The basics of daily living cost a lot more these days. These tactics can shore up your budget. It costs twice as much these days to fill up your gas tank. The grocery bill rises every week. Kids need new shoes? Break out another couple hundred bucks.
Your budget is bleeding, thanks to inflation. How to stanch that financial hemorrhage? Hint: You can’t do it with thrift alone. Sure, being frugal helps. But you can’t coupon your way to solvency, and brown-bag lunches or bringing your own coffee can get you only so far in an era of inflation.
Instead, look for the bigger-ticket savings. Here are several common ways that people overspend without knowing.
1. You’re not diversifying your portfolio
Worried about the stock market? Before disaster strikes, be prepared. Goldco is here to help. From precious metal IRAs to direct purchases of precious metal coins and bars, Goldco can help you diversify and safely grow your retirement portfolio.
Gold is a safe haven for investors, and for good reason. Gold is a physical commodity, not a form of currency. It can’t be printed like money, and its value is not impacted by interest rate decisions made by the government. Gold can be stored indefinitely and is a proven long-term hedge against inflation.
Goldco is a trusted leader in the precious metals industry. It’s been around for over a decade and has been recommended by celebrities like Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity, Chuck Norris and even former presidential candidate Ron Paul.
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As a nation, we’re hanging on to our cars a lot longer: The average U.S. vehicle is now 12.1 years old. Trouble is, most of the big-ticket auto repairs happen long after the warranty has expired.
Don’t pay thousands out-of-pocket. Protect your investment with CarChex. A CarChex vehicle protection plan will work at any licensed repair facility in the United States, from independent shops to dealers.
The shop diagnoses your car, gets approval from CarChex, does the repair, and then gets paid directly from the company. CarChex can save you hundreds – even thousands of dollars in covered repairs.
You can choose from among five different plans. Their plans can last up to 250,000 miles on cars up to 20 years old. Plus, all plans include benefits like 24/7 roadside assistance, towing, rental cars, gas delivery, and more.
CarChex is the real deal. They have an A+ Rating by the Better Business Bureau and are recommended by companies like Carfax, Kelley Blue Book and CarBuyingTips.com.
It’s tough to build wealth when you’re buried in debt. Here’s a not-so-fun fact: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported an increase in the total amount of debt in the American household, rising by $27 billion to $15.85 trillion.
If you’re overwhelmed by debt, Freedom Financial Network can help you get out of the financial quicksand. One of the ways that they do that is through debt consolidation, which means combining all of your debt into a single loan. (With a single monthly payment, which is a plus for those with multiple cards: No more missed-payment late fees.)
You won’t have to pay anything upfront to sign on with Freedom Financial Network. The company has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, so you have nothing to lose — except your debt.
Having homeowners insurance is essential – but it also isn’t enough. Your house is full of systems and appliances that can (and will!) break down, and that isn’t covered by homeowners insurance. Finding a reputable repair company on short notice can be challenging, and the costs can be terrifying – especially if two or three things break down in the same year.
Don’t struggle to pay for repairs. Protect yourself against them, with help from Select Home Warranty. The company offers three levels of coverage for your appliances and heating/cooling, plumbing and electrical systems.
When something goes wrong due to normal wear and tear, you just call Select Home Warranty, day or night. The company has a wide network of reputable repair folks who will fix what’s wrong.
And if they can’t fix it? Select Home Warranty will replace it. All that you pay is a service fee.
You don’t need a home inspection to qualify for a warranty, and there’s no limit to the number of claims you can file. Right now, Select Home Warranty is offering $150 off plans, two months for free and free roof leak coverage.
A study by investment firm Vanguard found that, on average, a hypothetical self-managed $500,000 investment over 25 years would grow to $1.7 million if you manage it yourself, but more than $3.4 million if you work with a professional.
Of course, there are no guarantees a professional will do better than you, but with that much at stake, it would be crazy not to at least check it out. If nothing else, they can help you create a plan, maximize your Social Security, protect your assets and offer you peace of mind by ensuring you’re on the right track.
