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A whole new digital money world for Barbados

A new digital currency pilot project may just be the thing to stop the potential standoff between Bitt -a financial technology (fintech) company in Barbados and some of the commercial banks, while allowing Barbados to move further onto the world’s digital money stage.

For years tension has run deeply between the commercial banks and newer fintech company,  Bitt, where banks have faced the ongoing dilemma of whether to collaborate with this company, or to develop their own in house, money transfer systems.

As pointed out by Bitt CEO Senator Rawdon Adams, the company has had to deal with  commercial banks in Barbados being ‘obstructive and anticompetitive’ while conversely they were developing more partnerships in the rest of the Eastern Caribbean than in Barbados -the country that ‘arguably needs fintech the most’.

At this year’s Bitt  annual blockchain conference, held at the Hilton Resort, Adams, spoke about the reluctance of some of the local commercial banks to embrace Bitt’s proposal to partner with them in introducing blockchain and distributed ledger technology to facilitate secure peer-to-peer transactions in moving money between clients.

In a call for Barbados to not be “stuck” in time, Barbados’ first female Prime Minster, Mia Amor Mottley, has stepped into the fray and announced her plans to launch a mMoney pilot programme. This pilot will be between Bitt, the Central Bank of Barbados and the Financial Service Commission (FSC) that facilitates electronic and digital payments for those on the island.

Mottley spoke at the annual conference which was held under the theme Central Bank Meets Blockchain: From the Ground Up, saying there was  a need for Barbados and Barbadians to bring an end to ‘this unfortunate debate and tension between those who want to hold onto a status quo and those who want to move forward’.

“Our people want digital money and …want the ease and security of electronic payments, and as a result, what must happen is face to face discussions with urgency…such that we can launch the Barbados mMoney Pilot,” she told those who had gathered for the conference.

Mottley also soothed the concerns of the commercial bankers about the new programme, after one of the bankers referred to the mMoney wallet as a ‘potential danger to the financial system’ claiming that she would be leading the program herself and that the legitimate concerns of this new payment method from all sides would be addressed as they were not going to launch this pilot project recklessly.

Mottley explained that Barbados would not be held to their old ways of banking due to the fear of the unknown, rather they would be looking to improve development because Barbados would not be left behind as the wider world continued to evolve.

News on when the planned mobile wallet pilot project would be  officially launched has yet to be presented, however Mottley assured that Barbados would remain in agreement with anti-money laundering laws and customer fairness guidelines.

My house was sucking my money down the drain; here’s what I did

I’m a saver. I only spend money on things that are necessary. When my husband and I became first-time homeowners, I was shocked at how much money it took to keep my home functional and comfortable. We were spending way more than I wanted to, but it was necessary. The money spent on electric bills went to powering our home. We had to pay the gas bill to avoid freezing during the winter. It felt like our house was sucking every penny out of our budget. To avoid breaking the bank, we started doing a few simple things around the house to save some money.

Turn off the A/C

I like to keep my home at comfortable temperatures, especially during the summer. I can’t stand the feeling of a hot, stuffy house. But the cost of cooling our house was getting out of control. I hated seeing money fly out the window every time we turned on the central air. But there are plenty of ways to combat energy loss during the summer, other than roasting in a hot home. First, I bought some heavy drapes to keep out the sun and turned the A/C way down at night. We found that once the temps get low enough, the thick drapes helped block the sun from making it too hot during the day. We also started using our ceiling fan a lot more when we were home. These simple tricks helped to keep our electric bill at a price that wasn’t breaking our budget.

It’s all about insulation

When we first bought our house, the insulation wasn’t that great. We could feel cold air seeping through the windows and doors during the frigid winter months. We were turning up the heater way more than we should, which drove up our gas bill. After doing some research, we found a few, easy ways to insulate our house. Spraying some insulation in the attic; adding weather strips to the windows; and replacing the older, weather-beaten front and back doors with newer ones helped to keep the house better insulated. Remember the heavy drapes I bought over the summer? It turns out they’re great for winter too. On the coldest of days, we would close them, throw on a sweater and some woolly socks, and become totally warm. We rarely found ourselves turning the heater up past 60, which dramatically reduced our gas bill during the winter months.

