3 Tips to Help you Deal with New Credit Cards

There are many reasons why your wallet may be feeling the pinch right now, and poor lending choices are one of the culprits. If your credit ratings have been affected by lost jobs, poor income levels or bad credit scores, you may need to spend quite a bit of time, money and personal energy restoring your credit record through credit repair efforts and renewed borrowing.

If you are considering high interest credit credit cards from sites such as BadCreditOffers (which provide links to different types of cards, different rates and conditions), I would caution you:

1. Know the Credit Card Interest Ratesbadcreditoffers-1[2]

Rates for most credit cards are typically between 10%~20%, but can go much higher depending on the card, the agreement, and the penalties.

Know this and understand this. Don’t be fooled by “Intro APRs”, “Low Rates”, Freebies, or Minimum Payments. Always know the full rate, work out how much you would have to pay at that rate, and calculate how much interest you would pay over 12 months on a typical amount for your own budget.

Oh, and beware those N/A statements. Know why they say “N/A”!

2. Read the Agreement before you sign!

Make sure you read the agreement, esp. if you are going to use the card a lot. Make sure that you understand what penalties may be applied, what rights you have under the agreement, and who you need to contact if you have problems.

If you don’t understand the agreement, don’t sign it until you are happy that you do. Find someone who can explain it to you.

3. Check those Statements carefully!

When you get your card, keep it safely along with a record of your usage of the card. Then make sure you check those statements carefully each month. Check off each item as it appears and query any that are incorrect. Then make the payment before the due date to avoid penalties.

I am thankful that I can read my statements (even though they are in a language I’m not competent at), I do have someone who can understand the agreement, and I religiously check each and every statement. It really helps to keep tabs on your credit cards and your usage patterns. But I’m assuming you already do that, don’t you?

Using Google Docs to track your expenses: Simple Step-by-Step Approach

Keeping a track of expenses is truly a nightmare especially when you’re on vacation. You have all those little bits of paper, phone numbers, receipts, credit card receipts, cash, foreign coins, etc., etc. Soon you end up with a wallet that looks similar to this. If you’re anything like me, being organized is a real challenge. I do have folders and organisation, but there are times when the whole system seizes up! You know what I’m talking about if you take a look at this wallet of mine.

Things flopping out everywhere, terrible. Well, a blog I was reading suggested using Google Docs new forms feature to create an expense list. It’s a brilliant idea if you have a mobile device, or prefer to tally your expenses at the end of the day or like to do it at work (when the boss isn’t looking). So here goes: a step-by-step guide to setting it up.

You will need:

  1. a bunch of receipts to set it up;
  2. a Google Email account so you an access Google Docs;
  3. and a little patience!

Step 1: Create a new form – look in the image to see how it’s done. Click on ‘new’, tab down to ‘form’ and release the click or click on it again.

new form image

Step 2: You will now see a screen with the form tabs and fields.

base form

A field is the area of the form that you need to type some data. So, in the Untitled form, you can enter the Form Name. In the Question area, you can write: “What is this expense for?” or similar. If you need help text, enter something useful so you know what data to enter. Then choose the question type: “Text” is most straightforward at this point. Then click ‘done’ and ‘required’ (if need be).

sample report question 1

Step 3: To add a new field, press ‘Add Question’ and repeat as necessary. Repeat this for the date, the form of payment, and the amount.

repeat operation

Step 4: I’ll show you my completed form which you can see for yourself.

sample report form

That’s pretty much the form set up. Don’t forget to hit ‘save’ so you don’t lose the changes. You can click to see the form which I have published and you can try it out!

So what happens to the data? Well, let’s take a look. The data is auto-saved in the base spreadsheet for later. You go to your Google Docs again and you’ll see the new spreadsheet sitting there. I’ve entered several of my favorite ‘sins’ and you can see the result.

basic form and results

Each item is stamped with the entry time and the fields you required. You can then perform any calculations you like using traditional spreadsheet functions. You can then email the form, embed the form in your blog or online documents, or go back and edit the form as you wish.

I’ve set my form to be published and republished as data is entered. You can take a look at it yourself, just click on the image above. Please enter some items for purchase, and you’ll see it updated dynamically. Pretty simple, I’d say. No doubt, far more complicated than it looks, under the hood!

Upgrading vs. buying new: Bring a new lease of life to your PC experience

I remember buying my first portable pc by TwinHead. It was a 386 pc with about 16MB of RAM, and 80 MB hard disk. Yes, MB, not GB.

Nowadays, I’m using two PCs (both of which are or were secondhand at one time) at home: one with 2 hard disks topping out at 160GB, 768MB of RAM; and the other about half the size. I also have numerous portable disks (three, I think!), a DVD burner, and lots of memory cards,… I’m sure I don’t have enough computer memory now, and I know I haven’t solved my computer back up problems even now!

the \'second\' at home PC...

But for many people replacing their desktops isn’t much of an option these days: Vista sucks, existing XP installations are fine with current generation hardware, and perhaps financially ‘constraints’ limit replacement of your desktop for a while!

I was very lucky to replace my old 17″ CRT monitor (it’s still fine, if anyone in Taiwan wants one!) with a great quality monitor. In fact, I was so impressed at the quality vs. the price I actually bought two when I discovered our local PC store was running a special offer on ViewSonic monitors.

Monitor 19\" LCD

After getting it home, I realized something that I had been missing for a long time: excitement. I was thrilled to have extra desktop space on BOTH computers, it simply made using even the older one that much more fun. It doesn’t matter that the underlying PCs are over 5 years old, the simple upgrading of the monitors made them fun again!

I’m in the market for a replacement PC at some point for sure. But if I can keep these going for another year or two, where’s the harm? I only use them for surfing, music, email, blogging and other less intensive tasks.

If your budget is ‘constrained’, there are simpler and less expensive ways to upgrade older equipment like this. Buying certain add-ons can really impact how you FEEL about your PC. For me, that included buying a new monitor (at NT$6500 – about US$220 approx.). Other upgrades could include a new graphics card, a new set of speakers, even just a better quality keyboard or mouse. To bring back excitement without breaking your budget, buy something that you could use to extend your PC usage: a Skype phone, a new game, … Whatever.

You’ll certainly find that you can enjoy your existing PC much longer this way, save a little in the short term, and still upgrade to that brand new PC (with Vista, if you must!) … Oh, and there’s another huge advantage: not upgrading avoids a lot of upgrading hassles.

Ad: if you’re looking for new larger monitors, try these…

And don’t forget to check out my own download … [download#1]

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