A quiet night in: an exercise in frugal saving.

image1As much as any couple, family or group of friends might like going out, it’s never cheap. Whether it’s fine dining or going out to your local bar or restaurant, these are costs that add up all too easily. They may seem cheap once in a while but once you start doing it on a weekly or semi-regular basis, it becomes a larger and larger chunk of your expenses.

In contrast to this, understanding the benefits of a quiet night in can prove useful. More than offering something different and relaxing it can demonstrate a way to stay cheap and cost effective whilst still enjoying the usual perks of life.

Food

If you go out to eat, you should know how much this can cost. Cooking for yourself is usually the cheapest but there are still other options. For instance, if you have the urge for Chinese food, it may be cheaper for everyone to pool money together for chinese takeaways than visit your local restaurant. It’s much cheaper and doesn’t have the added costs of additional drinks and restaurant prices and other service charges that are often forgotten about.

Entertainment

Likewise, if you’re not going out, there is nothing to stop you from being social. Your home can prove entertaining enough with the right company. Cheap entertainment can be anything from a movie rental (if you’re only going to watch it once, don’t buy something you don’t need) to various games, which offer entertainment again and again. These are all cheap, whether you use it once or buy it to use again and again. This is another lesson to be learnt in saving, by understanding the real value of something.

If you come across some movies that you and your friends love, it makes sense to purchase the DVD so you can all watch it whenever you like. Luckily, you can save money by ordering your DVDs online, so you do not have to worry about breaking the bank. To make things more interesting, consider having each person purchase a DVD online and then choosing between your favorites every time you gather.

Additional expenses

Hopefully the two areas above should highlight how easy it is to cut down on those little costs for every social occasion but there are always other areas to look at. Take your appearance, for instance. If you don’t go out to an expensive restaurant you might not need to risk your best shirt or shoes. It can also save on other expenses, such as getting a taxi home late if you’ve been drinking or other travel costs.  So, next time you think you might go out, suggest staying in to the others and see how much can be saved.

Are you thinking of turning your hobby into a business?

Do you have a hobby that you also happen to make a little money from? Have you thought about turning this hobby into an actual business and have it be your main form of income? Have you ever spent the weekend sewing, painting, crafting, gardening, restoring old furniture or any other hobby for that matter, and thought to yourself, “Now this is fun. I wish I could do it for a living?”  Who hasn’t?

There are many different ways you can make money from your crafts and it all depends on which direction you want to take things, and/or which direction life takes you.

You can simply sell your products
You’ll find an online market for practically anything you create, as long as it’s well-made, and well-marketed. When you think of making money from a craft/hobby, most people only think of this option. But don’t limit yourself to this. There are so many different things that you can sell and different avenues for which you can sell them. You can sell directly to those that you can and get referrals from word of mouth, or you can have an in-person or an online shop. You can sell items that you wholesale or items that you make yourself. There are many different products in many different industries, the choices are endless.

 

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Teach your craft
What comes naturally to you may seem impossible to someone. If that someone is interested enough, they may be willing to pay for it. So, while you are working on your marketing efforts to sell your crafts, start offering private lessons to create some extra money. This can be music lessons, entrepreneurship classes, translating, tutoring and so on.

Sell an info product (eBook, eCourse etc)
If you are not technically inclined, this may seem like a Herculean task. But seriously, it is not as hard as it seems. All you need to do is put together everything about one aspect of your craft (ex: how to make beautiful crochet receiving blankets) into words. Next you can either put this together into an eBook of eCourse format yourself, or hire someone (look on freelance sites such as elance and odesk) to do it for you. The nice part is once you get past this stage (one-time effort) you can generate income for a long time to come with very little additional work.

Bank accounts

There are many different types of accounts that need to be thought of as well. Make sure to keep accounts separate from your business accounts, in order to have better accounting throughout the year. An offshore bank account might be a good idea for your business needs as well.

Do you have your own business?

Credit Score Tips

Are you looking to increase your credit score? Most people probably are. There are many reasons for why a person who want to increase their credit score. Maybe your future job requires a credit check before they will hire you. Maybe you are looking to buy a new house.  Maybe you want a new car. There are so many reasons!

