If you’ve ever wondered where your paycheck went, you are not alone. Most of us spend money on small expenses that may seem insignificant, but over time slowly drain our funds. Money in the bank equals flexibility, freedom and choices. If a $10 a day latte habit seems minor, consider the expense of more than $3,600 per year.
Making small, relatively painless changes can yield big savings. Here are a dozen ways to keep cash in your pocket with marginal sacrifice.
1. Pay cash.
Credit cards are useful when the balance is paid off in full each month, however, carrying over a debt will erode your finances. Make it a habit to pay for some expenses with cash and notice how quickly your money disappears. It will be a reminder to think twice before completing that nonessential purchase.
2. Brew your own gourmet coffee or tea.
Invest in a coffee pot, a travel mug, a coffee bean grinder and a bag of specialty coffee or beans. Or, make yourself a cup of hot Rooibos tea. If you skip the sugary syrups, you will save even more in dollars and pounds.
3. Cook meals at home.
There is no excuse for culinary ignorance. With the abundance of cooking shows, food magazines, online recipes, and menu planning options, you are one click away from a quick and easy meal. Stock up on staples and get cooking.
4. Pack a lunch.
By spending $5 to $10 each day on lunch, you are blowing as much as $50 a week on eating out, or $2,600 over the course of a year. Use leftovers from the night before and take advantage of not getting stuck in the drive-through line. Also, keep snacks in your desk drawer – nuts, granola bars, dried fruit – instead of hitting the vending machine for an afternoon energy boost.
5. Wash and detail your own car.
If you have access to a strong hose and a driveway, consider a scrub-it-yourself car wash rather than a full-service detail. It’s great exercise and you won’t be tempted by the items at the gift shop.
6. Adjust the thermostat before you leave home.
Set the temperature higher in the summer and lower in the winter, then crank it back up or down when you return. A programmable thermostat or an app on your phone works wonders.
7. Dry clean sparingly.
It’s not necessary to send your garments to the cleaners after every wear. The strong cleaning solvent can damage your delicate clothing. Depending on how hard you are on your outfit, a light brushing and spot treatment may be all that’s required before hanging your suit or dress back in the closet for another occasion. Dry clean only as needed.
8. Go green.
Invest in an insulated water bottle and a water filtration system. Save money on bottled water and do your part to save the environment.
9. Take advantage of your local library.
Often forgotten, it can be a great source for books, magazines and DVDs. If you have a tablet or an e-reader, check out e-books from the comfort of your own home and you’ll never have to worry about late fees.
10. Eliminate expenses for things you can do yourself.
Give yourself a manicure or trade manicures with a similarly budget-minded friend. Swap your pricey gym membership for a running group, a walk with a neighbor, or exercising at home to an online workout.
11. Shop around for a good rate.
If you carry a credit card balance, do your best to pay it off as soon as possible. In the meantime, consider transferring the balance to a card with a lower interest rate and no annual fees. Watch for deals on balance transfer offers and make sure to read the fine print.
12. Take higher deductibles on your auto insurance.
You may be paying more than you need to, especially if you don’t file a lot of insurance claims. Get several quotes from different insurance companies to seek out the best deal.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Buy less, choose well.” It’s one Melissa Rogers references when she works with her clients, minimizing clutter and making space in their homes.
Here are her thoughts on tweaking the adage to “Keep less and choose well.”
If you’re still reeling from all of the gifts you gave and received this holiday season, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed, wondering where all of these new things will go. The presents have all been opened, the guests have gone home, and your house…..is a disaster.
Who has the energy to clean AGAIN after all the excitement has fizzled out? It might feel tempting just to keep all of your new treasures in piles around the house instead of trying to make room and put them away. But I want to encourage you to be proactive!
What if we pledge to jump into the piles of old and new that may still be sitting around the house, and do something about it? What if we start thinking about removing the old and unused items to help free up space for the new and exciting things? What if we shift our focus to really challenge ourselves to think about what we’re keeping and why?
To help you begin navigating how to decide what will stay and what will go, I want to give you a couple tips to get started.
Sort your new trinkets and clothing, then group them in the area where you store your existing items. So, if you got new serving dishes, place them next to the cabinet or shelf where you keep your other serving pieces.
When you’re ready to sort, be sure ALL of the similar items are accessible. This will help the examination process to move more quickly.
As you assess which items are now obsolete, be prepared to make a harsh decision to keep or purge.
Decluttering is definitely a mental game. It takes focus and commitment to truly make an impact. But I know you can do it! You are ready to clean out the unnecessary mess and create space for your most treasured belongings.
