5 Tips on How to Save Money

The saying ‘save for a rainy day’ is not empty advice. It is imperative for a person to save and to have funds stashed in the bank or in any form of investment to tide them over rough spots such as emergency expenses and temporary unemployment. Saving money in today’s society is not easy. The temptation to spend is everywhere and to save money takes determination and commitment. However, there are small everyday things that can be done to help save money. After all, even the smallest amount saved can make a big difference when in debt.

Below are 5 tips on how you can save money:

Tip No 1. Spend less – To really save money, a person needs to spend less. If a person reviews all the little expenses that they spend on every day items that are not really necessary, they will realize that this may sum up to a considerable amount of money.  Here are some expenses that an individual can cut-back on or even avoid to save money:

  • Taking a taxi or using the car to and from work can be expensive. You can avoid these costs by taking public transport, riding your bike or walking to work. This will not only save you the taxi fare and fuel costs it will also keep you healthy.
  • Buying branded items when the quality of the unbranded is almost the same, if not better. It is the name that a person pays for, not the quality.
  • Rather than having the newspaper delivered to your home every morning, buy it from a news stand or better yet read the news on the internet, this will save you a nice annual charge.
  • Energy bills can be costly. Reduce energy bills by using energy saving light bulbs and other devices and by turning off the light every time you leave a room.
  • Buying a coffee from the coffee shop next door to work each morning is costing you a fortune for something you can do yourself at home.

Tip No 2. Shop Wisely – The first thing to do when shopping wisely is to prepare a shopping list of what you need and stick to that shopping list. Bring only enough money to pay for the items on your list and leave the credit card at home so there is no temptation to buy on impulse. Check out stores, local markets, supermarkets, and local shops that offer the best prices. Take advantage of promotional offers, as these can also be a great money saving tool.

Tip No 3. Limit Debts – There is no avoiding debts, but the key to saving money is to limit debts and to control them. If there is a need to use the credit card make sure that it is paid on time so that there are no interest fees charged to your account.

Tip No 4. Prepare a Budget – A person who wants to save money needs to prepare a budget, if possible a monthly budget. Without a budget it is almost impossible to save.   A budget will give immediate information on how much a person earns and how much expenses they incur each month. A budget is a good way to identify which expenses are unnecessary and can be avoided.

Tip No 5. Save money – Set aside a certain amount every pay check that will be kept in a savings account. A growing savings account is a very good incentive to continue saving.

It is important that every person have a savings account that they can fall back on when unexpected situations arise. Even the smallest amounts saved on a daily basis can make a big difference to your monthly and annual savings.

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Extreme Budgeting: Is it for You?

The recession might be showing signs of ending (at some point), but those benefits have really not trickled down to the average, everyday consumer. In fact, quite a few people are still struggling with money, some even struggling to pay their regular bills, much less sock away a few bucks for savings. The traditional course of action here is to budget, but budgeting is often not quite enough to do the trick. If this sounds familiar, then there might be hope yet – extreme budgeting. What is extreme budgeting and is it something that you should know about?

First, let’s take a look at what extreme budgeting is (and what it’s not). It is really nothing more than taking drastic steps to save money. What it’s not is a fad. There are some very extreme changes being made out there, and some of these are being made by people who enjoy good financial health. Here are some examples of extreme budgeting that may (or may not) help you save money and get your financial situation in check.

Hoof It
One of the most popular ways to budget for those with serious cash flow problems is to ditch the personal car and hoof it. Before you balk, think about the situation. If you did not have your car, what would you save? You would no longer have to pay:

  • A monthly car payment
  • Insurance payment
  • Maintenance and repair costs
  • Fuel

When taken together, those fees and charges add up to a significant amount! Instead of driving your own car, you can take the bus, use the subway or metro, walk or use other forms of public transportation. Of course, this tip only works if you live in an area where there is public transportation.

Scale Down Your Home
Another example of extreme budgeting is the growing trend to downsize homes. Some have even taken this to extremes. There are some people out there that think tiny homes are the way to go. These homes are usually about 100 square feet (that’s a 10×10 square, by the way). Obviously, that isn’t going to work for everyone. It’s hard to find room for a family of four to sleep in a 10×10 house. But you can downsize your home to something smaller. There is a lot to be said for having only as much room as you need. You’ll save by cutting down on:

  • House payment
  • Insurance payment
  • Utility costs (heating and cooling)
  • Stuff (when you have a smaller home, you buy fewer things, simply because you have less room)

Downsizing your home is actually a growing idea, and you might expect to see the size of the average American home begin going down in the near future.

