(This is a guest article by Bailey Harris*)
When you own a business, carrying the right amount of insurance is a must. Even if you're trying to watch expenses, you can't overlook or do without coverage. Not having insurance could mean that you are only one disaster away from a lawsuit, or worse, filing bankruptcy and closing your doors. If you are worried about the cost of insurance, you are much better off looking for ways to save than ignoring your need for insurance altogether.
Examine Your Needs
Take a good hard look at what type of insurance is really necessary for your business. Do you need property insurance? What about liability insurance or worker's compensation? When you've established your true needs, the next step is to determine how much coverage you need. It's possible you're carrying too much in one area and not enough in others. Do you really need that high payout on your burglary insurance? Perhaps it would be less expensive to install a better security system that could lower your insurance premium. Another possibility is to consider having some of your work performed by independent contractors. You wouldn't need to carry worker's comp. However, if you take this route, make sure the independent contractor carries their own insurance.
Liability insurance is usually a significant part overall insurance costs for any business. Finding ways to improve safety for your customers and your workers may allow you to carry less liability insurance. Consulting with a safety expert could also be beneficial in the long run. Your insurance agent could be of help as well. These professionals may be able to point out areas where safety features could be installed or help you hold safety seminars to instruct your employees in safer work habits. A safety expert may also help you find ways to make sure your customers are safer while on your property. The minimized threat of customer injury can translate into savings in insurance payments.
Get a Package Deal
Whenever possible, try to consolidate your insurance needs. Discuss options with your agent and determine whether carrying an insurance package would be to your benefit. Many insurance companies will reward multi-policy customers with additional discounts. For example, if you insure your property and your company vehicles with the same insurance provider, there is a very good chance that you will qualify for savings on both policies.
Look for Group Rates
If you belong to an organization that offers group rate insurance, it could be of value to your company. Many organizations have tremendous influence with insurance companies simply because they can bring customers in volume. As a result, the companies are prone to offer lower rates. If you don't actually belong to an organization that benefits from group insurance rates, do some homework and find out what groups in your area do enjoy that advantage. Consider joining the group, which will in turn allow you to take advantage of the savings. There will undoubtedly be some upfront cost, but it may be beneficial in the long run.
As with any type of insurance, the cost of business insurances can vary wildly from company to company. Before buying a policy, you should take time to get multiple quotes. As you are making comparisons, be sure to look at coverage levels as well as price. Although it is good to save money, the ultimate goal is to make sure that you have the proper coverage in the unlikely event of a catastrophe.
Ask for High Deductibles
As with most other types of insurance, policies for businesses include some sort of deductible. Paying out of pocket for a portion of the loss is standard. If your business is going well you may decide that taking a chance on a claim would be worth the extra expense of paying more of the cost yourself. Raising your deductible is a gamble, but the savings in insurance payments may be worth it. Examine your business finances to make sure you could withstand the outlay of cash. If so, consider raising your deductible to take advantage of monthly or annual savings.
Read the Fine Print
Businesses are frequently overcharged for insurance by accident. Be sure to review your insurance policies--particularly your worker's comp policy. Are your employees classified correctly? What about your inventory? Do you have replacement-cost coverage or an actual cash value policy? Know what you are paying for before your write out the check.
Remember That Business Needs Fluctuate
It's a standard business practice to do a cost analysis on a regular basis. As part of that analysis, you should include an update on insurance needs. If your profit to potential-insurance-payout ratio is out of sync, consider updating your insurance policy. You may be over insured. Spending money on insurance premiums comes out of your profit, and no business can survive by spending too much on unnecessary things.
*About the author: Bailey Harris writes about home insurance quotes and related topics for www.homeinsurance.org.
