the_waiting_place

avoiding the Waiting Place

the_waiting_place

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time (or for that matter, talked to me in person) you’ll know that I have been an avid proponent of consulting as a career choice for a long time.  I started my career working for two of the biggest consulting firms in the world, and spent almost 9 years as an independent contract consultant.

Spent?

I have written again and again about the benefits of consulting:

But one of the things I have also espoused in the past was that any change in your life, from losing weight (101 thoughts on losing 100 pounds) to simply making a change (the only impediment to change is yourself) is driven by you.  The reasoning for the change, the motivation, the execution – all have to come from within the individual.  And that’s what happened to me.

There is a danger in any career path that you can become lazy.  Not that the work becomes easy, necessarily, and not that you don’t still have to work long hours at it, but it can become busy…rather than challenging.  I know many accounting clerks who stay wildly busy, but whose jobs have not appreciably changed in form or function in years.  As you move higher up the career ladder, this is harder and harder to do, simply because businesses change and in management positions you have to change with them.  Nonetheless, a sameness can set into your routine and you can end up (a la Dr. Seuss) in the Waiting Place.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

NO!
That’s not for you!

From Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

I felt I had ended up in that place.  Despite enjoying consulting, and contributing (I believe) fairly substantially to most of my clients, a sameness had set into my daily routine that I wasn’t enjoying.  Part of it was the current client; typically I spend about a year at each client (usually as part of a single large project, beginning to end, or as a temporary ‘fill’ while a position is vacant).  I had been three years with my latest client, performing one major project after another.

The opportunity to become a permanent employee again had been a vague possibility for a while.  Obviously for a company to keep a high priced (ahem) consultant on board year after year is eventually more expensive than the cost of having a ‘permanent’ employee.  Not only is it more expensive monetarily, but you do run some risk in that consultants are more likely (at least in theory) to move on, taking their expertise with them.  I’d argue that is not really true – after three years I was just as much an employee as the next cubicle Joe, but that’s the perception.

My client had been considering starting up a new function for a while.  I have bounced back and forth in my career between finance and auditing.; my client was starting up a new internal audit function.  While I’ve been in senior management since the late 90s, my detour into consulting had prevented me from ever actually being the head of an internal audit function, something I felt quite ready to do.  So here was the opportunity, for a growing company, to head up a department (albeit at first, a department of one supervising consultants, but with the possibility of starting to hire managers and staff within a year).  I thought I had to try it – mostly just to have tried it.

So as I hopefully begin to write more often I can make a comparison of my new executive role versus the role of the consultant.  It’s interesting partially because it’s with the same company – everybody has known me as the consultant, so changing that perception was one of the early challenges.  Getting used to needing to engage in office politics is another one I have resisted.  Having good benefits is nice; having long hours with no overtime pay is not.  So while I quite enjoy the role and the challenge, I am looking forward to making a more balanced assessment in a year or two.

If you’ve come to the blog to read a consulting post, or how to make money without a job, I’d still stand behind those ideas.  Consulting is a great skill.  With my consulting background I feel confident that I can always return to consulting, at any age, and be successful at it.  But life is full of change AND opportunities to change; after following my own advice to go it alone as a consultant for almost a decade, I decided to take the fork in the road, and avoid the Waiting Place.

how to make money without a job and why you should

 

Spend less than you earn is the wrong way to think! Your time will be much better spent thinking of more ways to make money than it will be thinking of ways to save money. Chances are good if you read this blog that you’ve already given some thought to alternative income, but let’s back up.

“It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.” – Oscar Wilde

Everyone has a primary source of income. Usually it is a traditional job – an employer who asks them to show up from 9 am to 5 pm, file a TPS report and pay an ungodly amount of taxes for the privilege of being laid off in a restructuring when the company misses earnings estimates by $0.01. Income can also come from self-employment, a small business, unemployment checks, a pension, or hundreds of other primary sources. Alternative income – which is sometimes referred to, incorrectly, as passive income – can come from rental properties, royalties, investments or other sources. All of these sources could also be primary income to someone but usually these are income streams that people receive in addition to their primary income. To be truly rich one thing is certain: for every ’stream’ of income you have, you should have an alternative. Alternative income is the key to wealth.