Dine In
One of the ways that money trickles out of your hands the fastest is by dining out. Eating out can be fun and enjoyable. However, it’s far, far more costly than cooking at home. Even when you factor in the utilities needed to cook at home, for the cost of one meal out at a good restaurant for a single person, you might feed four people at home.

Cooking seems to be one of those things that people either don’t have time for or feel intimidated by. However, cooking need not be time consuming or frustrating. There are  myriad cookbooks out there that offer simple, tasty meals that require almost no time to prepare and taste great. Dining in allows you to save by:

  • Feeding more people for less
  • Cutting out tips
  • Reducing fuel costs (driving to and from)

Dining in is one of the best ways to free up a surprisingly large amount of money in your life. However, you need to dine in at all times – eat breakfast at home, pack your lunch for work and dine in for dinner.

Water It Down
While not as extreme as ditching your car or downsizing your home, watering down the products that you use can help you save an immense amount of money, particularly if there are quite a few people in your home. Many of our daily products can be “cut” with a little water and not reduce the benefits.

For instance, you can water down your shampoo and conditioner and make them last longer, as well as saving money on resupplying. You might be able to water down your kitchen cleaner, or you might opt to do a number of other things. The point is that with just a little forethought, you can save a ton of money on the products that you use in your regular life and slash your expenses. Watering it down offers you these benefits:

  • Spend less
  • Make products last longer
  • In some cases, this can even benefit the environment (fewer new plastic bottles in the landfill, etc).

Watering down might not be “totally extreme,” but it can be a great way to save money.

Categories Budgeting, Saving Money
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How to Pay Off Your Mortgage Faster

Paying off a mortgage faster often makes sense. By cutting off a few months, or years, of your mortgage’s life, you actually increase the amount of money you have in your pocket long term. For many people, this means saving thousands of dollars. You probably would love to pay off your mortgage and not have to make that monthly payment each month, but you may think it is too hard or too complex to do. The fact is, with a few simple tools, you can do just that.

There are several ways to work to pay off your mortgage faster. The key is to find out if your mortgage company offers these options and then to spend some time comparing the costs associated. In the best case scenario, you do not have to pay any fees.

Paying Two Times Per Month

Instead of paying $1500 onetime per month, pay $750 two times per month. This is an easy way to pay no more on your mortgage each month, but to end up paying less on your mortgage and cutting down the cost for the long term. How does this work?

  • Each year, there are 52 weeks, which for most people who are paid every two weeks, there are 26 pay periods.
  • While there are only 12 months in the year, if you make 26 payments, you end up making a full extra payment each year just by paying every two weeks.

This method can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Pay A Bit More Each Payment

It goes without saying that paying more towards a debt each month can help you to cut down on the costs of your loan overall. However, it does not take a lot of money paid each month to do this. If you can afford to increase the amount you pay per month by just $100 to $200 more, you will pay off your loan far sooner, cutting into the amount of money you owe.

The trick to making this plan work for you is to focus specifically on paying down principle debt. This is the actual debt you borrowed, not interest tacked on to the debt. By paying towards the principle, this allows you to pay the amount you owe down faster, which in term means less interest is applied to that principle. Most mortgage loan companies will allow you to stipulate where the extra money each month will go, to principle or interest.

To make the biggest impact on your mortgage debt, and to pay off your mortgage even faster, combine these two methods. This way, you can cut down on the length of your loan considerably, and end up paying far less than you would otherwise. For many people, the mortgage is the single most expensive investment they will make in their lifetime. Why not pay less without actually feeling like you are doing so? Chances are good that you will find yourself in a better financial place for doing just this.

Categories Real Estate, Saving Money
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Freedom from Fees: Smart Tips to Limit Banking Expenses

Upon returning from a great weekend getaway, it’s common to feel the rush of reflecting on your vacation. For many busy professionals, the memories of travel soon turn to uncertainty as the bills and fees start to add up. Whether you’re looking to get the most out of your everyday life or want to extend your leisure budget a bit further, there are effective ways to limit banking fees and costs.

When it comes to getting more from your income, each penny counts which is why freedom from fees can help you to enjoy every minute a bit more. Most banks offer various tiers of banking accounts depending on your needs from high usage accounts with many features to basic, no cost checking accounts. Today, it’s harder to find fully featured free checking accounts without deposit minimums – instead, most tiers of bank accounts require stringent conditions. Understanding your current position and needs can help guide you to the most cost effective choice.

