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Money Discussions to Have as a Couple

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

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A relationship can be hard enough, let alone going to the next step and living together and tacking the finances together as a team.  Whether you decide to have one person pay bills, combine finances, keep separate, or a little bit of both, these are real conversations that need to be made as early on as you can, especially before things progress into marriage, where the conversation can be a little more difficult if there are any surprises that come up, so you might as well bite the bullet and have the discussion now.

Disclose Any Secrets

While it may be embarrassing if you have any debt or credit issues that are following you, but now is the time to disclose that.  Sure, relationships can end because of money, but you want to air any dirty laundry now when it comes to what your credit card debt is, any student loan balance remaining, and what your credit score is.  After all, if you are purchasing a home in the future, those financial details will come out now, so you don’t want to affect any increase in the set monthly payment.

Figure Out Bank Account Plans

There are those that can argue that separate bank accounts make the most sense, others that are in favor of putting all finances together, even some that agree that there is nothing wrong with keeping some money separate for spending and enough in a joint account for shared monthly expenses.  While only you and your financial partner can decide what is best for you, even as small as an aaa membership cost, that is something to hash out to determine the right method.  Also, keep in mind that things change and you may decide that it makes sense to combine everything for ease, and that is ok too.

Discuss Financial Goals

Much like we all have different hobbies, we also may have differing opinions on financial goals, so it’s a good idea to discuss what plans are for spending and saving.  Whether it is creating an emergency fund to have a cushion if any unexpected charges come up, not to mention saving for the future, even as small as monthly cable expenses and vacations, are all items to plan for and decide together what is most important and what makes the most financial sense for the two of you.  Whether kids are in the picture now or will be in the future, that may be when financial priorities change as well.

Work Together

Handling the household finances is a tough job so it’s not one that has to be put on one person’s shoulder, so it’s a good idea to ensure that both of you are in the loop for all money coming in and going out.  When it comes to purchases, it’s a good idea to take a look at last month’s credit or debit card statement and go line by line, not so much to call out the other person, but to decide together if they are necessary purchases or could have been avoided to free up extra money.

Ways You Can Avoid Overspending During the Holidays

Saturday, December 2, 2017

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Even if you watch spending the rest of the year, around the holiday is really when you can expect to see your card swiping even more than usual, racking up that credit card balance, probably as we speak.  The charges have probably started pouring in around Thanksgiving, as you probably either attended or hosted a dinner.  Now that we are into December, Christmas shopping will be in full force over the next few weeks, having that statement balance come in into January, probably wondering how you will pay that back, so you might want to try to avoid overspending around the holidays.

Track Expenses

Once you go on a roll for shopping it actually gets fun to buy gifts for others, making it difficult to stop, as you continue to see things that the person may enjoy.  Before the charges get completely out of hand, you may want to start tracking, whether you use a spreadsheet or an app, whatever you will actually look at, in order to see how much you have spent so far.  If you can budget for each person that you plan to buy for, you can work on staying within that limit.

Cut Back in Other Areas

In order to free up extra money around the holidays could mean cutting back in other areas.  Going out to eat, whether it’s lunch, dinner, or even stopping for coffee, can add up pretty quickly over the course of the month.  If you can go grocery shopping and prepare your meals at home, even brewing coffee in the morning to take with you in the travel mug, you can free up hundreds of dollars this month, and probably not a bad suggestion could forward to continue to save money each month.

Compare Prices

Years ago, in order to check prices, you had to read the sale papers, or actually getting in the car and driving from store to store, wasting your day just to save a few dollars, if at all, by the time you factor in gas and your time.  These days with websites to virtually anything at your disposal, you can look for any item and compare prices between a dozen sites in the matter of seconds, spending a few minutes completing the purchase instead of taking up your entire day for the best price.  No matter what the purchase is, it’s always good to get the best price, and maybe that would help eliminate a few impulse purchases.

Start as Early as Possible

While we are already into December, you may want to note for next year to start saving and shopping as early as you can, taking advantage of more paychecks to put money aside, and more big sales to start stocking up on purchases.  You should never pay full price for anything, so the more sales you have at your disposal, the more chance you get to save money buying for your loved ones, and maybe you even get to sneak in a few more gifts since you are saving more under your budget.

Learning To Day Trade With Ameritrade

Saturday, December 2, 2017

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Like any successful tradesperson, day traders need the right tools to survive and thrive. When you go down the educational journey to becoming a profitable day trader, what you need is not only lessons in the best stocks to find, but also the best platforms to use to trade. That is why you need to learn about Ameritrade and the Thinkorswim platform that the legendary trading website offers.