Most people have a single source of income. They work for employer Megacorp or Wal-Market and receive a paycheck. Some people may have a trickle of investment income, or occasionally sell something on eBay and then give up after a few sales, but a large number of people consider catching up on the final season of NBC’s beloved quirky comedy “The Office” a better use of their time than trying to earn more money after a tiring day in the office. Their goal is to get by on minimum work, minimum income and maximum “down-time.” Alternative income seems like a lot of extra work to these people, and extra work isn’t what anyone wants.

However, there are many advantages to finding alternative income, not the least of which is being able to get rid of your primary income stream. Having alternative streams of income means that no one stream can direct your life. Do you think you could tell your boss you were going to quit at the end of the month if your wage is your only source of income? Not unless you had an offer letter from your next ex-boss ready. But what if you had 15 streams of income? What if no single stream accounted for more than 10% of your total income? You could do a constant analysis and drop underperformers. You could drop streams that were inefficient, or frankly just made you blue. This is why being a consultant is better than being an employee, and why owning a business is better than being a consultant, and why creating content is better than owning a business – ease of adding and dropping income sources. Consultants and businesses and especially content creators can have more than one ‘employer’ at a time. No one ‘employer’ becomes critical for putting food on the table.

There are two more advantages to alternative income besides diversification of income sources. First of all is the expansion of skills. Creating an income stream from a website you create or eBay sales or a small business is a completely different skill set than being a financial analyst, for example. Not better, not worse, but different. Even blogging about financial analysis is a different skill set than being a financial analyst. Every time you create a new revenue stream, you are expanding your skill set. You are learning something new, and making it that much more likely that you’ll be able to add further income streams.

This leads to the greatest advantage of alternative income streams of all. This is the viral nature of alternative income. For the first 10-12 years of my working life, I never thought there was any point in worrying about income past my wages and a quarterly trickle of dividends from my stock holdings. The truth is that when you start thinking about creating alternative income you’ll find out that something funny happens. Your ideas will snowball. That first idea will spawn two more, and they’ll each create two more. You’ll get excited the first time you make a few dollars that didn’t come from your employer. You’ll see opportunities everywhere and even though many won’t work out, some will. The one that does will give you a lead to another stream. That stream will inspire you to create another. You won’t be content to sit back and wait for your corporate payroll department to mail you that never-changing check every two weeks. You’ll want more, and by wanting more you’ll find more. Once you understand that alternative income is the only way to real, long-lasting wealth every idea you have could be the start of something amazing.

So even if you come up with an idea for generating an extra $10 a month, don’t sneer at it. That $10 a month idea may someday serve as the basis for a $100 per month idea. That $100 stream may help you gain the skills and experience you need to have for a whole new stream that generates $1000 per month. If you see where this is going, you see the possibilities. Keep an eye out – you never know when you’ll come up with the next small idea that could turn out big!

This post originally appeared, in slightly modified form, as a guest post I wrote on Lazy Man and Money. He’s all about alternative income, of course, which is the subject of this post, so his blog is a great place to brainstorm.

Attribution Photo Some rights reserved by stevendepolo

three benefits of a virtual office

Once you have started growing your business, you may find that you need office space, but you aren’t ready to commit to a big capital outlay to get that space. Increasingly businesses are looking for solutions past the traditional “rent a floor in an office park building” setup.  Hoteling, remote work and other alternative work arrangements are more popular each year.  There are also temporary offices that you can get if this suits your needs. There are 3 benefits of having this type of an office (virtual offices, serviced offices or meeting rooms for hire).

If you are someone who is constantly traveling to a certain area to do business, then serviced offices may be perfect for you. You will benefit greatly by having a professional office to bring your clients to. There are only so many meetings that can happen at dinners and over coffee; sometimes the privacy of an office is required. By having your own temporary office, you will be able to bring your client into a setting where they feel comfortable. It is much easier to talk about business dealings in an office than it is to talk about them in a noisy cafe or other public area. You will make much more of an impression by bringing these clients into a professional office, which is exactly what a serviced office provides.

