Top Personal Finance Blogs
Tuesday September 26th 2017

UK Economy on the Rise, But Not There Yet

The UK’s Office for National Statistics recently released their report regarding the second fiscal quarter for the country.  While is did show a fall in GDP, the level was slightly less than one half of one percent.  That’s significantly lower than their original estimate of a 0.7% drop.   In fact, they say that excluding the financial impact of the Queen’s  Diamond Jubilee, GDP may have held flat, or perhaps even shown a very slight gain.

Clearly, this good news is welcome, but perhaps not a reason to celebrate just yet.  Looking back over almost three years, the GDP is relatively flat, and there are still daunting issues like the ppi claims scandal to account for.

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Do You Need PPI?

Payment protection insurance (PPI) is a type of insurance that will step in and cover your  loan payments in specific situations where you are financially unable to meet your obligations.  The most typical scenarios include losing a work position to redundancy, accidents or serious illnesses.  (more…)


Finding a Contract Accountant

If you run a small business, you are probably an expert in your chosen field, and not a financial expert.  This holds true for me as well. I’m just an average joe that wants to improve his financial standing while delivering what my customers need.  Because I do have an interest in personal finance, many of my friends approach with questions, and I always recommend they do what I did…find a contractor accountant.   After all, I don’t answer legal or health questions…but I can point people to a doctor or lawyer that I trust.

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Arizona Congressman Wants to “Hang Up” Free Cell Phone Program

Ever get frustrated with your cell phone bill?  What if you could get both your cell phone, and a healthy number of minutes each month at no cost?  According to the experts at www.govcellphones.com, that’s all possible, and more, courtesy of the U.S. Government.  The “and more” is bonuses that are possible because of lax oversight of the program.   These loopholes get created because despite program rules that disallow it, applicants are able to apply for the benefit over and over, having multiple cell phones, each with free calling plans.  And, Arizona Congressional Representative recently shared his feelings with the popular website ” The Daily Caller“, saying this:

“…the program absolutely exploded and has become a nightmare…People are not only getting [one free cell phone], they’re getting multiples. There are reports of people getting 10, 20, 30 — just routinely getting more than one, selling them, storing them up, whatever…”

The annual bill for the program recently started to exceed one billion dollars, and is likely to soon be a point of contention with Congress, not to mention the general public.  The Lifeline program, as it’s called, was created with the purpose of  providing cost subsidized phones and service to lower-income Americans.  In the beginning, the service was restricted to home phone service via landline, but mobile phones were later added as a benefit.

Representative Griffen was so taken aback by the program’s state that he created a special page on his website to outline the issues at http://griffin.house.gov/lifeline.   Some interesting excerpts from the page:

“The evidence is stacking up: dead people are receiving free cell phones in the mail, eligible and ineligible individuals are obtaining more than one, and electronic kiosks have been stationed in convenience stores to spread the word about this ‘free’ opportunity”

Video: How the Government Cell Phone Giveaway Is Costing You Billions

The sad truth about this “free program”, of course, it’s that it’s not free for those that do pay for phone service. The Lifeline program is a large part of Federal Universal Service Fund, which was supposed to be replenished with payments from all telecommunications companies. In practice, the phone companies just pass the charge back to their customers…even labeling it as “Universal Service Fee” on most bills. This effectively makes the “free phones” an unofficial tax on anyone that does pay for phone service.


Saving Money on Home Entertainment

In most homes across the country, people regularly sit down in front of the TV for entertainment and relaxation. Whether you are easing into your day by watching a morning show with your coffee or relaxing at the end of the day with your favorite sitcoms, if you are like most, you watch hours of TV each week. Because of how much time you spend watching TV, you may think the price you pay for your cable TV plan is worthwhile. (more…)


Five Must-Know Facts About Health Insurance

Many people have a difficult time finding health insurance at a reasonable price. Rates vary drastically from one insurer to another and from state to state. More than that, health insurance premiums depend on your age, gender, medical history, pre-existing conditions and zip code. The amount of coverage you buy may also influence costs. If you want to make savings and get the best deal on health insurance, consider the following:

1. Comparison Shopping Can Save You Money

When shopping for health coverage, be sure to compare as many quotes as possible. You only need to visit two or three insurance websites and fill in a short form in order to receive free quotes from top rated companies. Research your options before making a decision. Evaluate each offer and compare plans side-by-side to find a good deal.

