The Smart Way to Buy a Car

The average American spends around $10,000 a year on their car. That’s a good chunk of change that could be put to better use. (Imagine all the penny candies you could buy! . . . ahem, or the contribution you could make to your retirement fund or mortgage.) If you need to buy a car, pay cash for it—every time. This may sound ludicrous, but it is possible. It just takes a little planning and strategy.

The owners of most luxury cars, surprisingly, are average, middle-class Americans who have been duped by the lie of consumerism. Consumerism tells us that if we drive that fancy, new-smelling car, we will look sexier and feel better about our lives. The strangers who pull up next to us at red lights will be disgustingly envious and we will have an absolutely defining sense of happiness and self-worth.

Really, the only thing we’ll have is an ulcer from all the stress that paying for that car will give us. Here’s why.

How Most Americans Buy a Car

  1. Lease

Car dealers offer leases hoping that you’ll focus on the low monthly payments rather than all the money that you’ll actually lose in the long run. Leasing a car is basically renting a car for a really long time. Leases trick people into thinking that they can drive a nice car for less money than it would take to buy the same car. What people don’t realize is that they actually end up paying more on their leased car, especially if the car gets even slightly damaged or they exceed the mileage limit.

 

  1. Buy It New

It’s become part of the typical American way of life to have a monthly car payment. Because it’s expected, many car buyers figure they might as well get a new car. After all, a new car will be more reliable, right? This may be true in some cases, but you could pay for the repairs on a used car several times over with the money you would save by not buying a new car. The average monthly payment for a new car is around $500. That’s $500 that you have to come up with every month no matter what your financial status is. More good news: new cars lose about 20% of their value as soon as you drive them off the lot and about half their value within four years.

Either way they go—leasing or buying new—most Americans are wasting money on their car. You know who isn’t falling into this trap? The rich. Rich people don’t get to where they are (and stay there) by just trying to look rich. They’re smart with their money, and they’re smart about buying cars. Whether or not you’re rich at the moment you’re reading this, you can be smart about your automobile purchases. Here’s how.

 

 

How YOU Should Get a Car

  1. Save $1500 and buy a used car.

Sound crazy? (And lousy?) Don’t worry, this is just the first step. You can get a surprisingly reliable car for about $1000 (the remaining $500 is for repairs). Most car buyers worry about mileage; many cars run well even after 200,000 miles. The Guinness world record for highest mileage on a car is 3 million miles.

  1. Talk to your Aunt Gertrude

Buying cars from family or friends is the way to go. You’re more likely to get a good deal and less likely to get a bad car. And if aunty does sell you a lemon…well, you know where she lives.

  1. Have the car inspected.
    Before buying the car, take it to a mechanic for a basic inspection. This will cost less than $100 and you’ll know what you’re getting into. Also get a vehicle history report for the car. You’ll want to know what kind of accidents the car has been in, just in case there are hidden damages or the quoted price is too high. Many websites offer free reports or you can sign up on Carfax.com for about $30 a month.
  2. Buy a reputable sedan.

The more common and reputable the car, the less expensive the repairs will be. Small cars tend to be more reliable, while SUVs tend to have more problems.

  1. Create a “OneDayIWon’tOwnaCrappyCar” fund

Now imagine the car you like to have some day. Figure out how much your monthly car payment would be if you went out and bought that car new right now, and save that money in your new fund. Pay yourself as religiously as you would pay off the loan and in a few years you can buy that car—in cash. (That is, if you haven’t realized that driving an old car really isn’t that bad and you could put that money into something with a higher return, like a house.)

It may be easier and “cooler” to run out and get a new car. But there’s nothing cool about a stressful monthly payment. With just a little planning and some sacrifice, you can ensure that you’ll never have a car payment again.

 

Edson Senna is a freelance writer who specializes in finance and law. He sometimes does consulting for lemon law attorneys like Jon Jacobs. In his free time, Edson enjoys biking, hiking, and running.

5 Ways to Save on Car Repairs

Owning a car is much more expensive than you might have thought as a teenager. In high school, you drove the “kid’s car” and filled up a few times, and in college you hardly drove at all because your roommates had nicer cars. But the costs of owning a car start to build once it becomes a necessity instead of a luxury. Car payments, insurance, gas, and repairs add up fast—sometimes too fast for the budget. Unfortunately, some of these costs are unavoidable, like monthly payments or how much gas you use to commute back and forth to work.

Other costs are somewhat negotiable. It may not seem that car repairs are one of these, but in many situations the costs of repair can be prevented or, at the very least, reduced.

Prevent and Protect

It might be a pain in your side to take your car into the shop every 3,000 miles (or however often your owner’s manual suggests) to get that oil change taken care of, but it will be worth it. Your car might not give you problems if you wait until 3,500 miles to change the oil, but that doesn’t mean that your car isn’t being damaged internally. And even if your car seems to be in fine condition, it’s always better to prevent than repair.
Make a habit of taking your car into the shop regularly just to get a quick check-up and make sure that everything is working properly. It might cost you a few dollars to have the mechanics look it over, but you’ll save money in the long run if you can catch major problems before they happen.