If you are only going to be in one place for a certain amount of time, a virtual office would be great for you. If you are shooting a movie, working on an album, or finishing a series of on scene photography, a virtual office would be great for you. You would have a place to run your business dealings out of, instead of just a trailer or a hotel room working as your office space. Again, this will make you look much more professional than if you were just working out of a trailer or hotel room.

A temporary office would be great for if you are transferring buildings, remodeling your existing building, or building new offices all together. This will give you a temporary place to run your business while your other office space is under construction. There is nothing more distracting than trying to get work done while there is construction going on all around you. This situation would be great for a temporary office.

With all the different types of non-traditional offices – virtual, service, temporary – there is an option for any business, large or small, growing or established.

How to Buy a Laptop

A desktop computer has its benefits, but if portability is what you want, then a laptop is a better choice. However, with so many laptops on the market, it can be difficult to make a well-informed choice. Here are a few things you should consider when buying one.

Size

Many people these days want to carry their laptops around with them, so size is an important consideration. Fortunately, unlike the laptops of yesterday, most of today’s models are much thinner and lighter thanks to technological advances. However, keep in mind that the thinner and smaller it is, the less power it will have. Because of the small space, processor speed is limited due to heat issues.

Speed

No matter how conveniently sized your laptop is, it’s not much help if it takes forever to load programs and lags during use. If you want to use your laptop for gaming, watching videos or using processor-intensive applications, you’re going to need more speed. Most laptops today feature dual-core processors at or approaching 2.4GHz, which is as fast as many older desktop PCs.

Storage

Storage capacity is another issue that, if not properly considered, can severely limit the usefulness of a laptop. If you intend to use the machine for work, or of you’re an avid audiophile or photographer, more storage is better. A good starting point for storage is 120GB, which will hold a lot of files before running out of space.

Price

Obviously, you should only buy a laptop you can afford. All of the speed and storage in the world isn’t worth anything if it’s out of your price range. Fortunately, there are ways to get a better laptop for less. Keep an eye out for a good laptop sale, buy one used or, if you’re mechanically inclined, you can build one yourself.

Brand

There are literally dozens of laptop manufacturers out there, and this is a critical factor to consider. You’ll generally spend more for a well-known brand, but it’s usually worth it. It’s often advised to steer clear of brands you haven’t heard of, even if they’re relatively inexpensive, just because you don’t know anything about the company’s reputation or the quality of their products.

OS

Lastly, you should consider the operating system that comes installed on your prospective laptop. It’s a good idea to get something you’re already familiar with just to minimize frustration and make the machine more user-friendly. That said, if you don’t like the OS it came with, you can always install your own after purchase.

Alternative Marketing Methods for Your Small Business

A small business must have big ideas for marketing success. Growth is often a function of increased recognition of a brand, an increased awareness of products or services. Word of mouth and referrals are terrific. They are the rewards of excellent customer service and customer satisfaction. Another, and often more difficult task, is reaching people who have had no previous contact, no awareness of the small business’ goods and services.

In the current era, social media is a widely used method of gaining brand recognition and increasing awareness. Localization is the key, and social media have become sufficiently sophisticated as to offer geographic targeting for ad placements. Pamphlets in various forms of printed media can reinforce visual recognition gained in online advertising. Printed pamphlets are a traditional method, but the same principle applies to downloads. One can print an advert offline and would be more likely to do so if it involved a price point or specific package of goods or services. This combines a pamphlet with an online presence; essentially a website becomes a distribution point for a pamphlet or brochure.

Pamphlet delivery is a method that has a potential to work well along with all other marketing approaches. Pamphlet delivery can put a business name on the doorstep of every residence in a defined geographic market. Pamphlet delivery is portable, a method that covers events and other notable gatherings with an appropriate demographic. For example, one can saturate an area with pamphlets to coincide with conventions, conferences, a fair, or festival, or series of music concerts. There is an assurance of increased visual recognition and that the target group receives a focused effort.

