Oct 18 2014

Five Budget Friendly Hobbies to Take Up

By |October 18th, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off|

Many people avoid outdoor activities because they do not want to spend their money. However, there are many free or inexpensive hobbies to pursue after work or on the weekends. It’s time to put down your iPhone and video game controllers and start living again.

Cast a Line

One of the oldest and still most popular “guy” hobbies is fishing. Fishing, whether for fun or to put food on the table, goes back centuries, even millennia. Anglers agree that pulling a fish out of the water is the ultimate experience. All you need is a quiet stream, lake, or a pier. After laying out a minimum of about $50 for a rod and reel, and anywhere from $10-$20 for a license, fishing is a free activity (depending on how much beer you bring along). Combined, the total price is about the cost of a new video game.

Catch a Wave

surfing - beach

Image via Flickr by Tiago J. G. Fernandes

Instead of surfing the Net, try actual surfing. Nothing tests your testosterone than dropping in on a 10-foot wave. Even as a beginner, a wave half that size can feel like a monster. Surfing is not only great exercise but boosts agility, balance, and coordination while building water confidence in ocean conditions. Although experts shell out big bucks for top-of-the-line equipment, a beginner’s surfing budget need not be large. As a novice, you will not need new equipment, and almost any surf shop will have an array of inexpensive, used surfboards of all sizes.

Brew a Beer

An indoor manly pursuit is home brewing. The bonus of this is sampling your beer afterward, another American male custom, and being able to brew anything from bocks to pale ales. Keep in mind that home brewing requires science, skill, and patience, as boiling and fermenting to bottling and actually drinking can take as long as a month and a half. However, with time you can acquire a skill that can give you immense joy for the rest of your life. Perhaps you will become the next king of microbrewers. Standard home-brewing kits, such as those from More Beer!, cost approximately $50-$75, while ingredient kits costs $20-$40.

Become a Skilled Marksman

How about taking up a new hobby that could save possibly save your life? Target shooting is the perfect outlet to vent your frustration after a long day at the office. Not only is target practice cathartic for stress, but it also has the added benefit of improving a skill set that could one day protect you (or your family) in the event of a dangerous situation. There are countless options for purchasing firearms both online and through a retailer, but by using an online gun auction site like Bidgunner, you’re more likely to score a deal and without compromising quality.

Whether your newfound hobbies be outdoorsy and athletic or indoors and less strenuous, or a combination of both, they can be quite rewarding on a personal and physical level. They may even lead to new lifestyles or careers. However, if picking up surfing, it might be too late to qualify for the Association of Surfing Professionals world tour, but as the Beach Boys sang, “Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world.”

This was a post by Randy Vulture, a freelance writer based out of Brooklyn, New York. When he’s not travelling back and forth between the west coast and southern states, he enjoys going to music festivals and getting the best new tips on finance and tech.

Oct 18 2014

Quick Home Improvement Ideas Perfect for Empty Nesters

By |October 18th, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off|

After raising a family in your home, it can feel pretty empty when the kids move away. One way for empty nesters to get past the deserted bedrooms and old décor is to renovate. A few simple projects can revitalize your home, and the suggestions below are meant to look great while still being cost-effective. And as these projects shouldn’t put too much of a strain on your checking account, you’ll still be in a good position to save for other priorities, like a vacation getaway or retirement.

Freshen up the walls – A little paint goes a long way, especially if you have decades’ worth of scuffs, scratches and nail holes on the walls from your kids. Pick up a few paint swatches, and reclaim these rooms with your own style and personality. Repainting or wallpapering is a relatively fast and affordable way to make a major impact on the look of your home.

Replace appliances and electronics – When was the last time you replaced your washing machine? Are you still watching a television that’s deeper than it is wide? Upgrading a few of these items will help modernize your home and may also reduce your energy bill since state-of-the-art washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers and televisions are often more energy-efficient than older models.

Reface kitchen cabinets and update fixtures – If you’re interested in updating the kitchen but can’t afford a complete remodel right now, consider kitchen cabinet refacing. Rather than replacing the entire cabinet, refacing involves replacing or refinishing the doors and hardware of your existing cabinets – updating the look of your kitchen for a fraction of the price. Add a new countertop or backsplash and update the fixtures, and your kitchen can look brand-new.

