Posts Tagged ‘money’
Our stay in Cambodia was short and sweet, wonderful and terrible. It is a place you cannot visit without feeling something - whatever that might be in your case.
We spent just a couple of days each in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Moving this quickly, of course, inflates the daily budget. We also ate mostly in bakeries/restaurants. But staying at Hak’s House in Siem Reap, while a little bit of a trek from the main streets, provided us with a free breakfast and free mineral water refills from a cooler, as well as a cheap restaurant and easy travel bookings. Here’s how we clocked in.
- May 28 – $221.85 (including $116 for Vietnam visas, $26 for bus tickets to Ho Chi Minh)
- May 27 - $132.13 (including $20 souvenir for T’s mum from the museum)
- May 26 – $125.31 (including $40 for Angkor Wat passes, $18 for bus tickets to Phnom Penh)
- May 25 – $73.21 (nothing notable today)
Full travel day
- May 24 – $144.64 – ($40 for Cambodia visas, $36 for the taxi – an outrageous amount as we were only three passengers along with a Chilean guy, and I oh-so-generously decided we should make up the shortfall as the couple.)
Getting from Bangkok to Siem Reap was, uh, an experience. Read more about that here!
Tags: asia, cambodia, money, travel
Curious about what it’s cost us to travel in Thailand? The south was fantastic, but a little pricey. Bangkok was much easier on the wallet. Check it out.
- May 23 – $53.27
- May 22 – $39.31
- May 21 – $49.06 (a bit of guessing on this one)
- May 20 – $60.91
Full travel day
- May 19 – $32.22 (another guesstimate, to my best recall)
- May 18 – $71.38
- May 17 – $215.94 (booked both bus transport to Bangkok and one-day, four-island trip)
- May 16 – $111.10 (including two-day tuktuk hire)
- May 15 – $113.47 (including minivan and ferry from Krabi to Lanta)
- May 14 – $75.06 (including booking a minivan to Krabi for the following day)
In terms of accommodation, we’ve been staying in private double rooms in guesthouses/hostels. The most expensive: one night at the Nakara Longbeach in Koh Lanta – 1200 baht, or about $48. The least expensive: 350 baht, or about $14, in Hat Yai at the Ladda Guesthouse. For those on a budget, about $15 should be enough for your own room with attached bathroom.
We were spending $1-2 a day on water (1.5 litres can be bought for 13 baht, or as low as 5 baht at one shop in Lanta – the only cheap thing on that island) and up to another $4 on other drinks (T favours Big Gulps from 7/11).
Food could be done for under $5 per person a day if you were on a shoestring in Bangkok, what with 25 baht pad thai, 50 baht noodle/rice dishes, 10 baht spring rolls, 20 baht fruit/fruit shakes, etc. I’d probably double that for Lanta, where you’d be hard pressed to find dishes at the 50 or under price point, at least during this season.
Category-wise, food is shaping up to be our biggest expense. Miscellaneous includes items like toiletries, postcards, and shopping (a few pieces of clothing). Entertainment includes touristy things like our four-island tour, a few drinks in Bangkok, and a shisha (my first one).
However, I’ve left off a couple of expenses from Bangkok, which would otherwise totally skew it: T’s medical expenses, which amount to about $300, and the tattoo he got, which was $200.
If you travel slowly, a $50/day budget for two looks completely doable!
Tags: asia, money, thailand, travel
I’d hoped to be spending a lot less per day right now (like $50 or under a day). But a couple of things are making this difficult:
I’m loving the fact that I can breathe freely in the Asian heat. Clear airways are a wonderful thing. (My skin doesn’t like the temperatures quite as much, though.) On the other hand, the heat here is making my poor husband a bit of a sad sack. I’d be fine in a fan room (and we stayed in a fan room on our first night in Thailand) but for his sake we’re seeking out rooms with air conditioning – which basically doubles the price.
