Tuesday, June 6, 2017


What are bitcoins?

The process of currency transactions has experienced significant changes over the years. Right from barter systems in the past, where participants had to be face to face to instantly verify the properties being exchanged, to the use of third parties like credit card issuers during transactions, and finally to digital transactions that was introduced on the onset of the introduction of technology and use of the internet.

However, despite the commendable improvements in the field of currency transactions, the proliferation of digital operations and the enhancement of the web have resulted in exposure and several limitations to traditional currencies in the electronic world. These include increased expenses, security risks and time delays during transactions. Such limitations can prove egregious particularly if the transactions involve different foreign currencies, complex products or parties involved being on different sides of the globe. Such inhibitions led to curiosity and the idea of having an international currency which is independent of nations or central banks and provides anonymity to holders, security from fraud and theft, and protection from inflation. This resulted in the concept of having a digital currency which enables cash or its equivalent, to be used over the internet.

 Bitcoins, started in 2009, is the most recent and most popular outcome of these efforts. It refers to a math-based, peer to peer, cryptocurrency system which is decentralized and is designed in a manner that allows online users to process their transactions using digital exchange units. These units are what are referred to as bitcoins. Bitcoins are generated by a computer through a unique process of computing and solving complex numerical algorithms. They can also be obtained through the purchase of standard currencies which are then placed into a ‘Bitcoin wallet’ – the public digital files where every party keeps private encryption keys which prove ownership. This is done through computers or smartphones. Proponents of the use of this new currency suggest that: • The payments are instant and can be made to any individual internationally. • The need for third parties is unnecessary. • Transactions can’t be reversed once processed • The supply of these bitcoins cannot be manipulated by any institution, e.g., banks, the government or any individuals. The potential of bitcoins compared to other electronic payment methods. When compared to other payment mediums like PayPal, Fedwire and Western Union, the transaction volumes of bitcoins completely surpasses all of them collectively.

Bitcoins can also handle large transaction capacities of about seven transactions per second internationally.

Advantages of bitcoins.

1. Protection from fraud when making payments. Since bitcoins are digital, they can neither be reversed arbitrarily nor counterfeited by the sender, unlike other payment systems like credit cards.

 2. There is a minimum possibility of identity theft. Bitcoins operate using a ‘push’ mechanism whereby, the bitcoin holder sends exactly what they want the recipient to receive with no further information such as personal details. This is unlike credit cards which use a ‘pull’ mechanism such that the receiver initiates the payment process and extracts the designated amount from the sender’s account. As a sender, when giving your credit card to another party, you give them access to your entire credit line no matter how small the transaction is. This increases your risk to potential identity theft and fraud.

3. Tax – free purchases. Given that there is no way for any third parties to track, identify or intercept any bitcoin transactions, sales tax are therefore not added to the purchase cost resulting in major saving.

4. There are direct transfers for any immediate settlement. Unlike the purchase of real property which entails involving third parties, delays in payment and requirement of additional fees payments, Bitcoin contracts are typically designed to eliminate any third party approvals such as banks, government or any other financial intermediary, and any time delays. Moreover, the transactions take less of the expense and time which would usually be required to complete traditional transactions. Such financial intermediaries have no way of interrupting user transactions or placing any freezes on the bitcoin accounts. They are thus convenient and highly efficient.

5. Reduced transaction fees. Bitcoin exchanges do not generally involve any transaction fees during a transaction. The bitcoin miner is usually compensated by the bitcoin network with a new issue of bitcoins. However, despite having no transaction fees, most users will need to engage the service of a third party such as Coin base in order to create and maintain their personal bitcoin wallets. Such services provide an online transfer system for bitcoins and may charge a transaction fee.

6. There is now access to previously inaccessible markets. Did you know that there are over 2 billion individuals with access to mobile phones and the internet, but do not currently have access to any of the traditional exchange systems? This is so much unexploited potential that introduction of bitcoin services aims to tap into. In Kenya for instance, the use of the M-PESA system, a mobile phone device based money transfer service and a micro-financing service recently adopted the use of a bitcoin appliance. A high percentage of Kenyans now own a bitcoin wallet thus increasing the market reach.

