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August 2012 - Frat Stacks
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Monthly Archives: August 2012

5 Frugal Destinations for the Traveler on a Shoestring

vacation budget tips

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Traveling can be very expensive, especially certain destinations, luckily there are a ton of frugal travel destinations worldwide. Destinations where you can really enjoy the food and atmosphere, mingle with the locals, and not break the bank. Many popular tourist destinations overcharge because they can get away with it. Not only that, but some areas have basically become so overcrowded with tourists, it can feel like not traveling at all. Of course, the most expensive cost of most international traveling is the cost of airfare, but once you get there you will certainly enjoy these 5 frugal destinations.

Thailand
With amazing food, an enjoyable tropical climate, and great beaches, Thailand is an obvious choice. Not only can you enjoy major metropolitan cities, but there are lots of islands to choose from as well. Thailand can be an extremely cheap place to visit, lodging, food and activities are all well below average. With an extensive bus system, it is cheap to get around to visit other regions. A great mixture between large cities, beaches, and mountains with natural beauty.

Morocco
Their currency the dirham has been devalued, which leaves everything more affordable right now. Morocco has delicious food, a unique landscape, as well as art and history. There are amazing Roman and Islamic sites to see and will certainly be enjoyed by all ages. Not only that, but Morocco has some great beaches to relax at.

Mexico
Mexico is a very popular tourist destinations among people from the United States and Europe, it is not surprise. Mexico has great weather, amazing food, and some of the friendliest people on earth. Whether you like the beach and party atmosphere or visiting colonial architecture. Mexico even offers tall mountains and large cities if that is more of your interest. For many years this has been a favorite travel destination of many, once you get away from the touristy areas it becomes a very cheap vacation.

Ecuador
Most people probably do not think of going to Ecuador for a vacation, but it certainly is a nice place to be visited on the cheap. It is very easy to find a hotel for around $15, and a delicious meal for a few dollars just about anywhere. The country is very inexpensive and easy to explore, whether you like colonial style architecture or rain-forests. A beautiful destination with natural beauty and a great climate.

Greece
Greece has so much history, great food, and of course beautiful beaches. Right now it is cheap to visit because some people are putting off vacations to Greece. This is because they believe they will leave the Euro currency, which will lower prices even more.

There are plenty of amazing vacation destinations around the world that will not break the bank. Many of them are very popular and well known, others are not as often thought about as tourist destinations. Keep in mind airfare is going to be the major cost for any international trip. The nice thing is, once you arrive to your destination, the day to day cost may be the same or less than at home.

Ronnie Haverford writes about travel, finance & more at http://travelinsurance.org.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

10 Easy Steps to Money-Saving Shopping

10 easy steps to money-saving shopping

 

By: Eduwardo Ramirez

Shopping can be an expensive proposition, whether it be clothes, food, or electronics. Taking a few simple steps can save you a lot of money. Luckily, once learned, it will be very easy to implement these steps without thinking.

Used
If you are buying clothes, or household goods, buying at thrift shops can be helpful. This is especially true for children s clothes or items. Not only that, the money you spend at a thrift shop usually goes to a good cause.

Ethnic Stores
When buying fruits and vegetables, or exotic items, sometimes an ethnic store can be beneficial. They offer great deals, and great quality items. Since they have low overhead they can have lower prices than large chains.

Farmers Markets
Here is a tip to save money shopping for fruits and vegetables. Farmers markets generally sell local, fresh, and often organic produce. If you can show up shortly before they close up, you can get great deals. They do not want to pack and carry the items home.

Online
For electronics, and big ticket items this is especially true. Shopping online not only can get the best prices, but often it is an easy way to dodge huge sales tax bills. This is not always true, so be aware. Most retailers offer some sort of free or discount shipping, especially on m,ore expensive items.

Stock Up
When there are huge sales, especially on staples such as shampoo or toilet paper, stock up. This will do two things, save money of course, and make it more convenient on subsequent trips to the store. Sometimes you can get soap, or other household goods for steep discounts. This is easier if you have the storage space obviously, but even small items should be okay for most people to stock up on.

Coupons
Using coupons, especially ones that can be doubled, or even tripled are a solid way to save money. Not only that, but sometimes they can be combined with store coupons or sales, to enable you to get free stuff. Some stores have double coupon days certain days of the week, so watch out.

