Not all our book recommendations are about finance and frugality (in fact most of them won’t be), but we thought this a good time and a good series kick off our book recommendations. The Shopaholic books by Sophie Kinsella and published by Random House are among my favorite light reading matter, and I have actually read most of this series twice.
Because we mentioned learning to tune your piano as a way to save money, I will briefly introduce the topic in this post. For actual tuning instructions, theory, and technique, there are enough websites and manuals available that I think there is little point in repeating that information here (my favorite sources may he found at the end of this post). Instead I will offer some points for you to consider if you are thinking of attempting to tune your own piano. These are things I have learned from my own experience with piano tuning and the discovery of numerous unexpected benefits beyond the financial resulting from this one new skill.
Since this is a financial blog, it makes sense to address the money factor first. The average tuning will cost you about $80. And since most pianos require two tunings a year (due to the changing seasons) you pay your tuner $160 per year not including regulating and minor repairs—which you can also learn to do on your own.
Note: We are taking a short break from blogging this week and will be re-posting a few of our earlier articles that may not have been read by many of our current readers. If you have already read this article (and those few to come), we apologize for the repetition and assure you that we will have some new material for you soon. Thanks for reading!
Credits Cards Really Aren’t So Bad
(Re-Post: Original post date February 14, 2008)
In every online discussion I have seen about credit cards, there are always at least a few contributors whose only comments are “Credit cards are evil” or “No credit card is best”, etc. This post is mostly for those people.
For several years, we also believed that credit cards were bad, having been thus informed by our stepfather, a compulsive spender who is constantly in debt. But over the past few years, we have learned that credit cards are actually a good thing and provide many benefits and advantages:
- Building Credit History
If you plan on buying a car or house in future, chances are that you will need a loan, and if you have no credit history, it can be difficult to get a good interest rate on a loan. Interest rates make a huge difference in the amount you end up paying or saving. Credit cards, if used responsibly, are a good and easy way to build a good credit history, which can ultimately save you thousands of dollars.
- Tracking spending
Credit card statements provide an good way to track and analyze your spending habits. By charging all your purchases, you will have a printed statement of where every dollar has gone, a useful too for budgeting.
- Safer than carrying cash
If you carry a lot of cash and lose your wallet, you can usually assume that money gone forever. If you mostly use your credit card and carry very little cash though, all you have to do is call the credit card company as soon as you discover the loss and you won’t be liable for any unauthorized charges to the card.
- Backup for emergencies
Credit cards can be a backup source of funds for emergencies when you don’t have cash on hand. Though these should be true emergencies and not things like “fashion emergencies”.
And best of all, the reason we use our credit cards whenever and wherever we can:
- Credit cards can earn you money
Credit cards can “make” you money in 2 ways:
- There are many cards out there that earn you cash back or rewards. Some earn you as much as 5% cash back on grocery, drugstore and gas purchases. If you get a card with no annual fee (there are many out there), use it responsibly for regular purchases (not cash advances), and pay your balance in full every month, you can earn money without paying a cent to the credit card company. We have an American Express Blue Cash Credit Card that earned us over $300 cash back last year.
- In addition to the cash back, credit cards also earn you money by allowing you keep your money in the bank longer. Depending on your billing cycle, you can charge your purchases and bills to a credit card and your money can sit in the bank earning interest for up to 6 more weeks. For example, our propane bill was due on January 30, 2008. Our credit card billing cycle ends on the 28th of each month. If we charge our bill to our credit card on the Jan. 30, 2008, it goes on the new billing cycle which ends on February 28, 2008, and the due date for that billing cycle is in mid-March 2008. So the money for that propane bill that was due and paid on Jan. 30, 2008 won’t actually leave our bank account until 6 weeks later. That’s 6 extra weeks of interest on money that would have left your account immediately had you paid by cash or check.
These are just a few basic reasons we use and approve of credit cards. However, if you know that you won’t be able to control your spending, then perhaps it is better to not go this route. If you need advice on applying for credit cards, visit your bank or credit union and someone can usually recommend a good card for you and help you with the application.
Continue reading for tips on choosing the right card and a few tips for safe and responsible credit card use.