Below are ways to increase your credit score:

Be sure to check your credit report for errors.  You would be surprised to find out how many people find errors on their credit report. Many people also don’t even know how to check their credit report! A low credit score can sometimes be due to errors on your credit report. Since an estimated four out of five reports have errors on them, there is a chance that your credit report has errors also. If you do find an error, you can dispute it with creditors and the three credit bureaus before any more harm is done to your score.

Get a credit card. Obtaining a credit card is a good way to establish credit history and increase your score.  However, responsible credit card use is important in this situation. The longer your credit history is, the better it is for your score. Opening many cards at first might lower your score, because of the age of your accounts. However, as time goes on, longer ages for your credit cards is helpful. And when you use credit and pay it back responsibly, it impacts your score in other positive ways. There are many different types of cards out there, such as cash back credit cards.

Request higher limits on your credit cards. When put together with low balances, high credit card limits can boost your credit score.  Your utilization rate is key here. Most credit card companies will up your credit limit if you make the request. If you’re a good customer, you can request and get higher limits several times throughout the year. It is said that you want to use less than 30% of your available credit in order to maintain a good credit score, or to raise your credit score. For example, if you have $1,000 in available credit, you should use no more than $300.

Pay off old debts. Old debts and past due accounts can be a huge drain on your score. Even small bills of less than $100 will drag your score down.  Pay these off and pay more than the minimum on your accounts if you can. It’s never a bad idea to get ahead.

Lower your debt. Lowering your total debt is definitely easier said than done, but it is a good way to improve your credit score. Having a low debt-to-income ratio makes it easier to get a loan.

What are you doing to increase your credit score?

Ways to Gain Clients

Irrespective of whether you have just started freelancing or you are an experienced pro, you will have to agree that looking for clients is a lot like hunting. There are many things that are important when trying to grow your business. You need a merchant service provider, valuable clients, great service and so on.  There are plenty of animals in the forest, but if you want to bag that one prize that will have you eating for months and a legend you can boast about for ages (on your professional portfolio), you should know where to look.

Freelance Sites

When it comes to finding clients, the easiest method is by registering through online freelance sites. These sites are designed to bring contractors (freelancers) together with employers. All of these sites require some kind of fee, but most of them take the fee out of what the client pays and not what the contractor receives. Registering on these sites is easy, and you get to upload your professional resume, your cover letter, your portfolio, and some of these sites will even allow you to set your own hourly rate.

These sites have thousands of jobs listed, but be sure to sift through the dross to get to the gold beneath, because out of the thousands of jobs listed, only a hundred or so will meet your skills, experience, hours, and pay rate. Why? Well, there are millions of people who are getting in on all these money making ideas so the forest is full of hunters, but the elk are scarce.

 

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Building your Reputation as a Freelancer

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Networking

Since you don’t work face to face with other employees it’s important to network with other freelancers. Why? Not only can networking with other freelancers help you sharpen your skills, but you can also share information on clients and who’s hiring. Also, networking allows you to load your hunting rifle with the better ammo so that when you aim and fire at your prey, you’ll make a clean ‘kill’. Clients are more likely to hire you if you have a reputation that sells you and your skills, even before you apply for the job.

Here are a few of the more popular social networking sites where you can create a professional page just for your freelancer persona:

Placing Classified Ads

While working freelance you may sometimes need to step out of your comfort zone and take the initiative in the direction that seems very unlikely at first. Hunting for clients sometimes means hiding out in a blind, and at other times it means stalking the prey and going after it through the underbrush. That means that you should place your own ads—freelancer seeking work. All of the sites listed above also provide opportunities for people seeking jobs to place ads, but you can also place ads in local newspapers, national magazines (especially financial or business weeklys), and online through Google and Facebook ads.

Word of Mouth

Much like hunters meeting over cold beer and sharing their hunting stories, freelancers get together and share information about clients. Not only that, if you provide excellent service to your clients, chances are that they will tell their colleagues about you—that can potentially lead to more work for you. Always providing your clients with the best of your abilities is just good practice, but it can also give you a leg up when your clients know someone who is also hiring.

Freelancers need clients, and clients are always looking for quality freelancers. So, freelancers mount up, load up, and take to the woods. It’s time to bag that prize and land that perfect client.

