Save Money This Christmas

July 23, 2018

With only 22 weeks left until this Christmas, it’s good to start thinking ahead. 

When we ask our clients, “Why do you want to save money?” A considerable amount of people say, “I want to be able to go on more holidays with my family.” If you’re looking to save money at the end-of-year Christmas Season, here’s how to do it.

How you can save on your Christmas and summer holiday costs
by Sophie Elsworth

July has proven to be the best time to lock in festive travel regardless of whether you’re planning a domestic or international getaway.


— Book as early as possible.

— Be flexible with your travel dates and times.

— Hunt around for specials.

— Bundle your airfares and accommodation together.

— Fly at odd times, early or late to get cheaper flights.

— Christmas Day and Boxing Day can be cheaper days to fly.

Holiday website Wotif examined the best summer deals at more than 300 destinations and found Australians can save up to 35 per cent on both accommodation and airfares by booking well in advance.

The findings also showed:

— New Zealand is the top destination to book in advance followed by Vietnam.

— International airfares over summer are best booked in July whereas accommodation is best booked in August.

Wotif’s travel expert Amanda Behre said despite the savings that can be made by booking early about one in four Australian book their Christmas or summer holidays at the last minute and it costs them more.

“Christmas, new year and the summer holidays is always the busiest time of the year to travel so it means airlines and hotels will charge a premium, booking as early as you can is the best advice.”

Amanda Behre

Christmas Day this year falls on a Tuesday and Ms Behre said this will mean many workers only need to take three days annual leave to maximise a full eight-day break.

Cash-strapped travellers locking in accommodation will sometimes be able to book and pay later, or put down a deposit now and pay in full on arrival.

Flights also chew into holiday costs and a Qantas spokeswoman suggests travellers get in early to avoid being slugged more.

“The Christmas holidays are always a busy time of year with people travelling across the globe and around the country to spend time with their families and friends, enjoy a relaxing break or to seek new adventures,’’ she said.

“December is one of our busiest months and we expect this year to be no different.

“So the best advice for travellers to get the lowest fare is to always book as early as possible as the last seats on any aircraft will always come at a premium.”

The spokeswoman said the most popular destinations during the summer period included the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Perth.

A Virgin Australia spokeswoman said they make sure they cater for increased customer demand and she advises customers to view their website’s specials and offers page to try and nab cheaper fares.

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Protecting Yourself Online

July 9, 2018

While the internet is perfect for so many things, it has given certain people the opportunity to access out private information.

Everybody who uses the internet is at risk of having their personal information illegally accessed, but there are ways you can drastically reduce that chance and keep your personal information safe.

If you don’t actively take measures to secure your accounts online there could be a high risk of your financial details being leaked; therefore it’s vital that you think about your security online. 

Here are 11 things you should know to keep your online accounts and computer secure.

1 Look for the padlock

Some signs indicate that a website is secure, and it’s important that you look for these signs before sending any information to a website.

A secure site will have a URL that begins with ‘https://’, and depending on your browser it may also accompany a padlock icon.

While this does mean that any information you send to the website is sent privately, it does not mean that the site itself is safe.

2 Anti-virus software

Having anti-virus software on your computer is vital to keeping your personal information and your computer safe. Anti-virus software can be expensive if you’re looking for 24-hour protection from viruses while browsing, however, there are a lot of free alternatives which can help to remove viruses from your computer.

Of course, if you are looking for free anti-virus software be careful since it’s possible you might find a virus under the guise of anti-virus software

3 Firewall

A firewall is your computer’s default defence against unwanted programs and viruses from the internet. Often when you download something from the web, you will be asked for permission to open your firewall to the program.

You may want to look at your firewall’s settings often, so you know which programs are allowed access and which aren’t.

4 Updates

Keeping your operating system up-to-date is vital for making sure your computer is secure. Regular updates will often improve the security of your PC by patching vulnerabilities and helping to combat new viruses and malware which may have been able to affect a previous version of your operating system. 

5 Spam emails

If you’ve got an email account, you’re bound to get spam. Most email services will sort out any spam emails you receive and place them in a junk/spam folder, so, for the most part, you won’t have to worry about it.

That doesn’t mean that spam is completely harmless, however, or ultimately detectable. You should always be wary of emails asking for personal information such as bank details, especially since banks will never send an email asking for specific details.

Other than that, if you find spam, you should never click anything within the email such as a link or an image, since doing so could result in you downloading a virus unintentionally

6 Regular backups

If you have valuable information and files on your computer, it’s definitely
worth creating a backup to ensure that you don’t lose anything should something happen. Viruses today can be especially nasty if you’re not careful, so keeping a backup is a must. Consider purchasing an external hard drive and backing up your computer’s files regularly or alternatively you can try a cloud storage service such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

7 Manage your passwords

You should never have just one password for every single account. If someone were able to access one of your accounts, they would also be able to access others by using the same password.

Of course, it may be hard to remember different passwords, especially if you have many accounts, so you should make a list of your own on paper. Don’t create a list of your passwords on your computer, because if somebody gained access to it, they would be able to access all of your accounts, so try a service such as Lastpass, a password management program that will store all your passwords for you in an encrypted database. Lastpass can also be used to generate extremely strong passwords.

8 Watch out for wifi

Free wifi is great when you need quick and easy access to the internet, but it can sometimes pose a problem to your security. If you connect to public wifi, you should understand that the network could be compromised and any personal information could be accessed by a third party, this is called a Man-in-the-middle-attack (MITM). As such you should consider all public wifi as insecure and never use it to log into financial, banking or other sensitive websites. If you find yourself frequently using a public wifi then consider subscribing to a VPN service which will encrypt and ‘hide’ your internet traffic from the wifi.

Adding Property Value

July 4, 2018

Here’s a guide to what you may want to do yourself and what you should leave to the professionals.