Install CFL and LED lights wherever it makes sense

If you’re still using incandescent bulbs, you need to stop. They’re expensive, don’t last long, and use six times more energy than an LED light. I made the switch to LED lights as soon as we moved into our new home, almost three years ago. To this day, we haven’t had to replace a single bulb. And we’re using a lot less energy than we did in our previous apartment where all we used was incandescent lights. Replacing a few bulbs in our house was fast,  easy, and helped us to keep our electricity costs down.

Doing these few, simple things around our house helped us to save so much money on our gas and electric bills. But it didn’t stop there. Once I discovered how much money we were saving, I wanted to find even more energy-saving hacks. Here are a few of my personal favorites.

  • Turn off all lights when you leave a room; also, take advantage of the natural light whenever you can.
  • Invest in power strips and turn them off when you’re not watching  TV, using the computer, or playing gaming consoles.
  • Perform a weekly maintenance check on your appliances; make sure they are clean and working properly.
  • De-clutter every room. We actually made some fast cash by selling all the stuff we didn’t need—plus it made my house feel so much cleaner.
  • Making more crockpot meals helped us to save time and money, since most meals involve three ingredients and almost no prep time. Plus, they’re delicious and make me seem like an even more talented chef than I am.

What are some ways that you’ve saved money on your home? Let us know in the comments below.

 

       

 

3 rules to follow when he’s a saver and you’re a spender

I like to shop. Every single trend that could be found in the stores of a mall was, once upon a time, present in my closet. Even the questionable items. I buy candles for every corner of my room because one is never enough, and I once purchased face cream the price of multiple dinners at Sephora — merely because the make-up artist told me it was nice.

On the other hand, my husband likes to save. You know that thing at the bank called a Saving’s Account? He actually has one. While I scroll through my favourite online stores, he scrolls through his budgeting applications, all while checking on his many investments and stocks; a side hustle he plans to take advantage of during ‘rainy days.’ Frugality is his specialty. Extreme couponing, I think it’s safe to say, is one of his life time goals.

Like other couples, we have very different spending habits. Given this, it’s no surprise that money is the most common topic that couples argue about. A recent survey from the American Institute of CPA’s concluded couples argue at least three times a month about finances. Researchers believe the conflict may stem from failing to discuss money on a regular basis. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed who were married or living with a partner said they don’t regularly set aside time to talk about financial issues.

So, let’s talk.

Take these three steps to avoid the ongoing kerfuffle of choosing between the $14.99 or $19.99 bundle and thank me later.

  1. Communicate. You hear it repeatedly. So why is it so difficult to follow through? Talk to your partner about how you want to handle your finances as a couple, along with any individual expectations that you may have of one another. Discuss whether you want to share any expenses such as utility bills or groceries or if you want control over your own finances. Ensure you go over any debt that either of you have to take care of and that you are transparent when it comes to your purchases. What is the point of buying a car without a discussion if you have to drive around alone because bae is mad at you?
  2. Speak their language. Try using a reference from their favourite TV show and watch how googly their eyes get. Its important to be able to relate to your partner. Get on their level. If they start pricing matching or looking at deals, keep your cool – and let them be. Don’t try to change them and don’t let them try to change you. Habits build over time, making it difficult to break. Instead, take things away and implement them in your daily life. Find the positive aspects to their habits. Think about it; saving up for an emergency prevents either of you from having to get a second job if the time came. Thus, you’ll have more time to spend with each other. Because love.
  3. Have your own savings. Whether you agree to share your finances, contribute to expenses, or manage your own money, always have funds set aside solely for yourself. Although there are many advantages to a joint account, there will always be a reason to have at least one bank account dedicated for your own use. This is especially important if you and your partner are on different financial levels or if you have different spending habits. After merging two lives together, it can be easy to feel a loss of independence. By having something that is solely yours, you can guarantee you still have some control over your life.

