Here’s How You Could Increase Your Retail Sales without Breaking the Bank

Two key focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. In order to successfully run a business, controlling cash flow and money management key. It’s always important to consider how to increase sales and earn more money. The following contributed post is thus entitled, Here’s How You Could Increase Your Retail Sales without Breaking the Bank.

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A lot of people think that they need to spend money to make money, and sometimes this is the case. There are however things that you can do to try and boost your business efficiency without spending anything at all.

Setup Your Store

The very first thing that you need to be thinking about is how your store is set up. Think about it, where are the displays? How long is the queue to the checkout? Does the store seem packed? You really don’t want to force your customers to hunt through racks just so that they can find what they need. Your displays need to be clean and they also need to make it easier for your customers to find any items that they MUST have. There are a couple of ways for you to do this. The first thing that you need to do is use this “power wall” wisely. In the US, people drive on the right-hand side of the road. For this reason, you need to make your right wall into a feature. Customers will naturally turn right when they walk in, and this is a fantastic way for you to capitalise on that. If you are in Australia, New Zealand or even the UK then your power wall will be on the left.

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Zone Everything

You need to remove any excess merchandise from the store floor. If you sell shoes for example, you need to make sure that you only have one pair of each size on show at any one time. This will encourage customers to buy because they think that it is the last one, and it also stops your floor from becoming too cluttered. When you sell that size, put another one on display. You also need to keep an eye on your decompression zone. This is the first 10 feet inside your front door. Customers are very prone to distractions when they enter this part of the store, so keep it as clean and as de-cluttered as possible. This will encourage your customers to walk right into the heart of the store, which is exactly what you want.

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Queues

It’s very easy for a customer to become spooked if they see a huge queue. They don’t want to wait that long and they may even weigh up whether or not the product they are buying is worth the time it takes to queue. If you want to stop this then put your register at the back. You can also go mobile if you want. A POS payment system is a fantastic choice here because it gives your team the chance to serve anywhere on the store floor and this can keep your customers from leaving without making a purchase.

Staff for Traffic

A lot of stores will ask their staff to work when the most sales are made. You shouldn’t do this at all. In fact, you should always staff according to the amount of traffic you have. Your employees will be able to help everyone much more efficiently and this can lead to you experiencing way more sales. This will also stop your staff from becoming bored when working on the store floor as well, which leads onto the next point.

Your Staff have a Huge Role to Play

You have to make sure that your store is well-staffed. You also have to make sure that they are helping you to boost your conversion rate. They can do this by meeting and greeting customers as soon as they walk through the door. The best way for you to do this would be for you to have a staff member working the door at all times. If you just have them stood there then this can be intimidating for a customer, so have them “tidy up” or look busy around the front of the store. This will help your customers to feel more at ease and it can work wonders for your branding as well. If your team are having trouble engaging with customers, then stop them from asking yes and no questions. For example, instead of them asking “Can I help you to find something?” tell them to ask questions such as “What are you looking for today?” This requires the person who is shopping to engage, and even if the outcome is still negative, at least some engagement happened. Little things like this can also work wonders for your conversion rate as well because it gives your staff the chance to locate products that might be in the back of the warehouse.

What Financial Headaches Are Hanging Over Your Head

A key focus of my blog is Financial Literacy/Money. To have good financial health, it’s important to know what steps to take and which ones to avoid to prevent getting yourself into long-term jams. The following contributed post is thus entitled, What Financial Headaches Are Hanging Over Your Head.

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There are few things as stressful as money. Even when things are going well, which isn’t all that often, we can be struck by a moment of panic, one that says, “it’s going well now, but you need to keep it like this for many years to come. Can you do it?” But of course, that’s nowhere near as bad as when things aren’t going as well as we’d like. They have the potential to rob us of the joy we should experience as living creatures, disrupt our sleep, and worse. Below, we take a look at some of the common financial headaches that can hang over a person’s head.

