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adminMarch 22, 2018


Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council will no longer have a managing director as the post is being axed in a bid to save cash.

That is the news that has emerged from the behind-closed-doors meeting at the Town Hall last night, which the press and public were banned from attending.

Alan Franks, the current managing director, will leave in June and his post will then be made redundant.

Instead, Simone Hines, who is currently the director of finance and procurement, and Brent Davis, the current director for assets and street services, will become ‘executive directors’.

Alan Franks
Alan Franks, the council’s current managing director, will leave in June after 25 years at the Town Hall.

One of them will oversee operations and serve as Head of Paid Service, the other will have primary responsibility for resources and will also serve as the council’s section 151 officer. They will also oversee four directors.

It is understood that the ‘restructure of the management team’ changes will save the cash-strapped council £45,000.

£1 million savings

Speaking after the meeting, councillor Dennis Harvey, leader of the council, explained that they were forced to make the changes due to cuts in its budget.

“We have had to find over £1m of savings and the restructure of our senior management team contributes towards this,” Cllr Harvey said.

“Tonight we have given careful consideration to the proposals put forward and agreed a new leaner structure that achieves the savings required and safeguards the efficient, effective delivery of services for our residents.

“Such decisions are always hard and making redundancies remains a last resort; however, I am confident that our new management structure remains robust and puts the council in the best position going forward as it tackles the new challenges facing the public sector.”

Major management changes are being made at the Town Hall – the managing director’s post is being axed to save cash.

Alan Franks joined the council back in 1993 as assistant chief contract services manager.

Then, in 2012, he was promoted to managing director and has held that position up until now.

He will officially leave his post in June.

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adminMarch 22, 2018


Below a Berlin street, behind a succession of thick steel doors, lies a storage room the size of a basketball court. Here, at the German Historical Museum, is a bewildering selection of treasure: Soviet-era busts and sculptures, a black iron trolley from the 1920s, a wooden box marked with the beguiling inscription “Napoleon’s hat”.

Every object here could tell a fascinating story, but what I’ve come to see I hope will tell me something about a German obsession. Robert Muschalla, a curator at the museum, walks me to a metal shelf at the back of the room stuffed with piggy banks and money boxes. The oldest is almost 400 years old but most date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As Muschalla, a 43-year-old economic historian, lifts them up with white-gloved hands, I notice how many of them are decorated with images of a beehive, that ancient symbol of order and prudence. Another thing jumps out: most of these everyday objects are engraved with rhymes and epigrams that point to a purpose far beyond the humble collection of coins and notes. “The fate of the nation rests only in our own strength [Nur in der eigenen Kraft ruht das Schicksal der Nation],” declares one. “Add to the wealth of the German people [Vermehre den Reichtum des deutschen Volkes],” says another.

I have come to the museum to answer a question that has vexed me, and much of the world, for many years: why is saving so important to Germans? It is a question that has exasperated policymakers in Washington and traumatised pensioners in Athens. During the years of the eurozone crisis, complaints over German austerity and German surpluses became commonplace. Governments across southern Europe were forced to impose harsh budget cuts in a frantic bid to bring their wayward deficits into line, and fend off the hounds of the global bond market. The economic picture was as dire as it was complex, but on the street the finger of blame often simply pointed north: to those tight-fisted Germans and their cruel obsession with fiscal discipline and budget austerity.

Most Germans would reject that accusation, but the notion that austerity — whether in private or in government — is something specifically German is widely shared here as well. It is a country that takes pride in the solidity of its public finances, in balanced budgets and high savings rates, in the fact that society as a whole knows how to delay gratification, tighten its belt and wait for jam tomorrow. More often than not, the habit is acquired young. Growing up in Germany, I opened my first savings account when I was eight, and still remember the dog-eared little blue booklet tracking my modest riches. I also remember the countless proverbs and rhymes, urging me to “honour the Pfennig” and to “save in time”.

‘The nest egg’ (1877), by Wilhelm Leibl © Von der Heydt Museum

Austerity is an integral part of the image that Germans have of themselves — and a characteristic they feel sets them apart from other nations. There is also a deeply ingrained conviction that saving money and avoiding debt is not just a prudent approach to managing your income but a sign of something deeper: “Saving is seen as the morally right thing to do. It is more than a simple financial strategy,” says Kai Uwe Peter, the managing director of the Berliner Sparkasse, a savings bank that boasts some 2m clients in the capital.

How it came to be like this is the theme of a new exhibition at the German Historical Museum that opens this weekend (and which will include the pieces I am looking at in the storage room). It is called Saving — History of a German Virtue, and brings together a wealth of objects, paintings, posters and documents that trace the history of saving in Germany from the late Enlightenment to the eurozone crisis. “We want to examine how saving became something that was seen — above all in Germany itself — as something specifically German,” Muschalla says.