Again, I’m in my element here. Him? Not so much. He’s not used to the food (we eat a lot of Asian at home, but not for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and is wary of street stalls (sigh). He misses steak and burgers and dairy products. And while at home he swings between eating hardly anything at all (most days) or eating everything in sight, while in Asia it’s been a case of the latter constantly. Nothing keeps him full. That said, I’m glad he’s getting into some sort of regular eating routine.
Everything is still crazy cheap by Western standards, but we’re on a tight budget.
Tags: money, travel
I’m not going to have a final total for a few more days (heck, probably not until the day itself), but now is probably as good a time as any to check in.
Here’s what has been spent/is projected to be spent. As a refresher, this is for a casual 40-person BYO bash.
- Dress – $300 (made by T’s mother)
- Shoes – $30 (which I will probably get tomorrow)
- Makeup – $0 (used a gift card to buy new eyeliner + lippy)
- Flower girls’ dresses – $175 (this actually includes a few table covers, which were bought in the same transaction)
- Suits for groom and his entourage – $725
- Rings – $365 (though I didn’t actually end up liking mine, so will be just using my engagement ring)
- Marriage licence – $123
- Celebrant – $300
- Venue -$322
- Flowers – $135 (I’ve given in and ordered some bouquets online, so I have the option on the day. I think this is one of those battles where principle < hassle)
- Photography – $1000
- Catering (Malaysian food) – $775
- Catering (Euro side, homemade) – estimating about $300
- Cake (3x cheesecakes – sadly the Cheesecake Shop does not do giant cheesecakes) – $100
- Miscellany such as napkins, disposable plates, cups, juice, etc – $100? Not sure… T’s mother is, thankfully, overseeing operations for us
- Hotel – $185
So with any luck, we’ll squeak in at just under $5000.
Budget aside, I’m starting to freak out. While I really love all the choices made so far (except, maybe, the table covers we got, which are a bit rubbery and weird feeling – I wonder if I can find some nicer fabric coverings for cheap?) I’m starting to worry that I’m going to get judged for them.
I didn’t want a tall, elaborate cake – I wanted the kind of cake that I would fight you to the death over for the last piece.
I wanted to feel like myself on the day, so I’m literally doing my own makeup and not doing anything special with my hair.
I wanted a mix of cuisines, from my favourite dishes from my birth country to T’s mother’s potato salad, even if the end result may be a little wacky and incoherent.
I wanted a venue with character in spades, and I love the raw, grungy former wine cellar that’ll house our reception lunch (it even has GATES!) though I know most people probably won’t get it and may well think it’s less grotto, more grotty.
If I really dig into all this, I think what it comes down to is the fact that this event is ALL ME. That photo up top? It basically represents the polar opposite of this wedding. I’ve picked out things I like and eliminated things I don’t. In many ways, it’s going to be a a bit of an anti-wedding (a lazy girl wedding?) and I’m just not sure everyone is going to appreciate that. And if they don’t, well, then they’re basically passing judgement on me by default.
Tags: money, wedding
I know a lot of you have been waiting patiently for this long-expected post! Here it is.
Travel on a budget
Travel on a budget often involves housesitting, a mainstay of RTW travellers. We won’t be staying in one place for very long, though, and we’d need to crack the market first – getting that first gig without experience is probably the toughest part.
Instead, we’ll be backpacking, hostelling, and looking for apartment/room rentals. In lots of cases, private rentals seem to be cheaper than hostels in big cities. There are sites like AirBNB and Roomorama, which have large databases but also high prices and hefty fees. There’s also plenty of others, like Wimdu, 9flats and Housetrip, which I prefer due to the no/low fees. These range from shared apartments to full private apartments, but at the very least you’ll generally at least get a futon to yourself. Some rentals may charge huge deposits/bonds/cleaning fees, or extra fees for extra guests. I would just browse listings on all the sites and see what catches your eye on a case by case basis. Most of them are easy to use – you can search by date, area, sort results in list format or view on a map, and some display reviews on the page and even an availability calendar.