  • Evaluate multiple banks for the right network and features for transactional banking

If you travel often or need extended support, then you’ll want to bank with a network with a larger reach. Major banks such as Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo have a presence in nearly every state – the result is you can access branches and ATMs for basic services. This makes transactions easier and more accessible.

  • Consider opening a credit union account for some  asset and local services

Often times, students, retirees and other people can benefit from access to higher yield accounts and fee-free services. Local and regional credit unions, often tied to organizations and work places, can offer better terms than some national banks. Always evaluate whether a credit union can deliver what you need for a portion of your assets.

  • Budget carefully so you can put yourself at risk of overdraft or transaction fees

With careful planning you can keep ahead of the curve when it comes to avoiding some banking fees. Always plan your spending and saving so you maintain a positive balance, have access to funding sources and can take care of emergencies without putting yourself at risk. Building up basic savings and providing a cushion can ensure you remain in positive territory. Maintaining a portion of your savings in liquid assets, such as money market accounts, can protect you against potential emergencies when they arise.

  • Rely on Technology to Guide your Banking

Modern tools such as online banking, online tax returns and Mint financial planning software can provide free (or low cost) alternatives to expensive professional services. You can use intelligence options to get more from your money to make smart decisions without incurring fees.

Just imagine getting charged a fee for each traveler’s check, large ATM withdrawal, overdraft fee, and currency conversion – you can clearly see how the right account can make a world of difference at home and away. While these flexible structures offer more choice, always make sure you fully understand how these features will impact your overall checking expenses. Various options from overdraft protection to extended ATM networks and traveler’s checks privileges can offer value add services which save you significantly in the long run.

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10 Tips for the Best Financial Health

Money, that fickle mistress, is very hard to keep. It seems like the more you get, the more you need. Most of us have said something along the lines of, “If I only had $X more per month, then I’d be fine,” at some point in our lives. However, it rarely works out that way. Money can be a difficult, painful, frustrating subject for anyone. It doesn’t have to be, though. With the right tips and techniques, you can start creating better financial health in your life. Here are ten of the best ways to start.

1. Slash Your Debt

Slashing your debt might seem like an easy thing to do, until you look at all that credit card debt, that is. While you might “know” how deep in debt you are, it often requires a very hard look to actually understand how bad your situation really is. The first thing you need to do is list all of your debts from smallest to largest. Start repaying them now, starting with the smallest and working your way up.

2. Plan, Plan, Plan

Before you can enjoy better financial health, you have to know where you’re going. What IS financial health to you? A good financial situation is different things for different people, and how you get there is up to you. The best way to start building better financial health is to make a plan. Write down your goals (for the week, the month, the year, the decade, what have you). Having a plan will give you something to fall back on, to look at and say, “I’m here and need to be there, and this is how I’ll do it.”

3. Prepare for Hardship

This is one of the hardest things to accomplish, but you need to build a financial buffer. You need to have money in your account so that if you lost your job, or some other emergency occurred, you would have the cash to cover it. You need the security that only having good savings can offer. Moreover, this should be separate from your investments – it needs to be readily accessible.

4. Budget Your Pants Off

Any good financial situation is founded on a solid budget, even the rich have to budget some things. Make a budget before you do anything else (and it’ll help you with building that cash cushion, as well). Identify areas where you can cut back spending (stop buying $5 cups of coffee, for instance), and then DO IT. Creating a budget can be tough, but it has to be done. You can use online budgeting and financial tools to help if you’re more comfortable using these services than going it alone.

5. Build for the Future

While the recession has made the investment market a murky, frightening place, you need to keep going. Choose the safest investments out there and keep putting your money away. Sound financial health means having the money that you need when the “golden years” finally sneak up on you. Find a good financial planner or advisor who understands that slow and steady really is the best option and follow his or her advice. Keep investing, but do it with an eye for constant, steady growth, rather than making a fast buck.

6. Evaluate Your Job

While the recession has forced hiring to a halt, it is slowly beginning to pick up steam once more. If your career is not what you want, or not enough to give you financial security, then now is the time to get where you want to go. Where do you want to be in five years? How will you get there? Make your plan, change your job (or apply for a higher-up position) and embark on your journey. Now is the time.

7. Rent or Own?

The housing market has certainly seen better days. Investing in real estate now might not be the best idea, so many people are choosing to rent. If your rent is low enough, this can be fine. However, if you want to OWN a home and have the credit to get a loan approved (criteria is tighter these days), then now may be a good time. You’ll enjoy lower interest, far lower home prices and more.