Day traders rely on volume and volatility. Making money at day trading requires making a lots of trades during the day, most of the time. Sometimes you can run swing trading strategies that mean that you are holding onto stocks for 3 days or so, but most of the time the meat and potatoes of day trading is a lot of little trades every day.

When you take a look at Ameritrade, the site offers traders a lot of great research, streaming news and other cool things. The Thinkorswim platform can show you economic data that can help inform your trades and it can sync the interface across your devices. Most day traders stay in front of their screens all day, but for the more modern traders with mobile access, you can get your device all the info you need. You can also setup custom alerts to the right places as you are trading.

One of the coolest features, especially for beginning traders is the paper money option. That means you can make practice trades with virtual currency. That gives you a chance to see where your skills are at before you move on to trading real money. That can save you quite a bit of dough just starting out.

Practice is very important for any skill that you are trying to learn. Ask any veteran day trader and they will tell you that learning on the job is very expensive. Many of them would consider the first few years of their career as one long learning experience, which can get expensive. Think of it as losing the same amount of money to the market that you might spend on a mid-tier public university degree. Paper trading seems pretty inexpensive by comparison.

Then the other part of learning to be a day trader comes from hanging out in day trading chat rooms. That is where you can interact with other traders that have been in the same position you have been in. These are people that are sharing your hopes and dreams and have been through the day trading ringer. Veteran traders that have seen it all. Even newbies that you can establish a relationship with.

Ameritrade has a chat room on Thinkorswim that can be a great resource for traders that are just starting out. If you want to ask a question or vet a trading idea that you just can’t quite crack, a day trading chat room can yield the answer. Without other people, day trading can get quite lonely. Spending time in a day trading chat room can be lucrative for your profits and beneficial for your mental health.

Ignore Some of the Credit Card Myths

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

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As we are ready to head out for holiday shopping there is no doubt you will be taking out your credit card for most, if not all, purchases.  While that could scare some about having a credit card balance, it doesn’t mean that it’s all bad.  In fact, if used right, credit cards can make a lot of financial sense even based on the fraud protection and rewards that they provide.  That doesn’t mean they don’t get a bad reputation, and there are some myths about credit cards that can be avoided, because they just are not true at all.

You Don’t Need a Credit Card

Why sure, you can probably get through your everyday life without a credit card, but if you do not have a credit card you probably do not have much of a credit history.  If you want the best interest rates on the market when it comes to buying a house, getting a loan, or a credit card, you need an excellent credit score, otherwise any increase in APR will cost you money.  By having a credit card, using, and paying off each month, you can develop a solid payment history, not to mention have credit line increases as well.

Close the Account When Balance is $0

Debt can be a scary thing, especially if you are in so deep that it takes years to get out of.  By the time you come out and see that zero balance you may not want to tempt fate and have that available credit to you any longer.  While that is something to be proud of to get the balance down to zero, closing the account could actually hurt you.  It can actually help to keep the account open, but cut up the card so you don’t use, but still have that available credit to your name.

Accepting a Credit Line Increase Will Hurt Your Score

While sure, the creditor is trying to get you to see the credit line increase and want you to go on a spending spree to charge that much more on your account, but accepting a credit line increase can actually help your score, not hurt it.  If you use to your advance and accept the credit line increase, you can now increase your available credit and increase your credit utilization, so it can actually increase your score.  Just be careful not to see that higher line and want to charge more than you can afford to pay the full balance.

The Name on the Card Matters

You will likely get credit card offers in the mail daily, with “Gold”, “Silver”, “Platinum” added to the name to try and stick out, but the truth is, you really should only care about two things:  the APR, the interest on your charges if your carryover a balance, and the rewards, what you can get back on the purchases you make, whether that is in miles, points, or even dollars.  If you charge and pay the full balance by the due date, you can actually just focus on the best rewards card available.

How to Start Your Own E-Commerce Store with a Little Budget

Monday, October 30, 2017

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So, you’re looking to jump on the bandwagon and start an e-commerce store because you’ve heard how profitable it can be? However, you don’t necessarily have the budget to get things rolling. That’s perfectly acceptable, and just because you don’t have a big budget like many other entrepreneurs, there are still tips you can take advantage of to make your dreams a reality. Here’s how to start your own e-commerce store with a little budget.