Small businesses: How research can reduce risk and save you money

Most business ideas contain an element of risk. It comes down to the successful entrepreneurs to turn that risk into profit and perhaps even expansion when the time comes. But how do you ensure you don’t tip money and resources down the drain with a risky venture? Whether you’re just starting out, or considering taking on a new partner, the answer is research.

Save money in marketing

Marketing is a big area where you can reduce both expenditure and risk. Start by saving on costly marketing campaigns by doing your own ground work, rather than outsourcing the work to a freelancer or another company. There are plenty of free online company databases available, as well as the business section at the local library. You can even conduct primary research, and find out what your client base is looking for.

You’ve probably also heard of competitive intelligence, and how you can use it to get an edge over your rivals. But by looking up your competitors on social networks and in the media, you can also avoid the risks of going into the marketplace blind – you can already have an idea of how to conduct a successful venture, as well as note any mistakes that your rivals may have made.

When you’re in the planning stages of a new business, researching your intended field will enable you to set down accurate cost estimates, define goals and sharpen your marketing strategies.

Minimize the risks in a partnership

Research is a key skill for businesses at every level. While expanding to take on partners can actually make you more money, it’s still a risk, especially if you haven’t done your homework. Ill-advised partnerships can lead you in the wrong direction and result in wasted time and resources.

Again, use social networking sites and company databases to find out what potential collaborators have done in the past and whether they can bring compatible services to the table. For instance, if you’re a whizz with numbers, you might not need someone whose key skills lie in accounting.

If you find out about an individual beforehand, you can determine whether they have expertise that’s worth sharing your profits for and also whether they share your approach to business. Arrange to meet up and discuss what they can offer your company. If you don’t have common goals, keep looking.

A large part of business is about risk and expenditure control and you may be surprised at how useful research can be. Saving resources in business can always be done by cutting travel expenses or lowering energy bills, but research is a proactive approach that leaves you less open to risk and ensures the time you spend on the company represents good ‘value for money’ at the end of the day.

Mortgage Protection

Do you have mortgage protection insurance on your home? It can be very important just in case anything does happen. You probably have a few questions about mortgage protection though. Why do you need it? Is it different from mortgage insurance?

Buying a home

Buying a new home is always exciting. So many things are thrown at you at once, and there are so many things to think about. Have you ever thought about protecting yourself and your finances just in case you are no longer able to make your monthly mortgage payment?

Differences between Mortgage Insurance and Mortgage Protection

The difference between mortgage protection and mortgage insurance is that mortgage insurance is only offered by a few companies. Mortgage insurance also only covers your minimum mortgage repayments if you are unable to work.

If you pay more than your minimum repayments each month, these companies under a mortgage insurance policy will still only pay your minimum repayments.

However, with mortgage protection, it is a more comprehensive option for people looking to cover their mortgage more completely. Mortgage protection is more of a combination of life insurance and income protection. The minimum life insurance amount suggested is the amount of the mortgage, which can be extremely beneficial of course.

Flexibility

Life insurance is flexible with the amount of coverage that you can take out you can alter your coverage to your own personal situation and see what fits you and/or your family the best overall.

If you do not need the full amount of the mortgage for whatever reason then there is no need to take out that amount, if you want more than the mortgage to support your family or pay off other debts then this is also an option with mortgage protection. Mortgage insurance does not offer this flexibility (and this is the different between the two) and you are required to take out the mortgage amount.

This can be a lifesaver for your family, just in case anything happens to you. The main difference between mortgage protection and mortgage insurance is flexibility, which mortgage insurance does not provide much of.

As both cover the same thing, mortgage protection offers you more flexibility then mortgage insurance and it also provides peace of mind just in case something does happen to you.

Do you have mortgage protection? Why or why not?

How to Make the Most of Your Year Abroad

Boarding a plane and jetting off in the direction of your year abroad destination is an exciting stepping stone and a fantastic opportunity that everyone should take up if they get the chance.

Living overseas is not all about the sunshine, the food and the wild night life. While this unquestionably accounts for a considerable part of your year, there are more achievements to be made than getting a tan without going anywhere near a bottle and staying out until 7am four nights in a row!