Saving is seen as the morally right thing to do. It is more than a simple financial strategy

German households save about 10 per cent of their disposable income, twice as much as the average EU or American. (In the UK, the savings rate was actually negative in 2016.) What’s more, the German savings rate is remarkably stable over time, unaffected by economic crises and interest rate changes. Home ownership, by contrast, is low by international standards. That helps explain why Germans tend to look at economic events exclusively from the perspective of the saver: when the European Central Bank keeps interest rates low, the tabloid press howls that Germany’s savers are being robbed. What low interest rates mean for home buyers, borrowers, investors, companies and the wider economy seems almost an afterthought.

According to Harold James, the economic historian and Princeton professor, the German commitment to saving reflects demographic, historical and even psychological currents: “The Germans are much more worried than the Americans, for example. They think they need to prepare for every eventuality, that bad things can hit them and that they need to be ready for that,” he says. James is also convinced that religion plays a role: “There is a Protestant tradition of saving and restraint. Virtuous behaviour means renunciation of present satisfaction.”

The Berlin exhibition makes the case that Germans’ commitment to saving goes even deeper than private morality. Far from being a purely individual pursuit, saving is seen as an activity that serves a collective — and, indeed, national — purpose. It is a link that is made explicit on the back of that money box in the Berlin vault: the fate of the nation rests only in our strength — our strength and willingness to keep on dropping coins into metal boxes.

The world’s first savings bank was founded in Hamburg in 1778. Inspired by Enlightenment ideas of social progress, the institution was seen initially as a tool to help the plight of the urban poor. By saving small bits of their pitiful earnings, they might one day be in a position to pay for the education of their children, and to soften the financial blow of old age and illness. That motivation, however, would soon be replaced by something altogether different.

“In the second half of the 19th century, saving becomes increasingly linked to the national idea,” Muschalla explains. “That is when you see the rise of a savings movement that calls on schools to teach saving to children and that introduces special school savings banks. This is also when you see an explosion in saving accounts all over Germany. At this point, saving is no longer a tool for fighting poverty. Saving starts to be seen as a service to the nation.”

The numbers are striking: in 1850, there were a mere 278,000 savings accounts in the entire kingdom of Prussia. By 1875, their number had soared to 2.21m. Another 25 years later, and Prussia boasted more than 8.67m savings accounts. At least a quarter of the population were officially savers. The surge reflected in part the country’s rising prosperity. But it was also the product of a deliberate strategy to avoid social conflict and keep the forces of socialism at bay. The savings deposit was seen as “a dam against communist temptations and revolutionary thought, which can arise in those who have nothing to lose”, according to an 1865 account cited in the exhibition.

Savings automat for school students, Berlin, around 1910 © German Historical Museum

The surge coincided, of course, with the final stages in Germany’s long struggle to overcome its own political divisions, culminating in the Prussian-led unification of 1871. Germany became a nation of savers at the same time as it became a nation. The two developments were linked, moreover, in a very tangible sense: the new Sparkassen, or local savings banks, hoovered up private savings, and made them available to municipalities to fund canals and roads, electricity and gas works, as well as schools, theatres and public parks. The new Germany was built, at least in part, on the back of the deposits piling up in a fast-growing network of Sparkassen branches across the country.

The notion of personal savings as a “service to the nation” became more explicit still during the first world war, when Germans were encouraged by way of a massive propaganda operation to invest their savings in war bonds. A poster from 1917 shows multicoloured banknotes dropping into a soldier’s steel helmet. The slogan reads simply: “The best savings bank: war bonds!”

Germans followed the call in their millions, only to see their holdings eroded, and eventually wiped out, by galloping inflation. This process would reach its apotheosis in the notorious 1923 hyperinflation — the ultimate trauma of the German saver, and one that seems to haunt the nation even a century later. “There is a mythical memory of Weimar as the moment in German history where — as a result of hyperinflation — the German saver and German society were plunged into crisis. That is an image that lives on even though it is, to say the least, controversial,” says Raphael Gross, president of the German Historical Museum. The economic event that helped sink Weimar was the 1929 depression, he argues, not the hyperinflation of 1923.

The German city of Kassel lies a three-hour train journey west from Berlin, in the prosperous federal state of Hesse. It is best known as the venue for the Documenta, a provocative contemporary arts festival held every five years. The man I have come to see embodies a more sober local tradition. Hans Eichel, 76, is something of an archetype of the German finance minister — frugal, disciplined, uncompromising. It is a job, he tells me, that requires only a very small vocabulary: “You mainly just have to say no.” The veteran Social Democrat held the post from 1999 to 2005, and is still best remembered for his nickname: the Sparkommissar, the savings commissar.

He earned the title shortly after coming into office, when — confronted with a gaping budget deficit — he decided to slash spending by some €15bn in one fell swoop. Over coffee in his luminous apartment overlooking an old people’s home, Eichel tells me that he cut every single budget position that was moveable by 7.5 per cent. Bild, the tabloid, hailed his exploits with the admiring headline: “Er rasiert uns alle!” — he shaves us all!

The surprising thing was not so much that he pushed through a mammoth austerity package, but that voters loved him for it. “There were some complaints and demonstrations, but it was popular,” Eichel recalls with a smile. “It was so popular that in the next election campaign I was invited everywhere to speak at rallies. I just went and explained fiscal policy to people. It was easy.”

