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Saving Money While Still Having Fun

Apr 30, 2013

If there is a theme in today’s culture, it’s frugality. Times are tough for almost everyone, and even if they are not for you, it never hurts to save a little extra money for a rainy day because you never know how the economy will turn or what will happen in the future.

And sure, you can stay home doing nothing with the heat and the lights off with nothing to entertain you but your thoughts, but who would want to do that?  Let’s be honest; that’s boring.

Just because you are being frugal or simply don’t have much money to spend on things that are not necessities does not mean that you can’t have any fun.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case, nothing has ever been truer. A whole series of factors came together to create something great and helpful that was much needed

Many small businesses are struggling right now because people don’t have much disposable income. Consequently, people don’t eat in restaurants as much or go away on vacation.

But someone or really multiple people probably, have figured out a way to solve both of these problems and everybody wins, and that genius solution is discount websites.

Discount sites take a business (a restaurant, a gym, an aerobics class) and promote it by offering a limited deal on it at an attractive price. This way the business gets greater exposure and more customers, including you, get to participate in fun activities.

Here’s a list of the best daily deal sites you can use to try something new, have a little fun, and not spend too much money:

1./2. Groupon and Living Social – these two may have been the one that started the whole phenomenon, and for that we thank them. New deals are presented daily so even if you are not buying anything, it’s fun to check out what you can buy.  Here is how it works: you see a deal for something, such as 53 percent off Indian food, and you buy a coupon for, say, $19, and with that coupon you can get $40 worth of food at that restaurant. To redeem the coupon you print out the receipt and show it when you are paying or when you first arrive.

3. Scoutmob – this is a fun one. Much like Groupon and Living Social, Scoutmob takes your location and finds you cool places that are offering Scoutmob deals. Scoutmob is also really fun to look at. It is designed to be both helpful and cool. Additionally, you don’t need to buy a coupon; you just use it when you are paying.

4. TravelZoo Local Deals – for you travelers, this is the deal site for you.  Focused more on travel related deals like hotels and restaurants, TravelZoo can be a terrific resource for when you are traveling. However, there are also plenty of activities for locals and tourists alike.

5. Yipit – this one is awesome. First of all, you need an account to look at things, but don’t let that stop you from using this treasure because it can be seriously helpful.  Often times Yipit consolidates deals from many other sites, so you get a whole bunch of deals and it’s great!

Just because you are looking to save money does not mean that you have to give up doing fun things; you just have to be smart about it, and these five sites really help you do that.


How to Network to Improve Your Career

Apr 30, 2013

One of the most important things we can do for both our careers and our social lives is networking.  Networking is how we make friends and potentially how we get jobs.

People want to work with who they know, so it stands to reason that networking is good for just that. Through networking you are more apt to hear about opportunities than you would be aware of otherwise.

At its purest, networking is getting out there and meeting people and ultimately having them like and remember you. It doesn’t count if whoever you talk to forgets you a few minutes later.

Networking involves meeting many different people, often all at the same time, which can definitely be difficult, especially if you are shy or don’t quite know what to say, but with a few tips, you’ll be charming people at networking events in no time.

Here are a few tips to help you feel a little more comfortable in a group of professionals:

1. Bring a buddy.  No matter what happens, you will always feel better about triumphs and failures with a friendly face around. It’s also easier to approach someone when you are with a friend.

2. Start with a joke if the situation permits.  Humor always makes things like this easier. But try and gauge what type of humor to use. If the crowd is conservative, don’t go for a racy joke, and if those in attendance are super cool, don’t go for a cheap laugh.

3. Ask questions.  Some people think that asking questions makes you look dumb, but it is just the opposite. Asking questions makes you look interested. Asking a question is also a good way to get you into a conversation and a good way to get yourself heard.

4. Give out your business card.  Sometimes people just don’t hear you when you introduce yourself.  Or sometimes they simply forget.  This is especially common at networking events where everyone meets a ton of people.  You can never be sure that someone or anyone will remember you ever, but something that definitely helps is giving people your business card.  Plus this way they have an extra reminder of your name if they happen to forget.