Relationships take a lot of work to be successful. It’s about compassion, patience, and compromise. Despite this, you may still find yourselves butting heads with your partner from time to time over things you just can’t seem to agree on. Follow these steps to ensure you spend less time arguing about finances, and more time arguing about things that matter; like which show you want to Netflix binge (and chill). Lastly, don’t forget to give him a kiss when he splurges on you! Your relationship will grow stronger and better because of it.

How to budget for the new year

Personal finances can get complicated. Should I invest, save, or spend? How come I only have a few bucks to spend at the end of the month? Where did all my money go?

These are all very real questions people ask on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. A monthly budget will help you answer at least some of these inquiries — and if all else, it will help you save up for that much-needed summer vacation.

To help you out, I’ll go through the basics.

Find a mode of keeping track of your spending and income: If you don’t want to invest in a personal accountant, purchase Quickbooks or some sort of accounting software. You can also get started using an excel sheet. Whatever you use, make sure you are able to alter numbers as the month progresses. Keeping a firm track of your finances, no matter how depressing, is the only way to create a successful budget.

Fixed costs: Fixed costs exist and there is nothing you can do about it. The mortgage payment, rent, insurance — all of these things need to be paid promptly and on-time, so ensure they are a priority in your budget. If using quickbooks or an excel sheet, these payments would go at the top of your list.

Varied costs: This section includes cell phone bills, groceries, Internet, and cable. You have a little more control over when you pay these items and how much they are, but know there are always consequences for late payments. This should be the second section of your budget. When doing these calculations, make sure to note interest rates for late fees so you are aware of what happens if you don’t pay on time.

These varied and fixed necessary costs should, ideally, make up half of your monthly income. This may mean you have to adjust your Internet packages or change cell phone providers for a cheaper deal.

Calculate the small things: Toiletries, groceries, your morning coffee — anything that you purchase on a monthly basis needs to be in your budget. Don’t omit anything, even if you do drink an embarrassing amount of Starbucks. The point of this exercise is to see if you can decrease your spending while still ensuring you have the necessities of life.

A key tip for these calculations is to always over-estimate: If you think you spend $50 a week on groceries, say you are going to spend $70. If you think you spend $2 a day on coffee, double it! One day, you may get a pastry with your coffee and it will screw your entire budget up. If you overestimate and you have money left over, all the better! You can either spend it or put it into your savings account. Either way, it ensures your budget is more accurate. It’s always better to have money leftover at the end of the month than realize you spent more than your allowance.

Savings/Paying off Debt: It is imperative that you include a section for savings and debt in your budget. If you don’t, you will never save any money. Decide on a monthly amount you will put into a savings account of your choice, and count that money as already spent.  If you have loans or a credit card, use some of these funds to pay it parts of it off. Try to use 20 per cent of your monthly income to pay things off and save up.

Always put some money aside for “fun”: Let’s be realistic. At some point in the span of a month, you will go out to dinner with friends, see a movie, or  take a day trip somewhere. If you don’t set aside some cash for entertainment, a) you may go a little insane and b) you’ll end up spending more than you’d like on a spontaneous splurge. The remaining 30 per cent of your budget can be spent on these activities, although if your priority is paying off debt, swap the numbers with your savings. The idea is to give yourself a weekly or monthly allowance to spend on fun things — that way, you don’t feel deprived, but at the same time, you don’t overspend.

Keep your receipts and actually look at them: This is the hardest habit to break. Most people try to avoid those pesky small pieces of paper in their wallet, but it really is necessary. If you use quickbooks, this will allow you to keep track of all your payments by manually inputting your spending. If you use excel, it will help you reflect on what you spent money on, and where you can cut back. Not to mention you may find a lot more deductibles come tax-filing time.