Blogging is a method of putting a brand into the news stream. Blogging can connect a business to news events or other trending information, events, or occurrences. Blogging can be neutral and yet create an association with an issue or viewpoint. For example, a business blog posting based on news about hungry children can create an association of compassion and concern for public welfare. If the business also were food services, then there would be a vertical depth to the association of fighting hunger.

With any advertising approach, the basics such as pamphlet delivery can create synergy. People can encounter the brand, or visual recognition, in more than one place. This positive situation can spur measurable amounts of growth.

Basic Overview Of Email Marketing

There are many people who run companies but they do not take advantage of email marketing. This is usually because they do not know a whole lot about it. Continue to read on to find out what this type of marketing is, as well as how it works and why companies should be using it.

What Is Email Marketing

Email marketing is exactly how it sounds, it is a marketing campaign that is promoted via email. If you want to promote something or bring awareness to something, then you would send out information via email.

How Does It Work

First of all a business will need to build a list of email contacts, and this means that they will need an auto-responder. An auto-responder allows you to build a list, store it and then send out one email to all of the contacts on your list. Most auto-responders will allow you to create custom campaigns, which is exactly what you want. Once you have a list built and you have a campaign, such as an upcoming sale or a new product you are introducing, then simply send the email to every one your contact list.

There are a few different ways to build an email list, but one of the best ways companies can build a list is by offering their customers something in return for their email address. Usually most companies will offer their customers some sort of discount in exchange for their email address.

Why Companies Should Use It

There are many reasons why companies should use email marketing. One of the main reasons why is that this form of marketing is one of the most cost effective marketing techniques. It does not cost a lot of money to invest into an auto-responder, and the results of an email campaign can be amazing. Also, this particular type of marketing is a great way to spread the word about something, be it a new product or a current sale. Companies can also use email marketing to grow their presence online, as their customers may share emails from the company with their friends and families, and this means more money in the company’s pockets.

If you run a company and you are still not using email marketing, then now is the time to change that. By not using email marketing, it means you’re losing out on potential money.

virtual office

what are the benefits of a virtual office?

virtual office

Not all business owners are able to splurge on start-up costs or office furniture. For individuals that are in need of an office space but are on a budget, virtual or serviced offices can be the perfect solution. Virtual offices (also called ‘serviced offices’) offer small businesses many financial benefits.

Furniture can be a very expensive bill for new and existing businesses. Virtual and secured offices are able to eliminate many costs by providing furniture and other office equipment. Individuals are able to comfortably conduct business in a personal office or hold meetings in a conference room without having to spend money on chairs, tables, or desks.

Virtual and serviced offices also allow businesses to save money by providing a long range of services. No more separate bills for cleaning services, utilities, or internet. These services can be included in the monthly cost of having a virtual or serviced office. No more calculating if a particular service is affordable, with a virtual and serviced office the cost are more than likely included.

Virtual and serviced offices provide businesses with an office space that does not place the burden of maintenance on individual tenants. Monthly lease and rental cost include all services that are needed in order to run an office.   There are no hidden surprises – no expenses to repair leaking roofs or fix electrical problems.  The time and effort needed to attend to those types of problems are replaced with a quick call to the property manager; and time is money.

The price to employ administrative support can be reduced by choosing a virtual or serviced office. Many companies spend money to hire and train secretaries. With a virtual or serviced office this feature is already included. The small business will receive a professional greeter or voice over the phone. Small businesses can save money by eliminating the monthly cost of administrative support from their monthly bills.

Virtual or serviced offices can help to save money when it is time to expand one’s business. Expanding can be very costly for any business because it can possibly include the purchase of new furniture items and hiring more staff. A virtual or serviced office can be able to offer bigger offices or additional spaces for small businesses. No need to speed money looking for a bigger office, making additional purchases, or putting a down payment for a larger space. A virtual or serviced office can remove those costs by providing the larger or additional space.

A virtual or serviced office is a wise choice in this economy for any small business. Virtual and serviced offices can save an individual money in many ways, and the greatest benefit is probably in the time saved by having a third party manage the property.  Every minute spent on property maintenance by a small business owner is a minute taken away from growing the business, so this financial benefit can be the greatest single benefit of all.