5. Talk about something you know about.  You can’t always necessarily do this, but if it’s possible, try to steer the conversation toward something you know about and like to talk about.  Don’t abruptly change the topic; you’ll just seem rude if you do that. But if you seamlessly convert the conversation into your own, you will feel much more comfortable and come off looking smart and confident which is exactly how you will want people to see you.

*Obvious bonus tip: Look your best. People may not notice if you look good, but they will definitely notice if you look bad.

Networking is one of the cornerstones of business. It’s just best to know everyone, so get to know people feeling prepared and confident. Give strangers a reason to like you and your career will have the opportunity to thrive.


A Guide to Annuities

Apr 30, 2013

The word “annuity” is thrown around quite a bit these days, but it’s rarely properly defined and put into a relatable context that will help you determine if this is something you need and whether or not it can benefit you.  But that’s where we come in. 

The idea of retirement can be really scary.  Sure, a whole lot of free time sounds nice but the idea of not having a  steady and sizable source of income the way you did when you were working doesn’t sound as good.  How will you support yourself?

Well, with retirement you have many different options, but the thing that all options have in common is that you have to start early.

One of the options that you have is an annuity.

An annuity is a contract between you and your insurance company or annuity company.  Basically, you put down a starting amount (a minimum deposit is required. At this writing it’s $5,000, but it can increase at any time) and you can also deposit money monthly, quarterly or annually on top of your initial payment if you choose to.

Annuities can often have higher interest rates than many other investment accounts which is the basis of their appeal.

You choose the term of your annuity and after that term has passed, you can begin to take money out of the account. You also choose the installments in which you’ll receive it.

Although you can take money out of your annuity before it has fully matured, you will be penalized, but the penalty gets smaller and smaller every year as you get closer to your end date.

Now remember that as an investment, annuities can be taxable. There are taxable and non-taxable annuities. This simply means that your income will either be taxed in the beginning of the annuity or at the end when you are ready to take out your money. The best option for you will depend on your income and your assets.

If you were to pass away while your annuity is still maturing it would go to your beneficiary.

An annuity is one of many great options for saving for retirement. But saving for retirement is an active and not a passive task. You have to make yourself prep for retirement otherwise you won’t have the financial freedom you will want when the time comes to retire from work.

So save for retirement, one way or another.


Why Business Insurance is Important for Small Businesses

Apr 30, 2013

Many have the urge to start a business these days. To be a truly responsible business owner, you must protect your business from unexpected events and unforeseen expenses. Buying business insurance has become a necessity. Even a small accident can have a great impact on your business’s growth and result in monetary loss and other damages. In some ways, the success of your company depends on your insurance.

Starting a business can be an overwhelmingly complex endeavor. But, if you are opening your own firm, you’ll probably be glad to know that business insurance can shield you from a number of possible mishaps. That’s why it is extremely important to find a knowledgeable insurance agent who will help you protect your business and who will always be there with great customer service and detailed industry knowledge. Working with an experienced agent is crucial because the requirements for business insurance vary depending on the kind of business you run. You’ll want someone with a solid understanding of your needs to help guide you. For example, if you own a restaurant you might require property insurance and operations insurance. If you are a food manufacturer, you should obtain general liability insurance and product insurance.

Insurance for Small Business Owners:

  1. If the business owner has employees, the business must have workers compensation insurance in case an employee is injured on the job. The business owner is liable for the employee’s medical bills, which workers compensation covers.
  2. General liability insurance: if someone is injured on your property, it can cost you thousands of dollars. This is one of the most popular kinds of business insurance.
  3. Product liability (for things like food manufacturing and distribution) is essential; it will protect your business if a manufactured product injures or even kills a customer.
  4. Business income insurance provides salary for all employees if your business temporarily cannot pay. Additionally, this insurance covers your business expenses and benefits as well.
  5. Auto insurance is mandatory for your small business if you use vehicles for business matters. You will be protected if your cars are stolen or damaged or if your driver gets into an accident.
  6. If you co-own your business, life insurance will be important for your small business.
  7. Employment practices liability insurance will protect you in case of claims made by former, current and even potential employees related to discrimination or unfair dismissal.
  8. Errors and omissions insurance or professional liability insurance will be important for your business if you provide a service. With it, you can protect your employees, such as dentists, doctors and attorneys, from personal claims.

