Category Archives: Income

Mentors – Who Represents Your Business?

Mentors in small business can affect your bottom line!

Everyone has mentors. Some mentors teach you what to do. Other mentors teach you what NOT to do.

At 18, I got my first “real”, full-time job. The company serviced offshore oil rigs, and the drilling crews who lived and worked there.

Mentors are everywhere - photo of offshore oil rig

Mentors are everywhere, even in the oil field

When you are 100+ miles off the coast, working seven days a week, 12 hours per day, you don’t have time to “hit the drive-thru” for a burger after work, go grocery shopping, wash your laundry, or scrub your toilets. You’re too busy chasing black gold, pushing pipe, and swinging from the monkey board. You work hard, in all kinds of weather, at all hours of the day. It is good money, but you earn every dollar!

So, my employer provided kitchen and housekeeping services for drilling companies. We cooked, washed dishes, swept, mopped, changed and made beds, washed towels, sheets, and laundry, scrubbed toilets, and so forth. We were like the hotel staff for an oil field “resort”.

Yep, I was 18, and had hated washing dishes and cleaning my room in my parent’s home. Now, I was doing it as a full-time job. I’m sure my mother probably enjoyed the irony. 🙂

The training mentors were older and “wiser” in the ways of the world. Most had been through various jobs and marriages before ending up on a “resort” in the oil field. Like the roughnecks they served, they worked hard, lived dangerously, and partied like rock stars when they made it ashore.

Most of my training mentors didn’t pay much attention to me, the skinny, awkward “man”. They didn’t take an interest in me as a person, and they didn’t make a long-term impression on me. However, some twenty-five years later, I still remember one mentor.

The oil rig I was working on at the time was a few miles off the coast of Louisiana. In that part of the world, good Cajun food is a requirement, and rice is a mealtime staple. I don’t remember the name of this training mentor, so we’ll call him “Bob”. Bob was an older man, nearing retirement age, very crotchety.

As the “new kid”, I was working nights, so when I came to the galley to eat “breakfast” before starting work, it was approaching dinner time (for the day shift). As was the normal routine, there was Cajun food out for dinner, and I was going to eat that for my breakfast. I had previously noticed that Bob would cover the uneaten rice after the meals, and put it back out the next day.

No problem. Growing up as the oldest of four children, I was used to Mom doing that at home.

However, that day, when I went to add some rice to my Cajun “breakfast”, I noticed that there was mold growing on the cooked rice. Although money was tight growing up, and four hungry kids would have probably finished leftover rice long before mold would have started growing, I have no doubt Mom would have thrown moldy rice away.

Anyway, I grabbed the bowl and headed toward the trash can, pointing out the mold to Bob. He grabbed the bowl from my hands, growled at me to “shut the #@*% up”, and proceeded to rinse off the rice before placing it right back on the food line for the crew.

O_o

I have no idea why Bob did this. He wasn’t paying for the groceries himself. Our company was not stingy with the groceries. We had weekly steak night, weekly seafood night, and the kitchen was open 24/7. As far as I know, there were no “cost cutting profit-sharing” systems. The economy was good, and the oil business was especially good.

Twenty five years later, I still remember his actions.

Today, I have a small business. Contract employees work for me, and represent my company name. I want to be sure to mentor them the right way.

What did I learn from this “demented” mentor?

* Some people should not be trusted with your company name, much less as a mentor for your new staff.

As an impressionable new guy, this “mentor” was tasked with teaching me the corporate culture, and proper procedures. “Feed your client moldy rice” was probably not what the home office had in mind.

* Some people are penny wise, and dollar dumb.

Bob “saved” a few cents worth of rice.

Rice is cheap, oil is expensive.

Bad PR is even more expensive. If the crew had gotten food poisoning, it could have slowed or even stopped them from drilling. Just one shift  would have cost the drilling company thousands of dollars, or more.

My “mentor” would have lost his job. My employer probably would have lost their contract on that rig, and possibly the contracts for all the other rigs operated by that drilling company. Due to oil field gossip, my employer could have lost other contracts with other drilling companies in the region.

I wish “Undercover Boss” had been around back then. I found out later from co-workers that this was a regular occurrence, but that Bob had connections in high places within the company. They were apparently letting him coast to finish out his time until retirement.

What about you? Have you ever had a “demented mentor”? Have you ever worked for someone who taught you more lessons about what NOT to do, than they did about the right way to do things?

Five simple tips to trim the budget

Five Simple Ways to Reduce your Expenses and Trim the Budget

Trim the budget - photo of scissors cutting money

Trim the budget – five simple ways to reduce your expenses

At the end of every month, you should review your budget for the following month. I just did that last week. That way, you know how much money should come in, as well as when and where it will be coming from. Equally as important, this will show how much money is going out, as well as when and where it is going. Increasing your income is great, but most of us can find ways to trim the budget more readily than we can find ways to increase the income as much.