8. Slash Your Expenses

Your spending is yours to control – no one else can do it for you. You need to identify where you can cut costs and then follow through on it. For instance, if downsizing your car will save you money, and you can make it work, then do it! There’s no need to pay for more car than you need. The same principle can be applied throughout your life.

9. Communicate

Your partner needs to be kept in the loop. Communication is the cornerstone of any good relationship, and you need to make sure that you keep a two-way flow of communication with your partner at all times. Discuss your financial goals, and possible ways to achieve them.

10. Free Investment Money

Yes, there is free money out there for many folks. If your employer offers 401(k) matching, then take them up on it! That’s more money for you, that you don’t have to work for – free money.

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How to Save Money to Buy a House

If you are considering homeownership, you may be nervous about the prospect of coming up with the down payment. This amount, usually between 3% and 20% of the cost of your home, is paid upfront and not included in your loan. While it is true that there are an increasing number of programs available offering assistance with down payment and closing costs these programs are not for everyone. You may not qualify for such a program, or if you approach your loan with an eye on the future you may realize that you will save several thousand dollars on the back-end by coming up with a few thousand up front.

If you can come up with the money you will need for your down payment and closing costs you will save significantly in the long run, but how to get past the pinch now? Depending on the cost of your home, your down payment could total several thousand dollars. Don’t panic, get creative.

  • First and most obviously review your budget. You may find places to cut back or make changes. Suggestions you may have heard before include bagging your lunch, carpooling, washing your own car, canceling health club memberships and borrowing rather than renting movies and music. You will be surprised to find how easily you can save an extra $100.00 each month. If discipline is an issue try setting up a savings account and using the automatic deduction option; you can’t spend the money if you don’t have it.
  • If you just can’t find ways to save the money look for ways to earn a little extra. Can you get a second job, have a yard sale or offer a service on a freelance or consulting basis?
  • Consult the home buying section of your local newspaper. Each week, usually on Sunday, the paper contains listings of home buyer education programs and seminars. This is the best place to learn about grant, incentive and discount programs available in your community.
  • Take a look at your 401k or 403b. These retirement plans often carry provisions for withdrawal if the funds are to be used for purchase of your primary residence. Make sure you fully understand the implications of any early withdrawals to avoid unpleasant surprises at tax time.
  • Ask friends and family for down payment assistance in lieu of presents on gift giving occasions. You may need to provide a gift letter (a statement of the amount gifted and the gifter’s willingness to forego repayment) at closing time.
  • If you find it difficult to save regularly, consider increasing your deductions for a bigger return at tax time. Use the check for your down payment.
  • If you are near the end of your lease consider cheaper living arrangements to boost your monthly savings.
  • Review your insurance coverage. You can decrease your payments by increasing your deductible.
  • Get creative on gift giving occasions. Why not give the gift of a back rub or some homemade cookies? You’ll save a bundle and convey genuine thoughtfulness.

Any substantial savings goal can seem daunting without a plan. So, make a plan and set monthly targets as you creatively generate funds for your down payment. Transfer funds into an interest bearing account as soon as you have enough. Do not carry an ATM card for this account; this one is hands off.

If it helps you to stay connected to your goal, post a chart of your progress or a picture of your new home. Write about the advantages of moving into your new home when you begin to feel discouraged about the down payment or the sacrifices you are making to meet your goal. You will make it with patience and persistence, and don’t forget to celebrate each month that you make your goal.

Categories Real Estate, Saving Money
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How to Beat the Rising Cost of Fuel

Fuel is one of life’s necessities for those of us who own our own vehicle. Increasingly, that fuel comes at a significant premium. While gas prices were down for much of 2010, 2011 is shaping up to be a very different beast indeed. In fact, gas is slated to hit $4 per gallon this year, and it might not come back down. Of course, that’s usually the story with gas prices, but when you combine those high fuel costs with the lingering economic problems, it spells trouble for a lot of people. However, there are ways that you can beat the rising cost of fuel and save some money at the pump.

Idle TimeGas Pump
One of the best ways to cut down on your fuel costs is to stop letting your car idle. Warming it up in the morning is fine, but don’t let it sit there running for 15 minutes while you finish your breakfast and watch the news. Generally, you only need to let the engine warm up for about 45 seconds to a minute. This gives it enough time to begin circulating the oil and for the transmission fluid to warm up for operation.

