Monthly Archives: June 2017

Earn Extra Money On Christmas Time?

If the financial worries of Christmas are bringing you out in a seasonal sweat, then fret no more. In this time of austerity, it’s easy to feel more like Scrooge than Santa, but if you’re facing a credit crunch this December, here are a handful of ways to make a bit of extra money this holiday season.

Trade in Last Year’s Gadgets
Christmas can be an expensive time with kids wanting the latest releases of everything. So, why not trade in old models to help with the costs? If you’ve got old mobile phones, computer consoles or laptops gathering dust in your home they can be traded in for cash this Christmas. Websites such as gazelle.com or exchangemyphone.com are good places to start when it comes to discovering how much your items are worth.

Rent out Your House
Are you going to visit family for Christmas or New Year? If your home is going to be empty over this period you should consider renting it out? Airbnb is one such site where you can list your home for a short period. This could be a lucrative way to earn money over the holidays if you live in a popular city. Make sure that you check the terms of your lease and take steps to ensure your home will be safe. Going through a reputable company will go a long way in this regard.

Put in Extra Hours
Over the holidays, bars, shops and restaurants are often looking for extra staff. If you have the time, then maybe you could pick up extra hours that work around your current job. Perhaps you work in an office that closes for a week over Christmas. You could make the most of this downtime by getting a second job. If you’re willing to work in a restaurant or bar on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day or New Year’s Eve, you can expect the wage to be worth your while. If you own a car, driving for ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft is also a good option to rake in some quick cash.

Get Cash Back

Although this may be of little help in time for this Christmas, putting all your Christmas (and other spending throughout the year) on a credit card that gives you cash back can be an easy and free way to make extra money. Some credit cards will pay a percentage of your spending back to you. Just be sure you always pay the balance on these cards off in full. If you don’t it is a not a good deal at all.
If you’re reluctant to take out a credit card, there are cash back sites that will give you a percentage of any online spending. Does this sounds too good to be true? Well, it’s not. Cash back sites make money by referring you to other sites that you buy something on. To thank you for going from its website, the site shares this money with you. Many even offer bonus payments for referring a friend to the site. Topcashback.com, ebates.com are examples of such sites. If you did all your spending through a cash back site or card over the next 12 months you could have several hundred dollars ready to spend for next Christmas.

Bake Your Way to the Bank

Are you skilled in the kitchen? Christmas cakes are difficult to make and take time that many of us do not have. So, if your Christmas cake is good, why not sell it to friends and neighbors? Be sure to price up the ingredients and include the cost of cooking them to ensure that it makes good business sense. Advertise your services to friends on social media sites and fliers in your neighborhood.

Smile for the Camera

Companies are always looking for pictures of happy families at Christmas. So, get photographs of the family around the tree, and then upload them onto a stock photo website where people pay to use your image. Shutterstock and Getty are two websites in which you can upload your photos and get paid every time someone downloads them .

The Bottom Line

Christmas can be an expensive time, but there are ways to make a few extra dollars, and with these tips, Christmas needn’t break the bank after all.

Companies with the Best Parental Leave and Benefits

When employees think about their dream jobs, it isn’t always about competitive salaries or the work itself. Employer missions and values, inspiring leadership and career opportunities have a big impact on worker satisfaction. Company benefits such as healthcare, vacation and parental leave can also be key in helping employees decide whether to accept job offers.

In that mode, American Express just announced that any U.S. employee of either gender who becomes a parent in any way, including adoption and surrogacy, can have 20 weeks of paid leave, with an additional six to eight available to birth mothers. But the most generous leave is coming mostly from tech companies that are competing for employees – and trying to attract and keep women – in an ever-tightening labor market. Look at the list below for the best benefits.

Google

The company culture at Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), the holding company for Google, is designed to make workers feel valued and respected. Employees are free to concentrate on work without worrying about their errand lists, because Google offers an array of onsite services, including health clinics, laundry rooms and oil changes. Some Google benefits also extend to families of deceased employees. The company pays surviving spouses or partners 50% of deceased employees’ salaries for 10 years.

Netflix

Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) is known for its generous parental leave benefits for its 3,700 employees. The streaming internet subscription entertainment company, based in Los Gatos, California, offers up to one full year of paid maternity or paternity leave for new parents. Netflix also gives new parents the option of returning to work on a full- or part-time basis, or taking time off throughout the year as needed.

