Things To Do Before You Leave the Country

by Wade Barnes 1. May 2013

Travel Abroad

Whether you travel for business or for pleasure, whether it’s your first time or you’re a professional, it’s helpful to have a checklist of things to do before you leave the country. Some things are easy to overlook and can make or break your experience while abroad. 

Planning

Like most things in life, planning is the most important step to making your trip a success:

Contact Banks/Credit Card Providers: Many banks will detect foreign transactions as fraudulent and will block transactions initiated abroad unless they were notified in advance. It’s good to travel with multiple methods of payment like bank cards, credit cards, and cash.

Email Travel Documents: Email documents including your travel itinerary, flight information, and hotel information including all important phone numbers both to you and a friend or family member at home. This way, if you lose the documents or someone needs to contact you, all pertinent information is easily accessible.

Copy the Contents of Your Wallet and Your Passport: Copy the front and back of everything in your wallet. Keep one copy at home and one in the hotel safe or other secure location while traveling. Having copies allows for quick cancelation and/or replacement if needed. While you can’t travel with a copy of your passport, having a copy will help get it replaced quicker if needed.

Cell Phone / Skype: If you plan to use your cell phone, be sure to talk with your provider about international plans to save expensive roaming charges while abroad. Consider opening and using a Skype account to communicate while abroad as this is a free internet service that allows you to video conference with anyone in the world.

Consider Power: Be sure to know both the plug and voltage differences where you plan to travel. Simply having a plug converter might not be enough if the voltage is different and your device doesn’t support multiple voltages. I learned this first hand and it isn’t pretty.

Stop Mail/Newspaper: Be sure to stop your mail/newspaper delivery.

Notify the State Department: Register with the State Department so they’ll know your whereabouts. While we don’t want to consider an emergency abroad, it’s better to be prepared and ensure they know where you are and for you to know where an embassy is.

Pick Up Travel Books: Even if you don’t have time to read them before you leave, read them on the plane to get a good idea of things to do, things to avoid, and ways to make the most of your trip.

Packing

While packing is fairly straightforward and doesn’t vary much from traveling domestically, there are some things you should consider when traveling abroad:

Power Convertor: Now that you know the power and plug configuration, be sure to pack the right device to power your electronics.

Carryon Luggage: Airlines are not perfect and luggage goes missing sometimes. If it does, you’ll want an extra set of clothes and important medications in your carryon to hold you over.

Medicine: Be sure to not only pack your medication but also bring an extra prescription and be sure you scope out local pharmacies at your travel destination just in case.

Antacid: Even if you don’t typically have digestion issues, when eating local cuisine, foods might not always sit well. You’d rather have it and not need it then need it and not have it!

Traveling

You've planned, you’ve packed and it’s time to enjoy your trip. When traveling abroad here are some things to keep in mind:

Safety/Security: No matter where you’re traveling, you can’t be cautious enough, but when abroad, pay particular attention to your surroundings and travel in groups if possible. Keep your possessions held tightly and out of sight. Pick-pocketers thrive on unsuspecting, unaware tourists.

Access to Money: Most places accept credit cards and this is always a safe option. When exchanging currency, be sure to know the current exchange rate as not to get ripped off at a currency exchange center. Another solution is to use your ATM card. While you may pay ATM fees, you’ll likely save as the exchange rate will be calculated at the nightly inter-bank rate, which can be more advantageous than at currency exchange centers.

Internet Banking: It never fails; you forgot to pay a bill or need to transfer money. Don’t sweat; we’ve got you covered with our robust online banking suite.

Now it's time to enjoy your trip. Don’t hold back, enjoy the fine wine, great cuisine, memorable sights, and experiences that will last a lifetime.

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Why Buy Local?

by Wade Barnes 25. April 2013

Buy Local, Buy MarylandConsider this: A tomato seed planted hundreds of miles away takes the journey through life and makes its way to the grocery store chain in your neighborhood. Along this journey, the tomato was likely picked when it was still green so that it wouldn’t be rotten from the time it takes to get from the farm to the store. Not only this, but typically tomatoes don’t grow well when picked pre-maturely nor do they ripen organically while inside a trailer being pulled across the country. To accommodate this, hormones and preservatives are oftentimes applied so the final delivery yields a perfectly ripened tomato.

