Sunday, February 24, 2013
Whether you consider yourself to be financially responsible, or you always seem to come up short on cash, there are a few key indicators that may indicate you are living beyond your means—and being aware of them can save you loads of money woes in times of a cash emergency.
You couldn’t live without your job’s income for at least six months.
Need some motivation to start saving? Sit down and add up how much money you make each month. Then, multiply that amount by six.
Assuming you have a stable job, that’s the minimum balance you should have stashed away in an interest bearing, FDIC insured deposit account that is earmarked solely for emergency needs, according to Henk Peters, Certified Financial Planner and president of Investus Financial Planning.
“Clients frequently underestimate life’s uncertainties and discount the need to have cash available for unexpected events like unemployment, illness, disabilities, and family emergencies,” he says.
If you have a less-than-stable career or you’re self-employed, he recommends saving as much as 12 months worth of income. If you don’t have anything near that amount saved, and worse, you’re in debt, you’re living beyond your means.
You vacation on credit.
You work hard and you’ve earned that vacation, right? Consider this financial rule of thumb when it comes to credit purchases: If it takes you longer to pay for the purchase than the actual “life span” of the item, you can’t really afford it.
Start a plan to save money for vacations well in advance of the time you’ll need to book tickets or make reservations—even if you intend to charge your trip for purchase protection reasons.
Make sure you pay the balance down before you’re charged a dime of interest and be realistic about all the “extras” that can add to the cost of a trip, like tips, parking, and baggage fees.
You only consider monthly payments when buying a car.
Aside from a home, a car is one of the most expensive items you’ll purchase in your life. While it’s understandable to focus on monthly payment amounts when determining how much car you can buy, your ability to afford a monthly auto loan payment doesn’t mean you can afford the car.
If you’re in doubt, consider the duration of the loan: If it’s longer than three years, and doesn’t result in owning the vehicle outright at the conclusion of the loan, you’re shopping out of your true budget.
The same premise holds true for auto loan refinancing: If you’re refinancing because interest rates have dropped considerably since you initiated the loan, that may be a money-smart move.
If you are refinancing only to lower your monthly payments, and refinancing means that you are extending the life of the loan, you’re not actually saving money — you’re just stretching out the payments.
You’ve arrived at the home you can afford based on a 30-year fixed mortgage.
If you’ve calculated the amount of home you can afford based only a 30-year fixed mortgage scenario, you may be taking on more than you can really afford.
Instead of strapping yourself to a 30-year fixed mortgage payment, consider how much more affordable less house with a shorter loan term is—despite the higher monthly payment.
By opting for a four percent, 15-year fixed mortgage on a $250,000 home loan over a comparable 30-year fixed loan, a homeowner could save $97,020 in interest over the life of the loan. Further, he owns the home in less than two decades.
You’ve paid an overdraft fee in the last 12 months.
If money is so tight that you have to rely on overdraft protection in order to float your lifestyle, you’re living beyond what you can afford. Period.
You’ve exceeded your credit limit.
Exceeding your credit limit doesn’t just cost you in over-limit fees.
Because your credit score is based largely on your debt-to-utilization ratio, which is the difference of the amount of available credit you have to what you’ve used, your credit score is lowered when your credit balances are high and it signals to lenders that you’re in over your head.
If you are approved for new lines of credit—including a home mortgage—your future interest rates will be sky high.
You’re in debt but you pay someone to do a job you could do yourself.
Are you too busy to clean your house, walk your dog, mow your lawn, or manicure your nails?
While some expenses, like childcare and vehicle maintenance are unavoidable, a person who is in debt can’t afford frivolous luxuries that (while unpleasant) could technically be handled “in house.”
Instead of paying someone else for skills you possess, do the task yourself and put the savings toward paying down debt, building your emergency savings accounts and funding your retirement.
If your thumb is even slightly green, a home garden can go a long way to cutting your grocery bills.
The National Gardening Association estimates you’ll get a half-pound of vegetables for each square foot in your garden, or roughly $600 in produce over the course of a season for the average 600-square-foot plot. Growing it all could take as little as $70, they estimate.