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Too Much Credit Card Debt

Credit cards can be beneficial, of course; indeed, it’s recommended that you have one, so you can build good credit, which makes it easier to get loans at favorable rates. But credit cards usage can quickly spiral out of control, and before you know it, you can have a big bill, and your monthly payments are really only covering the interest. If that happens, then look at switching the debt to a card that offers an interest-free period. When the period runs out, switch the remaining balance to another card.

Big Bills and Reduced Income

Most people only have a pretty tenuous grip on their finances. Their security is entirely dependent on their income. But those people are just one injury away from being in trouble. If you’re involved in an incident and suffer an injury, you might find that you have to stop working. This will make it difficult to pay the many bills that you have. If this happens, the first thing you should do is pause any non-essential payments. If it wasn’t your fault, then get in touch with these accident lawyers, and fight for financial compensation. When you’re injured, the aim should be on getting better, not wrestling with your financial situation.

Expensive Homes

It is a great achievement to get the keys to your very own home. It can feel like a dream come true. But this dream can quickly turn into a nightmare if the house you bought is too big and expensive for what you can afford. The most important thing is to find more money – it is better, in the long run, to live a frugal lifestyle in order to afford the mortgage payments. Later on down the line, you’ll hopefully be able to renegotiate the terms of the deal, which will put more money in your pocket.

Everyday Expenses

Many people find that they can afford their home, but struggle with the everyday costs of living. If you’re in this position, then go through where your money is going – it’s possible that you’re spending far more than necessary on, say, coffee or eating out. A person’s shopping habits in the supermarket can influence their financial habits way more than they should. Don’t opt for the brand name stuff – it’ll taste the same, and you’ll have more money to play with.

Make More Money in Less Time

A key focus of my blog is Financial Literacy/Money. If it interests you, growing your wealth typically involves leveraging the skill sets and time of others as opposed to doing everything yourself. The following contributed post is therefore entitled, Make More Money in Less Time.

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If you’re wanting to make more money in less time, then the first thing you are likely going to need to change is your paradigm around making money.

See, the majority of people trade their time for money in a very direct and linear way… for instance, if you consider the majority of jobs, they pay based on time input, whether that’s an hourly rate or an annual salary it is fundamentally calculated on the basis of the amount of hours you work.

The challenge with this, however, is that there are only so many hours in the day and there’s a cap to how much anyone can charge for each hour they work. Of course, you can upskill and gain greater expertise in order to charge more for each unit of time you offer – but even a highly skilled brain surgeon is capped to the number of operations they can physically do each day, week, month or year.

The brain surgeon and the janitor both have the same problem – they are trading their time for money, admittedly at different rates, but their problem is the same. If they want to make more money then they need to input more time.

Similarly, if you have a business that ships physical products the more products you sell the more time you will require putting things into cardboard shipping boxes – meaning, the more money you make the more time it takes, which is a recipe for not much of a lifestyle.

Therefore, many business owners find themselves working way too many hours – creating a business that might be turning over a decent profit, but is eating into their lives and the lifestyle they dream of.

The way to make more money in less time is very simple. You need to start leveraging assets; be that a financial asset such as a property that you rent out, a digital asset such as a blog that you sell advertising space on, an intellectual asset such as an invention or even an online course, or a business system where you leverage effort (e.g. own a big business with employees).

We’re now going to take a brief look at an example of how to make money via this model of leverage, as the most important thing to bear in mind throughout the examples above is the commonality they all share in that they leverage effort rather than your own time.

Let’s look at the example of property; here you simply find a property and you rent it out. Let’s say your mortgage is $1,000 a month and you rent it out for $1,250. You make $250 profit per month without having to do much at all… then, if you want to expand your income you simply expand your property portfolio – and in this sense you can have ten properties or one hundred; you don’t have to work any more hours to manage ten properties or a hundred… because you outsource the property management to a specialist company.

Meanwhile, it’s likely that your property will appreciate in value – so, whilst you are making your profit on each property, you’re also increasing your overall capital as the value of the house increases as does your net worth.

Ways That Taking Your Business Digital Can Save Time And Money

Three of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money, Business/Entrepreneurship and Technology. In our current digital age, many digital tools are now used to conduct business and commerce. Not adapting and incorporating these new methods could ultimately cost you time and money. How do you not lose your competitive advantage? The following contributed post is entitled, Ways That Taking Your Business Digital Can Save Time And Money.

