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August 17, 2018, 5:56 am

How to Save Money Without Even Trying

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

When you’re in debt, the first thing you need to do, after you’ve talked to the debt management advisers at Credit Fix, is to start a programme of savings.

You can do this the hard way, by imposing full-on austerity measures upon yourself, or you can do it the easy way. Harsh saving methods don’t last long! Painless saving mechanisms tend to stay with you for life.

Here’s just a few of the best ones.

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Cashback

Loads of companies have cashback facilities – you do your routine grocery shopping and once your cashback rewards reach a certain threshold, you’ll get a gift-card or a deposit into your chosen account. Once you’ve set up all your details, all you need to do is shop as usual. Some bank accounts offer this service, although you have to log into your online account and choose current offers from the menu.

Tip yourself

So, you got a small bonus, a tax rebate, or you did some overtime. Don’t fritter this extra cash away on frivolities. Make sure you transfer some of your booty into a savings account so it can get to work earning interest rather than disappearing at the make-up counter. It’s easy to get into this habit – every time you save money at the supermarket, transfer that amount into your saver account. It’s surprising how quickly it adds up.

Always compare

Whatever you’re about to order or pay for, take a minute to find it cheaper elsewhere. Whether it’s energy, insurance or washing powder, see if you can find a cheaper option, even if you have to wait for a couple more days for delivery. Looking for voucher codes is also time well spent.

Choose cheaper grocery brands

When you do your grocery shopping, try the own-brand versions of various items. Sometimes you’ll be disappointed, sometimes you won’t be able to tell the difference and sometimes you’ll be happier. Once you’ve found these decent alternatives, stick to them – no effort required.

Get out and about

This doesn’t mean shopping! It means getting out for a walk with the dog and the kids, or heading to the park. You can turn off your heating, lights and TV, pack a flask and some snacks if necessary, and hit the great outdoors. You’ll be saving money and getting fit at the same time.

Do some overtime

This is doubly beneficial; not only are you earning more money, but you won’t have the time to spend it! It can be boring, of course, so do treat yourself once your stint is done – just don’t go overboard and blow your extra wages!

Have a cooling-off period

We’re now used to clicking “buy now” and having our items turn up several hours later. This can be a disaster for people prone to impulse purchases. Set a limit – £20, for example – and any purchase above this amount requires you to wait 48 hours before completing it. While you’re waiting, see if you can find it cheaper elsewhere, or ask yourself if you really need it.

Save some or all of your pay rises

When you get a pay rise, it’s money that you managed ok (ish) without the previous month, right? So why not manage without it for the next few months and send it straight into savings? Of course, if you have big debts, then some of it can go into paying them down ahead of schedule, but do aim to save some of it.

 

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June 13, 2018, 4:55 am

A Brief History of Bingo & How It Took The Internet By Storm

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance


Bingo” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by ashleyt

Here at The Financial Blogger, we cover a variety of money-related topics, whether they be the more serious subjects such as loans and budgets or simply tips on how to make a little extra cash doing online surveys. We’ve also covered online games in the past, particularly those that fall within the iGaming genre as these are online games played for real money. We’ve discussed tips on how to succeed at online poker, the best payment methods to use at online casinos and we’ve even skimmed the surface of how bitcoin can be used in the online gaming arena.

However, one subject we are yet to cover in the world of online gaming is online bingo; arguably the most popular online game of all.

Where Does Bingo Come From?


130509-N-ZM744-028” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by SurfaceWarriors

Though statistics may lead you to believe that bingo originated in the UK, it actually all started in Italy with a weekly lottery named Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia that still continues to this day. The Italian lottery began in 1530 after the country was united and, much like modern-day lotteries, was won by whoever managed to correlate the numbers on their ticket with those picked at random from a huge collection of numbered balls. Unsurprisingly this lottery became extremely popular and soon spread to France in the 1700s, where it was renamed Le Lotto and was played by most of the very fanciest French aristocracy.

It was when the lottery transitioned to France that we first see the playing cards being divided into sections. There were three horizontal rows crisscrossed with nine vertical rows, with random numbers from 1 to 90 resting in each section except for four that were mysteriously left blank. Players would then gather together to listen to someone call out the numbers written on randomly selected tokens, marking off any numbers that appeared on their playing card. The first person to fill out an entire horizontal row was the winner.

These lottery games soon spread throughout Europe, many resembling what we know today as bingo, but it wasn’t until December 1929 that true modern bingo was born. New York toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe was driving to Jacksonville, USA when he noticed a country carnival taking place. He soon noticed that every single booth at the carnival was closed except for one that was absolutely packed, where it seemed players were sat around a horseshoe-shaped table covered in numbered cards and beans.

The locals called the game Beano, and it very much resembled the lotteries that had been played in Europe for centuries. The caller selected numbered disks from a cigar box, stating the numbers as the players quickly placed beans over the numbers on their cards. Once a player managed to get a line they would shout “Beano!” and be awarded a Kewpie doll. Lowe saw just how popular the game was and decided to make his own version, using dried beans, some cardboard and a rubber numbering stamp.