For a $50 annual investment in plants, Frugal Foodie’s terrace container garden provides a good amount of edibles from March until October, including spinach, peppers and tomatoes for salads, blueberries and snap peas for snacking and herbs for pesto, chimichurri, and fresh flavor in pretty much every other recipe.
What’s your best tip for gardening on the cheap? Here’s what home gardeners, chefs and other experts offered up:
Experiment with herbs.
If you grow nothing else, try a few pots of herbs like basil, dill, oregano, and parsley. They’re cheap, easy to grow, and produce plentiful yields. Plus, they work for a lot of recipes, say chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, co-owners of Arrows and MC Perkins Cove in Maine and Summer Winter in Burlington, Mass. “Thyme is a must for seasoning soups and meats,” they say. “Dill for salmon and pickling, and basil for Asian stir-fries and noodle soups.”
Not you, the plants. Home gardener Lisa Suhay heads to Starbucks for free nitrogen-rich grounds in lieu of expensive fertilizer. (Many other coffee shops will also offer gratis grounds if you ask.) “Just sprinkle on soil and let it percolate in,” she says.
Not only is it better for your health, but it’s also better for your wallet. “A small amount of dish soap in a spray bottle of water works on smaller bugs, while cheap beer in a small dish attracts and drowns slugs,” says Kate Forgach of FreeShipping.org.
Use a rain barrel.
Keeping a big container outdoors to collect rain for watering your garden can help reduce your summer water bill. To avoid mosquitoes, top the container with a screen.
Left unchecked, mint, strawberries, and other garden edibles can take over a yard. Kathie Lapcevik of “Two Frog Home” suggests checking — and posting on — message boards like Craigslist and Freecycle. “Most likely someone has some [plants] they’re willing to thin, as long as you’re willing to do the work,” she says. Such boards are also a great place to look for cheap or free gardening tools, and manure or compost.
Play to location.
You’ll have less success, if any, buying plants that prefer higher or lower temps, or more or less sun, than your yard is able to offer. “I live in Austin, Texas and the temperatures can go above 100 degrees for months straight and the soil here is only several inches deep with few nutrients,” James Krewson, founder of FindersCheapers.com. That means his winter garden of greens do really well, while cherry tomatoes, okra, and herbs are good summer picks.
You’ll get a bigger crop from some plants than from others. Dimitri Gatanas of “Urban Garden NYC” suggests cherry tomatoes and jalapenos as top producers, as well as mint, thyme, and basil. Gaier and Frasier like “cut and come again” plants that offer multiple harvests per planting, like mizuna, a spicy green.
Add a few perennials.
By definition, they’ll come back every year, negating your need to buy new seeds or plants. Frugal Foodie’s collard greens and mint both made it through the winter, which means she can invest less in her garden this spring.
“Water individual plants rather than the ground,” says home gardener, Myles Alexander. He reuses milk cartons, soda and water bottles, and other plastic containers. Bury an inch or two deep next to each plant. Fill with water for more direct delivery to the plants’ roots.
Start with seed.
It may be a little late for this year’s garden, but buying seeds instead of young plants is cheaper. “You pay roughly $1.50 for a packet of tomato seeds, 35 cents for each starter pot and anywhere from $5 up for starting [soil],” says Todd Heft of “Big Blog of Gardening.” He continues, “You can also figure in about $2 worth of plant food during the indoor growing.” That beats $4 or more for a single plant at farmer’s markets and garden stores.
Split seed packets with another gardener. The same goes for plant flats bought at the garden center — some centers will offer a bulk discount, or cheaper prices for buying a large flat or two.
Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Britain's deadly superdrone that picks its own targets but experts warn plane could mark the start of 'robot wars'
Set for take-off: Britain's deadly superdrone that picks its own targets but experts warn plane could mark the start of 'robot wars'
- Revolutionary superdrone could spearhead fight against terrorism in Africa
- Experts warned it raised nightmare of out-of-control robots waging war on humans
PUBLISHED: 23:59 GMT, 26 January 2013 | UPDATED: 09:39 GMT, 28 January 2013
It is named after the Celtic god of thunder, can fly faster than the speed of sound and evades enemy radar with its single-wing stealth design.