*Image Credit: Photograph by bookgrl [via Flickr Creative Commons]
(This is a guest article by Bailey Harris*)
(This is a guest article by Connor Groening*)
I used to be the girl who runs to the coffee shop every morning. On the way to the coffee shop I'd pass the coffee maker, can of coffee and filters, and on the way in, I'd dump my disposable cup out in the trash. I am now a mother and living a financially friendly lifestyle is a must - for both mine and my kid's future. Whether it’s parenthood, job change or just a want to use your finances more efficiently, there are tiny little things and even big ones that we don’t even notice we spend money on. Lets say that I was spending 4 dollars everyday on coffee. That’s around 120 dollars a month and about 1,500 dollars a year! Amazing right, over 1,000 dollars spent entirely on coffee. And to boot, 365 disposable cups in the trash can. Lets just say I make my own coffee these days and drink it in my "I Love You, Mommy" coffee mug, with a little fancy creamer to make it taste like a coffee shop latte. You don’t have to be an accountant or go to a financial school to take control of your finances and the effects they have on not only you but environmentally as well.
When you go through your everyday expenses it is amazing the little things you discover your spending thousands of dollars on a year. There are some ways to eliminate some of those expenses and even do a little eco-friendly monetary rearranging. I’ll use some examples out of my own personal experience and a few tips I have learned from others. Financially friendly living cannot only help you in your life but can even help the environment!
Have you ever watched "The Story of Bottled Water?" The basic message is how we spend thousands and thousands of dollars on bottled water, and by buying the plastic bottles not only are we wasting money, but resources that could be used elsewhere. Instead of spending money to fund big bottled water companies why not put that money and resource towards making tap water safe and drinkable all over the world. Same applies to most of the trivial things we as consumers feel we need. We are a nation obsessed with "stuff". Not to condemn American’s we are not the only consumer happy country, just the most recognized. Basically the message I am trying to convey is that there are many ways to save money and in doing so conserve national resources.
Small but Expensive
Taking a step back from the national approach I will evaluate from a more personal stand-point the things I do to live a more financially and eco-friendly life. I will start with the tiny things that we can do as individuals to cut costs in certain areas of our lives. First the minute little things. If you use a computer often then this is something I’m sure you have done. When you are done with the computer you let it go to sleep rather than shutting it down, and probably leave it plugged in as well. This seems too minute to worry about but you wouldn’t believe the amount of energy it uses yearly. Studies show that by leaving a computer plugged in costs you an average of $27.90 a year. That isn’t including a monitor if you have a desktop which generates a cost of about nine dollars a year, and the modem costing you around six dollars a year. And that's just one computer. How many computers and other electronic gadgets do you have around the house. Itty bitty expenses that add up, while at the same time hurting the environment.
Lets go back to the simple idea of a water bottle. The average family uses about 10 dollars a week on plastic water bottles. Equaling an amazing 520 dollars a year. What could you have used the 520 dollar on? A car payment, paying bills within the household... buying 10 water filtering systems for your tap water faucet? Try using a reusable bottle for water or other drinks. This reduces not only the amount of money you spend on plastic bottles but also the amount of plastic you send to landfills all over the world. These are just a few of the small things that we don’t realize we are spending so much money on. There are hundreds of things like this in our lives that we can either cut out or reduce considerably. Try sitting down and calculating the amount of money you spend on things like coffee in the morning, fast food lunches, water bottles and other things such as this. After calculating you will be amazed at where your paychecks are really going. Try coming up with creative ways to change your consumer habits, do some research and save some money!
When looking at your finances on a larger scale in a round about way there are a few skills you can use to keep your spending in check and live more financially friendly. First try making a budget. If you take the time to sit down and make a rough allocation of your money it gives you an idea of what you have left over for things you want. Needs and wants are very different and using those two categories is really beneficial when making your budget. Doing this allows you to make sure you get all of your needs covered and slowly mark your want list off with money you have left over.
Spend Wisely and Consciously
When shopping, shop wisely and with purpose. Comparing prices can be a mundane task but if you take your time shopping you will be amazed at the money you save. This goes for all shopping not only grocery shopping. Whenever possible support environmentally friendly causes. Advertisement has many, many tricks up its sleeve. Sales are one of those very touchy subjects. "It was okay I spent the money because it was on sale". Finding a good deal is definitely something you can look out for when shopping but beware of the way advertising seduces us into buying things we do not need. An example, some price tags will have a regular price and sale price printed on. Meaning that this company never even tried to sell this product at regular price. Seeing a sale price is enticing and our mind automatically justifies spending if the item is "on sale". Unknowingly we sometimes fall into the schemes of today’s advertising gurus, who if you let them will take every penny you have! Their good... but you can easily be better!
