Raising Money to Pay Off Debt….

It happens to the best of us. We splash out on that vacation, buy a new car when we really can’t afford it, or rack up big bills eating out and purchasing all those little luxuries that make life seem sweet. Soon, we’re not clearing off our credit card balances each month, and we seem to fall further and further behind. At some point, our debt gets to the level where we are struggling to meet the bills each month, and we can’t pay for the necessities – let alone any luxuries.

If you are in this situation, the hard truth is that there are only two ways to get your debt under control. You can spend less or find ways to reduce the amount you pay to service your debt. In fact, it is probably a good idea to pursue both of these strategies if you want to get out of debt as quickly as possible.

Let’s start with reducing the cost of servicing debt. Credit cards are one of the most expensive ways to borrow money, and yet they are probably the most common way that we get into debt. If your credit is still good, consider taking out a loan at a lower rate to clear your credit card balances. To get the lowest rate, you need to get a secured loan – for example, by remortgaging your home – but even if you get an unsecured personal loan, you will end up paying less than you do for your monthly credit card bills. Not only that, the amount you owe will go down in time, rather than just keeping up with the interest charges.

Of course, you may think you just have a short-term problem. In this case, it can be very tempting to get a quick cash loan from a payday lender to get you over the crisis. However, before you do this, be aware that you are going to pay very high interest rates, so this isn’t a solution for more than a few weeks. Instead, consider asking a family member to advance you the amount using a money transfer service such as Trans-Fast.

When it comes to reducing expenditures, the most important thing you can do is to make a budget and stick to it. List everything that you spend in a month – not just accommodation, groceries, transportation and utilities. The little expenditures are the ones that you can control most easily, whereas it’s pretty difficult to cut down on mortgage or rent payments. Individually, the amounts may not seem like much, but if you cook at home rather than eating out, only drive when you need to, downgrade to a basic cable service and so on, it will all add up.

If you find you are struggling to put a good plan in place, then go and get expert assistance. There are a number of free nonprofit credit counseling agencies that can help you to budget your money and pay your bills. They can even reduce your debt payments by negotiating a debt management plan with your creditors. Just be aware that if you do set up a debt management plan, this can affect your credit rating.

Can dining room furniture teach your kids good eating etiquette?

Are you sick of your kids pushing peas round their plate and playing with more of their food than they eat? It’s not uncommon for little ones to treat dinnertime as nothing more than a chance to make a mess and wreak havoc but this is hardly the sort of behaviour you want to encourage.

If you want your children to learn good dining etiquette so that they can excel later in life, then perhaps dining room furniture has the answer?

Let them dine with you

As your children begin to mature, they will enjoy dining with others more and more. From lunches in the school cafeteria with friends to sitting around the family dinner table, introducing the correct table behaviour at a young age will teach your children the importance of polite manners and etiquette.

Dining with others is the easiest way for your kids to learn what to do and The Daily Mail Online has even commented on how kids from poorer regions of the country have been taught dinner table etiquette through Harry Potter inspired banquets. Sitting down once a fortnight, the kids learn how to hold cutlery and eat properly.

Always make sure that have a comfortable seat and are at the appropriate height to reach the table with ease – if they become frustrated because they’re unable to reach their food then this will only encourage bad behaviour.

Give them the same food you’re having (or a suitable alternative if this isn’t possible) and provide fruit juice or water to mimic your wine or dinnertime tipple. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all and kids learn most by copying the behaviour of their parents.

Baby steps

Use your family meal as a schooling point for your children.

Instead of allowing each and every member of the household to sit down to dinner as and when they please, encourage the family to make time for a meal together. Making the time to get together as a family is a great way to catch up on everybody’s news but can also help children learn about the different plates, cutlery and glassware used at meal times.

This is especially beneficial for children that don’t see too much of their parents throughout the day due to hectic workloads and busy schedules. This meeting is a chance for the children to tell their parents, brothers and sisters about what they have learnt at school, what they have planned for the rest of the week, as well as any other exciting news they may have.

Using utensils

Finger foods are a popular option when it comes to feeding younger children but eating with their hands isn’t the most civil way to dine.

When your child reaches the appropriate age, it’s important to talk to them about the significance of using utensils. A good way to encourage them to do this is to tell them that adults eat with utensils. If other diners are opting for utensils, your children should too.

Choosing cutlery that is bright and attractive to look at will help you to school your child in using certain utensils. You could even get them to choose their own special set to increase their interest in using cutlery. The same applies to crockery.