If you are spending more than you make, you can’t simply print more money and keep spending. Only the government can do that. Unlike our clueless clowns politicians, you have to choose… trim the budget, expand the income, or some combination of those two options. Increasing income is the best option.

However, generating additional income can be difficult for some people. A previous employer of mine forbid their employees from working a part-time job, small business, or any other “side hustles”.

Several years ago, I worked with a lady who’d had heart surgery. Her doctor wouldn’t release her to work full-time. She received a disability income from the government, if I remember correctly, and worked part-time for the company I worked for at the time. If she earned above a certain amount, which was less than it would take for her to be self-sufficient, she would lose the disability income, which was also not enough for her to live on. So, she was stuck in a dead-end, low-paying job several years, living with her kids and grandkids, until her full retirement / SSI kicked in. She was unable to earn enough to get off disability, and unable to earn enough staying on disability.

No matter your income level, chances are, there are steps you can take to reduce your recurring monthly expenses. This article will look at a few ways to trim the budget.

Thermostat – One of the easiest ways to trim the budget is to reduce your monthly electric bill. You can do this if you adjust your thermostat by a couple of degrees. We keep our thermostat at 78* during the summer, and 68* during the winter. In our previous home, which we owned, I replaced the old-fashioned thermostat with a programmable unit. It would adjust the temps to 82* during the summer, and 65* during the winter while we were gone to work, and then readjust them just before we normally got home. At night during the winter, after our normal bed time, it would let the temp drop to 60* while we were sleeping. We were under the blankets, so it was not a problem.

Dryer – When I was growing up in SE Texas, during the summer, we hung our laundry outside to dry. This is a very easy way to trim the budget. The dryer is a huge electricity hog, so doing this consistently can have a big impact on your monthly bill. During the winter, you can run the dryer for half the time, then let the clothes air dry on an indoor line. This can also add moisture to the indoor air, which is usually very dry during the winter.

TV – Do you really need all those channels? Do you really NEED any channels? Trim the budget by downsizing or eliminating your TV bill. Over the past decade, we saved hundreds of dollars merely by turning off our pay TV services. At least consider getting rabbit ears and see if you can pull in any local stations, if you “MUST” have TV.

Phone – Do you actually use your land line? As a step to trim the budget, we cancelled ours almost a decade ago. We realized most of our callers were either telemarketers, or politicians. Everyone else called our cell phone. Since you can take your cell phone number if you move to a different provider, consider dropping your land line. If you must keep your land line for DSL or the alarm system, drop all of the extra services, like call waiting and caller ID.

Internet – We have basic DSL, without a land line phone, from our local phone company. I would love to have cable internet speed, but realistically, I don’t need that speed all the time. I am a mobile DJ, and purchase my music online. It takes longer to download than I wish, but as a way to trim the budget, I have stayed with a slower speed service. Can you deal with a slower connection speed for monthly savings?

These five simple methods to trim the budget can potentially save you $50 to $100 or more per month. That is $600 to $1200 or more per year. How much more would you need to earn to have that much after taxes?

How about you? What are some simple tips you use to trim the budget? What has been your biggest saver so far?

 

Healthy Savings are not just a walk in the park

Healthy Savings – ideas to keep your budget, and your health, in top shape

“Healthy Savings” can describe a large discount. Healthy Savings can also be a play on words, to describe a situation where you save money, while partaking in healthy activities. This is the definition I will be writing about in this article.

Face it, what good is the lifestyle you work hard for, if you are so sick, tired, or out of shape that you can’t enjoy it? How many people do you know who worked hard, sacrificed, and saved their entire life for a great retirement, only to be unable to do the things they want to do? No one knows the future, and there are no guarantees, but usually people who take care of themselves live longer with better quality of life than those who do not.

Gym memberships are incredibly popular. They can also be incredibly expensive. Many people sign up with good intentions, but then, drop out. Unfortunately, due to how the contracts are designed, if you don’t use your membership, you don’t get a break on the price. Often, there is a minimum one year contract with monthly auto-drafts, whether you work out daily, or never darken the door. So, how can we take care of body and our budget at the same time?

Of course, you can simply put a treadmill, free weights, or machines at your house, and work out on your schedule. However, many people prefer being able to work out with others, and find the accountability of your exercise partner to be very beneficial.

Following are five ways you can have free or nearly free gym access.

Membership Benefit – Many large companies have a gym at the headquarters. They know that healthy employees are less likely to miss work due to illness. See if your company would consider installing a basic gym at your facility.

A free gym down the hallway from your office would be majorly Healthy Savings! If you work remotely, or are not close to the headquarters, do they have partnerships with any of the national gym chains, such as Gold’s Gym? I worked for a company which offered a 20-25% discount to the gym membership, plus no initiation fee. IIRC, since the bill was taken out automatically pre-tax, it also lowered the employee’s taxable income.