In every home there are a number of unused items maybe you have a garage full or an attic. The point is we all have things lying around that can be of use. A personal example. I recently relocated, left my job, my home and all of the connections I had back home. It is the Christmas season and I love giving. However I have just started a new job and at the moment do not have the money to spend on a ton of Christmas gifts. I love to give everyone a special gift and so not having the money was killing me. I went to the basement to do laundry and started digging around. I found some clear glass ornaments that I had completely forgotten were there. So this year everyone is getting a hand made ornament uniquely painted for each individual person. And it worked out great... in stead of buying more and more stuff, I end up repurposing some the things I already have. Sometimes something you make means so much more! Getting crafty can be applied to many different things to not only make unique gifts but to make practical use of unused items just laying around at home. There is a book by readers digest "Extraordinary uses for ordinary things: 2,317 ways to save money and time". Its amazing how some of these directly or indirectly help save the environment as well. Try finding reads like this and using the information in your life.
There are many ways to live a more financially friendly life. I hope the information I have given you will spark some interest in the things you can do that not only save money but help save the environment as well. Saving money isn’t all about being frugal. There are a lot of things that I have learned on my journey to a more financially friendly living that have helped me in many aspects of my life, and have been great fun. Explore and gain knowledge on the different ways to save money that are out there and have fun doing it. When you begin to save and look back on the money you were spending on irrelevant things you will feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride. Sometimes it really is all about the simple things in life.
If you like this article you may also like:
- What I Do to Live Frugally
- Now Frugal, Now Not
- Air Travel Checklist for the Frugal Minded Traveler
- Frugality and Hardship
*About the author: This is a guest article by Connor Groening, who loves writing about personal finance and online finance schools.
*Image Credit: Photograph by beautyredefined [via Flickr Creative Commons]
(This is a guest article by Mark Davies*)
One of the biggest misconceptions about scholarships is that most people assume that they’re available on to those who belong to low income families. Yes, there are more need-based scholarships than any other kind, but they’re not the only kind of financial assistance available to students for a post secondary education. So if your parents are in an income bracket that does not allow you to apply for a need-based scholarship, yet cannot pay your way through college for various reasons and don’t want to take out a student loan and incur debt on graduation, here are the options open to you:
- Look for academic or merit-based scholarships – most schools provide these if you have a GPA of 3.7 and above and if your high school academic records are excellent. You help your case if you have a complete portfolio of all your academic achievements, any community service projects you’ve participated in, and any other accomplishments in high school that you think is significant.
- If you belong to a minority or ethnic background, now is the time to make good use of it – many colleges provide scholarships for members of minority communities.
- Certain academic departments in colleges have scholarships that they disburse, so ask about these in the colleges you want to apply to.
- If you’re physically or mentally disabled, you qualify for many scholarships that are set up to help those who are at a disadvantage because of their disability.
- If you have lost a parent or other family member to cancer or any similar debilitating disease, you may qualify for certain scholarships that consider families who have used up a considerable portion of their savings and income towards medical expenses.
- If you’re thinking of signing up for the military (army, air force or navy), then consider an ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) program where you can get federal aid for college before training to be officers in a branch of the military.
- Some schools offer scholarships for students who have lost a parent in the line of duty, as a cop, fireman or military personnel.
- Your parents’ employers may be offering scholarships for meritorious children of employees in the organization, so get mom and dad to ask some questions in the workplace.
- If you belong to a local community or church, ask about any scholarships or grants they provide for aspiring college students who actively volunteer and help out whenever needed.
- If you don’t qualify for scholarships in your freshman year, you can always apply again in your sophomore, junior and even senior years. So don’t give up just because you lost out the first time, just keep looking for alternatives open to upperclassmen.
So don’t despair if your parents haven’t saved up for your college expenses, if your 529 savings amount is not enough to cover the cost of four years of college, or if a bad financial year has left your parents unable to pay your tuition and living costs in college. Start looking around for academic and other scholarships well before you must apply to college, and reap the rewards of your effort and persistence.