Then of course there’s Couchsurfing, though I’m aware that as a pair we may find it difficult. New Zealand is a land of houses, but I know tiny apartments are the norm in lots of cities around the world. In scouting out potential hosts overseas, it became obvious that many, many hosts can only accommodate one guest. That said, we’re also open to staying further out in the suburbs – that’s just an opportunity for another experience entirely. (You can read about my experiences as a Couchsurfing host here.)
Finally, there’s volunteering. Hosts shelter and sometimes feed you in accommodation for your labour, which could range from helping out on a farm to cleaning or even more creative pursuits like graphic design or photography. Look on sites like HelpX, Workaway, WWOOF, GlobalHelpSwap and Staydu. To sign up as a member, you’ll usually be charged a fee that gives you access for a year, and freedom to contact as many hosts as you want.
Budgeting for a RTW trip
I read a lot of RTW blogs and have looked at a lot of travel budgets (Legal Nomads has a large list of links to various bloggers’ travel budgets here).
I’ve also combed through Budget Your Trip, a super handy website that aggregates costs from real travellers. Obviously, any crowdsourced data is only as good as those who partake, so costs are likely to be more accurate in cities that are well trafficked. On Budget Your Trip, you can see budget, mid range and luxury budgets based on real data, in local or other currencies.
Costs are going to vary a lot by region. Asia will be the cheapest and Europe probably the most expensive. I’m hoping we can average out to $100 a day over the whole trip, though I’m also accepting of the fact we’re very probably going to blow through that at times.
Funding a RTW trip
There are two parts to this equation.
Savings is pretty self-explanatory. You’re all grownups; you know how to save money (at least in theory, even if you’re not quite as good at it as you might like to think). Savings = income – expenses. To break that further down, you can cut costs, increase income (which I tend to be better at), or both, in order to maximise that gap.
Expenses so far have been about $10k. Thankfully, we got a killer discount on our backpacks and some other gear (nearly 50%) this month due to T’s staff discount at Fishing Camping Outdoors. There are probably more I haven’t included below (eg travel adapters and other bits and bobs).
At this stage, there should be enough in the kitty to cover a $100/day budget, once I get my leave paid out, given that we’re spending a month volunteering. Odds are we’ll spend more than that in some places, so…
Income is the other half. I’m aiming to keep some money flowing in while we’re on the road, which hopefully will have the added bonus of keeping my skills sharp. How?
Where print ads typically cost more than a month of my salary, online advertising is absolutely buggered. For all that digital offers (interactivity! measurement! mobile! targeting!) I don’t know if it will ever catch up. Ideally, ads would flow in and help fund this blog, with me only needing to worry about editorial and keeping you guys interested. Unfortunately, traditional advertising just isn’t working anymore. Advertisiers want more integrated and sophisticated solutions. THEY WANT EDITORIAL. That means rather than being relegated to banners and sidebars, they want in content links, for example. Sometimes this is more lucrative than a plain ad but it’s a lot more work for us. At a company, you can generally leave that to the ad sales guys; as a blogger you have to be much more involved.
Er, my point? Online advertising is tough. That said, where possible, I will continue to try to monetise the blog – without selling out, that is.
I never wanted to make blogging a business. I have no desire to get to the point of bringing on staff writers – this is and always will be my personal blog – paid speaking gigs (shudder – I can’t think of anything worse than public speaking), or coaching (again, no desire to be a life coach). But I am grateful for the opportunities that it has brought. Which leads me to…
Yes, there really are jobs where you can travel the world and work from anywhere – the kinds of jobs where you can earn an income as long as you have a computer and internet connection. Technically, I can work remotely, but the reality of my particular workflow and daily local deadlines means keeping up my workload while constantly on the move would be, er, challenging. And I’m more than happy to take a bit of a break.
So I suppose I’ll be joining the hordes of digital nomads out there … to an extent. The plan is to do *some* work while on the road. Exactly how much I am not sure, but less than full time.
Want a piece of me? I’m available for select content-centric work, so if you’re in need of a
kick-ass freelance blogger, freelance ghostwriter, or freelance editor, drop me a line.