Interacting with fellow diners

Even if your child is a little too small to sit in a grown-up chair, this doesn’t mean they can’t join others at the main table. Good table manners incorporate polite interaction at the dinner table and if they’re sitting at the other side of the room in a baby chair, this quite simply isn’t going to happen.

Investing in a good dining room table and chairs from Sainsbury’s and one that incorporates a baby chair is therefore imperative to the interaction process. It’s wise to have the measurement of your child’s existing high chair at hand prior to purchasing a new table. If they’re sat too low, or similarly, too high, they may begin to feel left out.

Teach your children how to politely ask for food 

Statements such as “May I please have the salt?” or “Could you please pass the bread?” will inspire your children to thank their fellow diners for passing these food items and some parents choose to adopt the “six Cs” approach to good dinner table etiquette.

post on Yahoo! Lifestyle explained these table manners as the following:

  • Cutlery
  • Can I start?
  • Conversations
  • Can I be excused?
  • Compliments and gratitude
  • Clearing the plate

They will then get into the habit of following suit. Your children should also be schooled in voicing their appreciation when the food is served and also, when the meal comes to an end.

Similarly, it’s wise to clarify that voicing negative comments about the food is uncouth, particularly when the chef has gone to a great effort in preparing the meal.

Modern Conveniences That Make Life Easier for a Busy Mom

Photo via Amazon.com

Every time you load your dishwasher instead of washing everything by hand, you’re probably glad that you have plenty of modern conveniences that weren’t available for the generations before you.  Sure, as mothers we’re all busy, busy, busy, but there are many conveniences that make life easier so we can pursue other interests besides endlessly cooking and cleaning.

Some of the best conveniences that save today’s mom time and energy include the slow cooker, online banking, and smart phones.

Slow Cooker

Sure, you don’t have to cook if you don’t want to, but you’ll drop a lot of money taking the family out to eat every night or grabbing something at the drive thru.  Instead, the slow cooker can save the day.  Just throw some ingredients in the slow cooker, turn it on, and voila, when you return from work or a kid’s sports game, dinner is ready.  Simply put, a slow cooker has revolutionized cooking and made it easy to put a tasty, homemade meal on the table even when you’re busy.

Online Banking

One of the best conveniences of our modern era is online banking.  Not only do you usually get higher interest rates when using an online bank, but you usually pay less in fees.  Now, you can use online banking for all of your needs from checking to savings to wealth management.  There’s no need to run by the bank to deposit a check; instead, you can simply take a picture of the check from the comfort of your home and deposit the check.  There are no bank hours to work around.  It’s the ultimate in convenience.

Smart Phones

Lastly, smart phones are hands down, one of the best inventions.  Not only do they make online banking a cinch, but they can do so much more.  You can check your e-mail and social media accounts when you’re out running errands.  You can find directions to your destination if you’re lost.  (This is especially helpful when traveling.)  You can even look up restaurant reviews before you decide on a restaurant to visit.  Don’t forget that you can get coupons on your phone, too.

We may feel that we’re busier than the women generations before us, but thankfully, we’re busier with careers and our families.  We now can enjoy modern conveniences like the dishwasher and slow cooker that get us out of the kitchen and into the world, something generations before us didn’t have the opportunity to do.

3 Steps to Reducing Your Family’s Debt

Piggy Bank

Photo by joannelummy

When you were in twenties, you may have had a good track record with money.  You probably paid all of your bills on time, you didn’t have too much debt, you perhaps lived in a modest apartment so you could afford going out with your friends. . .

However, if you’re like a lot of moms, perhaps once you got married and had kids, you stepped out of the workforce for a bit.  Or, you might have gone down to part-time.  Even if you kept your job, once you had to pay for child care, you likely had a few hundred dollars less each month.

Sound familiar?  Add on another kid or two, and your family may be in a financial bind.  After all, kids cost a lot of money to feed and clothe.  Don’t forget that you may need a bigger house and vehicle, especially if you have more than two kids.  Then there are extracurricular activities to pay for.

If you find yourself with a bit too much debt, know that you’re not alone.  Even more reassuring, there are strategies that can put you on solid financial footing again.

1.  Stop the interest rate bleed.  If you have your debt on credit cards, you’re likely paying a high APR.  You can make your debt repayments go further if you secure a lower interest rate on your consumer debt.  A quick search of the Internet can help you find the best personal loans for you.  Look for a loan with a fairly low interest rate and manageable monthly payments.  Make sure to quit using your credit card so you don’t end up further in debt instead of being on the path to getting out of debt.

