Money saving tips: Woman explains how she’s saved £500 | Personal Finance | Finance

While experts have been recommending cutting back on takeaways and subscriptions, has discovered a fun way to save a fortune on travel this year.

A 46-year-old woman from York has shared how she saves money on travel by staying in stranger’s homes – for free.

She has enjoyed cheap holidays in exotic places like the French Réunion island south of Mauritius by not paying for accommodation or food.

Savvy Brits like Suzi Bewell are part of a ‘couch surfing’ phenomenon which could be about to become a lot more popular.

“I went to la Réunion island and stayed for three days with a family for free and I’ve had people from all over the world stay here in York,” Suzi told

READ MORE: NS&I explains how to increase chances of winning prize of up to £1m

She’s not the only one raving about sofa surfing as a means of saving money on travel.

While it’s easy to see how this way of life would be more appealing to the younger generation, surfing for seniors is also a thing.

On the Couchsurfing blog Paul Miniato wrote: “The average age of a Couchsurfer is 28, and only about three percent of users are over 50.”

Still with about five million members, that’s 150,000 ‘golden age’ surfers and hosts.”

However, he said the good news for travellers who might find a week on a sofa a little uncomfortable, is many people offer a private bedroom.

Jane Hawkes, consumer expert at, said it’s a great way to save money.

She said: “Couch surfing is a novel way to get that much needed holiday for a fraction of the price.

“You can also get cost cutting travel tips, local info and advice from your hosts as to where to go and what to do.”

Couch surfers like Paul say it’s a once in a lifetime experience they’ll never forget.

“Our first Couchsurfing experience was in the seaside town of Sequim, Washington.

“Our host, Teresa, was both interesting and gracious, and the accommodation offered us by our new friend was as good as any an old friend might provide.

“Couchsurfing will be high on our list for our next trip.

“We’d recommend it for yours.”

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Tips to protect your personal finances

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Crime and Safety Analyst Paul Vecker joined NewsChannel 7 in the studio Thursday to tell us how to give viewers some tips on know what is a scam online and what is not.

Vecker warns that a majority of online scams are conducted outside of the United States. He says there have been recent reports about a scam saying that an individual has “won” a trip or item.

Vecker said to always stay diligent, and contact your local law enforcement if you are suspicious or think you are the victim of a scam. He said that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

To learn more about what to look out for, watch the interview attached to this story.

Copyright 2022 WJHG. All rights reserved.

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Top Tips to Determine Your Personal COVID-19 Risk

April 13, 2022 – People need to make personal decisions about their risk for COVID-19 based on their comfort level, what they do in public, and the amount of virus circulating in their community, Anthony Fauci, MD, said recently.

But this vague recommendation may leave people wondering exactly what they should and shouldn’t do now to balance safety with a strong desire to return to a pre-pandemic life that is as normal as possible.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when little was known about COVID-19, “everybody had to be extremely cautious,” says Aaron Glatt, MD, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Hewlett, NY. “Now risk can be individualized.”

There’s an exception for residents of Philadelphia, which will become the first big U.S. city to reinstate indoor mask requirements starting Monday.

Deciding whether to wear masks everywhere else, no surprise, depends on some personal factors: Are you over 50? Do you have a medical condition that places you at greater risk? Do you live with a high-risk person? Likewise, risk can vary based on how you interact with others: Do you avoid indoor concerts? Request outdoor seating at restaurants? Grocery shop at 11 p.m.?

The eased restrictions, relaxed recommendations, and an increase in case numbers in some states can add to the confusion.

Although people have heard about pandemic risk factors for more than 2 years, “it’s tough because people are not good at assessing their own risk. Everyone thinks they’re invulnerable, especially younger people,” says Thomas Giordano, MD, a professor and section chief of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

On a positive note, “we’re at a phase of the epidemic where people can decide what’s appropriate for them,” he says. “Much of the country is doing very well.”

Some Risk Factors to Consider

The experts consulted for this story shared some examples. If you are older and have multiple medical conditions, you probably should not be doing anything outside your home unless you are vaccinated, boosted, and wearing a mask, says Luis Ostrosky, MD, chief of infectious diseases with UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann-TMC in Texas.

“But if you’re in your 20s, you have no comorbidities, and you’re vaccinated and boosted, you probably can be doing more stuff outside and possibly in more high-risk settings,” he says.

A history of COVID-19 combined with vaccination likely offers the highest level of protection, Glatt says. “A 25-year-old, triply vaccinated person who recently had COVID is a different animal than a 75-year-old unvaccinated [person who] never had COVID who is morbidly obese.”

Also, if someone works where they come into contact with tens, dozens, or hundreds of people a day in close quarters, “the risk of exposure is substantial.” Giordano says. On the other hand, “If you’re retired and leave home mostly to take walks outdoors several times a day, your risk is probably low.”

Join the Booster Club

Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, also addressed the importance of a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or second booster, for eligible Americans when speaking Sunday on ABC’s This Week.

Any time beyond 4 months since an initial booster shot would be an ideal time to get another vaccination, says Ali Mokdad, PhD, chief strategy officer for population health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

“The data shows that waning starts at 3 months and gets really low at 5 to 6 months,” he says.

“The number one question I get right now is: Should I get my second booster?” Ostrosky says. “Again, what I’ve been advising my patients is, if you’re older than 50, if you have comorbidities, if you’re more outgoing right now, doing more stuff out there in the community, probably now is the right time to get your second booster.”

“If you’re younger, if you don’t have comorbidities, and you’re not going out that much, then you can probably wait a little bit longer, he says.

Peter Pitts, a former associate commissioner with the FDA, says that “more antibodies are better than fewer, and as many Americans as possible should get both a first and second booster.”

