What To Do When Your Wallet or Purse Is Stolen

It happens to nearly everyone, your wallet or purse gets lost or stolen and you panic. Where do you begin and what do you do? Addressing the problem of a stolen wallet can seem overwhelming, but if you follow the three steps below, you should be well on your way to a having new wallet with new cards with as minimal hassle as possible.

First, however, a caveat: You should report the wallet as lost or stolen as quickly as possible. The longer you wait the more difficult the situation will become.

  1. Call your credit card companies and banks. For each credit card or ATM card in your wallet, call the issuer and report the item as lost or stolen. Most banks and credit card companies are very friendly about this and will help you through the process of canceling the card, getting a new one, and reporting any fraudulent charges that may have already occurred. You’ll have to answer a number of questions and may even have to fax in some other proof of identity (like a utility bill), but it all depends on the issuer. Also, if you need cash instantly many banks will allow you to take a certain amount out (usually around $200) if you go to the local branch and speak with someone.
  2. Think about what other cards were in your wallet. Call your department of motor vehicles, insurance companies and any other company whose card you might have had in your wallet. Though uncommon, it’s possible that the finder/thief will go to the movie store and check out (and never return) several movies or video games in your name.
  3. Call one the three credit bureaus. Call either Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. You can ask them to issue a fraud or security alert that is either temporary or permanent. This alert will not deny you any credit, nor will it affect your credit score. It will only force any companies requesting credit to further verify your identity before issuing credit. You only have to report to one of the credit monitoring bureaus as they are required to share information with the other two.
  4. File a police report. This can be the biggest hassle because it requires that you go to the local station and fill out some paper work. Filing the police report may be required by credit card companies or banks if there have already been fraudulent charges.

If you take these three steps as quickly as possible usually you can get new credit cards and ATM cards within a few days and the entire issue can get cleared up within a month.

Extra tip: It’s a good idea to always leave one credit card or ATM card at home. You don’t need to be carrying all cards at all times; and that way, if your wallet gets lost or stolen you will still have another form of payment.

 

Should I Rent Or Buy A House?

If you are debating between renting or buying your next home, you aren’t alone. Many people looking to put down roots are weighing the benefits of the two options, comparing everything from commitment to cost. If you are among them, there are some basic questions to ask yourself as you make your decision.

Ten fundamental questions to answer when deciding whether to rent or buy a home

1. Do you have stability at your current job?

2. Are you committed to staying in one location for at least a few years?

3. Will it cost you more to rent or buy in the housing market you are considering?

4. Do you have money for a down payment?

5. Do you want the liberty to decorate and/or remodel your space?

6. Are you willing to dedicate time and money to maintenance and upkeep if they add value to your property?

7. Would you benefit from having a home as an investment?

8. Are you looking for privacy for you and your family?

9. Are current mortgage rates low?

10. Is it currently a buyer’s market?

If you answered yes, buying a house may be right for you

The reality is that there are variables that will come into play whether you decide to rent a home or buy a home, but you can prepare for them with a little planning. If you answered yes to a majority of the questions above, it may be time to commit to buying a home. While renting is less of a long term commitment and has a lower perceived risk, buyers may be able to benefit from investing in a home because it’s typically an asset that appreciates. Plus, buying a house offers increased privacy and the freedom to decorate and renovate. Still not convinced? Research shows that in many areas of the country buying is actually less expensive than renting and when you buy a home you may be able to reap potential home tax benefits to offset some of your costs.

Choose the right mortgage lender to help you buy a home

If you have decided to buy a home, you may want to start exploring your mortgage options. Choosing a mortgage lender with a reputation for providing outstanding service can make it easier to transition from renting a home into home ownership. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get to know all your options before making your final decision. The right lender will work with you to answer all your questions and get you pre-approved with the right financing.

