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The year is coming to an end and the new year of investing is upon us. Before doing anything drastic or not doing anything at all, there are some things you might want to take note of so all your ducks are in a row and so are your investments. That way, everyone can insure a prosperous investment year and avoid any losses.

Are Obamacare Penalties Going to Affect My Investments?

First thing you have to ask yourself is "Do the penalties apply to me?" Well if you already have health insurance through an employer than you have no worries. If not, though, the penalties could affect you. There's a positive note that even if you're not insured for most of 2014, the penalties won't apply to you. Just make sure you're enrolled by March 31, 2014. If you're wondering what the penalty is, the minimum is $95 per uninsured adult and $47.50 per child, which can up to $285 per family. Another catch is you could even be paying more depending on how much you make.

This is where your investments come into play when filing your 2014 tax returns. If you're not covered and decide not to send the money, the IRS could take it out of your tax refund and your taxes are withheld through your employer. But they can't press criminal charges. If your investments are in property, you're safe. But depending on how much you make throughout the year and if you're uninsured this could cause major tax refund issues.

Is a Weaker Dollar on the Forefront?

So far the dollar has remained pretty stable throughout this year. However, as recent years has shown with the market, the dollar loves to plunder and resurface throughout the year. A currency specialist, Samsons Capital's Lewis has said "2014 will be a weak dollar environment." This can lead to "commodity-friendly" investments and stocks of companies that earn income from abroad. This is only is the economy remains sluggish and there are still low interest rates. Preparing with a "weaker dollar" in mind will give you the reserve you'll need when considering making any long-term investments, or deciding to buy/sell throughout 2014.

Use the Seasons To Your Advantage

Seasonal patterns have been known to boost investing gains. One can see that the November to April period is stronger than May through October, of course this does not mean to completely avoid the market or to stop investing after May. This is just a pivotal point to be more aggressive in the winter and spring with the consumer discretionaries, industrials, and materials.  Then in Summer and Fall get more defensive on investing options through consumers.

This strategy has been proven to produce double the returns of the Standard & Poor's 500 index (6.7 percent vs. 13 percent since 1945).

Undervalued Global Brands To The Rescue

Economic recovery has been leaped over in the past year by Japan and Europe. There are powerful global brands that have very little exposure to bigger economies. A good example is the shoe company Adidas, which according to earnings estimates is relatively cheap.  S&P Capital Reports show Adidas earnings projected growth to be twice of what they were last year, compared to the likes of a company like Nike.

One should not let inflation fears guide your whole investing strategy. Just plan carefully and thoughtfully and get the inside scoop on overseas brands and stocks and pick your options with growth in mind.  With the political situation of the debt ceiling coming back again, it's not likely to lead to a default, so this would be a good opportunity to invest in equities. 2014 may be the year you go abroad to make quite a yearly earning.

 

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One of my most hated expenses is the heating bill.

We don't have air conditioning, so we only experience this type of bill for a few months every year, but it's still a pain. Our heating bill isn't even all that much, but it's enough to make us want to save a bit here and there on it.

We moved in December 2012 to a house that is quite a bit larger than our previous dwelling/shack. A larger house generally results in larger bills, particularly when it comes to heating, cooling, and electricity.

We've been able to keep our electricity bill cost neutral, but we're on a mission to save some cash when it comes to heating, too. So far we've taken a few steps to bring it down a bit.

The Attic Re-Insulation Project

Our house came with a big problem when we bought it: vermiculite insulation in the attic, which unfortunately tested positive for asbestos.

We found out about the asbestos when we got our home inspection, and were able to negotiate the removal costs of the dangerous substance, but post-abatement we were left with an un-insulated attic.

We re-insulated the attic and every other point we could get at by purchasing the highest possible grade of thermal resistant insulation we could find. We insulated with R-40 and saved quite a bit of money on it by buying it off of Craigslist. 

Wood Burning Stove

We have a wood burning fireplace, which we try to use as often as possible instead of the alternative forced air heat.

The heat from a wood burning fireplace seems so much warmer than forced air or electric heat, and it's free.

We don't buy wood for the fireplace. Instead, we use discarded pallets. There are a lot of companies that have to pay to get pallets picked up and shipped away, so we (and by we, I mean my fiance) picks them up from the businesses (construction companies, grocery and furniture stores, etc) after talking to the management.

He then chops up the pallets and we have free heat all winter.

Changing out the Windows

Our fireplace doesn't reach our loft, which we've turned into our ultimate master bedroom. This is the only room in the house that doesn't have double paned windows, as the reno company that worked on our house before we bought it overlooked them.

This is next on our priority list. While we don't really use the electric heat in the loft, single paned windows can be poor for air quality. Condensation can build up more readily with single paned windows, causing mould and mildew on the window sills.

Plus, the loft can get pretty hot in the summer and double paned windows can help with that.

 

What do you do to reduce your heating bill?

Whenever I see something about saving on car insurance it reminds me of a certain US car insurance company. I guess that means they are good marketers!

I have discussed before how expensive my car is to drive. It used to be much more expensive, because I got into a small fender bender when I had just turned 20 that happened to be my fault (or, rather, that was completely preventable by the other person but that I took the blame for).

That spiked my insurance costs, meaning it was almost $300/month for insurance. That was clearly a bank breaker, but now that I have gone more than a few years accident free, my rate is more manageable.

Besides the accident free zone, there are a few things that I've done that have had a positive impact on decreasing my insurance costs:

Driving Safely (of course)

Despite so many people clearly thinking they are good, safe drivers, most people aren't. We all have our moments, but the best way to keep your insurance down is by being safe and avoiding accidents.

Remember that next time you are getting all road-ragey or impatient. Following too close, not signalling - these are behaviours that are always going to be YOUR fault, and will increase your insurance costs.

Comparison Shop

Car insurance companies all have different pricing structures, so comparison shopping is important if you want to save.

Don't always go for the cheapest auto insurance, though. That's dangerous. Different coverage works for different people, so keep in mind where you live and work, your commonly travelled routes and the reasons you most often use your vehicle. The cheapest insurance is only the cheapest when you don't have to make a claim.

Pre-Pay for a Term

I'm embarrassed, as a personal finance blogger, to admit this. When I was renewing my insurance in April, the insurance agent asked me what term I wanted to renew for. I wanted to leave my money in my investment savings account to collect interest so I told her three months.

The agent then told me that it's an extra $60 for any term under 6 months. I had been unknowingly paying this extra amount for years, until she told me this.

Now I renew for a minimum of 6 months. $60 every three months is a lot of money.

 

Sometimes, figuring out how to save on car insurance can be difficult, and lots of the advice includes getting rid of your car (not an option for many). That is definitely the most effective way, but there are also ways to save a bit here and there.