Attend college – When I was single, and living near Houston, the local community college had a small, but nice, gym. Racquetball, tennis, basketball, and a weight room. As a student, even if only taking one class per semester, you had gym access at no charge. That is Healthy Savings, Professor!

Side Hustle – Does your local gym need someone to work the front desk a few hours per month? Do you have fitness training where you could team up with a trainer to assist? Could you start your own part-time fitness or training business? Healthy Savings for free facility access, plus a side hustle income.

Personal Trainer – Some personal trainers will team up with a local gym for Healthy Savings. They will host their personal fitness training at the gym. Access to the gym is generally included with your training fees. Often, the gym will allow you to use the facilities outside of your “official” class time.

Free Pass – Many gyms will offer free day passes to try out the facilities. Often, “mom & pop” gyms are very generous. They don’t have the name recognition and fancy facilities that the national chains have, which can add up to Healthy Savings for you. You may find them to be much more willing to offer free passes, or special pricing to earn your business.

Also, many “mom & pop” gym operators are not really trying to run their gym as a business, but more as a serious hobby. Basically, the owners like to work out, and they like to socialize with others who like to work out; a gym gives them an easy way to do that. All the gear is a tax write-off, and they get to have a great workout facility and do something they love. If they make a little money too… score! 🙂 Since they are not in it for the money, they may be more generous with passes.

Keep in mind all of the exercise routines which do not require gym access. One of my favorites is from the US Army.

Healthy Savings - photo of soldier

Healthy Savings … the Army way.

I can attest to the quality of the training. It is full of distance running, sprinting, stretching, jumping, and body weight exercises, like sit-ups, push-up, and more. There are many other routines you can follow as well, such as Crossfit. Combined with proper nutrition, your budget and your waistline will slim down.

Healthy Savings can help you enjoy the lifestyle you work for.

What other ways have you come up with to experience Healthy Savings? What is the best value for gym membership you have discovered?

A Great Budget is… YOUR map

A Great Budget is all about you

Part of the reason I created this blog is because I am starting to use a family budget again. I wanted to have some accountability, so I’m sharing my personal journey. I also wanted to help others who are considering a budget for their family.

On a long trip, especially if you have never been to your intended destination before, it is a good idea to have a GPS or map. A great budget is like a GPS or map for your financial journey through life. A well made budget can enable a person to be more financially responsible over the long haul. A great budget directs your finances in the most efficient path to your destination. A winning budget keeps you on the right road to success, no matter how you define “success”.

On a long trip, to be sure you stay on track, you must review the map frequently, adjust for detours or traffic, and watch for road signs. Let’s look at some of the traits for a great budget.

Individualized – A great map is individualized. Your destination may be different than mine. If you are going from New York City to Houston, and I’m going from Savannah, GA to Atlanta, GA, we will need different maps.

Likewise, a great budget is individualized. If you are a single, mid-20 something living with the Parental Units, your budget will be different than your married, father-of-four, mortgage-toting brother’s budget, or your retired grandparent’s budget. Your budget should be specific to YOU. It’s ok to start with someone else’s budget, or a generic budget from some website, but over time, consider customizing it to fit you and your situation.

Detailed – A great map is detailed. Your map needs to show road names, turn directions, and distances to be traveled on each road. It should show approximately how long you will be on each road, in case you forget to check the odometer. On a long trip, a printed map and turn-by-turn directions may take several pages.

Similarly, a great budget is detailed. Your budget should reflect ALL income, and ALL expenses. I like doing my budget in an Excel spreadsheet. If something changes during the month, I can immediately adjust.

Your budget should have expense categories, based on your life.  A great budget will let you see how much you are spending in dollars for a specific category. It should also let you see those categories as a percentage of your income. Within each category, you can add specific lines for more detail. For example, on my budget, the category “Utilities” includes a line for each of the following: Electricity, Water, Cell phone, Internet. The total for each line is added together to give me the total expense for Utilities.

Simple – A great map is simple. If your map is 14 pages, front-and-back, in 9-point font size, with hand-scribbled notes all over the margins, and a coffee stain, you will have a hard time following the map on the open road, much less when you are in rush-hour traffic in a big city. Consider a condensed overview page for a quick glance in traffic.

A great budget is detailed, but it should also be simple enough that you can understand what you are looking at. Budgets can generally be one page. You could show a great budget to a teenager and have them understand the basics of your budget. If your budget is too complicated, you will find excuses to put off using it.

Try to keep a simple overview, even if at various times you need more detail. You can always drill down to get more information if you need it at that time. For example, I keep my budget simple by having the Categories bolded, and all the Categories add together (since I use Excel) to provide the total expenses right next to the total income.

Realistic – A great map is realistic. If your GPS said your trip time from New York City to Houston will take one hour, is approximately 43 miles, and requires 6 gallons of fuel, you would probably look for a new GPS. Even if you haven’t made the trip before, you would probably know that is not realistic.

A great budget is realistic. It should address all of your needs, priorities, income, and expenses. It should have every dollar allocated somewhere, to a specific purpose. Otherwise, any additional income simply “vanishes”, and you are left wondering what happened to it.

