Christmas – it’s the most wonderful time of the year. But, with Christmas presents to buy, a slap-up dinner to prepare and celebrations to be had, it can also be the costliest time of the year. According to the Bank of England, the typical household in the UK spends over £500 more in the month of December than their usual spend, which can end up having knock on effects in January.
Avoiding overspending in the run up to Christmas can be challenging, but it is doable. To prevent you from getting yourself into debt this festive season, we’ve put together a list of money-saving tips to keep you on track in the lead up to the big day.
1) Create a shopping budget
It can be easy to get carried away once the Christmas shopping frenzy commences. Buying for other people can be really enjoyable and it’s hard to resist that “perfect gift” once you’ve clapped eyes on it, regardless of the price tag. It’s sensible to set yourself a budget, however, as things can quickly get out of hand if you don’t keep track of your finances. So, before you even think about making a start on your gift buying, decide on a total spend allowance and then do your absolute best to stick to it.
Plus, with the influx of social invitations at this time of year, it could also be wise to do something similar to limit the amount you spend eating or drinking out.
2) Take advantage of sales
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday getting bigger by the year, there are plenty of bargains to be bagged if you get your timing right. Some retailers are even starting their sales ahead of the popular shopping days, so keep your eyes peeled ahead of time to get the best deals on your gifts.
The shops are likely to be pretty crazy on Black Friday, but that shouldn’t be a problem as most retailers will be offering plenty of discounts online, so you can get your shopping done from the comfort of your own home.
3) Do price comparisons
Not only is online shopping arguably a more relaxing experience than tackling the crowds in the shops, but it also gives you the opportunity to do some price comparisons. Before committing to any purchase, check out some of the other competitors so see if they’re offering the same item at a lower price. This is particularly worthwhile if you’re buying tech, as Black Friday is a hot time for tech deals.
4) Earn some extra cash
Instead of restricting your spending, how about earning a bit of extra cash to supplement your shopping budget? Recent research by business insurer Hiscox has revealed 1 in 4 Brits have taken on a side hustle to complement their day job and it could be the answer to relieving a bit of financial burden over Christmas.
If you’ve got a hobby you may even be able to kill two birds with one stone by monetising it. For example, if you’re an artist you could design and sell Christmas cards or paintings. Alternatively, if you’re a writer, for example, you could be able to take on some additional freelance work to boost your income over the festive period.
5) Create homemade gifts
If you’ve got a creative streak, you could put this creativity to good use by crafting some homemade gifts for your loved ones. Not only will it save you money, but it also offers a personal touch. If you’re an artist, an original piece of artwork is sure to be well-received, or if you’re a star baker, a delicious freshly baked cake, pie or batch of cookies is bound to go down a treat.
6) Be sensible with credit cards
Opening a credit card to cover excess Christmas expenses can be tempting, but they’re to be approached with caution. While they may help distribute the financial burden of the festive season, if you are not able to pay off the balance in the next month, you’ll find yourself paying interest.
Some credit cards offer cash back or give you the opportunity to earn rewards, so they may be worth investigating to save some money. Just be sure to keep track of your spending.
The trick to managing your Christmas spending is planning and budgeting. By making a list and taking advantage of sales and online discounts, you could trim a significant chunk off your bill. What’s more, by getting business savvy and taking on a side hustle to earn some extra cash, your Christmas fund could be looking healthier in no time! Simply be sensible and mindful with your finances and you’re sure to have a stress-free Christmas.
WILL BLOCKCHAIN REVOLUTIONIZE FINANCE?
By Ken Timsit, ConsenSys
Over the last 10 years, researchers, software developers, start-ups, and large companies have been conducting experiments aimed at determining whether networks based on blockchain technology can ultimately – in whole or in part – replace the infrastructure on which financial institutions and capital markets are built.
In today’s electronic databases, any information can theoretically be replicated at will. This is why most governments allow only regulated actors to keep records of digitized assets (banks, depositories), to avoid pitfalls such as the execution of misleading transactions or the creation of artificial assets. With blockchain, these pitfalls can be avoided at the source code of the technology, which is available to all members of the network. The creation of Ethereum enabled a more robust blockchain network capable of “smart contracts”, which once programmed, can run automatically without the results being modified or manipulated.
Contrary to what some critics argue, the potential of the blockchain is not the creation of a free and unregulated space in which everyone can invent new financial instruments. Rather, the potential lies in creating a much more efficient and globalized commercial and financial infrastructure, in which many layers of control and intermediation are no longer needed as they are replaced by transparent and immutable IT rules that ensure the same risk management functions.
For example, bonds are essential financial instruments on which a large part of our economy and savings are based. The issue and exchange of a bond requires the intervention of several dozen financial institutions (issuers, intermediaries and investors). Some regulated players in this intermediary chain exist mainly to ensure that it is possible to know, at any time, who holds each bond, in order to guarantee their rights to its bearers.
It is theoretically possible to simplify these stacks of operators by linking them to a global blockchain network, open to all stakeholders in the industry. The blockchain network can thus ensure at any time that the number of outstanding bonds corresponds exactly to the number of bonds issued, and that each exchange transaction is carried out without the risk of default.
The blockchain revolution is first and foremost the reduction of costs and delays caused by the current financial infrastructure. The blockchain revolution also creates innovation opportunities for consumers, savers, and investors.
The Web3 revolution, often used to refer to the blockchain revolution, will be driven by the reduction in transaction costs, allowing the emergence of new peer-to-peer business models that we are not yet able to accurately predict, but which will probably participate in a rebalancing of the relationships between financial institutions and their clients. Some international peer-to-peer payment and loan-to-peer savings investment models are already attracting increasing interest from the most sophisticated consumers.
Where are we in 2020?