The episode set a template for future office-holders: German finance ministers earn the admiration and support of voters not by promising tax cuts and spending increases, but by proving their commitment to fiscal discipline. (The holy grail for German finance ministers is the Schwarze Null — literally the “black zero” — meaning a balanced budget or small surplus. Wolfgang Schäuble, the man who delivered the first Schwarze Null in decades, was loathed across much of southern Europe. In Germany, he left office last year as the most popular member of the government.)

Eichel decided to make the most of his reputation. When an admiring voter approached him with a piggy bank as a gift, the minister displayed it on his desk. This, too, went down well with Germans, who started sending him piggy banks from across the country. He even received a bright red specimen from a visiting Chinese delegation.

Looking back, Eichel wonders whether he might have overdone it. He is critical of Germany’s stance during the eurozone crisis, defends the policies championed by ECB president Mario Draghi, and believes that his successors in the finance ministry have under-invested. “There is no point in having a debt-free state,” he tells me. “If you save money by avoiding necessary investment, for example in education, you are also leaving debts to the future generation.”

If Eichel embodies the thoughtful approach to Teutonic austerity, the exhibition in Berlin has plenty of items that illustrate the dark excesses of Germany’s savings culture. One is a political campaign flyer from 1930 denouncing the “robbery of the German saver”. It attacks the economic and fiscal policies of Weimar Germany, and is quick to point the finger of blame at “the Jew, the speculator, banks and financial capital” who have “triumphed over German labour”. The solution is presented on the reverse page: “That is why you have to come to Adolf Hitler. Vote List 9.”

Three years later, Hitler and the Nazis would be in power, and test the idea of saving as a service to the nation to the limits and beyond. For the Nazis, saving was the authentic Germanic way of dealing with money. “The saver was seen as hard-working and virtuous, as a person who follows the correct path. At the opposite end of the spectrum was the person who is active in the stock market, the speculator, the gambler,” says Gross.

Louis Oppenheim, Poster for subscription to the eighth war bonds issue of the Reichsbank, 1917/18 © German Historical Museum

Where saving was once seen as a bulwark against revolution and a way to finance Germany’s industrial rise, it was now twisted into the service of the regime’s anti-Semitic ideology, and into a tool to ready the nation for war. As explained in the exhibition, special school savings banks, which first surfaced in the late 19th century, became ubiquitous: by 1938, more than a third of all school children were saving money through these institutions, equivalent to 3.5m individual accounts. They were encouraged through intense propaganda, including the blunt appeal: “Your saving helps the Führer!”

Down in the storage room, Muschalla shows me a Nazi-era piggy bank issued by the Berliner Sparkasse that sums up the “triad” of values espoused by the regime. There are three images: one shows workers bashing metal with smokestacks in the background, another shows a Wehrmacht soldier standing guard in front of the Brandenburg Gate, the third depicts a family putting coins into a savings box. Each is set above a single word: Work. Order. Saving.

Despite the unprecedented death and destruction around them, Germans kept on saving until the bitter end. By September 1944, the last date for which statistics are available, German savers had hoarded 97bn Reichsmark, 68bn more than at the start of the war, and seven times more than at the time when Hitler came to power.

However, just like in the aftermath of the first world war, those savings would be wiped out almost entirely by inflation, followed by the currency reform and the introduction of the Deutschemark. And, as before, the experience would not discourage Germans from saving once again. On the contrary: between 1950 and 1960, savings deposits increased tenfold. It seems paradoxical. But for Muschalla, the fact that German savers twice lost their savings, and twice started saving again right away, holds an important message: “This shows that saving was never only an economic strategy. It was something habitual.”

That remains true today. Germans continue to save, and they continue to fret that their savings might be hurt — by inflation, by low interest rates, by the murky machinations of European central bankers and politicians. They continue to regard stock markets with disdain, and still put their faith in the good old-fashioned Sparkasse. German savings banks continue to control 37 per cent of all deposits.

German children are no longer subjected to the kind of overt propaganda that was the hallmark of earlier periods. But when my six-year-old returned from his first day at a Berlin junior school, he was clutching a bright red folder from the local Sparkasse filled with play money. German savings banks are legally mandated to encourage and promote saving, and they waste no time in doing so, with the support of local school authorities.

How all this plays into German politics today is not easy to say. Officials in Berlin had a hundred reasons to defend their stance during the eurozone crisis, and they will have a hundred more in the debates yet to come, including on the controversial call to establish a pan-European insurance for savings deposits. They will speak of moral hazard and free riders, of bad loan ratios and the need to enhance competitiveness. But as you run your finger down the long list of exhibits on show in Berlin — all those appeals and pamphlets, those rust-stained money boxes and faded posters — it is clear the roots of German austerity go very deep indeed. Persuading a government to change its fiscal policy is hard enough. Convincing a nation to abandon its idea of virtue is harder still.

Tobias Buck is the FT’s Berlin correspondent

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adminMarch 21, 2018


It may not feel like it quite yet, but summer vacations are around the corner!

Brian Kelly, CEO and founder of the Points Guy, stopped by Megyn Kelly TODAY to help navigate how to get the best savings when planning trips.