“‘Individualized risk’ is a fancy way of saying ‘personal responsibility,’ says Pitts, who also is co-founder of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. “We need to pivot from explaining the data to putting it into the perspective of individual actions based on personal, familial, and community responsibility.”

Pandemic Fatigue Could Play a Role

Asking people to keep up their guard after more than 2 years of the pandemic adds to the challenge. “People are tired. Definitely, everyone’s tired. I’m tired of it,” Giordano says

Ostrosky agrees. “What I’ve been seeing in patients, friends, and family is everybody is done with [COVID] and they’re willing to take more risk than they used to before.”

“Nobody wants to deal with this. Even infectious disease doctors don’t want to deal with this anymore,” Glatt says.

Giordano says it comes down to two questions: What is your risk of exposure to COVID, and what is your risk of bad disease if you are exposed?

Transmission Check

A resource people can use to gauge their personal risk is the CDC County Check. The agency provides color-coded levels of COVID in a community searchable by US county: green for low, yellow for medium, and red for high

Most of the U.S. remains green at the moment, Giordano says, but if the level of concern goes from green to yellow or yellow to red, then universal recommendations – like those about to take place in Philadelphia – become more likely.

But national COVID-19 numbers miss about 93 out of 100 positive cases, Mokdad said in an interview with the Poynter Institute. A lack of reporting of positive home tests is part of the story, “but the majority of infections, about 80% are asymptomatic,” he said.

“So folks do not go and test,” Mokdad said, “as they do not have symptoms and hence a reason to do so unless needed for travel or they know they were exposed.”

Giordano agreed the actual case numbers are likely higher, in part due to home testing. “I think there’s more COVID out there now than there was a month ago or 2 months ago, but a lot of it is not being reported to health officials because it’s being diagnosed at home.”

Living in the Matrix?

Laying out a person’s risk on paper might help people see what they’re comfortable doing now and in the future if the COVID landscape changes once again.

Ostrosky says he’s been advising people to create a “risk matrix” based on age, medical conditions, and what the CDC County Check indicates for where you live or plan to travel. Also consider how important an activity is to you, he says.

“With this three-axis matrix, you can make a decision whether an activity is worthwhile for you or not and whether it is risky for you or not,” he says. “With this matrix and masking and vaccination, you can navigate the pandemic.”

Enjoy Now, but Also Prepare

More new COVID-19 cases are not surprising “when there is a pullback on mitigation measures,” Fauci said during the Sunday talk show.

“We’re at that point where in many respects … we’re going to have to live with some degree of virus in the community,” he said.

Fauci does not expect a rise in hospitalizations and deaths to go with the new increase in cases. “Hopefully, we’re not going to see increased severity.”

Pitts was even more optimistic. “Dr. Fauci buried the lede: We’re winning. COVID-19 is moving from a deadly pandemic to a manageable, non-lethal endemic.”

As with the flu, different prevention measures are recommended for different groups of people, Pitts says.

“I feel that we’re going to be going into a cyclical nature on this, where we’re going to be seeing highs and lows of COVID rates in different communities,” Ostrosky says. “During the lows, do a lot of planning and prepare for a situation where you may be in a high-transmission setting again.”

“We all need to take a huge deep breath and say, ‘It’s not over but we’re getting back to normal,’” Glatt says.

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For German Firms, Ties to Russia Are Personal, Not Just Financial

BERLIN — When Peter Fenkl heard that Russia had invaded Ukraine, he said his first thoughts were not for the business his German company stood to lose in either country, but for the fates of his employees in the region, who over years of business dealings and shared drinks had become more than just colleagues.

“These are more than just business relationships, they are real friendships,” said Mr. Fenkl, the chief executive of the company, a maker of industrial fans. “We have sat next to each other in meetings, had beers together.”

The family-owned company, Ziehl-Abegg, has 4,300 employees, and Mr. Fenkl recalled how the teams from Germany, Russia and Ukraine worked side-by-side, on business trips and during trade fairs where Ziehl-Abegg would display its wares.

Now all four of the company’s employees in Ukraine have taken up arms to defend their country. In Russia, where the company has a production facility and employs 30 people, business has ground to a halt.

Mr. Fenkl said he had spoken several times with his company’s manager in Russia in the past week, trying to figure out how to proceed as the gravity of the situation became clearer.

“Twice I called the colleague in Russia and he couldn’t talk,” Mr. Fenkl added. “He kept breaking down in tears.”

German companies do far more business in Russia than any other European Union country does, exporting goods worth more than 26 billion euros ($28.4 billion) last year (Poland was second with €8 billion) and investing a further €25 billion in operations there. This commitment to the Russian economy reflects, in part, an ethos embraced by the former West Germany coming out of World War II — that trade could ensure peace and prevent Europe from descending into another war.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and the sanctions that followed, caused the number of German firms investing in Russia to drop by a third. Still, the figure was just under 4,000 companies by 2020, with many convinced that their presence could help anchor Russia in the democratic sphere.

On Feb. 24, that belief was shattered, leaving companies of all sizes wondering what to do next.

While some have announced decisions to pull out and have started unwinding business ties, others are trying to stay on, some out of loyalty to their employees, despite Western sanctions that have thrown up huge obstacles to banking and cross-border transport, and the collapse of the ruble. What remains for many businesses is a profound sense of sadness, coupled with disillusionment.

Germany’s leading automakers — BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Daimler Truck — all announced last week that they were halting their exports and production in Russia. Family-owned firms, including ZF Group, a car parts maker, and Haniel, which manages several independent businesses in the country, are doing the same.

“While our options are limited, we still can have an impact,” Thomas Schmidt, chief executive of Haniel, said in a video statement, announcing that all business activities in Russia and Belarus would be halted and commitments unwound. “I understand it is tough from a customer and supplier relationship perspective, but it is more important that we get people on the street protesting.”