Update lighting options – Every well-designed home relies on good lighting to make it shine. If you’re tired of outdated light fixtures and table lamps, replace them with options that better suit your taste. The rest of your home improvements will look even better under lighting that’s carefully chosen to enhance a particular room.

Start a home improvement project today

Use these suggestions as a starting point, and begin to think of other ways to reclaim your home now that the kids have moved away. Perhaps you’re considering building a deck, adding a sun room or turning their bedrooms into an office or relaxation room. Just because you’re saving for these long-term home improvement goals, doesn’t mean you can’t spend a little money to update the look and feel of your home now. Set up automatic transfers from your checking account to save for larger renovations, and work within your remaining budget to make the cost-effective improvements above.

Sponsored content was created and provided by RBS Citizens Financial Group.
Oct 13 2014

Read Contracts and Ask Questions

By |October 13th, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off|

Have you ever been in the middle of taking out a loan for a mortgage, car loan, credit card, or anything else and felt like you were drowning in paperwork and legal jargon?

Have you ever sat across from a loan officer telling you about insurance or warranties or other things that sound very complicated and you feel pressured to make an uninformed decision?

If you’ve never had that feeling then you’re either lucky or you’re very good at reading contracts. Unfortunately there are not a lot of people who understand contracts or have access to a personal lawyer to review things like this. It’s up to you as a consumer to understand what you’re getting into. And how do you do that?

Ask Questions

If you are getting a loan and you don’t understand something, ask for clarification. If you still don’t get it, ask again. Ask to talk to someone else if you can’t understand it, and don’t move on until you know exactly what you’re getting into.

In the UK, there are a lot of people who were sold PPI, or Payment Protection Insurance, who didn’t really need it. Some people were misled to believe it was mandatory, and others may have had the policies added to their loan without their knowledge. These people were cheated out of money and now have to go through a painful process to reclaim PPI premiums they shouldn’t have been paying in the first place.

Talk to a Lawyer or Walk Away

If you’ve reviewed a contract and asked multiple questions, but you still don’t understand what they want you to sign then the best thing to do is to walk away and talk to a lawyer.

Most of us are not legal experts and it’s important to understand that. It’s good to do research on a particular subject, but most of the advice you’ll find online comes from people who also aren’t lawyers.

If you are truly concerned about getting ripped off then you should either talk to a lawyer or just walk away from the transaction entirely. A lawyer can give you appropriate advice and help avoid signing a bad contract, but it will cost you for his or her expertise. If you really don’t trust the contract, the salesperson, or both, then your best course of action might be to walk away.

Don’t sign something you don’t understand. Ask questions, talk to a lawyer, and if necessary just walk away.

Oct 10 2014

Is Now the Time to Buy a House?

By |October 10th, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off|

The Federal Reserve put out a report yesterday (October 8th) that led people to believe that interest rates are going to stay low for the immediate future. That’s bad for anyone looking to get a big return on money in a savings account, but it’s great news for anyone looking to buy a house.

As a result of this report, interest rates have fallen and this may be a great time to start looking for a mortgage.

When shopping for a house it’s important to make sure the price of the house is as low as possible, that you are buying in a city with low property taxes, and maybe most importantly, that you are buying at a time when interest rates are very favorable.

How Much Can You Save with Low Interest Rates?

Let’s look at an example. If you borrow $200,000 on a 30-year mortgage at today’s rates of around 4%, you are looking at a monthly payment of roughly $954.83. If interest rates go higher and that same 30-year mortgage is at 5%, the payments are going to rise to $1,073.64.

That’s a difference of $118.81 per month, which is obviously a substantial amount of money that would be nice to have in your pocket. But think about that much money every month for 30 years.

The exact same house with a $200,000 mortgage is going to cost an extra $42,771.60 over the life of the 30 year loan at a 5% interest rate as opposed to 4%.

$118 a month. $1,425 a year. $42,772 over 30 years. Think about all the things you could buy or money you could invest just by getting your home at a low interest rates.