Gain Business Knowledge to Help Save on Startup Costs

Granted, you’re likely not going to have the money to take one of the online MBA programs to obtain your online MBA degree at Rutgers Online, but it could prove to be a cost-effective solution to get your business running. Therefore, it’s always worth considering, especially if you’re serious about making your e-commerce store a massive success. Just remember that such a degree won’t just benefit your business. If your business failed at some point in the future, you’ll also have something to fall back on so you can start a career in almost any industry you like.

Take Advantage of the WordPress Platform

We can’t express this tip enough. Take advantage of the WordPress platform to base your e-commerce store on and you’ll have an instant website solution for a fraction of the cost. You could spend thousands on getting a professional website online via a custom-made solution, but if you’re on a shoestring budget, why not settle for a solution that could cost you ten bucks? WordPress is completely free, you just need to invest in web hosting and a domain – most web hosts now come with a one-click install feature so you can get a WordPress based site online within minutes. Also, there are many plugins like WooCommerce you can use for free to give you e-commerce website features.

Start with a Small Product Range

Yes, we’d all love to be able to offer a diverse range of products in several categories from the get-go, but that’s not possible for us on a smaller budget. By starting with a small product range, not only will you save on startup costs, but you’ll also find the business is much easier to manage, and that could make growing easier in the future.

Use Social Media to Market Your Brand

When it comes to starting a business, you’ll need to set aside some of your budget for marketing and advertising purposes. With a shoestring budget though, you’re only going to do so much with your marketing efforts. However, by taking advantage of the social media platforms, you can start your PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns easily and within budget. Social media also offers a free way to market your brand, look at some of these tips to help you get started.

The world of e-commerce is a fairly easy business to get started in, but when you’ve got no experience and little to no budget, it can feel like an impossible task. However, with the above tips by your side when starting out, you can ensure your startup costs are going to be much lower than initially thought.

Ways You Can Boost Your Credit Score Starting Now

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

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You may not think of credit score being tied to saving money, but if you think about some of the largest expenses that you have each month, what comes to mind?  Your mortgage, car loan or lease, credit card payments, those all have interest rates or at least tied to your credit score.  In order to free up extra money each month, if you can not only reduce unnecessary expenses, but those that you need to make each month, you can free up extra money to pay off debt and save for the future.

Check Credit Report

With the amount of fraud that occurs these days it’s important to review your credit score.  Whether it’s someone stealing your card info at the gas pump, or a large hack from a retail store, and even credit bureaus are not safe these days, so you need to review for accuracy to ensure that all of your information is not only up to date, but correct.  You can get a free copy of your credit report each year from the major bureaus, not to mention you can see your credit score each month on your online credit account each month to ensure it’s not trending in the wrong direction.

Make Regular On-Time Payments

Payment history is one of the largest factors in your credit score.  If you are more than thirty days late on an account it will be reported to the credit bureaus, and even if it’s an accident, it can stay on your account for up to seven years, so that’s a mistake that you want to make sure you don’t make, basically ever.  By creating a solid payment history, you can improve your credit score drastically over time, although it may not seem like it overnight.

Eliminate Debt

The next largest piece to your credit score, just as important as payment history, is your amount of debt compared to the available credit.  The closer you are to your debt ceiling, the more your score will be impacted, so it’s important to decrease your balance while increasing your available credit.  If you are offered a credit line increase it’s a good idea to accept, while making sure you don’t go on a spending spree with all of the available money that you now have, otherwise your score, and you bank account will take a huge hit that could take years to come off if in debt.

Limit Credit Applications

Each time you have a lender pull your credit report you could be subject to an inquiry on your credit report that could stay on there for up to two years, so if you are submitting an application, you want to try and limit to those you are for sure going through with, otherwise you don’t want to have too many on there and jeopardize your score of give the impression that you are getting credit cards and are ready to go on spending spree, which would be fun, but not financially smart.

Make It Your Dream Garage!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

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There are certain things that a man takes great pride in. A hot wife, an athletic child, a good dog, and a well organized garage may be the top four. Men love their garage almost as much as they love their children. It’s a getaway full of manly items. It’s like a small vacation home. It’s like a tree fort for a boy where no girls are allowed.

However, you may have the coolest stuff and the best built garage in the world, but if it is not organized and properly displayed, it is just another cluttered room. When guys see other garages that are not well organized, they lose a bit of respect for the man of the house. It’s okay to have a messy basement, an unkempt bathroom, or a disheveled bedroom, but a garage needs to be well kept and is an extension of your manliness.

But if your garage is a mess, you may feel a bit overwhelmed to tackle the project of cleaning it up. What is the first step? There are so many things that need to be done to get it into the garage that you always wanted. Follow these step-by-step tips below to change your garage into something that every man in the neighborhood would envy.

