The Frugal Toad http://www.thefrugaltoad.com Money Saving Advice for Everyday Living Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:11:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Tesla Patents Now Open Source: Will Electric Vehicle Production Take Off? http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/tesla-patents-now-open-source-will-electric-vehicles-hybrid-car-production-take http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/tesla-patents-now-open-source-will-electric-vehicles-hybrid-car-production-take#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 13:10:56 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=6069 Back in June, Tesla Motors CEO, Elon Musk, changed the game on electric vehicles. He penned a blog post on their site indicating they will no longer go after people violating their patents. They even took their patents down off their “patent wall” at their corporate headquarters in Palo Alto. This step is unprecedented in [...]

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electric vehicleBack in June, Tesla Motors CEO, Elon Musk, changed the game on electric vehicles. He penned a blog post on their site indicating they will no longer go after people violating their patents. They even took their patents down off their “patent wall” at their corporate headquarters in Palo Alto. This step is unprecedented in the automotive market. It begs the question: Why did Tesla open up their patents to everyone? The answer is actually quite simple.

Elon Musk built Tesla Motors to change how people buy and drive cars. He wants to bring electric vehicles to the masses. As a result, he produced one of the top fully electric vehicles around. The path has not been easy, but the potential reward is great. There is an uphill battle to change minds about the viability of this market.

Why Did Elon Musk Open His Patents to Competitors?

To the outside, this must look like a terrible business move, but if you take a step back, it is great. The only way to expand the EV market to consumers, one must change the perceptions of the viability. That is hard to do. The EV market is small compared to gas and diesel vehicles. By keeping the patents secret and held close, Tesla Motors was keeping the competition at bay. In a traditional market, this is advisable. In a new market, you do yourself a disservice by stifling competition. Competition creates advancement and helps grow a infant market. As more companies get into the EV market, the lower the price and expansion of options. These are what consumers respond to.

Elon Musk opened his patents to his competitors in order to create competition and new advancements. He understands the more EV cars on the roads, the more charging stations are necessary. Their charging network is small, but as more consumers buy, the necessity will expand. It will become cheaper to build charging stations and thus, be built in more places. This move makes sense when you understand how basic competition works.

What are the Perceived Issues with Electric Vehicles?

Electric vehicles still get a bad rap with consumers. This could be the lack of information about the features or how the media portrays EVs. Here are the most common perceived issues with electric vehicles.

  • Range – The typical range of a Tesla vehicle is 130 to 300 miles on a single charge, depending on the model. While this can be great for city driving, it can be a hassle for long range. A new Ford hybrid vehicle can travel up to 620 miles on one charge and one tank of gas. The EV range is slowly increasing as battery advancements are made, but consumers need more.
  • Battery Fires – News of vehicle fires in electric cars is a big draw for news outlets. Most vehicle fires involved the lithium-ion battery, which provide the best range and charging capacity. The percentage of vehicle fires is small compared to the amount of EVs on the road, but anytime a bad event occurs, it can dampen excitement in new technology. Until companies can assure consumers their cars and batteries are safe, EVs will be facing an uphill battle.
  • Recharging Station Availability - There is a shortage in recharging stations across the US. The majority are in larger cities, especially in California. While the range of electric vehicles is increasing as time goes on, people still need a way to charge their vehicle when away from home. To build out a full network of charging stations will be difficult, but there are companies offering new solutions everyday. One such company is offering cities and towns solar-powered charging stations that fill a parking spot. There is no electric grid use and they are portable. Advancements such as this are what will change how people adopt this technology.
  • Electric Grid Capacity – Many fear an influx of EVs being charged will put a strain on our nation’s electrical grid. According to Navigant Research, this is simply not true. Many of our largest electricity providers indicated our network grids can handle millions of EVs with no additional power plants.
  • Power Cords – The first generation of charging stations work with a cord. Unfortunately, there are hazards with cords. They can trip people as they walk by charging stations and they won’t work if the charging station is damaged. This is especially true with stations sitting on busy streets in downtown municipalities. To get around this, some companies are working on wireless charging, where a vehicle drives on top of the charger and it just starts charging. This could be the second generation of vehicle charging.