Interest Rates are Truly at Historic Lows

With interest rates at such favorable rates you may want to find a mortgage that suits your needs right away. Nobody can tell the future so we don’t know if rates will stay the same or go up or down.

What we do know is that rates can’t really get much lower than they are now. A bank is in business to make money and at some point the rates just can’t get any lower without losing profitability.

Keep in mind that mortgage rates in the 1990’s were commonly around 7-9%, and rates in the 2000’s were rarely below 5%. If recent history is any indication, rates simply won’t go much lower than they are today.

While things like Federal Reserve reports give strong indications about where interest rates are going to go, there is no way to tell the future. It is possible that interest rates will stay this low for years, and even possible that they may go lower.

If you are prepared financially to buy your next house and have been waiting for one more reason to pull the trigger, today’s interest rates might just be that thing.

Oct 9 2014

Discover How Modern Barcode Scanners Can Upgrade Your Small Business

By |October 9th, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off|

These days, small business owners are faced with numerous challenges. One of them is represented by the meticulous selection of tools and equipment designed to facilitate daily assignments, save time and money and ensure a more enjoyable shopping experience for all clients. Barcode scanners are extremely important products that definitely fit in this category. Without a modern, portable, fully functional barcode scanner, most store owners would be unable to manage their inventory, organize their merchandise and ultimately run a thriving business.

Barcode Scanners

Barcode scanners have been around for quite some time now. As a matter of fact, store owners have had the chance to test their benefits for more than 5 decades in a row. The basic mechanism of these essential gadgets was tested and implemented by Edward Silver and Norman J. Woodward in 1949. More than 50 years later, the basic principle behind their functionality is basically the same: barcode printers are expected to make daily work-related responsibilities become more automatic and time-effective. Nonetheless, barcode scanners have suffered various alterations in terms of design over the course of time.

What Do Barcode Scanners Do?

Barcode scanners basically capture, read and store the data identified on the machine-readable side of barcode labels. They have been implemented very rapidly on an international scale to enable store owners to simplify store management-related tasks and save a lot of time and energy.

What Are the Advantages of Modern Barcode Scanning?

Increased Speed. What would happen if you suddenly decided to run your business without relying on barcode scanner to keep track of your inventory? In short, you would have to enter barcode information manually. This process is tiresome and time-consuming, to say the least. According to eHow, a barcode scanner can process one 12-digit code in the same amount of time that you would require to read and enter two of the 12 numbers.  Naturally, this means that modern barcode scanners enable users to focus on other equally important duties, like anticipating and addressing the needs and demands of their customers, for instance.

Data Integrity and Increased Accuracy. Human beings make mistakes. Your eyes get tired. Your mind is looking for prompt solutions to an endless string of business-related problems. At times, it can be very difficult to read and enter barcode information manually, especially when you are multitasking. Errors made by a keyboard operator can impact the store’s profit margins and complicate your work. Did you really think that skilled human operators can do no wrong? In this case, you may want to reconsider. According to Street Directory, 10 keying errors are associated with every one thousand characters entered by keyboard operators. OCR’s (Optical Character Readers) may lead to one error for every ten thousand reads. On the other hand, more modern laser technology could be responsible for only one error recorded for every 70 million data entries. These numbers indicate that a great barcode scanner can ensure a superior level of accuracy, protecting data integrity and safeguarding store owners from costly mistakes that could affect their profit margins.

Inventory Control. Every single company needs to keep track of its inventory. How do you know how many packages exit and enter your warehouse on a daily basis? A barcode scanner gives you the most accurate answer to this question, enabling you to maintain a strict control over your merchandise. Furthermore, if and when you’re delivering goods to your clients, you can connect their regular inventory control info with online portals to allow clients to check out package status. A barcode scanner enables store owners to gain full control over their commodities, minimize or eliminate financial losses associated with theft and/or misplaced items, and boost the quality of their customer service.

Cost. According to Chron Small Business, as barcode scanners have become widely available, their manufacturers have decided to reduce their price tags and play the affordability card. Even small companies with very limited financial possibilities can find, buy and use an affordable type of barcode scanner, download online barcode fonts, label their packages and start keeping track of their inventory. Most large-scale companies agree on the fact that barcode technology is much more accessible and straightforward than other inventory control strategies that are often way too complex and labor-intensive.