One last note
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of things that make this possible:
- No commitments. That means no mortgage, no kids – living in a crappy house with hand-me-down furniture (not that I care about that, but I’m MAKING A POINT here!)
- No/minimal debt. That means no student loan, no car loan, etc.
I’m a big believer in keeping your fixed costs low and committing to as little as possible. That’s allowed us the flexibility to do this relatively painlessly. Figure out the puzzle pieces and set yourself up for success.
Whatever your goal – travel, buying a house, having kids, moving to another country – it’s doable if you truly want it and commit to making it happen.
Tags: money, personal finance, travel
Seeing as I’m currently in that last stretch before the wedding and struggling to hold onto the “no bullshit” mantra, today’s guest post is a timely breath of fresh air. I especially love the bit about sticking the finger to the Pinterest curse (if like me, you couldn’t care less about the ‘pinnable factor’, you might find it hard to survive the pervasive WIC out there). Take it away, Steff Green, Auckland-based writer, blogger and alternative wedding celebrant. She writes about wedding planning on the WeddingWise blog – part of the WeddingWise directory where couples can find, review and rate their wedding vendors.
Having been through the wedding planning process myself, and then on the other side as a wedding celebrant for others, I wanted to add some of my own tips for bullshit-free wedding planning.
I believe the modern wedding has gone totally out of control. The average cost of a New Zealand wedding is about $30,000 – and that would make a sizeable deposit on a first home. And what are we spending that whopping sum on exactly? Chair runners and centrepieces and wedding favours and designer stationery and an “it” band for the reception-
And yes, these things are all gorgeous and will make our wedding look like a spread from a bridal magazine – but when was that more important than starting our life with our new husband/wife in a financially secure and abundant place?
For me – and the couples I’ve officiated for – the solution has been to abandon any pretext of creating a “pinnable” wedding – that is, a wedding that looks like an editorial shoot that would be pinned 1000 times on Pinterest. My own wedding in 2008 was at Spookers at Kingseat hospital, we had swords and heavy metal music and a Lego cake topper, and it came in well under the expected “average” cost of a 100 person wedding.
How do you adopt this attitude? Well, you start by abandoning the wedding magazines and Pinterest “wedding porn”.
Focus on what’s important
When we started planning our wedding, I asked my husband to list three things he wanted for the day. He said, “I want to wear something comfortable, I want to carry my sword, and I want everyone to have fun and not say it was boring.”
I then had to come up with a list of my own. It ended up being: “I want a red dress with an EPIC train, I want the ceremony wording and vows to be really personal, and I want everyone to have fun and not say it was boring.”
We made those 5 points (since two were the same) the focus of our wedding planning, and anything that didn’t factor in to those points we ignored. We didn’t pay for any decorations, wedding favours, or flowers. I found my dream red dress online for 1/5th of what it would’ve cost me to buy it in a store, and my husband wrote the ceremony and chose his outfit of black jeans, black boots, a white tunic, and a cloak he made himself.
Here are some ways you can save money and hassle on your wedding day:
Repurpose and Use What You’ve Already Got
Have you been given a bunch of your grandmother’s jewellery that you’ll never wear? You can have the metal and stones remade into your wedding rings, often for a fraction of the cost of a new design. Talk to a jeweller (I can highly recommend Guthries Jewellers on Queen Street in Auckland) about what they can do for you. (Ed: And if you happen to need an antique ring shrunk to about half the size, I recommend Carats – the only place I could find that would tackle mine.)
Many other items you already own can be used for your wedding. My centrepieces and “unity candle” were candles and holders I already had around the home. You can use clothing, jewellery, shoes or other accessories you already own to complete your wedding outfit.
I recently went to a Elvan Lord of the Rings themed wedding, where the whole bridal party wore costumes they rented from a local store. Rental for costumes is significantly cheaper than buying or renting a suit or dress, and omigod did this wedding party look awesome. Theme and costume weddings are not for everyone, but I’ve been to a few in my time and I tell you they are definitely the most fun.
