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When to Use a Credit Card and When Not To

Credit card[This is a guest post by Brian Feldman. Think you’ve got what it takes to be a guest poster? Contact Em at em [at] blondeandbalanced [dot] com to learn more about becoming a guest poster yourself!]

 

There are a number of good reasons why it might be useful to get a credit card if you haven’t already. Yet despite their undoubted benefits, some people aren’t particularly clued in about when (and when not) to get out their plastic. This can lead to problems like overspending and—in some cases—debt.

Here are some examples of when it might be best to leave your credit card in your wallet:

Withdrawing from a Cash Machine

It’s well worth being aware that most lenders will charge a fee when you use your credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM. So with this in mind, try to use your debit card if you do need cash, or pay using your credit card if that isn’t possible.

Buying Impulsively

Most of us have probably been guilty of buying impulsively from time to time. But when it comes to splurging on items that have caught your eye, it’s probably best to avoid doing so with your credit card. Instead, use it for things you’re absolutely certain you need, meaning you might be wise stepping away and thinking things over before you complete a transaction.

To Cover Other Debts

If you have debt problems, then it’s not a good idea to cover credit by using credit, as this can make things even worse in the long run. One option that might work better is to apply for a credit card with a 0 per cent rate of interest and make a balance transfer. This can consolidate your existing debts and allow you a bit of breathing space to tackle the balance without incurring additional interest.

However, there are other times where your credit card will be worth using. Here are a few:

Making Larger Purchases

When it comes to more expensive purchases—such as holidays, cars, or home improvements—it might be better to use your credit card due to the extra protection it can sometimes afford in terms of covering you if the product fails to arrive or the company goes bust. It also allows you to pay for things gradually.

Covering Bills

If you want to make sure you avoid making late payments on your household bills, then a credit card could be the way to do it. Remember, though, to ensure you’re able to cover the full amount with a share of your income.

Everyday Purchases

Providing you keep tracks of your spending, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use your credit card to buy gas or do your food shopping. This could even be one of the steps you use to build up your credit score and might even entitle you to some rewards, depending on the benefits offered by your card.

 

Photo credit:  SalFalko

How to Develop a Positive Financial Mindset

Happy girl[This is a guest post by Brett Evans. Think you’ve got what it takes to be a guest poster? Contact Em at em [at] blondeandbalanced [dot] com to learn more about becoming a guest poster yourself!]

 

One of the keys to success in any financial plan is cultivating a strong and positive mindset. Your attitude and approach to your finances can make the difference between enjoying great successes and simply maintaining the status quo. To enjoy real results with your financial goals, here are some tips on how to develop a positive financial mindset.

Consider the Future

When you want to get yourself in the right frame of mind to succeed with your savings, it’s essential to look to the future. Write down where you want to be in the coming years and what you want to achieve. Imagine yourself in a great financial position, and ask yourself what success means to you. It might be owning your own home, buying a new car, having solid savings or finally getting away on that round the world holiday. Whatever your dreams are, this is what will keep you motivated to stay on track with your savings.

Set Your Goals

Now that you know where you want to be, it’s time to set some goals to help you get there. To develop a truly positive financial mindset, it’s important to keep them simple, realistic, and achievable. Don’t just focus on the really big long-term goals; you should also create a range of smaller targets that you can achieve along the way to boost your morale. These small goals are essential in maintaining a positive attitude and the feelings of accomplishment and success.

Construct a Comprehensive Budget

With a positive view of the future and a solid set of goals to guide your journey, it’s time to evaluate your budget. A good budget is the key to financial success and can keep you thinking positively even when you are facing difficult financial challenges. Your budget is a tool which allows you to not only monitor income and expenses; it can also show you where you need to cut down on spending and how you can increase your savings potential.

Seek Expert Advice

To ensure that you have the best chance of achieving your goals, consider consulting a professional to get you on the right track. The team at Fox Symes are one of the leading providers of debt solutions and quality financial advice in Australia, and can help you to really build a solid foundation. Check out their website at foxsymes.com.au to read some inspirational stories, great financial tips, and blogs on improving your finances.

Believe in Yourself

Finally, the greatest thing you can do to develop a positive financial mindset is to believe in yourself. To achieve success, you need to be confident in your ability to reach your goals and get on top of your finances for good. Don’t sell yourself short; you can achieve anything you set your mind to as long as you keep up a positive attitude!

With these important ideas in mind, you can work towards creating a positive and productive financial mindset. Your dedication and motivation are the things that will keep you going when you hit a rough patch, so make sure you spend the time to really think through your approach. By staying positive and keeping an eye on your future goals, you will be in a strong financial position sooner than you might think. Get started today and see just how rewarding a positive financial mindset can be.

 

Photo credit:  Tax Credits

More inexpensive but fun (and sometimes a little weird) date ideas

EbbsFleet Drive-In MovieA while back, I wrote a post on some ways The Hubby and I enjoy cheap dates with free or really inexpensive activities beyond the usual dinner and a movie thing.

Since then, we’ve come up with plenty more, so I thought I’d do a sequel post. Here are the latest additions to our roster of cheap (but fun!) date ideas:

Nature hike and picnic. Nothing works up an appetite like a nice walk through nature, so we’ll pack up a picnic lunch (sandwiches, veggies and dip, etc.) and go to the local park, which is pretty big. We’ll choose a direction to wander off in, and we’ll keep walking until we find “the” perfect spot. We can people watch, enjoy the scenery, and get some fresh air and exercise, all for what it cost to make a lunch at home.