If you are trying to pay off debt, a great budget will show approximately how long that will take. If you use a computer spreadsheet, you can update the budget easily and quickly, so it stays realistic and current throughout the month.

Using these four tips can help you to have a great budget that works great for you!
How is your budget? What tips do you have to help me (and others) to develop a great budget?

 

10 Money Saving Tips for Low-Income Families

Money Saving – Practical ideas anyone can use!

Saving money is a nice thing for most famililes, but is a necessity for low-income families. Whether your family is temporarily low income because of job loss or underemployment, longer term because of illness or injury, or by choice, such as single income families, as in our case, it can be tough to meet your family’s needs. Let’s look at ten ways to help increase your money saving abilities.

  1. Transportation – For short distances, ride a bike or walk for major money saving… zero gas expense! For longer trips use public transportation, if it is available. If not, try to rideshare or carpool. Sharing your gas expense with two or three people can be serious money saving. Consolidate your trips, making several stops, instead of several separate trips. Do you have a neighbor you can borrow a vehicle from as you need it? We used to have two drivers and four vehicles, one of which was a 1994 compact pickup truck. We gave the truck to a relative this year. Now, on the rare occasions I need a truck, I borrow my neighbor’s. I have been thinking about getting rid of my little car (which is 17 years old, with well over 250,000 miles), and just driving my “DJ Van”.
  2. TV – Drop your pay TV service for monthly money saving. We used to have cable, then satellite. We never really had time to watch it, so we dropped it almost a decade ago.
  3. Movies
    Money saving with DVD's from the library

    “Rent” movies from the library!

    We “rent” DVD’s at the library. This money saving tip allows you to have family entertainment, without blowing the budget. We can keep them one week, and it is FREE. Our library is small, but they still have a few thousand titles, and many regular series. Alternatively, borrow DVD’s from a neighbor, especially one who goes to RedBox every week. 🙂 Just be sure to return the movies so there are no late fees. Our library charges $1/day per DVD if you are late, which negates your money saving quickly!

  4. Internet – This money saving tip takes a little creativity. When money was really tight, we were without internet for over a year. I would go to the library on my lunch break, research what I needed, and save the info on a thumb drive. Since I only had one hour for lunch, I would either save the webpage, or copy the text and save in a word document to read in more detail later. I would also find places with free wi-fi, such as McDonalds, Starbucks, and even the library. Many mornings, I would leave for work early, and drive past the library. I would sit in my car in the parking lot since the library was not open yet.
  5. Garden – Gardening is a money saving top to reduce your food budget, and improve your eating habits. Fresh tastes best in most cases. Research Square Foot Gardening. Start a window box for fresh herbs, or hang an upside-down tomato planter from your patio/balcony for money saving and great snacking.
  6. Coupons – This money saving tip became popular the past few years, seeing shows like Extreme Couponing. Some people say the show is bogus. We don’t have cable TV, so I have never seen the show. There are many forums, blogs, and websites that teach how to use coupons successfully. Recently, many stores have stopped doubling and tripling coupons, so the saving are not as extreme as they have been in the past, but my wife still can save $10-$40 or more on the grocery bill every week. Many department stores also post coupons online or in their circular advertisements. However, don’t buy stuff you don’t need just because you have a coupon.
  7. Water – Use a rain barrel to conserve water for your garden. Consult with local authorities, as some will try to fine you for conserving the water. Don’t water your lawn or garden or wash your car during the hottest part of the day, as much of the water will be lost to evaporation. Make sure your faucets and toilets don’t leak. Another money saving idea… Reuse your towels for a week or so; after a shower, you should be pretty clean, so your towel won’t get dirty… you don’t have to wash them every day.
  8. Phone – This money saving idea has saved us over $3000 so far. We eliminated our home phone line almost a decade ago. We realized the only calls we got at home were telemarketers and robo-politicians. I have no use for either, and don’t care to pay for the privilege of them bothering us during dinner. We pulled the plug and save every month. We use our cell phones, have “naked” DSL for internet, and the home alarm system uses cellular technology.
  9. Groceries – For a weekly money saving strategy, go to a “off brand” grocery store. Sure, those fancy supermarkets have exotic food, but you should not be eating that if you are a low-income family anyway. We shop at Kroger and Wal-Mart for 90%+ of our groceries, and if we are in the area, we go to ALDI. The selection is limited to more basic foods, but that suits our needs fine. Also, a “super” store, like Wal-Mart or Target will have more than just groceries, so we do less driving around to other stores for household repair needs, auto maintenance supplies, health & beauty, etc.
  10. Barter – This money saving idea lets you trade your skill for someone else’s. Do you have a skill that you can trade with someone for their skill? Can you swap mowing their lawn for getting three or four haircuts? Can you trade painting their living room for plumbing repairs? There are many busy professionals, such as doctors or lawyers, who don’t have time or knowledge to do projects themselves. If you have the time because you are out of work, or have the knowledge but not the cash, see if they would be willing to trade services.
  11. BONUS – Obviously, there is only so many money saving ideas you can realistically use. If possible, increase income. If you can’t do that because you are currently unemployed/underemployed, is it possible to get a part-time job, which will not affect your search for a full-time job? If you are employed, can you pick up a few extra hours? Can you start a side hustle?