Don’t Procrastinate

Small and simple repairs can turn into nightmares if they are not treated promptly. It might seem that you’re saving yourself time and money by putting off repairs like a small oil leak or the laundry list of minor problems the mechanic gives you when you go in for a larger repair, but the exact opposite is true. Small, relatively inexpensive problems will turn into much more extensive, expensive repairs they longer you put them off.
When the mechanic reads you that list of maintenance items, take care of everything you can while you’re there. If your budget won’t let you fix everything they recommend, take note of what you didn’t have them do and figure it into the budget over the next few months. The sooner they get done, the better chance you’ll have of avoiding larger-scale problems.

Choose the Right Mechanic

Don’t settle for the nearest auto shop out of convenience. It can be hard to find a mechanic you know and trust, but take the time to look around. Once you’ve found a business that you feel treats you fairly, make yourself a regular customer. If they get to know your face and car, they might be more willing to offer you deals and advice.

Finding a trustworthy mechanic will not only reduce expenses—it will reduce stress. Knowing you always take your car to the same auto repair shop in Vancouver, even if the drive is farther than the place around the block, will save you the stress of wondering if the mechanics are going to treat you and your car fairly.

Buy Discount Parts

Many car shops will let you bring your own parts in to fix car problems. Find out your repair shop’s policy before you green light the repair. If you can bring in the parts yourself, all you’ll have to pay for at the shop is the labor. There will be a cost for the parts, of course, but you can usually find them cheaper than the high prices a repair shop often charges.

You can often find cheap parts at discount auto stores, online retailers, and salvage yards. If you’re getting body work done on your car, check salvage yards first for bumpers, side mirrors, and even doors or hoods. Go online to find engine parts and belts. Do your research, and with a little bit of extra time you’ll be able to keep the budget balanced and your car in good condition.

Do Simple Work Yourself

Even if you’re not car savvy, it will be worth it to take the time to learn how to do some simple maintenance. Replacing windshield wiper blades, doing oil changes, replacing air filters, and filling your fluids are all easy enough to do once you know how. Find a friend who knows what they’re doing and ask them to give you a few pointers—the money you save will more than compensate for the time and effort you spend doing your own repairs.

Author Bio: Melanie Hargrave is a wife and homemaker whose pride and joy is her family. In addition to spending time with her husband and daughters, she loves being outdoors, playing sports, and finding ways to be financially savvy. In her spare time, she blogs for companies like Minit-Tune in Vancouver.

7 Tips To Cut Costs For Your Budget

Life would be so much easier if money grew on trees. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, and that means that most of us have to budget our finances in order to make ends meet. But budgeting doesn’t have to be a grueling task that sends you into financial despair. There are plenty of simple tricks you can learn that will help you cut down your budget, leaving you with more money to spend or save.

Know Your Limits

The first thing you need to do is know your income per month. That’s your limit. Even if you own credit cards and use them regularly, don’t calculate the credit cards into your limit, because you have to pay those cards off eventually, and that money will come out of your income. So start your budget with your income.

Calculate the Necessary Expenses

Now you need to calculate your expenses. Only worry about the necessary expenses for now—the expenses that are fixed, because you pay roughly the same amount every month. These expenses will include things like rent, utilities, credit cards, loans, cell phone bills, insurance plans, and internet use. They will also be the biggest drain on your budget, so this is where you will need to focus the most on trying to reduce.

Bundle Your Plans

Look at your necessary expenses, and see if there’s a way you can combine any of them. If you have multiple types of insurance, like auto, home, and health, see if there’s a way to bundle them all into one plan at one company, rather than three separate plans at three different companies. Another easy one to bundle is your phone, TV, and internet. The biggest wireless phone providers also carry plans for internet and TV, and it’s cheaper to bundle everything under one plan than to carry multiple plans.

List Your Needs and Wants

Once you have your necessary expenses sorted out, you can take a look at everything else you spend money on per month. Prioritize these items by making two lists: your needs and your wants.

Your needs list will include everything that you cannot live without, like food and toilet paper. Your wants list will be everything else, from ice cream to video games. You can even break your wants list down even further, separating what you really want from what you would like to have. Use these lists when budgeting the rest of your finances. Plan first for the needs list, and then whatever is left can be used for a few items on the want list.

Use the Credit Card Perks

Make sure the credit cards you use benefit you. Find credit cards with rewards and perks that interest you, and then use those cards in the ways that reward you the most. This might be store bucks, a gift card, or a discount on gas. Whatever the perks, they are rewards you should take advantage of.

Make Shopping Lists

Before you go to any store, make a list of what you need, whether it’s for grocery items or clothing. Know exactly what you need before you enter the store. That way, you won’t get distracted by other items, or purchase products you don’t need. You can also cut costs even further by bargain shopping. You don’t need a particular kind of Dijon mustard when a generic store brand will do. Compare prices, and buy the cheapest you can find.

Save a Little Each Month

If you don’t have a savings account, open one. Then, set aside a certain percent each month to put in the savings account. It doesn’t have to be much—5% will suffice. If you want to put in a little extra on certain months, go ahead, but make sure you put at least the percentage you’ve stated. It may take a while for the savings account to grow, but after a while you’ll have a hefty amount in there you can use for an emergency, or possibly even a vacation.