These days, there are no-cost online services that make it easier than ever to find vetted financial advisers in your area. You fill out a short questionnaire and are instantly matched with up to three local fiduciary financial advisers, all legally bound to work in your best interests.
The process only takes a few minutes, and in many cases you’ll be connected with an expert immediately for a free retirement consultation.
Who likes shopping for car insurance? Nobody. Insurance companies know it, so they jack your rates up every year without you realizing it. Don’t let them get away with it. With a comparison site called QuoteWizard, you can get a better deal in just minutes.
QuoteWizard is one of the largest online marketplaces for insurance in the United States. You simply answer some questions about yourself and your driving record, and QuoteWizard will compare prices from more than 80 insurance providers and send you the top deals.
According to QuoteWizard, you’ll save up to $500 a year. Plus, it’s free to use, and it just takes two minutes to get your new rate. Don’t lose $500 a year on car insurance. Enter your ZIP code to get your new rate.
7. You’re leaving behind $1,000 every year
If there were just one easy thing you could do, every day, to save more money, to create more wealth, you’d do it, right? Well, here it is: Take just five minutes every day and check out the totally free Money Talks Newsletter. More than a million Americans have, and they’ve reported saving an average of $991.20 each by checking our news and advice.
In the U.S., you could have blinked and missed a momentous announcement that impacts our ability to safeguard and improve our planet. I noticed that news coverage of the COP15 on biodiversity in Montreal was significantly less than that of the COP21 agreement on climate held in Paris in 2015. Nor did it receive the fanfare or celebrity endorsement. But, it is an important step forward in ensuring our planet continues to be a diverse ecosystem.
Biodiversity is paramount for the functioning of our planet, and the business case should suggest that focusing on biodiversity is as important as reigning in our carbon emissions: “Degrading ecosystems could trigger a downward spiral of US$2.7 trillion in global Gross Domestic Product by 2030.” Failures in biodiversity costs the global economy more than $5 trillion a year in the form of lost natural services.
The World Economic Forum in collaboration with PwC found that “$44 trillion of economic value generation—more than half of the world’s total GDP—is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services and is therefore exposed to nature loss.”
There are 23 environmental targets stipulated under the COP15 agenda. Of these, the most recognized target is known as the “30 by 30” conservation target (paywall). This name comes from the mandate that by 2030, governments will ensure and enable 30% of the planet is under protection.
This will be accomplished through the creation of protected areas and other known measures for area-based conservation. Currently, approximately 17% of land and roughly 8% of the oceans are protected. Additionally, the deal would roughly double overall financing focused on biodiversity protection to $200 billion a year from all sources.
But, all together, I think businesses can do more. Conservation is a powerful component in maintaining our biodiversity. As of 2019, one study found nearly 30,000 species were at risk of extinction, while another found that nearly 1 million species were at risk of extinction. A healthy planet, one with a fully functioning diverse ecosystem, requires we also determine how to recover those lost species.
It’s important for companies to plan for and align on the need to support biodiversity. Through new technologies, we can improve species resiliency and grow species capacity. Some companies like mine are even working on bringing back species that are needed for health ecosystems. These steps will allow us to create more hospitable spaces for species.
In the next five years, I think we will see scientists actively recovering species and protecting species from diseases, creating more extreme weather-resistant species.
More and more companies are joining in efforts to support the environment. But, other businesses also have the opportunity to get involved with efforts to support biodiversity efforts.
1. Identify your full environmental impact.
First, start with understanding the impacts of your organization on the full environment, not just your carbon emissions. Emissions are one aspect of climate change, but they paint an incomplete picture. I suggest business leaders also undertake a material assessment to understand the material impacts and dependencies of their organizations. Science Based Targets Network offers a guide that companies can utilize.
2. Evaluate business risks and opportunities related to nature and biodiversity.
This evaluation can lead to actions that help businesses understand the loss of biodiversity on your financial and business outcomes. One tool that organizations can utilize is the framework from the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), which can be used to evaluate and manage nature-related risks.