I hope this helps you create a basic budget. Remember, keep track of everything — no matter how depressing it will be. Who knows? Maybe after a few years you won’t need such an intensive system, but for now, embrace it! Think of what you will do with those savings. Will you buy a house? Go on a vacation? The possibilities are endless — but only if you budget.

Little expenses can make a big dent in your finances

I just spent $2,000 on car repairs. I know it’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things, and to be fair, my car does treat me quite well considering my complete and utter lack of care for it, but no matter how much money I make, I will always resent the unforeseen high dollar expenses that seem to pop up when you least expect it.

I tried to explain this to my sister, and she laughed at me!  Her response?  “You spend more than that per year on sushi.”  This got me to thinking; I have mini heart attacks about something like an expensive car repair, but I don’t think twice about the unnecessary smaller amounts that I spend every day. When you stop and add them up, those little expenses can add up in a big way. So, I decided to make myself a list of the daily little expenses I indulge in and calculate what kind of a dent they actually make in my finances.

First on the list? My daily vanilla cappuccino. At $3 a day about five days a week, that sets me back almost $750 a year, taking into account vacation weeks or miscellaneous missed days.

Then of course are my lunches on the go, and with my tendency to avoid the fast food joints, this easily runs me about $10 a day. That’s $50 a week and $2500 a year.  Yikes!

I’m also a convenience junkie, and that reflects most prominently in my monthly bank fees. I can seldom be bothered to find my bank’s ATMs when I need cash, and depending on the machine, the fees can range anywhere from $1.50 to $3.00 per transaction.  A few of these per month and I’m probably spending an extra $200 a year.

I’m sure there are more incidences that have become so habitual I can’t even think of them off hand, but I’m sure there are solutions to these unnecessary expenses that would work for my bank account and my lifestyle.

I could invest in one of those fancy schmancy premium coffee makers and have my daily vanilla cappuccinos at home. Making my lunch at home might be a little more time-consuming, but I would certainly reap the benefits of a lower price point and even healthier (and probably tastier!) lunches.  As for the bank fees – I guess I’ll just have to suck it up and spend the extra five minutes to actually find my bank’s ATMs.  I have a smartphone – I’m sure there’s an app for that.

I certainly don’t think I should have to forego all of life’s little pleasures in favour of a strict and unyielding need to save, but maybe there’s a way to enjoy all of my little luxuries in a more cost effective manner.

5 things I learned about investing — at the mall

by Candi Munroe

I love to shop. Since I have started investing for myself I have noticed something else: I observe things. They may seem like simple things, but they are really indicators of something much bigger. This is what I see at the mall — you can test them out for yourself.

1. Supply and demand

This is the most basic economic principle. A product that is in great supply or has too much supply is cheap. A product that is rare or in short supply is expensive. The most drastic example of this is Apple. Think about Apple stores with the long line-ups of people eagerly awaiting the latest Apple iPad or iPhone. Meanwhile, Wall Street boasts of the great margins Apple is getting. Their stock has also experienced an explosion in price. From its 2008 price of $90 to today’s price of around $550 (which is already down 20% off the high), the stock has impressed.

2. Fads vs. Classics

The mall always has the latest fashions deemed ‘in’ this year. This is not unlike Wall Street. Yes, analysts study the numbers, but then they make estimates on what they think will sell this year and make recommendations accordingly. These companies and their stocks are hot and everyone wants to own them. A more classical girl, I like buying good quality products and wearing them year-to-year. I would never buy a fad and expect to wear it into retirement.

3. Are there job openings?

When the economy is better more people have jobs. When the economy is depressed, people lose their jobs. I recently vacationed at a hotel where I had vacationed the year before. This year it was much harder to be served. I waited in line more often and the staff were agitated and overworked. This tells me that the staff has been reduced to save money in a bad economy. So when you are at the mall, look around. Are the stores well staffed? When you eat out, are there plenty of waitresses and waiters? If so, this is a sign that the economy may be on the way up.

