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Living More Frugally By Trimming Your Monthly Expenses

Often, when people discuss living frugally, the discussion turns to saving a little extra cash by skipping that daily gourmet coffee or dining out less often. But when circumstances warrant trimming more than a few discretionary purchases, it is time to find ways to save more significantly on the monthly expenses. A close examination of one’s budget often reveals that savings, in amounts both both large and small, can be found.

1. Getting A Grip: In order to find ways to trim the budget, first one must know where the money is going. A review of spending habits over the past twelve months is helpful, as it will take into account seasonal expenses, but even a review of three months’ spending is a good starting point. Keeping a journal of every penny spent will provide a detailed perspective of any wasteful discretionary spending.

2. Look At The Big Picture: Once the household budget records are collected, start the review with the largest expenses, as they offer the largest potential savings. For most people, that means housing. By reducing housing costs, households can often trim hundreds of dollars per month from their expenses. If homeowners cannot or do not wish to downsize or move to a more affordable home, savings can still be realized by looking for a less expensive homeowner’s insurance policy, or by adopting energy saving practices to reduce utility costs. Another large expense that can often be reduced is vehicle expenses, by continuing to drive one’s current vehicle after paying it off, or choosing to purchase a pre-owned or more fuel efficient vehicle when replacing one’s current car.

3. No Savings Too Small: For recurring monthly bills, even small amounts of savings can quickly add up. For instance, by choosing a pre-paid cellular service rather than a monthly service plan, a cell phone user may save fifty or even one hundred dollars per month. While that in and of itself is a sizable savings, consider also that, over the course of a year, this snowballs into a $600 to $1200 savings! Similarly, reducing cable television subscriptions, eliminating landline phone service, and cutting subscriptions to magazines or online entertainment, can yield several hundred dollars of savings per year. Even transferring a credit card balance to an account with a more favorable interest rate can save a borrower significant interest charges.

4. Find Money At The Grocery: Many household purchases, such as food and household necessities, are essential expenses. However, how much a family spends on groceries can be significantly reduced by smart shopping at the grocery store. Clipping coupons, and then using them when the product is on sale, can add up to substantial savings on grocery bills. The recent return to popularity of coupon shopping, and the ease of printing coupons from online couponing websites, can give a household significant relief from rising grocery bills.

5. Keep Trimming The Fat: After considering the household budget and making a first round of expense cuts, commit to making a periodic review. By undertaking quarterly reviews of the household budget, additional savings opportunities may surface.

February 15, 2012   No Comments

Start Something New Every Morning

Here’s an idea to put to work with your small business, one you can apply to your work no matter what you do whether you’re a real estate developer, a baker, an artist, a copy writer or an inventor: Every morning, you probably hop on your computer and check your emails. Tomorrow when you wake up, don’t do that. Instead, use those early minutes of the day to create something new.

Put together a new banner ad, write a new article, make a new contact and start a new business relationship, but take the first hour of the day and use it to focus on what new things you’re going to experience in your immediate future. Don’t waste that hour reading up on how everyone responded to what you did yesterday, use it to make people respond to something you’re going to do today.

The approach that people have to communication and business on the internet is quite often totally backwards. They’re more focused in studying past successes than pursuing new ones. Don’t fall into that trap. It’s true that you can learn from your mistakes, but dwelling on them suggests a timidity about making new ones, and making new mistakes is how you learn from them, not by focusing on ones you made yesterday or a week ago.

Say you put in a proposal at your favorite freelancing website yesterday. You’re probably eager to see if any of those proposals got a response. Why not put in five more proposals before checking? The sting of disappointment when your proposals are turned down hurts a little less because you’re not focusing on your past mistakes, you’re focusing on future opportunities.

Many bloggers do their best work in the morning for this very reason. At 7 AM, there’s no telling how the day is going to turn out and anything is possible. It’s exciting to start a new day full of possibility, and the easiest way to squander that excitement is to immediately start worrying about whether the client replied to that email, whether that banner ad you designed yesterday is drawing in hits, whether you have any positive comments on the new video you posted and on and on.