DECLINED! MY LIFE INSURANCE APPLICATION WAS REJECTED, NOW WHAT?

First things first – why were you rejected? This is the most important question to get answered whenever you receive a rejection notification on your life insurance application. Believe it, or not, there’s often a simple error to blame that could have been easily avoided, or there was something simple in the policy’s exclusion list that should have sent you looking for a different policy from the start.

Once you have your answer, you can begin to troubleshoot. To assist in this endeavor, I’ve listed three of the most common reasons for rejection and how you can avoid them for your next go around. You can learn more about getting your own life insurance quote http://www.suncorp.com.au/insurance/life-insurance

1. You Omitted Something OR Made a Simple Input Error –

This is one of those things that happen that make you slap your own head and go, “Doh!” – yes, just like Homer Simpson. It happens all the time, in a variety of ways, and is one of the leading reasons why you should always run any insurance application by a financial advisor, or an insurance specialist, when handling an application on your own.

After all, life insurance applications are complicated, and thorough; especially when it comes to all of their fine little print, so a few fresh pairs of eyes can be very, very useful and save you a lot of time, as well as grief.

Some common simple errors on life insurance applications, include:

  • An item was unintentionally missed, and left blank
  • A question was misunderstood, and therefore answered incorrectly
  • Coverage requested exceeded the amount allotted for your age bracket
  • Application was signed and processed from another state
  • An additional signature was required, but not provided
  • A P.O. Box was listed instead of a street address

These are all maddening reasons to get rejected, because they’re so easy to have caught ahead of time – either by a certified expert giving it a once over, or simply by the applicant calling in after submission to check out everything with the insurer before it goes up for review.

2. You Didn’t Apply for the Right Kind of Policy –

 Typically, this mistake occurs due to medical issues – some policies don’t accept certain medical history, no matter what. If that’s the case, it’ll be listed in their exclusions. If you’re applying for one of those “no exam” type policies, you need to be especially wary of these exclusions; just because it’s no exam, doesn’t mean they don’t have exclusions and that they won’t be looking into your medical history.

This kind of rejection can be easily avoided simply by giving the fine print a thorough read-through. Unfortunately, the fine print of insurance policies can read a lot like stereo instructions, so it helps a great deal to sit down with a financial advisor and let them do the translating. While you’re there, they can also whip up a few other policies, possibly with even better premiums, that more adequately fit you and your medical history.

2. There’s a Fly in Your Medical Record Ointment –

 Medical background checks, as well as a slew of other background checks, are performed by just about every life insurer on the map – it doesn’t matter if it’s a “no exam” policy, or not. They’re looking, they’re seeing, and they’re deciding based on what they find in your MIB Report (Medical Information Bureau), Pharmacy Records, and MVR (Motor Vehicle Report).

Anything and everything in those records better match what you put down on the application, or it will be declined. Even if you think you know every last little thing that is on those reports, it’s a great idea to check them out thoroughly before you send in the application. After all, human error does occur and there could be something incorrect on those records that you’re unaware of.

For a full listing and explanation of how to successfully not get rejected for life insurance, make an appointment with a life insurance specialist who can find the perfect insurance company for you and walk you through every step of the process. It’ll be faster, easier, and you’ll have an accepted application filed away, while others are still scratching their heads at rejection notices.

 

9 characteristics of a great job

Q: Did you always dream of drawing and writing, or were you about to happily settle for a so-called normal job? Was it the misery of “humiliating and low-paying jobs,” or the joy of drawing and writing, that pushed you this way?
A: I pursued a normal job so I wouldn’t starve to death while figuring out how to have an extraordinary job. I just didn’t know how it would play out. –Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert (link)

How can you find an extraordinary job? What’s the secret to a fulfilling career?