Cons and risks of using bitcoins.

1. Bitcoins could be used to finance immoral or illegal activities. Critics to the use of bitcoins claim that it could easily be used anonymously to commit a crime such as any illegal, antisocial of immoral acts. In the recent past, digital currencies have reportedly been used to facilitate a verse array of criminal activities such as stolen identities, the sale of drugs, prostitution, child and human trafficking and the sale of illegal weapons. Additionally, cyber criminals are using such payment platforms for services such as the development and distribution of malicious software.

 A case that brings this to light was in October 2013 when the notorious website Silk Road was shut down by the FBI. More than 100,000 bitcoins worth $28 million was seized. The operation was allegedly used buy or sell drugs anonymously, sell guns and assassins and to offer tutorials on how to hack into ATMs. It was solely reliant on digital currency transactions. However, it could be argued that any payment system, medium of exchange and financial institution, with proper planning could easily be used for any illicit activities and money laundering, not just the use of bitcoins.

2. There is a high risk of loss. Using bitcoins as a mode of money exchange could result in a number of losses. Users, therefore, need to be aware of probable causes and to be cautious about them. They include:

• Lack of security when using bitcoins. There is no perfect way or a safety net to protect one’s bitcoins neither from technical glitches such as malware or hardware failures nor from human error, e.g., user passwords. Several web-based companies that offer to exchange Bitcoins into other currencies have gone out of business due to such insecurities.
• The possibility of increased and stringent regulations. Despite the fact that there are currently benign guidelines in place concerning the use of bitcoins, there is a possibility that law enforcement agencies could decide to enact more strict guidelines and regulations. This is especially due to the recent cases of money laundering schemes that use bitcoins as mediums of payment. This would resultantly lead to diminishing of the currency’s value.
• Limits on the speed and number of transactions. Despite its popularity, there are several limits when it comes to using bitcoins regarding the speed and the volume of transactions that can be processed. This implies that it is highly unlikely the there will come a time when bitcoins will get to replace familiar and conventional credit card systems.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Vacations you can take that will save you money and be educational as well.

The thrill that comes with traveling to new places, experiencing different cultures and learning about the history and culture of a place is an amazing and irreplaceable feeling, don’t you agree? Every once in a while, it is important to take a break from your day to day hustles and routines, and take time off to relax, rejuvenate and explore the world. And learning something while you are at it is an added bonus.

Planning vacations that will be exciting, fun, affordable and yet educational seems almost next to impossible. However, this doesn’t have to be case. With proper research and planning, you could easily find hidden gems worldwide that will both satisfy your wanderlust and leave you thrilled, excited and looking forward to the next holiday so that you can take another trip.
Below are some of our favorite picks on vacations you could take that will be friendly to your budget, educational and fun!

1.    Cambodia.
From its pristine beaches and stunning architectural sites to untouched jungles, the South-East Asian country has an endless array of attractions. Few travelers, right from backpackers, luxury tourists, to families on vacation, are immune to the country’s beguiling charms and flock to see legendary sights and learn more about the country’s culture. The locals in Cambodia are incredibly hospitable too.
There are plenty of sights to visit like the famous Angkor Wat temple, one of the most impressive and excellently preserved temples. It is easy to get private and air-conditioned rooms for all little as $20, transportation for less than $20 and affordable food and drinks in the city.

2.    South Africa.
South Africa is home to beautiful wildlife and a wide array of amazing natural wonders.  You can easily experience the marvels of this great country on a budget without having to break your savings account, save for the traveling fees depending on where you are coming from. Cape Town, the heart of South Africa, is a striking metropolis with jaw-dropping natural wonders. On top of amazing landscapes and plenty of wildlife to explore, there are also a variety of other places to visit and things to do. The restaurants and bars are also wallet-friendly. To top it all up, some beaches and tourist attractions are completely free. Therefore if you are up for a safari adventure, South Africa is definitely the place to go.