EV Investments Are Slowly Heating Up

You might think there is just too small a market for electric vehicles, but there have been big investments in the batteries that power them. BASF, the world’s largest chemical company, has started to invest heavily into battery research and production. While some other companies have decided to get out of the EV business, others are jumping in as sales slowly increase.

As the market continues to improve and accelerate, investors will look to companies such as Tesla, Toyota, and Johnson Controls for potential investment opportunities. As investments pick up, other companies will start to enter the market. When this happens, technology will improve and the market will accelerate.

The EV market has a large, uphill battle in front of it in order to be successful, but Tesla is planning on speeding that up with their open patent policy. You won’t see many companies offer their competitors a look into their technology, but Tesla Motors is no ordinary company. It takes out of the box thinking to create a new market and Elon Musk is one person who can do it. You will see more and more EVs on the road as the years pass, but once consumers get past their perceptions, the market could rapidly expand.

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Mini Cruises – A Cheap and Fun Vacation for the Family http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/travelandleisure/mini-cruises-cheap-fun-for-family http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/travelandleisure/mini-cruises-cheap-fun-for-family#comments Sat, 09 Aug 2014 17:41:07 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=6052 Out to Sea — On A Mini Cruise With the Family   The time for a holiday rolls around, and you’re thinking of somewhere to take the family. The thought of yet another beach holiday or of long car journeys with the kids growing restless in the back fills you with dread. You want a different [...]

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Out to Sea — On A Mini Cruise With the Family

 

mini cruisesThe time for a holiday rolls around, and you’re thinking of somewhere to take the family. The thought of yet another beach holiday or of long car journeys with the kids growing restless in the back fills you with dread. You want a different kind of travel, which is when mini cruises can step in to fill the void.

What is a mini cruise, by the way? Not quite like traditional cruises, which take you away to dreamlike (faraway) parts of the world for up to a month, mini cruises are an affordable form of travel that take you to a single destination or more for a few days. They’re long enough to accumulate the travel experiences without the kids getting fed up, but here are a few more reasons why mini cruises are good for families:

 

They’re a genuine getaway

Dad won’t have to do much driving, if any. You just have to get to the port. Once you’re on the ship, you don’t have to worry about being stuck in traffic jams and the kids getting all cranky. It’s just you, your family and the sea, and you’re sailing away to cities like Amsterdam, with its Rijksmuseum, which boasts Holland’s largest collection of art and artifacts, or Hamburg with the Alster lake, where you can join the other citizens walking across the frozen-over lake in winter. It’s a real break.

 

You get to explore places that you might not otherwise be able to

Bringing up children is time consuming. Maybe you’ve always wanted to see Paris but have never got there. Perhaps you can only travel at peak times such as the school holidays, but the prices are too high. Mini cruises can allow you to get away to those places for a few days and it doesn’t necessarily have to be at a peak travel time.

Then there are places that you might not have considered. Take Guernsey, for instance. A mini cruise to this charming little Channel Island makes for a nice escape from the pace of daily life. Both you and the kids will feel relaxed.

 

You can broaden the kids’ horizons

By making the most of your free time and seeing different places with the family on a mini cruise, you can really educate your kids. Experiencing countries with another language and culture can really trigger their curiosity for the world and make them more open minded. A child that is interesting in everything around them is a child that can go far.

Mini cruises are much more than just jumping on a ship and traveling to a destination. They’re about being open to new things while getting away from life as you already know it for a few days. They’re about everyone having fun and seeing the world together. And they’re a chance to do so for less. You should take it.

 

Readers: Have you taken a cruise vacation? Where did you go and what did you do?

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London Real Estate – Is Now the Time to Invest? http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/london-real-estate-now-time-invest http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/london-real-estate-now-time-invest#comments Sat, 09 Aug 2014 17:33:09 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=6062 Real Estate Investment – London the Developing City With the London housing market poised for solid growth and housing values up by nearly 18% over the past year, now just may be the time to climb that property ladder or diversify your real estate property portfolio. London is the obvious place to start your search for [...]