At one point, I lost my full-time job. I started carrying pizza in the evenings and weekends. When possible, I tried to get shifts that were late at night, so I would not be away from my wife and children while they were awake. This provided my family with cash, a small bi-weekly check, and usually a free pizza or two each shift.

In case someone is curious about the free pizza… Usually, someone would call in with a custom pizza request, then not come to pick it up, or would not answer the door when a driver arrived. Sometimes, the manager would let the closing employees make a pizza at no charge if we’d had a profitable shift. This money saving idea was tasty! 🙂 With two hungry children to feed, the free pizza was a blessing.

Through that job, I met another delivery man who also worked as a delivery man for the newspaper. He helped me get a job delivering papers seven days a week. I delivered papers to convenience stores and boxes in grocery stores. I would arrive between 2 AM and 4 AM, depending on the day, and would be done by 6 AM most days. I would then run back home and have breakfast with my family before they left for school and work (my wife was a school teacher and took the kids with her). In addition to the bi-weekly check, the manager would let us have the coupon inserts from any Sunday papers that did not sell when we put out the new Sunday papers. This was another money saving help.

I later found a full-time job, where I still work almost nine years later. I continued to work the pizza and paper jobs in addition to the full-time job for over a year. I was exhausted, and slept in my car during lunch many times. However, the additional income really helped our family through a tough time. So, if possible, even if it is not your long-term goal, find a side hustle.

How about you? What money saving tips have helped you during a low-income time?

How to Win the Lottery

Today could be the day you win the lottery!

Not even a mouth-breathing, inbred country bumpkin who just fell off a turnip truck realistically thinks they will win the lottery **. Years ago, a well-known radio host said something that has stuck with me. I don’t remember his exact quote, but he basically said that “the lottery is a tax on stupid people, poor people, and people who don’t understand math”.

At various points in my life, I have been stupid, poor, and I don’t generally like math. 🙂

However, I have resisted the siren song of instant riches via lottery winnings. I’m in my mid-40’s, and I have spent less than $20, in total, on tickets to win the lottery. I don’t remember ever purchasing a scratch-off or instant ticket. The only times I remember spending money for lottery tickets was when the power ball jackpot was in the 100’s of millions, and my co-workers would take up money for an office pool, buying many tickets together.

Of course, we all knew it was a long-shot, and none of REALLY expected to win the lottery, but we could all hope, right? We could also all afford to chip in $5 or so. I don’t think it is wrong to blow a couple of bucks here and there on a lottery ticket. Instead of, say, getting junk food at the convenience store, spend that $1 attempting to win the lottery. Either way, you are still out a couple of dollars, but at least you are less likely to be overweight too.

Unfortunately, rather than playing for fun, many low-income people play for money. “If I can just win the lottery, all my financial worries will be over”. The lottery is the lifeboat they put their trust and hope in, as their financial ship is sinking. Unfortunately, the lottery is not only a poor-quality lifeboat, it is not even a good life vest.

Business Insider published an article in 2012 that took a close look at lottery programs, and the problems with the lottery.

As I said before, I don’t really like math. However, if we want to win the lottery, let’s first take a clear look at the math.

Statistics show that you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than you do of winning the lottery. According to this pdf, The Geography, Economics, and Politics of Lottery Adoption, by Coughlin, Garrett, and Hernandez-Murillo –  – “State lotteries have the lowest payout rate of any form of legal gambling…” Business Insider says simply, “The people who can least afford it are throwing away on average 47 cents on the dollar every time they buy a ticket.

Statistics show that the per capita lottery sales are being predominantly sold in low-income zip codes. The lottery is a punitive tax on the poor. Low-income, mostly uneducated people are the most prevalent buyers of lottery tickets. Even if they do win the lottery, because they are generally less educated, they are easier to take advantage of, and will usually end up squandering their windfall. They will often take the lump sum payout, so they wind up in the highest tax bracket for that year, and generally lose at least ½ of their winnings to taxes.

In some cases, they even wind up in worse financial condition than they were before they won. All their “friends” and “family” begin to come out of the woodwork, asking for help or to borrow money for a car or some “sure-fire” business venture. The winners will often buy luxury items on credit, such as fine automobiles, jewelry, and big homes, rather than purchasing the items with their new-found cash. Once the lottery winnings are gone, they still owe for the purchases made on credit, and now have no way to make the payments.