A business owner should think about finances and try to save as much as possible but not on something as important as business insurance. The future success of your company may depend on insurance. But simply owning business insurance will give you peace of mind.

Post by Anna Lia


Don’t make these insurance mistakes

Apr 30, 2013

Everyone likes to save money,  and one of the best places to look is insurance — car insurance, home insurance and health insurance. The good news is that many of us are finding lots of savings out there. The bad news is that in some cases people have left themselves under-insured.

There is great risk of cutting too much insurance

Here are some choices you should think twice about when trying to lower your insurance bills.

1.    Don’t switch your homeowners insurance from rebuilding expenses to real estate value.   Because of the down real estate market, many people switched their insurance to real estate value replacement from cost of rebuilding replacement. The belief was that lesser valued homes don’t need as much insurance.

However, because home values fell so much, they are now insured for less than what it costs to rebuild.

The Insurance Information Institute recommends that if you’re looking to save money on homeowner’s insurance that you raise your deductible.

2.    Don’t buy by price alone. Check a company’s financial solvency before buying. Also, service does make a difference, so it’s important to work with an agent who is known for providing great client satisfaction.

3.    Insuring your car for only the legally required limits has its pitfalls. This may save you a few dollars in the short run, but if you have an accident, it will cause a number of problems. Just because you only have $40,000 worth of coverage on another motorist or passenger in your car does not mean that they cannot sue you personally for expenses over that limit. It is a risky way to save money.

The cost of higher limits is literally a just few dollars.  Don’t be penny wise and dollar foolish.

4.    Not purchasing renters insurance can be a mistake. People neglect purchasing renters insurance for two main reasons.  First, they don’t realize that they need it. The second reason is that they are simply taking a chance that nothing bad will happen to them or their apartment.

Renter’s policies are inexpensive — about $10 a month, depending upon the value of your belongings. For the peace of mind as well as the protection it provides, it is a great idea to purchase renters insurance.

It should be pointed out that when you combine your renter’s insurance with your auto, that the discount on your auto, will almost pay for the renters policy.

5.    Not having rental car reimbursement on your car insurance is too often a policyholder’s great regret. Imagine that you have an accident through no fault of your own and your car sustains some damage that must be repaired. Unfortunately, the person who hit you is dodging your calls, so you’re unable to set up a rental car through the other party’s insurance company. Unfortunately, you decided to save money and cut the rental car coverage from your policy.

You probably need a car to travel to your job. Make sure you can still get to work by retaining rental car reimbursement on your policy. Otherwise, you may have to pay for a rental out of your own pocket, and that’s an expense you surely don’t need.

Thanks to the Insurance Information Institute for the source material.


The Pros and Cons of Working From Home

Apr 30, 2013

You may be fortunate enough to have the option of working from home.

Until recently, employees at Internet giant Yahoo! had the option of working from home, or telecommuting, but new CEO Marissa Mayer discontinued that practice. That ruffled some feather at the firm, particularly among telecommuting employees with small children at home.

Many are taking the policy change in stride, however, despite the scheduling and childcare adjustments that are now required, particularly among working mothers. However, the end of telecommuting is a mixed blessing for others. Over the years, the telecommuting experience has been seen as a perk for valued employees. Many wage earners envy the telecommuter and wish that their position offered a work at home option. But the reality is that telecommuting isn’t for everyone. Here is a rundown of some of its pros and cons:

 

Pro

• The more miles you drive to work, the more expensive your auto insurance will be, so telecommuting can actually save you money on your car insurance.