The perfect job. Who doesn’t dream of finding that perfect job? Flexible hours, massive responsibility (or lack thereof), great pay, interesting work, convivial colleagues, travel with perks, and a corner office overlooking the city. Chances are that it’s just that – a dream. Most of us who work for a living – as opposed to entrepreneurs – are stuck working at something less than our dream. The need to pay the rent, the mortgage, the medical bills and so on simply makes the necessity of a paycheck too much to disregard. There are some positives about having that not-so-perfect job, though. Here are 9 things to remember about your current less-than-perfect job:

1. You don’t have to go out feet first. I pose this question to people at work often: do you plan to die at your desk after decades of working for this company? The answer is always no, so I say “then you plan to quit – it’s simply a question of timing.” Remember that your job is not forever. The drama and politics that seem so real now will be gone in 10 years – probably even less – from your memory.

2. You are not your job. Albert Einstein was a patent clerk. Nobody remembers Einstein for his year-end patent clerking evaluation, or the patent clerk staff meetings he skipped. He was not defined by his job, but by his work. If you love to paint, don’t let the fact that you work in retail sales discourage you from painting.

3. Take pride in your paycheck. It may seem like a small thing, often dismissed as “not following your dreams,” but there is some value to simply bringing home a paycheck. If you have a family, be proud that you can provide for them. If you are single, be proud that you stand on your own feet without help from your parents. Even if your job is not perfect, take some pride in the fact that through this job you can support yourself (and your family).

4. Never stop learning. Even the worst possible job presents opportunities for learning – even if they are lessons like “I never want to do this again.” Try and find opportunities in your job to learn new skills. Those skills might come in handy at your NEXT job.

5. Your colleagues may change. If you suffer with a particular colleague, remember that they may leave any day. You don’t necessarily HAVE to be the one to blink and quit! Sometimes you can outlast people that irritate you.

6. The next job may not be that great, either. Everyone has experienced the sinking feeling of quitting one job, moving to a new one and discovering it may be even worse than the one before. If you set an expectation that your life will be a never-ending series of triumphant improvements, you may have some too-high expectations to overcome. Even a near-perfect job will have its off days.

7. Working on the side is only possible if you have “a side.” Writing the next great American screenplay is a terrific idea (although you’ll be crossing the picket lines if you do). However, nobody has ever said that you have to do that and nothing else. There is no shame keeping your day job to support yourself and working on side projects meanwhile. Scott Adams kept working at the phone company in a cubicle even after Dilbert became a syndicated comic strip. Keep at it. Success will come.

8. Don’t discount the social aspect of a bad job. Sometimes the job duties may be bad but the people you work with are great. If you have a bad job but you like your co-workers, keep in mind that a rewarding job doesn’t always guarantee like-minded, friendly colleagues.

9. Motivation isn’t always positive! Sometimes keeping that not-so-perfect job is what spurs people on to avoid “jobs” altogether. Maybe the employee lifestyle just isn’t for you – use that frustration with your current job to inspire you to discover your real passion and break away!

(photo by Ol.v!er [H2vPk])

5 ways to get free money

Everyone likes free money. It’s my favorite kind, personally. I’m talking about the $20 bill lying on the ground. The birthday check from Great Aunt Winifred for $5. The extra 30 minutes someone overpaid on the parking meter that you get to use when you park there. It’s all good.

So why would you pass up free money? The problem is, there are plenty of opportunities, even in this day and age, to get money for nothing. Of course there is a price – you may have to fill out a form, or walk to a bank, or call an 800 number. But in practical terms, we’re talking about nothing. So where do you get this free money? Who is crazy enough to give it away? Your employer, the federal government, banks, credit card companies, airlines, supermarkets? The answer: all of them!

1. Not taking advantage of employer match in your 401(k). This is a biggie. If your employer offers a matching program for your 401(k), what they are telling you is for every $1 you put towards your retirement – up to a certain level – they will give you $1. You don’t have to stay later, or hang with the boss under the mistletoe at the holiday party. They’ll just put it in your 401(k) and walk away. It may take a year or two to vest fully, but it’s your decision to stay or leave. Don’t pass up this unless you feel that you don’t really deserve any more of your company’s money than they graciously give you in salary.