1. Keep track of your awards points

Can’t remember your frequent flyer numbers? You’re not alone. Fortunately, you can use AwardWallet to not only store all that info in one place, but to even track all your mileage balances at nearly every airline and hotel in the world. The site has both desktop and app versions and will automatically email you if you’re approaching the expiration date on miles in an account so you can make sure to use them before you lose them.

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‘Points guy’ Brian Kelly reveals ways to save money on your summer trips

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‘Points guy’ Brian Kelly reveals ways to save money on your summer trips

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2. Know when to book your trips

Airfare prices go up and down and can change in days or hours. Which is why the Hopper app is so useful. It not only searches for current airfares but it uses historical price data to predict whether the price of a flight is likely to go up or down in the near future. Search for a specific flight and the app will tell you whether to book now or wait — then if you decide to wait, the app will send you a notification if/when the price falls and Hopper believe it’s a good time to buy.

3. Use the right credit cards

Not all credit cards are created equal! When saving miles lots of people assume that it makes sense to save miles with an airline specific credit card. However if you don’t fly on one particular airline regularly, you may be better off getting a credit card that earns flexible bank points instead of a specific airline’s miles.

Flexible points — which are issued by banks such as Chase, American Express and Citibank — can be used not only like cash to book trips directly, but can also be transferred into the frequent flyer programs of many different airlines at your discretion, giving you not just one choice for free flights, but many different options.

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‘Points guy’ Brian Kelly reveals how to get a better seat on a plane

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‘Points guy’ Brian Kelly reveals how to get a better seat on a plane

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4. Understand how to get a hotel upgrade

As with most things in life, the simplest way to get something is to ask for it. And the earlier the better. For instance, if you’re staying at a hotel to celebrate your wedding anniversary, mentioning it at the front desk when you check in and asking for a complimentary upgrade might work.

But you’ll have a much better chance at success if you contact the hotel manager a week or two ahead of time by email and let him or her know you’re looking forward to staying at their hotel for this special occasion and might an upgrade be available? You can usually find the hotel manager’s email with a search of the hotel’s website, or by just calling the hotel and asking. And if you have a special request, call the hotel directly, as opposed to the 1-800 phone number, which usually connects to the corporate office.

5. Get the best hotel room rates

Book with a hotel directly and most of the major hotels will offer a best rate guarantee. This allows travelers to compare and contrast the cost of your room almost up until your check-in date. Hotels will often even offer additional incentives, such as certificates, freebies and more for successfully completing a best rate guarantee submission. So keep an eye on the cost of your stay, even after you book

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Here are 4 amazing last-minute spring break destinations

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Here are 4 amazing last-minute spring break destinations

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6. Sign up for hotel rewards points

It’s always worth signing up, because with some chains you’ll get immediate free perks, such as free in-room internet. And, if you save points, they can sometimes be used to get free upgrades after you’ve paid cash for the room. Also make sure to take advantage of rewards programs offered by online travel sites!

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adminMarch 21, 2018


With Babies R Us locations closing as part of the Toys R Us liquidation, buybuy BABY is about to become a whole lot more important to new moms and dads!

While Walmart, Target and Amazon will pick up some of the slack, new parents who want to be able to kick the tires a little bit on a big purchase before making it will have to turn to buybuy BABY.

It’s one of the few remaining retailers that’s dedicated exclusively to baby gear, clothing and supplies.

You may not realize it, but buybuy BABY is owned by the same company that owns Bed Bath & Beyond, Christmas Tree Shops and Cost Plus World Market, among others.

Here’s how you can save money shopping for all of baby’s needs.

1. Check the maternity clothes clearance rack

Each buybuy BABY  has a section with maternity clothes for pregnant moms. The clothes are presented in neat rows with nary an article of clothing out of place.

That’s why your eye will probably go to the racks on the floor with a variety of mismatched clothes. They stand out in the otherwise immaculate presentation.

And this is where you’ll find the real bargains!

Look for the yellow tags with the “was/is” pricing. We found one deal on a teal top marked down from $19.97 to $14.97.

There’s a toddlers’ clearance rack, too!

2. Get a discount on a floor display model

At some stores, you have to haggle to get a discount on a floor model.

Not at buybuy BABY.

We found an infant car seat and base that was originally priced at $349.99. It had been marked down to $279.99 and was clearly marked as “display” on the tag so there was no question about why it was being discounted.

In a similar vein, you can score a deal on items that are the last remaining one from their original shipment:

3. Don’t forget about price matching

Like a lot of retailers, buybuy BABY lets you comparison shop on your smartphone and they’ll match a better price on the same merchandise.

Don’t overlook this simple, yet effective, way to score a deal!

4. Look for one-off sale items

Some items will be marked as “This one only!” and feature a steep discount.

This stroller was marked down from $399.99 to $319.99. When it didn’t sell at that price, the cost was lowered again to $255.99.

One caveat: Be sure to inspect the items carefully to understand why they were marked down.

If it’s just cosmetic damage and you can live with it, that’s fine. But if the damage is more extensive, you’ll probably want to avoid these markdowns.