Paint the Walls

If your garage is drywalled, then this should be a no brainer. By painting the walls, you are really making this an extra livable space. If you take the time to create a pleasing design on what you would like the garage to look like, this will definitely come in handy. It is also essential that you paint the walls before the floor. You will not have to worry about drips as much on an unfinished floor.

Paint the Floor

This is one of the things that really makes a garage stand out. Painting the floor will make a huge difference in the appearance of your garage. You can either paint it with normal paint or the more expensive garage flooring heavy duty paint. This is something that you can do yourself. Hiring a professional to do this will be expensive. There are ready to go kits that will make this simple.

Bin It Up

Purchase a few extra large bins for your garage. Store anything in the bins that you will not need on a weekly basis. Just get those things out of the way early on.

Pegboard

Install a few pegboards on the garage walls. Put up various sized hooks on those pegboards and hang your tools up. If you really want to get fancy, with permanent marker, draw an outline on the pegboard to make it easier to remember where each tool goes.

Put Up a Few Shelves

For the bins and larger items, you will want to hang up a few heavy duty shelves. Shop wisely and you will be able to find the perfect ones for your space. Go to a store that has a wide selection of industrial shelving for any garage or warehouse.

Find a Cheap Pair of Similar Dressers

Workbenches can be very expensive. This is why you are going to create your own from a couple low cost dressers that you can paint up and add some pizzazz to. The drawers are a perfect place for smaller items as well, like nuts, bolts, screws, and nails.

Old School Lockers

Having some old lockers in your garage will give you the space needed for extra jackets, sweatshirts, and gloves. It will also provide some much needed character. You can paint these lockers or go with a rusty look if you want.

Versatility is Worth That Extra Dollar

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

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We all want to save money; that’s the reason that we’re here. However, in addition to knowing when to cut costs and to go for the more frugal option, it’s important to know when it’s smart to pay that little extra in order to get a lot more use out of something.

Versatility is very valuable, as it often means that we need fewer things as there are multiple uses or occasions in which we can use something. Though we don’t always end up using all the “bells and whistles” all the time, even if you only use them a few times, those are the times that you don’t have to go out and buy an additional appliance, pair of shoes, cardigan, or even a baby car seat. Having one of something that can perform the work of several different tools or items is worth investing money into, as that means fewer items to buy, repair, and then dispose of.

Here are some examples where buying the more versatile options can be a cost-saving mechanism:

  • A Stand-Up Mixer

A good quality stand up mixer doesn’t just offer years and years of use for whipping and mixing, most offer customization options that eliminate the need for additional appliances. From food processors, blenders, grinders, juicers, and pasta makers, all you need to get are the additions that you know that you will need and the one motorized base takes care of everything! No more clutter on that kitchen counter and a cheaper alternative to buying all the small kitchen appliances separately.

  • Truck Body

Trucks are extremely versatile vehicles. You can use them for daily personal use, they can be used for heavy duty construction work, and you can also use them to pull trailers, campers, and more. If you are looking to get more use out of them, it might be time to research detachable truck bodies that are very handy for a wide variety of uses, from hosting a mobile command center to customizing it to your work as an electrician.

  • Flexible Cancelation

Sometimes hotels charge an extra few dollars for flexible accommodations that you can either cancel or move without penalty. Though this might not be of use to you if you know for sure that you will be travelling during that time, if there is a chance that due to travelling with kids or on a longer itinerary that your plans could change, having the possibility to push the dates one way or another means that you don’t lose the room, and the money that you paid for it, just because you didn’t adhere perfectly to the previously set plan.

  • Grow-with-me items

The trouble with investing into baby and kid items is that they grow out of them so quickly, be they clothes, bassinets, chairs, and more. Sometimes it’s worth paying a little more to have something that “grows” with the child, like a car seat that turns into a booster seat or a high chair which can turn into a toddler chair for their play table. More and more companies are even looking for a solution to the short lifespan of baby clothing and are coming out with “grow pants” and more! This means that it can be worth investing in quality items since they will last you longer than a month or so!

Knowing when to bite the bullet and pay a little extra is a skill that we can all acquire with time. The key is to think about the lifespan of the item and what use and value it will give us over time. If it’s better than the other options, it’s definitely worth considering, especially if it means fewer items cluttering your home.