That sentiment is even coming from the German Eastern Business Association, a group of companies that for decades has been a cheerleader for deeper economic ties with Moscow, even in the face of the increasingly anti-democratic moves by President Vladimir V. Putin. The group is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, and several of its members were previously scheduled to meet last week with the Russian president in Moscow. The trip was abandoned after the invasion.

“We should call a spade a spade: It is currently less about the sanctions and their consequences than about the question of whether or not we will still have significant economic relations with Russia in the future,” said Oliver Hermes, chairman of the business organization. In 2014, the group had campaigned against severe economic punishment for Moscow, but this time is different.

“The sooner the Russian government stops this war, the more of these relations can still be saved,” Mr. Hermes said. “There is no question that the German economy will support the sanctions imposed.”

Years ago Martin Daller, the chief executive of Seebacher, a maker of specialty lighting controls, hadn’t been interested in investing in Russia. But it is an enormous, attractive market for the products developed by his family-owned company, based in Bad-Tölz, and when a Russian manager quit a rival company and approached him about setting up a Russian division, he decided to give it a try.

That was just before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, but business was starting to pick up this year. Then came the invasion.

“Now, we are wondering what we should do. Break off contact and just let him go,” said Mr. Daller, whose company has annual revenue of €2.5 million. “From a financial point of view, it wouldn’t be that dramatic for us. But he is a father of three and the whole family depends on his job.”

It is not only the smaller companies that are facing tough decisions.

Wintershall Dea, a German oil and gas company with a global portfolio of projects, canceled its annual company news conference that was to be held on Feb. 25, the day after the invasion. Instead, its leaders issued a joint statement on March 2 expressing alarm at the war.

“We have been working in Russia for over 30 years. Many of our colleagues at our other locations also work with partners from Russia on a daily basis,” it read. “We have built many personal relationships — including in our joint ventures with Gazprom,” Russia’s state energy giant.

“But the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine marks a turning point,” they said. “What is happening now is shaking the very foundations of our cooperation.”

The company separately said that it would stop payments to Russia and write off its €1 billion investment in the ill-fated Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany, that the government in Berlin had suspended on Feb. 22. It will also not receive any revenue from its oil and gas operations in Russia, which accounted for nearly a fifth of its operating profit in 2021.

Not every German company is pulling out. Metro, a wholesale food company with 93 locations in Russia, where it had revenue of €2.4 billion last year, said that it had decided to continue operations out of concern that pulling out would disrupt food supplies to the population. “None of our 10,000 employees in Russia is personally responsible for the war in Ukraine,” the company said in a statement.

Metro said it was also trying to operate some of its 26 stores in Ukraine, depending on the security situation, and was supporting efforts to provide for people who were forced to flee their homes.

Beyond the impact to companies that had invested in Russia, analysts are predicting that the broader German economy will be hurt by increases in prices for energy and food as a result of the war. Since the invasion, politicians have been rallying the public to view their sacrifices through a wider lens.

“My country, Germany, will be the country that will bear the brunt of the sanctions that have been adopted by the European Union and by the U.S.,” Emily Haber, Germany’s ambassador to the United States, said on Twitter. “We are prepared to carry the burden. Freedom is priceless.”

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Kiplinger’s Personal Finance: Travel insurance for a pandemic | Business News

The pandemic has introduced a discomfiting element of gambling to travel planning. But you can reduce the odds of losing money when your trip is canceled or delayed by buying travel insurance.

The limitations of standard travel insurance have expanded the appeal of a previously obscure upgrade to standard travel insurance known as “cancel for any reason” policies. This option, while significantly more expensive, is more likely to cover the sort of cancellations that COVID-19 has made commonplace.

Megan Moncrief, chief marketing officer for travel insurance aggregator Squaremouth, said CFAR has become the go-to plan for more travelers.

Traditional travel insurance, she explains, doesn’t cover the majority of pandemic-related claims. And a recent review by Squaremouth found that only 30% of pandemic-related claims were made by people who canceled their trips because they actually contracted COVID. That is the only type of pandemic claim that would be covered by most standard travel insurance policies.

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The remaining 70% of claims were for related reasons, including border closures and quarantines, but those were excluded from non-CFAR policies.

A travel insurance plan from TravelEx for a $12,000, nine-day, two-person trip to Canada, Italy or France in June costs $522, including COVID cancellation protection and trip-interruption protection. CFAR travel insurance for a similar trip from the same insurance provider would cost $730.

CFAR insurance now makes up about 8% of sales, but that’s down from 28% at its peak in 2020, Moncrief said.

Travel insurance policies with a CFAR add-on typically must be purchased within two to three weeks of the first payment toward the covered trip, according to Squaremouth. But certain policies that cover only cruises offer CFAR at any time before a final payment is made for a trip.

Insurers now demand that policyholders first seek reimbursement from the travel service provider, such as the airline or cruise company, before filing an insurance claim.

Sometimes, Moncrief says, an airline might want to give credit rather than reimbursement. She says insurers will encourage travelers to push for reimbursement before considering whether to provide coverage for such an event.

Insurers have made a number of adjustments in response to the pandemic. At the beginning, Moncrief says, travel policies didn’t cover medical care for pandemic illnesses. But that quickly changed.

Visit for more on this and similar money topics.

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Biden’s personal Covid fears – POLITICO

Welcome to POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook,your guide to the people and power centers in the Biden administration. With Allie Bice.

Send tips | Subscribe here| Email Alex | Email Max

As Omicron began storming the country in December, the president and the vice president changed their own masking protocols. At the advice of their personal health advisers, they largely ditched the black surgical masks they previously sported and began wearing KN95’s weeks before the CDC updated their own masking guidance.