Today, the blockchain revolution is still in its infancy. Transaction volumes through blockchain networks, public and private, are low compared to those of existing systems. The fixed costs of the technology are still relatively high, and the user experience leaves something to be desired.
However, innovations abound. It is already possible for me, from my smartphone, to buy digital assets whose value is equal to about one US dollar, and to lend them in three clicks to other users who will pay me between 1% and 10% per year for this service, depending on the type of platform.
The number of large operational business projects is still small, but very promising. Numerous international commodity trading players have joined forces to create Vakt and komgo, two platforms that contribute to a significant simplification of trade and oil financing. Similar and competing projects, Voltron and Marco Polo, are being launched. On the corporate side, the Capbridge 1x platform (Singapore) already allows shares to be traded on an Ethereum blockchain network. Other important projects such as LiquidShare (France), SIX Digital Exchange (Switzerland), Daura (with Deutsche Borse and Swisscom in Switzerland), Synapse (Hong Kong Stock Exchange) are in preparation. The World Bank, Société Générale and Santander have issued bonds on an Ethereum blockchain network. These initiatives are still experimental but have attracted significant interest from financial institutions around the world.
And of course, many projects aim to revolutionize global payments by creating digital assets on blockchain networks that are fixed in Euros, U.S. Dollars or other currencies, such as those of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the South African Reserve Bank, and Union Bank of the Philippines. Since the announcement of the Facebook-initiated Libra project, many governments have expressed concern about the possibility of private companies controlling global payment flows, and have asked their domestic financial institutions to redouble their efforts to explore competing initiatives.
All of this is to say that adoption is happening, albeit gradually. The middlemen and intermediaries of the financial world will not be replaced overnight. Moreover, the exact formation or architecture of the new financial system is impossible to predict with accuracy. However, it’s safe to say that blockchain will enable a financial system that is more efficient and yields more value-add to consumers, users, and investors.
RECOLLECTING 2019 CRYPTOCURRENCY TRENDS & LOOKING FORWARD TO 2020
Marie Tatibouet is the CMO at Gate.io
It has been a bold and progressive year for the digital asset market with exciting announcements flowing in from technology behemoths and government bodies around the world. However, Facebook’s launch announcement of Libra (though they are now facing regulatory issues) and China’s new cryptocurrency law caught all the attention, affecting the Bitcoin price, and the overall market sentiment.
In 2019, the global market saw several catalysts emerging for mainstream adoption despite increased scrutiny around several burning issues such as wash trading and security breaches. For over 400 cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, being able to constantly improve on aspects around user experience and fund security is the only way to be sustainable. However, only a handful have real trading volume and technical expertise to build strong trust in the community. For instance, global wash trading has been the hottest topic of discussion in 2019 but new rankings on CoinMarketCap clearly indicate that the industry is working towards eliminating market manipulation.
Looking back at 2019
In 2019, digital asset organisations have constantly innovated to attract users but at the same time, the trading process has become increasingly fragmented, spiking the time gap between new users becoming long-term users.
Holding & Lending Funds
Since 2014, the Bitcoin margin trading market has expanded from $10 million to $100 billion. Margin trading has been a great use case in the cryptocurrency space. Many exchanges launched the feature to provide diversity to the trading experience and attracting a huge amount of users to the platforms. It allows traders to multiply their profits on successful trades, providing a range of possibilities for both profits and losses.
Staking is a process where users can buy digital assets and earn interest by keeping (holding) them in a cryptocurrency wallet for a particular period of time. It has proved to be a strong use case for digital asset companies as it encourages user participation. In 2019, staking programs brought stable earnings for cryptocurrency investments made by the users. For instance, HODL & Earn launched by Gate.io in August 2019 has been bringing stable earnings for cryptocurrency investments made by its users. The competitive advantage for HODL & Earn is its annual interest rate, which is as high as 32%.
Crowdfunding as an approach to build and grow products has seen a lot of traction over the last decade or so. One of the highlights this year was the emergence of “Initial Exchanges Offerings”, more commonly termed as IEOs, an alternative to traditional IPOs where companies can raise funds by selling a quantity of digital assets to investors, supervised by cryptocurrency exchanges. With over 1.5 Billion funds raised, IEOs shook the entire cryptocurrency space in 2019.
Owing to the richness and variability that we have seen so far, there has been no one clear winner to pick, but there’s also no ignoring the leaders; Gate.io has the second best average IEO returns, raising over 80 million dollars in its first 5 projects and has similar offerings panned out for 2020.
Deals and Discounts
Discount deals are being increasingly leveraged by digital asset companies, encouraging users to maximize their capital. Holiday seasons such as Black Friday are packed with jaw-dropping discounts. However, as an industry, we should aim to integrate discounts in digital currencies into the mainstream world, which would bring price stability.
Dynamic User Relationship
Cryptocurrencies are being taken seriously and companies are designing consumer-specific strategies. It is a great indication of the fact that more and more people are interested in trading digital assets. However, we have a long way to go when it comes to tackling the industry challenges and unlocking value for the entire ecosystem.
Regulation, Security, and Mass Adoption
Central banks of the US, Europe, China, and Ghana are looking at creating their own central bank digital currencies, putting a structure to the adoption of the blockchain technology across finance and other industry verticals. Japan’s recent regulation amendments, China’s new crypto law have laid the right frameworks for mainstream crypto adoption.
While we have major countries pushing for the mainstream adoption, security remains a major concern. Cryptocurrency thefts and frauds in Q3, 2019 annual stand at USD 4.4 billion and this will only increase if fund safety mechanisms aren’t strengthened. Therefore, the strongest will survive as far as digital asset security is concerned.
Nonetheless, blockchain technology is helping to create an innovative and accessible financial system around the world and its mainstream adoption is closer than we can fathom.
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