3. Set goals and raise awareness around your goals.
Measure and set targets for land use, freshwater use and ecosystem integrity. Again, there are useful tools available for companies attempting to measure and set biodiversity targets. And then, commit publicly to those goals to reduce waste and prioritize the protection of the planet as a core aspect of business. This could include signing corporate pledges.
4. Consider nature-based solutions.
New companies and legacy companies can consider the concept of “nature-based solutions,” which originate with the idea that companies can restore nature, mitigate and adapt to climate change, while also supporting the lifestyles and interests of local people. In doing so businesses can transform to restore and regenerate landscapes.
Stopping climate change and protecting plants and animals are and should be recognized as linked goals. Reducing carbon emissions is vital. Recovering species is too.
This is all possible, but requires technology investment and ideological alignment. Protecting biodiversity is more than just conserving what we have; it’s planning a pathway to a better tomorrow.
Fibre broadband is fast becoming a must-have utility. So what exactly is it and does your household need what it can offer?
What is fibre broadband?
Unlike ADSL broadband connections which use standard copper wires to send data, fibre optic broadband works by sending laser light along plastic or glass cables – literally at the speed of light. It means data can be sent and received at vastly improved speeds. There are two kinds of fibre broadband, FTTC – fibre to the cabinet – being the most common. It connects fibre cables to the green cabinet in your street, which is then connected to your home with copper wires.
FTTP – or fibre to the premises – is where the fibre-optic cable travels all the way to your property, rather than stopping at a street cabinet. As there is no copper wiring, this is also known as ‘full fibre’. It’s the quickest type of broadband but currently only accounts for a minority of the UK’s connections.
Compare Our Best Fibre Broadband Deals
What are the advantages of fibre broadband?
Because it’s faster, it offers much slicker web browsing, seamless streaming and a generally much more satisfying online experience. Fibre broadband is also a lot more reliable when several members of one household all need to get online at the same time.
How fast is fibre broadband?
According to regulator Ofcom, superfast FTTC fibre connections (with some copper wires) offer download speeds of at least 30Mbps (megabits per second).Ultrafast FTTP connections (‘full fibre’ straight to your door) offer download speeds of at least 300Mbps, with some packages offering up to 900Mbps or even 1 Gigabit per second (1,000Mbps). For context, the average broadband speed for the UK is 71 Mbps….Continue reading…
A new study in Nature Sustainability incorporates the damages that climate change does to healthy ecosystems into standard climate-economics models. The key finding in the study by Bernardo Bastien-Olvera and Frances Moore from the University of California at Davis:
The models have been underestimating the cost of climate damages to society by a factor of more than five. Their study concludes that the most cost-effective emissions pathway results in just 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) additional global warming by 2100, consistent with the “aspirational” objective of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
Models that combine climate science and economics, called “integrated assessment models” (IAMs), are critical tools in developing and implementing climate policies and regulations.
In 2010, an Obama administration governmental interagency working group used IAMs to establish the social cost of carbon – the first federal estimates of climate damage costs caused by carbon pollution. That number guides federal agencies required to consider the costs and benefits of proposed regulations.
Economic models of climate have long been criticized by those convinced they underestimate the costs of climate damages, in some cases to a degree that climate scientists consider absurd. Given the importance of the social cost of carbon to federal rulemaking, some critics have complained that the Trump EPA used what they see as creative accounting to slash the government’s estimate of the number. In one of his inauguration day Executive Orders, President Biden established a new Interagency Working Group to re-evaluate the social cost of all greenhouse gases.
IAMs often have long been criticized by those convinced they underestimate the costs of climate damages, in some cases to a degree that climate scientists consider absurd. Perhaps the most prominent IAM is the Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy (DICE) model, for which its creator, William Nordhaus, was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.
Judging by DICE, the economically optimal carbon emissions pathway – that is, the pathway considered most cost-effective – would lead to a warming increase of more than 3°C (5.4°F) from pre-industrial temperatures by 2100 (under a 3% discount rate). IPCC has reported that reaching this level of further warming could likely result in severe consequences, including substantial species extinctions and very high risks of food supply instabilities.
In their Nature Sustainability study, the UC Davis researchers find that when natural capital is incorporated into the models, the emissions pathway that yields the best outcome for the global economy is more consistent with the dangerous risks posed by continued global warming described in the published climate science literature.
