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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.

May 1, 2012   No Comments

5 Classic Party Favors For Kids

Half the fun of going to birthday parties when you’re a kid is getting party favors. Having your very own little bag stuffed full of goodies is almost as exciting as the party itself. Even in today’s technology-obsessed society, kids get enjoyment out of things like small toys and plastic jewelry. These and other inexpensive party favors can make your child’s next birthday event more fun and memorable for every kid that attends.

Glow Sticks
Bright, colorful glow sticks capture the attention of kids and adults alike. Available in large quantities and in a variety of colors, these versatile party favors are perfect for just about any event. Some sets come complete with pieces that let kids join more than one glow stick together, allowing for the creation of unique jewelry and glowing “sculptures.”

Plastic Mazes
Old school but still a lot of fun, plastic maze puzzles keep kids entertained long after a party is over. Whether they’re able to navigate the tiny ball through the maze in a few minutes or spend several hours mulling over the best way to get to the finish, kids are intrigued by the basic challenge offered by these puzzles. And if you choose mazes with a cheerful smiley face background instead of a solid color, you’ll be giving kids something that’s as fun to look at as it is to play with.

Kazoos
Kids love to make music, so why not give away a few plastic kazoos at your next birthday party? Colorful, fun and inexpensive, kazoos let kids of all ages unleash their creative sides. Young children get a thrill out of being able to make music of any kind, and getting their very own kazoo lets them do just that.

Klackers
It’s no secret that kids like things that make noise. They especially love making noise in groups, which is probably part of the reason why miniature klackers are still popular party favors. Consisting of two plastic balls mounted on a handle in such a way that they “klack” together when waved, these little toys can make a big sound. But if you’re going to include these in a party goodie bag, be forewarned: parents may not appreciate the noise.

Plastic Rings
Young children, especially young girls, love things that make them feel like they’re “grown up.” That’s why plastic jewelry makes such great party favors. Plastic rings with big colorful jewels are a truly classic giveaway item that kids can enjoy as part of playing dress-up and other make-believe games. Something as simple as a ring can spark a child’s imagination and give rise to hours of creative play both during and after a party.

Including these classic party favors in goodie bags at your child’s next party will give all the kids in attendance something fun to do once the festivities are over. Inexpensive and easy to find, these little toys and games provide a lot of fun without stretching your budget.

April 30, 2012   No Comments

March 2012 “Help a Family” Contest Winners

Congratulations the winner in our March 2012 Help a Family in Need Contest.

The winners are:

1st place – $2,000 in merchandise – Kimberly W. – Bowie, MD

2nd place – $1,000 in merchandise – Diana W. – Martinsburg, WV

3rd place – $400 in merchandise – Barbi O. – Johnstown, PA

4th place – $200 in merchandise – Jennifer C. – Louisville, KY

4th place $200 in merchandise – Rhonda P. – Livonia, MI

4th place $200 in merchandise – Rich W. – Myrtle Beach, SC

4th place $200 in merchandise – Patricia M. – Sayville, NY

4th place $200 in merchandise – Geora C. – Atlanta, GA

4th place $200 in merchandise – Marty W. – Saxonburg, PA

4th place $200 in merchandise – Jane S. – Grand Rapids, MI

4th place $200 in merchandise – Barry C. – Kissimmee, FL

We want to thank everyone that entered the contest.   Every month we give-a-way free merchandise and prizes to small businesses, people or non-profits that need an hand.  Please leave a comment if you have a suggestion for a contest.

Our Summer Camp contest is going on right now!  Nominate any Summer Camp to win free merchandise from Dollar Days.  Here is the entry form: http://ow.ly/agNc6

 

April 13, 2012   No Comments

Save Money By Hiring Independent Contractors

Small businesses need to save as much money as possible. Smaller companies simply do not have the same financial resources that a larger company will have. Controlling how much money is spent on payroll can be a way for a small business to stay competitive. Hiring independent contractors offers a cost-effective solution when a business needs to hire extra help.

Save On Payroll Taxes
All workers must devote 15.3 percent of their salaries to payroll taxes. Employees only have to pay half that amount while employers pay the other half. Independent contractors must pay the full amount of payroll tax themselves. Employers are also responsible for unemployment taxes as well for their employees. Independent contractors do not get those benefits in most cases.

Negotiate A Price Per Project
Independent contractors will be used only for specific projects. All payments are negotiated ahead of time meaning you know what your labor cost will be per project. Employees paid by the hour must be paid for each hour they are on the clock. A project that takes longer than expected would cost more if a small business relied heavily on hourly employees. Any increase in payment for an outside contractor must be negotiated and approved by the company.

Terminate The Relationship Whenever You Want
It can be very hard to terminate an employee. There are many laws that dictate how you must fire an employee. It takes a long period of time documenting behavior before you have enough protection against a wrongful termination claim. Court costs and legal fees also could potentially add to the cost of terminating an employee. Independent contractors may be let go after the completion of a project. You may even be able to end your relationship even sooner than that depending on your contract with that contractor.