What To Do Yourself

1 Painting

A fresh coat of paint can give you a strong return on your renovation dollar. Painting is a job almost anyone can take on themselves, although it can be messier and more time-consuming than you might imagine.

The key to a successful paint finish lies in the preparation. Take the time to clean, sand and tape as necessary. Also, choose the right paint for the job and invest in good-quality equipment. Don’t skimp on brushes and rollers – a professional job looks professional because they use the right tools.

Handy hint: a water-based paint can help make the clean-up more bearable.

2 Paving 

You can lift the appearance of your home’s outdoor areas with new paving. Laying bricks or square pavers is a simple task, although you do need to set aside enough time to complete each step properly. Paving is a multi-step process, from preparing the pathway and cement through to laying the pavers. Try consulting one of the numerous online paving tutorials or visit your local hardware store for advice.

3 Flooring

If your home has wooden flooring, you can bring it to life with a sand and polish. Hardware and equipment-hire stores rent out machines for home use. However, achieving a perfect finish is trickier than it looks. If you’re not confident on the tools, another DIY approach is to lay your own floating floor, or even stick down self-adhesive vinyl floor planks or tiles.

What to Leave to the Experts

1 Electrical and Plumbing

Undertaking electrical or plumbing works can be illegal and potentially life-threatening if you’re not a qualified tradesperson. If electrical and plumbing works aren’t done by a professional, you’re risking personal harm, and exposing your home and family to the risk of fire or flood damage. Leave this to the experts.

2 Asbestos Removal

Prior to 1987, asbestos was commonly used in Australian home construction. If your home was built or renovated before this date, there’s a strong chance it could contain asbestos. Even minor home maintenance tasks such as drilling a hole into a wall or installing a light fitting can create a health risk by causing asbestos fibers to become airborne. Always engage a licensed asbestos assessor and remover to handle any asbestos concerns at your property.

3 Roof Repairs

Many a DIY renovator has regretted the decision to try to repair their own roof. Falls from ladders are a common cause of injury. During 2011–12, 1,294 men (78%) and 374 women (22%) were hospitalised in Australia as a result of a fall on or from a ladder, and 62 per cent of these injuries happened in or around the home. A DIY approach can be friendly on the wallet, but there are some jobs simply not worth tackling – your safety is far more important. If you’re considering home renovations, contact your mortgage broker first to find out how much you can borrow.

Investment Property Criteria

July 2, 2018

Below are our 6 key criteria points for finding the right investment property

In the world of investment properties, criteria is king! You probably have an idea of what you want, and where you hope to find it, but have you thought about your essential criteria for finding an investment property?

1 Rental yields is a key factor to evaluate when looking at investment properties. The rental yield provides a percentage of return for the dollar spent for that same property. It’s a great indicator that allows you to quickly access the potential return, versus the price required to obtain the investment. Rental returns show a huge indication of market demand in most areas. They can provide indicators of growth and density within an area, which in turn will affect future potential. If an area shows high rental demand over a consistent period and has strong infrastructure in place, you’re relatively safe to deduce that future growth is likely.

2 Demographics is how a population is structured and includes metrics such as age, sex, marital status, family size, education, geographic location, occupation, income and household occupancy. This kind of information helps the government and private enterprise make decisions on where to build key pieces of new infrastructure such as new schools, hospitals, parks, housing  projects, roads, shopping centers and so on. Companies such as McDonalds, Coles and Woolworths use this same demographic data to determine their future store placements. Knowing the demographics of an area gives us huge insights as investors, because it can show changes and future beneficial factors. As an investor, it’s imperative to do your research in order to understand what changes will occur and how they’ll affect the demand for the location.

3 Tax. The mitigation of your personal income tax via the use of government-sponsored tax deductions and building depreciation is important when considering the right investment. To make the right investment, you’ll need to first assess how important tax minimisation is within your personal investment. Many deductions can be made from investment properties, which includes interest costs, stamp duty, agent fees, council rates and annual inspections. By far the largest deduction that can be obtained yearly is depreciation. Depending on the age and price of the property, higher amounts can be put forward as deductible expenses. This can be used as a tool to minimise the holding cost of the property.

4 Capital growth is the term used to describe the increase in the value of your property over time. While there’s no guarantee a property will gain in value in the short term, historically we know that real estate experiences steady growth over time. When assessing an investment, it’s important to do your research and trace the property’s historical rise or decline in growth, then compare that to its current movement. A common mistake is when everyday people look to buy emotionally-based investments in established and historically high growth areas, which are usually at their peak price point for that period. This can mean the purchase is overpriced, which puts pressure on the rental yields obtained. 

5 Government Spending and Infrastructure. Investment by both public (government) and private enterprise is a good sign for an area’s future potential. Government spending through infrastructure creates jobs, improves accessibility, and increases desirability in an area. This, in turn, has the potential to significantly increase demand as an area is revitalised. Businesses tend to follow government spending and look for opportunities to increase revenue by expanding into growth areas. Therefore, properties in such areas are likely to go up in value over time as investment continues, setting them in good stead to generate capital gains. 

6 The residential vacancy rate is the percentage of available properties in a given area that are vacant or unoccupied at any one time. High vacancy rates indicate that the properties are not renting well, while low vacancy rates point to a strong rental market. Low vacancy rates equate to increased rents and high tenant occupancy. Vacancy rates can show a true indication of demand within an area and as long as the property meets the demographic requirements, it can also provide an indication of future growth.

So next time you’re looking to invest, be sure to develop strong criteria to significantly reduce your risk of error or low-value investment. As an investor, this kind of approach is far more beneficial than the emotional purchases and cosmetic” style of purchasing of most owner-occupiers. Doing your research also gives you a deeper understanding of the property, area, and general market.