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Saving money is the goal of many businesses, especially smaller companies still looking to find their feet. Digital solutions can give your business a boost and help you to save time and money, freeing up both to focus on the more strategic side of your business. If you’re not making the most of digital technology for your business, take a look at some of the following ways that taking your business digital can help.

Image Credit: Unsplash under Creative Commons

Cloud working reduces clutter and commitment to an office

With cloud computing solutions, you can take your business anywhere, allowing you to easily work in any location. Cloud computing also helps you to work with employees in remote locations, making it easier to hire freelancers to help you carry out different business functions. Take a look at cloud storage solutions that will benefit your business and provide it with extra security at a low cost.

Turn your HR digital

Managing HR functions can be difficult, and with more importance being placed on personal data protection than ever before, you need to implement systems that will keep data secure and make HR easier to manage. The ServiceNow HR module is a useful tool for businesses that will make managing cases simple and makes it easier for employees to access vital information. Digital transformation can be a tricky process, but with the right system, the process becomes much simpler.

Embrace digital marketing

Traditional marketing methods are becoming more and more expensive. Television and press ads can be a large expense for businesses, with a shorter exposure period. Digital marketing, however, provides you with several possibilities to engage with audiences, at a much lower cost. With digital marketing, you can create campaigns easily according to your own budget, helping your business to save money.

Save on your travel costs

Traveling to meet clients, colleagues and conferences can soon eat into your budget, but it doesn’t have to. Using video conferencing services can change the way you do business, helping you to have face to face meetings without having to spend time or money traveling. The quality available from video conferences is amazing compared to what it was even a few years ago, helping to make communication easier for your business.

Use online project management tools for better productivity

Managing projects is easier than ever thanks to online project management tools. Manage deadlines, assign tasks, collaborate and more to help your projects run more smoothly. Project management tools are great for businesses of all sizes, and can boost productivity across your teams.

While there are benefits and dangers associated with technology, there’s no doubt that it can save time and money for your business. By exploring the different tools and applications that exist, you can find some excellent solutions for your business. Take advantage of free trials to help you choose the right digital solutions for your company, and let digital transform the way you work.

Dealing With Money Troubles Within Your Small Business

Two of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. Even if you plan your small business out well, you can still run into money troubles if you’re not careful. In such instances it’s important to know what to do to get yourself out of trouble. The following contributed post is thus entitled, Dealing With Money Troubles Within Your Small Business.

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When you first start up a small business, your main motivation is likely to be money. Running your own company allows you to generate your own income without having to answer to anyone but your customers. You gain freedom and the same time as earning sufficient amounts of cash to lead a comfortable lifestyle! However, if you find that your business isn’t raking in all too much cash and starts to become more expensive to operate than you can really afford, you’re going to run into trouble! Money matters can make or break a business and it’s consequently extremely important that you monitor your business’ finances effectively. If you find that you are facing money worries, you need to tackle the situation head on, as attempting to sweep issues under the carpet isn’t going to get your anywhere. Here are just a few steps that you can take if you find that your small business is facing financial difficulty!

Determine the Extent of Your Financial Issues

The first step that you need to take when you are concerned about professional finances is to determine the extent of your financial issues. If you merely owe out a little money and have experienced a slump in sales, you may just need to wait for sales to pick back up. Consumer trends can often be confusing, but with a little research, you can determine why people aren’t spending as much at a given time and can take measures to encourage them to part with their cash. If you, however, are in a deeper and more difficult situation, where you are experiencing heavy debt within your business and cannot fathom being able to generate enough profit to pull yourself out of the situation, you might want to take on legal help from John Steinberger & Associates. They will be able to help you to determine whether options such as bankruptcy might be suitable for you.