2. Cheap Insurance is Not Always the Best Choice

There are many companies featuring health insurance plans that seem too good to be true. In most cases you get what you pay for. Although searching for an affordable policy is highly recommended, buying the cheapest health insurance plan might result in higher medical expenses over time. The least expensive policy probably won’t offer as much coverage as you need. You should rather choose a plan that is slightly more expensive, but includes decent coverage.

3. If You Get Offered a Group Plan, Take It

Most individuals get health coverage through the company they work for. Group health insurance is a viable option for anyone looking to save money and reduce medical expenses. A typical plan usually covers routine check ups, specialist consultations, in-patient and day-patient treatments, vaccinations, maternity services and emergency care. If you are unsure of whether or not the company offers medical coverage, talk with your employer.

4. More Flexibility Equals Higher Expenses

In general, health insurance plans that offer great coverage at low rates will only allow you to use a specified network of doctors and hospitals. An indemnity plan features more flexibility than Preferred Provider Organizations, but it has higher costs. Health Maintenance Organizations provide members with a greater range of health benefits at the best rates on the market. However, policy holders are required to see only health care professional within the network.

5. Any Insurance is Better than None

Skipping health insurance is not an option. Even if you don’t have enough money to buy the policy you are interested in, you should still sign for a plan that you can afford. Medical bills from an unexpected medical condition can push you into bankruptcy. With no insurance, a simple procedure could cost you hundreds of dollars.

There are many other things that you should know about health insurance. Before you go shopping, do proper research to find out more about medical coverage. Evaluate at least five quotes from multiple insurance providers, check out networks and search for information about the company you are interested in. Ask about the discounts that are being offered and negotiate your rates in order to get the best possible deal.


Increased Sales May Not Keep Pace with Rising Commodity Costs

The final three months of 2010 were incredibly encouraging for Corporate America. The S&P 500 companies reported sales figures that largely outpaced expectations. Profits rose an average of 37% over the final quarter of the year, with sales figures that showed at least a 6% increase. The implications of this increase in profit and sales numbers continue to drive consumer confidence and seem to imply that the economy is still healing from the recent recession.

Sales Indicate Real Demand

One of the most positive aspects of the increased sales figures is that they seem to show profits based on actual demand rather than profits that resulted from companies cutting back. That means that the improvements are actually signs of economic health rather than conservative measures intended to cut costs out of the budgets of corporations. The progress of the last quarter represents actual increased sales, which have been slow to pick up in recent years. Economic recovery is not entirely complete, but the last quarter sales figures are a sign that it is still moving in the right direction.

Increased Foreign Competition is a Concern

Some companies are concerned that commodity costs will rise due to an increase in global competition. Corporations are finding a weaker domestic market for their goods as the demand for foreign goods is rising. This could cause the corporations to find new ways to increase demand in the face of competition from markets that can afford to lower their prices. Conversations about increased spending and weaker international demand have already caused dips in the stock market as investors become concerned that the 2010 sales increases are not sustainable numbers. If commodity prices rise as expected, the combination of high competition and more expensive manufacturing processes could be damaging to the economic turnaround.

Businesses Could be Forced to Pass Along Higher Costs

As companies face higher costs in 2011, economic researchers are concerned that those increased costs will need to be passed on to consumers in the form of rising prices. If prices can remain stable over the next year, consumer confidence would continue to rise. If prices begin to rise later in the year, however, they could have a negative impact on the country’s ability to climb out of the recent financial struggles. Rising prices on consumer goods due to the rising cost of manufacturing resources without a substantial decrease in the unemployment rate could set the economy back by at least a year.