Do you want to return to home soil eulogising Europe? Commending the Continent? Do you want to return to the UK at all? Here’s how to make the very best of your year abroad.

Immerse yourself in the culture

As soon as you hop off the plane, promise yourself that you will endeavour to fully experience the culture and lifestyle of the country. Strike up conversations with natives, get involved in local events and take advantage of the architecture, natural wonders and activities your new home has to offer. Really get to know the place: not only will this help you settle in more quickly, it also boosts your employment prospects once you’ve graduated. As we speed towards a borderless world, companies increasingly value candidates with knowledge of other cultures and languages.

Create a global network

It is surprisingly easy to get trapped in a little English bubble when you go abroad to study. Whether this is because you flew out with other people from your university or because you sought out UK nationals on your arrival to facilitate the settling in process, you should make every effort to step out of your comfort zone and make friends from all corners of the globe. This will make you a more open, interesting and cultured person and is a sure-fire way to guarantee a vibrant social life while you’re there. Plus, you can be sure of some great reunions in some exciting places in the years to come!

Keep a blog

Writing a blog has so many advantages. It is a great place to let your creative streak run wild and store your experiences and memories, which you can dip into years down the line. Not only is it fun to write, it also keeps family and friends updated with your travels – and it stands out on a CV! The addictive nature of blogging means you might find you want to keep it going when you get back to the UK, over the summer and throughout your final year. Whether you spend the majority of your last year at university studying, blogging or looking for jobs, you may wish to consider Broadband Deals and Packages from BT to ensure you have lightning quick internet speeds – that way you’ll have time to do all three and plenty more.

 

Building your Reputation as a Freelancer

You probably already know it but freelancing – far from being impervious to challenges and frustrations – is a constant struggle. Not only do you have to keep yourself motivated day in and day out even when you are working from home (where opportunities to get distracted abound), but there are times when contracts seem to be few and far between although you still have to meet your living expenses… However, one of the greatest challenges that all freelancers face when they wish to make a living with their work is trying to build a strong reputation that will help them get contracts on a regular basis. Below are five tips that will help you achieve just that.

1. Never say no

A freelancer who is in the process of building his or her reputation in the field should never say no to a potential contract. The idea here is to show that you are motivated and that you actually want to do the work, no matter what. The greater the number of people and companies you work for, the more your name will start circulating. Of course, never saying no can be exhausting and can call for long working hours: it is indeed quite likely that you will have to work on weekends for some time. Still, appearing – and actually being – fully disposed to work when people and companies need your services is absolutely essential.

Of course, there is one thing you should avoid, especially when you are struggling to carve out a place in the world of freelancing: you should never accumulate a workload that you actually cannot tackle. We will talk about this just in a few moments, but you must bear in mind that “never saying no” does not mean “always saying yes, no matter what”. In effect, saying yes to a contract but submitting the work a few days late or with a quality that is under the company’s expectations will result in something much worse than if you had honestly said no in the first place. It will indeed result in the company never contacting you again! The bottom line is never say no… unless you know for sure that you absolutely cannot say yes without compromising the quality of your work! Get it?

 

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Building your Reputation as a Freelancer

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2. Meeting the deadlines

Once you agreed to carry out a task for a person or a company, you must comply with the rules. If you must submit your work by a given date, do not unilaterally give yourself some leeway: meet the deadline, period. In order to achieve that, you must work diligently according to a strict schedule. The more conscientious you are in carrying out every single contract you sign according to the instructions that were given to you, the more likely it is that you will be contacted again. Remember that if the head of a company tells you that he or she needs a given document by a given date, there must be a reason for it. Don’t ask why: just do it.

If the deadline appears totally unreasonable and you know that you will not be able to meet it, you must say it before agreeing to the contract: you may be able to get a few extra days. And if any other aspect of the task you must carry out is not crystal clear, do not hesitate to have it clarified. In effect, asking for precisions is not a problem at all: it only makes you look more professional and it minimizes the risks of misunderstandings. You better wear both belt and suspenders!