Update Your Budget

Many businesses get into financial difficulty in the first place by making the same old mistake – coming up with a budget at the beginning of their venture and sticking to it. Of course, it’s always good to stick to a budget. But you need to bear in mind that the amount of disposable income your business has will fluctuate with time and interest. So make sure your budget fluctuates according with this. You can afford to spend and invest more when sales are high, but may need to cut back down if you experience a dip in profits.

These two steps can help you to determine your business’ financial footing as you progress and develop. Make sure to incorporate them into your plan as soon as possible to benefit from them as much as possible. They really could help you to stay in the black and out of the red!

Is there power in budgeting your money?

“You want to account for everything you spend and always keep your receipts son!”

Note. Like my Compounding Interest and Net Worth pieces, the subject matter of this blog post is not new. It has been known for years by those who’ve learned about it in their families, learned about its concepts in business school, or who have discovered it on their own. It’s a discussion from my personal perspective which I think is worth visiting. In the spirit of the first principle of my blog, Creating Ecosystems of Success, I’m simply introducing a concept and discussing why it’s important for the lay person, so they can make their own life choices.

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As described in my piece entitled, I still don’t have a car in 2018, a good friend recommended that I craft something regarding budgeting. That piece described a key budgetary decision I made several years ago to fortify my financial future. In that piece I highlighted several financial vocabulary words which are pertinent to budgeting including: Assets, Cash Flow, Liabilities and Minimalism. In this piece, I’ll get down into the actual ‘nuts and bolts’ of budgeting.

“You know I always stay within my budget, honey,” my Auntie Adeline said to me on numerous occasions throughout our lives. Of my Aunts and Uncles, Auntie Adeline was always the most vigilant about staying within her budget and messing with her budget was literally playing with your life! Mom was also wise with her money and budgeted.

“You want to account for everything you spend and always keep your receipts son!” Dad was also very particular about his money and was very meticulous about where every dollar went. Though not formally trained in budgeting, I got the sense from many relatives that keeping track of where my dollars went was important. I started budgeting in my mid- to late-twenties though not effectively as I’ll describe later.

Simply put, a budget is a means of numerically accounting for tracking the money you earn and how much you spend every month. As described in earlier pieces, I have considerable experience with Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU). In it, Dave refers to a budget simply as a ‘Cash Flow Plan’ where you’re telling your money what to do and where to go. I’m going to come back to Dave, but first I’m going to tell you about one of my experiences.

“I don’t keep a budget and I don’t have the patience to do so every month!” These words were typed by someone who’ll remain anonymous in one of my text groups. A regular budgeter now myself, I came very closer to challenging his position, but I decided that it wasn’t worth it. From experience it’s not wise to argue with people who have taken staunch positions on things to try to get them to see your point of view. Sometimes it’s best to just let them be and let them figure it out on their own, if at all.

What this person’s comments showed was that while budgeting is important, there’s a negative view of it for some. In fact, in Trish Reske’s article entitled, How Many Americans Use a Budget?, she cites data from a 2017 study by U.S. Bank which found that 41% of Americans said they used a budget while whopping and 59% said they did not. That number was up from data reported by Gallup in 2013 which stated that only 32% of Americans used a budget.

Again, a budget simply a written plan where you’re telling your money where to go and what to do. You’re looking at what’s coming in and what’s going out and trying to figure out what’s leftover, if anything. What are the two skills you need for this important exercise? You need something we all learned in the first or second grade; the ability to add and subtract. You also need discipline and the abilities to think, and to sit and plan.

Okay, get ready for the magic. Specifically, you want to look at your monthly income and subtract your monthly expenses from it. If you’re working a 40-hour work week, this should be relatively simple. If you get paid weekly, you should get four paychecks every month and if you get paid bi-weekly, you’ll get roughly two pay checks a month. The Federal Government has 26 pay periods a year, so there are two months when employees get paid three times.

Your income is your ‘Net Pay’ – your pay after all your deductions and retirement savings have come out – that’s if you’re saving into your retirement which is a different story. Underneath that number you want to list out your monthly expenses. The difference between your income and your expenses is called your ‘Cash Flow’, and that’s the money you have left to spend in any way you see fit. This sounds straightforward right? Well actually it depends.