3.    South Korea.
Undoubtedly, South Korea is one of the greatest, yet undiscovered travel destinations around the world. Just like South-East Asia, its prices are pocket-friendly. South Korea is a vibrant place, full of history, tradition, high technology and exquisite dining. It offers a swathe of treasure from ancient cities like Silla and so much more than the buzzing urban expanse of the country's vibrant capital. Think taking a dip in the hot springs at the famous Seoraksan National Park, exploring natural wonders on the island of Jeju and the fascinating Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

4.    Florida.
With plenty of pristine beaches like Cocoa Beach and Ormond Beach, where you could get to see dolphins, turtles and incredible sunsets, Florida is the place to go. Not forgetting to mention scenic vacation destinations lie at Bonita Springs with an abundance of wildlife, beautiful vegetation and magical sunsets. There is also the Kennedy Space Centre which provides families with and educational experience that will not break the bank, the Canaveral National Seashore, an undeveloped beach with countless variety of plants and bird species, and the Sun coast Seabird Sanctuary which is a must see.

5.    Europe.
Did you know that the exchange rate for the euro, which is used in over 15 countries, is better than it has ever been in decades? What this means is that scenic European cities like Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Paris are more affordable than ever before.  Get to explore the best museums in Amsterdam, rent bicycles and get cycling, and lose yourself in the world renowned Amsterdam Belt and canals. In Paris, get to feel the magic of the Eiffel Tower, visit art galleries and neat cafes in the city of love and learn so much about the European culture. All this at affordable costs.

6.    Canada.
There are endless reasons to want to visit Canada. Right from stunning mountain peaks, incredible skiing experiences and exciting cosmopolitan cities, Canada is simply irresistible. Break away from your normal chilled vacations and gear up for fun and adventure. To motivate you further, the exchange rates are the best they have ever been in six years. The Canadian dollars are the 15% less than they were last year. Unlike many vacations abroad, the flights are relatively cheap and take a shorter time. If you are in the US, driving is also an option making the road trip an even more fun experience.

7.    Sidney, Australia.
If you have been dreaming of site-seeing in Sidney and relaxing on the tropical Australian beaches, this may be your best chance. Making this dream come true this year is going to cost you a lot less. Although flying halfway across the world may be a bit pricy, the cost of accommodation and spending while there is quite budget friendly. Get to visit the Outback, sight see around Sydney and even cuddle a koala without upsetting your bank account.

8.    Central America.
Thinking of trekking through the jungle, roaming ancient ruins and eating delicious foods while on vacation? Try visiting countries in Central America like Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Here, you will find budget friendly hotels going as low as from $15 per night, cheap meals and beer going for even less than a dollar. There is so much to see, so much to learn, and so much to eat.

9.  The Gambia, Africa.
Known to be one of the smallest countries in Africa, Gambia is a popular vacation attraction to international tourists. Many come to see the historic slave towns, explore the local music scene and frolic in the balmy water while getting a utopian tan. Best part about it is that the destination is absolutely budget friendly and you therefore, do not have to worry about spending fortunes on accommodation, food and site seeing. You could get a delicious serving of food and a local or international beer for as little as $10 and relax and sleep in stylish hotels for less than $30 per night.

Friday, April 21, 2017

DIY home improvement projects that will help you save money.

DIY home improvement projects that will help you save money.

Home improvement projects can be quite an expensive venture, don’t you think? With modern bathroom tops going for over $10,000 and window replacement costs at crazy prices like $8000, it is not difficult to see why not. When overhauling your home, it is very easy to find yourself overspending, or unnecessarily spending. Many tend to shy away from upgrading the look of their homes due to such fears. The truth, however, is that you do not have to use so much money in order to come up with the best projects to improve your home’s value and functionality. Contrary to what many people think, home improvement projects do not have to be overly expensive. There are so many excellent projects that you could easily take part in, that will instantly bring an appeal to your home and make it more pleasant, yet at relatively affordable prices.