The change reflects a dynamic within this White House — one that’s dictated everything from internal operations to the president’s travel schedule and could very well scuttle his ambitions to criss cross the country more this year. They’re terrified of JOE BIDEN getting Covid.

Some current and former White House officials foresee a potential political and policy disaster if the president were to contract the virus, even though he is vaccinated and boosted. Covid protocol critics and vaccine skeptics would have a field day with Biden catching Covid and use it to further undermine trust in the administration’s efforts to combat the pandemic. The 79-year-old president would likely take at least a few days to recover—in addition to placing himself in quarantine—which could exacerbate concerns about his age and health.

Aides’ fear of that scenario has prompted the White House to limit Biden’s travel and interactions with voters during his first year in office. That has frustrated Biden, who said last week that in 2022, “I’m going to get out of this place more often. I’m going to go out and talk to the public…I’m going to interface with them.”

Similar limitations led to the “Biden in the basement” meme during the 2020 election, but also arguably helped Biden politically, as it portrayed him as taking the virus seriously compared to the more cavalier approach of one DONALD TRUMP. But attitudes around the pandemic have changed since then. And the same precautions have now made it more difficult to turn around his political prospects as president. It has also made it more difficult to showcase his talents as a grip-and-grin politician.

Biden’s foreign and cross-country travel has also been curtailed, according to sources familiar with the planning. Despite the president’s desire to reorient foreign policy towards Asia, he has yet to visit the region in part because of Covid fears, according to current and former administration officials. His only two international trips — to Europe — came in June and October, when fears of Covid had ebbed in between waves of infections. The logistical challenges grow tremendously when he stays somewhere overnight, as they try to keep him in a Covid-safe bubble in a new environment. A White House official pushed back, telling us that, “We navigate and consider appropriate COVID protocols for all activities. COVID has not prevented travel from happening.”

Biden’s not the only world leader who has limited his movements because of the pandemic. Chinese President XI JINPING has not left his country for almosttwo years, opting to attend international meetings virtually.

And even as the administration encourages vaccinated Americans to live their normal lives, Biden has not really done much socially outside the White House, attending only a few gatherings and eschewing even some of the local restaurants he frequented as vice president.

SALLY QUINN, the writer and demiurge of the high-endWashington social circuit, told POLITICO that she’s not surprised about the Bidens’ absence from that universe. Although she said she didn’t want to reveal too much of her thinking because she’s working on a piece about the topic, Quinn pointed out that Biden is just the latest president to eschew an outside social life in favor of hunkering down in the White House.

“Obviously it would be a disaster for him to get Covid,” she said. “But in the Trump years and the Obama years — we have no history of presidents going out. They don’t do it anymore.”

SEND YOUR HOT TAKE — We want to incorporate more of your feedback. Is there something we missed in today’s edition? Do you have a tip to share or a thought on our coverage? Send us an email or text and we will try to include your thoughts in the next day’s edition. Can be anonymous, on background, etc. Email us at [email protected] or you can text/Signal Alex at 8183240098 or Max at 7143455427.

Do you work in the Biden administration? Are you in touch with the White House? Are you MARY BETH CAHILL, senior advisor at the DNC?

From the University of Virginia’s Miller Center 

Which president won a local election after a judge vacated the results due to voter fraud?

(Answer at the bottom.)

KLAIN CHARM OFFENSIVE — Chief of staff RON KLAIN sent boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts to White House teams last week, according to two people familiar with the donut diplomacy. Klain’s office told us it was a “thank you” to each department on the one year anniversary of the administration.

DROPPING THE DOOCE : Biden’s patience with reporters may have worn out after last week’s marathon news conference. Following a media event on Monday, Fox News White House correspondent PETER DOOCY asked the president if rising inflation could impact Democrats’ political fortunes in November.

Biden wasn’t pleased with the question. “That’s a great asset–more inflation,” Biden said sarcastically. “What a stupid son of a bitch,” he said under his breath, a comment caught on a hot mic as reporters exited the room. Fox immediately picked up on the comment, noting that it was the second time Biden has been publicly critical of a Fox News reporter over the past week. But the network also had fun with the moment: When Doocy appeared on The Five to address Biden’s comments, he noted: “No one has fact-checked him yet and said it’s not true.”

LEGGO MY EGGO: Press secretary JEN PSAKI loves toaster waffles for breakfast. She revealed that, plus her love of the TV shows Queer Eye and Emily in Paris, and the fact that she cries during Hallmark moviesin this new interview with The Cut.

As for Twitter criticism and praise, she said: “You shouldn’t care what someone you don’t know says about you on Twitter in a positive way, just like you shouldn’t care too much if somebody who doesn’t know you at all speaks negatively about you.”

VENI, VIDI, FAUCI: White House chief medical adviser Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI told MSNBC today that he isn’t going anywhere. “We are in a crisis right now and there’s no chance I’m going to walk away from this. This is something that’s too important,” he said.

ARRIVALS: Former White House environmental adviser DAVID KIEVE is now president of EDF Action, the advocacy partner of the Environmental Defense Fund. He is also the husband of communications director KATE BEDINGFIELD.

THE PRICE OF CLIMATE RISK — The nation’s top financial regulators will all soon be headed by progressive regulators who are preparing to push the Biden administration’s climate agenda forward, even as the president has failed to get broader climate-related legislation through Congress, VICTORIA GUIDA reports.