This is a good place to introduce two new vocabulary words; “Surplus” and “Deficit” – concepts I recall first hearing about from Presidents Bill Clinton, and then later argued about by Al Gore and George W. Bush as they battled for the 2000 Presidency. Financially when you run a Budgetary Surplus, you have money left over once all your expenses and obligations are paid for. This is where you want to be – your expenses being less than your income, and you want them to be as low as possible.

If you’re running a Budgetary Deficit, your expenses are exceeding your income. This is where you don’t want to be. Here you either must: make more money, cut your expenses, or borrow and go into debt to cover your expenses – the worst option of the three.

If you haven’t been budgeting, you must start from scratch. Where do you start? First you need a way to create and track the budget. You could do it on paper with a pen or pencil which will be cumbersome and time consuming initially, but it’s okay to start here just as long as you start. There’s also software like Quicken or Quickbooks. I simply use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, but it’s up to you. You want to be able to adjust the numbers easily.

Second you need to know how much money you have coming in weekly and monthly and I think we all know that. The fun part is figuring out what your expenses are. If you don’t know where to start for your expenses, first think about what Dave Ramsey calls your ‘Four Walls’: clothing, food, shelter and transportation. These are your basics. Think about everything else after these four.

If you’ve been swiping either your credit or debit cards, go to your online banking accounts and see what your averages are. My high school basketball coach always used to tell us that, “We are creatures of habit!” In this case you’ll probably find that there are trends and patterns in your spending – the amount of times you go to Starbucks and what you get there, the restaurants you frequent, the amount of gas you put in your car every week, etc. Some months such as November and December may take you out of your normal spending patterns so be aware of those unusual months or times of the year. The end of the summer is another noticeable time, as people like to take vacations.

Once you see what your averages are, ask yourself if there are ways you can cut back. Can you catch more sales? Can you bring your lunch to work? Do you absolutely need to upgrade your phone or your car along with everyone else? Are there discounts you can take advantage of (being a senior, being military, being a government employee, etc.)? Do you need to make more money at least temporarily to pay off excess debt, for example? These are all questions you should start asking yourself when doing your budget. This brings me to my next point.

If you haven’t been living on a budget, and want to start one, it helps to have goals in mind. Do you want to retire one day? Do you want to become financially free? Do you want to not have to hit your friends and relatives up for cash whenever you get into a jam? These are all questions you should ask yourself. Not having to ask friends and relatives for money ever again is a huge motivator for me.

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I described this in my last financial blog post entitled, I still don’t have a car in 2018. There I described how I got rid of my car and held off on getting another one so that I could grow an Emergency Fund and get to the point where I could acquire some investments. I also wanted to make sure I’d have a chance to retire one day.

For at least a year, I thought about what I needed to do to be able to save 15% into my retirement account going forward. When I looked at my budget, I did the math and figured out how much money I’d have to save into my retirement account from my first and second paychecks of the month to consistently do it. I then looked at what I could cut from my expenses and my eyes focused on my Cable bill which, at the time, was a whopping $176 per month.

Think about that. That’s $2,112 per year – money that could’ve been ‘compounding’ somewhere. I finally got to the point where I was willing simply use an antenna signal and just kept my landline and internet access which came to $90 a month – that’s a 50% savings which gave me the extra money to save into my retirement account. It felt strange at first, but it was very necessary, and I was okay watching Star Trek reruns every night.

I’m going to close with three points from Dave Ramsey because I’ve helped teach Financial Peace University and know it well. The first is the ‘Zero-Based Budget’. The key tenet of this term is, “giving every dollar a name.” That is, if you’ve done your budget and you have money left over, you should assign it a name like “Extra Discretionary Spending” or “Money For The Next Check” – don’t just leave it there because it will get spent on something random.

Consider using cash for at least some of your purchases – “Discretionary Spending” and “Eating Out” for example are two categories I use. Using cash may be scary at first as our world has become digital to the point where we pull out plastic and swipe everything using credit and debit cards. The problem with that is that you don’t ‘feel’ the money leaving your possession and are more likely to spend – businesses know this and bet on it. Using cash helps you feel the transaction, but it’s also the fact that its finite, and it exerts more control over your budget and overall spending.