When in doubt, ask an associate.

5. Unboxed or open box items can offer a real deal

Items that get damaged in transit may wind up out on the floor at a discount.

This stroller was originally priced at $299.99, but had been marked down to $269.99.

The label clearly indicated that is was new, not used, and only lacked the box it originally came in.

6. Look for half-price BOGO offers

While they were few and far between when we visited, offers of “buy one, get one 50% off” can occasionally be found at buybuy BABY.

We saw this deal on Halo sleepsacks and sleepsack swaddles for newborns.

7. Learn the discount color codes

Every store has a clearance section, but buybuy BABY takes it one step further with different color tags to indicate different levels of discount within the clearance section.

Orange means 75% off

Red means 50% off

Green means 25% off

8. Sign up for the email and mailing list for coupons

Both digital and paper coupons are available to subscribers. The two can be easily integrated at the My Offer tab on the retailer’s website.

9. buybuy BABY accepts coupons from competitors

Don’t leave that final Babies R Us circular at home!

If it has a coupon, bring it over and buybuy BABY will honor it on the same merchandise.

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adminMarch 21, 2018


Is carpet set for a comeback? Carpet and underlay can reduce energy bills by around £500 over 10 years, research shows.

Following the undeniable popularity that wood and laminate flooring has enjoyed in recent years, news of the energy-saving benefits of carpet is luring back many money-conscious homeowners.

Image credit: Brintons

Despite the sleek aesthetic achieved by wooden floors, the bare boards can feel cold and hard under foot, and rugs provide little warmth or protection. Families that once opted for fashionable reclaimed parquet and hard wood are now returning to the soft and warm feel of luxurious carpet.

But although the word luxurious may bring to mind high prices, research suggests this perception is far off the mark. In reality, the initial cost of a good-quality carpet can be recouped over its lifetime through considerable energy savings.

Related: This household eyesore is devaluing homes by £5000! Can you guess what it is?

Is your money slipping through the floorboards?

According to the National Energy Foundation, the average British home loses 10% of its heat through uninsulated floors. A good-quality carpet, in combination with underlay, can provide sufficient insulation to prevent 15 times as much heat escaping as the same thickness of standard fibreglass floor insulation.

Carpet traps air within its fibres, making it a natural insulator. An average carpet carries an R-value — the measure of resistance to heat flow through a material — of around 0.18 per cm. When an energy-efficient underlay such as bonded urethane is added, the combined R-value increases to around 2.27 per cm; fibreglass insulation is rated at 0.22 per cm.

carpet heating bills

Homeowners can start to realise the energy-saving benefits of carpet from the moment it is fitted. The average household can expect to see energy savings of more than £500 over 10 years. Those savings are the equivalent of a high-end king size bed or a brand new 50in television.

‘The trick to ensuring a carpet provides as much insulation as possible is to combine it with the right underlay for your needs. This will increase the overall ‘R-value’ of the flooring and help to prolong the life of the carpet itself,’ says Richard Sim, digital manager at United Carpets and Beds.

Related: Revealed – where to live if you want lower household bills

Softness is still important

Many homeowners are still largely unaware of the energy-saving benefits of carpets. A recent survey from United Carpets and Beds asked the public what people looked for in a carpet. Over a third of respondents said that carpet softness appealed to them the most. However, only one in five gave any consideration to the additional warmth that carpets provide.

carpet heating bills

At a time when many of us are conscious of making not just financial savings but more energy-efficient decisions, it’s not surprising that carpet looks set for a comeback. Even when used in selected rooms only, the reduction you’ll see on your household bills will make the return to a softer floor worth your while.

Will you be re-evaluating the carpets in your home?

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adminMarch 21, 2018



Text by Lavanya Mohan

Let me begin with a confession – I enjoy travel only when it’s comfortable. I like leg space, I  want to sit down for meals, and I shop. This makes holidaying a rather expensive pursuit for me and my modest paycheck but nevertheless, I manage to sneak in a vacation every year, thanks to a little patience and a lot of financial prudence. If you find yourself scrolling down social media wondering how people afford their holidays, here are some tried-and-tested money hacks that can help make your dream vacation a reality!

Start a recurring deposit account – A recurring deposit account is a type of bank account where you can set aside a specific sum of money every month. It can be as low as Rs. 100/- or as high as Rs. 1,00,000/-. You can hold a recurring deposit account for a year, after which the money will be sent back to your savings bank account along with interest. The reason I prefer starting Recurring Deposit accounts whenever a vacation beckons or is in the offing is because it allows me to save up a substantial amount of money without too much effort. To conjure Rs. 2,00,000/- out of the blue for a holiday might be hard for someone on a salary, but if you’ve been setting aside Rs.20,000/- a month, you’ll have that and more by the end of just one year. A Recurring Deposit account is also an easy way to create a vacation fund for your family, so if you’ve got a holiday on your mind, it’s time to open your own RD!

Spend after you save, not the other way around – Saving, much like dieting, requires discipline. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told myself, at the beginning of a month, that I’d save a certain amount of money, only to find myself, at the end of the month, wondering where my salary vanished. This was because I had postponed the act of saving right to the end and jeopardized my vacation fund by succumbing to sales and other expensive distractions. Thankfully, I soon wised up and made saving the first item on my list and that ensured that my dream holidays were always within reach.