There are a few “matter-of-fact” questions you can ask yourself about the item in question. Being intentional will make the process easier and help you to clear out more space.
How many of this same item do I have?
How many do I NEED? (Would I use more than one at any given time?)
“How many gray sweaters and black slacks do I really need?”
Is the item important to me? (When is the last time I used it?)
I want to encourage you to take action. No step is too small!
Wouldn’t it be amazing to start the new year with a clear mind and a neat and orderly home?
Brew yourself a strong cup of coffee with your new coffee machine, get in the right frame of mind and get started today.
The New Year is a great time to start a new and improved way of eating. (Diet is an ugly word!) It’s helpful to think of modifying your food habits as a long term lifestyle change rather than a quick fix. But, when it comes to attending social events or eating out with family and friends, your efforts can easily jump off track without some prior planning.
Arrive With a Strategy
Most restaurants make their menu available online. To put your mind at ease, review their fare in advance and make a mental note of what works best with your new way of eating. If the menu isn’t accessible, jot down a few options that will be a breeze for the chef.
Avoid FOMO and Find Substitutes
When possible, order your meal first so you don’t second guess your choice as you hear what everyone else around the table is ordering. There’s also less pressure to miss out on a menu item if you have made your decision first. You may be surprised to learn you have set the ball in motion to a healthier choice for the person ordering next. Seek out alternatives to replace heavier, sugar-laden options. Most call for minimal effort, such as olive oil and lemon for salad dressing and steamed vegetables rather than fries.
Don’t Eat the Whole Thing
A bite is better than an entire plate of something you would consider off limits. The protocol of a business meal is “don’t share” and “don’t ask for a doggie bag,” but when dining out with family and friends, feel free to split an order of sweet potato fries or a piece of key lime pie. Rather than making it obvious you are watching your portions, enjoy a little and continue to make dazzling conversation. Your carb loading, or sugar eating friend, will be none the wiser.
Be Upfront With Trusted Friends
You might be most comfortable letting close friends know you have started a new lifestyle plan and need their support. Share that you would love to join them for dinner or cocktails but will be “skipping the liquor” for a while because your plan calls for a brief hiatus while you get back on track. Don’t make a big deal of your temporary restriction, rather, order a glass of sparkling water and lime and ask the server to put it in a champagne flute or wine glass. No need to talk about it all night!
Utilize a Wellness Coach
It’s fun and most productive when you have someone to go through the journey with you. You already know what you need to do. It’s a matter of follow through, and an accountability partner gives you the extra motivation, information and encouragement to “get the job done!” Jennifer Owen, owner and wellness coach at Ideal Weight Loss has some wonderful tips on her blog.
Don’t Look at the Scale
A better indicator of success is how you feel, in and out of your clothes. When you begin to lose the weight, you won’t need a piece of machinery to tell you that your clothes are looser or you have more energy.
Positive Tips for Staying on Track Include:
Keep a Journal. Counting how much water you drink, recording your food choices and tracking how you feel on a daily basis is a key to addressing what is working and where you need to adjust or improve. A fitness app is also a useful way to stay motivated and monitor your progress.
Make a Playlist. Ask your friends to share their playlist with you, browse existing playlists with a quick search or create your own. Find walking or running apps that will guide you through a 20 to 30-minute workout, while running, walking or dancing the minutes away.
Go Outside. Research shows spending time outdoors is good for you. According to Harvard Medical School, it raises your vitamin D levels, elevates your mood, improves your concentration and facilitates healing. Enough said!
Be Good to Yourself
We often equate food with love (I know I do!) and the habit is hard to break. Instead of going out to eat with your crew, find alternative ways of socializing and reward yourself at the same time.
A mani/pedi with friends. Call in advance and make an appointment so you don’t have to wait for each other after one of you is finished.
A free yoga session. Find an exercise program you want to try out and grab a friend to join you. Contact your local athletic wear retailer for suggestions as they generally know of free offerings.
A cooking class. Grab your partner, kids or a few friends and learn how to make tasty and nutritious meals or specialty desserts.
Splurge on something else. Instead of going for coffee and a big piece of white coconut cake at your local coffee spot, visit the cooking aisle in your favorite retail store for a new kitchen tool. Or, book a hair blow out, be on the lookout for a new pair of tennis shoes (on sale) or treat yourself to flowers for your kitchen table.
Visit a vineyard. Fight the urge to drink the entire bottle, limiting yourself to one glass of wine and enjoy the scenery with your friends. If you are totally alcohol-free, swap the vineyard for a drive in the country and pack a nutritious picnic lunch.