If you’re warming your car up so that it can be nice and toasty when you get in, consider wearing a heavier coat or keeping a pair of driving gloves handy. Your car wastes an enormous amount of fuel when idling, so cut back on this and save.

Starting and Stopping
Needlessly starting and stopping your engine also wastes a considerable amount of fuel. While most folks don’t crank their car and then shut if off immediately, just to repeat the process, you might be able to identify some areas where you could just leave your car idling for a minute and reduce the costs. In reality, your car uses the same amount of gas during cranking as it does during a 60-second round of idling. Therefore, if you’re only going to be out of the car for a minute, leave it idling rather than turning it off. While that might seem at odds with the first tip, saving gas during the startup process is as important as anything else here.

Acceleration
How often do you “just punch it”? Hitting the gas pedal hard is necessary at times, like when merging onto a busy freeway or avoiding a potential accident. However, if you punch the pedal all the time, you’re just pouring money down the drain. Instead, accelerate slowly, as it requires more fuel to get your car up to speed than it does to maintain a certain speed once achieved. Avoid fast starts and you’ll make that tank of gas last longer.

Stay Cool
It might seem strange, but the gas pump at your local quick-mart doesn’t charge you the same amount of money for an identical amount of gas during different times of the day. When gasoline is cold, it is denser and it is less dense when it warms. Therefore, it’s best to fill up your tank during the morning or evening, when gas is at its densest. Because the pump calculates your purchase by volume, filling up when gas is at its densest will give you more volume for your dollar. Of course, it’s not always possible to do this, but it is a good way to start saving some money at the pump and making your car go farther on a tank.

More Idle Time Tips
Drive through lanes are very, very handy. They allow you to get food, make bank deposits and more without ever getting out of your car. However, they’re horrible on your gas mileage. Remember the earlier tip: if your engine will be idling for more than a minute, cut it off. That means rather than sitting in the drive through lane for 10 minutes, park and go inside. It’ll save you a considerable amount of fuel.

Plan Your Errands Effectively
You will also find that running your errands in a haphazard fashion will cost you more in fuel. The best way to save fuel and still get everything done is to plan your trip. Accomplish all of your errands in one trip, and start with the location that is farthest from your home and work backwards. Don’t leave your car idling at these stops either, unless you’ll be inside for 60 seconds or less.

Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance
If you really want your car to get the best fuel mileage so you save at the pump, then you need to maintain your car properly. Regular oil changes and tire rotations are just the start here. You also need to make sure that your tires are properly inflated, that your car is aligned correctly and that your air filter is clean and free of debris.

Following these tips will help you increase your fuel mileage, reduce the number of times you have to fill up your tank and save you some big money over time.

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Home-Based or Small Business: Staying Focused

It’s wonderful to have the dream of building your own business and finally see it through. After the first blush wears off though, some people have problems staying on target. It’s especially true if you’ve been working for someone else. Once you become your own boss it can be hard to stay focused and disciplined. Now it’s all up to you to make the rules and stick to a schedule. Here are some suggestions to help keep you motivated.

Make a List
There are undoubtedly some good reasons why you decided to start your own business. Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to do or sell. Maybe you’re sick of commuting. It could be that you’re just tired of working for someone else and playing office politics. Whatever your reasons, write them down. You may think that sounds crazy, but you’re sure to run into some bad days. You’ll be asking yourself why you came up with such a stupid plan in the first place. If you have your list handy, you can read it over a few times to remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing.

In fact, you should print them out, frame them, and put them up on the wall of your new home office. These are your goals and no one else’s. These ideas are what gave you the courage to become your own person and you should never lose sight of them.

Make a Schedule
Unless you’re the most organized and dedicated person in the world, you should really make a schedule…and stick to it. During the first few weeks and months you may feel like you have all the time in the world to get your work done. Since you aren’t punching that time clock anymore, you may have trouble working without structure.

Or maybe in the beginning, you’ll be so excited to be doing your own thing that you’ll put way too much time in. You’ll work day and night because you want everything to be perfect. Even more important is the fact that it’s your very own to work when you want. The trouble with that scenario is that you’ll soon burn out and might even resent your new business.

In actuality you might have to work a little harder for a while, but as soon as you can, set a reasonable schedule for yourself. As time goes on you’ll be able to tweak it so that you work the hours that are best for you. After all that’s usually one of the perks of doing your own thing.