Adobe

Adobe Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: ADBE) is headquartered in San Jose, California, and has nearly 14,000 employees. Workers don’t have to worry about finding time off for summer and year-end vacations, because the digital media solutions company shuts down for one week in the summer and one week in December.

Airbnb

Airbnb Inc. is a marketplace that connects travelers with lodgings throughout the world. The privately held company has 1,600 employees and was voted Glassdoor’s best place to work in 2016. Employees do more than facilitate vacation stays for marketplace users, they also have the opportunity to use Airbnb themselves. The company gives employees a $2,000 travel stipend to stay in Airbnb listings worldwide.

Twitter

Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) has 3,800 employees around the world, but most of them work at the social media company’s San Francisco headquarters. Twitter employees enjoy onsite perks, such as fitness classes, acupuncture and three catered meals every day. The company also has an unlimited vacation days policy.

Epic Systems

Epic Systems Corporation is a healthcare management software solutions provider. The privately held company is headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, and has 9,000 employees. Epic employees don’t have to choose between career growth and personal interests; the company offers workers with five years at the company paid four-week sabbaticals to pursue creative talents.

Salesforce

Salesforce.com Inc. is located in San Francisco and has about 10,000 employees. The company’s CEO Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, are well-known for their philanthropy in the Bay Area. The company also encourages employees to give back to the community. Salesforce employees get seven paid days per year to volunteer and the company also matches donations that employees give to charities.

 

Money saving if on Scottish roadsbank.

The Scottish have long been famed for their frugality and practicality. Henry Duncan, a Scottish minister, founded the world’s first commercial savings bank. Adam Smith, one of the most famous figures in economics, also hailed from Scotland.

It’s no coincidence that many successful  today have among their portraits of former CEOs and founders, a painting of a side-burned Scot whose eyes suggest any spare change would have to be pried out of his cold, dead hands.

In this article, we will look at three ways you can give your budget a boost using some of the famed Scottish frugality.

Be Utilitarian

When William Wallace led the Scots against the English in the 13th and 14th century, the militiaman’s weapon of choice was more likely to be a pitchfork or scythe than a spear or sword. Why? The average Scot used a pitchfork everyday, but swords were expensive and rare.

In battle, a sharp pitchfork was just as fatal as a sword, so very few men needed swords. Many people would be well served just by learning this one lesson: buy what you need, and if your needs change, adapt. It’s foolish to buy a sword if a pitchfork will do just as nicely.

Examples abound of people paying for more than what they need: a polished teak table to hold up a TV dinner; a brand new laptop to send email and print photos; an SUV to drive to the suburbs and back; or a huge house that is ruinous to maintain. The waste goes on and on.

Plan your purchases as you would plan a vacation. Know precisely what you need and how much you are willing to pay for it. Write it down and carry it like a talisman to ward off aggressive salespeople.

Buy Second Hand

Britain’s economic emergence during the Industrial Revolution owed much to a single invention: the Watt Steam Engine. In 1763, James Watt, a Scotsman, got his hands on a broken, second-hand steam engine and modified it to be much more efficient. Within years, Watt went from refurbishing old models to creating his own line of powerful engines – engines that drove the factories that made up the industrial revolution. The lesson of buying second hand, while less dramatic than powering the industrial revolution, is that it can save you significant amounts of money.

Used goods were once the specialty of pawnshops – where you could get a near-new stereo for a 70% discount if you didn’t mind the bullet holes and the dark stain on the left speaker. However, these goods have now become commonplace. Quality second-hand shops are popping up all over the place. These stores offer used models in good working condition at significant discounts compared to buying new. Garage sales, warehouse auctions and eBay auctions are also great places to search when you know what you want.

Another area where buying second-hand pays off is in cars. Because new cars generally plummet in value once they have been driven off the lot, a careful buyer can find a used car comparable to the showroom model at a huge discount. Japanese cars in particular seem to hit a certain price and stick there whether you own them for two years or five. This means if you find a decent used car, you may be able to sell it after a year or two for nearly the same price as you paid for it. Whether it is a car or a stereo, you can save yourself a lot of money by finding a used model with the same capacity.