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Real Estate Investment – London the Developing City

london real estateWith the London housing market poised for solid growth and housing values up by nearly 18% over the past year, now just may be the time to climb that property ladder or diversify your real estate property portfolio. London is the obvious place to start your search for property, especially if property development is where your interests lie, and in a city so big, there is just so much potential. Recent reports indicate that property values are increasing, and as expected, London has come out on top and are expected to increase to an incredible 25% by 2020. It’s no surprise then that there are some major investments being made and that all over London there are some major housing developments happening in areas that you would perhaps not expect.

Huge Investments

The New American Embassy development in the Nine Elms area of London, has meant a phenomenal amount of money has been invested into this Southbank area, revamping it completely, not only offering fantastic examples of modern architecture, but creating a number of high-end residencies, parks and a school too. This is a fantastic opportunity for the area, and of course this means that there is now a number of big investors turning their focus towards the surrounding area, which will potentially lead to more big investments. 

Amazing New Developments

The Olympic Games 2012 were a huge success and there were some huge changes made within Stratford, London to accommodate them. Investors have seized the opportunity to develop areas, such as the village used to house the athletes during their stay, and turn them into beautiful new housing complexes, boasting up to as many as 2800 apartments. 

Another Southbank-based development is the redevelopment of the Battersea Power Station. There has been £4bn invested into this project, and although it is a long way from completion, will provide approximately 16,000 new homes. With such a huge volume of houses being introduced, it has been proposed that to provide transport into the city, that the Northern line is to be extended and will include new stations too, allowing the daily commute to be speedier.

Whether you’re a big time investor, think it’s time to move, or simply looking to make your way onto and up the property ladder, it seems there is no time like the present for you to do so. If you want to start the ball rolling, the companies such as The House Network are a great place to commence your search. Look out for perks such as London based offices with plenty of local knowledge, offices being open 7-days a week and low-cost packages that cover everything you need when moving. 

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DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Italy Review & Giveaway http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/travelandleisure/dk-eyewitness-travel-guide-italy-review http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/travelandleisure/dk-eyewitness-travel-guide-italy-review#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:03:08 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=5960 Giveaway: Enter Below for a Chance to Win a 4-Pack of Travel Guides ($100 value) DK has been publishing terrific reference materials for decades and they have recently published major updates to what already were some of the best travel guides available. It is quite evident that DK spent a great deal of time thinking [...]

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Giveaway: Enter Below for a Chance to Win a 4-Pack of Travel Guides ($100 value)

DK has been publishing terrific reference materials for decades and they have recently published major updates to what already were some of the best travel guides available.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide ItalyIt is quite evident that DK spent a great deal of time thinking about how best to present information both in pictures and text in the most useful format for novice travelers to the most seasoned traveler. The guide is designed to help travelers get the most from their visit to Italy, with expert recommendations and detailed practical information about Italy’s 15 regions plus separate chapters on Rome, Florence, and Venice.

Italy by Region

Open the cover and you are greeted with a color-coded map of Italy complete with images of major attractions. It gives you a nice overview of the geographical regions of Italy and a great place to start planning your adventure!

How to Use the Guide

You’ve heard the phrase a picture paints a thousand words. DK has carefully crafted a section that not only explains how to use the guide but takes you on a virtual tour of the guide using actual pages from different sections of the guide.

Introducing Italy

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide ItalyNot sure what the best way to visit Italy is?  The editors at DK have put together several professionally designed tours that include many of the country’s best attractions as possible while keeping travel times to  a minimum. A tour of northern Italy includes stops in Milan to see the artwork of Pinoteca di Brera, a cruise on stunning Lake Como, a vaporetto ride along Venice’s remarkable grand canal, a visit to Florence’s Duomo and world famous galleries, a walk along the stunning coastline hillsides of the Cinque Terre, and finally ending in Tuscany with visits to the enchanting towns of Luca, Pisa, and Siena.  Each tour includes a day by day itinerary of all the best local attractions to see with references to more detailed information contained in the regional guide sections. There are professional tour itineraries for a week in southern Italy, a gourmet tour of Central Italy, and a 7 day tour of Etruscan Italy.

When I visit a country I want to truly experience the local customs and traditions and understand what influenced those traditions and this guide allows me to do just that!

Perhaps the best thing about this guide is the extensive section on the history and culture of Italy. From the Italian art, architecture, and historical timelines with stunning illustrations , to the comprehensive guide to festivals and sporting events throughout the year.