Short Term Goals
You wrote your business plan so you’ve done your homework. It would be a good idea to go a step further and set out monthly goals. If you’re selling a product, you’ll know from your projections that you need to move a certain amount. If you meet your first month goal, increase it by five or ten percent the next month. Do this even though you may have done a six month projection that reflects less. If you didn’t make your first month goal, try to figure out why and make some changes in your selling approach.

Other short term goals might have to do with your daily output. Even though you’ve made your schedule, resolve to stick to it. If you have an easy day, you might decide to knock off early. If you do it one time, it will be a lot easier to do it the next. Pretty soon you’ll talk yourself into doing it several times a week. So, one of your short term goals might be to work your full day…one day at a time.

If you’re selling a service, figure out how you can make every order a little better. For instance, you might be providing desk top publishing from your home. One of your goals could be to deliver the finished product a day early next time. Possibly you could add some free business cards as an incentive. Going the extra mile will make you feel like a winner and it will keep those clients coming back for more.

Long Term Goals
What do you hope to achieve in the end from your home-based business? Do you want to nourish your creativity and make it grow? Maybe you want to retire at a young age. Perhaps you want this business to turn into an international enterprise.

The goals you make for the short term get you through the days and weeks and keep you on the right track. However, if you don’t have an ultimate goal, you’ll end up feeling restless like you may have in your job “working for the man”. Put some thought into the big picture as well as what you plan to accomplish today.

Customer Service
Business these days is all about service. The people that take the best care of their clients and customers will come out ahead. Keep yourself in the running, by treating your buyers (and vendors too) better than anyone else. If someone has a complaint, don’t just apologize and move on. Listen to what the beef is and decide whether it’s valid or not. We all know that some people just like to make trouble no matter what. Even if you run into someone like this, smile and promise to do better next time; unless their business isn’t worth keeping. In any event, they might have a valid issue with you and you want to stay humble enough to hear legitimate criticism. Remember all those old sayings about learning from our mistakes.

Rewards
Pretty soon, no matter how much you wanted your home-based business, it will be a drag if you don’t build in some rewards. Going back to sticking to your schedule; if you put in full days four days in a row, maybe you can take Friday afternoons off. Each week that you at least break even, splurge on a special lunch. Take a week-end getaway or buy something affordable that you’ve been wanting the first month you show a profit.

Even if things are rough for the first year, you still deserve some breaks. If you use up your last reserve of energy, you’ll soon suffer from burnout and never get your business off the ground.

Companionship
Something else to think about is the isolation factor. If you’re used to working for a company where you’re surrounded by co-workers, the working at home thing could become pretty lonely for you. Be sure and schedule time to socialize with family and friends. Even if you’re somewhat of a loner, evaluate how you’re feeling every week. Sometimes we feel off, but we’re not really sure why. A lot of people think about working at home, but they’re afraid they’ll cut themselves off from the world. That’s something that’s definitely in your control. No matter how busy you are, be sure to take time to interact with people and to have some fun. And this leads us to the next topic.

Have Fun
One reason you probably opted out of the corporate world in the first place is that it stopped being fun. A person once said, “Why do you think they call it work?” meaning work isn’t supposed to be fun. Not true. Sure we have to work hard to stay ahead in most cases, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a good time doing it.

Don’t start a home business just to escape another situation. Plan to do something that you really like. We all have fantasies about how we’d like to earn money. Before you even start write down all of your ideas and research their feasibility. We spend most of our time working, so we should make it enjoyable.

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for your own business, do some Internet surfing. You’ll be amazed at what people have come up with to earn their living while staying home. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of creative plans for online or on-ground businesses. If you are thinking about something you’re not sure will be a go, reading some of these great ideas may give you the inspiration you need to give it a go.

Be Passionate
The most important rule you can follow is to be passionate about your work. To make that happen it has to be something that you care about. When we’re honest with ourselves, this usually isn’t about money. Yes, most of us love to spend and we love our “things”, but those things don’t really inspire an inner passion. That doesn’t mean you have to set out to save the world. It just means that whatever you do must turn you on. Tune into your heart and base your business on something that starts there.

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Making Long Road Trips Kid Friendly

“Are we there yet?”  “Are we nearly there?”  Two questions that bring a sigh of frustration to any parent on a road trip with children – especially when they are asked only a mile or so after leaving home.  There are ways of making a road trip fun however, and for at least keeping the boredom level at bay as long as possible.  Try a few of the following on your next long road trip and see if you notice a difference.