Lastly, as Dave points out in the budgeting lesson, it takes about three months or so to get into a rhythm to the point where you’re budgeting effectively. The first couple of months aren’t going to be very good, but if you stick in there, eventually you’ll start to roll. Keep in mind your motivation for doing this. And lastly, once you get good at it and you’re able to use the budget to plan over a series of months, you’ll see some really great things happen in your life.

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Perhaps the most important point to make in all of this is that while you’re budgeting and working towards your goal, you must still allow yourself to have some fun. That’s going to vary depending upon you and your lifestyle. Whether it’s concerts, the movies, or if you have a restaurant you like, you can’t completely choke yourself off from pleasurable things because that’s not sustainable long-term – like dieting.

Earlier I briefly mentioned the concept of an Emergency Fund. I must mention this because these things all go together: budgeting, emergency savings, retirement savings, and investments. While this piece is about budgeting, having emergency savings is arguably the most critical component. It protects your budget when life’s inevitable and unforeseen emergencies come crashing into you – some by your doing and some not. Ideally you eventually want three to six months or more saved. How do you build your emergency savings? You budget for it!

Who should budget? Everyone should. There’s a saying out there that you should run your personal finances like a business and when you think about it, each of our households are mini-businesses where some are getting steadily wealthier and others are going further into the hole.
If you’re an entrepreneur and have a business idea, or you’ve already started your business, you should have a budget because the control of your capital and expenses are critical. Everyone should do it if even just to avoid paying the banks overdraft fees. According Julia Chang from Forbes, Americans paid $34 Billion to the banks in overdraft fees in 2017, and this is something the banks count on.

One last important piece from FPU – maybe the most important. In the budgeting lesson Dave describes both budgetary ‘Nerds’ and ‘Free Spirits’. The former enjoys sitting down with the numbers and doing the budget while the other doesn’t and naturally lives with reckless abandon. I’m absolutely and proudly a Nerd and enjoy going over the numbers, making everything balance and doing the planning. If you’re a Free Spirit this might all seem unnatural for you, at least initially, and you may need someone’s guidance and encouragement. Ultimately, it goes back to your drivers and goals. What are you pushing for and how badly do you want it?

So that’s my take on budgeting. I hope you were able to get something beneficial from this. Again, there many, many financial writers and teachers and FPU is but one. It has worked well for me and I recommend it. However, for you someone else or something else might work better. I also enjoy reading Michelle Singletary’s work for example.  No matter who you learn it from though, the principles remain – you want to make smart and wise decisions with your money.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you enjoyed it, you might also enjoy:

•  Your net worth, your gross salary, and what they mean
A look at the Law of Compounding Interest and why you should care
The difference between being cheap and frugal
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing story
Challenging misconceptions and stereotypes in class, household income, wealth and privilege
My personal experience with Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball revisited
Mother’s Day 2017: One of my mother’s greatest gifts, getting engaged, and avoiding my own personal fiscal cliff

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or by adding the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on Instagram at @anwaryusef76, and at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

I still don’t have a car in 2018: A story about playing financial chess

“Most successful people operate off a healthy fear of failure!”

Three of the principles of my blog are: Creating Ecosystems of Success, Wealth Building and Long-Term Thought. Hell, I’ll also pull in both Creative and Critical Thought. As we’re riding into December of 2018, I’ve wondered what to write next. A friend of mine who runs her own magazine and has her own audience suggested that I write something about budgeting. I do intend to do that, but my mind thought back to something I wrote on the Examiner several years ago which will serve as a nice prelude to budgeting. It involves several important considerations when budgeting, and it might admittedly ‘trigger’ some people, but try to keep in mind the overarching messages.

I originally published a series called; You Still Don’t Have a Car Yet? around 2012. It was inspired by a question from a lady friend who went to my church and whom I briefly dated. We bumped into each other again one Sunday and she was surprised that I still didn’t have a car after getting rid of my old Saturn SL2 which was on its last leg. I heard in her voice that there was more to her question – something I’d experience again in the future.

