Category Archives: Stress

5 People Who Can Save You Time, Money, and Stress

Some people straight up know how to get stuff. They get the best deals, know where to research, and never settle. I strive to reach this status, to know everything about everything. I want to be a wealth of knowledge and to share that information with all of you!

That being said, most of us don’t have the luxury of knowing everything about everything, so we turn to experts when we need help. If we know these people, we suddenly have someone we can turn to in a time of need and who can potentially help us save a lot of time, money, and stress.

I often say that “I have a guy” for many projects. I have a guy who does great web design, I have a guy that handles viruses, and yet another that knows where to get super cheap exercise videos. You don’t have to know everything yourself, but if you know someone in a bunch of different industries than can give you advice about your expertise, isn’t that just as good (if not better)?

Here’s my top 5 list of people it’s best to know:

#5. Lawyer – They won’t represent you for free, but if you’re good friends with someone who can give you a quick opinion about your rights or recommend someone specific to you rather than rolling the dice with the guy from the big ad in the yellow pages (do those still exist?), you can be confident that the person you do get will be a good fit for you. When our car was totaled (and we needed a reliable personal injury attorney), we got a recommendation from a family member, and it was great to know we could trust the person we were working with, especially at a stressful time.

#4. Doctor – When your kid isn’t feeling well or when you want to know whether the weird symptoms are something you need to worry about, what’s better than walking across the street for a quick opinion? This could save you the time of going to the doctor’s office, waiting in the lobby, and coming home on those false alarms, as well as the co-payments and deductibles that nibble away at our savings.

#3. Accountant – Few things are more frustrating than sitting down to do your taxes in April and realizing you have no idea what you’re doing. While there are some free tax resources out there, the IRS tax code isn’t the easiest reading and what you see isn’t always what you get. Sure, if your tax situation is simple, you can go with TurboTax or another online tax preparer. But if you take itemized deductions or have some weird exception, you can get your friend to quickly answer your question and save yourself the trip to H&R Block, and you won’t have to worry about getting audited instead of getting your refund! Plus, they can help you develop the best plan for the future to help optimize your tax situation.

#2. Computer Expert – When you get a virus or can’t get your DVD player to load right, who doesn’t like having a tech-savvy teenager around? Other than kicking you out of your chair and muttering something under their breath about how you need to enter the 21st century, they really are great to have around. Having your neighbor come over and fix your problem in a pinch can save you big bucks, because your alternative is hiring the Geek Squad to come to your house. Besides, I remember myself as a teenager; I was awesome and knew everything.

#1. Travel Agent – (Just kidding, do THESE even exist anymore? Just go to Kayak.com, Southwest.com and Jetblue.com you’ll have all your options.)

The Real #1: MechanicThis is a big one because when something happens to your car, there’s nothing worse that not knowing what the problem is and putting your car and money in the hands of a complete stranger. Just knowing the issues and the expected cost from someone who isn’t trying to rip you off can leave you prepared for what can be an expensive trip to the body shop.

Update: I was thinking that maybe someone at the Apple Store would be a great contact to have. Anytime you drop your phone, they can hook you up with a new one. One less (important) thing to worry about, and when you want to be the coolest kid in the room with the newest iPhone, I’m sure they can make sure you get one without having to wait weeks.

Readers, who do you know that you can count on to save you money? What ‘services’ do you provide to people that makes you feel better about asking for some help next time you need it?

If It’s Not Automatic, It’s Problematic

Personal finance can get boring at times and everyone goes through stages. So what do you when it gets boring? You make sure that you don’t have to deal (make it automatic) with the boring stuff anymore so you can focus on the interesting aspects.

For me, the boring part has been managing the day to day and month to month bills and the interesting part is earning more money on my new projects.

The Problem

I usually have my credit card bills sent directly to my checking account, where I would manually select the amount I want to pay and hit send. It was an extra step designed to prevent the credit card company from charging me whenever they wanted, but it ended up making me crazy. After a few years of not actually looking at the bill and selecting the amount, it got quite tedious and annoying.

Now I realize that the setup I had was actually frustrating me and not letting me get on with my life. It was stressing me out and eventually I was going to forget to schedule the payment and I was going to regret it.

Now It’s Automatic

Now, I have set the credit cards to pay the full balance due automatically. I’ve never missed a credit card payment, and this setup will ensure that I never will. No more worrying, no more questioning whether or not I’ve scheduled the month’s payment. And now, I can spend less time stressing and more time working on my goals.

When you don’t make things automatic, you run the risk of missing your bills, but the main reason to pay manually is so that you check over the bill for any unexpected charges. There are other ways of keeping track of your financial life, I check mint.com regularly so by the time the credit card bill comes around, there aren’t any surprises anyway.

Readers, do you automate your finances or do you handle everything manually so you are aware of all your spending habits?

Top Five Stress-Free Vacation Tips

Imagine this: you’re on a secluded beach sipping the beverage of your choice – doesn’t matter if it’s a pina colada or a plain old South style sweet tea; you’re listening to the waves rolling in, and wondering whether you’ll order the fresh lobster or the more exotic conch for dinner. That decision – what’s on your dinner plate – is your biggest worry. There’s nothing else bothering you, no financial troubles hidden in the depths of your mind, zilch, zip, nada. You’re feeling completely, 100 percent stress free.