Free Budgeting Spreadsheet

I have recently started using Google Documents and Spreadsheets to manage my budget. If you haven’t heard of Google’s Docs and Spreadsheets here’s the lowdown: With Documents and Spreadsheets you can upload, create, or email yourself a document or spreadsheet and it will be saved online allowing you to access it from any computer (provided that you have a Google Account). I have found that managing, completing (and sticking to) my budget has been much easier using this method than any other method I’ve used in the past. Here’s why:

  1. You can view your budget from any computer. Having your budget available online allows you to check to see if a purchase is reasonable for that month. (For example, at the end of February I was debating whether or not to go to an expensive dinner with a friend. I wanted to go, but I didn’t want to blow my budget. So, I quickly logged in to my spreadsheet and there I had it!- I knew I had enough funds to go.)
  2. You can update your budget from any computer. You can continually update your budget and having it available online allows you to quickly go in and add an expense from wherever you are. I keep a running total of my expenses by category and log into my budget a few times a week to insert these expenses.
  3. You can share it with others. Having you budget on Google Spreadsheets allows you to share it with your spouse/significant other/partner (or anyone else you might like to share your budget with).

If you still haven’t set up a budget or don’t have one in Excel, there are two excellent spreadsheets that that you can download at I Will Teach You to be Rich. (There are two links in the middle of the post). I tested both and if you download either one to your computer and then upload it to Google Spreadsheets the equations remain intact.

Quite honestly, I have never really been able to keep up a budget before because I find it hard to sit down at the end of the month and add up all of my expenses (and I never really liked Quicken or Money). Adding expenses as I accrue them into my Google Spreadsheets budget is easy, fast, and unlike other online software programs, it’s free!

How Should I Budget For A Trip?

There are two times in your vacation/travel planning process that you should consider your budget. First, as mentioned in the post about decision making, you should think about it before you even begin to plan your trip. The broad question to consider here is: How much can I spend? That is, how much can I afford to spend and how much am I willing to spend? (You may be able to afford to spend $10,000 but only want to spend $1,000 or you may want to spend $10,000 but can only afford $1,000.)

The second time you should think about your travel budget is after you’ve researched how much your transportation and hotel should cost. It’s hard to create a vacation budget before you do any research on the cost of transportation and hotel because these are large expenses that vary greatly depending on the time of year, etc. So, once you have found the approximate cost of these two main expenses you can get into the nitty-gritty of your budget.

Here are some categories of expenses to consider when developing your travel budget:

  1. Transportation– getting there and away; including taxi to the airport
  2. Lodging
  3. Food– don’t forget about drinks and snacks
  4. Expenses before you go (new clothes, passport, traveler’s checks, etc.)
  5. Miscellaneous Expenses once you’re there (ATM fees, money changing fees)
  6. Transportation while you’re there (getting around via rented car or public transit)
  7. Entertainment once you’re there (tours, museum entrance fees)
  8. Expenses at home while you are gone (house/pet/baby sitting, etc)
  9. Incidentals when you’re there (tips, phone charges, internet charges, etc)

When creating your budget be realistic. You are not going to be able to get by spending $10 a day on food if you plan on eating at a restaurant for every meal. And, you don’t want to have a crappy vacation because you haven’t budgeted any money to get into museums.

You can create your budget with just a simple piece of paper. Or you can design your own spreadsheet. I have designed a Travel Budget Spreadsheet that you can download here. (Note that all of the categories are listed per day/person except for two. At the top of the budget you list the number of days/nights you will be gone and the number of people going on the trip. You just fill in the rest of the numbers based on your estimated expenses per day per person. I’ve designed the spreadsheet to calculate the cost of the entire trip, the cost of the trip/day, the cost of the trip/person, and the cost of the trip/person/day.)

Creating a budget for your trip may not be the most exciting thing in the world; but it’s just as important as creating a budget for your everyday life. If if you find that the estimated cost of your trip will be more than you can afford, try to come up with some other options, maybe take a trip closer to home, or think of ways you can eat more cheaply. No matter what: Don’t spend more than you can afford on a vacation. There’s no point ruining your vacation worrying about money or ruining the memory of it by having to pay it off in years to come.