Fed to signal rate hike as it launches risky inflation fight (AP’s Christopher Rugaber)

If history’s a guide, Biden ain’t getting any stronger (Roll Call’s Nathan Gonzalez)

To save his presidency, Biden can learn from the struggles of Rutherford B. Hayes (WaPo’s Edward O. Frantz)

The president headed back to the White House after a weekend at Camp David, Staff returning with him included counselor to the president STEVE RICCHETTI, director of Oval Office operations ANNIE TOMASINI and personal aide to the president, STEPHEN GOEPFERT.

He received the presidential daily brief in the morning. In the afternoon, the president held a secure video call in the Situation Room with European Commission President URSULA VON DER LEYEN, European Council President CHARLES MICHEL, President EMMANUEL MACRON of France, Chancellor OLAF SCHOLZ of Germany, Prime Minister MARIO DRAGHI of Italy, NATO Secretary General JENS STOLTENBERG, President ANDRZEJ DUDA of Poland, and Prime Minister BORIS JOHNSON of the United Kingdom to consult on Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders.

Later, he met with his White House Competition Council to highlight the administration’s efforts to lower prices for Americans.

Harris and second gentleman DOUG EMHOFF left Los Angeles this morning and flew to Milwaukee, Wis.

Harris toured the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/Building Industry Group Skilled Trades Employment Program building and delivered remarks on infrastructure with EPA Administrator MICHAEL REGAN.

Harris and Emhoff head back to Washington, D.C. this evening.

What would an evening with Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN look like?

For starters, it would include a lot of talk about economics. She told the Minneapolis Fed in an interview back in 1995 that guests “would probably hear economics discussed over the dinner table.”

“My husband and I work together, we’re both economists, and the bulk of our friends are economists,” she added. “You would eat a diet that is richer in discussions of economics and policy issues than many people would find appetizing.”

Sounds like a recipe for heartburn.

JIMMY CARTER. Initially defeated in a 1962 Democratic primary for a seat in the Georgia state senate, he was able to prove that his opponent’s victory was based on widespread voter fraud. After a judge threw out the fraudulent votes, Carter went on to win the election and eventually became the state’s governor in 1971.

For more on Carter, visit

Got a better question? Send us your hardest trivia question on the presidents and we may feature it on Wednesdays. 

Edited by Emily Cadei

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Woman explains how she saves thousands on travel | Personal Finance | Finance

While her husband is ready to leave the world of work, the 52-year old is by no means ready to retire – but she has found a way to travel the world for a fraction of the cost. It’s good news for avid explorers, as she says anyone can do it.

All they have to pay for is the annual membership which costs £99 a year and they could get to stay in dreamy houses in locations like Australia or Mauritius for free.

Because the accommodation is free, travelling this way could save people £20,000 or more over the course of a year.

While Inge has yet to live in her dream locations thanks to Covid, she has stayed in a quaint cottage in the Cotswolds and she can’t wait to travel further afield.

She added: “We’ve stayed in some stunning houses in the UK. In Dorset, we stayed in a converted barn with a cosy Aga and three dogs and five chickens. It was a lovely way to experience rural life.”

For Inge, hotel comforts are all well and good but nothing beats that ‘home from home’ feeling.

She’s also a huge pet lover. “I love travelling this way – you have more of a ‘real life’ experience,” she enthused.

“Often you’ll be out walking the dog and you’ll bump into a neighbour and end up having a nice chat because they recognise the dog. You might see them again later down the pub.

“The homeowners are pleased because their pets are well looked after and you get to stay in someone’s home for free. It’s win, win!”

The only catch is that there might be a lot of applications for prestigious properties.

It also helps if you love pets – 95 percent of homeowners looking for house sitters have cats, dogs, chickens or horses.

At first, her husband who is a little bit less adventurous, had his doubts about Inge’s new brainwave but he has since come around to the idea.

She added: “We love the idea of staying in nice places and having the companionship of pets.

“Walking a dog is a great way to get to know the area, and nothing beats cuddling up on the sofa with a cat on your lap.”

For anyone looking to take on board Inge’s tips, she recommends:

  • Taking on local tasks first to build up personal recommendations – some assignments will have more than 20 applicants
  • Leaving the house cleaner than when you arrive – this makes an instant impression and leads to great reviews
  • Communicating with owners about their pets – Inge sends them pictures and videos every day
  • Being flexible if you can – choose your dates and then see what’s available. That way you can be open up to new possibilities that you may not have dreamt of.

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5 Things I’ve Learned in 18 Months of Personal Finance Reporting

We want to help you make more informed decisions. Some links on this page — clearly marked — may take you to a partner website and may result in us earning a referral commission. For more information, see How We Make Money.

There’s no shortage of great personal finance advice out there. The problem is figuring out whether or not it applies to you.

“Personal finance is personal before it’s financial,” Talaat McNeely told me during an interview earlier this year. McNeely is the co-founder of the site His and Her Money, which he runs with his wife, Tai. I’ve found this idea to be a helpful way to think about your finances and life in general. 

There is no single tip or money hack that will instantly change your life. But some principles and concepts can put you on the path to achieving your goals. You’ll just need to figure out a way to apply them to your unique situation.

Here are the most impactful lessons I’ve learned during my time as a personal finance reporter, and how I’ve applied them to my life. These tools and concepts helped my wife and me set aside over $20,000 to pay off student loans (once interest resumes next year), build our emergency fund, and feel less stressed about our financial future.

A good budget should manage not only your expenses but also your emotional relationship with money.

5 Things I Learned as a Personal Finance Reporter

Since launching NextAdvisor in the middle of the pandemic, our biggest priority has been sharing actionable advice readers can use right away in their daily lives. In the course of fulfilling this mission, we’ve learned quite a lot about ourselves.