The Regional Guides

DK Eyewitness Travel ItalyThe heart of DK’s Eyewitness Travel Guide to Italy are the 15 regional guides, essentially a mini travel guide within a complete travel guide. Each regional guide starts with a region at a glance section that includes a regional map complete with pictures and descriptions of top regional attractions.

Food is such a major part of Italian culture and the regional guides include a section on regional dishes and specialties.

The regional guides contain all the necessary information any traveler could possibly need. Regional and city maps are jammed with information such as: roads, railroad routes, and major historical and cultural sites. For example, there are over 35 points of interest included on the detailed map of Venice.  Turn the page and you are greeted with a 4-page illustrated spread of the Grand Canal. The realistic illustrations show a birds-eye view of the canal and highlight all of the important sites and attractions and more importantly where they are located.

Illustrated street by street guides are one of the best ways to explore Italy’s charming cites and towns. It’s like having your own guided tour as each point of interest is carefully highlighted with hours of operation, contact info, and even a website address if you’d like additional information. In fact it’s most likely better than paying for a tour guide because no tour guide could possibly have the time to share the amount of information contained in the Eyewitness Guides.

Travelers’ Needs

One of the most important decisions affecting your travel experience revolve around where to stay and where to dine and this guide has one of the most comprehensive directories of lodging and dining suggestions available. There are also guides to shopping, entertainment, and outdoor recreation activities.

Survival Guide

Visiting a foreign country for the first time can be a daunting task. The editors have put together a handy reference guide that includes information regarding: the best times to visit, customs and visa, tour and admission information, traveling with children, travelers with disabilities, conversion charts, personal health and security, banking, email/phone/internet communications, car/bus/boat/rail transportation guides, and more.  There is even a mini Italian phrase guide to help you on your travels.

 “Photographs and text reproduced by permission of DK, a division of Penguin Random House from [DK Eyewitness Travel Italy 2014]. ©2014 by DK. All rights reserved.”

Giveaway Question: If you had to choose between Italy, Paris, London, or New York City, which locale would you choose to travel to and why?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Cash for Houses: The Quick-Sale House Market http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/cash-houses-quick-sale-house-market http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/cash-houses-quick-sale-house-market#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:01:12 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=6026 Is the Quick-Sale House Market for You? The attraction of the quick-sale market is obvious; sell your house in a matter of days for an upfront cash sum. For many people, this option can instantly free up urgently needed funds, but what is the cost? And is it worth paying? How it Works Cash for [...]

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cash for housesIs the Quick-Sale House Market for You?

The attraction of the quick-sale market is obvious; sell your house in a matter of days for an upfront cash sum. For many people, this option can instantly free up urgently needed funds, but what is the cost? And is it worth paying?

How it Works

Cash for Houses -style companies offer money direct to homeowners. Usually the homeowner initiates the process by contacting the company, who will then give some kind of quote. If the seller thinks the evaluation might work for them, then a surveyor is sent out to the property before a formal offer is made. The homeowner is then free to take or leave the offer. 

The Benefits

Medical care costs, downsizing your property, retirement – there are dozens of reasons why you as a homeowner may want to cash in on your home’s value. The quick-sale market is an economic necessity, allowing people to release funds tied up in property faster than the conventional route of placing your house on the market or using an estate agent.  Without the option of a quick-sale, investing so much money in property would be much more risky for the average home-owner. 

The service of such companies can be especially useful to owners of properties in places where the housing market is very slow. Although they have just slowed for the first time this month, house prices in general have been rising across the UK for months. Despite this recent growth, many specific regions are finding it is taking a long time for prices to pick up since 2007, with many people seeing their houses on the market for months or years on end. The quick-sale market can help homeowners in this situation finally leave their old home behind.

Things to Watch Out For with Quick-Sale House Market Offers

People who are selling to these companies are often in a vulnerable position. Their properties are probably not very desirable, otherwise they would be able to sell the on the open market. Therefore there is a risk that any offers received from quick-sale companies will not reflect the value of your property compared to its value on the open market.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) was commissioned to investigate quick-sale companies in 2013. The investigation led to them sending letters warning of non-compliance with regulations to 120 different quick-sale housing companies. A breakdown of the report was published by the BBC. If you are considering selling your house to a quick-sale company, make sure it is one such as House Buyer Bureau whose practises have been cleared by the OFT, so that you minimize the risk of being underpaid for your property.