Use lunchtime to focus on the past if you like, but use the morning to create something new, to do something exciting. As fun as it might be to look and see if you’re getting any extra hits from that new blog directory you just submitted to or whether your new ad campaign is working, the bottom line is that it’s not getting you anywhere to obsess over those factoids early in the morning. Start something new every time you get out of bed and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish in a day.

February 10, 2012   No Comments

Sock It to Me Sweepstakes Winners

We want to thank everyone that entered a non-profit organization in our January 2012 Sock It to Me Sweepstakes.  We received hundreds of nominations.  Here are the winners:

Name of the Non-Profit Place
Operation: Kid Equip 1st Place – 300 socks
Wrapped in HIS Warmth 2nd Place 180 socks
First Chance Foundation 3rd Place – 120 socks
Bethlehem Inn 4th Place 60 socks
Carry the Fire 4th Place 60 socks
Es Amor Servicios Cristianos 4th Place 60 socks
First Assembly of God 4th Place 60 socks
Friday Night Supper Program 4th Place 60 socks
Helping Hands at St Paschals Church 4th Place 60 socks
Inside Dharma, Inc 4th Place 60 socks
Operation Christmas Child 4th Place 60 socks
Scarlet Revolution 4th Place 60 socks
The Night Ministry 4th Place 60 socks

Please support these non-profit organizations or the organization of your choice.  It’s important to give back so those less fortunate can succeed.

February 8, 2012   1 Comment

10 Wholesale Items To Build Easter Baskets

The Easter basket is an important tradition for many children. If you have lots of baskets to create, such as for all your nieces and nephews or for a class full of kids, you can save a considerable amount of money by buying the treats for the baskets wholesale. You can even buy the baskets wholesale.

1. Easter Stuffed Animals are an adorable addition to any basket and incredibly inexpensive when you purchase them in bulk. Choose from a chick, bunny or lamb. If you want, mix and match the stuffed animals or put one of each in each basket. You can also put realistic looking stuffed bunny in the baskets.

2. No Easter basket is complete without several Plastic Easter Eggs filled with sweet treats or other surprises. Get at least five eggs per basket. What you put in each egg is completely up to you. If you prefer, get the mini plastic eggs for a cute little basket. Give the basket a sports theme by filling it with sports themed eggs.

3. Bunny ears headbands add a touch of silliness to an Easter basket. The adorable white and pink ears rest on top of a comfortable, snap-on headband. They are a perfect addition to a set of baskets given to a class of kids.

4. Jelly Beans and other candies are a must for any basket. Use the jelly beans to fill the plastic Easter eggs or leave them in the package and give each child an entire bagful in their baskets.

5. Easter grass simply needs to go in the bottom of the basket. You may regret it and the parents of the children may not appreciate it, but the colorful strands of plastic are an essential tradition (a tradition that makes a big mess). You’ll get an assortment of cheerful pastel colors, so feel free to mix and match in the baskets.

6. Inexpensive and colorful Easter slide puzzles add a bit of fun. Kids will spend minutes or hours trying to solve each puzzle.

7. Add some more fun to each basket by tucking in an Easter paddle ball game. Buying multiple paddle ball games in bulk means you’ll pay less than $1 per each, even though the kids will get hours of fun out of them. The games come in an assortment of Easter themed prints. If you prefer, you can get inspirational paddle ball games for the baskets.

8. Get creative with the Easter bunny Hatchem Eggs Growing Pet. After opening the egg, a child places it in water and watches it grow. It’s a fun and slightly different Easter treat.

9. Add sparkle to the baskets with 2-tone Putty Eggs. The putty inside the plastic egg is both slimy and sparkling.

10. Don’t forget to finish the basket by Easter

February 6, 2012   3 Comments

Small Business Web Design Mistakes To Avoid

1. Ensure That Grammar and Spelling Is Correct
Many small businesses believe that they should not concern themselves too much with spelling and grammar. The most important part, to them, is that word gets out about their products and services. No matter how passionate and professional they may be about what they do, it does not matter to the customer if they have poor spelling and grammar on their website. It is important to check every bit of writing for mistakes before it goes public.

