B. Frequent and sudden braking

C. Excessive idling

These are the main reasons city driving cost so much more fuel than driving on a highway. What are the best ways to save gas?

26. Maintain your car

In every sense of that statement, utilize and maintain your car as your machine of choice. Because it is!

Maintaining your car according to its schedule will not only lengthen how long you can use it, but will help retain its fuel efficiency.

27. Know the season

Avoid prolonged warming up of engine. Aside from getting your heater blasting, modern cars don’t need more than 30-45 seconds of warm-up time.

Make sure you don’t use deep-tread tires or snow chains when you don’t need to. These will guzzle up the use of gas!

28. Buy a fuel efficient car

The next time you’re on the market for a car, keep in mind its fuel-efficiency, especially when looking at used cars. You’ll eventually resell it, and moving forward cars with poor fuel efficiency will be harder to sell.

29. Buy gasoline during the coolest part of the day

The cooler the temperature, the denser the gas. Meaning when you fill up, you’ll be getting a little bit more fuel.

30. Cut down on frequent and excessive acceleration and braking

Speeding up and then coming to quick hard stops is not only wearing on your car, but burning up fuel unnecessarily.

Checkout gas saving tips 1 – 5 on Fearless Men!

[Featured image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmogle/]

5 Surprising Ways to Turn Your Finances Around

Many hardworking men and women are finding that money is extremely tight in today’s economy. Even those people who have started working second or third jobs are frequently living from paycheck to paycheck. In many cases, there are not enough hours in the day to bring in additional money. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to maximize your income as is. The following are five somewhat surprising ways you can save your hard-earned money — and begin to experience financial freedom.  

Make Charitable Donations

If you are trying to get your finances in order, it’s likely donating to charity isn’t the first thing on your mind. While it may seem counterintuitive, making charitable donations can actually save you money. Donations to charity are tax deductible, and by keeping track of each donation, you can receive a sizable tax refund at the year’s end. Additionally, donating to people in need is often a catalyst for financially responsible living, as it helps you to better assess your wants against your needs.

Donating your car to charity is one of the most financially rewarding donations you can make. This donation will qualify you for a major tax deduction, and will also eliminate the costs of driving and maintaining a vehicle. Once you find the best place to donate a car in New York or wherever you live, the process is simple. The donation center will handle the details, leaving you to enjoy a life free from the costs of gas, insurance, and car loans. Additionally, by donating your car and choosing to walk, bike to work or use mass transit, you can dramatically improve your health, reducing your health care costs over time.

Take Advantage of Deals

Keeping a sharp eye on sales, searching through the bargain bin and clipping coupons are simple ways to save in a dramatic way. Grocery expenses can add up quickly, so before heading to the store, gather all the coupons you can. Planning your meals around items on sale can prevent a shopping spree from leaving a hole in your wallet. Another way to save at the grocery store is to join a discount club that offers savings on bulk items.

You can also save money on your clothing purchases by paying attention to discounts and sales. One way to significantly cut back on clothing costs is to shop out of season. Look for a bathing suit in December or a winter coat in July, for instance. Once the appropriate season comes along, you’ll be glad you have weather-appropriate clothing that you were able to purchase at half the price.

Do It Yourself

If you are faced with household projects that will cost you a pretty penny, consider taking them on yourself. In many cases, tasks such as fixing a dishwasher or dryer are simply a matter of having the right tools and a little direction. Many home improvement stores offer weekly workshops on do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. This is a great time of the year to jump on the DIY bandwagon, as projects to winterize your home can become costly when hiring professionals.

Go Green

Environmentally conscious living is a terrific way to save both the planet and your finances. There are several ways you can go green to save money, not the least of which is cooking your own food. According to Forbes, Americans spend nearly a thousand dollars per year on dining out for lunch alone. Cooking at home lends itself to nutritious eating and will make you more aware of the food you are buying, how it was grown and its effect on the environment. Growing a vegetable and/or herb garden is another great way to help protect the earth while cutting down on food costs. As winter approaches, also consider turning your heat down before bed and using an extra blanket. When your electric bill arrives in the mail, you’ll be glad you took this small step.

Eliminate Clutter From Your Life

Decluttering your home and your life is one way to gain perspective on what you do, and do not, need. You can make decluttering financially beneficial by adding up the amount of money you spent on all of the items you are now throwing out. This is money you can save in the future by cutting down on unnecessary purchases. If you cannot donate the items you are looking to get rid of, sell them on eBay or Craigslist. Even if selling your belongings doesn’t make you a fortune, at the very least, it will provide you with a little extra money to put toward savings.

For many Americans, hard work and extra hours are not enough to get out of a financial rut. By implementing these five tips, however, you can turn your money troubles around. Start making these small but powerful changes, and begin your journey to a financially stable future today.

About the Author: Mary Goldman is a contributing writer and financial adviser.