With these simple tips and tricks, you can become a budgeting pro, always having the money you need when you need it—you won’t even have to plant a money tree.

Author byline:

Edson Senna is a business student. He enjoys applying what he has learned by writing about investing, finance, entrepreneurship, and other business-related topics. He also loves to learn about new software that helps businesses, like a business rules engine.

3 Ways To Reduce Impulsive Spending

It’s a problem that most people have. By the time we are fully grown adults with real careers, we’ve tried it all: savings accounts, setting aside money ahead of time for priorities, tracking our expenses via checkbooks or online banking, piggy banks, you name it. Sometimes it works, but too many times, it doesn’t. When the money is technically available to you, and there’s something you really want, you make up another excuse for why you deserve it. Or else you just have a hard time looking at the big picture, and a few nights at the bar turns into a major dent in your finances. It happens to the best of us. Nevertheless, there are a few tricks of the trade floating around out there that have helped many people start saving money. Here are a few good ones that might help you:

Limit Your Accounts

When you have multiple accounts, you’ll typically spend more money on a regular basis because you’re not fully aware of the total amount of money you have, and that provides a little subconscious comfort to you because you’re not seeing that total number drop down as you spend more and more, but only a number that represents a fraction of your money. The same concept goes with keeping cash on you all the time.

Think Twice Before Making Big Purchases

Studies show that for most people, the feeling of wanting something brings more happiness to them than actually having it. So before you spend half your paycheck on something you don’t actually need, wait a day or two and then decide if it’s really worth it. Consider the alternate things you could do with that money. Think about the years to come; will you still love it just as much next year? If you still think you should get it after all that, then go for it.

Budget Your Money!

Most people know about this one, but don’t actually do it. Start by thinking about the top five things you spend your money on. Do some math and try to figure out the approximate monthly amount you spend on each of those things. Or better yet, get a detailed bank statement. You’ll probably find that one or two of those things are a bit out of control. What do you want that number to be? Try setting a budget for each of those categories, and then one for miscellaneous purchases.

For the budget that you think will be most difficult for you to stick to, try this: take that money out of your account and put it in a labeled envelope. Keep the envelope in your room and take cash from it very sparingly. Using only cash will make you much more conscious of just how much you are spending, and keeping it at home will give you less of a chance to be impulsive with it. For more tips on staying on budget speak with an accountant or financial adviser

LBS Tax is a local tax accountant service that has begun a series of helpful articles to help the public better handle their financials.

Everyone needs to grieve in their own way

Everyone needs to grieve in their own way, but you’re entitled to your inheritance.

Put simply, death is never pleasant and can shock families to the core. If a family member dies then emotions run high and family ties can become fraught.

Shock and grief are commonplace after bereavement and it is important to remember that everyone deals with the process differently. Some people take more time than others and people react differently in social situations. Just because someone is outgoing doesn’t mean that they’re not struggling. In fact, it can be them who have been affected the most and we need to be wary of their needs.

Often, bereavement brings families together and it is a chance for relatives who don’t often meet to bond: it is just a shame that this bonding process has a very somber tone.

However, such a tone can turn very sour if there is a financial dispute in the family. Generally this revolves around will disputes. As I’m sure you can imagine, even the slightest dispute can be blown out of proportion when tensions are running high. So, can you image the discovering that you’ve been ‘cut out’ of someone’s will? For many, this is simply the last straw.

Statistics show that almost two thirds of people do not have a will and an additional tenth of people admit to having made one without telling anyone where it is! Nearly half of those aged between 55 and 64 have not made a will (46%) with over a fifth having never thought about making one (22%), while over one in eight (13%) are relying on self-written wills, the validity of which is more likely to be challenged upon death.

The disputing of a will is complicated by a number of additional factors such as extended families or people being re-married after a divorce. This can mean that old rivalries re-surface and, as has previously been mentioned, relations can become fraught very quickly.

Years of legal challenges can come from cutting someone out of your will and it is never a decision that should be taken lightly.

As has been stated already, bereavement is a very long process and everyone deals with the process differently. However, if you feel like you’ve been ‘cut out’ of a will unfairly then you should act. Try contacting a company like Will Claim Solicitors to see if you can challenge the judgement with a no win no fee claim.

Essential Apps To Help Your Finances

Smartphone apps
cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by Mr. T in DC

Considering how expensive things are these days, we need a way to keep track of our finances: this helps us to budget, plan, and prepare for the future. When we have a hold on our finances, we also have a hold on our lives. Similarly, what has made our lives more manageable has been the progress and evolution of mobile devices.

With our devices, we’re able to keep track of our emails, our loved ones, our calendars and, indeed, our finances. With this pocket-sized accountant and personal-assistant, many lives have been made easier and more manageable. But not all apps are equal for our phones.

These are the essential financial and personal assistant apps to get for your mobile device.

Mint

This handy app centralises all your expenses and income, by tracking all your savings, credit, and other accounts. All your credit card and bank spending can be monitored via Mint. After an initial setup, obviously, the App will take a reading of your incoming and outgoing expenses. From this, it can generate a sensible budget.