Accounting for climate change degrading of natural capital
Natural capital includes elements of nature that produce value to people either directly or indirectly. “DICE models economic production as a function of generic capital and labor,” Moore explained via email. “If instead you think natural capital plays some distinct role in economic production, and that climate change will disproportionately affect natural capital, then the economic implications are much larger than if you just roll everything together and allow damage to affect output.”
Bastien-Olvera offered an analogy to explain the incorporation of natural capital into the models: “The standard approach looks at how climate change is damaging ‘the fruit of the tree’ (market goods); we are looking at how climate change is damaging the ‘tree’ itself (natural capital).” In an adaptation of DICE they call “GreenDICE,” the authors incorporated climate impacts on natural capital via three pathways:
The first pathway accounts for the direct influence of natural capital on market goods. Some industries like timber, agriculture, and fisheries are heavily dependent on natural capital, but all goods produced in the economy rely on these natural resources to some degree.
According to GreenDICE, this pathway alone more than doubles the model’s central estimate of the social cost of carbon in 2020 from $28 per ton in the standard DICE model to $72 per ton, and the new economically optimal pathway would have society limit global warming to 2.2°C (4°F) above pre-industrial temperatures by 2100.
The second pathway incorporates ecosystem services that don’t directly feed into market goods. Examples are the flood protection provided by a healthy mangrove forest, or the recreational benefits provided by natural places.
In the study, this second pathway nearly doubles the social cost of carbon once again, to $133 per ton in 2020, and it lowers the most cost-effective pathway to 1.8°C (3.2°F) by 2100. Finally, the third pathway includes non-use values, which incorporate the value people place on species or natural places, regardless of any good they produce. The most difficult to quantify, this pathway could be measured, for instance, by asking people how much they would be willing to pay to save one of these species from extinction.
In GreenDICE, non-use values increase the social cost of carbon to $160 per ton of carbon dioxide in 2020 (rising to about $300 in 2050 and $670 per ton in 2100) and limit global warming to about 1.5°C (2.8°F) by 2100 in the new economically optimal emissions pathway. (Note for economics wonks – the model runs used a 1.5% pure rate of time preference.)
Climate economics findings increasingly reinforce Paris targets
It may come as no surprise that destabilizing Earth’s climate would be a costly proposition, but key IAMs have suggested otherwise. Based on the new Nature Sustainability study, the models have been missing the substantial value of natural capital associated with healthy ecosystems that are being degraded by climate change.
Columbia University economist Noah Kaufman, not involved in the study, noted via email that as long as federal agencies use the social cost of carbon in IAMs for rulemaking cost-benefit analyses, efforts like GreenDICE are important to improving those estimates. According to Kaufman, many papers (including one he authored a decade ago) have tried to improve IAMs by following a similar recipe: “start with DICE => find an important problem => improve the methodology => produce a (usually much higher) social cost of carbon.”
For example, several other papers published in recent years, including one authored by Moore, have suggested that, because they neglect ways that climate change will slow economic growth, IAMs may also be significantly underestimating climate damage costs. Poorer countries – often located in already-hot climates near the equator, with economies relying most heavily on natural capital, and lacking resources to adapt to climate change – are the most vulnerable to its damages, despite their being the least responsible for the carbon pollution causing the climate crisis.
Another recent study in Nature Climate Change updated the climate science and economics assumptions in DICE and similarly concluded that the most cost-effective emissions pathway would limit global warming to less than 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100, without even including the value of natural capital. Asked about that paper, Bastien-Olvera noted, “In my view, the fact that these two studies get to similar policy conclusions using two very different approaches definitely indicates the urgency of cutting emissions.”
Recent economics and climate science research findings consistently support more aggressive carbon emissions efforts consistent with the Paris climate targets.
Wesleyan University economist Gary Yohe, also not involved in the study, agreed that the new Nature Sustainability study “supports growing calls for aggressive near-term mitigation.” Yohe said the paper “provides added support to the notion that climate risks to natural capital are important considerations, especially in calibrating the climate risk impacts of all sorts of regulations like CAFE standards.”