Flyers
Most grocery chains send out flyers on a weekly basis. They usually have varying sales on a lot of staples such as meat and fruits. If possible, pick the best deals and go to each store separately. Not only that, but stocking up on great deals for meat, and freezing can save even more money and time.

Online Classifieds
Many online classifieds have a section where you can buy and sell items. Buying things like appliances or sports equipment can save tons of money. This is almost always from individuals, so be sure to fully inspect the equipment.

Credit Cards
Credit cards, especially store cards sometimes offer huge savings. Using a store card for certain department store can almost always result in a good discount. Watch out for days where using the store card can save even more. Great if you have a store you frequent.

Shop the Edges
The best place to shop the grocery store is the edges. That is where the healthy staples are. Not only that, but that is where the cheaper items are. The prepackaged stuff is in the middle.

Once you implement savings strategies for smarter shopping you will save money. After a while you will not even need to think about it.

Eduwardo Ramirez writes about nutrition, shopping & flower delivery.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Selecting a Financial Coach

financial coach

By: Robert Gignac – author of Rich is a State of Mind

Among successful business owners (and Americans in general…), there is a belief that people should be able to handle their own personal finances, make their own decisions, and implement them by themselves.

Do I really need a financial coach?

When it comes to personal finance, why wouldn’t we call a coach? Someone who understands your problems and issues, has seen it before, and can recommend a course of action. All the best athletes on the planet have coaches. Why? Discipline, encouragement, instruction, feedback, teamwork, dedication, and they help the athlete maintain their focus. A good financial coach does the same for their clients.

The key component that a financial coach brings to the table for a client is objectivity – helping a client understand where they are financially. Once that is done, their ability to educate and manage a client’s expectations aids in charting a course of action to build a better, more financially secure future.

How does one hire a good financial coach?

I don’t believe there is a set answer for this, but here are three questions I would suggest you ask and feel comfortable with the answers you receive before you consider hiring anyone.

What are your qualifications?

Plenty of people offer financial advice, and many call themselves financial coaches. These range from mutual fund salespeople, stockbrokers, insurance agents, tax accountants, or bank and trust company employees. Financial coaching requires experience and a sound technical understanding of investment options, insurance, taxes, estates, wills, and trusts to name a few.

Ask what type of training they have taken and which professional designations they hold. Credentials alone don’t indicate competence, but they demonstrate a commitment to the profession. Common credentials are: CFP – Certified Financial Planner, CLU – Chartered Life Underwriter, CFA – Certified Financial Analyst, ChFC – Chartered Financial Consultant, CIC – Chartered Investment Counselor, PFS – Personal Financial Specialist. For a complete list with descriptions, I will refer you to the Financial Planners Standards Council website at: www.fpsccanada.org.

The financial services sector is known for a relatively high attrition rate. As such, experience is an important consideration. Seniority alone should not be the deciding factor, but working with someone who has experienced the euphoria of bull markets and despair of the bear can help give you the proper perspective in dealing with the psychology of the market. Helping a client manage their expectations through market cycles is one of the most important roles of a financial coach.

How do you get paid? 

Coaches can earn compensation from fees billed to you or from commissions from products sold to you. Some feel there is an advantage to ‘fee only’ because there is no pressure to sell you anything. Fees can range from an hourly rate for work done, a flat fee to create an individual financial plan, or a fee based on the percentage of assets managed. Fee-only coaches may not have any direct motivation (i.e.: commissions) to help you implement the plan. Having a plan and not implementing it is equivalent to having no plan at all.

Many people feel commissions are bad and lead coaches to push products. Good coaches may recommend a course of action or a product; they don’t urge or pressure clients to buy. If you only focus on cost or commissions, rather than focusing on the value of the recommendation you may short-change yourself. A more important measure should be how your plan functions and whether or not you are achieving the benefits/results you set out to achieve.

Good coaches are upfront about their fees and all costs associated with any investment you make. If you don’t understand the fees, ask. Request full disclosure and ensure they provide it. If you still have questions, ask again. If they aren’t prepared to fully disclose and explain their costs, that should bother you.

How do they handle their non-expert areas? 

I don’t feel that a coach can be 100% versed in every aspect of the financial arena, so the coach’s business relationships are key. What access does the coach have to tax specialists, lawyers, business accountants, insurance specialists, etc? What is the cost to use these experts? Sometimes if you are dealing with a coach in a large integrated firm, this expertise is all housed in one place and it is part of a blended fee.