Available on iOS and Android.

Check.me

A necessary reminder to pay the bills on time, avoiding extra costs that incur as penalties.  Though not a fully-fleshed out app, like Mint, it may be necessary for its timely reminders, and ease-of-use if you don’t need a full app.

Available on iOS and Android.

PayPal

Known throughout the planet – and soon out of space – PayPal is the leading platform for monetary exchange, that makes for ease of handling due to its being universally acceptable.

The App allows for managing your PayPal account – which you can get for free – and monitor your invoices, your expenses, and so on.  You can even take a photo of a cheque to add money to your PayPal account for free. The App also allows you to locate local vendors who use PayPal so that you can pay securely.

Available on iOS and Android.

Homebudget

The major feature for this App is the multiple syncing feature. That is, new data and info and expenses can be uploaded through different formats – such as using an iPad, an Android phone, PC – and sync accordingly. Outcomes are readjusted according to this new data.

Pie charts, graphs and so forth can also better visualise the data. The full list of incredible features even includes adjusting to the local region.

Available on iOS and Android.

Conclusion

By using these apps, we have better grasp of large numbers, incomes, invoices and so forth that spiral around us like a tornado of incomprehensible data. Even just be noting numbers, we can do better. Allowing us to make better investments when making inquiries into new cars, home loan applications, and so on.

Data matters. Or, rather, manageable data matters, since pure data can be just noise that bogs us down. Considering the fast pace of modern living, we need a fast-pace form of financial assistance.

Author Bio: Terrence Stoker is a long-time finance writer and researcher of human behaviour, with a love for science and technology.

Are You Taking Advantage Of Online Shopping?

Are you taking advantage of online shopping?

The majority of customers were once wary of inputting their credit card details online, but as the technology has advanced and adoption has rocketed, people are increasingly embracing the power and security of internet shopping.

More than a third of people in the UK conduct the majority of their shopping online, according to research from broadbandchoices.co.uk, and the average monthly web spend has rocketed from £56 to £113 over the past ten years.

Online shopping is secure

Cyber retailers want to protect their visitors and instil them with confidence in their brand, because those which fail to deliver when it comes to security will soon be abandoned by customers.

Although you can largely trust shopping websites, especially when it comes to big brands like Amazon, you can take extra precautions to keep your payment method secure and reduce the risk of identity theft or fraud.

When typing your details during the checkout process, check whether the URL in the address bar starts https. That extra s stands for secure, and that alongside an icon of a padlock means that the information is being securely encrypted.

You should also protect your computer by installing a firewall and frequently running an anti-spyware programme. Never download anything you are unsure of, and exit a website if you have suspicions.

Shopping online is cheaper

In most cases, it is much cheaper to look for a product or service online. One reason for this is that maintaining a website tends to be more low cost for the retailer than running a store, meaning they can pass on the savings.

There is also far more competition, and the ability to quickly switch from one site to another means stores are eager to keep you on their page with low prices. You can usually cut the cost of the recommended retail price (RRP) simply by making a few searches.

Surfers can also take advantage of the multitude of money-saving websites on the web. Community forums like HotUKDeals will notify you of the best offers online each day, while coupon sites like MoneySavingExpert provide access to cost-cutting codes.

Online shoppers should make sure to take advantage of cashback websites, which provide you with a cash sum or commission on a purchase simply for clicking through an approved link. Quidco claims that its average customer earns approximately £400 per year this way.

Compare prices quickly

One of the main benefits of online shopping is that you can quickly and conveniently compare the prices of products from different retailers, ensuring that you always pay the lowest price possible. That goes for everything from clothing to credit cards and gas tariffs.

While you would have once needed to trawl up and down the high street to find the best price possible, you can now click through to sites like PriceRunner, MoneySupermarket or uSwitch in order to find the cheapest retailer.

This is particularly convenient when it comes to the likes of insurance quotes, since filling in application forms separately can be time-consuming and deter you from seeking out the best deal.

Convenience

Although you might have to wait a few days for an online order to be dispatched and delivered, shopping online can still be more quick and convenient. For starters, it allows you to swap the potential for rain and busy stores for the comfort of a seat and your computer.

Logging on and finding what you need takes just a few clicks of the mouse and taps on the keyboard, as opposed to rummaging through numerous stores. This tactic also allows you to avoid costs associated with transport to the shopping destination.

You can also eliminate a lot of the disappointment often associated with high-street shopping, because you can immediately tell whether an item is in stock. Heading to the shops only to find they don’t have shoes in your size is extremely frustrating.

Online shoppers also love the convenient access to customer reviews, which can be found on retail websites or through third-party sources like Which? or Trusted Reviews. Feedback can help guide a buying decision and prevent the purchase of an unsuitable product.

Author Bio: Stef has worked through a debt solution plan with the help of Debt Free Direct, she now writes articles on money saving tips and advice to help people avoid getting into debt; or save money to pay off their existing debt.

Energy Bill Breakdown: What Costs The Most?

Introduction

Incandescent light bulb
Incandescent light bulb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As energy bills continue to rise, we’re all starting to look a lot more closely at our habits in the home. Turning off lights, switching appliances off at the wall and waiting to run the dishwasher once it’s full are all ways in which a lot of people are making a conscious effort to lower their bills.