Scholarships that are not need based are not advertised prominently; so if you want to apply for and qualify for these, you must talk to the admissions office and your department of study specifically to see what you can do.
*About the author: This guest post is contributed by Mark Davies, he writes on the topic of Online Masters Degree. He welcomes your comments at his email id: markdavies247<@>gmail<.>com.
*Image Credit: Photograph by haagenjerrys [via Flickr Creative Commons]
(This is a guest article by Mirsad Hasic*)
Did you know that the average American family has an average of $5,219 credit card debt with an average interest of 17-20 percent? Yes, very disturbing indeed considering that the interest rate is usurious in every way possible. And with such a high interest rate, it will be tough to get out of debt and shape up one's financial issues.
Keep in mind that the credit card interest rate is the principal means by which the issuers generate revenue from letting the holders borrow the former's money for purchases bought with the credit card. In effect, the holder is paying a fee for the privilege of borrowing money, which will take time to accumulate if not for the credit card issued by the bank.
Since the bank is taking a risk in letting the holder borrow its money, the interest rate is based on how much the former believes the latter is a credit risk. Thus, if you are seen as a high credit risk by the bank, your interest rate will be higher but if you are a low credit risk, your interest rate will similarly be lower.
This is the rationale behind the statements that the interest rate you pay for the credit card is largely under your control and that the quickest way to secure a low interest rate is to become a low-risk holder.
Personal Credit History
Probably the most important factor in the determination of credit card interest rate is the personal credit history of the applicant. With the sophisticated information-gathering techniques used by national and international credit bureau reporting agencies, your personal credit history can be tracked for as long as 10 years ago. Missed payments on utility bills, defaults on loan amortizations for any kind of asset, foreclosures on the house, less than minimum payments on credit cards, and bankruptcy filings on one hand and almost-perfect payment history on the other hand all show up on these credit reports.
Your credit history shows how high or how low a credit risk you will be to the bank. If you have a spotty credit history, the interest rate will be higher. If you have a spotless credit history, the interest rate will be competitive so much so that it will be almost like borrowing the money interest-free. This is not a form of discrimination since any investor will want to protect his interests and that includes banks lending money to the holders.
Length of Credit Profile
The length of time relative to the credit account also comes into play when determining the credit card interest rate. If you have long held credit cards and you have kept them current, chances are that the interest rate will be lower. For new cardholders, the other factors will be considered more than the length of the credit account.
Percentage of Credit Used
But just because you are on top of your various kinds of credits from utilities and mortgages to credit cards does not necessarily mean that the interest rate will be lower. The bank will look into the percentage of available credit being used at the time you have applied for the new credit card account.
As a general rule, banks consider individuals and households using more than 30 percent of their available credit as higher credit risks than those who use a lesser percentage of their available credit. Borrow within your available credit to avoid being imposed higher interest rates on the new credit cards being issued.
But the banks will not only look at your financial past. Your present and future finances will also be assessed to determine your credit worthiness. First, you will be asked about your current financial status specifically your debt-to-income ratio. You may even be asked for audited financial statements both for your personal and business accounts to provide the bank with an objective perspective into how well you are doing at present in terms of finance. Jobs, businesses and other economic activities will be asked.
Second, you may have to justify your credit card application with proof of a future flow of money into your possession. It can be an inheritance, income from government bonds and other verifiable sources of revenue. Your goal is to show the bank that you have the financial means to pay your credit card balances for their full amounts in the future.
Many credit card issuers offer promotional interest rates to attract customers to take out credit cards for their own use. Thus, you will see banks offering a zero percent rate for the first 6 months of use, which you will be attracted to when other issuers are not doing so.
However, you must be aware that the good times cannot last as long as you want it to. The banks will raise the interest rates to bring them in line with their profit goals. You may even be imposed an additional interest rate, no matter how miniscule it may look on paper, when you have been deemed a higher credit risk than was previously thought.
And then there's the economy to take note of. Along with the bank policies on promotions, the economy is one of the uncontrollable factors that determine your interest rate.