Contractors Cover Their Own Costs
Employers generally will cover travel and other expenses racked up during the course of business. Contractors must provide the funds to cover their expenses. A small business can now afford to send a contractor out to Arizona from New York for a sales meeting without footing the bill. This allows the company to expand its marketing reach without spending too much money. Not having to cover these costs can be a winning scenario for a company that is just starting out with limited funds.

Small businesses need to use every advantage available to save money on operating expenses. Using independent contractors to save on payroll costs can be one advantage to large to overlook. Contractors will usually perform at a high level while offering increased flexibility to the company. Small businesses can operate more like a large company without having to spend like them as well.

April 12, 2012   1 Comment

10 Products to Get Your Garden Started

Springtime is gardening time, and all you need to make the most of it are a few staple items. From window boxes full of flowers to flourishing vegetable plots, creating the garden of your dreams is easy when you have the right tools.

1) Work Gloves
Digging in the dirt with bare hands is okay if you don’t mind having to scrub soil out from under your nails all the time. But when you’re working with fertilizers or using tools for long periods of time, it’s important to protect your hands with sturdy work gloves. Gloves keep your hands safe from potential chemical contact and help minimize sores and blisters.

2) Triangular Trowel
Whether you buy flats of plants at your local gardening shop or are putting in seeds that need depth to grow properly, a pointed trowel helps get them in. A triangular metal blade lets you cut into the dirt and dig out the right sized hole without hassle.

3) Hand Rake
A lightweight hand rake with metal prongs helps to lift matted leaves, eliminate stubborn weeds and even out the rows in your flower or vegetable plot. The small size allows you to target specific areas in ways a larger rake can’t.

4) Kneeling Pads
Gardening means a lot of time spent kneeling on hard ground, and that can take a toll on your knees and back. Colorful, portable kneeling pads offer comfort and relief no matter how long you’re planning on spending outdoors.

5) Self-Watering Planter Pots
Some plants need to be started indoors. Plastic self-watering planter pots are an inexpensive way to jump start your tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables with long growing seasons.

6) Window Boxes
For starting larger vegetable plants or creating decorative flower displays, window boxes are a good solution. Place them on the front porch or around the house and yard to brighten up the atmosphere.

7) Liquid Plant Food
If you love flowers, you want your favorites to be as big and healthy as possible. Give them a boost with concentrated plant food and watch them grow into a stunning yard display.

8) Organic Fertilizer
Sometimes your vegetables need a little help growing. If you’re wary of using chemicals to increase yields, try organic fertilizer for an environmentally friendly alternative that won’t put harsh ingredients into the soil.

9) Steel Plant Stakes
Tomatoes and other tall, heavy plants require staking to reach their full potential. With sturdy six-foot steel plant stakes, you can be sure that your plants will stay off the ground and have enough room to grow.

10) Plant Ties
If you’re using plant stakes, you’ll need plant ties. Try handy Velcro ties instead of twist ties or twine for quick, no-hassle plant support that can be easily adjusted any time.

With these basic gardening items, you can get your flower and vegetable plots well on their way to reaching their full potential.

April 10, 2012   No Comments

Small Business 411

Opening a small business is a daunting enterprise these days. There’s a lot to remember, but most small business tips fall into four broad categories: plan, specialize, advertise and save.

Plan
Small business owners may be tempted to start right away, but without a plan, they’re going nowhere. An owner needs to take the time to sit down and write out a business plan. A business plan is simply a road map that lists business goals, how the owner means to achieve them, and in what time frame. Owners who plan to borrow money should always have a business plan. Potential lenders will demand to see this document, because a detailed plan shows them that the business owner is serious about his venture. It also tells them exactly how he proposes to pay back the loan.

Specialize
A small business owner won’t be able to undercut large competitors on price – at least, not for long. The best small business strategy is to offer unique, value-added products or services that customers will be willing to pay more to get. An owner should find a unique niche and do his best to provide products or services that others don’t have.

Market research is also essential for a small business owner. He needs to identify not just a unique product or service, but who he’ll be selling it to. A business owner should ask if there’s a demand for his product or service, and if so, how much? He needs to determine if he will have many competitors, or few, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Advertise
Once a business owner has chosen a product and identified his market, he must get his business out there, and these days, that means going online. While it’s possible to be up and running within hours with free or nearly-free websites, it may be wiser for a business owner to spend a little money for a professional website, since the look of a business website influences customer perceptions about the company. It’s also important for the website to be glitch-free and easy for customers to use. A business website should offer customers many payment options, and every page should have a link to the checkout.

A business website needs to rank high in online searches to be found by online customers. Ranking high requires an understanding of search engine optimization, or SEO. If, for example, the owner of a small spa wants his business to rank well in online searches, he might sprinkle phrases like “spa services” or “spa facial” many times throughout his website. When potential customers search for those terms, websites with heavy concentrations of those terms get called up.

An owner should also consider establishing a Facebook and Twitter account for his business. Social media are increasingly important marketing tools and can provide a fledgling business many new customers.

Save
It’s important for a business owner to resist the temptation to max out that new business card. It usually isn’t necessary for a new business to have brand-new furniture or office equipment. Owners should buy used equipment whenever possible to save money, and purchase non-perishable supplies in bulk. An owner should work out of his home for as long as possible to save on rent. Banks, libraries, conference centers and many apartment complexes and resorts offer rooms that can be reserved for business meetings–sometimes for free.