Other non-compliant practices to watch out for include companies changing their offer late on in the process and promising that the sale will occur within an unlikely super-fast timescale.

In 2013, 0.5% of house sales in the UK took place on the quick house sale markets, so thousands of people have and continue to use the services of these companies, and for many it will be a good option. But the risks can be serious, especially to the type of vulnerable people who most need the service. 

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Why “ Working Retirements ” Are a Growing Trend http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/working-retirements-growing-trend http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/working-retirements-growing-trend#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 18:27:48 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=5994 In the past, retirement meant the beginning of a life of leisure. Retirees were free to spend their time pursuing hobbies, spending time with family and friends and doing everything that they didn’t have time to do while they were working. These days, though, retirement doesn’t always mean slowing down and enjoying the results of [...]

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working retirementIn the past, retirement meant the beginning of a life of leisure. Retirees were free to spend their time pursuing hobbies, spending time with family and friends and doing everything that they didn’t have time to do while they were working.

These days, though, retirement doesn’t always mean slowing down and enjoying the results of decades of hard work. In fact, according to a new study by Age Wave, a think tank devoted to issues related to aging sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the majority of retirees want or plan to work even after they technically retire. 

According to the survey, only about 28 percent of the retirees surveyed have no plans to work again after they retire. The remaining 72 percent plan to work in some capacity; most plan to work either part time or rotate periods of part time work with time off. Only about 5 percent plan to work full time after retirement.

What’s behind this considerable shift in the definition of retirement?

Working Keeps You Young 

With all of the headlines and financial experts warning that most people don’t have enough money saved for retirement, and that no one should rely on Social Security to meet all of their needs during retirement, the most obvious explanation for the desire to work is that seniors need to money to cover their expenses.

In some cases, this is true. Some older Americans have to work to make ends meet. However, what’s interesting about the results of the Age Wave study is that most of the respondents noted that they don’t have to work. Their good financial decisions during their working years allowed them to build a foundation of wealth; so they can work because they want to, not because they have to.

In fact, personal fulfillment was one of the most common reasons that survey respondents gave for their desire to work after retirement. Many people noted that work energizes them and gives them purpose; because work was such an important part of their identities, they are reluctant to move on. The desire to do something different was another common reason for retirees looking to stay in the workforce. For many retirees — both those nearing retirement and already retired — retirement presents an opportunity to explore passions or interests that they did not have time for when they were working. 

working retirementsThings to Consider

Many retirees choose to take a few years off between their retirement date and going back to work full time. Some experts call this a “career intermission,” as it’s a chance to take a breather, reflect and explore options for going forward. 

However, experts caution that taking an “intermission” can make it harder to re-enter the workforce later on. Getting another job can take longer when you are over age 60, as many employers are reluctant to hire older workers. 

For this reason, many retirees opt to become consultants or entrepreneurs in their post-retirement years, a move that some financial experts recommend as it can create a significant passive income stream going forward. 

If those options do not work, experts recommend volunteering or taking classes to keep your skills fresh and relevant, or perhaps working with your current employer to develop new opportunities that will keep you challenged and involved. 

Finding a job is not the only issue to consider post-retirement. Retirees who wish to return to work should also consider:

  • Health. While more than 80 percent of working retirees note that working helps them feel younger, there’s no getting around the fact that as we age, we cannot handle the same stresses as during our early career. It’s important to consider the effect that working will have on your health, and avoid taking on roles that will increase stress or negate the effects of retirement.
  • Social Security. Working after you reach full retirement age (70) will not have any effect on your Social Security benefits, but working between ages 62-69 will affect how much you collect each month. Depending on your age, you will have limits on how much you can earn before your benefits are reduced. If you amassed enough wealth during your working years to cover your expenses completely, this benefit reduction will not affect you, but it can be detrimental if you’re relying on Social Security to cover a significant portion of your expenses.

For many retirees, the ideal senior lifestyle balances work with leisure, and offers the chance to explore passions and interests. Even if you don’t have to, consider keeping one foot in the working world to continue building your wealth and keep your mind and skills sharp.

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