• If you have children, working from home can be a welcome way to save money on childcare. You can look after your own children rather than hire a nanny or send them to day care. Spending time with your children helps you maintain a healthy connection with them.

• The cost of fuel is high, and when you avoid driving to work you automatically save.

• Traffic is stressful, and working from home allows you to feel more relaxed. Working from home means you can use that time for something helpful or productive, such as exercise or catching up on sleep.

 
Con

      • Every office has its own culture and those who work in the office can develop a better understanding of the business in which they work. In-office employees can observe departments other than the ones they work in and learn about what others do. Additionally, they can socialize with their co-workers. This helps cultivate a sense of loyalty and connection to the company. Telecommuters often miss out on these experiences.

 

      • Often the biggest problem with telecommuting is that it is hard to concentrate and get a lot of work done, especially if you have kids at home. There are constant distractions around the house that can easily seem more pressing than your work. An office is designed to help you be productive, cutting out as many distractions as possible, while a home is meant to be comfortable.

 

      • If you are not present in the office, showing your bosses the kind of work you do, and putting a face and a personality to a name, it’s difficult to promote you. We’d all like to think that good work can speak for itself, but in reality bosses certainly take into account personality. If a management position is the next step in your career, telecommuting may not be the best way to be recognized.

Having the option to work from home can be a substantial perk, but weigh the benefits and drawbacks before electing to join the ranks of the home workers. .


Don’t Be an April fool – Choose the Right Insurance Company

Apr 30, 2013

Easter is coming, and so is April Fool’s Day. But don’t be an April fool — choose the right insurance company for you. Fortunately, you have many to choose from because there are more than 3,000 insurance companies in the United States according to the Insurance Information Institute. Regardless of what insurance coverage you need, life, auto, home, dental, or health, finding the right coverage for yourself and your family can be a complex task.

Here are some tips for making the right choice:

1. Identify your needs

You should already know what kinds of insurance you need to purchase: auto, home, health, life or commercial because there are different companies that offer different policies, others provide specific types of insurance, so you need to consider this as you shop for coverage. In case you need a few different types of insurance, you should take advantage of the discounts you get for getting all of them from one company. For example, if you buy auto and property insurance policies, you can save up to 20 percent. You should define how much coverage you need, based on your property, you and your family’s health care needs and your personal and financial responsibilities.

2. Shop around

Take into account that comparing prices is an essential part of finding right insurance company, so you need to do your own research. Insurance is a significant portion of your monthly budget, so it is better to spend your time on research instead of risking losing money. Take advantage of agents who can offer you quotes from dozens of different insurance companies. They take the time to save you money. You can also try online quotes to get an idea of what kind of prices and what kind of policies are out there.

3. Cost

Each insurance company has its own method of risk assessment which means that various companies may have differing opinions about their level of risk to insure you. And since the price of your premium is determined by the degree of risk you represent, the price of a similar policy can vary from company to company. But to keep your costs low, you should pose as little as possible risk to insurance companies. This means being healthy, driving safely, and practicing good health and safety habits.

4. Company

If you find an affordable insurance deal with a “too good to be true” price, it’s time to check your options with other companies. Financial stability is one of the factors to consider while searching for the right insurance company. The rating of insurance companies goes from A+ to C, and financial experts advise you to choose companies with an A+ rating. Fortunately, most agencies assess and provide rating of insurance companies so you can view their reports online. You can evaluate not only current ratings, but also a company’s history.

Thanks to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, you can check levels of customer service, comparing a company’s complaint ratio score to the national median.

5. Professional Opinion

Although a reference from a friend or family is a great place to start when you are looking for an insurance company, you would not necessarily want to copy what the people you know do.  Everyone has different needs when it comes to insurance, and situations certainly differ. It’s best to consider all of your options when you are making such a big purchase, so be sure to do your research.

Finding the right insurance company is a complicated matter but with these tips, the whole process will be a little easier. Insurance does not have to break the bank, and affordable insurance does not necessarily mean a lack of coverage.