But Yohe said he believes that considering the risks to unique and threatened systems at higher temperatures makes a more persuasive case for climate policy than just attempting to assess their economic impacts. In a recent Nature Climate Change paper, Kaufman and colleagues similarly suggested that policymakers should select a net-zero emissions target informed by the best available science and economics, and then use models to set a carbon price that would achieve those goals.
Their study estimated that to reach net-zero carbon pollution by 2050, the U.S. should set a carbon price of about $50 per ton in 2025, rising to $100 per ton by 2030. However climate damages are evaluated, whether through a more complete economic accounting of adverse impacts or via risk-based assessments of physical threats to ecological and human systems, recent economics and climate science research findings consistently support more aggressive carbon emissions efforts consistent with the Paris climate targets.
Christy McMullen, vice-president of Summerhill Market, estimates her family-run business spends about $1 million per year on fees to process credit card transactions. It’s a big cost in the grocery business, which already operates on razor-thin profit margins, but as of next Thursday, the chain of four upscale Toronto grocery stores could choose to pass the “swipe” fees along to customers as a surcharge.
That’s an option McMullen said she cannot take.“It’s not something that you can pass on to your customers. They would go somewhere else,” she said. “It would be another reason for them to go to the big chain rather than the independent.”
As part of a settlement this year of a class-action lawsuit over what are known as interchange fees, Visa and Mastercard agreed to let Canadian merchants apply an extra fee at checkout for the use of credit cards under either of their brands. That change goes into effect next week.
But some small business owners and advocates for retailers say this is not a workable solution to the problem they face when customers pay with plastic, specifically credit cards. (Retailers say the cost of offering debit as a payment option is much lower.)
“Telling retailers to charge customers? That’s not an answer. That’s not anything,” said Giancarlo Trimarchi, managing partner at Vince’s Market, an independent chain of four grocery stores near the GTA.
Instead, they want the federal government to live up to a promise it has made for years, starting with the 2019 election campaign, to reduce credit card transaction fees.
Ottawa has said it wants to ensure small businesses pay similar rates as large businesses (that in some cases have negotiated lower rates with the credit card companies). It held a consultation last year on lowering the average overall cost of such fees for merchants.The consultation wrapped up in December, but small business and retail lobby groups worry that momentum on the issue has died.
“The government has put this file on hold for many years despite repeated promises to small business owners that they’re going to do a further reduction in credit card processing fees,” said Dan Kelly, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “This file seems to be very much at the bottom of the government’s priority list at the moment.”
The two major credit-card companies, Visa and Mastercard, set interchange fees — these vary depending on the type of credit card and can be significantly higher for premium cards associated with reward points programs — but the issuing banks also get a portion of the fees paid by merchants.
In 2020, under a voluntary deal with the federal government, the credit card companies agreed to drop the cost of consumer credit card transaction processing fees to an average of 1.4 per cent (this came down from 1.5 per cent under a previous voluntary agreement).
But as credit card use for payment soared during the pandemic, when consumers spurned cash and purchased more online, retailers say that’s still a hefty price to pay.
As a rough estimate based on the total volume of credit card transactions in 2020 (about $570 billion, according to Payments Canada), merchants would have paid almost $8 billion in credit card processing fees.The retail lobby groups say those numbers were likely even higher in 2021 as the economy recovered after the first year of the pandemic and consumers resumed travelling, dining out and other spending.
“We’ve continued to push for further reductions (in the interchange rate) particularly because we saw such a massive migration away from cash as a result of the pandemic,” said Gary Sands, senior vice-president at the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers.
“The volume of payments (with credit card) has increased so significantly that it’s just eroding the bottom line of many businesses.”The 2022 federal budget said consultations on the topic continue but the lobby groups say they have not heard anything further from Ottawa.
“The government is committed to lowering the cost of credit-card fees in a way that benefits small businesses and protects existing reward points for consumers,” Adrienne Vaupshas, a spokesperson for Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, said in an email.In the meantime, passing on a surcharge to customers will likely be a tough sell for many businesses as Canadians grapple with the effects of soaring inflation.