Versatility and Portability. When you go in favor of a modern barcode scanner like the one brought to you by Shopify, you discover two advantages associated with a sleek, portable and lightweight gadget: versatility and ease of use. This handy piece of equipment can scan both printed and digital barcodes and can connect wirelessly to your POS solution, allowing you to manage your inventory in a stress-free, simplified manner, anytime, anywhere.

Sep 29 2014

Make Your Own Luck

By |September 29th, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off|

Every day you will hear someone complain about their lack of luck. Almost as often, you will hear someone tell you about their good luck. While most people might tell you otherwise, the concept of luck in terms of success is overrated. Instead, a common trait among successful people is their ability to capitalise on random events, to pursue the things they enjoy, and to constantly pay attention to the world around them. In short, they make it possible to “get lucky.”

Capitalise on Chance Encounters

dr seuss

Theodore Geisel is known around the world as Dr. Seuss. His children’s books are among the most famous of all time with over 600 million copies sold. The Cat in the Hat was written as the result of a challenge to write a book consisting solely of the 250 words that all first graders should know. It went on to become one of his most famous titles. His works has been adapted many times, including 11 television specials, 4 feature films, a Broadway musical and four television series.

The fact that anyone has ever heard of Dr. Seuss is due to his taking advantage of a chance encounter. According to Geisel, he was on his way home to burn the manuscript for And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry StreetThe book had been rejected by dozens of publishers and had just once again been denied. On his way home, Geisel ran into an old classmate from Dartmouth College. Over drinks, Geisel found out his old classmate worked for Vanguard Press, while his friend discovered Geisel was a writer. The outcome was the first publication of arguably the most famous children’s book author in history.

Pursue the Things You Enjoy

Britain’s Victoria Coren started her career as a writer at age 14 when her first article was published. In addition to her creative interests, she also wanted to make friends and meet boys, and she figured that learning how to play poker could accomplish both. She soon became a regular player in her brother’s home game and found that she really enjoyed the game.

Victoria’s success as a writer continued, and she had her own weekly column by the time she was 17. However, she refused to give up on playing a game she so enjoyed. As her writing career flourished, she also began to work with the BBC as a frequent host, commentator and presenter, while poker was still considered only a pleasant past time.

She began to play some small buy-in poker tournaments and found she enjoyed them as well. In 2006, when a EPT event was held in London, Coren thought it would be fun to play in a big event and entered. She won the event, becoming the first female champion and took home £500,000 – nearly $1 million.

In 2014, she entered another EPT Main Event tournament, this time in San Remo, Italy. Once again she won, making history once again as she became the first player to win two EPT Main Event titles. Her share of the prize pool was over £476,000 – over $600k. In her post-victory interviews, she continued to stress that you should play poker to enjoy it and to have fun.

Listen to What Is Happening Around You

Mark Knopfler, the singer and songwriter for the rock band Dire Straits, is known for a number of hit songs. The most popular of them all is Money for Nothing. Surprisingly, the song’s origins did not come from some sudden self-realisation that being a rock star was an easy way of making a lot of money. Instead it came from a conversation that Knopfler overheard while shopping.

While shopping for appliances one day, Knopfler overheard an employee complaining about the life of rock stars. The store employee was standing in front of a television display, some of which he evidently had to move. He ranted about how the guys “on MTV ain’t working” and how “I should’ve learned how to play the guitar.” Knopfler took the rant and turned it into one of rock’s most iconic songs.

Success is seldom solely the result of a pressure-fuelled drive to be the best. Luck is not something that happens; it’s something that successful people allow to happen. Sometimes, it is important to stop and share with a lost acquaintance, and to always remember to keep doing the things you enjoy while simultaneously trying to reach your goals. Simply paying attention to your surroundings during day to day life can really pay off. Most successful people will tell you that by keeping your eyes and ears open for unexpected opportunities while also pursuing your passions is a winning recipe for making your own luck.