[Featured image by 123RF]

Working after Retirement: Some tips

The impression people get when they hear the word “retirement” has something to do with not working any longer. They’d probably go on a long vacation, making the most of the fruits of their retirement funds. However, not everyone thinks along those lines. Many still opt to work even after retirement, for various reasons.

Why do some people still continue working after retirement? One common reason involves financial obligations and commitments. Perhaps their retirement funds aren’t enough to cover any loans they have incurred in the past, say, an outstanding mortgage or student loans, and they still have to pay the rest. Some still have family members to support or kids to put through school. Maybe their savings aren’t sufficient, and they want to build up their post-retirement funds.

Some people also want to continue working for self-fulfillment and because they still savor the challenge. Sometimes, it is already ingrained in one’s personality to keep working, and after retirement, they tend to feel useless and depressed when they’re no longer working. There are even people who look at work as a way to stay healthy and active. They cannot imagine NOT working, and do not want boredom to set in.

Whatever the reasons are for continuing some form of work life after retirement, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Choose between working part-time and working full-time. Your decision would depend greatly on your mental and physical health, if you can keep up with the demands of a full-time job, or you’d prefer to do it part time instead
  2. Choose a job that can balance your work with leisure and family time (and much needed rest as well). There is no point in living only slogging day and night even post retirement
  3. While on the job, look at your take-home pay (net of taxes) instead of the gross amounts. Keep in mind that, depending on your taxing profile, the supplemental security income or social security benefits that you receive (or even a part of it) are also subject to taxes. Budget according to the after-tax income instead of the before-tax income.
  4. If you retired early and you’re considering going back to work before reaching the full retirement age as mandated by law, weigh the consequences on your Social Security benefits. That’s because the Social Security Administration will deduct $1 from your benefit payments for every $2 that you earn more than the annual limit. Your decision would depend on how much you depend on your social security benefits for your expenses
  5. As much as possible, find out if you are working in a job that pays medical benefits. Remember that, retiring before reaching the age of 65 means you won’t qualify for Medicare, at least until you reach that age. If your job doesn’t provide you with health care coverage, you’re pretty much on your own.
  6. Try to find retirement jobs that is already matching your work-related or technical skills. If the new job demands further training which is not taken care of by your employer, that already means spending more from your pocket to secure that kind of a job
  7. Unless you have a great ambition or unfulfilled dream clubbed with a lot of energy, try to move sideways than looking at the next big responsible role in your retirement job

There’s nothing wrong with working after retirement. Before you do so, however, you must first put a lot of thought into it, look into your options and weigh them. Just because you’re already retired doesn’t mean you’re done with planning for the future.

Search Terms: working after retirement, life after retirement, retirement jobs, what to do after retirement, jobs after retirement

Home Budget Tips to Keep your Expenses in Check

Home budget planning is not exactly a difficult task as you can become a master at that with experience and the availability of historic data. But keeping track of your expenses can be somewhat more difficult. Even more difficult part is to keep a check on unnecessary expenses so that the budget versus actual spending does not vary too much.

Here are some tips that will help you spend only as much as (or less than) you planned during your home budgeting exercise.

10 Tips to Stick to a Home Budget plan

1. Cut bad habits
Most of the bad habits such as smoking, alcohol-caffeine consumption are addictive in nature and such expenses will keep moving upwards as years pass by. More over they add more taxes to such drugs every year and it’s highly likely that you will never stay on budget when you have such bad habits.

2. More dine in than eat out
Eating out can be fun and easy but also a major budget buster. If you do not control your eating out habits, you are unlikely to stay within your planned home budget for the month. As a matter of fact, it’s good to plan the eating out budget to something like once or twice a month and be specific on the type of place you want to go. After all, eating homemade food is healthier and more balanced while costing several times lesser than the food that you buy in a restaurant.

3. Lower entertainment budget
Movie halls (with popcorn like add ons), theme parks etc aren’t exactly getting cheaper and you need to find alternate methods of having the same fun at much lesser cost. For example, you could always share a DVD’s cost with a neighbor or a friend if you both want to watch the same movie. By deciding to go for a movie several weeks after its release can save you a few bucks. The same is the case with Pay-Per-View options, the later you watch them after the release, the better.

4. Alternate holiday options
Holidays are must-haves to keep your life exciting and improve family bonding. At the same time, you don’t need to necessarily plan an expensive cruise or a Hawaii beach vacation to improve bonding and recharge yourself. There are always cheaper options within the mainland or in Far East Asian countries rather than going for expensive options. Also, make it a point to plan your vacation budget well in advance as part of your home budget planning. This will help in avoiding ad hoc travel decisions and save on air fare etc.