4. Are the stores well run?

Are they concerned about their brand and reputation? This is more about individual companies. Which companies take care of their employees? Starbucks give their U.S. employees health care and opportunities to invest in the company’s stock. The employees I encounter there are happy and engage the customers. Good hiring? Good management? Solid policies? Probably a bit of each.

5. Are people buying at or near full retail prices?

Observe the shoppers in the stores. Do they have lots of bags? Are the bags large? (Discount the effect if the discounts are high.) Many people out shopping puts money back into the pockets of businesses and is a good sign that better days are ahead.

Do not let these simple observations pass you by in the shopping haze. Keep in mind that these general indicators tell us how people feel about their job security and how much optimism they have about the year ahead. They can also help guide you to products and ideas that are good targets to research and invest in yourself. And this is fun! After all, ladies, aren’t we all about multitasking?

Personal finances: Is your budget right for you?

Corporate budgeting in itself is a complex but widely understood concept. The goal is clear and usually easily defined, if not easily achieved: make more money. For me, the practice of sitting down and working out a corporate budget is standard and non-negotiable. This is business, and in business you sit down and draft a plan. Review your fixed costs, control the variable expenses, mitigate the risks, align the budget with the corporate strategy, and maximize profit. It’s been an interesting shift for me to apply this same formality with the way I budget in my personal life, but a shift that has definitely paid off in helping me to have a better grasp of my personal finances and a more accurate view of how and when I’ll achieve my personal goals.

Fixed costs

My fixed costs are often beyond my control: mortgage, home insurance, auto insurance, life insurance, travel costs, etc. They are usually the biggest part of my budget and usually the most necessary and uncompromising.

Variable expenses

My variable expenses I have more control over. Things like my Internet and phone expenses provide opportunities to review current plans and research new offers from competing companies. I make it a habit to review this annually (or in some cases, as contracts come to the end of their term) to see where I can get the most for my dollar. I’ve found on occasion that it’s even works out in my interest to cancel a contract and pay the penalty fee in favour of a greater discounted rate from another source. Take a real look at the numbers and see how they balance out.

Highly variable expenses

Highly variable costs of course vary for me by the season, but are often where I slip up in practicing effective management. Movies, concerts, eating out and ordering in can all add up. Wedding gifts were my vice this past summer and Christmas gifts will probably be my vice in the coming winter. And of course, anyone who knows me knows my weakness for online shopping, handbags and shoes. Personal care is also a very important part of my routine, and even though it’s among the first things that women will cut out in the event of a budget crisis, I’d say it’s necessary in presenting yourself and representing your business. Proper grooming is essential and personal image does count.

Mitigating risks

Mitigating risks has also been an interesting concept to apply to my personal life. My sister and I often joke that in this context, it probably has more to do with people than with market shifts and potential competitors. Bottom line is that every risk should have a contingency plan, no matter how unlikely the risk appears. Do you have a sibling, parent, close friend or family member who is likely to default on their rent payment and ask you for a bail out?  Decide whether this is critical personnel that should be subtracted or whether you should establish a contingency fund to cover unexpected expenses. Are you sensing another impending breakup between your best friend and her significant other for the fourth time this month? Build extra time into your schedule for the “you don’t need him anyway” late-night movie marathon and the subsequent “I’m so glad you guys are back together” brunch.

Lifestyle alignment

Above all, I make sure that my personal budget aligns with my lifestyle. My budget is realistic for me, and what makes sense for me or for you might not make sense for others. I budget for my yoga classes because that is an essential part of my life. I make sure my budget and my life are tied together by goals that are important to me, whether it’s dealing with acquisitions, personal health, or just enjoying where I am in life. All in all, it’s become my personal strategy for defining where I am and deciding where I’m going.