Keeping your finances in check over the festive period

Christmas is a time for giving, but it’s easy to let your inner Saint Nick get out of control. If you suffer from an excess of altruism, there are some easy ways to keep your spending under control this festive season.

Plan presents early

Avoiding the last-minute rush for presents is a good start. With consumer confidence rising, retailers aren’t rushing to discount goods – but many have been attempting to encourage early spends with offers and if revenue keeps rising, the discounts may disappear. Planning early also prevents those impulse buys that quickly add up – there’s a reason Santa asks for lists!

Plan meals sensibly

It’s a genuine joy to have a turkey with all the trimmings, but it’s costly and wasteful to throw away your leftovers. Instead of winging it with the turkey, use the wealth of recipes available online, as well as label advice, to get the portions just right. Any leftover turkey can be used in a delicious curry or casserole, which you could even freeze for future use if you need a bit of a detox first. 

Track your spending

If you have credit cards, set one aside specifically for your Christmas spend. That way, you can keep an eye on exactly where the money’s going. There are also several smartphone apps that help store and organise your spending – Expensify, for example, is a handy free app available from both the Apple App store and Google play that allows you to track designated expenses and even stores pictures of receipts.

Choose your financing wisely

When planning a Christmas splurge, many people turn to solutions like ‘Christmas Clubs’ to save ahead of time. However, since these don’t offer interest, it usually represents better value to save or invest your cash as normal. If you need a boost closer to Christmas, find a credit card or loan offering 0% purchase plans or interest free periods to spread payments.

Make use of offers

Cashback deals represent a great way to build small returns (usually between 0.5% and 2%) on your credit card spend, while certain reward schemes give goods and services that could be just the Christmas gift you needed. For supermarket shops, cards like the American Express Nectar Credit Card (representative 25% APR variable) can be a valuable boon if you’re hosting a big Christmas dinner. Of course, in order to really benefit from these you’ll need to pay the bill at the end of the month, otherwise interest payments will negate your gains. Usually, your card application will involve tests that can confirm that your limit corresponds with your spending power, keeping your budget under control.

This post  was brought to you by Eden Smith, a professional business analyst from London.

How to Choose a Company to Help You Sell Your Structured Settlement

Selling your belongings generally isn’t all that complicated until you get into the world of real estate. Selling a car doesn’t generally require any expert advice. Selling unneeded items usually only means having a garage sale. However, things get a bit stickier when you move into the world of financial products, and that includes your structured settlement. There are a lot of things that you need to know about selling a settlement, and the industry can be more than a little murky for those who aren’t sure of their direction. A seller services company can help, but you need to choose the right provider.

Length of Time in the Industry

The structured settlement sales industry is relatively new, but that doesn’t mean you have to work with a company that has no verifiable history. Make sure the company you’re dealing with has a long history (dating back to 2007 or so). Not only does having a verifiable history prove that the company has been around, but it proves that they’re doing what it takes to stay in business.

Your Advocate, Not the Buyer’s

One thing you’ll notice when you start looking to sell your structured settlement is that a number of companies exist to serve buyers, not sellers. That’s certainly not in your best interests. Working with a buyer’s company does nothing to ensure that you get the most money possible for your settlement sale, and there’s the chance that you’ll be taken advantage of by an unscrupulous company. Make sure you work with a company that serves sellers, not buyers. You want an advocate on your side, not someone working for a buyer.

How Much Do You Get?

Understand that selling your structured settlement will not give you access to all of the money you have coming to you. Buyers don’t work that way. The difference between the total value of your structured settlement and the offer you accept is called a discount (it’s the profit that makes buying these settlements worthwhile for a company). However, there’s no reason that you have to accept a mere pittance. Working with a reputable seller services company will ensure that you offer the lowest discount possible (thus, maximizing the amount of your lump sum payment).

Partial Sales Welcome

You don’t have to sell your entire settlement. You can sell as little or as much of the total amount as you like. A reputable seller services company will explain that to you upfront in an attempt to help you make the wisest possible decision regarding your sale and your financial future. For some, selling the entire amount makes the most sense, but for others, selling only a portion and keeping the remainder in reserve is the better decision.

As you can see, working with a reputable seller services company to help you sell your structured settlement is vital. With the brief tips listed above, you should be able to make an informed decision for yourself.

Recycle your old CDs and help out a Charity

This post brought to you by MusicMagpie

Giving to a good cause and helping out a charity is something that everybody should aspire to do, but not everyone knows how to go about doing so. There is no shortage of charitable organizations that can do with any donations you are able to give them, so pick one that is close to your heart or have a cause that you can relate to. Once you have settled on a charity or charities that can benefit from your donations, the next step is getting the funds together.

It is no use bankrupting yourself in order to give generously to a charity, but surprisingly enough you might find that ordinary items found in your home could be a big help in generating cash. For example, many people have stacks of music CDs that have become all but obsolete in this age of Mp3s and internet downloads. Because of our busy lifestyles it has become easier to just purchase the songs or albums online and take them wherever we go on phones or Mp3 devices. While you might think that this has made your old CD collection worthless, nothing could be further from the truth.

Old Technology

If the thought of lugging your CDs to a pawn shop, only to be given a price that is not worth the effort, sounds like too much of a hassle there are other options available to get rid of old CDs without having to throw them away. Services like those offered by websites such as musicmagpie have taken all the fuss out of recycling your old CDs. Companies like these often use the cash generated to help out a charity. Everything is conveniently handled online so you can see exactly just how much money your old CDs will bring in to the charity. Depending on the size and type of CDs in your collection, this sum might just surprise you and be a big help to the charity of your choice.

It is not every day that you get to clean out some valuable space in your house while helping a charity at the same time, so it is definitely something worth looking into. It is certainly more practical than simply discarding your old CDs and contributing to the pollution of the environment. Obviously some CDs, such as the ones that contain old and obsolete computer backup data or ones that are damaged beyond repair cannot be traded in for cash. In these instances, you may have to get creative yourself and find ways to re-use the CDs in order to prevent them from ending up in a landfill.

You might not make any cash from recycling your old CDs yourself and re-purposing them for new uses, but at least you will be doing your bit for the environment. If you are really good, you could even sell your creations such as CD disco-balls and use that cash to help out a charity. It may not be as much as you could get from the original CDs, but every bit helps.

photo credit: RLHyde