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How Healthy Are Your Finances

Amidst the crisis, it is easy to miss the signals that the Bulgarian property market has pretty much reached bottom and we should be able to look forward improvement in 2010. This is because we are nearly all feeling the pinch and our pockets are not as full as they were and the pound to euro exchange rate is not helping those who rely on sterling for their income. Nonetheless, those who have bought Bulgarian property, or are seeking to become expats in Bulgaria, are usually buying a home for lifestyle reasons such as the incredibly low cost of living, lack of violence and better way of life.

Most of us, whether struggling or not in these economic times, are keen to make savings wherever possible and ensure that our finances are as healthy as they can be. There are many ways to make savings, even from something as simple as talking to a currency exchange broker to get the best deal for moving your money, through to just growing your own veg.

It is always worth taking time out to do a quick check for making the most of your property and finances. Bulgarian property owners and potential buyers need to take a look at their property finances. As the euro is so strong, it could be the right time to look at raising finance against your Bulgarian home. This could be used to make improvements to your Bulgarian property. Whilst interest rates are high in Bulgaria, this could still be a good opportunity to pay off debts in the UK, particularly credit cards which generally carry a very high rate of interest, thus easing your financial burden. If you currently have a mortgage in the UK on your overseas property, it is worth investigating fixed rates if you are not already on one. Interest rates in Britain are at an all time low and this will not last for ever, so get in now if you can.

Exchange rates are the eternal bugbear of those living outside the eurozone. With sterling having been pretty hard hit, talking to a currency exchange broker is a must. Banks generally charge you more for moving your money and often give a poorer exchange rate. Along with the currency brokers, the Post Office in the UK is now offering a money transfer service with great deals.

Expats should try and keep some of their investments in euros rather than all in sterling. Living here means your daily bills and expenses are in Bulgarian leva which is pegged to the euro, so you run no exchange risks on this. Look at what the Bulgarian banks are offering on deposit accounts. There are many banks with 10% interest if you can leave your money on deposit for as little as six months. Even if you need access to any capital you have, you can still place it in a Bulgarian bank with good deposit terms.

Growing your own fruit and veg may not be for everyone but it can save you a stack of money and you can have some fun turning your garden into a productive area of your home. Talk to your Bulgarian neighbours about what to grow to make the most savings and when to plant - they are a mine of information. If you are not lucky enough to have a well in your garden, start harvesting rainwater.

It is easy to let general bills build up and get out of control. One way to find out how much you really spend and what you spend it on, is to write everything down. Popular television programmes, such as Maxed Out, have shown how easily you can save money if you write down every penny or stotinki you spend. There are thousands who do not really know where their money goes and are racking up debt every month, just because they are not tracking spending.

Stuart and Mary Pendleton, who moved from the UK to Bulgaria two years ago, found their spending was starting to spiral out of control. Although having no children, they were still getting through some 1,500 euros a month between them in Bulgaria. Mary says, "This was ridiculous, we just couldn't make ends meet, yet we knew that living in Bulgaria was cheap. We took a look at our finances one month and found that we couldn't account for nearly 1,000 euros which we had drawn out in cash and just spent somehow. What I was frightened of was the thought of starting to use credit to keep covering our monthly outgoings. We knew we were overspending". The couple decided enough was enough and wrote down everything they spent for a month. Mary soon saw where the money was going and was shocked when she realised how much they spent on unnecessary things. Following on from this simple exercise, she made up a new household budget and they now spend 500 euros a month on all utility, household expenses and food bills. A saving of 1,000 euros a month!