You don’t need it
Nothing about the wedding industry makes me angrier than wedding favours and Save-the-Date cards. Both are – in my eyes – pointless expenses designed to do nothing more than part couples with more of their money. Save-the-Date cards might be useful if you’re having a destination wedding, but a simple and personalised email to all the invitees would be equally effective.
Do you need wedding favours to thank your guests for coming to your wedding? Surely that’s what your personalised thank-you card is for? Your guests aren’t attendees at some corporate conference – they’re your family and friends. They WANT to come to your wedding. They don’t need chocolate treasure chests and little sand pails emblazoned with your monogram as an incentive. (Ed: THIS! Although … if I’m taking off overseas straightaway for awhile, I can put off the note writing, right?)
Think carefully about each decision before you spend any of your hard-earned money on wedding accessories – think how many hours you’ve worked for that money and if you really need this item, or if you could put the money to better use elsewhere.
Order a Gown Online
I’ll tell you a secret that many wedding dress retailers don’t want you to know. Most wedding dresses – even the ones reportedly made by big-name designers – are made in workshops in China. Unless you’re ordering a truly designer gown, or having one custom-made by a local seamstress, the chances are high that it’s coming from somewhere in Asia.
The only real difference is the mark-up. Bridal salons need to pay to rent shop space, employ staff, buy advertising, etc. All these costs are built in to their mark-up on your gown. I’ve heard tales that some bridal salons have a mark up of more than 700%.
I bought my dress from an online store based in Australia. It was exactly the same dress as one I saw in various bridal salons in New Zealand, for 1/5 the price. The quality was exactly what I would expect from a salon, and it only needed minor adjustments.
Not all brides have the same stories – there are definitely a fair amount of horror stories about ordering dresses online. The trick is to use a site other brides have recommended, and make sure you are explicit about the detailing you require on your dress (the bridal salons have built up a relationship with their suppliers, so they can give strict specifications about the quality and detailing on their dresses). Order in plenty of time to enable you to have alterations done if the dress doesn’t fit right.
Don’t be afraid of ordering your wedding dress online – for every horror story there are a hundred satisfied brides who got a bargain.
Cut down on food costs
Filling the bellies and quenching the thirst of your guests will probably be your biggest wedding expense – usually around half of your budget. You can cut down on food costs by catering your own wedding. That sounds like a huge amount of work (and it kinda is) but if you’ve cut back on all that other wedding guff, you will have more time to organise it.
Ask a few close friends who are excellent chefs to supply a signature dish for the night – offering funds for ingredients, of course. After you’ve got a few main dishes sussed, decide on an assortment of menu items you can make in advance. Organise a team to heat things up on the day and keep the table well stocked, and you’ll be surprised how many guests will ask you for the details of your catering company.
If your wedding is in the summer months, you could even have a good old-fashioned kiwi BBQ. Think sizzling sausages, BBQed mushrooms, and a huge array of delicious salads and breads. Cheap, simple and always a winner.
You could even have a potluck wedding (where guests bring a plate to share in lieu of gifts), but this won’t go down well in many social circles, so tread with caution.
Ask friends to help with different aspects of your wedding – anything from providing photography services to altering your dress. Friends are usually only too happy to help out, and they can offer their services instead of a gift. I perform celebrant duties for all my friends – it is an honour to be able to marry two people you love and admire, and it helps them save money on their budget and get a truly personalised service – so everybody wins.
These are only a few of literally hundreds of ways you can save money on your wedding by adopting a “no bullshit” attitude. Cut out the details that don’t matter and focus on the one thing that is truly important – celebrating your union with your beloved with an awesome party, surrounded by the support and love of your family and friends.
Tags: money, wedding
I’ve had money on the brain even more often than normal lately (not helped by Women’s Money Week!) thanks to some financial setbacks.
