MORE than Finances

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Your First Week at University

adult-2178586_640Moving to University can be intimidating. For many it’s their first experience living away from home. Even for others who might taken adventurous gap years, starting university is a very different type of challenge. Here are some tips to get you through your first week of University trouble free, which should give you a firm foundation for the rest of your course.

Halls of Residence

Your first day is likely to be consumed by moving into your halls of residence: this is a great opportunity to get to know your new flatmates. You all have a lot in common. Every person in the building is getting to grips with, for example, the best student accommodation Huddersfield has to offer.

They may have friends or parents to help, just as you might, so it’s probably best to knuckle down to your own unpacking during the first part of the day.

Once people are settled in though, make sure you open your door and get chatting to people. If you made sure to pack a kettle and teabags, this could be a great icebreaker and the start of friendships that will last your whole university life, if not longer!

Registrations 

The early days of university are full of registering for different things: your courses, student union cards and benefits, even local doctors and dentists.

If you’ve forged some bonds with people you’re living with, this can be a good opportunity to double down on those friendships. You could organise a trip with everyone on your corridor to register at a doctor. This helps firm up a good relationship with the people you live with, but also makes sure no one gets left behind and without access to a doctor when they need it.

Clubs and Societies

Most universities organise a Fresher’s Fayre in the early weeks of term: a chance for first years to see what the universities clubs have to offer and to sign up with them, and also for local businesses to court new students with special offers, loyalty cards and free stuff!

Your society memberships are one of the things that define your university experience. Whether you want to tread the boards, join a football team, or get involved in student politics, you will find a student society full of like minds.

Hopefully, these stepping stones will help you have a fun and anxiety free beginning to your student career.

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Cash Back or Travel Rewards: Choosing the Right Credit Card for Your Needs

3 Ways to Increase Your Income - If You DareThere are lots of credit cards out there, and they all want to get you on board. To get your custom, they will probably offer some sort of incentive, like interest-free transfers, travel miles, or cash back. It can be a complicated business deciding where to sign up

First Things First

Before you consider your rewards, you need to be clear about how you use your credit cards.

  • To manage your debts, look for a card that offers a competitive charge for transfers and a 0% interest period afterward.
  • To make a one-off major expense, get a card that offers a 0% interest period for purchases.
  • If you permanently have a small balance, you want a low rate of interest indefinitely.
  • If you have a poor credit rating, it is important only to apply for cards when you are likely to be accepted.
  • If you travel a great deal, you want a card that does not charge a premium for foreign currency transactions.

Consult a good source of credit card application information before you act.

Cash Back Cards

If you are in the enviable position of paying your credit card bill in full every month, there are some very good offers of cards that give cash back on your purchases. Deals available change regularly, but suppliers stick with the terms of the offer for a realistic period.

Some offer a flat rate of cash back on everything, typically 1% or 2%. Others offer a higher rate, but only on selected types of purchases, such as groceries. Sometimes the target products change on a quarterly basis. Some cards offer a combination of different types of cash back. So you need to target your choice on those that will best reward your style of shopping.

The best cash back deals are often attached to a card with an annual fee. You need to do some math to work out whether you would be better off paying the fee and taking a higher rate of cash back or sticking with a lower rate and no fee.

Travel Rewards

If you like the idea of using your card to save towards the cost of travel, instead of putting cash in your back pocket, you might want to try one of the many credit cards with travel miles attached. Different cards offer points that are redeemable on different airlines, so choose one that is useful to you as well as looking at the rate.

Airlines often offer credit cards that give a higher reward, sometimes with a generous introductory bonus. These are generally not transferable to other airlines, so pick one that you will definitely use.

Choose Carefully

There is no great disadvantage in having a fee-free card that you do not use, but you do not want to be applying for a lot of cards in a short period. Weigh up carefully the offers of each card, and stick with it long enough to draw a real advantage.

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When Does Power Fit Into Leadership?

when does power fit into leadership
For some people, the concepts of power and leadership are one and the same.  While there is definitely some overlap between having power and being a leader, there are a number of differences. Skills and leadership competencies go a long way past just having power over your team or staff.

How You Use Power

The problem isn’t the power itself, but how you wield it with your people. If all you do is threaten staff whenever problems arise, reminding them that you are in charge of their personal fates, you will not get good work out of anyone. It’s impossible to respect someone who only uses their position to punish staff.

It’s the classic carrot or stick situation. Both can work, but the resulting attitudes will be very different depending on which option you chose. So instead of threatening to fire someone if a project doesn’t go well, offer a promotion if it succeeds. People will appreciate the use of power in this way rather than resent it.

Another one of the big problems with having power is the desire to have more. If your own personal ambition starts to influence your vision for the team, you won’t be making the best choices for anyone else but yourself. Your people will soon realize this and can be disillusioned about the directions their project is taking. Nobody wants to give their 110% when the only goal is to benefit someone else’s personal agenda.  

Leadership without Power

In some cases, you may be given a leadership role with a team of colleagues but not really have any power over them. Can it be done? Of course. As we’ve said, power itself is not how you get a team to follow you and to be productive. The next tip is about other leadership skills that are important besides having power.

Better Tactics that Power

The key to developing better leadership skills is to recognize that power itself isn’t a technique or a skill. It’s simply the nature of the position. Instead, focus on better ways to work with your team to motivate and encourage them. The skills that create better leaders include honesty, optimism, creativity, dedication, communication and a sense of humor. Just to name a few.