Keep your eyes on the prize – Modern e-commerce is designed to make you fall prey to temptation. Even if you’re only window shopping, the items that you were browsing through will pursue you doggedly, making appearances on every other website that you visit until you cave. While I don’t know how to make those damned ads stop appearing, I can tell you that it’s entirely possible to resist temptation by thinking about the fabulous holiday you can take tomorrow, instead of buying another dress (that you don’t need), today. Every time I was tempted to push the check-out button, I took a minute to google photos of my holiday destination and that really made a tremendous difference in boosting my self-control.

Are you using the right credit card? – If you’re the kind who uses your credit card regularly, consider swapping your current credit card for one that offers deals on travel. My previous credit card, for example, was a regular credit card that didn’t have a specialised rewards programme. I swapped it for one that let me convert my credit card points into airline miles. Although it wasn’t enough for international flights, it helped me save on purchasing domestic tickets.

Be a smart cookie – Travel websites and booking websites utilise your browsing history and sneakily increase prices when they know that you’ve been checking ticket and accommodation prices for a specific location regularly. So, when it comes to making the final decision on tickets or even just for price comparison, delete cookies from your browser or look up prices in incognito mode.

Think beyond hotels – Good hotels, especially in Europe, can get really expensive. The good news is that we live in the age of Airbnb! Instead of searching for hotels, look through Airbnb listings where you can rent an apartment (or if you’re feeling really strapped for cash, you can even take a private room) in the city you’re going to holiday in. My husband and I rented out apartments instead of hotels during all our trips to Europe and it worked out both cheaper and more convenient than a hotel room.

Don’t carry cash – Europe is well known for its scenery…and its pickpockets. Converting your money into cash might seem like the easy thing to do when you’re here, but carrying wads of notes in Europe, especially in popular tourist destinations like Rome, Venice, Barcelona and Paris can be really stressful because you have to constantly keep an eye on your wallet. So, instead of carrying cash, purchase a Forex cash card from your bank. The card works like an international ATM card and you can load more money directly from your Indian bank account if you want to. It requires a PIN for every transaction, which means that it’s not easy to misuse if it gets stolen and can also be blocked easily. International debit and credit cards will also work in most places, but remember that every transaction that you make in foreign currency will attract a charge, whereas there are no such charges with a Forex Cash Card.

Don’t forget your VAT refund – Thailand, the United Kingdom and pretty much every country in the European Union offers VAT refunds for international shoppers. You become eligible for a VAT refund only when you spend a certain amount (say, €150) in a single store. After you bill, you need to ask for a VAT form, which you have to fill out and get stamped in-store. You can claim your refund at the airport in cash or get it transferred to your credit card. I’d recommend going to the airport early and getting it in cash so you can either exchange it for local currency or if you’re like me, use it to indulge in some duty-free shopping!

Channel your paycheck wisely and it won’t be long before you become a jet-setter!

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adminMarch 20, 2018


Eastern Michigan University, facing steep budget shortfalls, will drop four of its sports program at the end of this school year, the Ypsilanti school announced today.

Getting cut are softball, men’s swimming and diving, women’s tennis and wrestling. With the change EMU, which previously led the MAC with 21 sports, will now have 17 sports — seven men’s sports and 10 women’s sports. The school will remain in the Mid-American Conference.

The move affects 58 male student-athletes and 25 female student-athletes, and once realized an expense reduction of approximately $2.4 million.

The head coaches of the four programs being cut were told about the move in individual meetings Monday night with EMU athletic director Scott Wetherbee. Assistant coaches were told during a 7 a.m. meeting this morning. Athletes were told during a 7:30 a.m. meeting this morning with Wetherbee and Eastern Michigan President James Smith.

Eight full-time coaches, one graduate assistant and one part-time assistant coach will see their positions eliminated.

Those meeting were hard, Wetherbee said, choking back tears during a press conference this morning.

“Standing in front of them was not easy. It’s very raw right now,” Wetherbee said.

Wetherbee said the moves were being announced now in order to give students time to find new schools. He said the school would continue to honor scholarships for those students who stay at EMU until they graduate.

It’s a situation Wetherbee understands well. He went to Ferris State University on a partial baseball scholarship. In October of his freshman year, Ferris cut the baseball program. Because the cut was announced so soon, Wetherbee was able to transfer quickly to Ball State University, an experience that played heavily into his decision to announce the cuts now and not at the end of the school year.

The move was dictated by the overall finances of the university, which have been slumping.

I feel handcuffed,” Wetherbee, who was hired eight months ago to replace Heather Lyke, who left EMU to become the athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh. “I walked into a terrible situation. I knew budget was bad. Didn’t know how bad it was. Thought I could come in a conquering hero and generate revenue so we didn’t have to do this. This should have been done a long time ago, but I’ll own it now. Would I have come here if I knew I’d be sitting here 8 months later? I don’t really know.”

School officials said the move had to be made.