I have already written about how to save money on some of the expenses listed above including how to save on Transportation and Lodging . In future posts in this series I will give ideas on how to save on other expenses.

What's A Good Student Savings Account?

When it comes to financial matters, students are often focusing on not spending all of their student loans all at once and not going too far into their overdraft limits. Not many have the time, resources or even the inclination to think about saving money.

However, it can be really useful for students to start thinking about saving and preparing for the future, especially those in their last year of study. To help you prepare for the time when you leave university to face the ‘real’ world, here are some very useful money saving tips.

Get a good savings account

As well as getting a good student current account, students may also want to think about getting a savings account with a good interest rate. You may not think that you have the spare cash to put in a savings account, but have you considered the money you get at Christmas, on birthdays and from part-time jobs? All of this money could be earning you more money in a savings account.

A student savings account has many benefits, as well as earning you interest on spare cash. For example, it allows you to:

  • Budget and manage your money better
  • Save for things you really want to buy, without digging into your overdraft
  • Have a spare cash fund for emergencies

Consider a cash ISA

Students may also want to consider getting a cash ISA. The main benefit of these savings accounts is that they offer you tax-free interest on your savings, meaning the government doesn’t take a percentage of the interest in tax. Many cash ISAs are instant access too, making them ideal for students.

Things To Consider When Buying Gold And Silver

Investing in gold and silver is an effective way of safeguarding against inflation. You can make a long term profit, providing the metal continues its’ historical trend of increasing in value. Notwithstanding, due to the turbulent global economic conditions, many shrewd investors have turned to silver, which often bucks market trends over time.

Needless to say, as with all forms of investment, nothing is certain. Prior to risking any of your funds, you should make sure that you have a sensible game plan, and understand the intricacies of precious metal markets. By doing this, you will give yourself the best possible chance of profiting. Here is some advice about silver investment, which should help to swing the odds in your favor.

Familiarize yourself with the numerous different investment methods available. You could make investments in ETFs, mining companies, bullion, coins or futures. Generally speaking, coins or bullion are the most reliable and low risk items to invest in.

Indeed, opting for physical metal is a pretty safe bet. This way, you avoid committing to futures contracts, where you have to purchase thousands of ounces. Also, you avoid having to fund the energy expenses of mining companies. For novice investors, futures and mining companies are too risky a proposition.

Never invest in silver before carefully examining the market. Precious metal investments are considerably different to investments in bonds and stocks. Do some research. If you struggle to grasp the dynamics of market behavior, enlist the services of an expert, who will guide you through the process of buying and selling.

Make the most of the internet to educate yourself about investing. However, do not take everything you read as gospel. The World Wide Web is filled with information about investments in precious metals. Unfortunately, much of this information is wrong. It is far better to copy what experienced investors are doing, because they are at the coal face monitoring the markets, and investing their own money each day.

One proven technique, when investing in bars and coins, is to buy from people who are only charging a modest fee and selling near to the metal’s spot price. Typically, the amount of fees you pay should decrease, relative to the quantity of silver you buy. Normally, when purchasing coins, it is better to purchase silver rounds or bullion coins. This is a better choice than purchasing coins for numismatic reasons (i.e. for their value to rare coin collectors). If you collect rare coins yourself, this rule will not necessarily apply. Notwithstanding, most of the time, bullion coins are the recommended option for investors.

Keep regularly updated with market developments. Eventually, you will know the right time to buy and sell instinctively. Based on your personal investment ambitions (and the bull market), there might come a time when it is advisable to sell a large percentage (or even all) of your silver bullion for currency. However, you can only determine the correct time to sell or buy, if you have access to the latest market investment data. There are many websites online that provide this data, so that you can make the best possible investment decisions. Some websites specialize in providing data about particular precious metals.

Prior to making any silver investments, always determine the amount that you can afford to risk. To do this, you will have to take into account your readily available funds, your IRA rollover cash, and any other valuable assets that you want to invest. Make sure that you have a cash contingency fund in place, for any unpredictable costs. This way, you will be spending within your means.