Although you may get a breakdown on your bill about peak and off peak expenditure, have you ever really stopped to think about what exactly makes up the amount you spend on energy? Considering the amount it costs to boil a kettle or have a light on for half an hour may make you think twice the next time you boil too much water or leave lights on in a room that isn’t occupied.

What costs the most?

Research conducted by All About Money has shown exactly which appliances cost the most to run in the home. The results may surprise you:

The Bathroom

The most expensive appliance to run is the electric shower, which uses energy to heat and pump the water. It’s the main reason why the bathroom topped the poll for the most expensive room to run in the whole house, equalling £25.51 per month. Light bulbs and an electric toothbrush were also taken into account for the bathroom, but even though the cost for this room was high, the electric toothbrush was actually found to be the cheapest appliance in the whole house, costing just £0.00001 per use.

The Kitchen

The kitchen accounted for the second most expensive room in the house, which is understandable when you consider the amount of appliances which are run in this room. The study included a washing machine, dishwasher, fridge/freezer, kettle, fan oven, vacuum cleaner, toaster, microwave, iron, lights, extractor fan and grill in this room. Although a whopping 12 items a run from this room, they still contributed around £10 less to the energy bill than the electric shower alone. The fan oven cost the most over the course of the month, adding £5.63 to the energy bill. The light bulb cost the least, only contributing 1p.

The Living Room

Next on the list comes the living room, adding £4.76 to the utility bill. The appliances found in here are mostly low-cost, with the plasma TV being the most expensive at £1.59, followed by the desktop PC at 90p and the games console at 86p. Ensuring that your television and PC are shut down properly and switched off at the mains when they’re not being used should help with the cost they add to the bill.

The Bedroom

The last, and cheapest, room researched was the bedroom. Phone chargers, a hairdryer, laptop, alarm clocks, lights and LCD TV are all accounted for here, yet this room contributes just £2.22 to the total monthly cost of energy for the house. Again, the television accounted for the most expense, adding 82p to the bill, with the hairdryer coming in second place with 75p.

In each room, the cheapest thing to run were actually the light bulbs, with standard bulbs costing 1p a month and energy saving bulbs amounting to just £0.002. Turning off lights in rooms that aren’t occupied is still a wise thing to do, but cutting down on showers, the amount of TV you watch and the amount of time spent on the computer will have the biggest effect on your bills.

Author Bio: Coral Pearce Mariner contributes some very resourceful articles for Guarantor Loans Online. For more top money saving tips visit their website or follow them on Twitter @UKCreditLoans

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Top Websites To Compare Utility Prices In The UK

English: L6 D Electricity transmission tower, ...
English: L6 D Electricity transmission tower, near Aust, England, UK. Deutsch: L6 D Elektrizitäts-Freileitungsmast in der Nähe der englischen Stadt Aust Français : Pylône électrique de modèle L6 D près de Aust, en Angleterre. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even if you think you are paying fairly competitive rates for your gas and electricity, it is always still worth comparing utility prices online. Many people end up being quite surprised by how much money they can save when they compare utility prices on the Web. Recent research suggests that the average customer can expect to save around £80 per year. Currently, many people are paying more than they should.
There are many popular websites out there which can help you to find the cheapest utility services available in your area but following are five of the most popular.

1. Comparethemarket.com
You may well have seen this one advertised on the television by the animated meerkat. Like many of the comparison websites, this one helps to find you a better deal on all sorts of services ranging from insurance to household utilities. You can use the online search function to compare utility prices and find a better deal on your gas and electricity. You can also enter details about your most recent bill and then get an estimate in moments of how much money you can expect to save. Unlike some of the other utility price comparison services online, you can also get your gas and electricity quotes separately here. Information provided is up-to-date and, for the most part, quite accurate.

2. Confused.com
Confused.com originally started out as an online service for people to compare car insurance costs but it has since diversified and expanded to become one of the UK’s most popular price comparison websites. It offers everything you need on gas and electricity prices as well as an abundance of other useful cost comparison services. Confused.com claims on its front page that some people can expect to save up to £440 by changing to a new gas and electricity supplier. As with other similar sites, you can search for the availability of utility providers in your area by entering your postcode. You will also be required to enter your email address when you carry out a search. If you prefer not to provide your email address at this point, you will need to use a different service.

3. Moneyexpert.com
Moneyexpert.com allows you to compare gas and electricity prices all over the UK. It also provides information on things like personal finance and insurance. It is one of the best established price comparison services in the United Kingdom. In order to get started on your way to get accurate gas and electricity costs, you will need to have some information handy regarding your most recent utility bills. After spending a few minutes filing in some forms, you will be able to review the quotes. The site also offers a £25 cashback incentive for anyone who uses their service to switch to a new gas and electricity provider.

4. Moneysupermarket.com
Moneysupermarket.com is another popular UK-based website for comparing energy prices around the country. Again, it also provides pages for comparing the prices many other types of product and service. This website also offers a useful additional informational resource including articles advising you about other ways to save money on your utility bills. To get started, you simply need to enter a postcode and choose whether you want to search for electricity suppliers, gas suppliers or both. The forms may like a little too much at first, but don’t forget that the requirement for more information also means that you should get more accurate and relevant results. This service also allows you to choose between different tariff types such as capped, fixed price and variable rate.