According to a 2009 survey conducted by UT-Arlington, instant tickets in Texas were more likely to be purchased by an unemployed person than by someone who was employed or by a retiree. Corresponding with UT-A’s findings, Indiana U’s study from 1994 which found that from 1983 to 1991, as unemployment rates rose, so lottery sales tended to rise.

In other words, those who had little to no income due to unemployment, who should be using their limited income for food, shelter, job hunting, etc, were more likely to spend it on the lottery. No doubt, they were hoping for a quick solution to their financial woes from unemployment. “If I can just win the lottery, things will be ok.

So, knowing that we are not likely to win the lottery, and knowing that winning the lottery is probably not even a good idea long term, you may be wondering why I titled this post, “How to Win the Lottery”.

Instead of the “instant ticket”, try this:

  1. Get a pickle jar, peanut butter jar, shoe box, etc. Make sure it is clean.
  2. Make a hole in the top.
  3. The entire month, put the money you would normally spend on the lottery, in the container. A $1 here, $5 there, $10-$20 if the jackpot goes high. If you are like many lottery players, you may average $15-$20/week on tickets. Whatever you would typically spend each month, put it in the jar. Throw your loose change in too… after all, you can spend coins to win the lottery too!
  4. At the end of the month, go to the bank, and deposit whatever is in the jar. Do not spend this money for anything. Once you give this money to the clerk to buy a lottery ticket, you don’t get the money back, right? Same idea here… Once you give this money to the bank teller, you don’t get it back (at least not right away).
  5. Each month for the next year, put your “lottery money” in the bank. One year after you start, if you average $20/week, you will have over $1000 in your account. If you were to do this for 20 years, you would have over $20,000. This of course does not include any interest you may have earned on that money.
  6. Best thing is… using my “sure-fire winning system”, you are “guaranteed” to “win the lottery”, by saving the money you would have normally thrown away playing the lottery.

Have you ever played your state lottery? Have you ever played a national lottery? How much, on average, do you spend on the lottery? Did you ever win the lottery?

 

**No offense to mouth-breathing, inbred bumpkins who just fell off a turnip truck. 🙂

10 ways to Host a Garage Sale and Win

A garage sale can be a win-win deal!

Garage sale season is coming! Want to earn extra money for the upcoming holidays? Want to get rid of some of the stuff around your house? Hosting a garage sale is a great way to do both.

A few years ago, we hosted a garage sale and earned over $500 cash in one weekend, while getting rid of things that had been cluttering up our home. None of our items were over $50, and very few of them were over $20 each. Most of them were in the $1 to $5 range. We followed several of the strategies I have listed below. Using them can help you get the most from your garage sale efforts:

  1. Start with the end in mind. What is most important to you? Do you mostly just want to get rid of excess stuff? Do you want to make a lot of cash? Do you want to have a combination of both? Do you have the time to plan and implement strategies for a successful garage sale? Would you be better served by dropping everything off at Goodwill?
  2. Start planning. Assuming you decide to proceed with a garage sale, plan your garage sale to succeed. Grab your calendar. Check family obligations, school events, and vacation/travel plans. Then check for holidays, school events, and climate trends. The longer people stay, the more likely they will buy something. Seriously, don’t plan your garage sale for holiday weekends, and don’t plan for the hottest/coldest time of the year. You want the greatest number of people to attend, so schedule your garage sale for maximum success.
  3. Start organizing. Pick a place in the house for future garage sale items to reside until the sale. When something is on longer wanted, immediately put it in that area. If you know where you will hold the garage sale, start thinking about how to organize it… clothes here, tools over there. Put large bright colored toys near the road, so they attract the eye.
  4. Location, Location, Location. Like real estate, a garage sale needs to be in the right place for maximum success. A residential neighborhood near a busy intersection is best. If your area has very little traffic, or if you live in a gated apartment complex, do you have a friend who lives in a busy area? Ask if you can have your sale there. Sweeten the deal; offer to help sell their stuff.
  5. Teamwork. Speaking of selling their stuff, a “multi-family” garage sale or a neighborhood garage sale is very popular with customers. Shoppers know they can see more stuff with less driving. Recruit your kids, or borrow someone else’s kids to help. Take shifts so everyone has time to eat, stretch their legs, or take a potty break. Have a trustworthy person stay with the cash ALL THE TIME. Team up with others, advertise together, build friendships, and sell more!
  6. Follow Rules. If you do decide to have a multi-family or neighborhood garage sale, or even if you go it alone, be sure to check with your local HOA or government officials to be sure you are not violating any laws, ordinances, or guidelines. Paying a fine from your garage sale proceeds would not be fun!
  7. Advertise. To get the greatest number of people to attend your garage sale, they have to know about your garage sale. The newspaper classifieds are the most common place to start. Make simple signs, with arrows, on bright, neon color posterboard, and put them at intersections. Use a wide-tip marker, so drivers can READ the sign. Craigslist is great option, as it is free, you can run the ad several days before the sale, it’s free, and you can add photos of some of the items. Also, it is free. 🙂
  8. Take Life Easy. Lay out your sale so that it is easy for your customers. The longer they stay, the more likely they are to buy. Think about traffic flow and parking. Think about traffic flow for the people walking around shopping. Hang your clothes up. Get a tag gun, and tag clothes with prices. Put stuff on tables, so Grannie doesn’t have to kneel down to look at it.
  9. Get Real. Even though the movie just came out, no one is going to pay $40 for a dirty, torn Teenage Mutated Ninja Tortise backpack from back when you were a kid. Ask for a realistic price. Your sentimental value is worthless to others.
  10. VIP Service. The longer people stay at your garage sale, the more likely they will buy something. Have t-shirt bags / plastic grocery bags available so they can carry their loot to the car. Offer to help them carry stuff to the car. Offer them cold water / hot chocolate, depending on the weather; sell it for a little extra cash, or offer it free if they purchase a certain amount. Have fun, upbeat music playing. Have a “free” box, especially with small things for little kids… old toy cars, etc. Give their kid something free, and a parent will feel more obligated to buy something from your garage sale.