Of course, your portfolio should still include gold. However, if you are a novice investor, it is best to purchase small pieces of gold gradually, when your budget permits. If possible, try to consult an expert at a gold investment firm. They can assist you with managing your portfolio, if you are setting up a gold IRA or rolling over a 401k to a gold IRA. They can help if you are investing large sums of cash and having your bullion delivered as well.

Always try to think clearly and remain emotionally detached. It is important to be aware of the investments you are making. Each year, lots of Americans are tricked into purchasing bullion that is exactly the same as other stock, or unsuitable for investment. If you want to safeguard your investment funds and hedge inflation, tangible assets like bars and coins are the best way to do it.

Why Do Gold And Silver Prices Fluctuate?

Gold and silver are probably the most common precious metals on the market today. The former has particularly been used as a form of currency since time immemorial and it is still acceptable as medium of exchange in most parts of the globe. These metals can be owned in the form of jewelry, artifacts or simply coins.

For many people, owning any of these metals is not only considered as a symbol of wealth; it also means you have a financial cushion against economic uncertainties that could bring down the value of currencies. However, this does not mean that investing in precious metals is foolproof. Like in any other form of investment, there are some factors that influence the prices of these valuable metals. It is important to understand these factors especially if you are considering investing in one or both of them.

Industrial Demand

Because of its properties, silver is an important raw material in certain industrial processes. Some of these processes include manufacture of computer chips, cell phones, batteries, solar powered generators, refrigerators and many more. As the demand for products that use this metal rises, so does the demand, which drives up its price.

It is also used many other electronic products that rely on silver’s incredible ability to conduct electricity. Normally, it is used to join other metals through brazing and soldiering. Actually, it has so many uses that the demand for it is not likely to go down in the near future.

In fact, many countries are embracing green technology and may use silver in HTS transformers as they are much more environmental friendly than the standard copper wiring.

The US Dollar’s Performance

Financial experts and advisers will tell you that there is an inverse relationship between silver price, gold price and the US Dollar. When the dollar is doing well, people have no hesitations to invest in dollar-related stocks and bonds. In such a case, both these metals suffer because fewer people are willing to invest in them.

However, once the dollar starts showing signs of poor performance, investors are very quick to pull out their funds to invest in these metals. The fact that the US Dollar is accepted as a valid currency in many countries means that any decline in its value will drive the value in most parts of the world. The inverse relationship will manifest if the dollar regains its strength and value.

Oil prices

The price relationship between oil and these metals remains a contentious issue, but the fact is oil prices have the ability to dictate the prices of most commodities in the market. Oil is the essential form of energy that is used all over the world to not only transport goods, but to also power up machines through LPG.

Once the price of oil goes up, virtually no commodity is spared from the same fate, and since gold is an accepted form of currency, it therefore goes without saying that it will cost more to buy any metal. Another logical approach or argument is the fact that these prized metals seem to appreciate in value as inflation rates soar. Any increase in the price of oil almost always results in inflation, and an increase in price is inevitable.

Supply and Demand

Another relatively obvious determining factor for the prices is the supply and demand pattern. For instance, if miners decide to go on strike for some reason and no mining goes on for a specific period, the market is bound to see a rise in the price of metals that is circulating the market. Likewise, when investors are rushing to buy it due to an economic crisis that has devalued the dollar, the prices are likely to go up.

Federal Reserve Banks’ Policies

Most people opt to save their money in banks with hopes that they will get competitive rates, which will see their savings increase in time. However, if the central bank decides to lower its interest rates on savings and deposits, more people are likely to shy away from investing in the currency and opt invest in metals.

The Relationship between the Two Metals

Amazingly, silver relies heavily on gold to perform. It actually has more dominance in the industrial sector compared to the financial world and hence benefits from gold just from being in the same category of precious metals. Anytime gold prices rise, silver catches up soon after, but it tends to plummet much lower than gold when precious metals lose value.