2.  Consider consolidating or refinancing other loans.  If you have a car loan, for instance, see if you can refinance and get a lower interest rate.  There are many bank loan options available; you don’t have to remain loyal to the bank that issued the loan.

3.  Live within your means.  This is the hardest step.  Learn to live on less than you earn.  This might mean that you need to find a way to increase your income, or more likely, reduce your expenses.  Remember, you only have to slash your expenses temporarily.  Once your debt is paid off, you’ll have more cash flow each month.

If you find yourself in debt in part because of your rapidly expanding family, know that there is a way to get your finances under control.  All you need is dedication and a plan.

Keep Your Kids Entertained This Summer

For your children, the summer holiday is what they have been waiting for almost the entire school year. For them it is six weeks of fun and very few cares. However, as their mum, you are suddenly responsible for them during the day, when before you could get on with your daily life unencumbered with the additional role of entertainment officer!

Fortunately there are many ways for you to keep the kids entertained.

Days out 

Sometimes leaving them to their own devices gives you a bit of time to relax, but this is not an option for an entire summer. Days out with the whole family can be enjoyable for both the kids and you. Spend a little bit of time before the holiday hits to come up with a few ideas and set aside days in July and August for days out. These can be sporting events for the boys, local tourist spots, or even day trips into cities. There is a lot of variation and your kids will love it.

Take a family holiday

With the children at school from September until July there is not really another time apart from the school break to take a family holiday. A holiday – even if it’s a staycation in the UK – is a great time for everyone to relax. Unfortunately, holiday prices increase in the peak summer months, so seeking affordable finance is sometimes an option. No one wants to ever have to borrow money and you should never opt for a payday loan, no matter how attractive the easy availability of cash seems. There are other options.

For example, low APR loan non brokers Everyday Loans offer conditional decisions quickly to customers – with a 13 month minimum repayment term – which is far better than the standard 30 day terms of most payday lenders. Remember though that it is vital that you do not borrow more than you need, or can pay back. If in doubt seek independent financial advice.

Sign them up for a club

There are many benefits of signing the children up to summer clubs. For one, your kids will get valuable exercise if it is a sport club and will broaden their horizons if it is a hobby club. At the same time, clubs take some of the pressure off you keeping them entertained – you will have an evening or a day to yourself again.

Games and toys for rainy days 

In England, the summer does not necessarily mean sun. While there is plenty to do in the country when the weather is good, it is important to have a contingency plan for rainy days. Whether you keep a selection of computer games and board games for the whole family to enjoy or puzzles for the younger kids it is up to you. Making sure the children do not get bored when they cannot go outside is key for a fun summer.

Things to Know Before Buying That Car

Piggy Bank

Photo by joannelummy

Are you currently in the market for a new car? If your car is currently falling apart and is costing you more than $200 a month in repairs, then I would say yes, you are a great candidate for buying a new car. But, it’s not enough to just know that you need something else to drive, you need to learn quite a few details before making that official decision of what you’re driving next.

Selling Your Old Car

First of all, I beg you not to take your car with you to the dealership to trade it in. If your car is worth $4,000 according to the private party value on Kelley Blue Book, they’ll most likely only give you half that. If you don’t want to hassle that much with selling your car, just list it on Craigslist for $3,000. You’ll probably sell it in a day and you’ll make $1,000 more than if you would have let the dealer take it off your hands. I’d say that’s well worth a day’s work!

Buying With Cash or Credit?

In today’s society, it’s almost expected that you’ll be paying for your car with a good credit score and a bank loan. Hardly anyone pays with cash. But, what’s the best way? Well, that depends. First of all, I’m assuming that you’re being responsible and buying a car that is well within your means. If you earn $40,000 a year, there’s absolutely no reason for you to own a $20,000 car. It’s best to look for a dependable car that’s less than one quarter of your yearly salary, or in this case, $10,000.

Next, how much money do you have in the bank? If you have a fund that you’ve been throwing money into for a while in anticipation of needing a new car, then you’ll most likely be able to pay for your car with cash. But, if you have very little cash, or if you’ll be left with nothing after a cash purchase, then you’ll most likely have to buy your car with a bank loan.

If you’re taking out a loan, it would be wise to use a calculator like the Clydesdale Bank loan calculator. This will show you what your monthly payments will be. Sure, you could get a sweet car with slightly higher payments each month, but you don’t want to be strapped for cash at times either. It’s best to keep those payments as low as possible!

Is It a Lemon?