This is Taranis, Britain’s latest pilotless combat aircraft, which is even capable of selecting its own targets.
The revolutionary superdrone is due to make its maiden flight in the next few weeks and could spearhead the fight against terrorism in Africa.
Revolutionary: Taranis, Britain's latest pilotless combat aircraft, will make is maiden flight in the next few weeks
Military chiefs believe Taranis’s ground-breaking technology will allow a powerful new generation of drones equipped with deadly payloads to fly from British bases to attack targets worldwide.
But the new developments in pilotless aircraft are controversial as they allow the possibility of autonomous computers targeting and killing enemy combatants outside human control.
Experts even warned last night that the new technology raised the nightmare spectre of out-of-control robots waging war on humans – and called for a global ban on autonomous technology.
Britain’s armed drones are currently piloted remotely by aircrews on the ground. But Taranis will follow a set flightpath using on-board computers to perform manoeuvres, avoid threats and identify targets. Only when it needs to attack a target will it seek authorisation from a human controller.
Professor Noel Sharkey, a robotics engineer specialising in autonomous military systems at Sheffield University, said last night: ‘This is a very dangerous move. Once it has been developed, who knows what new governments who inherit the technology will do with it.’
Last week, Prime Minister David Cameron warned that the fight against terrorism in North Africa could last decades, meaning futuristic drones could dominate counter-terrorism strategy in the region.
Military technology: A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone takes off from Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan. A proliferation in mainly US military technology has sparked a drone arms race
The controversy surrounding their use was highlighted last week when the United Nations launched an investigation into the deaths caused by conventional drone attacks.
British Forces currently operate armed drones only in Afghanistan, where they target Taliban insurgents. However, a proliferation in mainly US military technology has sparked a drone arms race. To compete, the UK Government has committed itself to a new generation of pilotless aircraft which can fly distances of more than 2,000 miles.
A defence source said that Taranis’s long-anticipated maiden test flight has been delayed by technological setbacks as well as UK aviation safety laws which restrict the flight of drones in this country.
But the source added that the aircraft, which weighs eight tons and is about the size of an RAF Hawk jet, will make its first flight in Australia in the next few weeks, where its progress will be closely monitored by Ministry of Defence chiefs.
Prof Sharkey said: ‘Taranis is a concept prototype – so it is really the beta version of an intercontinental attack plane. With the proliferation of pilotless combat aircraft that is certainly going to happen, it wasn’t going to be long before the person was taken out of the loop.
Competition: A US K-MAX pilotless freight helicopter in Helmand province in Afghanistan. To compete, the UK Government has committed itself to a new generation of pilotless aircraft
‘It would be very difficult for a human to keep control of teams of these moving at such speed. It could put ours at a disadvantage to others that did not have a human supervisor. This is why we need a global ban on autonomous drones before proliferation begins in earnest.’
But the MoD says the programme is designed so that a human will make the final decision on the firing of weapons and that as a ‘demonstrator’ it was far too early to say what role Taranis would have in future combat missions.
The superdrone, manufactured by BAE, is the product of a 2006 MoD decision to develop and fly an uncrewed aircraft that goes one better than current US systems by using a customised Rolls-Royce jet engine rather than a propeller.
When its sleek design was first unveiled in 2010 at an airfield in Warton, Lancashire, it was accompanied by boasts from its designers that Taranis could strike at the heart of Britain’s enemies without risking British lives.
BAE chiefs said Taranis would be an ‘autonomous stealthy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle [UCAV] ultimately capable of precisely striking targets at long range, even in another continent’.
An MoD spokesman said: ‘Taranis is a trailblazing project that reflects the very best of our nation’s advanced design and technology skills and is a leading programme on the global stage.
‘Unmanned Air Vehicles play an important role in operations, helping reduce the risks faced by military personnel on the front line.
‘Forthcoming Taranis trials will provide further information about the potential capabilities of Unmanned Combat Air Systems.’
A spokesman for BAE said: ‘Taranis is a joint BAE-MoD programme and we are not at liberty to confirm any details of the forthcoming flight, including the location, timing or who may be present.=================================================================
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2268909/Taranis-Britains-deadly-superdrone-picks-targets.html#ixzz2LiI1sv5E
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