Banks usually base their credit card interest rates on the prime rate, which represents the most favorable rate given to the individuals with the highest credit worthiness. (In other words, these are the holders with the lowest credit risk). The prime rate, in turn, is based on the federal funds rate, which is the rate at which banks charge other banks for credit.
If you want a lower interest rate, be a low credit risk. You have to pay your bills, amortizations and other payables on time; provide for proof of stable finances for the present and the future; and just generally be somebody whom the banks can trust with paying back their money. Even in these tough times, all that is possible.
*About the author: This article was contributed by Mirsad Hasic. Mirsad is the editor of best credit card deals, a consumer oriented site where you will learn how to pick a credit card that suits your needs and also get valuable tips and strategies on credit card debt relief.
*Image Credit: Photograph by Stargazer95050 [via Flickr Creative Commons]
There are several good reasons to consider refinancing your auto loan. If interest rates have dropped or if you have improved your credit score since you originally got the loan, you may be able to get a better rate. There is also a chance of lowering your monthly payment.
Another reason to consider refinancing involves terms. If you don’t like the terms on your current loan--maybe you're making payments for too many years or too few--you can probably get more preferable terms with a new loan.
How a Refinance Works
Getting an auto refinance loan is a lot like getting a traditional auto loan. You fill out a loan application, undergo a credit check, and get approved or denied for the money you need. You can try getting your current loan refinanced through your current lender. However, it is important to remember that your current lender may not have incentive to give you a good rate. Lower interest rates and better terms often mean less money in the bank's pocket.
It makes more sense to get a rate quote from your current lender as well as several other lenders at the same time. This will allow you to compare interest rates and terms and easily determine who can give you the best deal.
Before getting approved for a refinance loan, you will need to fill out a loan application. Most lenders charge a fee for this, but it is almost always less than $25. You will not have to pay closing costs on the loan or other fees typically associated with a home refinance.
If you are approved for the loan and agree to the loan terms, your lender will see to it that your old loan is paid off and a new loan is set up.
Getting Ready to Refinance
Before applying for a refinance loan, it is a good idea to get your credit in order. This not only increases your chances of getting approved for the loan, it also helps you get a lower interest rate, which is what refinancing is all about.
If you currently have bad credit, it is important to know that you can't fix your credit overnight. However, there are a few things that you can do to clean up your report and give your score a boost.
The first thing you will want to do is pull a copy of your credit report. You can get a free annual credit report each year through AnnualCreditReport.com, a centralized site created by the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Look for any errors or negatives that can be cleared up with a few phone calls or letters. These things are easy to take care of, but can seriously harm your credit. When that's finished, look for negative items or bad debts that are currently in collection. Pay these debts off if at all possible. Some lenders will ask you to do this anyway before giving you a loan. If you cannot pay these items off, be prepared to dispute them or explain why they are there and why you haven't taken care of them.
Some of the other things that you can do to give your credit a quick boost include paying off installment loans, paying off credits cards, and limiting credit card charges to 30% percent of each card's limit. You may also want to try piggybacking off someone else's good credit by getting your name on their card. Every time they use the card and pay it off responsibly, your credit will get a boost.
One final thing to keep in mind is that having multiple credit inquiries can damage your credit score if they are not made within a specific time frame. When shopping for an auto refinance loan, make sure that the lenders all check your credit within a two week period. This will allow the multiple inquiries to be processed as a single hard inquiry, which is much less damaging to your credit score.
More Auto Refinancing Tips
An auto refinance is almost always worth exploring. However, you should be careful to do the math to make sure that refinancing is the right thing to do. You can almost certainly get a lower payment by lengthening the term of your loan, but this could leave you paying more interest than necessary. If lowering your payments is the only way that you can afford the vehicle, this scenario may make sense. The key is to evaluate your individual situation and then go from there.
You should also be careful to read all of the fine print and know what you are getting from the loan. Specific things to ask the lender about include the interest rate, the length of the loan, and minimum monthly payments. You may also want to make sure that there are no prepayment penalties attached to the loan so that you have the option of paying the loan off early or refinancing later on without problems.