2. Do Not Create a Confusing Layout
When a business wishes for people to get around their site with little problems, they should make sure that their layout is not confusing. If a person has to guess where a link is, the business is not doing a good job with their design. It should be very clear where everything is, and everything should work properly. It is never a good idea to try to be too creative; going for something artistic usually means that nothing is where it should be. People expect to navigate a website flawlessly.

3. Choose a Color Scheme That Makes Sense
Any and all colors used on the website should complement each other in some way. No matter how perfect the text on the website may be, it does not matter if the reader cannot make out anything. It is vital that people be able to read anything they come across, as otherwise they could miss out on important information. If they become frustrated a small business can suffer for it. It is not advisable, for example, to put yellow text on a black background, or green text on a red background. If the business is not sure about what to do, they should consult a professional.

4. Provide Contact Information in a Visible Place
Visitors may not go to a website simply because they wish to look at some text and images for awhile; they may also come to a small business website because they have a question. For this reason, the business should make sure that contact information is provided. The information should also be in an obvious and visible place, as otherwise people could become frustrated. If a business cannot communicate with their clients and customers, little can get done. The information should consist of a phone number, email address or both.

5. Do Not Use Large Images or Embed a Media Player
Not everybody has a fast Internet connection. While it may only take a few seconds for a picture to load for one person, another person may have to wait several minutes or longer. Because of this fact, a small business should make sure that everybody has a chance to load and enjoy the website. They should not use large images, and nothing should be too complicated. They should also avoid the use of a media player. Some people go online while they sit in class or ride the bus; should music or a video start playing without warning, the customer could become embarrassed and abandon the site.

February 3, 2012   No Comments

Five Most Popular Valentine’s Day Gifts

For many guys, Valentine’s Day is a day to remind them how little they know about being romantic. Too often they find themselves stopping on the side of the road to buy flowers from a panhandler that looks like he might have stolen them from an old lady down the street. So this year, think ahead and get one of these gifts for that special woman.

1. The Vacuum Cleaner

This may seem like an odd gift to give on Valentine’s Day and will likely get a guy immediately scorned, but there is a trick to giving this gift and making a girl melt. After she opens the vacuum cleaner, the guy should hand her a note telling her that the vacuum was bought so that you could clean up for her and she would no longer have to worry about a messy floor. The only downside to this gift is that the guy has now committed himself to vacuuming for at least a week.

2. Jewelry

The classic standby is always a great option. A guy must be careful not to go too big in this case or she will get the wrong idea about what is happening. A nice bracelet or necklace is perfect for Valentine’s Day.

3. Go Old School

Everyone remembers the old Valentine’s Day cards that the kids would pass around in elementary school. It is a classic move that brings back nostalgic memories for every girl. Her heart will melt at the simple but heartfelt messages that have a whole new meaning when presented by an adult that truly understands what the cards are trying to say. A series of these over the course of the days that lead to Valentine’s Day makes for a very romantic gesture.

4. Stuffed Animals

Another throw back to younger days, this gift is an easy option that shows forethought and caring. A plush heart can sit on her bed all day and remind her every time she comes home that she is loved. It is also a way for a guy to remind her that he is still playful at heart and wants to do anything he can to put a smile on her face. A bear holding a heart is a classic Valentine’s gift that is not incredibly typical and shows a girl that she is cared about.

5. Fake Flowers

Most women like flowers but giving flowers is fairly typical and unimaginative. But giving fake flowers can give an advantage that real flowers does not. At first this may result in a strange look, but every guy that does this should attach a note that says, “This flower will not wilt until the day I stop loving you.” It is a creative way to tell a girl that she will be loved forever.

There are many great ideas for Valentine’s Day gifts. It just takes a little thought and some creativity to turn a bad gift into a great gift.

January 30, 2012   No Comments

10 DIY Wedding Items to Buy Wholesale

Spring is fast approaching, and many couples are looking forward to weddings as the weather warms and the ground begins to thaw. In today’s tough economic climate, more and more people are looking to save money on their wedding by putting it together themselves. Whether you’re looking for inexpensive favors or buying decorations online, wholesale items can make for a great bargain. Here’s 10 must-haves for any do-it-yourself wedding.

1. Candles make great decorations for tables and other reception decor. You can buy plain white candles in bulk to provide mood-lighting across your space, or purchase lantern lights to give a rustic look to your outdoor wedding.