5. uSwitch.com
This site covers both the United Kingdom and Ireland and, unlike most of the previously mentioned sites, it also offers special information specifically for businesses. To get started, provide your postcode and email address and choose whether or not you want to receive promotions or other updates in your mail. You will then need to spend a few minutes to complete a basic questionnaire. This will help the service to provide you with the most relevant information for your particular situation and requirements. You will be able to review results using conveniently presented comparison charts accompanied by customer ratings and reviews.

 

Compare Utility Prices and Save Money on Your Bills

Utility bills are not getting any cheaper and they are among the biggest financial burdens of most people in the UK and elsewhere in the world. Particularly in times of economic hardship, people are finding it more important than ever to find ways to cut down on their outgoings and one of the most effective ways to do this is often to stich to a new utility company. A lot of people are paying more than they need to for their electricity and gas prices but, if you compare utility prices online, you may just be surprised by how much you can save.

An Introduction to Utility Comparison Services Online

Image representing uSwitch as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

The Web has become an essential part of many people’s lives in part because it can help us to save money on all sorts of things. Using certain online services allows you to compare prices of just about every type of product and service imaginable. To compare utility prices online, all you need is a little information such as your postcode and, preferably, a recent bill. The more information you can provide regarding your current suppliers and bills, the better idea you will get of how much money you should be able to save in the event that you make the switch to a new supplier.
These sites are not at all difficult to use and they typically require that you spend a few moments completing some forms to get the information that you need. Things to have handy include your postcode, telephone number, home address, email address and any information that you can find regarding your current utility providers. After providing these details on the utility comparison website, you will be presented with a list of quotes from companies and services available in your area. If you provided information about your current utility suppliers, you should even be able to find out straight away how much money you can expect to save should you switch over. Once you have chosen your preferred service, you should be able to initiate the switching process from the price comparison website. When the process is generally simple enough, you will usually need to wait a few days for the changes to take effect. If in doubt about anything, contact the utility company before committing.

How Much Can I Save?

It is hard to say how much you can save without actually getting a list of quotes from one of the utility price comparison websites. However, what is certain is that most people in the United Kingdom are paying more than they should for their utility companies. Some of the comparison websites might make claims that seem rather exaggerated, but you have nothing to lose by taking a look at which options are available in your area. Confused.com, one of the most popular comparison websites for comparing prices of everything from utility bills to car insurance premiums, states that it has helped around ten percent of its customers to save £440 per year – a very worthwhile saving for most people.
While you may well end up finding that it is time to switch to a new supplier, there are also other important considerations when it comes to slashing your utility bills. Switching can only save you so much – what it is mostly up to is yourself. Cut down on your outgoings by using your household appliances a little more sparingly. Don’t forget to turn off appliances when you are not using them rather than leaving them on standby to continue using a small amount of power. Upgrade your home’s lighting fixtures by installing energy-efficient lightbulbs and replace old appliances with newer and more efficient ones. All this will save you money in the longer term regardless of whether or not you switch to a new electricity supplier.

Some Services to Try Out

There’s certainly no shortage of comparison websites out there for you to compare utility prices but among the most well-known in the UK are comparethemarket.com, confused.com, moneyexpert.com moneysupermarket.com and uswitch.com. There are also other lesser known sites, some of which specialize in a particular niche such as green energy or energy for businesses. You can also sometimes compare prices on the websites of individual energy companies themselves.

Compare Utility Prices between Residential Solar Power and Traditional Solutions

solar panels
solar panels (Photo credit: spanginator)

Solar power is by far the most common form of renewable energy for the home. Among one of the most common concerns that people have today with regards to their outgoings is the increasing cost of energy bills. Some people have turned to solar power in the hope of saving money in the longer term by becoming less reliant on utility companies or even, in some cases, entirely self-reliant. In a country such as the United Kingdom, which is hardly known for its sunny climate, the thought of taking advantage of what solar power has to offer seems rather out of reach. Nonetheless, there are options available, all of which have the potential to save money in the longer term. If you are thinking of making the move to residential solar power, then the following tips and information will help you to compare utility prices between this and traditional solutions.

Which Options Are Available to Me?

As with just about anything else in life, the price ranges are enormous for solar power installations. However, the available options fall into only a couple of categories. Residential solar power installations may either be connected to the main electricity grid or completely stand-alone. The former allows you to sell any surplus electricity generated back into the grid, theoretically allowing you to actually make money from your solar power system. However, this typically requires a prohibitively expensive and large installation and, in the UK, it is rarely a practical solution.
Stand-alone systems are the other option and are particularly suitable in more secluded areas. Stand-alone systems are not connected to the electricity grid at all and, because of this, you will need to have your own batteries installed on site for storing the electricity generated. If you are looking to become completely self-reliant with regards to your electricity supply, you will probably still need an additional generator for when your solar panels cannot generate enough energy. Keep in mind that the average two- or three-bedroom home requires around five kilowatts to power all appliances including an electric oven. This demands a pretty large solar power system with an extensive bank of batteries. If you want to power an electric heating system and boiler, you will need a lot more even than this.
You can compare utility prices online for the various types of installations available. Using the price comparison websites for utility bills, you might also be able to get a better idea of how much money, if anything, you can save by making the move to solar power. For those who don’t mind doing some DIY, residential solar power can become a much more attractive option since do-it-yourself solar power kits typically present a far more affordable solution. A couple of good UK-based websites for helping you to get a better idea of the renewable energy market include comparemysolar.co.uk and theecoexperts.co.uk.

