Monday, October 10, 2011

4 Tips for Saving Money in Times of Economic Transition

While it is never easy to know when to spend, when to save, and when to invest, the current economic state is somewhat ambiguous, frustratingly so for some people, who'd much rather just get over being cautious. It's true that the economy is recovering, but before you go out and spend like it's 1999, know that we are in more of a transitional period than full-tilt prosperity, and you should spend accordingly. What does this mean exactly? The long and short of it is that you should still commit to saving, and at the same time monitor your spending to get an idea of where your spending. To give you an idea of some good financial strategies, here are some tips for surviving a transitional period:
  • Balance your regular expenses with days that you don't spend any money at all. This means sacrificing designer coffee, fast food, movie theaters, random shopping sprees, at least once or twice a week. You can just as easily prepare a lunch and dinner at home—and, yes, brew your own coffee. As scary as this sounds, you might be surprised at how limiting your spending in this way can improve your relationships and your life: making dinner at home can be a romantic change from eating out, and will also improve your culinary prowess.
  • Think about "the best things in life." The old saying tells us that the best things in life are free, but we all know that isn't really true. Houses, engagement rings, and cars (which are not themselves the best things in life, but do add to life considerably) are not free. If you are dreaming about a big purchase that will add to your collection of "best things," use that dream to help you control your spending.
  • Take a good, hard look at your expenses. It's really easy to get into a pattern of spending without even knowing it. This isn't always a bad thing, but these patterns can be very expensive over a long period of time. Buying a pack of gum every time you're at the grocery, for example, or continuing to pay for that gym membership even after you've stopped going to the gym. Track your expenses for a month to see where you can trim a little fat and save yourself a little green. With as many money monitoring apps and sites as there are today, this should be easy.
  • Make a focused effort at paying off debts. If you're still paying off school or credit card debts, consider consolidating them and paying a higher balance every month, instead of the minimum payment. The economy has more or less leveled out, and now would be a great time to attack your debt, so that when the economy recovers you can spend less guiltily (or if it does not improve, you won't have anything to worry about.
Following these four tips can really help you get a hold your finances in this strange economic time, and prepare yourself for the depression or prosperity that could follow. Either way, you want to be prepared—and these steps will put you on the path to preparedness.

About the Guest Author
Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to If you are interested in writing a guest post, please contact PF Stock at the Email address listed in the sidebar.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Importance of Public Liability Insurance

The nature of the beast unfortunately means that cheap public liability insurance is not always the best public liability insurance. Of course, it helps to do your research, so you should always read every detail of the terms and conditions in every policy that is available to you before you go ahead and pay for one.

Image courtesy of Frosted Peppercorn

Policies that have similar or even identical prices quite often will not have identical terms and conditions. Indeed, the cheapest policies are cheap for a reason: because they are far less inclusive than all other policies. Every kind of business will need a different kind of public liability insurance to cover its specific requirements.

Public liability insurance is not a legal requirement for businesses, which means that the common trap that people fall into is thinking or, indeed, hoping that nothing will happen to customers or members of the public on their premises. In this case, as in many cases to do with insurance, it is far better and cheaper to be safe than sorry.

The potential costs of having to pay out of your own pocket for a claim that is not covered under an insurance policy are huge. Granted, insurance can be expensive on a monthly or yearly basis, but it will save you hundreds and possibly thousands in the event of a claim being made against your business.

Basically, public liability insurance covers you and your business against any kind of injury or illness that might be sustained on your premises by somebody not involved with your business. Such insurance is essential for a place like a pub, in which people can easily trip, slip or fall over a barstool or a spilt drink. Damage to a person’s property is also covered under most policies. A building firm, for example, would need public liability insurance to cover any potential damage that might accidentally occur to somebody’s house during a job.

It is worth reiterating here that some policies will not include certain cover for your particular type of business. Referring back to the previous example, a builder might regularly work at a height of above 5 or 10 metres, so he or she would need to specify such a requirement for cover in their insurance policy.

Depending on the seriousness of any possible claims, the potential ramifications of not having public liability insurance on your business can be devastating. In particular, if you run a SME, you could be at risk of bankruptcy if somebody files a serious claim against you, so it is not worth the risk. Bite the bullet and get insured.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Money Market Rates 10/11

Here are the latest money market interest rates of the banks that I've been tracking on my blog. Note that these rates are sorted by APY, and represent institutions that I have accounts at, or have otherwise mentioned in my blog:

1.00% Discover Bank Online Savings
1.00% American Express High Yield Savings
1.00% Urban Partnership Bank
1.00% ING Direct Orange Savings
0.99% Ally Bank Online Savings
0.80% HSBC Advance Online Savings
0.70% FNBO Direct Online Savings
0.45% Western FCU Money Market
0.25% E*TRADE Complete Savings
0.15% Chase Plus Savings
0.10% Citibank Savings Plus

In some cases, MMA interest rates are tiered. If this is the case, I usually report the interest rate at the $10,000 tier in these updates.

Rates are believed to be accurate as of 10/5/11. I did not include banks that had special, or introductory rates in the list because they are not ongoing interest rates. I am also not including non-liquid accounts such as CD's in the list. At the request of readers, I added American Express and FNBO Direct to the list of institutions. Discover Bank, American Express, Urban Partnership Bank, and ING Direct currently have the highest interest rate of 1.00% among the banks that I'm tracking. By the slimmest of margins, Ally Bank Online Savings has dropped 3 positions in my list. This is because they have dropped their rate to only 0.99%.

At the very bottom of the list is Citibank. However, they do have a special promotion going on until the end of October where you can get either $200 or $400 for opening a new Citi Checking Account. Of course, there are a few catches to this offer. First of all, you are required to set up direct deposit, and need to make electronic bill payments for at least two months. The Citibank account offers a $200 bonus, and the Citigold account offers a $400 bonus. While not a requirement to receive the bonus, you need to keep $6,000 ($15,000 after December 9, 2011) in the Citibank account to avoid a $20 monthly fee. And $50,000 is required to avoid a $30 monthly fee for the Citigold account. In spite of these potential fees, this bonus offer might be worthwhile for some depositors.

It seems that the general interest rate trend is down. I was especially disappointed that the interest rates for Citibank and Chase were so low. Since I still have significant funds in these institutions, I think that it is time for me to consider moving some money around to other institutions.

So, that is the latest list of money market rates. Please let me know if you know of any higher interest rates.


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