Apple picking (or whatever-else-picking). A day out in the sun, plus you get to bring your haul home and have fun experimenting with new recipes for pies, pastries, and whatever else you can think of.

Drive-ins. Movies are so expensive lately that we don’t even enjoy going anymore. Why pay $16-$20 for tickets and $20 for an enormous sugary soda and greasy bucket of popcorn when you could pay a fraction of the cost to see a double feature at the drive-in? You get to bring your own (healthier!) snacks, and if you bring blankets and pillows, you get to cuddle during the movies in a way that movie theater arm chairs just don’t let you. Win all around.

Game nights. We love having game nights with our friends, but they can also be a fun date night…especially if you’re super-competitive against each other like The Hubby and I are! We like to play trivia games like Trivial Pursuit and word games like Boggle and Scrabble.

Sports tournaments. Exercise and fun competition. Some have a small price tag (bowling at the local bowling alley), while others are totally free (taking your rackets to a public tennis court or racing each other on a bike trail). Be sure to treat yourself to something afterwards for all your hard work. (Ice cream cones are perfect.) J

Minor-league sports games. If your city has a minor league sports team, you can have a fun night for hardly anything compared to big-name team games. We have a minor league baseball team that often runs promo nights, so we can get tickets to a game, plus food and drinks, for no more than $20. And it’s a nice, relaxing way to spend several hours out in the fresh air.

Independent movie houses. We’ve recently discovered a few indie movie houses in our area that play things like black and white classics and cheesy sci fi movies for no more than $5 admission (often for a double feature). Some have little concession areas where you can get snacks, some have comfy couches you can relax on, and some serve actual (snacky) meals like pizza and sandwiches. Not only are they inexpensive, but they give us a chance to see all sorts of movies we’d never even hear of otherwise.

What about you guys? What other cheap date ideas do you do with your significant other?

 

~Heart,

Em

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photo credit: Craig A

The Intrinsic Link Between Happiness and Productivity in the Workplace

Happy Office Worker[This is a guest post by Samuel Pierce. Think you’ve got what it takes to be a guest poster? Contact Em at em [at] blondeandbalanced [dot] com to learn more about becoming a guest poster yourself!]

 

Most people have had to suffer a slave-driver of a boss at some stage in their working lives; the kind of person who wants to know every detail of what each member of staff is doing, who wants to regulate working lives as much as possible, who doesn’t value flexibility but seeks to limit it as much as possible.

The idea that standing over employees (either literally or metaphorically) and looking to make them work in a very particular way is the path to productivity has a certain kind of simple logic to it, but it assumes that people are inherently lazy and unproductive. In fact, we all have an innate desire to want to contribute to society, but when we don’t feel valued, we sometimes choose to “drop out” and lack motivation.

When faced with a task that has a direct and tangible benefit for ourselves, most of us can find the motivation to do it. If you’re looking to book a vacation, you’d think nothing of spending hours trying to find the best value for money. If you’re a salaried PA and you’re asked to do the same on behalf of your overbearing boss, chances are you’ll simply pick the first vacation that looks okay and ticks all the boxes as there is no direct benefit to spend the extra time trying to save them $50.

Happy Interactions and Hard Work

In our hypothetical example, the employee might be much more likely to go the extra mile if they feel happy and valued at work. Good leadership and management are not about being scary or cracking the whip. Effective managers understand that staff will be more motivated if they are part of the “system,” rather than feeling that they’re meaningless to it. Negative motivation, or forcing an employee to do things under threat, fails because it will only ever get the minimum of effort required to avoid punishment.

Motivational gimmicks like end of the month reward charts also fail because they don’t focus on actual, internal motivation. Positive motivation is the desire to contribute, both for self-development and for the company’s development. For people to have that kind of motivation, they need to have positive interactions with their managers and colleagues. If someone just doesn’t like doing the kind of work their job entails, it might be harder for them to be happy at work than if they were doing something they loved.

However, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.

Working in a cooperative environment, where good work is genuinely praised and recognized, tends to make people happy, and it has also been proven that friendship in the workplace is vital. Happy families work in the same way. In a workplace that operates on a punishment and reward system, people quickly become unhappy.

Control and Challenge

As well as feeling recognized and rewarded when they do well, people generally have a need to feel in control of their own work, and they need to feel as if their work is more than just routine, that they are more than just another cog in a huge wheel.

Compare the lot of the cabinet-maker, who gets to create a beautiful piece of furniture from concept to finish, with that of the factory production line worker adding a single screw to each piece that works its way along the production line. While most jobs will have their routine, boring moments, it’s important to feel more like the cabinet-maker than the production line worker.

Money Is a Minor Factor

Unless a worker is really under the gun and turning to AAAPaydayCash to get them through to their next pay check, it often comes as a surprise to managers that money is often not a great motivator for employees. While we all generally want more of it, money becomes a dramatically reduced factor in employee happiness not too far above a liveable wage. In contrast, not feeling in control and not feeling challenged leads to stress. We want to feel a sense of achievement from our work, rather than just doing it to pick up a pay check.

Leadership

Good managers genuinely value their staff and want the best for them. They will give people as much control over their own workload as possible, and will have genuine, positive interactions with them. Things as simple as saying “good morning” each day can make a huge contribution to motivation, as it helps people feel that they’re more than just another worker.

It has to be meant, though; it’s generally obvious when people are being insincere. If you’re a manager, like and trust your staff, and you should find you’ll be able to get the best out of them. Dislike and distrust them, and you’ll find they’ll do as little work as possible.

 

Photo credit:  Nor Oh