  1. Map out the Route together. A few days before you are due to leave on the road trip, find some time to sit down with the children and a map that shows where you are, your destination, and the route you will follow for your trip.  Use a large scale map and explain the distances involved in terms that they understand – ie one square on the map is the same as driving to school and back x number of times.  Think it out beforehand and try and work out approximately how long it will take you to drive one square on the map.  Try and put the time frame for this into a reference they can understand – such as two episodes of their favorite television show.
  2. Prepare your road trip carefully. Plan to make frequent stops – at least once per hour for ten minutes or so.  Use the map to locate picnic areas that have parks where young children can run off some energy before getting back into the car.  If you can couple these stops with bathroom visits and snack breaks you will accomplish your drive quicker in the long run.
  3. Create a goodie bag. In this allow one “surprise” item for each child for each half hour you will be on the road.  These can include magazines, paper and crayons, travel games, puzzle books etc.  If you have more then one child, and its age appropriate to do so, have them swap after 15 minutes so that no-one gets a chance to get bored.
  4. Have each child choose the music for the road trip. Set guidelines if need be – after all you do need to be able to concentrate on the road!  Rotate the music every 15-20 minutes.
  5. Supply each child with a pillow and blanket. Essential if traveling at night, but even during the day, long hours on the road can get weary and a nap is a good way of passing a bit of time – especially if they have just been fed, and released some energy at a play area.
  6. Are there any “attractions” en route to your destination? This could add a couple of hours to your trip, but save your sanity in the long run – especially if it’s a hot day and the attraction happens to be a water park!
  7. Create of list of car quizzes and play one each hour of travel and give a small prize to the first person to answer 10 or 15 questions correctly.
  8. If at all possible, travel through the night! Be prepared to travel the day before you leave, sleep during the actual travel day whilst the children are at school or with a child minder – or even pay a babysitter to amuse them whilst you get some rest, then wait until it gets dark before you set off.  Stop at a favorite fast food place for a snack and bathroom break before they settle down for the night, and then play some soft music and let the natural motion of the vehicle lull them to sleep as you drive quietly through the darkness.

You know your kids better than anyone; you know what interests them and what bores them.  Use this to make the road trip part of the vacation adventure rather than the tedious bit before the fun starts at their destination.

Categories Travel
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Health Care Jobs for Writers

If you’ve got strong writing skills and some background in health care or expertise in nursing or medicine, then here are some possible career paths for you to explore.

Grant Writer
Many non-profit health organizations are constantly applying for grant monies to fund services to low income clients, underwrite the cost of research or to build a new care facility or treatment center. Grant writers research to learn which corporate and foundations might be the sources of such funding and then write a proposal trying to convince the potential donor of both the need and value of the project. Grant writing requires attention to detail and the ability to compose a compelling statement describing the project and why the funding is needed.

Communications Specialist
Almost every major hospital has a public relations office or community outreach/marketing office. Communications Specialists employed in these areas develop press releases, newsletters for employees and community health care professionals, devise advertising campaigns, respond to media requests and generally promote the services of the hospital to the community.

Technical Writers
These writers are the folks who create training manuals, catalogs, technical guides, instruction manuals, safety guidelines and highly specialized information for certain professions. Technical writers typically have expertise in a specific area ie., oncology, pharmaceuticals, infusion therapy. They may be involved in writing user guides, technical manuals and training materials particularly in the realm high-tech medicine.

Health Plan Writer
Typically these positions are at the “high end” of the health writer career path. A Master’s Degree is most often required along with expertise in health policy, public health or health program management. The Health Plan Writer researches, compiles data, analyzes data and findings and creates written reports which help to direct health planning for institutions or communities.

How do get started in a writing job in health care?  Consider getting a two year degree or certificate in communications/marketing or a B.A. in journalism or health field. Publish in any arena you can as you build your credits and credibility. Consider a graduate degree in public health administration or policy.

Keep watching for “open doors”, you’ll likely be surprised how many seats are available for writers in the health care industry!

Categories Careers
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Homemade Beauty Treatments

Looking great doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  By using natural ingredients, you can create your own beauty treatments for far less money than the department stores charge.  You can create a product at home for nearly any bottled beauty treatment, from perfume to wrinkle cream to hairspray.