Smart Money Moves to Set Yourself Up for Success

Friday, October 13, 2017

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Being in charge of the household finances is a tough job, one not to be handled alone.  If you have a significant other it’s a good idea to bring in, since it has to do with both of your income and spending.  If you are on your own, then bringing in a family member or close friend that you trust might not be a bad idea either to bounce ideas off to ensure you have set yourself up for success for the future, in addition to making a few smart money moves.

Create an Emergency Fund

You never know what life will throw at you, so it’s a good idea to be prepared as you can in case something does happen and there is a huge unexpected charge to come up such as an auto or home repair, or even worse, a job-loss.  If you can keep a few months’ worth of expenses in an account for easy access, you will get rid of the need to put on a credit card and put yourself into debt, at which if you can’t afford now, you won’t be able to afford later.

Curb Spending

Really the best way to free up extra money so that you can use to pay off debt and save for the future is by reducing expenses, specifically removing the unnecessary expenses.  After you pay all of the needed bills and allow for food and gas, how much are you spending after that, and for what?  A good place to start would be to reduce going out to eat, as those charges can add up quick, and opt for going grocery shopping and preparing meals, snacks, drinks at home instead of going out and watch the savings add up pretty quickly.

Save for the Future

Every free dollar, even if it means you have to cut back on “fun”, should go towards saving for the future, whether that is a 401(k) account or an IRA.  If your work offers company matching contributions you should at least contribute that much, otherwise it would just be leaving free money on the table, not being able to grow over time, leaving you short when you are ready to walk away from work and have something to live off during retirement, as we know we cannot solely rely on social security income being there decades from now, although we are paying into it now.

Take Advantage of Credit Card Rewards

While I’m not encouraging going on a charging spree, but if you only charge the items that were already expenses anyways and you used your debit card, you could be earning free points, dollars, or miles just by making those purchases you would be making anyways.  With so much competition in credit cards out there, find the card with the best APR and rewards that you can get approved for, as you’ll be surprised how quickly your rewards will add up and you can cash in for gift cards, air miles, or a cashback check every year.

Turning Your Product Idea into Reality

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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Brilliant ideas pop into our heads all the time. Whether it’s inspiration from nature or life, or a quick way to solve a common problem, you are bound to have a “eureka” moment every once in a while. Chances are that during a couple of these epiphanies you even briefly considered your product as a business idea. But why so brief? Such problem-solving products or improvements on existing items on the market can be the start of a very profitable business!

Turning your idea into a product that you can sell is definitely a journey, but it’s one that many have travelled before with success. If you’re looking for what such an endeavour would entail, here’s a rough roadmap.

Develop the Idea

You might feel tempted to keep your idea all to yourself, however talking and explaining your idea is how you get valuable feedback and prove to yourself that it is a worthwhile product. Incorporate comments and missing pieces into your idea for design and go through as many iterations as needed to get something that a lot of people find valuable.

Create a Prototype

Before you can, or even want to, start producing your idea at a large scale, it’s time to make a proper prototype. Try using different materials, colours, sizes, and more until you get something that you can be proud to show someone like a potential investor. At this stage you will probably have to hire an engineer, if you aren’t one yourself, to interpret your ideas into a design that can be manufactured. Afterwards, depending on the product, you’ll need to find a company with the right equipment to make it for you. 5-axis CNC machines give you the flexibility to manufacture high precision parts but are too expensive for you to buy at this point, just like programmable sewing machine might not be viable at the moment.

Patent Your Idea

Once you are happy with your prototype, if there is anything proprietary, you should apply for a patent that will protect your idea from copycats. There are different types of patents, from design to utility, so you might want to ask for the advice of a legal professional who specializes in this kind of work

Find a Manufacturer

Before you can even really look for investors, you need a proof of concept, meaning that you can prove that your product sells. To sell, you have to have inventory. Using your prototype and the designs that you had your engineer make for you, approach a selection of manufacturers asking for quotes for their services. Remember to factor in the price of shipping, handling, and taxes when you compare their offers. Once you have settled, it’s time to start making stuff!

Sell

Now you have done a lot of the grunt work but the greatest challenge is ahead of you- it’s time to sell. Decisions have to be made about how you would like to sell: to small retailers, big box chains, or directly though tradeshows and e-commerce. Your product can dictate much of your decision making, as does your audience, however remember that it should be something that makes sense to you!

Inventing something, be it a completely new product or just a better mousetrap, can be the adventure of a lifetime. If it succeeds, it can also become your livelihood and that of those who work in making this idea reality.

All is left is to gather the willpower and commitment to take your little “hack” or “improvement” to a successful business that puts you on the map!

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