“We are very saddened by having to make this move, which is necessary as we continue to align the University budget with enrollment and state funding trends,” said  Smith in a press release. “This aligns us with our Mid-American Conference peers in total number of sports, and is part of our ongoing effort to realign resources to ensure that we continue to invest in high-demand high-quality academic programs and world-class facilities.”

The moves come as EMU eliminates other positions in order to make up a projected budget deficit of $4.5 million to $5.5 million for the 2018 fiscal year. Forty-two other positions are being eliminated and 17 layoffs are being made.

More: Judge orders U-M to tell Free Press how it pays top endowment official

More: Lawsuit: Wayne State decertified Christian student group because of beliefs

The moves don’t touch the football program, which continues to be controversial, with many faculty hoping to see spending on the program cut. Those calls for cuts in football have gone on for years, but there also was a renewed debate about athletics at Eastern Michigan in the past couple of years, including an HBO Real Sports segment on athletic department spending that was critical of Eastern Michigan.

A number of faculty and students have called for the university to drop out of Division I football — either completely dropping the program  or moving down in division, which would decrease the cost. In recent years, Eastern Michigan, with about 21,000 students, has spent more than $27 million a year from the university’s general fund on sports.

Many of the issues with Eastern Michigan’s spending have centered on football, which has had poor performance and low attendance for years.

Wetherbee defended not touching football, saying he was directed by the board and president to stay in the Mid-American Conference and to stay in the top tier of football competition.

Division I Football Bowl Subdivision requires schools to sponsor a minimum of 16 sports and the Mid-American Conference requires member universities to sponsor football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and women’s volleyball.

Contact David Jesse: 313-222-8851 or Follow him on Twitter: @reporterdavidj

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adminMarch 20, 2018


Whether you’re a daily commuter, an occasional day-tripper or have friends visiting from out of town, everyone can save money when you go into New York City on Metro-North by following these tips:


Ask your employer to subscribe to this great service, which allows workers to buy up to $260 per month in transit using pre-tax dollars. If you’re in the upper tax brackets, that’s a huge savings. A recent survey shows that 45 percent of all New York City companies offer TransitChek, which can be used on trains, subways and even ferries.

Go off-peak

If your train arrives at Grand Central weekdays after 10 a.m. and you can avoid the 4 to 8 p.m. peak return hours, you can save 25 percent. Off-peak fares are also in effect on weekends and holidays. Your train may also be less crowded. These tickets are good for 60 days after purchase.

Buy tickets in advance

More Information

Join the conversation

Use #GettingThereCT to chime in on Facebook and Twitter.

Buy your ticket on the train and you’ll pay the conductor a $5.75 to $6.50 “service charge” — a mistake you’ll make only once. Seniors: don’t worry, you’re exempt and can buy on-board anytime without penalty. There are ticket machines at most stations, but it’s even more convenient to purchase tickets online using the new e-Tix app. Go for the 10-trip tickets (off-peak will save an additional 15 percent). They can be shared among family members and friends and are good for six months.

Kids, family and senior fares

Buy tickets for your kids (ages 5 to 11) in advance and save 50 percent over adult fares. Or pay $1 per kid on board (up to four kids traveling with an adult, but not during morning peak hours).

Seniors, the disabled and those on Medicare receive 50 percent off the one-way peak fare. But you must have proper ID and you don’t get the discount during the morning rush hours.

Free station parking

Even train stations that require local parking permits usually offer free parking after 5 p.m. on nights and weekends. Check with your local municipality.

Cheaper station parking

If you’re a regular commuter, don’t waste money parking at comparatively “expensive” station garages like South Norwalk ($12 per day), Stamford ($11) or New Haven ($18). Instead, park at the day lots in nearby towns for as little as $4. But be sure to pay at the pay station before boarding the train.

Saving in NYC

Sorry grandpa, subway tokens are no more. The nifty MetroCard can be bought at most stations (even combined with your Metro-North ticket) and offer some incredible deals. Put $5.50 on a card (bought with cash, credit or debit card) and you get a 5 percent bonus. Swipe your card to ride the subway and you’ll get a free transfer to a connecting bus. You can buy unlimited ride MetroCards for a week ($32) or a month ($121). There’s now even an ExpressPay MetroCard that refills itself like an E-ZPass.

Despite being a mass transit advocate, I’m the first to admit that there may be times when it’s cheaper to drive to Manhattan than take the train, especially with three or more passengers. You can avoid bridge tolls by taking the Major Deegan to the Willis/Third Avenue bridge, but I can’t help you with the traffic you’ll have to endure. Check out to find a great list of parking lots and their rates close to your destination, some offering discount coupons. Or drive to CitiField (it’s still Shea Stadium to me) where parking is cheaper and take the No. 7 subway to Grand Central Terminal.

The bottom line is it isn’t cheap going into the city. But with a little planning and some insider tips, you can still save money.

Jim Cameron is a longtime commuter advocate based in Fairfield County. Contact him at

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adminMarch 19, 2018


Even though unemployment is down, and wage growth is up, statistical measures tracking the saving behavior of Americans haven’t improved much. A 2018 survey conducted by Bankrate found that 19% of Americans report not saving anything whatsoever, and another 21% save less than 5% of their income.