3. Reviewing and editing your work

There are some contracts that you will agree to and that will turn out to be a tiny bit boring: it does happen! The temptation to rush through that kind of task can be quite strong, but you must resist: every time you say yes, you ought to be working to the best of your ability. If this is true throughout the process of carrying out the task, it is also true when the time to review and edit your work comes. You should actually never submit a piece of work without having carefully proofread it once (at least). Every single mistake that manages to make it to the final version of your work is one more reason for the company that requested your services to look for other freelancers in the future. Reviewing and editing are fundamental parts of freelancing: bear that in mind!

4. Keeping everybody posted and being honest

Contracts can differ in kind and in length. Sometimes, you will be asked to write about topics that seem foreign to you. If you feel that the contract is way too specific for you and that it is far beyond your understanding, you should consider turning down the offer (it is one of the rare occasions in your early career where you can afford to say no because it shows that you know your limits). Being honest with the persons and companies you work with is absolutely essential. In those cases where you just decide to turn down an offer because you lack the necessary abilities, do not hesitate to recommend another freelancer if you know one that is likely to be able to write the document.

Yet, it happens often that you are not completely familiar with the subject which you are asked to write about. This is absolutely conventional and you should not fear such a situation: no one knows everything! Think about the best journalists, for instance. Even the greatest reporters have to look for information and to understand the news they are working on before they can actually explain it. The same can be said of freelancers. The best way to avoid writing something that turns out to be completely off the track is to keep in touch with the company that requested your services. Do not hesitate to ask for their opinion when you feel it could improve your work. First, keeping everybody posted lets people know you actually are working, which is always good. Second, it shows that you care about writing something that truly meets their expectations.

5. Keep track of your work 

If you want to build yourself a solid reputation, you ought to consider building a portfolio. In effect, a portfolio is your best ally when the time to convince a company that you can do the job comes. Being able to let people view some of the greatest pieces of work you have done gives you a lot more credibility and it shows that you have got some experience. It is also a good way to display your writing abilities and style as well as your capacity to adapt to various contexts, topics and tasks. Building a portfolio calls for some effort, however. You will have to keep track of your work and to ask for copies of your published work when possible. If you do freelancing on the Internet, you ought to keep an up-to-date record of the web links that lead to your pieces of writing: that way, you will easily be able to direct your potential clients to relevant web pages that display your masterpieces!

Building your reputation as a young freelancer is certainly not an easy task, but it is worth making an effort. I hope the aforementioned tips will help you start off your career in the very best possible way!

About the author:

Alexandre Duval is a blogger for Standard Life, a company that offers various financial products and services to help you plan your retirement, including tax-free savings accounts (TFSA).

 

Money Making Mistakes You Should Avoid

Money making ideas are delicate and there is little room for miscalculations. One of the most common place mistakes in personal finance is budgeting for the short term. Research trends indicate that making an annual budget is a wise decision over a monthly one. One of the aspects behind this trend is that annual budgets leave more room for unexpected expenses.

A recent survey done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on college students indicates that they tend to underestimate monthly expenses by 40 percent whereas annual expenses had a 3 percent margin of error.

A related mistake that people commit is related to skimping on career investments. Many never think about it while others ignore it on the account that it is a cost effective affair. However, investing in your personal development means that you’re giving yourself a chance to get promoted. This means a large monthly income that can cover your career investment. [Read more…]

How To Supplement Your New Grad Income

I graduated from college last year with a job, which is a rare occurrence for today’s grad, so I felt very lucky. As you could imagine, it was an entry level job…with entry level pay, but when you come straight from school you think anything is pretty good pay. However, within the first few months you start to realize that with rent, utilities, car payments, and food, it starts to run out very quickly. Keep in mind that I am an accounting major, so I tend to budget pretty tightly. Nevertheless, it was apparent that I needed to pick up some extra cash. It didn’t matter how, I just needed to, so I did what any new grad would do…called my parents. Here’s some ways that we came up with to get some extra cash in and save money.

1)      Get Another Job: This is most obvious one. Of course the first thing everyone thinks of when they need more money is to get another job. Here’s the catch, you need one on top of your full time job. So I started to think, what can I do in my spare time that might make me some extra cash without constraining my schedule. I finally settled upon a freelance writer. It’s not glamorous, and honestly it doesn’t pay a whole lot, but it brings in a little bit of spending money. [Read more…]