So talk to an insurance agent and do some online research to get great policies for all the policies you and your family need.

Post by Anna Lia


Other than Insurance….Ways to Save Money

Apr 30, 2013

So you’ve exhausted your opportunities for savings with your car insurance.  You’ve raised your deductible, cut your rental car coverage, etc.  But you’d still like to save a few more bucks, so where can you go to do so?  Hold on, ‘cuz we’re gonna tell ya’.  Discount shopping sites.

Money saving online shopping sites

We came across this collection of sites while researching something else and the thought came to us…why not share these sites with our customers?  We hope you find these beneficial.

  1.  www.SlickDeals.net:  On this Tuesday, March 19, 2013, here are a few of the items on the “Frontpage Slickdeals”: board games such as Operation for $7 and Chutes and Ladders for $4; $20 worth of Bath and Body products from The Body Shop for $10; 368-count Huggies wipes for $5.50; a 128GB Samsung external Hard drive for $94.  You get the idea.  An amazing array of products on sale every day.
  2. www.DealNews.com: A plethora of tech and computer deals, but that’s not all.  There are links to clothing and accessories deals such as, Kenneth Cole men’s watches for $85, Wool/cashmere blazers from Jos A Bank for $87 and Wexhan burnished black leather boots for men from Ralph Lauren for $85; For women, how about Nieman Marcus products for 25% off; Casio watches for $17 and more.   It’s nothing short of an online mall.
  3. www.woot.com: The categories include tech, home, kids, sports, wine and sellout, which is a collection of top brands at big savings. Today’s deals include musical instruments, JJ Cole baby bundlers and a Mikasa six-piece serving set. The best part of this site is that you can give feedback on whether or not this is a good deal .
  4. www.FatWallet.com: This site has been around for a while and it reminds me a little of Instagram in its design — columns of boxed pictures with the sales message.  It has a number of deals from Target, Amazon and Best Buy, but it also has coupons, product deals and deals localized for Los Angeles and other cities across the country.
  5. www.BradsDeals.com: This site is similar to the others, but I like the layout and the offers are clear and look very enticing.  You can check out an online coupons section, a printable coupons section and see the newest and most popular deals on the site.  Today’s deals include Lucky Brand jeans for women for $40; a Samsung 50” LED TV for $750 shipped and and Carharrt jacket for $50.

I have to be honest.  Researching this article was a ton of fun.  There are some great deals on these sites.  I loved the $55 10’ x 10’ canopy that was listed on Bradsdeals.com.  I don’t need one, but it did bring back memories of tailgating at college and that almost was enough to make me buy one.

The beauty of these sites, particularly SlickDeals.net, is that they offered deals on products you may use every day.  They all offered deals with free shipping for a certain level of purchase which makes them even more enticing.  You really can save some money here.  At the very least, we think you’ll have some fun checking out the sites.

Happy shopping!


Spring Cleaning

Apr 30, 2013

Spring is one of the most refreshing times of the year.  With the end of winter, birds begin singing and the fresh spring air brings new life and new beginnings. Because of events like these, spring cleaning has become a popular tradition in America. It’s the right time to get rid of the clutter you may have accumulated over winter. At first it could seems like a daunting task, but with these tips, spring cleaning can go a lot faster and can even be fun!