Therefore, if you are looking for ways of improving and enhancing the appearance of your home without necessarily wiping clean your bank account, take a look at some of the projects below:

1.    Re-decorating the walls.

Just like with lighting, a room can give an illusion of size and warmth just by the wall decorations. Maximize the use of your walls right from the floor to the ceiling as this will give the eye reason to move up and down. This will in turn give an illusion that the space is larger than it actually s.
Simply DIY projects could be adding décor to the walls like a splash of fun colors or using wall paper on plain walls, adding open shelves or decorative objects on the walls. This will be sure to add drama and pop to the room with minimal effort and expense. If you are into art work, there are endless paintings, wall hangings, vintage frames and pictures that could dramatically enhance the appearance of the house instantly.  The ideas are endless. It’s all about finding what suits your taste best and going for it.

2.    Update the house’s lighting.

It is true what they say, good modern lighting can instantly make a room appear warmer and even larger in some cases. You don’t need to over stretch your finances to achieve this. You could simply spray paint the current fixtures or interchange them within different rooms in the house. Alternatively, switch out all the old lighting fixtures that have been in your house for eternity and replace them with newer models. Look up home décor websites for ideas on latest trends, fixtures and chandeliers and pick those that are in line with your budget. You will be surprised how different your home will turn out just by updating the lighting.

3.    Rearrange the bookshelves.

Reorganizing your bookshelf can easily make an entire room look completely differently, more polished and stylish. Best part about it is that you do not have to spend any money doing so, or get rid of anything that you do not want to. Switch up the arrangements and try more fancy looks like putting the tallest book in the middle and the rest in descending or ascending order of high, or create multiple peaks of the books, or stack the books like a pyramid, or arrange some horizontally while others vertically. The effect is sure to be surprising and will be sure to revive a dull room.

4.    Revamping the appearance of your front entrance.

You walk by this entrance multiple times a day without giving a thought to its appearance, isn’t it? It’s funny how the smallest and most important things are the ones that are often most ignored. One of the best, yet simplest ways to improve your homes look is to make your front entrance look more attractive and livelier.
Perhaps change the color of your front door, or update the existing one with new handles, locks or contemporary fittings. Spruce up the front porch, add a few potted plants, an exterior light and change the rug. This will undoubtedly add charm and make you feel like you are walking into an entirely different home.

5.    Add a touch of flowers and decorative trays.

A vase of fresh flowers will undoubtedly bring life into any space. And topped up with an equally decorative vase, the effect will be colorful, vibrant and refreshing. You could strategically place these vases on edges of rooms, in the middle of surfaces or at specific corners and see how transformed your room with be with just this.

Did you know that trays are one of the most useful accessories a house could posses? Not only  are they functional, but also decorative. By placing them at different angles on different surfaces of a room, you will be sure to bring in some appeal to it.

6.    Rearranging furniture.

As simple as this sounds, rearranging furniture in a room will completely change the feel and look of your home in no time. Moreover, this comes at no cost at all. Try moving your couch a few steps back to add more space, and moving the side table to a different area of the room. Switch up the rags on the floor or add entirely new ones. It is going to feel like a new house all over again.

7.    Painting your floors.

Are your floors begging for an upgrade, but your budget does not allow you to get a brand new makeover? Well, worry not! Painting over them might just be the best solution. There are several tutorials online on how to do the best floor painting that will incredibly improve the look of your home and at an affordable price.

8.    Reupholster old furniture

If this is your first time reupholstering furniture, it may sound like a daunting process. However, it is a pretty easy DIY project that is not only fun but also allows you to choose your own fabric preferences to match the interior décor of the home.  By this, you can upgrade and modernize your furniture and achieve an entirely new look at a very affordable price.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Getting rid of debt and habits that lead to debt.

Getting rid of debt and habits that lead to debt.

Nobody likes to go into debt, true? Unfortunately, however, keeping those prominently red marks out of your account books is often easier said than done. And if we are honest with ourselves, we will agree that debt is not something that happens overnight, out of nowhere or just coincidentally. It comes about as a buildup of certain spending habits. Some habits that we indulge in daily; you know, buying a latte every morning, a new pair of shoes every so often, might seem harmless at first but have an adverse effect on your finances in the long run.