Hiring a financial coach can be a scary thought for many people. In order to build a complete and comprehensive plan, a coach has to become familiar with your entire financial situation. You have to be comfortable and willing to share personal information with them. They have to understand your dreams and goals. Discussing that much personal information with a ‘stranger’ can scare people. Don’t be intimidated. Financial coaches aren’t there to pass judgment, they exist to help you attain the goals you want for yourself and your family. You are responsible for your part in the planning process; nobody will care more about your money than you will. Peace of mind with the people who are helping you in the process plays a major factor.

Robert Gignac, owner of Taynac & Associates, speaks at financial industry events acrossNorth Americaon personal and financial development, motivation, and leadership.  This article is based on his International best-seller Rich is a State of Mind. For book reviews, video clips, articles and more – check out: RichIsAStateOfMind.com. Copyright 2012 – Taynac & Associates

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comparing Do-It-Yourself Debt Reduction Methods

Comparing Do-It-Yourself Debt Reduction Methods

By: Connie Solidad

When you have too much unsecured credit card debt and your bills start to get out of control, you need to make a plan to reduce your credit card debt quickly and efficiently. While paying according to the minimum payment schedules set by your creditors will maintain your credit rating, it doesn’t actually do much in the way of reducing your debt burden quickly. After all, payment schedules are designed to maximize the credit card companies profits through the interest paid on your debt.

With this in mind, you have to make a plan to pay back what you owe faster than the minimum payment schedule designates. Paying off your debt faster reduces the amount of interest you end up paying to your creditors which saves you money over the long-term. In addition, as you reduce the debts, you also reduce the amount of money you have to put towards credit card payments each month. This provides relief for your budget so you don’t have to do a juggling act to keep up with your bill payments.

So you know you need to pay more than the minimum amounts due, but how? As you make a plan to reduce your debt, you generally want to use one of two methods: the debt meltdown technique or the debt roll-up technique. These are more effective than just putting a little more money on all your debt payments simultaneously, because it focuses your efforts on eliminating one credit card debt at a time. You get out of debt faster and save money on interest payments.

In both plans, you need to streamline your budget to free up as much money as possible for reducing your debt. Cut out any discretionary expenses, which are things you buy every month but don’t necessarily need. Also look for ways to reduce flexible expenses, such as gas and food. You may need to start taking your lunch to work, coupon for your grocery shopping, arrange a carpool with other moms for kids’ activities, or commit to eating more dinners at home with the family.

Once you have the money freed up, you can start reducing your debt. Pay the minimum payments on all your obligations, but put any extra money you freed up to paying off one debt at a time. With the debt meltdown technique, you focus your money on the debt with the highest interest rate first. This is the most financially efficient method, because the highest interest rate debt grows the fastest. Eliminating it first saves you money. Once you pay off the highest interest rate debt, focus your extra funds to paying off the debt with the next highest interest rate. Continue until you are debt-free or feel you’ve gotten your debt back to a manageable level.

Of course many consumers struggle with the debt meltdown method, because their highest interest rate debt may also be their largest debt. No matter how much money you try to free up in your budget, paying this debt back could take years and won’t provide the financial relief you need now. In this case, the debt roll-up technique is better because it allows you to build up momentum to tackle your largest debts.

You still pay the minimums on all your obligations, but you focus all of your extra cash flow on the debt with the lowest balance first. Once you pay this smallest debt off, you won’t owe anything each month on that zero balance credit card. All of the money you used to put towards that bill can be rolled into the money you are using to pay your debts off. This gives you more money to tackle your next smallest debt. You build momentum like a snowball rolling down a hill, which is why this method is also called the snowball method.

If you assess your budget and neither method will allow you to pay off your debt quickly on your own, don’t wait to seek help. Contact a certified credit counselor to discuss other options available for debt relief. They will evaluate your debts and financial situation to help determine the best solution to get you out of debt.

More from Financial Bin contributor Connie Solidad: Do Debt Management Plans Work for More than Just Credit Card Debt?

Connie Solidad has been writing about finances and debt consolidation for years. She’s an expert in the industry and writes about management of personal debt, ways to pay off credit card debt and credit counseling options and resources. When Connie is not working, she loves playing with her two dogs in Tampa, Florida. To learn more about debt management refer to ConsolidatedCredit.org

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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