Costs Involved and Conclusion
Installation costs are also high in most cases, even if you do opt for a do-it-yourself kit. For a fairly standard system providing approximately 1.6 kilowatts of power during peak operation, including installation costs, you should expect to spend at least £3000. This system will be enough to power most everyday appliances and lighting in a small home but only during ideal weather conditions and operation. When comparing prices online, you should be able to enter you power requirements in order to get a quote for the size and type of solar power installation you need for your home.
One of the other advantages of solar power when it comes to long-term costs is that these systems require relatively little maintenance. Since there are no moving parts involved, there are fewer things that can go wrong. For the most part, you just need to keep your solar panels clean and they will require minimal maintenance over the years. On occasion, however, you may need to replace the photovoltaic cells and the batteries if you have your own.
Solar power is certainly not for everyone. Many areas of the country simply do not receive enough sunlight to make a residential solar power installation practical or affordable in most cases. You will ideally need to have relatively reliable weather and long daylight hours for your solar panels to be able to generate a worthwhile amount of energy.

Compare Utility Prices from the UK’s Top Providers
If you are looking for a better deal on your utility bills, then you are certainly not the only one. Studies show that most people are paying somewhat more than they should be paying on their gas and electricity bills and the average home owner can generally expect to save a significant amount of money on their yearly outgoings by switching to a new supplier. In times of economic hardship and constantly increasing utility costs, it is even more important to find new ways to cut down on these expenditures. As usual, the best place to start is the Internet with its abundant resources allowing you to compare utility prices in the United Kingdom and everywhere else in the world.
How much you will be able to save by changing to a particular company largely depends on where you live and on your requirements. Rather than going directly to the utility company’s website to start with, check out some of the popular energy comparison websites such as confused.com, moneyexperts.com or uswitch.com among others. These sites will be able to give you a list of quotes from all services available in your area allowing you to quickly find out how much you can expect to save.

The following provides a brief overview of the ‘Big Six’ top energy providers in the UK.

British Gas EA07HVO
British Gas EA07HVO (Photo credit: didbygraham)

1. British Gas
British Gas is one of the oldest utility companies in the country. It is also the largest, providing gas or electricity or both to twenty-million home and business customers around the United Kingdom. British Gas belongs to Centrica Company of which Scottish Gas is also a subsidiary.
In spite of being the largest utility company in the country, a lot of people are paying more than they need to with British Gas. You can learn more about their tariffs from britishgas.com.
2. EDF Energy
A UK-based subsidiary of the French energy giant, EDF is the second-largest provider of gas and electricity in the United Kingdom. It provides its services to almost six-million people around the country. Much of its power is generated from nuclear power stations and other renewable energy resources. It operates a number of nuclear power stations around the country. France itself is the country most reliant in the world on nuclear power. EDF energy provides services for both homes and businesses of any size.
3. Npower
Npower is the third-biggest energy company in the UK, supplying around 6.5 domestic and corporate customers. It also one of the fastest growing utility companies in the country. Npower was originally a British company until being sold to the German company RWE in 2002 and its consequent rebranding. In addition to providing both gas and electricity services, Npower also offers maintenance and repair services for boilers and heating systems. The official website for the company is npower.co.uk.
4. E.ON UK
A subsidiary of the German-owned company, E.ON AG, the largest utility company in the world, E.ON UK is the United Kingdom’s fourth-largest energy provider. In addition to operating a number of traditional power plants such as coal, oil and gas, E.ON UK is also a major operator of onshore wind farms. E.ON UK was formerly a British company operating under the name of Powergen until its sale to Germany in 2002. You can learn more about the availability and cost of services in your area from eonenergy.com.
5. Scottish Power
Now a subsidiary of a major Spanish energy company, Scottish Power is the smallest energy company of the Big Six. In spite of its name, Scottish Power supplies energy not just to Scotland, but also to various other parts of the United Kingdom. Its networks also cover parts of Wales. The company operates various gas power stations and various renewable energy operations including a number of wind farms and several hydroelectric power stations in Scotland. You can learn more about the company and its services at scottishpower.co.uk.

How to Compare Utility Prices with the Energy Efficiency Rating

The energy efficiency rating can be found in countries across Europe. In the United Kingdom, it is included as part of the Home Information Pack with many houses and apartments available for sale or rent. For those looking to buy or rent a property, the energy efficiency rating provides a useful and fairly reliable way to compare utility prices for a particular residence. If you are on the lookout for a new home, you should familiarize yourself with energy efficiency certificates. You will also find a similar form of the energy efficiency rating on various new household appliances in shops. They can help you to get a better idea of how much a particular appliance will cost to run.