*About the author: This is a guest post from Bailey Harris.
*Image Credit: Photograph by Dave Dugdale [via Flickr Creative Commons]
(This is a guest article by Louise Baker*)
College is an exciting time and busy time. For most students, eating healthy is not a top priority. Often students will live off sodas and junk food. In addition, most college students have a tight budget. Students will eat food that is cheap such as the college staple of a sixteen-cent package of Ramen noodles.
Stay Home and Cook
Although college is fun at times, it can also be quite stressful. With poor diet and exercise, many college students gain weight or just feel unhealthy. Most colleges and universities offer healthy choices on campus including healthy snack machines. This makes eating healthy much easier. To stretch a budget it is essential that a student eat out as little as possible. Most students have a small microwave and small refrigerator in their dormitory rooms or many students live off campus in apartments.
Cheap and Healthy Meals
Although Ramen noodles are high in sodium, the noodles are the undisputed cheapest of cheap meals. These days you can create a hearty and healthy meal using this package of noodles. If you are unable to cook chicken, you can purchase canned chicken and canned vegetables. Add both to your Ramen soup to create a filling and healthy meal.
Stock up on a few jars of Alfredo sauce. You will find a popular brand for under two dollars. You should also purchase a few packages of pasta. You will find many brands available under one dollar per package. Purchase store brand frozen mixed vegetables for under one dollar as well. Heat up the Alfredo sauce and add water to the empty jar. Fill the empty jar halfway and shake. This gets the excess sauce that is stuck to the sides of the jar. Pour this into the heating sauce. Alfredo sauce is thick and you will create more sauce by adding the water. Then add your mixed vegetables to the sauce. When your pasta is cooked, pour the vegetable and Alfredo sauce over it. This is a hearty, healthy and delicious meal. You will have plenty of left overs for additional meals.
You can purchase a dozen small eggs for less than one dollar and fifty cents. You can purchase an off brand of whole wheat bread for the same price. For less money, you can buy a package of flour tortillas. Purchase a package of cheese and ham. You can make a breakfast sandwich or breakfast burritos for an entire week. Eating breakfast will help you focus on your studies and curb your appetite until lunch. This also makes for a great snack if you happen to have a late night in the student library.
Give up Sodas and Drink Water
Students spend an average of fifteen dollars a week on canned sodas. The healthy alternative is to drink water. You can purchase a water bottle that you can fill up at the campus water fountains. If you prefer filtered water, invest in one of the many water filter devices. Either way, you will save a tremendous amount of money if you drink water instead of sodas. Water is much healthier and it will keep your appetite under control.
If You Have to Buy Lunch
Most students do not have time to run back to their dorm room for lunch or to their apartment. Each night pack a lunch and snacks. This way if you get up late and are in a hurry, your lunch is ready to go. If you find yourself without your lunch, you can choose healthy alternatives on campus. You can usually eat in the campus cafeteria for under two dollars if you order a vegetable plate and drink water. The vegetable plate usually comes with a choice of three vegetables. Macaroni and cheese is not a vegetable, however, it is always available on the vegetable plate. It is high in fat; however, it is a fantastic comfort food. Therefore, as long as you have chosen two healthy vegetables go ahead and enjoy the macaroni and cheese.
You Can Eat Healthy For $20 Per Week
For approximately twenty dollars a week, you can eat healthy and eat well. You can stretch your money even further if you shop wisely. Make sure you visit your local discount grocer and shop the sale items. Stock up on healthy snacks such as trail mix, pretzels and baked chips. Every college student needs some junk food and these are healthy alternatives. You will find that if you eat breakfast, you will feel great and your appetite will remain under control. Your breakfast can be made the night before and reheated the next morning. All of the meals mentioned can be made under fifteen minutes and are cheap and healthy.
*About the author: Louise Baker is a freelance blogger who usually writes about online degrees for Zen College Life. Her most recent article ranked the best web design schools.
*Image Credit: Photograph by libraryman [via Flickr Creative Commons]
Posted by ispf on Wednesday, December 01, 2010 | Permalink |