5. Pay as you go cell phones and call cards
A lot of people signup for long term plans with cell phone companies in order to get instant access to newer fancy smart phones in the market. These lifestyle options can actually trap you in a way that you end up paying a monthly minimum for many years as mentioned in the contract. A better option would be to go with less fancy devices and plans where you pay for the actual usage. Similarly, fixed line call cards may be the ideal choice for international and long distance calls rather than using your mobile or telephone company’s costly service.

6. Avoid credit card misuse
Use cash wherever possible! Credit cards are the biggest evil on the planet and the entire US economy collapse started with credit systems. Cash is still the king that will protect you from any credit trap! Try to live every day without credit and hence avoid becoming a burden to your own government.

7. The loan trap
Always keep a check on your loans. There may be people who will make you believe that owning a house has tax benefits but in a poor economy, you should think twice before signing up for a home. After all, going by the basic economics, not having any debt or loan itself is the biggest achievement in life. So paying down the debt should be given the first priority before making fresh purchases or going for new loan commitments. Typically, at any point of time, your monthly loan installments (combined) shouldn’t be more than 35% or 40% your monthly take home pay.

8. Keep an eye on historic expenses
To help you in planning for the future and to know the ‘actual inflation’ year over year, it is good to look back the expenses you had a year ago or a couple of years back. In fact, it’s not even bad to compare the bills over the years. It might sound stupid, but the more granular and historic knowledge you have on your expenses, the better.

9. Always commit to savings before spending
A lot of youngsters these days spend as much as they want before committing to saving for the future. The first step you have to do even before planning a budget is to make sure that 30% of your income is invested or saved first before spending any penny or even paying off loans. Budgeting is not only about planning where and how to spend but spending only that’s left after saving for the rainy days.

10. Use Home budget apps
Please read this article to learn about some of those free home budget planning and tracking applications (There may be a lot more out there)

Have fun with your budget planning and tracking!

10 Credit Card Usage Tips

We all know that there are several benefits of having a credit card. A credit card helps you to cover all your expenses without carrying any money while on the move. It also enables you to make purchases online sitting right at home.

While you can book flight tickets, choose hotels and make car reservations online with your credit card, you need to handle all your purchases and online shopping with care. In this regard, each and every credit card user needs to take into account certain credit card usage tips.

Credit Card Tips

It has to be kept in mind that credit cards are beneficial and dangerous at the same time. While it gives you the power to spend when you don’t have cash in your wallet, it is dangerous if you are not aware how to use the plastic money properly. Overuse of swiping your card can result in financial breakdown.

The most fundamental thing that you need to take into account is that the credit cards offer you short term solution and must never be used to offer finance in long term. This is where many people make the mistake and hence end up getting into trouble. Given below are few useful suggestions and tips on judicious credit card usage.

Tip #1

Always consider to work with major credit card companies that are regulated by proper governing bodies. Indeed, it offers you the safest option to work with an organization that is a listed or owned by a company listed. Small time credit card companies can land you in trouble at times especially when it comes to credit recovery methods.

Tip #2

You must calculate your total expenses that you are quite likely to incur on your credit card usage in due course of the time. There’s a formula given within the proposal of the provider to your own likely borrowing needs and repayment. You need to work out what stands as the cheapest (Read: APR vs Interest rate)

Tip #3

You must consider how you would use the credit card and ask the following questions yourselves before spending. What you intend to shop with the credit cards you possess? How much you can afford to spend with the card every month? Do you want to clear the balance at the end of the month?

Tip #4

One of the most significant credit card tips will be to protect your account details at any cost. You must guarantee that you are quite careful about the companies that you choose to contract with. If you are in doubt, you can pay in cash or you can go somewhere else. Also, do not mention your card numbers, PINs etc to even a call center or customer care executive forget alone your merchants.

Tip #5

You should carry only those credit cards that you would actually use frequently. Do not carry too many at a time. It takes a lot of time to figure out just in case any one of them goes missing. Also, more cards usually means more spending and less tracking.

Tip #6

Hold onto the receipts and always keep a note of your major credit card transactions. You can always contact the credit card provider if you are in doubt about the transactions. Also, keep and eye on any miscellaneous charges imposed by the credit card provider.

Tip #7

Never carry forward your credit card debts for more than a couple of months as much as possible. You may end up in the debt trap if you prolong your credit tenure or default payments.

Tip #8

Never try to pay a credit card debt with another credit card (which might sound like a better deal). Most of the time, passing on your credit from one credit card company to another is the sign that you are already in a debt trap.

Tip #9

If you are considering shopping online then you must look for those companies that make use of the third party payment provider like Word Pay or PayPal. Also make sure that when you complete a transaction or a payment the address bar reads https:// and not http:// this indicates you’re your credit card information is encrypted and secured.

…and finally…

Tip #10

Never let your minor kids know how to use credit cards for online purchases nor let them know your passwords, PINs etc. There have been many incidents of kids misusing their parents’ cards for online game shopping, gambling etc