2. Not using a cash back rewards card. Credit card companies are not our buddies. They are not in business to make our lives more convenient – they are in business to trick us into running up big balances. What easier way than telling you that every time you spend $100 they’ll give you four shiny new quarters? The trick here is to turn the tables on them. Put all of your expenses on a cash-back credit card each month, then pay off the balance in full. They’ll probably be muttering and complaining in their plush credit card executive offices, but they’ll give you the money. I get cash back on my donations to charity because I do this. Think about that – I give money to charity but I use a cash-back card that pays me 1% back. If that isn’t free money, I don’t know what is.

3. Failing to join your supermarket ‘frequent shopper program’. Most big supermarkets have a “card” price on their store brands. If you use your ‘frequent shopper card’ they give you big discounts. All they ask in return is the ability to measure your buying patterns for marketing purposes. That may be a little creepy knowing that all that data’s being compiled about you, but hey! I’m not about to pay $1 for something I could pay $.50 for just by giving out information to Winn-Dixie that they probably can track in other ways, anyway. I may regret getting a flyer in the mail but most of these supermarkets let you opt-out of mailings.

4. Withholding too much. The federal government is a pesky creditor. Imagine if you went to a nice restaurant and while you were eating the waiter came by every 10 minutes to ask for another 1/6th of your bill. Annoying, isn’t it? Well, Uncle Sam can’t wait until April 15th to get your tax payment – he needs it now and he needs it bad. But he also lets you decide just exactly how much should be withheld from your paycheck every month. Imagine you’re back at the crazy restaurant. The waiter comes by and wants $10 every 10 minutes. Would you give him $15 each time and tell him to give you the change back after dinner? Why would you want him holding your money for you? Why do you want the government holding your money that could be in a high-yield savings account? Reducing your withholding can put some money in your pocket NOW instead of later.

5. Not joining airline/hotel/etc. frequent flyer programs. I know the value of a frequent flyer mile isn’t what it used to be, but if you fly they don’t charge you anything extra to put the miles in an account. I’ve paid for enough flights and hotel rooms over the years using points that I think it’s worth it. I would have paid for those flights and rooms otherwise. Using points is a hassle, I know, but it’s still something for nothing. The “something” is a little bit less every year, but it’s still there.

It’s all free money – who wouldn’t want some of that?

Private Mortgage Insurance: What You Need to Know

Unfortunately, if you don’t have at least 20% to put down on your mortgage when buying a home, you’ll have to buy private mortgage insurance. Also known as PMI, this insurance protects the lender when and if you fall behind on your mortgage payments. The insurance is almost always automatically cancelled when 20% of your mortgage is paid. If the lender doesn’t cancel it, be sure to contact them in writing. There are certain circumstances when the lender may not cancel your private mortgage insurance. If your home has gone down in value, they may not cancel the insurance. If you have another lien on the home, they may not cancel it.

There are a variety of ways you can pay your private mortgage insurance. You can finance the cost of the insurance, paying an additional amount on top of your mortgage payment, you can pay the insurance premium in one lump sum each year, or you may be able to set up separate monthly payments with the lender or the private mortgage insurance company. If you don’t pay your private mortgage insurance in a lump sum, you will have to pay interest just as you would on your car insurance. The interest rates typically run from 1/2 to 1 percent of the total amount that is borrowed, although this number varies from lender to lender.The cost of PMI is based on your credit rating, the type of mortgage you have, and the length of the loan. The good news is, if you earn less than $100,000.00 a year, the private mortgage insurance premiums are tax deductible, although this amount is always subject to change because tax laws often change.Paying PMI can be eliminated if you have paid off at least 20% of your mortgage or if the value of your home has gone up.

If you have remodeled your home, the value more than likely has risen. If you built a garage or any other outside building, if you have installed a new furnace, new plumbing or electrical wiring or done any other remodeling in your home, its value has probably risen. An appraisal would be required to prove to the lender that the value of your home has gone up, then they can determine whether or not your private mortgage insurance can be cancelled.No one likes to pay higher mortgage payments because they have had to finance their private mortgage insurance. Paying the insurance fees once a year can be costly too, but there is a savings on interest. There are a variety of mortgage lenders and they each have their own set of standards regarding PMI. Be sure to check with your mortgage company regarding the cost and payment plans they have available.