12 Money Saving Tips To Help You Stick To Your Budget

BudgetI think we’ve all been there at some time or another. We pay our bills and wonder “where did all the money go?” In these tough economic times budgets are stretched to the limit. Here are some practical tips that can help you save money and stay focused on your budget:

1. Have a clearly defined budget.
The best way to stick to a budget would be to have a clearly defined one, that means it needs to be written down. Know how much you want to spend on everything every month. Call it a spending plan to make it more fun. Prepare your plan for spending and then stick to it. In case you overspend on something, make up for it by cutting back elsewhere.

2. Careful with those credit cards.
Carry only one or two credit cards (or better still, none) with you and use them as sparingly as possible. Only charge those purchases you can pay off fully in the next month.

3. Utilize Rewards programs when available.
Get a card with a rewards program so that whenever you use your card you end up earning points which can be redeemed for discounts or freebies.

4. Shop during sales.
Make it a habit to shop only at sales. My goal is to never pay more than 50% of the retail price. Buy your Christmas and birthday gifts when clearance sales are going on. Target and Walmart have huge discounts on toys after Christmas, so stock up for the following Christmas and for birthdays throughout the year.

5. Buy secondhand to save money.
Put your mother’s ‘old is gold’ advice to good use. Garage sales, second hand cars, electrical equipment, cell phones etc. are great as long as you manage to find them in good condition.

6. Eat the majority of your meals at home.
Eating out frequently is a huge waste of money. Not only do you pay exorbitant prices for the food, but with the taxes, tips and everything included, it does add up to quite a bit. Eat at home as much as possible, and save yourself loads of money.

7. Carpool to work or when dropping your kids off at school.
Avoid taking the car if you only have a few blocks to go. Walking or public transportation can be great alternatives.

8. Make a grocery list every time you go shopping.
It seems like such a simple thing to do, but having a written grocery list can help to keep your budget in check. Prepare your menu ahead of time and make your grocery list from that.

9. Look for deals, coupons, and specials before you buy anything.
Look for deals and promotional offers before you buy anything. Apply this principle wherever possible- right from plane tickets to when ordering pizza.

10. Avoid shopping on impulse.
Give yourself a day to think before you indulge yourself in something expensive. You may change your mind if you rationally think about whether you actually really need it.

11. DIY is a great way to save money.
Learn to do basic repairs around the house. Start a garden in your backyard. Paint the walls yourself instead of hiring someone.

12. Set reminders to pay all your bills on time.
Late fees and extra charges on your bills are unnecessary expenditure and are best avoided.

Your Investment Options Explained

InvestingThe following article is a guest post.

Over the past decade, a growing number of people have turned to investing as a means of supplementing their incomes. Once seen as the reserve of those rich enough to hire professionals who could trade on their behalf, this changed with the ever increasing prevalence of the internet. Acting as the great leveller, it offered ordinary people access to the markets in an entirely new way.

This has not come without its complications. Investing is a blanket term; one that covers a wide range of investment instruments. Spread out like an exotic banquet before you, it can be hard to ascertain which dish you’ll most like the taste of, and that’s why we’ve created this handy guide to help.

Simply read on to learn all about the options that are available to you…

#1: Bonds

We’ll begin with something simple: bonds. Bonds are usually a good investment choice for those with a conservative approach to risk, as they tend to be relatively predictable. Essentially, a bond is a loan that you are giving to a government or institution, in exchange for a pre-agreed interest rate that they will pay you over a specified period of time. When the term of the bond agreement ends, the total face value of it is repaid to the investor, so that you end up fully compensated with a little extra on top. This makes bonds an ideal early investment, and a wonderful tool for providing a stabilising influence to your portfolio.

#2: Stocks

Perhaps the most well-known investment instrument is stocks, which work by providing investors with partial ownership of a publicly traded company. These represent a claim on a proportion of the corporation’s assets and earnings, which is directly tied to how traders turn a profit. If you’re thinking of investing in stocks, then there are two main types that you need to be aware of: common and preferred. The former will entitle the holder to have their say at shareholder meetings, as well as putting them in receipt of dividends. The latter, on the other hand, does not bestow any voting rights, but does give the owner an increased claim over assets and earnings, and priority in the event of a business’ bankruptcy or liquidation.

#3: Mutual Funds

Next up, mutual funds. Mutual funds are sometimes believed to be a reasonably complex investment vehicle, but they’re quite simple in reality. They allow you to invest your capital in a professionally-managed portfolio of assets, leaving most of the everyday control and decision-making down to others, which means that they’re best for those who don’t wish to be too hands-on with their investments. They may contain a wide variety of assets, covering multiple classes of investment instrument, all carefully selected to achieve an overall financial goal.

#4: Exchange-Traded Funds (ETF)

A second type of fund that you might consider investing in is an ETF. Commonly known as a portfolio of securities, these work much like a mutual fund, tracking an index, a commodity, bonds, or a ‘basket’ of assets. The main difference between the two is that ETFs are traded in much the same way as common stocks on a stock exchange, experiencing multiple price fluctuations over the course of a day as they’re repeatedly bought and sold. This gives them a higher overall liquidity than their mutual fund counterparts, and this, combined with their more conservative fees, makes them an attractive proposition to many investors.

#5: Currencies

For those who are not deterred by risk, currency trading is a useful option to consider. The forex market is renowned for being the largest and most liquid in the world, and great sums of money move within it. With an average traded value exceeding $5 trillion a day, it is a place where fortunes are made and lost, and thus perfect for those with talent and tenacity. With its central marketplace trading 24 hours a day, five days a week, it can be a wonderful choice for those working around already restrictive commitments, and this is a major part of its appeal. If you’re looking for both opportunity and accessibility, it is definitely an option to bear in mind, and brokers like ETX Capital are usually all too happy to answer any further questions that you might have.

#6: Commodities

A commodity is a raw or primary product, and these are traded via physical and virtual marketplaces all around the world. At the current time, there are around 50 major markets globally, facilitating investment trade in around 100 primary commodities. As a rule, the markets split these assets into two generic types: hard and soft. The former are natural resources, ones which must be mined or extracted, whilst the latter term covers agricultural products and livestock. There are numerous ways to invest in these products, from purchasing stock in the businesses that rely on commodity prices to sinking your capital into funds with a focus on commodity-centred companies. Most directly, you can purchase a futures contract, which we’re going to discuss below.

#7: Futures

There are many more investment instruments for those willing to spend the time researching them, but the last one that we’re going to discuss here is futures. Futures can sound rather confusing when described on paper, but they’re really not that complex once you manage to wrap your head around them. Essentially, futures are financial contracts which obligate the buyer to either purchase or sell an asset at a predetermined future date and price. These contracts are often detailed, and will contain information pertaining to factors like the quality and quantity of the purchased asset. Commonly used as a tool for hedging, they allow investors, who will often double as producers or other parties with a vested interest, to lock in a particular price and thus reduce the risk of their venture.

If you’re considering investing, you’ll soon discover that there are a wide array of opportunities available for you to choose from, each of them suiting different traders and financial goals to varying degrees. The trick is to do your research, carefully consider your decisions, and wait to make your move until you find the ideal investment instruments for you.