Recognizing and identifying these habits early could not only save you a lot of cash but also stress in your later year. Often when people find themselves in over their heads in debt, they regret their past actions and wish they could turn back time and make a few adjustments to their prior habits. However, lamenting over past mistakes is as good as crying over spilled milk, don’t you agree? Why not start identifying bad habits now and start stopping them in their tracks? Take a look at some of these bad habits that could easily lead to debt and how you could possibly avoid them.

1.    Spending more than you make.

It is impossible for you to spend $800 per month while your paycheck is just $500, right? Wrong! The habit of spending more money than you earn is easier than you think. And the worst part is, you may be doing this without realizing it. This could be through borrowing from other people, dipping into your savings or using a credit card.

You can get away with this for a short amount of time, but sooner or later these terrible spending habits will catch up with you. You may end up maxing out of your credit cards, depleting your savings or run out of creditors to borrow from.

Remedying this is simple! Keep your spending within your income in order to leave within your means, and rid yourself of debt.

2.    Managing money without a budget.

Budgeting, just like dieting, is one of those terms that make some people cringe just at the sound of it. However, creating a budget and working with one is one of the best ways to keep oneself debt free. With a budget, you are in a position to know exactly how much money you will be spending in a particular period and where the spending is going. So be it the newly released phone you have been eyeing, or the kitchen plates set you have been planning to buy, allocate them in a budget. Through this, you will be sure to avoid using credit cards on impulse and building up your debt.

3.    Use of credit cards for daily expenses.

Relying on credit cards to buy groceries or gas, among other daily expenses, ends up being more costly since you pay more for such expenditures that you should. Very many people usually run up their credit cards and then pay only the minimum balance monthly. This is a highly detrimental habit that needs to be avoided if you ever want to get ahead financially.

4.    Using credit when you have cash.

Quick question; how many time in the past have you charged goods or services to your credit card while you had the money to pay for it? Why use credit if you have enough money?  You might want to acquire the goods you need without having to pay for them immediately, but this convenience of not using the money you have at hand (in your wallet) eventually comes at a cost. Let’s face it if you are not willing to pay for it right now; chances are, you are likely not going to be willing to do so tomorrow. On top of that, it is going to cost you more.

5.    Paying off debt using debt.

When you use a credit card or worse even, take a loan to pay off another debt, you are simply wasting time. This is because you are merely shifting and shuffling your debt around. But remember, there are transaction fees involved and loan origination fees. This simply put, implies that you are only buying time and increasing your debt.

To break this impossibly bad habit, aim to reduce your spending to ensure you have enough money to repay all your debts monthly.

6.    Ignoring your credit score.

A credit score is important because it determines how much money you can borrow, who you can borrow this money from, what kind of house you can purchase, the kind of car you can drive. In some cases even, the kind of job you can get. It is therefore highly essential that you keep track of your score and monitor it in the event of changes.

7.    Disguising wants as needs.

It is very easy to convince yourself that you need to buy that pair of shoes or that you need to go on that trip. Do you really, though? The bitter truth is that half of the ‘needs’ you think you have, are more or wants. Evaluate yourself and see whether you can live without them. Correct, you need food, shelter; transportation, necessary clothing, but you ‘want’ a better car, a bigger car and so on. If you cannot afford it on cash, then hold on purchasing, and keep saving until you can.

8.    Paying bills in no particular order.

Although paying bills in no order may not matter if you intend to pay for all of the balances, it will matter if you fall short for one period say, one month. For instance, if you decide to pay for all your credit card balances first and then realize you cannot manage to make the minimum payment on monthly rent or mortgage payment. By this, you put yourself at risk of having no roof over your head. You may find yourself taking further loans to cater for such costs, and hence falling deeper into debt. To avoid such dilemmas, prioritize your bill in order of importance and start making the payments accordingly.