Understanding the Energy Efficiency Rating
You will be able to find energy efficiency ratings on everything from lightbulbs in the shops to advertisements for entire homes or business premises. Using the values provided on the certificates, you will be able to compare utility prices for a particular home or the running costs of a particular appliance. They are simple enough to understand for the most part and they are presented in much the same way in every country in the European Union and in certain other countries beyond.
The energy efficiency rating is presented in the form of a small diagram and two ratings are provided when referring to real estate. There is the current rating and the potential rating. The former is the one that you really need to pay attention to, particularly if you are only renting the property. The potential rating refers to the expected energy efficiency attainable by making certain modifications to the property such as adding attic installation or improving the performance and maintenance levels of certain appliances and heating installations. Energy efficiency ratings provided for individual appliances and other electronics only include the former.
For each rating, a figure from 1 to 100 is provided. This rating, in turn, falls into a particular group labelled A, B, C, D, E, F or G with ‘G’ being the least energy efficient group and ‘A’ being the highest. Of course, the higher the rating the lower you can expect your bills to be. Most of today’s new household appliances come into the more energy efficient categories.

Understanding the Environmental Impact Rating
Also part of the Home Information Pack is the environmental (CO2) impact rating. Again, there is both a current and potential rating assigned a score of 1-100 which, in turn, falls into a group labelled from A to G. Properties that fall into group ‘A’ are very environmentally-friendly and have minimal CO2 emissions while those falling into the highest category with a rating of 1-20 (Group G) are not environmentally-friendly. Unsurprisingly, the energy efficiency rating and environmental impact rating are typically closely related.

European Union Energy Labels
Across the European Union and in various other countries in Europe, you will come across the European Union Energy labels on new products ranging from everything from lightbulbs to fridges. These labels are useful for getting an estimate of how much the product will cost to operate. Just like the energy performance certificates provided with real estate, the energy labels provide a score for the energy efficiency of a particular product. Rather than providing an actual number, however, usually only a colour-coded group labelled A to G is provided. Additional information which is specific to the type of appliance will also be provided. Other statistics to look out for include operating noise level and energy consumption in kilowatt hours. From the latter, you can expect to get a fairly accurate idea of running costs.
In 2010, some changes were introduced with certain appliances such as washing machines, refrigerators and freezers. For these, the groups are now labelled slightly differently. Instead of being labelled A to G, they are now labelled A+++, A++, A+, A, B, C and D with D-rated appliances being the least energy-efficient.

Author Bio: Author Sam Jones advises people wishing to compare utility prices to go to prices comparison website, uSwitch to find and switch to a cheaper supplier

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Tips To Protect Yourself From Rising Healthcare Costs With The ACA

The Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) will go into effect in less than a year. These changes will have a significant impact on every American. Some people may be able to purchase healthcare more affordably, but most people’s rates are expected to rise in the near future. You will need to know what the law means and what steps you need to take to protect yourself.

Protect Against Rising Healthcare Costs

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that the changes in health care reform will drive health insurance premiums up about 30%. Even the Obama Administration recently said that the costs will rise for many people. Fortunately, you can reduce your premiums if you take the right steps. Here are some things that you should do.

Lose Weight

The Affordable Care Act will impose penalties on people who are significantly overweight. These penalties may have offended some people, but most economists are defending them. John Crawley is an economist from Cornell who specializes in the health care industry. Crawley recently stated that the costs of obesity aren’t only paid for by those who are overweight. The costs to the entire country will be nearly $550 billion between 2013 and 2030.

People who are significantly overweight should try to lose weight before the ACA kicks in next year. Losing weight will reduce your premiums in the short term. You may also pay fewer copays if you don’t need treatment as often.

Stop Smoking

The ACA also carries penalties for people who smoke. The penalties for smokers vary by age, but could average about $5,000 per year for older people. You should seriously consider giving up smoking. You may have had a hard time quitting in the past, but these premiums may give you the inspiration you need to quit.

Choose a High Deductible Health Care Plan

You can reduce your health insurance premiums by taking a high deductible plan. You will have to pay more money if you do get sick. However, this may be a good option for people who are fairly healthy and don’t need to see the doctor very often.

Find Out if You Are Eligible for Medicaid

One of the provisions in the health care reform bill includes an expansion for Medicaid. You may want to find out if your state is participating in Medicaid expansion. You may be eligible to participate through the new health care exchanges.

Find Out if You Need Coverage

The new law requires people to purchase health care insurance or pay a premium if they are making more than 400% of the poverty rate. You do not need to purchase private insurance if you do not meet this income requirement.

Reduce Health Care Premiums

The Affordable Health Care Act is one of the most complex legislations in American history. Nobody knows exactly how the new law is going to work, but most experts believe that health insurance rates will increase significantly. You will want to take the steps to reduce your rates as much as possible when the new changes kick in.

 

About the author: Kalen is a personal finance writer who has been published in Forbes, Investopedia and Creditcards.com. He writes about changes in health care reform and how they affect most Americans. He also talks about the benefits of a public health policy specialization online degree.