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Money Coach

August 2010 - Posts

  • Use these tips to make the most of your credit cards

    The new limits on credit card fees called for in last year's credit card legislation are finally in place, and card issuers can no longer pile fees up or charge users ridiculous amounts for a payment that is a day or two late.

    That's all well and good, but it doesn't mean you can ignore your card policies. Issuers are still rolling out new cards and new tricks, designed to keep consumers paying out time and time again.

    To make the most out of your cards, here are some tips:

    • Remember that it's still bad to pay late. Those who habitually do so can be charged more than the $25 the Federal Reserve has set as the limit on late fees. Late payments will also dirty up your credit report and lower your credit score. So pay on time. 

    • Your minimum payments could rise. The card issuers have been given a cap on late fees, but that doesn't mean they can't increase your minimum payment. 

    • Inactivity fees are now illegal. But that doesn't mean your card issuer won't sneak other fees into your card agreement. Annual fees, processing fees, fees for balance transfers and cash advances…all of these are doable and there are no caps.

    • Banks and other card issuers are changing their marketing strategies when it comes to cash rewards programs. The programs are becoming more complex. Read the fine print.

    • Credit card rates are still very high; in fact, many are at their highest point in a decade. Pay down your balance as quickly as you can, and then aim for a zero balance every month.

    • College students under the age of 21 will not be able to get credit cards anymore, so you'll have to co-sign for your kid. But should you? If you can limit the borrowing ability to a manageable amount, you trust that payments will be made in a timely manner, and your child has proven he or she can effectively manage cash and a debit card, then go for it.

    Posted Aug 26 2010, 12:20 PM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • Squeeze the budget now so you can spend a little more this holiday season

    Now that summer's almost over and school is starting, many folks are beginning to think about planning for holiday spending. Here are some things you can do to get control of your budget and save some money – money you can use to be sure Santa is extra-good to you this year.

    • Use a budget planner. If you notice that you are spending money on things that are not necessary or that you always seem to have more month than money, you may want to seek the services of a professional. Getting an objective viewpoint is bound to be helpful and could put your budget back online.

    • Carry out a financial health check. If you find that you constantly struggle with paying your bills, consider getting some advice on how to manage debt. The sooner you deal with any debt you have, the easier it may be to resolve the problem and get out of debt.

    • Save energy and get healthier. There are a number of options in this area. Start with using your car less, especially when it is viable to walk instead. Cooking at home instead of eating out can also save a lot of money and keep you fit. And with current energy prices as high as they are, taking short showers instead of a bath, and using energy-saving lightbulbs can save you a lot on your electric bill.

    • Use price comparison Web sites. You could save hundreds by simply shopping online for the best deals. Shop for caparisons on everything from car insurance to clothing to items for your home. Look for cash back deals also.

    • Watch for special deals at the supermarket and buy in bulk whenever you can. Markets often compete for your business and offer great deals on certain items; check the labels to see if there are any deals offered. Also check for discounts on perishable items. It helps to be flexible about what you buy, as some items are sold for a fraction of their original price when they are close to their sell-by date.

    By cutting corners and tightening your belt a little now, you can be sure you'll have a holly, jolly Christmas.

    Posted Aug 19 2010, 01:19 PM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • You don't need a lot of money to market your small business

    The essence of marketing for any business owner is to understand your customers' needs and develop a plan that surrounds those needs. And it's a given that anyone who owns a business has a desire to see that business grow. 

    The most effective way to grow and expand your business is by focusing on organic growth. The best way to do this is to acquire more customers, persuade them to buy more or more expensive products or persuading customers to buy more profitable products. Each of these will increase your revenue and profit.

    But your focus should mainly be on acquiring more customers. Why? Because by increasing your customers your increase your customer base, and your revenues then come from a larger base.

    How can you use marketing to get more customers? Spend time researching and create a strategic marketing plan based on your findings. Guide your product development to reach out to customers your business isn't currently attracting. Price your products and services competitively, and develop your message and materials based on solution marketing.

    When it comes to your customers, you must keep in mind the importance of target marketing. By taking the time to pitch your sales and marketing efforts to the correct market, you will be more productive, and you won't waste time or effort.

    If you are like most small business owners, your budget for marketing is limited. The most effective way to market a small business is to create a well-rounded program that combines sales activities with your marketing tactics. Your sales activities will not only decrease your out-of-pocket marketing expense but it will also add the value of interacting with your prospective customers. This research is priceless.

    Check with your vendors to see if they'd be willing to participate in co-op advertising with you. You can also introduce yourself to the media. Call them and suggest story ideas on your business or industry. Piggyback on local events by sponsoring them.

    By being diligent in your marketing and creating an easy strategy, you will see your business grow at an exceptional rate. And you won't even need a large budget to make it happen.

    Posted Aug 12 2010, 12:14 PM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • Before you pack your bags for college, plan your budget

    Going off to college this fall? Remember that college is a time for you to learn money management skills because it will be the first time you'll be handling money without parental supervision. Whether your parents will be supporting you financially or you opt for a part-time job, it is crucial for you to learn how to budget now so you will have proper money management skills in the future.

    So before you pack your bags and head out for college, sit down now and use these tips to help you plan out a budget.

    The first step in developing a college budget is knowing what costs you will incur. These costs can be broken down into two categories: fixed and variable. Fixed costs can include tuition, rent or room and board, car payments, car insurance and parking fees. These costs are set figures.

    Variable costs can include entertainment, gasoline, food, utilities, hygiene necessities, clothes, car maintenance, books, phone bills and club dues. These costs can vary from month to month.

    Once you know your fixed and variable costs, you need to determine if your sources of income will cover these costs. Income can include pay from a part-time job, allowance from home, grants, scholarships or loans. If your estimated expenses exceed your estimated income, then you need to identify ways to reduce your expenses or increase your income.

    You will also ned to determine what type of bank accounts will be appropriate. It is probably best to get checking and savings accounts so that you can save as well as pay your bills. Look for banks that offer checking accounts with no minimum balances and no monthly fees, and a savings account that can be used as overdraft protection for the checking account.

    If you are going to college close to home, you can go ahead and set up these accounts now. If you are going to college far away from home, you can wait until you move there before you set them up.

    Once you get to college and start spending money, you may realize that the original budget needs to be reworked. You may find out that you need more money or that you have way too much money to waste. Either way, you'll need to make adjustments.

    And remember, learning how to manage your money now will prove invaluable later.
    Posted Aug 05 2010, 10:31 AM by moneycoach with no comments
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