Despite the prevalence of texting and social media platforms, email still plays a vital role in how business gets done. In this interconnected world, it’s often the most common interaction people have with their clients and business associates. Take a moment to make certain you are maximizing this valuable tool and representing yourself well.
Follow these 9 email tips for a more polished, professional image.
Dictating your messages via voice to text is a wonderful convenience, but as anyone who has used it can attest, it’s extremely unreliable. Siri and her digital buddies have a way of twisting words no matter how clearly you think you’re speaking. Your message may not say what you intended it to say, so be sure to read it over and make corrections before sending to avoid miscommunication. This is especially important with business contacts you do not know well.
Stick to the Subject
Your subject line should succinctly explain why you are writing. Vague headings such as “touching base” don’t tell the recipient what you are contacting them about or why they should open your message. Unclear subject lines can also make that particular email more challenging to locate later. If something is time sensitive, communicate that in the subject line along with the general topic.
Mind Your Manners
Just because you are dashing off a quick email message doesn’t mean you should suspend the niceties you would use in person. Just as a smile and a friendly hello enhance face-to-face interactions, greeting someone warmly and saying please and thank you are also crucial in an email. Compare these two examples: “Hi Tom. Just wondering when the report will be ready. Please let me know when you have a chance. Thank you.” will be better received than a terse “When will the report be ready?”
Brevity is Key
Many people get more emails than they can handle. Help make sure your messages are read by keeping them concise and to the point. Many people tend to shut down mentally when they see a lengthy email, or they set it aside thinking they’ll read it when they have more time – and end up never reading it at all. Keep it short and sweet.
One Topic at a Time
Help your recipients manage their emails better by sticking to one subject per transmittal whenever possible. While it’s tempting to list all the points you want to make in one message, it can be overwhelming to respond to a hodgepodge of requests – and difficult to go back later to find the information. Using one email per project or topic, reinforced with a clear subject line, will help everyone better keep track of information.
Insert the Recipient Last
It’s natural to begin an email by filling out the “to” field first, but this is actually the last thing you should do, especially in an important communication. Make sure everything is exactly how you want it to appear before adding the recipient’s email address. This eliminates any chance of accidentally hitting “send” before you are ready.
Sign Off Well
Your signature is an integral part of a professional-looking email. If your company doesn’t provide you with a formatted e-signature with the corporate logo, create your own by including the basics: your name, title, company name and contact info (with your main office number, your direct number, cell number and email address). Set it to appear at the end of every email you send automatically.
There’s a common tendency to read an email and leave it at that, especially when there is not an urgent need to reply. However, a two-second acknowledgment that you received and understand the message can prevent a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. It lets others know you are conscious of the constant barrage of emails people receive each day. Writing back “Received” or “Got it, thank you” is an easy way to let the sender know their email didn’t get lost in the shuffle.
Don’t Mix Business and Personal
Make sure your office email is strictly for work. It’s easy and free to create another email address for personal correspondence, so keep your professional email for business only. This will help you manage your business messages and prevent the clutter of spam, cute cat pictures and receipts from clogging your inbox. It also eliminates the distraction that comes with personal emails, e-newsletters and sales opportunities.
New Year’s Eve calls for a special celebration which often includes a particular type of dress code. Showing up dressed in the wrong attire can signal you are ill prepared, not aware or simply don’t care. None of which sends the right message for such a festive occasion. I am sharing my dress attire tips which have previously been featured on Inc.
White Tie is reserved for the most formal of occasions.
Women’s White Tie
Floor length evening gown
A wrap for cold winter evenings
Men’s White Tie
Black tailcoat (a man’s formal evening coat – slit at the back to form the illusion of a tail, shorter in front)
Same colored slacks with a single satin stripe (US), or double stripe (United Kingdom)
White piqué wing-collared shirt
White vest and white bow tie
White gloves (gray alternate)
Black patent shoes – no leather loafers
Matching colored (black) dress socks
Black Tie requires formal wear.
Men’s Black Tie
Black bow-tie and cummerbund
White pique shirt, cufflinks and studs
Suspenders (braces) optional
Black dress socks
Black patent shoes
Women’s Black Tie
Cocktail length dress
Black Tie Optional
Men’s Black Tie Optional
Tuxedo or a dark suit
White dress shirt
Leather dress shoes
Women’s Black Tie Optional
Floor length gown
Silk wide leg pants and beaded top
Creative Black Tie allows room for unique personalization. Both women and men can embellish with accents such as imaginative jewelry, lively bow-ties, socks and theme related accessories.