- As you might remember, T had a SUPER AWESOME brush with death recently on his motorbike thanks to some idiot boy racer. After a few weeks of being off work/on half days/off again due to medical certificate snafus, he was finally sent back to work on full hours, thank the heavens – because as an HOURLY worker with no built up leave right now, him being off work was hurting. (As we’ve learned, ACC has a minimum 7 day stand down policy. Not that is matters, since they refused to cover this incident. A complaint is being filed about the handling of the case, which T’s company is going to handle going forward since we’re leaving the country.)
- His bike, which had just been rebuilt with new fairings in anticipation of selling it, also had about $1k knocked off its (cosmetic) value in a second due to that accident.
- Since then, he’s been avoiding even looking at the bike, which still needs a couple of things done to it to get it running smoothly. That would have been fine, until his friend, who was keen to buy it as is, went and bought a car instead. With just a couple of weeks left, I do not see it a) getting fixed up or b) sold. [insert rant about useless males]
- A couple of long-shot travel blogging pitches/sponsorship proposals went nowhere. Ah well.
Still in the works: my post about financing our trip. I want to be able to present the most accurate numbers, so I’m putting it off until as close to our departure as possible.
On the plus side, I don’t need to pay my wedding venue or wedding celebrant until the week before the big day, which is nice for cashflow.
Got any financial wins or losses of your own to share?
This week’s links:
In the wake of Dove’s new campaign (which I adore), Emily Jane pens a beautiful post on self-image and self-acceptance.
The Asian Pear makes a reasoned case for not driving. (Being shacked up with T, I have a car and driver, but personally would probably drive once a week to the supermarket, if that.)
Kelly Abroad recounts her New York love story from the very beginning.
Some snippets of sage career advice via Publishing Trendsetter, most of which are relevant to all workers, regardless of industry.
Make a Living Writing was on fire this week, collecting true tales of woe from a bunch of content mill writers and reminding us that we all have our own crosses to bear, even when we don’t publicly broadcast them.
When did I last link to A Practical Wedding? I can’t even remember. Let me rectify that. This week’s post on how to be in love is simply sublime – and timely for me, as it’s been a rough week on that front.
Americans, it’s been a hard week. My heart goes out to you. I saw the infamous uncensored Jeff Bauman photo earlier this week, and while I can’t unsee it, there have also been many photos and stories chronicling the depths and breadths of human generosity. And one of the few (only?) Boston bloggers I follow, Sweet Caroline, published a photo montage from Boston that’s really quite lovely.
Tags: blogging, money, rant
Y’all know I’m a big fan of credit cards (when used sensibly). Today’s post weighs up both sides of the coin – the dark and light, if you will.
It’s not only superheroes who need to be cautioned that with great power comes great responsibility; those looking to wield the power of the plastic would be well advised to take this maxim to heart too. Credit cards have the capacity to provide the wellspring for the ultimate in spending convenience and they can just as easily coax you into a crippling state of debt. How you choose to use them is of course entirely up to you, but before you begin to wield the financial equivalent of The Force, perhaps it’s a good idea to get to grips with both the light and the dark side of these controversy courting little cards.
Welcome to the Dark Side – The disadvantages of credit cards
“The Dark Side of the Force is the pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” – Star Wars
By allowing you to spend more money than you actually have, credit cards can fast fuel your descent into the dark side of debt. Letting your self-control slip when it comes to spending is what credit card firms capitalize on because this is where they make their money. The more you spend and the longer you go without repaying what you owe the more interest they will charge. It’s not uncommon for credit card firms to charge up to 20% interest on unpaid balances, which is why those careless with their credit cards can very easily find themselves on a very slippery slope that leads to ever deepening debt and if ridden long enough, even bankruptcy.
If you do find yourself falling behind on your payments, it’s not only your bank account that will take a beating but your credit rating as well. This will make it increasingly more difficult to apply for loans, rentals or even find a good a job. It’s the kind of damage that once done is very difficult to undo.
Budgeting can become a bit of a nightmare because the temptation to buy now and pay later can give you a false and misleading sense of security. Regardless of the balance in your current account, credit cards allow you to charge up to the maximum limit allowed – which for the undisciplined is a perfect recipe for sliding into the red.