Because this tomato was packaged in a huge crate, treated with stimulants, hauled across hundreds of miles, and delivered to your local grocery store chain, the final product is both less than organic and has significant overhead costs considering its journey. When you buy this tomato from the local grocery store chain, the money spent now goes back to the town where the store is headquartered, to the trucking firm who transported the shipment, and to the farmer who grew the produce - none of whom live in your community nor contribute to your community’s well-being.

While this example may seem specific, it represents the system of commerce we’ve all come to accept. Consider the opportunity to buy local goods from local businesses and imagine the impact this could have on our economy, on our health, and on our communities.

When you buy local, money stays in the local community. Local producers have the opportunity to provide products and services to local retailers. Local retailers will hire local employees to sell these products and services to local shoppers. In short, jobs are created in our communities, which creates a sustainable revenue stream so that more people have the capacity to buy more goods and services.

When local people are gainfully employed and when we buy local, cities and townships benefit with increased tax revenue. While we all may cringe at the thought of taxes, it is great to know that the taxes paid benefit our immediate community. This means better schools, smoother roads, and better public health and safety.

While economics may be inspiring, it is by far not the only consideration. When you buy local, you get a product that is much more closely related to the producer. This means better quality, fewer preservatives, lower transportation costs, less pollution during transportation and better products and services to keep you coming back.

This concept even applies to banking. By being a local community bank, you have access to local experts, local advice, and local decision making, which is the foundation of our core values. When you bank local, you keep jobs in our communities, you get great products and services, and you don’t only get a bank, you get a partner in the industry who cares about you, your business and your community.

As we are committed to the buy local initiative, we are the title sponsor of the Buy Local, Buy Maryland campaign. We hope you check out this initiative and make the choice to support your local businesses and buy local.

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The Ultimate Question: Buy or Lease?

by Wade Barnes 25. February 2013

New Car

So you’ve decided on a new car! You’ve picked the make, model, color and options but the tough question is still looming. Should I buy or lease? Like many financial decisions, the answer is highly dependent on individual situations, but to help narrow the scope of your decision, it is best to consider the benefits of leasing to see if this option is best for your situation. 

Benefits of Leasing

Perhaps the greatest benefit of leasing is the fact that you can get into a new car with low money down and low monthly payments. This means that you can afford a more expensive car with more options at a lower acquisition and monthly cost than if you were to buy the car. On top of this, when you lease a car, you have pre-negotiated the value at the end of the term, which means you can walk away without having to negotiate the value and sell the car.

Most leases are for three years and most cars come with warranties that match this term. This means you’ll never be responsible for a major repair that should be covered under warranty. This is an important benefit of leasing a car because outside of the lease expense, general maintenance, and gas, you shouldn’t have any unforeseen expenses related to leasing a car.

For business owners, another benefit of leasing a car is the potential to benefit from greater tax deduction when leasing a car for business purposes. While you should consult your tax advisor on this issue, typically you can deduct a portion of depreciation on cars owned and used for business purposes whereas lease expenses in whole are typically tax deductible which tend to be greater on a month-to-month basis.

Downsides of Leasing

The biggest downside to leasing is that you’re never gaining equity on the car; you’re essentially renting the car under a long-term agreement. Under this proposition, as long as you have a car, you’ll have car payments, and if for some reason you need to get out of a lease, there are typically expensive penalties for breaking the lease.

Leases also have an annual mileage restriction as well. Typically leases offer either 12,000 or 15,000 miles per year and if you go over the allotted mileage, it can get expensive. Since you don’t actually own the car, you can’t make any modifications to the car, and at the term of the lease you’ll be charged for every nick and ding that happened under your watch. Insurance can also be more expensive as most lease companies require higher levels of coverage to protect their interest.

Conclusion

So now you must decide to lease or buy. If you like the idea of owning a car without a car payment one day, buying is the best option. If you like the idea of having a new car with fancy options every few years and you can live within the terms of the lease, then leasing may be the best option.

If the benefits of leasing a car have outweighed the decision making process, be sure to fully understand the terms of the lease to avoid expensive costs at the end of the term. If you’ve opted to buy versus lease, consider your financing options. If rates are similar, you may want to consider using a Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit to finance the purchase to benefit from potential tax advantages (but be sure to consult your tax advisor first). Whichever way you go, be sure to enjoy your new car. If you’d like some ideas on how to save money at the pump with your new car, check out our blog: Ten Ways to Ease Your Pain at the Pump.

If you found this article helpful, be sure to check out these related articles:

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