Cocktail fashion requires a dark suit and tie for men and a cocktail dress for women. When the festivities are in a tropical climate, the weight of the clothing should be adjusted for the temperature.
Festive attire still means “dress to impress.” While a suit is in order, men can have a little fun with color and fabric. Women have room to let their personal style shine through.
Business Casual or Dressy Casual is often confused with jeans and a tee. In fact, it is a sport coat, dress slacks, open-collar shirt and leather dress shoes for men; women choose from dresses, pant suits or a skirt-suit. Depending on the situation, Dressy Casual may also open the door for a pair of nice jeans and a colorful sweater or blazer. Your look should always say, “I put some effort into pulling this outfit together.”
Casual is what you would wear when enjoying a relaxed evening with friends. Jeans and a comfortable shirt for men and a pair of stylish slim jeans, sweater and riding boots for women would be a good, cold weather option for taking in a movie and dinner.
Certain fashion rules apply to every occasion.
Clothing should be in good repair with shoes polished to perfection.
Go easy on the jewelry and stick to fabrics that are suitable for the season (hello worsted wool; see you next summer, linen). Ladies, avoid anything too low-cut, short, clingy or otherwise overly revealing at an office get together.
If the expected dress isn’t clear, glean clues from the invitation. For example, a ballroom venue will likely be a dressier affair than an event at a restaurant. Evening gatherings are generally more formal than daytime affairs. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to the host and request clarification.
The bottom line when it comes to dress attire: it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
If your plans include traveling by car this holiday season, you’re not alone. Millions of people will be joining you on the highways for long drives to visit relatives and friends, with cars packed to the brim with kids, luggage and presents.
An enjoyable trip requires a good deal of thought and advance planning. Follow these tips to ensure your road trip is memorable for the right reasons.
Make a List
Be like Santa – make a list and check it twice. Start a checklist on your smartphone so you can add things as they come to mind. Organize by categories, such as presents, food and personal care. Location and climate will dictate how you pack your suitcase. Even basic items are easy to forget without a gentle reminder. Don’t overlook sunscreen, sunglasses, phone and iPad chargers, workout clothes, shoes, snacks and toiletries.
Take steps to get your vehicle ready. Doing so early allows time for any necessary repairs before your trip. In addition to regular maintenance, double check your tires and windshield wipers are in good shape for a long, winter haul. If you’re driving into freezing temperatures, be sure your vehicle is ready for colder weather.
Organize by Use
Pack so that things you will need access to most frequently are within easy reach. If you are stopping for the night along the way, keep a small bag packed with overnight essentials for everyone – toothbrushes, pajamas and that special stuffed animal – so when you arrive at your hotel, exhausted and ready for bed, you’re not fumbling around opening a variety of suitcases, trying to find your toothpaste.
Bring the Right Nutrition
A long drive is a stamina game. Do your best to have a good selection of healthy snacks that will give you the energy you need to stay alert on the road. Drinkable yogurts, easy to eat sandwiches, fresh fruits, popcorn, string cheese, multi-grain crackers, and energy bars are good choices. Do whatever is necessary to binge on gas station junk food. Be sure to pack plenty of water for everyone in the car.
Keep it Kid-Friendly
Minimize grumbling and backseat skirmishes by making sure kids have a few surprises. Put a goodie bag together for each child which includes some of their favorite snacks and a few surprises like a new book, a travel-version of a board game or other little treasures they can enjoy on the drive. Download a new movie for the kids to watch or treat them to a fun new game on their devices. A plastic laptop desk stocked with art supplies is a great way for younger kids to entertain themselves. Search your phone for ideas for road trip games for fun ideas to engage with each other as the miles go by.
Roll With It
Inevitably, there will be extra traffic on the roads, lines at gas pumps and the confusion of driving in a new place as you figure out where you’re going. Despite these potential frustrations, the goal is to stay relaxed and calm. Your attitude, good or bad, is contagious and will affect everyone in the car, so make an effort to remain composed in the face of little irritations.
There’s always a temptation to keep going a little further or get a few more miles in before stopping, whether it’s for a restroom break or for the night. But remember that when you take care of yourself along the way, you’ll arrive at your destination more refreshed and ready to jump into the festivities. Don’t exhaust yourself on the journey then spend a day or recovering from the trip.
Have a Good Time
A family road trip offers a chance to shift gears and enjoy new experiences together. Take advantage of this opportunity for an adventure. Don’t worry about getting there as fast as possible. Take time to stop, stretch your legs, see an attraction, have a picnic, throw a frisbee at a rest area and enjoy the ride.