After returning to New York, Lowe invited many of his friends around to play his new game. Before long, his friends were just as into the game as those that had been at the carnival, with one woman shouting “BINGO!” instead of beano due to the excitement. Thus, Edwin S. Lowe’s Bingo! was created and became an overnight success, spreading through America without stopping. Soon the entire world was playing bingo, either engaging in games with family at home or travelling to dedicated bingo halls to compete against other fanatics. It was in 1968 that bingo was formalised in the UK under the UK Gaming Act and by 1986 when the National Bingo Game became legal, almost everyone was playing throughout Britain.

Alas, as the years went by, newer generations had many other pastimes to consider and soon bingo became a game reserved for older people. It wasn’t until bingo made the transition onto the internet that it began picking up popularity again.

The Beginning of Online Bingo

The first online bingo sites appeared in 2003, attracting numerous casual gamers who had flocked to the internet. In 2013, it was estimated that the European Union online bingo market was worth about €926.6m, €312m of which came from the UK – the world’s largest online bingo market. As playing online games for money became more popular at online casinos, bingo soon became attached to the iGaming industry, appearing alongside table games and slots at numerous online sites. According to Statista, this online gambling market was worth an estimated total of $37.91billion in 2015 and may increase to $59.79 billion by 2020.

Why is Online Bingo so Successful?

Considering the historical popularity of bingo, it’s not difficult to understand how the game itself became popular. After all, it’s a game of chance that allows us to play with family and friends without really being responsible for who wins or loses. It’s easy, it’s friendly and above all, bingo is fun. Still, even a successful game like bingo found it difficult to compete with more modern pastimes such as video game consoles, the internet and other 21stcentury activities.

So, instead of slowly dying off and resigning itself to history, bingo revitalised itself by taking over the world wide web. Now, there are quite literally thousands of online bingo sites, so many that platforms like Oddschecker now sift through them all to find no-deposit offers and deals for online bingo enthusiasts. After all, not every online bingo site is created equal and if they want your business they best be offering a great deal.

No longer is bingo resigned to a town hall or abandoned cinema building like it was in the 90s; now players can jump online anytime, anywhere as long as they have an internet connection. On desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone, online bingo sites are easily accessible and offer a wide variety of games suitable for almost every playing style.

Of course, it wasn’t just the game itself that made bingo popular all those years ago, it was also the human factors such as socialising and comradery. To add a little more socialisation into internet-centric games, online bingo sites have always had chat boxes, which allow players to converse. More recently, bingo sites have started introducing live streams, which allow players to watch and converse with a real-life, professional caller.

The more reliable a site is, the more games they offer and the more social aspects it has, the more popular an online bingo site will be. Of course, a good welcome package doesn’t hurt either. This is how online bingo became one of the most popular games not only on the internet but in the entire world. In fact, we’d like to know if you yourself play online bingo and if you’ve ever had any success? Let us know in the comments below.

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June 5, 2018, 7:50 am

5 Affordable Home Loan Options

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

In today’s economy, it might seem like home ownership is out of reach for any but the rich, or at least “well to do,” but the fact is, there are home loan options that are practical for even those with relatively low incomes.

And many of these loans don’t require perfect credit, a large down payment, or a long, grueling application process either. Exploring your home loan options and taking advantage of the best program available that fits your needs can make the process simple and convenient.

Here are 5 of the most popular home loan types that work well for those with low to moderate incomes:

1. FHA Loans

FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loans used to be only for those with high incomes and great credit scores. But those days are long gone. It’s’ fairly common nowadays to get an FHA loan approved for manufactured home – and manufactured home loans can be tailor made to make them eminently affordable.

You can take out an FHA loan with only a 3.5% down payment, a FICO score as low as 500 (if you can explain the reason), and with relatively low income if it’s reliable. Single family, multi-unit, manufactured, and mobile homes can all qualify. So long as a bank underwrites the loan and it’s structure meets FHA standards, you can be in your new home in short order.

2. Rural Housing Loans

Despite the name, rural housing loans (USDA rural development loans), are also available for the suburbs and small towns. They are specifically targeted at low to medium income families (up to 115% of local area median income qualifies.)

Special advantages of these loans include: you can lump in home repairs/upgrades with the loan principal, your PMI fee is the absolute lowest of all loans (.35%), and there are zero “surprise fees” due at closing.

3. Home Renovation Loans

A home renovation loan (FHA 203k) is a mortgage that lets you buy a house to then immediately fix it up and make it more livable. It only requires 3.5% down and is very similar to standard FHA loans (#1 above).

However, you will need to borrow more than the purchase price to cover renovations, which means this loan type requires good credit, though not extremely high income, to get approved.

4. VA Home Loans

If you are a US Armed Force member or your deceased spouse was, then you will qualify for a special no money down VA loan. If you’re an honorably discharged vet who served a minimum of 6 years, you also qualify.