Here are four personal finance concepts my wife and I have incorporated into our everyday approach to finances, plus one strategy we plan to use when we are ready to buy a house

1. Budgeting Is About More Than Just Managing Money

For years my budget was a homemade spreadsheet I updated sporadically in hopes of becoming a young Warren Buffet. It rarely worked as well as I wanted. In theory, my budget should have turned me into the ultimate saver. But what frequently happened was: I’d update it once a month only to find out I’d overspent on eating out. And it wasn’t helping me feel any less stressed about money.

One of the first stories I wrote for NextAdvisor was about creating a budget, and that is where I discovered zero-based budgeting (ZBB). Once my wife and I started using the zero-based budgeting method, we didn’t just start saving more but also began to feel less worried about money. In my experience, a good budget should manage not only your expenses but also your emotional relationship with money.

Piper after his surgery. He hated the cone of shame, so we put him in a baby onesie.Jason Stauffer/Getty Images

With ZBB, every dollar that comes in is given a purpose. We assign funds to pay for rent, cellphone, and other expenses. But we also assign money for more than just our current bills. This strategy helped us pay off student loans sooner than we expected. 

ZBB also helped us build an emergency fund for the first time in my life. When the cat needed a $2,000 emergency surgery this past summer, we already had that money set aside. If we hadn’t had an emergency fund, this surprise cost would have been a setback for other goals. Since this money was already set aside, it didn’t negatively affect our other financial obligations. 

We’ve been using the zero-based budgeting app You Need a Budget (YNAB) for almost a year and a half, and we absolutely love it. This app has effectively turned our credit cards into debit cards, which is important because I’m a full-blown travel credit card junkie. When I enter a credit card purchase into the YNAB app, the funds are immediately assigned to pay off that card. So even though I won’t actually pay the credit card bill for up to 30 days, the budget tells me that money is no longer available to spend. 

How to Find a Budgeting Strategy That Works for You

If you want to try zero-based budgeting for yourself, I think YNAB is a great place to start. It’s important to note that it’s not free. But there are plenty of free or cheap ZBB templates available. And ZBB isn’t the only budgeting method that works. As you explore different approaches to budgeting, zero in on why you want a budget in the first place. A budget can help reduce financial stress, and get you closer to your goals without turning you into Ebenezer Scrooge.

2. Prioritize Income Over Expenses

There is a limited number of Starbucks lattes you can cut from your budget—but an unlimited number of ways to make money.

I’ve talked with people who’ve paid off their mortgage in under six years and conquered six-figure sums of debt. One common thread from these success stories is they find ways to make more money. They start side hustles, businesses, or find better paying jobs. Having a budget that works for you is still the first step. But if you don’t net enough income after expenses, then saving for anything else will be a struggle. 

My wife and I are expecting our first child in 2022, and for us, it’s as important as ever to increase our household income. My wife is considering a move from freelance to full-time work, which would provide a more stable income. From there, we might explore other freelance or side hustle opportunities.

How to Increase Your Income

Starting a side hustle might not be as challenging as you think. Chances are you already have interests and talents you could use or develop to boost your income. One great bit of advice Marc Russell shared with me was to repurpose the skills from your current job into a side hustle. Russell is the creator of the personal finance Instagram account Betterwallet. “As long as there’s no conflict of interest with your current job, you can go off and create your own thing on the side and get paid for it,” he said in a previous NextAdvisor story.

3. Negotiating Can Be As Simple As Asking

The thought of negotiating has always terrified me. My idea of a good negotiator has always been a former Navy SEAL or pro athlete, someone who’s in control, confident, and used to winning. In reality, negotiating is often as simple as asking for what you want. Crafting a good offer sometimes includes offering something of value in return.  

I’ve never asked for much of anything, much less a discount on my housing costs. Recently, I was looking to move into a new apartment on a short-term 3-month lease. I emailed my current property managers to ask about two units downstairs I knew were vacant. I asked if either unit would be available for a short-term lease and I gave them valuable information, reminding them the one apartment had been vacant for over a year. Then I offered to pay all three months upfront if they would reduce the rent. 

Now I’m paying over $150 less a month and my landlord has $4,000 more than before I asked for what I wanted.

How to Negotiate More Frequently

Any negotiation is better than no negotiation. Find an approach that could help you ease into it and be more comfortable. Try making an indirect request and see if that’s easier for you. Instead of coming out and saying you want a pay raise, ask your manager something along the lines of, “what have people in my position done in the past to help increase their pay?” At the very least, it gets the conversation started. You’ll never get something if you don’t ask for it in the first place.

4. Be Patient and Consistent. Change Takes Time

Changing the trajectory of your finances takes time. 

That can be disheartening to read. Everywhere you look it’s one headline after another highlighting the youngest millionaire or someone who went from insurmountable debt to financial freedom in less time than it took to read their bestselling book.

Life is a marathon, but we only see the last few hundred yards of other people’s victories. Almost all financial achievements are preceded by a long period of learning and building momentum. Whether it’s learning to code before becoming a tech entrepreneur or saving up for a down payment on a house, meaningful changes take time. 

If you can only take small steps, just keep taking small steps. It can be tough seeing how fast everyone else seems to be moving. What’s not obvious is how much time it took them to develop the speed you’re seeing. Understanding how much time is involved in making meaningful improvements is the foundation for positive financial decisions. 

How to Use Time to Your Advantage

The best way to get time working for you is to start now. Start small, start slow, start without it being perfect. Then your job is to continue what you started, however slowly you’d like, and to learn and make adjustments along the way. 

5. Prospective homeowners: Ask about a zero-cost mortgage 

While reporting on mortgages, the most overlooked strategy I’ve come across for reducing your mortgage cost is to ask for lender credits in exchange for a higher interest rate. In this situation, the credits would be used to cover the loan fee portion of your closing costs. A zero-cost mortgage means you’d be paying a lot less out of pocket every time you buy a home or refinance.