Basic Materials More Expensive

Although the sales increases are a positive sign, many companies remain guarded in their optimism. Many of the biggest United States manufacturers are worried about increases in their manufacturing costs over the next year. Companies are already setting aside billions of dollars that they expect to need to use for increased commodity costs in the near future. Some companies expect to increase spending in their research and development areas as well. Many analysts worry that these cost increases will not be covered by the modest gains in sales and profit figures from the end of 2010.


Seven Places to Cut Business Expenses

Small Business

As we slowly climb out of the economic recession, it’s a good idea to continue the money-saving habits you developed during the crisis and apply the same principles to your business. A small business has fewer resources than a larger company and must find cost efficient ways to run things smoothly and keep them running in the future. Economic downturns run in cycles, so tightening you belt now will help you prepare for the next slump. In times like these, it’s not the best, most innovative or even the smartest business that succeeds. The one that succeeds is the one left standing when a bad economy starts putting others out of business. Think Bubba-Gump Shrimp.

Rent

Let’s begin with your overall expenses, or the overhead of your company. You could think about sub-letting your office space to help pay the rent. A virtual business can be run right out of your home, eliminating the cost of office space.

Employees

Speaking of employees, have you thought about saving on the cost of employee benefits by hiring freelance contractors instead?  Just be very careful if you head down this road. Unemployment Insurance laws in many states have a very broad definition of “employee.”

If you tell your workers what hours to work, where to do the work or prevent them from disclosing information about the assignment to others working under them, you could be putting your freelancers into the state’s definition of “employee.” Fines on such a misstep have put some companies out of business.

Labor and Benefits

If you are not comfortable taking on freelance help, then it may be time to consider ways to cut employee costs without damaging the lives of your employees too much. Maybe a four-day workweek would help. This could save you an entire day of energy expenses and a day of wages. It will require more productivity from your workers, so find affordable ways to compensate for the reduction. Consider a weekly hour-long outdoor excursion or perhaps a once a month day trip that employees can help plan. They will be more productive and less resentful of the pay cut.

Be sure to re-examine your employee benefits package every year and research potentially cheaper insurance policies. It is time to increase the employee contribution to the plan? Is there a cheaper plan with an employee deductible? There are many insurance options available to help you save. Explore them.

Energy

Most business owners are busy running the enterprise and fail to notice wasted energy. But when you begin looking at those mundane operations, you may notice potential improvements like sharing the printers between employees, installing movement sensors to make sure the lights are off when you are not using them, switching to recycled printer cartridges, or using laptop computers in the workplace. Just switching to laptops saves 90% of your computer energy consumption.

Technology

It takes months to get used to new technoologies, which is why many business owners are reluctant to make changes. But just think of the savings you could realize by switching to VoIP. Such services often include fax sending and other useful tools that can save your business a bundle on telecommunications. Many services now offer a server-based PBX systems that work just like the tradition phone services from a user’s perspective. Your front desk clerk may not even notice the difference!

And what about using Internet technology to replace in person meetings? Simply by holding meetings online via video conference or audio conference saves tens of thousands per year in travel costs for many small businesses.

Advertising

Saving money on business-related costs can be found most anywhere…even in your advertising budget. Spreading the word about your company and its products is a costly investment that can be easily reduced. In fact, you are reading this post on the medium that can do more for your business on a small budget than any other advertising medium: the Internet! You can also begin using low cost online printing services and distributing your advertising materials locally at small businesses. A little leg work goes a long way.

Other Resources

In order to make your business ends meet, you need to think outside the box. Sometimes, it might serve you best to consider all avenues where you can cut costs and stretch your budget. If you want to raise capital, it can’t hurt to ask employees for ideas through a company contest. Maybe they can offer money-saving ideas. Being closer to the action, your employees will be more creative at finding solutions. The solutions are there, you just need to find them.