“We’ve never seen surcharging as the solution to this problem,” said Karl Littler, senior vice-president at the Retail Council of Canada.There have long been exceptions to the previous prohibition on surcharging. For example, some public institutions such as universities and utilities have been able to impose fees for credit card use.
Telecom provider Telus recently told customers it plans to charge a fee for payments made by credit cards and Littler said he could also see it working for smaller merchants who have ongoing and face-to-face relationships with customers, who might sympathize with the costs the businesses incur.
“But I don’t see it working at scale,” he said. “I don’t expect there will be broad adoption of surcharging by Canadian merchants.” Kelly said the CFIB does support retailers having the option but suspects uptake will be limited. He said a poll of 3,914 CFIB members conducted in early September indicated 19 per cent of respondents plan to use the new power.
A Visa spokesperson said the company is not in favour of surcharges, stating in an email, “We believe that the simplest, most economically efficient and consumer-friendly approach is for merchants not to impose surcharges on consumers for using their cards.”
Emilija Businskas, vice-president, communications for Mastercard in Canada, said the option to charge customers a surcharge will give merchants flexibility. On the broader issue of interchange fees, Mastercard “remains committed to building a strong, innovative payments system in Canada,” she said. “This includes our voluntary agreement with government which brings a thoughtful approach to the cost of acceptance for all.”
Mathieu Labrèche, a spokesperson for the Canadian Bankers Association, declined to comment for this story.
Christy McMullen, vice-president of Summerhill Market, estimates her family-run business spends about $1 million per year on fees to process credit card transactions.
It’s a big cost in the grocery business, which already operates on razor-thin profit margins, but as of next Thursday, the chain of four upscale Toronto grocery stores could choose to pass the “swipe” fees along to customers as a surcharge.
Does swiping your plastic (or metal) credit card sometimes seem more like you’re spending funny money than actual currency? It’s a normal feeling. And research confirms that people do in fact spend more money — often, substantially more money — when they make purchases on a credit card instead of using cash.
It makes sense. Cash is a tangible piece of paper with value attached to it. When you spend it, you have less of it in your wallet. You see this and process it. But with the widespread adoption of credit cards, mobile wallets and peer-to-peer payment systems like Venmo, transactions are less transparent.
Will that make you spend more? Here’s what the studies say, and how you can make sure you’re in control of your spending.
The psychology of credit card spending
It’s easy to convince yourself, without even knowing it, that you’re not spending “real” money when you charge on your credit card. And technically, that’s correct.
“In fact, you’re not really spending money — you’re borrowing money,” writes author and certified public accountant Michele Cagan in her book, “Debt 101.” “You know that you’ll have to pay the bill eventually, but the promise of small minimum payments can make purchases seem like bargains.” Unless you pay back the purchase immediately, you won’t feel the pain of the bill for basically a month.
Half the participants were told that they would have to pay cash for the tickets. The other half were told that they would be required to pay by credit card. Those who were told they would have to pay by credit card were willing to pay more than twice as much on average as those who were told that they would have to pay by cash. In other words, study participants were willing to pay a 100% premium for the opportunity to buy now and pay later.
Another often-cited study is one conducted by Dun & Bradstreet, in which the company found that people spend 12%-18% more when using credit cards instead of cash. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston recently found an even sharper disparity between cash and non-cash transactions. According to a 2016 report from the bank, the average value of a cash transaction was $22, compared with $112 for non-cash transactions — a 409% jump.
Older studies and real-world data points have also tended to support this general idea through the years:
A published paper from MIT economist Amy Finkelstein found that U.S. states with highway tolls would tend to increase that toll once they’d installed an automatic collection system, such as EZ-Pass. The study suggests that states realized they could charge more because consumers don’t “feel” the electronic transaction in the same way they would by parting with “real money.”
If you’ve ever shopped at Amazon at 2 a.m, you probably know this all too well. Since studies have shown that consumers are willing to spend more when they charge their purchases, it makes sense that credit cards are ripe for impulse purchases….To be continued..