Your customers have your money in their pocket. Treat them special, make them like you, make it easy for them to shop, and they will give that money to you.

Your turn… Have you had a successful garage sale? Tell us about it. What worked in your case? What do you wish you had tried? What suggestions do you have to make a garage sale rock?

10 HABITS TO BUILD WEALTH

WILL YOUR HABITS BUILD WEALTH OR WANT?

Follow these habits to build wealth

I have been thinking about habits and wealth, and decided I would write an article listing ten habits to build wealth. We have two children, and have been trying to teach them about self-discipline / self-control, and the habits we build.

Habits are great things in some ways, as we can do things without having to really focus on what we are doing. They can be time savers. Unfortunately, they can also be hard masters when they are bad habits. They can trap us into doing “the same old same old”, and prevent us from seeing solutions and new paths to solve problems.

I will begin using a family budget consistently again. I also plan to begin using a budget for my small business. I believe living on a budget is one of the most important habits to build wealth. It is a habit I used to have, but life and busy-ness got in the way. I got out of the habit of using a budget. I would float from month to month, knowing approximately how much money was in the bank. However, I quit regularly budgeting.

I didn’t balance the checkbook. I never really planned for Christmas, vacation, birthdays, and other special occasions when we would need to spend extra money. I would move money from savings over to checking to cover, and I had a couple of bounced checks. The money was in the savings account to cover, but the credit union did not automatically move the money, so the checking account went negative and we got hit with an overdraft fee. No more.

If you are reading this blog, I am guessing you are interested in finances and in wealth creation. So, let’s talk about 10 habits to build wealth.

1. Budget – Prepare a budget each month, before the month begins. This is something Dave Ramsey preaches as a major habit to build wealth. This is the first month I started doing that again. I remember when I was doing a budget regularly; it felt like I had gotten a raise. I knew how much we had, how much we would need to spend, when we had money coming, and how much we should have left at the end of the month.

2. Self-Control – For those of us who believe the Bible, one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control.

  • Be willing to say “no” or “not yet”. I waited three years to buy a new flat-screen HD TV because we don’t have cable/satellite, and we didn’t really watch much TV when we did have it. However, we do “rent” movies from the library, and we have a couple of game consoles. I had the money, and I went to various stores several times, each time, intending to buy. At the last minute, after walking the aisles, I would decide to wait.
  • Teach others self-discipline by example. I remind our children of that now… “It is ok to wait to spend your money. Daddy waited three years for a new TV.” Several times they were with us when I was looking at the TV’s. Frankly, I think they were shocked when we actually walked out of the store WITH a new TV. 🙂

3. Eat wisely – Don’t wreck your month’s budget for a few meals. Using your food budget wisely is one of my habits to build wealth consistently every month.

  • Most of the time, we choose to eat at home. We gave up a lot so that my wife is able to stay at home. One of the things we chose to sacrifice is eating out. Of course, when we were both working full-time outside the home, we ate out more often because of the convenience… we would both be getting home late, and starting dinner after we got home meant that we were eating right before bed. Now, she is home and has the flexibility to make healthy, filling, inexpensive meals.
  • Creating habits to build wealth require a little bit of ingenuity. I am only partially joking when I say we read the menu “right-to-left”… we look at the prices, then see what we will be eating. When we eat out, we do it inexpensively. However, we still spend roughly 2x as much per meal when we eat out, compared to when we eat at home. Of course, “nice” restaurants, or expensive meals would cost even more.
  • We usually eat at Mexican restaurants. Why? Because, first, coming from SE Texas, we love Mexican food. In addition, they generally offer free tortilla chips. We find ourselves munching on the chips before the meal arrives, and with our meal. We end up taking ½ our dinner home. I take leftovers to work for lunch during the week.
  • Often, R and I will split a meal. At a steakhouse, we each get a side salad (one usually comes with the entrée), and often, bread is included. By the time the steak is served, ½ is plenty for each of us. In fact, we usually don’t get dessert because we are comfortably full already.

