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In a world where out-of-hand credit led to one the worst financial crisis ever experienced by the global village.

This is the same out-of-hand credit is presently taking the Caribbean by storm, banks in the Caribbean who were once very reluctant in issuing credit cards likewise debit card to just anyone – nowadays anyone with a job is pre-approved for one of these cards.

The fact of the matter is, almost 75% of the people who apply for these credit, debit or charge cards have no clue how these cards work and then after a couple of years find themselves in a debt – trying desperately to keep up with the minimum payments. It’s time for a little personal finance 101.

One of my favorite personal finance weblog ‘The Simple Dollar’ take a beginner’s look at the pros and cons of three kinds of plastic: charge cards, debit cards, and credit cards – explaining the differences between each, including the advantages and disadvantage of each payment method. For example:

Charge cards are often confused with credit cards, but they actually function in a fairly different fashion. Like credit cards, charge cards extend credit to you from the issuer, but you’re required to pay the full balance at the end of the month. Some charge cards also have an annual membership fee. Charge cards are typically associated with American Express; many store chains often issue their own charge cards as well which can only be used at that store.

To be honest, I’ve always assumed charge cards were the same as credit cards, but then I may be behind the curve on this one, and so might be a lots of people. The point of this post is to make people understand each of these cards might work better than another for specific types of purchases, so knowing which to use in any given situation is important. Click the link above to read more about these charge cards and how you can protect yourself.

If you use more that one type of plastic, let’s hear how you divide up your spending among them in the comments.

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Yesterday I wrote a post on how powerful your piggy bank can be just by collecting the extra change in your pocket at the end of each day, and I thought it would be fun to write a post on the different ways to trick yourself, to get around obstacles, to boost your accounts, without it hurting.

For a lot of people in Dominica improving their finances improves their happiness – in general. I know lots of people who are happy only when they’ve money to spend. So I though it would be important to share stuff that’s worked for me.

I’m in the best financial shape in my life, despite having one source of regular income which is my job. Thanks to my penny-pinching program 🙂 I’ve eliminated all my debts and I now able to save as much as I can.

Here’s what works for me — please note that, I’m not saying they’ll work for everybody. Share your tips and tricks in the comments!

Use more cash. Instead of charging things to credit cards or debit cards. In the past three years it’s much easier to own a credit card(s) – in fact banks now are literally begging you to apply for a card. Using cash for non-bill spending such as eating out, gas, groceries makes the spending more real, and there’s an added advantage of knowing when you’re out of cash, instead of spending more than you own.

Small monthly savings transfers. I got this idea from my grandma, who automatically deducts $20 a week from her check to savings. I decided that I could live with $100/month without really feeling it — it’s a relatively small transfer that I barely notice, and I save about $1200 a year.

Stay home. Going out makes you more likely to spend unnecessarily. You eat at restaurants or go out drinking with your friends every weekend. It’s hard to avoid spending when you’re on the road. Instead, stay home, and find free entertainment. It’s also a great way to get closer with your family.

Cook at home. I know, it seems more difficult than eating out. But it doesn’t have to be hard. Throw together a quick stir-fry with some vegetables and either boneless chicken or (my favorite) mince meat. Not only is this much cheaper than eating out, but it’s healthier.

Exercise. Staying healthy is the best way to avoid costly medical bills later.

Pay savings and debt first. When you sit down to pay your bills, make the first bills you pay be your savings transfer and your debt payments. If not, if you pay them last … you’ll often end up shortchanging them. But if you pay them first, make sure you can still pay your rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries and gas …

Find happiness in life, not spending. Many times I meet people buying lots stuff because they think (subconsciously perhaps) that it will bring them happiness. They just HAVE to have the latest gadget or shoes or cars. It’s so fun! And yet, you buy that stuff, and you’re only happy for a day or two at most. Then you just need to buy more. It’s a never-ending story. Instead, learn to love life. Find joy in nature and the people around you. Do something you love, be it exercising or reading. There’s so much in life to make us happy, there’s no need to find it in spending.

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Not to long ago the US Embassy in Barbados started a new policy, that As of June 1, 2007 Applicants living outside of Barbados, your passport will be returned to you immediately after your interview so that you may use it for return to your home country and that you will need to send your passport back to the Embassy via courier and provide a return courier pack which will be used to send your passport with your U.S. visa back to you.

There is an Idea

If you’re in Barbados for more that a week, there is a very good chance that you can return to the US Embassy office after two days to pickup your passport with your US Visa. Applicants living in Barbados can pick up their passport in person two days after they’re interview.

So if it’s possible, schedule your flight out of Barbados three days after your Visa interview date, so if your US visa is approved, you will be able to return home with your passport and your US Visa, and will not need to paid a couriers service to send you passport back to the Embassy and then to return it.

Maybe you’ve saying to yourself “what if my visa application was rejected and I don’t want to say in Barbados”. If that’s the case, you can go the airlines and have them change your flight date for a small fee. Considering the amount you will have to pay the Courier Service to send you passport to and from Barbados.

For example in Dominica if you decide to use FedEx to Courier your passport. You pay an estimated EC$60.00 to go plus EC$110.00 for the return.To change your flight date in the caribbean is just about EC$25.00 – 40.00. So do you see the logic behind my idea? 🙂

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