Do It Yourself

When the Oxford English Dictionary was floundering on the edge of oblivion, the university brought in a Scotsman by the name of James Murray. Where the previous chief lexicographers delegated and did little, Murray rolled up his sleeves and began hammering away at the dictionary letter by letter. His do-it-yourself attitude saved the dictionary. He managed to keep expenses down and still produce results. This attitude will save you more money than you may realize.

You are the cheapest labor you can hire. When you pay someone to do a task such as mow your lawn, paint your house or change your oil, the service is costing you much more than the amount on the receipt. To understand what you are losing by not being hands-on, you have to look at how much income you have to earn to produce enough after-tax dollars to pay for a particular service.

For example, if you pay $1,000 to have someone landscape your yard, and you are in the 28% tax bracket, the job actually required around $1,400 of before-tax income. Getting out the shovel and doing it yourself is like adding $400 to your yearly income, let alone saving the $1,000.

The Bottom Line

The Scottish aren’t the well-known misers they used to be. However, the work of Scots during the Industrial Revolution still stands as one of the greatest leaps forward by a country and its people. All that hard work would have meant nothing if it wasn’t enforced by frugality.

You don’t need to feast on haggis or wear a kilt, but if you bring some old-time Scottish frugality to your own budget, you might find you’re pleased enough to at least try the haggis.

The Path to Financial Abundance

There are many paths to financial abundance: inheritance, marriage, lottery, business success, just to name a few. For most of us, however, the path to financial abundance will be paved with savings. It is a method based more so on self-discipline than luck. In that regard, it can be gratifying. The essence of saving is to spend less than what is earned. Yet this simple concept is easily lost in the complex world of digital money. Quite simply, it is very easy to over-spend.

To manage this potential problem effectively, it helps to look back to simpler times, remind ourselves what worked then, and adapt those strategies to today’s realities. As a young adult in the 1980s, I lived for years in a cash-only manner. I would cash my paycheck on Friday afternoons. The cash was then allocated to a series of paper envelopes labeled rent, truck payment, utilities, food and extra. Each of the first four would receive 25% of the required monthly obligation. Any cash left over went into the extra envelope. At month’s end my bills were covered, provided I remained faithful to the system week after week. Then my bills would be paid either in cash or by money order. I had no checking account, only a savings account.

Limiting Discretionary Spending

Any discretionary spending had to be paid from the extra envelope. This placed limits on my spending, a form of self-discipline. On those occasions when an unexpected necessity exceeded the contents of the extra envelope, I would “borrow” from one of the other envelopes knowing it had to be repaid from the next paycheck. With no credit cards on which to accumulate debt, my net worth grew over time.

With the benefit of hindsight, what made the envelope system work so well is that I always had a clear awareness of my cash flow. With that awareness, I had the information needed to make sound spending decisions throughout the month. My bills were covered and I knew how much extra was available at all times.

Tracking Personal Cash Flow

To bring that clear awareness and real-time management into today’s environment of credit cards, checks, automatic debits, etc., a different tactic is needed. There are some digital tools available, but I am a pencil-and-paper kind of guy. So, that was my challenge. My solution was to divide my monthly spending into two categories: normal and discretionary. Normal encompasses the recurring monthly bills which once upon a time had their own envelope such as mortgage, truck payment and utilities. This is the relatively fixed or inelastic portion of my household budget. I have those items listed on a monthly spending sheet along with the total amount required each month.

With this number in mind, I decided on an all-in spending number (normal plus discretionary) that was below the household income. This ensures a positive cash flow situation, the essence of successful savings. From the all-in spending number, I subtract the normal value leaving what represents the amount that would be in the extra envelope. The last bit of math is to divide that number by 30 so that I have a daily spending target. This discretionary spending of extra money gets tracked on a notepad every day. A running tally of the over/under is also tracked daily. It may sound overly-simplistic but I have been using this method for years. It really works! (For related reading from this author, see: What Are the True Costs of Your Household Expenses.)

Financial abundance is within reach for all of us. To achieve it, one must get and stay cash-flow positive on a consistent basis. With a clear awareness of income versus spending coupled with diligent tracking and management, everyone can succeed in this important quality of life issue. For more details and insights into this and other important financial topics, please see my book, “The Game Changer’s Guide to a Better Financial Life,” available through Amazon.