If you’re buying a brand new car, you’ll have no idea whether your new ride is a lemon or not because there is no history on it. If, however, you buy a used car that is 3 or 4 years old, you’ll be able to find consumer reviews from many different owners. You’ll know exactly what to look out for when you make your purchase and it will most likely keep you from buying a lemon! In addition to reviews, you’ll also want to take it to a mechanic, just to be certain it is road worthy and won’t cost you an arm and a leg shortly after the purchase.

Add Value to Your House with a Renovation

Row House

Photo by Kikkerprinses

Would you consider yourself a handy-man? Or, maybe you’re a handy-woman? No matter if you’re handy or not though, I think that many home renovations can be done without the help of a contractor. All you need is a box full of tools, YouTube, and a little common sense.

So what is the current condition of your kitchen floor? How about your bathroom floors? Do you still have ugly laminate from the 80’s? Apparently it has withstood the test of time and was worth the price back in the day, but today, not only is this laminate outdated and ugly, but it’s taking down the value of your home.

Think about it. What is the one room that can sell a house? You got it, the kitchen. You could have a moldy basement, but if your buyers are enamored with the gourmet kitchen that you’ve created upstairs, they might just overlook that fuzzy green stuff and buy the house anyway. If, however, you have a laminate kitchen floor will a pretty decent looking basement, the buyers may not be so impressed (since there isn’t anything that wows them) and won’t put an offer in on your house.

Now, if you actually do have mold in your basement, I would suggest taking care of that before tiling, but maybe that’s just me. Today though, tile is absolutely the way to go. It’s classy, it’s easy to install, and it can last you for quite a long time! So what tools do you need in order to rip out your existing floor and lay down new tile? Let’s get into it!

Tools For the Job

To remove your old floor, you’ll first want to rip up the laminate and see what’s underneath it. If you see particle board or plywood, then you most likely have a subfloor beneath that (which is what you want to get down to in order to start laying your cement board and tile). In order to pry those boards up, you’ll most likely need a power drill (for removing screws) and a crowbar (to pry up the plywood).

Once you get down to the subfloor, you’re ready to start building back up! In order to support your heavy tile, you’ll need to install cement board. To do this, you’ll just need some screws and a power driver (or a screwdriver, but that would just take forever). Once the cement board is laid, it’s time to spread your mortar and lay tile! To do this, you’ll need a tile cutter, mesh tape for your seams, a trowel with “teeth” on the leading edge, mortar, spacers, and the tile. Tape and mortar your joints to make the entire surface smooth. Then evenly spread your mortar, place your tile, and space each tile with spacers.

Once all of your tile is laid and your mortar is set, it’s time to lay grout (Topps Tiles is an excellent choice). For this, you’ll need a rubber trowel. Evenly spread the grout over the space in between the tiles and after about 15 minutes (depending on your grout of course), remove the excess grout with a sponge. Once all of this dries, you’ve got yourself a brand new tile floor, and by doing it yourself it barely cost you anything and it added a ton of value to your house!

3 Ways to Stretch Your Dollars After You Have Kids

Row House

Photo by Kikkerprinses

Once you become a parent, it seems that much of your extra money goes to the kids.  They seem to outgrow clothes faster than you can blink, and shoes, well, shoes might need to be replaced every 6 months.  As they get older and involved in more extra-curricular activities, you’ll see more of your hard earned dollars disappear.  We haven’t even talked yet about college savings.

While you might not have had any monetary difficulties before kids appeared on the scene, that will likely change as the kids (and their financial needs) grow.

If you’d like to cut corners to make your dollars stretch further, there are plenty of ways you can do just that without sacrificing your lifestyle.  Try some of these tips:

1.  Make simpler meals.  You can eat nutritious foods without spending a lot of money.  Focus on meals that utilize basic and low cost vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and celery.  Have several meatless meals a week.  Don’t forget to have a breakfast for dinner; even though the price of eggs has increased recently, they are still a frugal protein choice.  Training your kids to eat this way when they are young will help when they are growing teens who want to eat everything that isn’t nailed down.

2.  Make your appliances last.  Appliances are costly investments.  Rather than replacing them at the first sign of trouble, look into getting them repaired.  For instance, for more on oven repairs, visit Repair and Protect.  If a repair is not possible, consider buying a used appliance as a replacement rather than a brand new one.

3.  Repurpose clothes.  To make your clothing budget stretch further, try to repurpose clothes.  Your child may have had a growth spurt that now makes his jeans high waters, but you don’t have to throw them out.  Jeans with holes in the knees can be cut up to create a cute denim skirt.  With some creativity, you can repurpose many of your own and your child’s clothes.  Cut them off at the knee and turn the pants into shorts.  Worn out t-shirts can become dusting rags.