Source: After fifty years by Lotte Meijer Unsplash Licensed Under CC BY 2.0

These numbers are alarming because if you want to retire comfortably, financial planners advise saving at least 15% of your income consistently for several decades (depending on how long you expect to live). In the Bankrate survey, only 16% of participants reported saving more than 15%.

The news is discouraging but not surprising. The results are just the latest in a decade-long trend of insufficient saving by Americans. As I have written before, saving money is difficult, while spending in an undisciplined way is gratifying. Many people set lofty goals to save money, say for a wedding or a down-payment on a house, fail to reach them, then feel dispirited and give up. Saving money regularly by making it part of your lifestyle is far more effective.

This is easier said than done. If you already have a saving-oriented lifestyle, that’s great. But for the majority who don’t save habitually, how are they supposed to cultivate the habit of saving money?

In this blog post, I want to suggest a four-step approach to cultivate the habit of saving money eventually adopting a saving lifestyle.

1. Start with a specific saving goal of building an emergency fund.

Popular widely-followed personal finance experts like Suze Orman, Clark Howard, and Dave Ramsey all have the same advice for starting off. Choose and then achieve the goal of saving a specific amount of money for emergencies. For instance, Dave Ramsey’s first baby step is to save $1,000 while Suze Orman recommends a higher target, saving enough money for eight months of living expenses.

While this tip seems counter-intuitive – after all, isn’t a goal diametrically different from a habit? – in reality, forming and achieving specific goals is a crucial early step in habit formation. People can only form new habits when they have adopted particular behavior patterns. To begin, there must be some underlying motivation to behave. Remember how you learned to drive a car. In the beginning, you had a focused goal of passing the driving test which drove you to learn driving

2. Save something every single day, even if it is just a dollar or two.

To form a robust habit, the targeted behavior must be repeated regularly, keeping the context constant. Actively saving money every single day, even if it’s only a couple of dollars, is crucial to forming a saving habit. As social psychologists Wendy Wood and Dennis Rünger explain in their excellent review chapter about research on the Psychology of Habit:

“Habits strengthen through associative and reward-learning mechanisms that capture the slow, incremental nature of habit formation. With each repetition, small changes occur in the cognitive and neural mechanisms associated with procedural memory. Through Hebbian learning of repeated connections, cognitive associations between context cues and a response are strengthened gradually so that people are prepared to repeat performance when the context cues are encountered again.”

This tip goes against the advice of many experts to automate savings, but the truth is if you want to form a saving habit, you have to take your financial decisions into your own hands.

3. Make your savings visible.

While the first two tips are about the process of forming a saving habit, the next two tips are about supporting the newly-forming habit.

100 dollars by Pepi Stojanovski Unsplash Licensed Under CC BY 2.0

Source: 100 dollars by Pepi Stojanovski Unsplash Licensed Under CC BY 2.0

Research shows that the key to having a resilient habit is to make both habitual actions and resulting rewards visible and tangible. When a teenager is learning to drive, the autonomy, the flexibility and the improvement in lifestyle are top of mind and encourage persistence. Similarly, saving visibly and seeing savings accumulate, whether it is in a glass jar, or in an online savings account every day supports habit formation. Visible signs of progress provide positive feedback and encourage the individual to continue.

4. Regardless of your income, consistently spend less than you make.

The final tip seems obvious but is the most difficult one of the four. The main reason people are not able to save money is that they do not have control over their spending. If you want to form a saving habit, you must consistently spend less than you make.  How to do this is a challenging issue that deserves its own blog post, but the requirement that you pay attention to your spending, and enact ways to curb it and bring it in line with your income, is critical. Research has shown that people with a strong saving habit are frugal and find spending money to be painful. Cultivating a saving mindset and habit requires abandoning a spending mindset.

There you have it. These are the four steps to cultivate a saving habit: Set an emergency fund goal, save money every day, do in a visible and tangible way, and monitor spending to bring it below the level of your income. 

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adminMarch 19, 2018


(WTNH)– We all need to fill up our gas tank in order to get to work on time, and while it’s not usually cheap, you can save yourself money by strategizing your fill-ups. We are stretching your dollar with how to take control of the price at the pump and why you may want to do make moves today.

It’s one of life’s necessities and yet filling your tank over and over can take a big bite out of your finances. Unless you plan ahead .

Forbes suggests stretching your dollar by buying discounted gift cards for yourself on sites like Gift Card Granny or Look right now there are small savings but savings nonetheless on Shell, Mobil and Sunoco gift cards.

More easy ways to find savings is to fill up before 10 a.m. That’s when most stations do their price change for the day.

Use your smartphone so you can find the cheapest gas near you using apps like AAA and Gas Buddy.

And here’s another easy one. Fill up early in the week. According to price tracker Gas Buddy, Monday is the best day to fill up and Thursday is the worst. It’s statistically the most expensive as stations get ready for weekend travel. Gas Buddy says the country spends an extra billion dollars by filling up on Thursday rather than Monday.

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