You will not have to buy mortgage insurance to get approved (though it’s still a good idea if you can afford it). Imperfect credit is not normally a problem with VA loans, and even bankruptcies won’t necessarily disqualify you.

5. HomePath Mortgages

HUD’s HomePath mortgage program is offered through Fannie Mae and is widely available to low-income families all over the US.

This loan type adds in the incomes of all who will live in the house, even though not all will be on the mortgage. It thus raises your DTI (debt to income) ratio and makes approval easier. This is for purchase of HUD homes only. It requires only 3% down and gives you a 3% bonus credit to use for closing costs IF you complete the “homebuyer education course.”

There are other affordable home loan programs out there too, but these 5 are easily the most common. Most people will be able to qualify for one or more of these loan-types, making home ownership truly realistic.

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December 19, 2017, 10:56 am

Average Cost of a Funeral in the U.S.

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

We budget for a lot of things in life – kids, a home, college, retirement. There’s so much going on in the near future it’s easy to forget about events long, long down the road. Plus, most of those things aren’t the nicest to think about.

Sure, no one wants to think about funeral expenses, but that’s what we’re hinting at. Once we’re gone we don’t have to worry about the cost, but our family members will. Want to know how much they’ll have to spend to pay their final respects?

Let’s take a look at today’s funeral expenses.

Funeral Expenses

Like everything else in our global economy, funeral expenses keep steadily increasing. The overall expense if going to vary by location, but the average funeral costs is around $11,000 according to SavvySenior.org.

If you don’t have insurance for final expenses these are the funeral costs your family will have to cover.

Traditional Burial: Basic Services

  • Funeral planning
  • Notice preparation
  • Sheltering the remains
  • Cemetery arrangements
  • Permits and death certification preparation

Traditional Burial: Additional Services

  • Transportation
  • Embalming
  • Viewing fees
  • Ceremony/Memorial services
  • Casket
  • Graveside services
  • Grave liner

Cremation

More people are choosing to be cremated, partly because it’s about half the cost of a traditional funeral. However, a number of the basic funeral services/costs above will apply with a cremation. There will so be additional fees for the crematory services. Instead of a casket, family will have to purchase a vessel or container for the ashes.

Third Party Vendors

A funeral is a huge undertaking in a very short amount of time. Getting everything lined up requires the assistance of numerous professionals even for an intimate event with close family and friends. The funeral home coordinators will work with a number of third party vendor to get everything ready in a matter of days.

These third party vendors charge for their own services on top of the basic funeral expenses. They’ll either charge your family directly or charge the funeral director who will then add the expense to the funeral preparation fees.

Some of the most common third party funeral expenses include:

Floral arrangements – Traditional funerals feature numerous floral arrangements that are used during the memorial service and placed at the gravesite.

Casket – A traditional funeral with burial will require a casket. At an average cost of over $2,000, the casket is typically the single most expensive item. If you plan to do a cremation, you may need to rent a casket for the funeral services.

Obituary – If your family plans to put an obituary notice in the newspaper there will be a fee.

Officiating Clergy – Whoever presides over the funeral service will typically ask that a donation be made.

All funeral homes are required to provide an itemized expense statement that includes good faith estimates of third party fees. When you begin budgeting for funeral expenses use the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Costs and Pricing Checklist. It’s a great resource with information on average prices.

The Funeral Rule

As with many things in life, there are laws governing funerals. The FTC Funeral Rule provides guidelines that protect consumers and make funeral expenses more transparent.

The Funeral Rule was put into place to ensure that consumers are protected when they’re most vulnerable. The primary goal is to allow consumers to select the funeral services they want without overpaying for additional fees. As noted above, the Rule requires funeral homes provide itemized statements that make the expenses known. This helps you compare prices and decide which services you can do without.

Another regulation is that all service fees charged by funeral coordinators for third party services must be disclosed in writing. If the funeral director received discounts, rebates or refunds that must be disclosed too.

Keep in mind the Funeral Rule only applies to funeral homes. Cemeteries without an onsite funeral home and third party vendors do not have to adhere to the regulations.

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November 2, 2017, 8:34 am

Six Hacks to Save You More Money

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

Our lives are made up of tiny decisions that can have a big impact over time.

This concept applies to our financial lives as well. A $3 mocha may not seem like much in the moment but over the course of a year, when purchased consistently, you’ll spend over $700!

The power of time has an even bigger impact with compound interest. If you place just a few dollars every day into a retirement account, your savings will grow exponentially.

PSECU, a credit union in Pennsylvania, explores which of life’s daily expenses could be replaced with cheaper alternatives along with other ways to save money.

infographic

Think of everyday habits or purchases you make that could be cut or exchanged for something that costs less.

There are also other money-saving hacks like keeping your car tires inflated and hanging your clothes out to dry that may not seem like it saves you money till months down the road.

Lastly, make sure you are taking advantage of everyday spending by using a cash back credit card. Look for a card that doesn’t have an annual fee and make sure you pay it back in full each month so you don’t pay any interest.

Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with PSECU.

 

 

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