Here’s why I plan to get a zero-cost loan:

  • By reducing the upfront cost I’ll have more liquidity. 
  • What I would have spent on upfront closing costs can be used to pay down the mortgage balance, invest in a retirement fund, or set it aside for unplanned home repairs
  • If I move or refinance a combined six times in the next 30 years, I’d pay closing costs (3%-6% of the loan) six times. So for me, taking the higher interest rate with a zero-cost loan is cheaper because our future plans aren’t set in stone. 

When researching lenders, ask if they have a zero-cost loan option. Compare your options and see which one makes the most sense for you. In my experience, the zero-cost mortgage is not as common or widely advertised. Also, the zero-cost mortgage is different from a no-closing-cost mortgage. A no-closing cost mortgage is when the closing costs are rolled into the total loan balance. 

How to Pick the Right Mortgage for You

Any time you take out a home loan, you’ll want to be sure that you understand all your options. Ask a lot of questions and work with a professional who will help you understand your options, rather than just someone who gives you “the answer.” In my experience, most borrowers are overly concerned with the mortgage rate and overlook the closing costs. Interest and closing costs can be easy to miss because they might be added to your loan balance, but you’re still paying even if you’re not paying out of pocket when you close.

Bottom Line

The above practices have given me the patience I needed to establish financial habits that will last a lifetime. They worked for me. But it doesn’t mean you should take the same approach. If nothing else, use these concepts to start thinking about how you can approach your finances differently or to start asking questions you hadn’t considered before.For more information, check out this library of resources on NextAdvisor’s savings page.

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International borders are open, but with travel comes a ‘personal responsibility’ to prevent the spread of COVID-19

A clear bag full of mini toiletries, a 14-hour flight and a new stamp in the passport — it might all seem like a distant memory.

If you’re preparing for your first long-haul flight since the pandemic began, this will be the first time you’ll have to navigate the terminal and the plane while also having to protect yourself from COVID-19.

And as Australian states open their borders and we dare to make Christmas plans, it’s wise to think about how to keep safe while travelling domestically too.    

Preparing for flights is no longer as simple as weighing your luggage and setting an early alarm, but experts have offered us advice on how to travel comfortably and arrive safe.

Be prepared 

One of the new non-negotiable items on your new pre-travel to do list is downloading your international vaccine certificate.

You’ll also need to be aware of and meet the entry requirements for your destination, and any stopover locations. 

If that involves a negative PCR test, you’ll need to think about the specific requirements of that. It could mean making a booking at a private laboratory test for within three days of your flight. 

There is going to be a whole lot more paperwork and preparation to do before you fly, so leave yourself time to get it done.  

Once you’ve got that sorted, experts recommend thinking about how to best protect yourself in transit. 

In Australia, you must wear masks inside airports and onboard departing flights and you will only be flying with people who are vaccinated or have exemptions.

But these circumstances may change as you move across the world.

Jennifer Sisson, chief medical officer of Travel Doctor-TVMC and dean of the faculty of travel medicine at the Australasian College of Tropical Medicine, said travellers had a “personal responsibility” to do as much as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Australians will be mixing with people from everywhere, from countries with different risks of COVID,” she said.   

“We have to remember a lot of the world is not vaccinated yet and that’s going to continue to be a risk to us.” 

That means a return to some of the most simple, but effective infection control practices — hand washing, using hand sanitiser, wearing a well-fitting mask and social distancing as much as possible. 

A line of people all wearing full PPE, hazmat suits stand in an airport
When flying, experts say you need to be prepared and pack spare personal protective equipment.  (Reuters: Thomas Peter)

Dr Sisson recommends packing a hygiene kit in your carry-on luggage. 

“That includes masks — disposable masks — hand sanitiser, disinfectant wipes, so they’ve got all of those things available to use,” she said.  

“In general masks are thought to be good for four to five hours, so generally after sitting with a mask on for that period of time we would say it’s a good idea to change it, so people do need to take a reasonable supply of masks with them and they all need to be disposed of properly as well.” 

In airports across the world and as you board flights, you may find masks and other hygiene items are made available to you, so take the opportunity to stock up. 

It’s also a good idea to travel with plastic snap-lock bags. If you’re unable to dispose of used masks promptly, keep them stored securely until you can.  

Onboard the plane 

Over the past 18 months, airlines have been open about their cleaning protocols. 

Qantas says its planes are cleaned with a disinfectant, “with a focus on the high contact areas of seats, seatbelts, overhead lockers, air vents and toilets”.  

While you’re getting settled, Dr Sisson suggested giving your seat a once over with a disinfectant wipe.

“When you first get to your seat, wipe down all the areas you’re likely to be touching regularly.”  

A man wearing a mask holds a tray while standing in the aisle.
Airlines and airports will make some supplies, including sanitiser sachets, available to passengers.  (AFP: Jack Taylor)

You’ll also have to manage your expectations about just how much you can move around inside the cabin during the flight. 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says passengers need to “avoid unnecessary movement” and “congregating when waiting to use the toilet”.

“Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially after contact with commonly touched surfaces,” the association said. 

The IATA also warned food and beverage services might be simplified to decrease crew movement and interaction with passengers.

A 14-hour flight is one situation where you may have long wished to be socially distanced.  

“While the bookings on planes are relatively light, they will continue to spread people as much as possible in terms of seating,” Dr Sisson said. 

“And at the airport, prior to leaving, avoid getting into big crowds as much as possible.” 

The air up there

A pilot in a face mask giving the thumbs up out the window of the plane
Ventilation on planes is often better than many buildings, but its the proximity to other passengers that makes experts worry. (Reuters: Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

The departure halls of an airport might provide enough space to social distance, but eventually there is a high chance you will end up in the very small space that is an economy seat with a stranger just a few centimetres away.