2. Gift baskets make great gifts for your wedding party. Pamper your bridesmaids with gift baskets. They’ll be grateful for the opportunity to relax and unwind after all the dancing at your reception.

3. Wholesale wedding decorations can serve as a jumping-off point for your own custom designs, or can be used as-is as part of your decor. From aisle runners and decorative garlands to colored sand, you can pick up must-have items inexpensively and in bulk.

4. When used creatively, balloons can be a great, inexpensive way to add color and whimsy to your wedding. Consider incorporating balloons into your flower arrangements, or cover the ceiling in pale helium-filled balloons that will help to soften the light at your reception.

5. Looking for something unique but inexpensive to top your cake? You can choose from a wide variety of cake toppers, ranging from the traditional bride-and-groom figurines to art deco designs and even a photo frame cake topper.

6. The reception toast is an integral part of many weddings, but stylish glasses don’t need to be prohibitively expensive. You can choose from a wide variety of toasting flutes, glasses, and even mugs that can match the theme and atmosphere of your wedding.

7. Premium wedding invitations can be exceedingly expensive, but homemade options are time-consuming and hard to make. A good compromise is wholesale wedding invitations which look professional without carrying the shocking price tag.

8. Artificial flowers are quickly gaining popularity as wedding decorations. They are durable, inexpensive, and often more environmentally sound. You can also easily re-purpose your wedding flowers into other decorations, or send them home with guests as favors.

9. Need some inspiration for wedding favors? You can browse a wide selection of favors for ideas that will match your wedding’s theme and its budget.

10. After the big day is over, all you’ll have left are memories and photographs. To make the most of your wedding photos, you might want to invest in some wedding photo albums and frames to display shots of your special day for many years to come.

January 23, 2012   No Comments

Settling Difficult Decisions for Your Small Business

Starting a small business is a big challenge and a big step. One of the first things you need to do is really get into a win/loss mindset. You can’t run a business based on your feelings, based on emotions, you have to run it on cold, hard logic. Maybe you’d like to hire your unemployed cousin, for instance, but if you don’t really have the budget for another employee then you don’t really have the budget for another employee.

Other decisions will be more difficult. For instance, if you see an opening in the market that will allow you to expand, you need to stop and consider whether or not expanding is actually worth it. At the end of the day maybe both choices are equally valid in their own way but you can only choose one. Here are three tips to making those decisions a little easier.

Someone Needs to Have Final Say

A beast with two heads will always be bickering with itself. Even if you’re running a business with your wife or husband or your twin brother, somebody needs to have final say and everyone else needs to be willing to go along with it if they want to stay with the business.

Obviously, a good leader will take into account suggestions made by their staff, but they need to have total authority over their business goals if they are to stay focused and driven towards those ends. It does no good to have three or four managers all with different visions for the company.

Writing a Pros and Cons List

When you sit down to settle a difficult decision such as whether to sell the company or whether to expand, it helps to write down a list of pros on one side and cons on the other. Keep at it and sooner or later you might come to the pro or con that settles everything and makes the whole decision a lot easier.

For instance, if your business has fallen on hard times, selling is an easy way out that frees you of debt and stress, and that alone is worth selling for. On the other hand, if it’s doing very well and the price you were offered is half what you think you could make in a year, then you might want to hold onto it. Many decisions become very easy once you lay out the facts.

Understanding Loss Avoidance and Instinctive, Gut Feelings

A lot of small business owners are afraid of losing what they’ve built. So afraid, in fact, that they never make any decisions that would improve their income or expand their business or see them becoming more successful. This instinct for loss avoidance is vital to survival, but detrimental to long term success. It’s important to understand that your trepidation about some things is not realistic or logical but an instinctive want to avoid any sort of loss whatsoever. Sometimes the safe choice is the smart choice, but understand that your intuition can be your downfall.

January 18, 2012   No Comments

10 Affordable Wholesale Valentines Gifts

Valentines Day can be fraught with worry. You may feel judged by your choice of gift, as though the quality of your affection were directly related to the quality of your gift. After all, the commercials always make it seem like real love can only be shared through diamonds and pearls. Luckily, for romance on a budget, there are several options for buying affordable wholesale gifts for your sweetie.