  1. First of all, you should make list of everything you need to do/clean. Don’t make the list impossible to finish; always make your tasks manageable. When you see the progress of your work and can check something off of your list, you feel much more motivated to finish your project. Enlist your family’s help. It’s a big mistake to make all the work alone. You can create a contest for your family with prizes, and if the weather is good, why not have a barbecue after you are done?
  2. To get rid of your clutter, you should prepare different bins with titles like throw, keep, sell, give away, or donate. These bins will make organizing way easier and save you a lot of time. When deciding to keep something, really think about if you have used it in the last year and if you will use it this year. A good idea to get rid of some of your unwanted stuff is to have a yard or garage sale. The idea that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure can work in your case and the stuff you don’t use anymore can be useful to other person. You can make some money and another person will get the thing that they need. If you already had a garage sale and you still don’t have enough space to keep your stuff, try self-storage.
  3. The beginning of spring is the time to prepare your yard and garden growing season.  If you want to plant any warm weather plants, now would be the time.  And make sure your lawn is looking lush for summer by seeding all the bare spots.
  4. Clean one room at a time. Delegate the work by having everyone clean their own rooms and clean the communal rooms like the kitchen and the living room together. Try to use natural products like baking soda, vinegar, warm water, soap etc., especially if you have children around. Natural products can save money and aren’t harmful to your health the way chemical based products are.
  5. A great way to refresh your home is to clean the carpets. Carpets hold plenty of allergens, so cleaning the carpet will really freshen the air. Another hidden danger you can find in the kitchen and bathroom that you should get rid of is mold and mildew. If you see misty stains from mildew, remove them with a mix of soda and warm water. Check the condition of your fridge, and then clean it. Wipe it down with lemon juice and warm water to get rid of the smell.  Then organize it so that food is easier to find and doesn’t get lost and go bad.
  6. Don’t forget to clean your windows and wash your blinds or curtains. Blinds and curtains hold tons of dust, and with all the good weather, you will be opening up your windows and spreading all of the dust around.

Once you finish your spring cleaning, you’ll feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment, and your home will feel brand new again, and that’s a priceless feeling.


How to Prepare for Tax Season

Apr 30, 2013

No one likes tax season, but taxes have to be dealt with. There are only a few weeks left until the filing deadline, so we will help you get through the paperwork in no time.

One of the secrets to a successful tax season is getting all the paperwork in on time and filling out all the forms correctly. Plan ahead to get things done in a timely manner. If you have back taxes, you should try to resolve them as soon as possible, otherwise you risk losing your property.  Such issues will not go away unless you deal with them, and if you don’t, the penalties will get bigger and bigger.

Tip Number One: 

Organize your tax documents. If your papers are in order, you won’t waste time looking for lost bills or receipts. Put all of your tax documents into clearly marked folders and store them in a safe place. Be sure to make copies of each document. To help ensure that you will not lose any  important records, scan them and store the files in a secure folder on your PC. The first step is done!

Tip Number Two:

Fill out tax forms correctly! You will avoid delays and and a possible audit if you spend some time learning how to properly fill out all the forms. Spent time will turn into saved time. You can choose between paper-filing and e-filing of your tax forms. E-filing will help you avoid long lines at the post office, and generally the returns come faster and more accurately than paper returns. But if you don’t want to e-file and you are afraid of making mistakes you still can use the “old-fashioned way” and send your taxes by mail.


taxes-4-15-small  Tip Number Three:

 Pay your back taxes if you have them. Don’t forget that tax debt is risky business. A small tax issue can become a huge debt very quickly. If you don’t know how to handle back taxes, you can contact your local tax professional for help. The longer you wait to repay your back taxes, the more the interest piles up, leaving you with even more money to pay.  And if you don’t pay you can face substantial penalties.

 

Tip number four:

If needed, consult professionals. Some basic questions you can answer yourself or find answers to on the IRS website. For more additional help you can qualify for free tax preparation in your community. Experts have knowledge and experience with taxes, and if you have had problems with previous filings they can help you get back on track. If you are over 60 years of age, you can get free tax help from the Elderly (TCE) Program, supported by communities that specialize in pension and retirement tax issues. When in doubt don’t be afraid of seeking professional assistance. Get tax help from professionals right now so that you can get your taxes done correctly and turn them in on time.

Tip number five:

Report all your income. If you have any side job, freelance work, or any contract job, you should report it. If you didn’t get a W-2 or 1099 from your employer, it doesn’t mean they didn’t mention you in their taxes, and if this happens, you might get audited.

Remember that taxes are due April 15, so file soon and enjoy the freedom of knowing that you don’t have to worry for another year.


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