What Is A Certificate of Deposit

If you hear someone say CD, they may not be talking about music. They may be talking about a Certificate of Deposit, which is a short-term investment tool. If you are looking for ways to not only save but also to increase your money, and you’re not up for playing the market, a CD might be a good option for you.

A Certificate of Deposit is just what it sounds like. You make a deposit, and you hold a certificate that explains how much money you deposited, the interest rate you will be paid for allowing the bank to use your money, and the length of time you agree to leave that money untouched.

The timeframe may be one year or less but may be at least five years, depending on what you are comfortable agreeing to. The interest rate depends on the length of the CD and the amount of money you deposit, but it is often nearly three times that which is earned on a regular savings account. Of course, a CD is not as liquid as a savings account, and you may be required to pay heavy penalties if you withdraw money before the CD has had a chance to mature.

Certificates of Deposit are low risk. They are insured by the FDIC, and you will generally only lose the interest you have accumulated if you withdraw early.

Balancing Your Account

In this world of instantly checking your bank balance by internet or cell phone, the idea of balancing one’s account seems quaint, a relic from the past. Yet there are some compelling reasons to do this on a monthly basis, when your bank statement comes out.

First of all, balancing one’s bank account is easy to do. Use a computer program. There are commercial ones you can buy and there is even an open source program that will help you manage your money and you don’t have to pay for it. If you like it, give them a donation. In one of these programs, you record all your transactions. When your bank statement comes, you tell the program you want to balance the account and it allows you to check off all the transactions-income and out-go. While balancing by hand took fifteen minutes, using a computer program takes seconds if you are careful about recording things accurately. So difficulty is not an excuse any more.

Secondly, the people who run banks are only human. If you balance your books regularly, then you know when a mistake has been made. For example, if you still write checks, the bank may misread what you have written and charge a different amount from what you wrote down. Or, you might make a mistake on your addition for a deposit and the bank may record a different amount of money from what you thought you had.

Also, people write checks to you for any reason and the check bounces, by balancing your books you will know exactly what that has cost you. And, sometimes the bank may charge you a fee by mistake. If you balance your books every month, you’ll be able to see the problem and correct it before it costs you a lot of money. Finally, by balancing your books, you will be better able to identify fraud.

It’s not hard to balance your bank accounts and the information you get will give you peace of mind.

How Do Credit Card Reward Programs Work?

When they issue credit cards, the credit card companies are depending on you carrying a balance. Their profit comes from the fees paid by stores and services that allow you to use your card, annual charges, interest, and penalties. Because there is so much competition between the various companies, several of them offer special deals: low finance charges and even a percentage of money back on your purchases.

If you pay your balance completely every month, then low finance charges are not particularly alluring because you have no need for them. Cash back is a different story.

Until more people get this figured out and credit card company profits go down significantly, cash back on your credit card purchases is a great reward for responsible customers. In fact, there are a couple of advantages to exploring which card companies will give you the best deal. First of all, you will benefit from larger amounts of cash back. Some cards will give you more back based on particular purchases, such as a greater percentage on gasoline purchases or a greater percentage on the stores or services you use most often. If you know what your spending patterns are, you can choose a card that offers you the best rate.

Cash back can come in the form of an actual check in the mail or a credit on your credit card statement. Some cards offer you gift cards at certain merchants. These may also be a good choice if they are to places that you actually use.

Secondly, opening a credit card account and paying it off on time, every month, is a great way to improve your credit score. For one thing, you end up having a lot more credit (your balance limit) than you actually use and that is a good thing in terms of your credit record. The only caution is that this is only an advantage as long as you are faithful in paying your balance in full every month. If you believe you might get tempted to let a balance ride, then don’t try this at home!

Essentially, the credit card companies are allowing responsible customers to benefit from irresponsible users of credit cards. Cash back offers are meant to snare unwary customers into a psychological trap: “I can afford this purchase…I’m getting money back.” They obviously were not created for people who pay off their balances; yet people who have the self-discipline to pay off balances can enjoy a small profit in addition to the convenience of the credit card service.