April 9, 2012   No Comments

Help Small Business Winners

Our small business contest was a huge success! We want to thank everyone that entered a local business in our February 2012 Contest. We received hundreds of nominations.

Here are the winners:
Small Business Name City State
KidZone Child Care Pittsfield Mass 1st Place – $1,000
Behind The Scenes Inc Greensboro NC 2nd Place – $500
CRC Construction Lake Geneva Wisconsin 3rd Place $100
Izzy’s Restaurant New Bedford MA 3rd Place $100

We are happy to support small businesses that keep moving forward during these tough economic times. Thanks again for all the entries.

March 21, 2012   No Comments

Debt settlement – Wipe Away Your Debt Problems

Debt settlement is a suitable debt relief option that helps you reduce your outstanding debts to some extent when you find it difficult to repay the entire debt amount in full. This situation happens mainly when your financial condition is not strong and you cannot manage your outstanding debts on your own. You may settle your debts either on your own or seek professional help so that you can free yourself from its clutches at the earliest time possible.

5 Advantages of a debt settlement program

Have a look at the 5 advantages of a debt settlement program.

1. Outstanding balance gets reduced – The main advantage of enrolling with a debt settlement program is that your outstanding balance gets reduced by 40-60% of what you actually owe. This can be done when your debt expert negotiates with your creditors and makes them understand about your financial condition due to which you cannot afford to make the debt payments in full.

2. One time payment – This is another advantage of a debt settlement program. You pay the settlement amount to the company and when the entire amount gets accumulated, the company distributes it amongst your creditors. Thus, you do not have to face the trouble of paying your creditors individually.

3. Professional experts guide you – If you are a debtor who finds debt unmanageable, you decide to enroll with a debt settlement program. In this program, the debt expert assesses your financial condition thoroughly and then fixes upon a payment that you have to pay to the company. With the proper guidance of the professional experts, you find it much easier to repay your outstanding dues within a specific time period.

4. May get rid of harassing calls – As you enroll with a debt settlement program, you make your debt payments through them. The company then informs your creditors about it so that they may stop giving you harassing calls for payments. Thus, you may get rid of the harassing calls of the creditors.

5. Quick way to get rid of debt problems – Debt settlement is an easy and quick way to get rid of your unnecessary debt problems. When you find it difficult to repay your entire debt amount, you opt for this debt relief option so that you can manage to make your debt payments and, at the same time, free yourself from the clutches of debt burden.

If you are a debtor who has fallen into excessive credit card debt problems, it is advisable that you do proper research and get in touch with an authentic debt settlement company. Debt settlement is the right option to wipe away your debt problems even when you face financial problem so that you may be able to live a debt free life.

March 19, 2012   No Comments

Trim 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.

March 16, 2012   No Comments

Gardening to Save Money

When money gets tight, many people cut expenses as a quick and easy way to get back on track. Cutting back on restaurant meals is not only good for your wallet, it’s also good for your health. But what if you were to take it one step further and grow your own food? Not only could you save money on groceries, but you would also have total control over what you eat. You wouldn’t have to worry about dangerous pesticides or rising produce prices. Best of all, you could cut back on your trips to the grocery store, which would save both money and time.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a huge yard to grow a garden. People living in apartments grow rooftop gardens or container gardens in their own kitchens. To get seedlings started, all you need is an old egg carton. Once they’ve sprouted, you can transport them into larger containers or into the ground. If you don’t have a lot of room to grow, try smaller plants like herbs, tomatoes, or strawberries. These plants are easily grown indoors and can be grown in hanging planters so they don’t take up any room. If you have enough room for an outdoor garden, the sky is the limit! You can grow large vegetables like pumpkins, watermelons, corn, cabbage, and many more.

To get your garden started, you first need to decide where it’s going to be and what you’re going to grow. If you’re growing plants indoors, you need to look for small plants that don’t need a lot of sunlight. Before you decide to grow anything outside, make sure it can withstand the temperature ranges in your area.

If you want an outdoor garden but don’t want to dig in the dirt, you can give new life to old containers that you have laying around by turning them into planters. Almost anything can be used from old boats, bathtubs, water containers, and even buckets. These items can all be used to grow plants, and as an added bonus, they’ll keep out many insects and rodents that would dine on your vegetables if they were planted in the ground.

To make your garden even more “green,” you can create a compost pile and add kitchen scraps, such as old fruits and vegetables and egg shells, as well as a variety of other items such as grass clippings, hair, and cardboard. When mixed with water, these items will eventually decompose and turn into a nutrient rich mixture that helps plants grow.

While many people grow gardens to save money or to eat more healthy foods, it’s also a great way to stay active and it’s something you can proudly say that you did yourself. Imagine having guests over for dinner and being able to tell them that you grew all of the vegetables or herbs in their meal. The wonderful thing about gardening is that anybody, young or old, can do it and it’s beneficial not only to you, but also to the environment.

March 9, 2012   No Comments