Over 5.5 billion dollars was fraudulently stolen from credit cards worldwide in 2012, making credit card theft and credit card fraud a very real danger. What’s more, as technology increases to grow in sophistication the problem looks set only to get worse. In many cases victims of credit card fraud don’t even realize that they’ve been stolen from until they receive their monthly statement, which makes it essential to check your monthly statement scrupulously for any additional and suspicious charges.
Welcome to the light side – The advantages of credit cards
Use the force, responsibly you must.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. If the force is strong with you and you use credit cards responsibly – by keeping track of all your purchases, sticking to your budget, paying off your end of month balance on time and in full and being vigilant over who you give your credit card information to – they offer a wealth of advantages.
Provided you commit to paying your balance on time, credit cards make paying for purchases easy and relatively effortless. It’s also a great comfort not having to walk around like a cartel kingpin with rolls of cash stuffed down your socks every time you need to make a big purchase. Furthermore, things like booking into a hotel, reserving flights and renting cars whilst on vacation are so much easier if you have a credit card.
Used responsibly, credit cards will help you to establish a good credit history. This will you put you in good stead when you need to achieve favorable terms on taking out a home loan, for example. If banks can see that you manage your money well and you’re dependable with your repayments they will be much more eager to extend their borrowing services to you.
Most credit card companies offer a host of rewards in the form of points that you can redeem down the line in return for goods and services, such as airline miles or discounts at hotels. Whilst credit card point systems shouldn’t be your primary focus when opting to get a credit card, it never hurts to look into what kind of rewards they offer.
One of the most worthwhile benefits of a credit card has to be its ability to come through in an emergency. Nothing can rival the power of the plastic in a situation where you need to make payment fast but have no cash on hand.
Just as with any young apprentice learning the way of the force, a money master would not fail to point out that it’s never really about the card. After all, a credit card is just a tool. It is the qualities inherent in the wielder of the tool that determine whether it will be used sensibly for good, or conversely, send you off on a debt ridden path towards the dark side.
Toby Adams is a professional copywriter based in Auckland, New Zealand, who enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics including travel, finance, health, education and much more.
Tags: banking, money
It’s easy to get disheartened about your finances when you’re an avid reader of personal finance blogs. Like some people might read fashion magazines and quietly compare themselves to the models they see on the pages, I read money blogs and compare myself to people who are either way behind me – the debt bloggers – or, in most cases, way ahead.
But you know what always cheers me up? A chat with my bank.
I remember paying a visit to my local branch years ago toward the end of high school. I probably only had about $4k in my accounts (I never cracked $10k until after graduating university), yet the teller was apparently amazed that I’d saved that much, and asked me what I was saving for.
“Ummm, uni?” I offered, stumped.
You work at a bank, for goodness sake. Is saving for the sake of saving really such a foreign concept?
This month I applied for a second credit card, thinking it would be good to have a backup while we travel that can be carried separately just in case I get mugged or my wallet gets lost. The online process took just a couple of minutes, and was followed up by a call the next day with a few more questions - so you don’t have a student loan? car loan? hire purchase? store cards anywhere? – along with acknowledgement of my strong savings history. Way to boost the ego. (I’ve been with my bank for over a decade, so they’re all up in the intimate details of my financial history – which is pretty vanilla.)
The bank rep also tried to upsell me to a Gold or Platinum Visa. Now that’s something I never thought I’d hear in my life. Say what?
If I booked my flights with one of these premium cards, I’d get free travel insurance. Righty-o. Pity I’ve already booked both – and don’t really want to pay hefty annual fees for the privilege of a shinier credit card.
This got me thinking, though. Putting aside the fact that I just don’t see myself as the kind of person to own a gold or platinum credit card, would it ever make sense from a financial standpoint?
Well, at $80 to $130 a year in annual fees, I think not. In comparison, my humble standard Visa only costs $24 (bank credit cards without annual fees don’t really exist here). According to interest.co.nz, I have one of the best credit cards in regard to annual fees. Given my lifestyle and spending habits, the credit card perks of free travel insurance and the ability to earn reward points marginally faster don’t really appeal.