There is no doubt that kids put a financial strain on a family, but most people wouldn’t change the number of kids they have, no matter the financial difficulty.  You can ease the pressure on your wallet by taking steps to be more frugal in ways that don’t affect the quality of your lifestyle.

Quilted Jackets: Warm on the Inside, Pretty on the Outside.

They say that northern Europeans once pictured hell as a vast icy chasm, whose inhabitants were frozen, not fried, forever. As an inhabitant of a fairly wet and chilly country in said part of the world, I can appreciate where such sentiments arose, out of the Viking and Saxon earth. There is surely nothing worse than feeling cold, despite best efforts to prevent it. The chill creeps into your bones and pierces you to the marrow. Damp clings to your fingertips and drags you down into an icy darkness. Once truly cold from inside out, only a hot bath or drink can revive you to your former self. When the snow falls and the ice settles, Jack Frost becomes a grinning character from some nightmare, waiting to freeze unsuspecting travellers and confine them to a white-blue grave.

With such a fear of being cold, March is a particularly trying month for me. The instant we see a tiny ray of sunshine, everyone ditches their winter coats. Men walk around in t-shirts, women gamely bring out the short skirts of summers past. ‘Hang on a minute, it’s still cold!’ I want to cry. Even a denim jacket or leather coat will not keep out the chill when the sun hides behind a cloud.

For many years I took to wearing my winter coat in any weather. Even in late June you would find me in the park with friends, wrapped in my red military trench coat, insisting that it was not warm enough to sunbathe. It was only when I moved to a house near the sea that I realised this could not go on indefinitely.

Luckily for me, this year there is a new type of coat widely available. The quilted jacket offers protection from our unpredictable climate whilst keeping the wearer looking fabulous.

Quilted jackets are thin, light-weight short coats which have a quilted layer inside. This helps to insulate the wearer, without the bulk associated with a winter coat. Coming in a range of colours and designs, there is a quilted jacket to suit any outfit or any occasion.

Surely a better option than either to wear a heavy coat in spring, or risking the elements with no coat at all, a quilted jacket is the halfway house between. Its cut and lightweight style make it a flattering choice for women of any size. This season, you could team your quilted jacket with skinny jeans and shoe boots to look on-trend. My particular favourite is a black leather quilted jacket, which makes the wearer look edgy and fun, whilst also keeping him or her warm.

A quilted jacket is your best fashion buy this spring. What are you waiting for – go and buy one today!

Author Bio:

Frances Hamilton is a writer who loves to be warm at any time of year. Subsequently, she has invested in a quilted jacket to see her through the spring and summer of 2013.

4 Ways Women Can Learn about Investing

M. Nota/SXC

While women often handle the day to day finances, men are the ones who are more comfortable investing and trading.  However, women, both single and married, do themselves a disservice by not learning about investments.

Statistically speaking, a woman will live longer, yet she often has less in retirement.  If women would like to find true financial security, they should learn to invest and make their money work for them.

In addition, a single woman is in charge of her own financial future and security, so knowing the basics of investing is essential.

If you’re a woman who would like to invest but doesn’t know where to start, there are plenty of places you can go to learn, if you’re willing.  Consider these sources:

The Library

The local public library has many books that can help you learn to invest.  There are books like Investing for Dummies, or other books written by financial experts and gurus.  In addition to learning general investment strategies, you can also learn by studying other investing greats like Warren Buffett.

Investment Clubs

Investment clubs are a great place to learn how to invest.  You and several other people invest money together.  You learn about stocks and investment opportunities together, and you also share in the profit (or loss) of those investments.  Because you are investing with others, you’re not risking a great deal of money, making this a good choice for beginners.

Demo Accounts

Once you gain knowledge about investing, it’s time to put it to work.  You can open a demo account at an online brokerage and practice investing money in stocks, bonds, and even foreign currency.  Once you feel confident, you can open a forex account, for example, and begin investing for real.  Start slowly the first year as you continue to learn so you don’t put your finances at risk.

Online Classes

Don’t forget that there are also free online investing classes.  These classes are often quite comprehensive and can give you a good working knowledge of the investing world.  You can also study at your own pace, which is great for those with a busy schedule.

If you are a women, it’s in your best interest to learn how to invest, even though it may seem overwhelming.  Take the time to study and learn, and within a year, you should be investing with confidence, and hopefully watching your money grow.