A good leader works with a team, and doesn’t only stand in the front to point directions. Use this wide mix of skills to stay involved with the process, and make it visible to everyone that you are working just as diligently as they are.

One last point is that you can really bring a team together if you hand out a little of your power to other people. Give certain responsibilities to others instead of holding it all to yourself. It builds trust and gives other a motivation to show you that they can handle the extra responsibility when given the chance.

So when does power fit into leadership? It’s always there but should never define how you operate as a leader.

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Financial Workout: How to Work Towards a Healthier Bank Balance

How to Work Towards a Healthier Bank Balance
While the road to financial competence can feel rife with obstacles like debt, tempting purchases and not enough money to cover the basics, let alone life’s simple pleasures, getting on track for the long haul is not completely out of reach. A rising bank balance will come, it’s just a matter of patience, perseverance and a few new habits. Here’s how you can get started:

Set Goals

In order to set change into motion, it’s a good idea to get a sense of what your financial goals are. Is it getting out of debt? Saving for a home or retirement, a vacation? Set long term goals to establish an end game, as well as the short-term goals that will help you reach the big prize. Revisit smaller goals like putting x amount in savings each month or getting caught up on past due bills on a monthly basis, adjusting if needed.

Don’t Buy What You Don’t Need

Sure, this one may be easier said than done, but it takes a little getting used to. Take inventory of the things you absolutely need to pay for—housing costs, food, household expenses, insurance, etc. —as well as the things you’re buying every month that perhaps you don’t need.

We’re not saying you have to get rid of all the things you enjoy, but don’t necessarily need, this can be more of a matter of making your coffee or tea at home rather than going to a shop each day or committing to cooking dinner more often, exercise at a less expensive gym, or ditch monthly subscriptions you don’t take full advantage of.

Pay Down Debt Before Throwing Dollars into Savings Accounts

While it may feel more rewarding to see your money accumulate, if you’re in debt, the money in your savings account doesn’t really belong to you. Paying down your debts will be better for your financial health in the long run, even if the effects aren’t felt immediately. Your credit score will improve and you’ll be eligible for more options as far as credit cards, car loans and the ability to rent an apartment or secure a mortgage—things that are just as valuable, in some cases more so, than a lump of cash in the bank. Consider getting debt consolidation help from a professional to get a plan in order.

If you’re still not sold, take solace in the fact that most savings accounts don’t accrue much interest anyway.

Make a Rainy Day Fund

Life throws us all sorts of curve balls in the form of unanticipated expenses. An out-of-nowhere job loss or an emergency room visit can wreak havoc on your finances if you’re not careful, as can being ill-prepared for a car accident or anything else. Relying on credit can be a great asset in a pinch, but the end result of using credit for big expenses can lead to mounting debt and lowered credit scores over time.

Photo: 401(K) 2012

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A Repair That Lasts: Getting Your Good Credit Score Back for Good

Getting Your Good Credit Score

Lots of people live with a damaged credit score but don’t really understand how they can restore it. Most people believe their credit score is largely reliant on making all their payments on time. Yet they don’t realize there are a number of other factors that could be dragging their score down.

Here are some tips for getting your good credit score back for good.

Check Your Credit Report

The information on your credit report is entered by your creditors and listed by various credit reporting agencies. However, it’s possible for some creditors to enter information incorrectly.

For example, a person with a similar name to yours may have missed several payments and the creditor may have submitted the information to be entered onto your report instead of theirs. Likewise, you may have caught up all your past due bills and your creditors may not have reported the information yet.

Before you start taking any steps to repair bad credit, take the time to check what’s listed on your credit report first. If you notice any mistakes, get them cleared up at once. You could also contact this credit repair company to see if they’re able to offer some further advice about fixing mistakes on your report.

Catch Up Past Due Payments

A whopping 35% of your credit score is based on your level of financial responsibility. If you’re consistently late with payments, chances are your credit score has been negatively affected.

Work on ways to catch up any past due payments you have outstanding. Then focus on being on time with future payments. Set up automatic direct debit payments for some smaller recurring bills, such as Netflix subscriptions or utility bills and always ensure you have sufficient funds sitting in your account each month to cover those expenses.

Reduce Outstanding Balances

Your credit utilization ratio can account for 30% of your credit score and takes into account the amount of credit you’ve used as compared to the amount available. For example, if you have a $5,000 credit card limit and you owe $4,900, you could find your score is affected because of your high credit utilization ratio.

Work on reducing your outstanding debt balances on any credit cards or other types of revolving credit. Not only will your interest charges reduce, saving you money each month, but your credit score will benefit at the same time.

Avoid Credit Repair Scams

When your credit score has been damaged, it can sometimes feel easier to ask for help from a credit repair company. While there are lots of legitimate companies around willing to help you fix bad credit, there are also some scams circulating.

Before you agree to anything, always take the time to check that you’re dealing with a reputable company. Check with the Federal Trade Commission that you’re not being sucked into a scam before signing any documents or paying any money.  

Restoring a good credit score can sometimes be a time-consuming process, However, once you start working on ways to fix a bad credit score, you should also notice it becomes much easier to regain control over your financial situation.

Photo: CafeCredit.com