For Her…
1. Bath goodies

2. What’s more romantic than a candlelit dinner? A candlelit dinner using wholesale aromatherapy candles to set the mood! There’s even a romance candle that’s practically screaming to be bought for your girl.

3. Buying perfume online can be a challenge, since you may not know if you like the scent without giving it a try. The next time you’re in a perfume store, make note of the brands you like; then you can search online for affordable wholesale alternatives.

4. Nothing says “I Love You” like a big box of chocolate. You don’t have to tell anyone that you bought it cheap on wholesale.

5. The best part about buying wholesale fashion jewelry? You can get a lot for your money; the lady in your life will feel especially pampered when you shower her in gifts.

For Him….
1. Did you know you can buy sexy women’s lingerie on wholesale? Sure, you’re buying it for yourself — but you know you’re really buying it for him.

2. Many familiar fragrances are available on wholesale, including Playboy and Adidas. If you have a favorite scent, you can search to see if you can buy it inexpensively on wholesale.

3. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. You can be sure to romance him with a snack basket of all his favorite foods. Many baskets include meals for two, making for an ideal romantic snack.

4. Men might not say it, but they love jewelry almost as much as women do. You can browse a wide selection of rings and necklaces for the perfect match for your man.

5. Still unsure what to get your sweetheart? You can browse a selection of Valentines-themed gifts for inspiration. From cards to stuffed animals, all kinds of Valentines gifts are available.

Whether shopping for yourself or your sweetheart, wholesale gifts offer a valuable alternative to shelling out cash at an expensive retail store. Even better, if you own your own business, you can stock up on affordable wholesale Valentines gifts and share the savings with your grateful customers.

January 16, 2012   No Comments

Getting Your Business Online and Driving-Up Sales

Every small business owner looks for ways to do two things on a regular basis: drive-up sales and cut costs. Cutting costs is a never ending pursuit and can only be done to a certain degree before the company itself begins to suffer. That leaves increasing cash flow to lead generation and salesmanship. The question then becomes how to do so without going over advertising budget or even how to do so with little or no advertising budget.

The increasing answer is to get a business presence online, taking advantage of the ubiquity and cost-friendly management of e-commerce and brand promotion.

Publish a Website

This can be done by even an Internet novice, someone unfamiliar with HTML, CSS and SEO or Search Engine Optimization. There are many “push-button” website publishers available online which provide user-friendly, intuitive website creation. A business owner need only select a theme, an industry, enter some text and arrange the appearance of images. Within minutes, a business owner can design and publish a website. Changes–when needed–are typically nearly effortless.

Use Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is the practice of placing text, links and/or images on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Unation, Pinteres and LinkedIn. Social media marketing, often abbreviated SMM, is a great way to get a brand out to the public without having to pay a publicist or hire an advertising agency. Social media profiles are free to create and use. But there worth can be priceless.

Create a Blog

In addition to a website and social media profiles, businesses will find blogs to be a great way to connect with customers. Think of a blog as a virtual newsletter featuring the best aspects of your company, most used services and products with the added benefit of no design, printing and mailing costs. Each post is a chance to reach new customers as well as cater to existing customers. The trick is to make every post SEO and LSI keyword friendly–that is, using specific words or phrases and synonyms to get your blog indexed by search engines. An example of keywords and LSI keyworks for a dog grooming service would be “dog grooming”, “pet grooming”, “pet care”, “grooming services” and “master pet stylist”.

Make Yourself Available to Traditional Media

Being online doesn’t mean ignoring traditional media. If you want more traffic to your website, generating more sales, then make yourself available to print, radio and television media. Granting interviews and commenting on news items related to your business will only bolster your online presence.

Don’t Forget about Old-Fashioned Networking

There’s a reason local Better Business Bureaus and Chambers of Commerce still have brick-and-mortar locations. They support local businesses, help companies to get there name out among area residents. Just because a company has a website doesn’t mean people living a few blocks over will visit the business online.

In addition, being involved with local volunteer groups, sports groups, schools and churches will increase your business’ overall image and up the patronage to your brick-and-mortar.

January 11, 2012   No Comments