You’re probably saying, “Yeah right, Daniel. On what planet do you live?” Fair enough. But the truth is, I live on a planet where vacations can be stress free… as long as you take your time planning and financing them.

Stress Free Vacation Tip #1: Don’t Follow The Crowds

Remember back when you were a teenager, and you wanted a tongue piercing because everyone else was doing it? Your mom said no, using the age-old adage, “If everyone else were jumping off a bridge, would you?” to dissuade you. Well, the same theory holds true when it comes to vacation planning.

There’s a reason why a five-star hotel on a popular Florida beach goes for $400 a night – because the property’s managers know they can command that price tag. They know that their rooms are filled on a regular basis, and can charge a premium for that very reason. Hotels – and, more generally speaking, resort towns – that are off the beaten track are more likely to be the ones offering you room discounts, free meals, and other perks to entice you to bring your business to them. Same goes for traveling in the off-season; if everyone is traveling to the Bahamas in the late winter – the region’s peak season – that shouldn’t be reason enough for you to follow them. Instead, find out when your destination’s slow season falls, and book your vacation accordingly to get the lowest prices.

Stress Free Vacation Tip #2: Set A Budget And Stick To It

This sounds like a no brainer, right? Say you plan to spend $2,500 on your family vacation, setting aside
the following amounts:

  • $800 for travel costs
  • $1,000 for hotel rooms
  • $500 for food
  • $200 for entertainment

But once you arrive at your destination, you’re bombarded by incidentals you didn’t plan on. Maybe it’s a $12 photo of you and your spouse about to board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship; or maybe it’s a $15 boogie board at a surf shop. Whatever it is, if you’re not setting aside a little extra cash for expenses that creep up along the way, you’re not accurately budgeting your trip. My standard rule of thumb is to set aside an additional 10% of your budgeted vacation expenses for incidentals.

But this vacation tip goes both ways; just as you shouldn’t overspend on your vacation, you shouldn’t underspend either. I have a friend who recently scored a great deal on a beach condo – I’m talking a deal of a lifetime here: she saved hundreds of dollars, slashing her estimated hotel budget by more than half. Instead of stashing that money back in her bank account, she plans to use it to indulge herself and her family on their vacation. After all, they’ve worked hard for it, and using those funds to pay for a few extra dinners out will definitely make for a more stress free trip than if she was slaving away in the condo’s kitchen every night.

Stress Free Vacation Tip #3: Save, Save, Save

There’s nothing worse than going on a vacation, only to find yourself wondering halfway through the trip, “How am I going to afford all this?” If you’ve ever traveled with this type of vacationer, who charges everything that comes their way without having the necessary funds already in their checking account, you know how miserable they can be. They’re constantly obsessing over every little expenditure, from the hotel bill to gas prices to tipping a waitress.

Instead of stressing over expenses, set the money aside before you leave – long before you leave. Say you’re planning a family vacation to Universal Studios six months from now. Take your budget (don’t forget that extra 10% for incidentals!), divide it by six, and make it your goal to set that amount aside every month until you leave. If you do, you’ll be able to pay for your entire vacation in cash – or, if you use a credit card simply for rewards, you could go that route – without worrying about whether you’ll have enough.

Stress Free Vacation Tip #4: Use A Travel Rewards Card (If Applicable)

I know this is a risky piece of travel advice to give on a personal finance blog, but I’m going to dole it out anyway. Using a travel rewards card can really pay off for certain destinations. For example, Disney offers a Visa card from Chase that includes a $50 gift card to Disney the very first time you use the card. If you’re planning a family vacation to visit Mickey, Minnie, and the gang, that $50 gift card can help defray the cost of your park tickets or room fees. On top of that, you can also earn 1% in rewards dollars, which can also go toward your Disney vacation. Sure, this option doesn’t work for every destination, but there are plenty of hotel chains and airlines that offer credit card and loyalty programs that can help reduce your costs if you know you’ll be using the company’s services.

Stress Free Vacation Tip #5: Leave Your Home In Good Hands

This isn’t technically personal finance advice, but that’s why it’s so important. So many travelers head out the door for their vacation without a second thought to what’s going on at home, only to come back to discover they’ve been the victims of vandals or, worse, thieves; this happened to a good friend of mine when he and his fiancé went out of town over July 4th. Here are three ways to avoid problems:

  1. Let people know you’ll be out of town. I’m talking about your neighbors, family, and – most importantly – the police. Many municipalities will do an extra drive-by of your home if they know you’ll be out of town.
  2. Don’t let the world know you’re going away. This means Facebook – do not, I repeat, do NOT leave a message on your profile stating that you’re going out of town. Even if you think you have your profile information set to private, there’s still no guarantee.
  3. Make it look like you’re still home. You should stop the mail, set light timers, and ask a neighbor to pick up your newspaper (if you’re one of the 1 in 100 Americans who still gets home delivery) so robbers won’t get the idea that you’re out of town.

Following these simple tips can make sure your vacation goes off without a hitch.

Readers, what are your vacation tips for a stress free trip?