4. Treats in moderation – Treats are nice, but moderation is one of the habits to build wealth.

  • Drink water (usually free, and better for your health), instead of paying for sodas.
  • Instead of paying $5-$8 each for a dessert at the restaurant, go buy a ½ gallon of ice cream and some toppings. Bake some cookies or brownies, add your ice cream, and make your own “lava brownie”. You can have dessert once a week at home for the next month for what you would spend on one dessert per person.

5. Garden – Besides producing food, gardening teaches patience, which is one of the best habits to build wealth. Just as you can’t pull up the plants after a week and look at what is going on underground, you shouldn’t pull your investments out and mess with them on a whim.

  • Start a garden. Food from your garden is better quality, better tasting, and better for you. Once you overcome the initial startup costs, the food is also less expensive. Research Square Foot Gardening.
  • If you can’t garden (apartment dwellers, etc), find a local farmer’s market.

6. Have a side hustle – Working hard is one of the best habits to build wealth.

  • I got the term “Side Hustle” from Michelle at Making Sense of Cents. She began her “side hustle” blog in her spare time, built it consistently, and eventually, her part time work grew into a more-than full-time career. Michelle is now in business for herself, and does blog management, website management, ghost writing, web design, and freelance writing, among other things. You can hire her if you need those services.
  • Another blog I like is ClubThrifty.com. Holly is another hard working entrepreneur. I have learned a lot about blogging and ways to earn additional income from her site.
  • Long before I had heard the term, I have had a side hustle. At various times over the past decade, while holding a full-time day job, I have delivered pizza nights and weekends for Dominos, delivered newspapers seven days per week before going to my day job, and picked up many extra shifts at my current day job employer. I often worked 12+ hour days, sometimes seven days a week, sleeping in my car on my lunch hour. Not what I wanted to do long-term, but it can really help provide additional money in the short-term.

7. Start a business – Currently, in addition to my full-time day job, I also have a small business. I guess it could also be considered a side hustle.

  • I am a mobile DJ. I average over 100 events per year. It is something I am very good at, and I make excellent money doing it. I have considered doing it full-time, but I’m the sole breadwinner, the industry is feast-or-famine (at least in my geographic area), and I need to provide health insurance.
  • Finding legal ways to have a business pay for things you need is a habit to build wealth. Many things in your personal life can be tax deductible if you have a business. In my case, for example, I am able to use business income to pay for my cell phone, internet service, alarm monitoring, part of the rent & utilities, some fuel & maintenance on my vehicles, office supplies, music (as a DJ, I have to purchase music), and other things. Obviously, check with your tax professional for details for your individual situation. … Actually, having a professional to help guide you with tax and legal matters is also a habit to build wealth!

8. Give – Giving is one of the most important habits to build wealth.

  • Give your treasure. Give money and help meet the needs of others.
  • Give your time. Your time is important also.
  • Give your talents. Use your abilities and bless others.
  • Give to a local charity, where you can see that they are using the money well.

9. Education – Never stop learning. Learning is one of the most important habits to build wealth.

  • College can be a great investment in yourself, if you do it the right way.
  • The first two years of most college degrees are primarily a re-hash of the last two years of high school. If you are/know a high school junior/senior, take a CLEP test as soon as you finish a course. The material is still fresh in your mind, and if you pass the CLEP, you now have a college level credit for the class. That is one less class you will need towards your degree, one less semester you are stuck in a classroom. CLEP tests are also less expensive than the course and books for college.
  • Consider earning your Associate’s degree first. Many Associates degrees pay as well as or nearly as well as a Bachelor’s degree. If you decide later you want the Bachelor’s, the credits will generally apply, so you are already half way there. You are potentially earning an income two years earlier, and have two years more “hand’s on” experience.
  • See if your employer will cover or reimburse some of your expenses for education. Taking advantage of programs offered for free education can be a great habit to build wealth.
  • Intern for a local business. You don’t have to be in college. Do you know someone in your future career field? Offer to work part-time for/with them for 3-6 months. See what they do on a daily basis. Make sure this is REALLY the career you want, and gain practical experience in the field.
  • Educate yourself. If you know you are not interested in climbing the corporate ladder, you may not need a college degree. You can still take college courses. I am a sophomore, almost a junior, based on the number of college credits I have. I simply took courses I was interested in. You can take online courses. You can check out relevant books from the library. You can learn from YouTube. You can just roll up your sleeves and jump in for on-the-job learning.

10. Under promise and over deliver –  Surprise those you work for, whether your boss, a client, or a co-worker. Do more than you promise to do. Come in earlier than you are expected to. Stay a few minutes later. Instead of only providing 10 habits to build wealth, throw in a few additional bullet points. 🙂

What are your top three, top ten, top twenty habits to build wealth? What habits are you weakest in, and how do you plan to change? What habits are you strongest in?