World-leading expert on air quality and its health implications Lidia Morowska said the close proximity on planes was the biggest risk factor.

“The difference is the space — the volume — is much smaller and normally the ventilation is much better in terms of air exchange per hour. It’s very fast ventilation, so from that point of view, it is better than in many environments on the ground,” she said.  

“However, the issue is proximity to people. 

“On the ground, we are saying we should be separated by 1.5 metres, this is of course impossible on the plane where we are basically sitting and touching another passenger. 

“So before the ventilation takes effect and removes the virus potentially emitted by someone, there is enough possibility the passenger sitting next to that person will inhale it and this is happening over hours and hours of a long-haul flight, so the risk increases, there is no doubt about this.” 

Dr Morowska said it was important to remember the increased transmission risk of the Delta variant. 

You know you’ll have to wear a mask on the flight, and change it periodically, but the fit of the mask is also very important. 

“If you want to protect yourself, you need to ensure that there’s a good fit,” Dr Morowska said. 

“You can have a very good mask in terms of efficiency where the virus doesn’t go through the mask, but if the mask is not fitted properly, if it’s loose on the face, then … [the virus] is going around the mask to the face and it’s not doing anything,” she said.

On a long flight, you have to eat food and drink water.

Dr Morowska said the best strategy was to wear a well-fitting mask for as long as you could, and accept the small risk that comes with taking it off to quickly eat and drink.

Getting home again

Qantas staff stand with 'welcome home' paddles
To return home, Australians will have to provide a negative PCR result from within 72 hours of their departure time.(AFP: Saeed Khan)

You made it overseas, the holiday was amazing and now you turn towards the long journey home. 

Getting back into Australia will require a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of your departure, so make time to get that done and be careful in the days before it. 

“We know the Delta virus has an incubation period of about four to five days, so it’s a lot shorter than it used to be,” Dr Sisson said. 

“You don’t want to be getting exposed in the days before you’re going to be getting your PCR test to return home, so that’s really important.”   

And you may have thought about packing a few rapid antigen tests. 

Those tests could help give you peace of mind, but ultimately if you have symptoms, you should get a PCR test and that’s also the standard of test you’ll need to re-enter Australia. 

“The result of a rapid antigen test is not always reliable, but I think with time it’s going to be fairly normal for people to be travelling with these and using them” Dr Sisson said.  

“I think if people do use them and they get a positive result, they can’t assume it is a true positive. 

“Generally we would always recommend they get it confirmed by having a PCR test.” 

What else can you do? 

We know activities such as singing and talking to someone in close proximity increase the risk of transmission. 

You may not have needed another reason to avoid eye contact with the person next to you, politely don headphones and evade a long-haul conversation, but for the record, Dr Morowska says avoiding “situations where you are talking to someone directly for a long period of time” will help keep you safe.    

She also suggested keeping an eye on your hydration level and sinus health to stay comfortable while flying. 

“If your respiratory tract is dry then you are at a much higher risk of contracting anything, so keeping that saline solution [handy] and hydrating, is a very important measure,” she said.  

“It’s important in any situation, but particularly on the plane, where usually the humidity is lower than other environments, so the potential for dehydration is higher.”  

Travel during the pandemic really involves a constant assessment of your risk and taking steps to reduce it. 

Dr Sisson reminds us that “vaccination doesn’t work the same in everyone” and urges each individual to think about a scenario where they contract COVID overseas, how severe the disease could be and what they would do to look after themselves.  

“There are people who are at much higher risk than others,” she said. 

“So it’s really important for anyone who has any concerns to make sure that they see their GP or go to a travel clinic to have an assessment if they have any health issues that they worry about in terms of their risk of COVID.” 

Travel insurance does not cover Australians in places where the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has recommended we “do not travel”. 

DFAT’s global “do not travel” advisory has now been lifted and insurance is once again available for travel to some parts of the world.

And COVID cover is now possible, so you can start to address the risk of high medical and cancellation costs should you contract the disease.  

“You can get COVID cover and it ends up costing about 10 per cent extra,” Dr Sisson said. 

“There will be circumstances where travel insurance is not available. For example, they’re not covering COVID on multi-night cruises.”

Dr Morowska said once we start travelling, “we will immerse ourselves in environments where there are infections” and in places where there are minimal precautions taken, such as the United Kingdom. 

“All the [infection control] measures will reduce the risk, but they will not bring it completely to zero,” she said. 

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Warren Buffett Loves These Stocks. Are They Right for You? | Personal Finance

A large chunk of American Express’ money comes from the merchant fees it charges when consumers swipe their cards at vendors around the world. Those fees are generally expressed as a percentage of the swipe amount, which means as prices rise, so does the money that American Express collects. That gives it an incredible ability to organically keep up with inflation over time.

The company trades at around 20 times its trailing earnings, which is a bit of a discount when compared to the overall S&P 500. In addition, American Express is such a big player in the business travel market that it’s poised to do well as pandemic restrictions ease and travel picks back up. That gives good reason to believe its earnings growth could see a one-time boost from that recovery.

While Buffett got in big because of a short-term scandal, American Express’ long term business model is probably why he has held on to its shares for so long. That model looks well positioned to handle both inflation and a return to business travel. Add a relatively reasonable valuation to the mix, and it could be worth considering today.

No. 3: Imagine working through the pandemic without its services

Buffett’s company owns a whopping 158 million shares of telecommunications giant Verizon (NYSE: VZ). Originally part of the Bell Telephone System, Verizon emerged a strong player from the breakup of that behemoth. Now known more for its wireless and broadband services than that legacy wired phone service, the company has certainly evolved over time to keep up with changes in the industry.

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