Homemade beauty treatments are an excellent option for people with sensitive skin, as they don’t contain the chemicals found in added scents or dyes. In creating your own products, you’ll first want to understand the properties of the ingredients.  You can find resources online to tell you the properties of various fruits, flowers and herbs.  As a few samples, acidic ingredients such as lemons and oranges work well as astringents.  Lemon juice also has bleaching properties, and can be used to lighten hair or to fade freckles and age spots.  Oils work well in moisturizers.  Olive oil can be used on dry skin or dry hair, or as makeup remover.  Granular ingredients like sugar and salt are perfect for scrubs.

Homemade beauty products also make great gifts. You can buy small toiletry containers at a beauty supply store and fill them with your creation.  Just don’t forget to label the bottles so that a user with allergies won’t unknowingly expose herself to allergens.

Homemade beauty recipes range from the simple to the complex.  Many contain only one single ingredient.

The following list of home beauty treatments are as easy and inexpensive to make as possible:

  • Face Mask. Plain yogurt makes a great face mask, because it contains lactic acid bacteria which will remove dead skin cells.  Rinse your face with warm water to open your pores, rub a tablespoon of yogurt on your face and leave it in place for a few minutes.  Then wash it off with warm water.  Honey also works as an excellent face mask.  Use similarly to yogurt, but leave on for 15-30 minutes before  rinsing.
  • Pimple Cream. Dabbing a small amount of plain white toothpaste onto a pimple and leaving it on overnight will help clear your skin.
  • Under-eye Circles. Do you have dark circles under your eyes?  Try wrapping raw, grated potato in cheesecloth and placing it under your eyes for 15-20 minutes.
  • Hair Conditioner. Mayonnaise works as a great conditioner for dry hair.  Put some on your hair and cover with saran wrap for 15 minutes.  Rinse thoroughly and then wash as normal.
  • Dandruff treatment. To get rid of dandruff, massage vinegar into the scalp and allow to dry for a few minutes before washing hair.  Do this every day for a few days and dandruff will disappear.
  • Anti-wrinkle cream. Banana is wonderful as an anti-wrinkle treatment.  Just mash until creamy and spread onto your face, and then leave for 15-20 minutes before rinsing with water.

So look no further than your kitchen refrigerator or kitchen cabinet for the greatest beauty treatments nature has to offer.  Your skin will glow, your hair will shine, and your wallet will breathe a sigh of relief.

Categories Lifestyle & Culture, Saving Money
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5 Features to Look for in Your Next Credit Card

Before you apply for your next credit card, it makes sense to stop and look at several cards before investing. Think of getting a credit card as taking a loan out from a bank. You would not go to just any bank to get a mortgage loan, would you? You would take the time to find out about rates, costs and fees. The same thing is true when it comes to a credit card. The more you know about the credit card, the better a decision you can make in regards to what that card can offer.

The following are five features that some credit card companies are now offering. Before you invest, be sure you have the right tools to make the right decisions about these cards. More so, be sure the benefits of the card fit your needs.

Introductory Offers
If you have excellent credit, take advantage of introductory offers, including a period of six to twelve months of zero percent interest. Use these cards to transfer higher interest rate debt to so you can pay it off at a lower cost. The key to making this offer work for you is to pay off the balance before the introductory period ends, helping to guarantee you a better rate.

Rewards Programs
Rewards programs can be beneficial in many ways, but only if you use them wisely. Rewards now offer discounts on fuel, flying and travel discounts. Look for discounts on vehicle purchases and on dining offers, too. To make the most of this offer, pay off your balance in full each month to avoid the heavier than usually interest rates that rewards credit cards often charge.

Bad Credit Rebuilding
If you have bad credit, choose prepaid debit cards to help you to rebuild. However, choose those that report to the credit agencies instead of just prepaid cards. This will help you to rebuild your credit effectively, without having to worry about the overhead costs involved in bad credit, credit cards.

Customizable Credit Cards
Some credit card companies are now offering customizable credit cards. This feature allows you to choose the features important to you, such as a longer grace period, lower interest rates or better rewards programs that work for the way you want to use the card. Keep your financial goals in mind as you consider these offers, though.

Low Interest
The least expensive way to choose a credit card is to look for a low interest rate card. These cards offer fewer perks, but they cost less and for many people this is the best feature to look for. The good news is that lenders will offer lower rates for those who have good to excellent credit. The bad news is that some companies negate these benefits by charging higher fees than normal.

The best way to get the best credit cards is to compare your options. You can do this online easier than contacting individual credit card companies. Remember, you need to read the terms of the offers before agreeing to any line of credit. Further, the credit card offers you get in the mail are rarely the best offer for you. Check out numerous options before investing.

Categories Debt & Credit
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