My needs in a credit card are simple, really: enable me to buy stuff online (whether it’s quality baseball equipment or contact lenses), rent vehicles, provide an imprint at the odd hotel, and be widely accepted, so I can use it to pay for as many things as possible in order to rack up points. As well as the $24 a year I pay for the privilege of my bank credit card, I also pay $20 to partake in the rewards programme, which earns me more than enough to cover all the fees, as well as pay for a few trips to the movies or a few meals out.
What, if any, perks do you get through your credit cards? And what do they cost you?
Tags: banking, money, personal finance
Nobody wants to spend more than is necessary on their insurance premiums. And you don’t have to. There are a number of ways that you can keep your insurance premiums down. Here are a few tips that could help you reduce your insurance outgoings.
1. Check your level of cover
An easy way to identify whether you might be paying too much on your insurance premiums is to check your level of cover. You may find that you are over-insured, which means you are paying a higher premium than is necessary. This can be adjusted, as required, by re-assessing your needs. But make sure you don’t under-insure. (Ed: As someone who’s been burgled multiple times, I’m fully behind this! To save money, we have a policy that takes depreciation into account – which is fine for electronics, which get cheaper by the day, and are generally the first things to be taken – but might not be so great for other, more unique items.)
2. Buildings and contents
It can be worth buying your buildings and contents insurance as a package, as some insurers will provide a discount on your premium if you buy both together from the same company. Get a quote for combined buildings and contents insurance now.
3. Make sure you compare like with like
Read the small print when looking for home insurance. You could find that the premiums for two different insurers are similar but when you look at the policies one gives you much better cover for the same money. Getting the right policy which pays out when you need it is as important – if not more important – than getting a cheap policy.
4. Choose a voluntary excess on your policy
Most insurance policies have an excess – the first amount of each claim you have to pay. So for example if you have a compulsory excess of £200 and your claim for £2,000 is approved you will only get £1,800 from the insurer. If you choose to take a higher excess on your policy than the minimum amount set you could find that you pay a lower premium because this reduces the risk to the insurance company. Be careful though – you must be able to afford the higher excess if you need to claim.
5. Protect your property
It could be worth having a burglar alarm fitted, as this can help provide peace of mind when you’re out. This could have other advantages too – some insurers might reduce your insurance premium if you install a specific type of burglar alarm. Check first whether there are any stipulations about what kind of alarms fit their criteria. And rather than fit it yourself, rely on a professional to install and maintain it for you. (Ed: Our insurer definitely welcomed the news when we moved into a place with a burglar alarm a few years back. I’m not sure if that lowered our premium, though.)
6. Approved locks
Keeping your property secure is also a matter of having good quality, strong locks. Although this won’t reduce your premium, it can help to keep you home safe, reducing the chance of you needing to claim on your insurance for any unwanted visitors.
7. Be prepared for winter weather
When the temperature drops, water pipes become at risk of freezing and bursting. The result is usually water damage to your home, which can cause you both expense and inconvenience. While being prepared like this won’t actually reduce your premium, by making sure the pipes in your house are insulated properly, the risk of water damage can be reduced.
8. No claims bonus
While your insurance premiums may be higher if you have a history of making claims, some insurers will also reward you if you have a track record of not making claims, over a certain amount of time. It can be worthwhile, therefore, to seek to build your no-claims record, to save money on premiums.
9. Don’t double count
Your building insurance should cover you for damage to permanent fixtures such as kitchens, bathrooms and fitted wardrobes – so don’t include these fixtures when totalling up the value of your contents.
10. Fight back against flood risk
If you’re worried about flood talk to potential insurers for advice. There are flood protection products you can use; these might include things like non-return valves and barrier technology. Although this won’t reduce your premium it can protect your home against flooding, and help reduce potential future heartache for you.
For further information about home and contents insurance or buildings insurance, see http://www.lloydstsb.com/insurance/home/homeoptions_insurance.asp
Tags: insurance, money