It’s a topic that never gets old, and instead of resurrecting and republishing the entire series, I’m simply going to pull out its main points and discuss why I still don’t own a vehicle six years later. Keep in mind that this piece was written from the perspective of a single man (due to life circumstances), and your life may be different. I hope you enjoy it and that it inspires discussion in your own circles. So, let’s dive in.

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My personal finances crashed and hit rock bottom right around 2011 – two years into my federal science career. I started my career with very little savings based upon my educational path and life circumstances. I was still a new homeowner and just paid out my entire $8,500 “Obama Tax Credit” for a condominium project I didn’t know about before closing – the first of many ‘assessments’ over the years which ended up equaling the price of a brand-new car. I also tried my hand in the investing world, at one point trying to do too many things at once, both money- and time-wise. The result was getting into a debt hole of greater than $20,000 on top of my student loan and other bills.

Around that time, I was fortunate that two friends shared Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University (FPU)” with me and over the course of the next five to six years, they invited me to help teach the class with them at our church. I was also fortunate that I met a mentor who ‘adopted’ me into his group of proteges. He was very strong-willed and had a business background. He both taught me and stayed on me about some important aspects of money including: understanding what a ‘Net Worth’ is, saving into my retirement account and getting my ‘Matching Contribution’, and understanding the ‘Law of Compounding Interest’.

Now armed with this new information, it started guiding my decision making. FPU is admittedly just one of many financial programs out there, and it works very well. There are several others, but for the sake of my familiarity with it I’ll discuss it. A major pillar of it is budgeting – numerically think about your ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ with the aim of getting out of debt, building up an ‘Emergency Fund’ and then positioning yourself to stay ‘liquid’, invest, and give. To get a feel for why this important, I’ll once again refer you to back to Ylan Q. Mui’s 2016 article from the Washington Post entitled; The shocking number of Americans who can’t cover a $400 expense.

This is a good place to introduce the concept of ‘Cash Flow’. Cash flow is simply the amount of money you have left over once all your monthly bills and obligations are paid. The greater your expenses and debts are, the less cash flow you’ll have. The less they are, the greater your cashflow will be and the more life choices you’ll have. You’ll probably also have a healthier state of mind and body as financial stress can impact your overall quality of life.

When I looked at my budget in 2012, I sought to identify where I was trying to go in life and then what my needs and wants were. I wanted to live in a place of abundance, and I didn’t ever want to feel the shackles of debt again. I also didn’t want to be in position to have to ask relatives or friends for financial help ever again. Finally, I wanted to go that next step where I had an emergency fund, where I could get some investments, and lastly where I could help others – giving back to my alma maters for example.

While there were quite a few surprises in my condominium complex, it was a smart buy because it was right next to the metro. As such owning a car became less of a priority. Let’s unpack that a little bit. Keep in mind that I’m not telling anyone that they should get rid their car.

For you it might be something else and this would admittedly my approach may not work in cities like: Atlanta, Buffalo and Charlotte. In any case when I looked at my budget, getting rid of my car meant getting rid of: car insurance, gas charges, upkeep and maintenance, having to renew the vehicle’s registration, and any other associated costs. The state of Virginia charges personal property taxes on vehicles for example.

Yes, it was strange at first not having a car in my parking space and not being able to jump in a vehicle and drive off whenever I wanted to. As I describe later though I adjusted. It was a ‘trade off’ as the great Dr. Thomas Sowell says – giving up something in the short-term for what I saw as a greater gain in the long-term. I included the game of Chess in the title because like this, winning that game involves an understanding of the value of the pieces in your army, and in some cases, sacrificing your lesser pieces early on to ultimately win the game.

Let’s move on to some other important concepts. Among the things I learned from Robert T. Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad books were the concepts of ‘Assets’ and ‘Liabilities’. Under Robert’s definitions, assets are things that put money in your pocket every month, while liabilities are things that take money out of your pocket every month.

One of the things he described in his books under liabilities was cars. Was he saying not to buy cars? No, but he was encouraging his readers to look at finances in alternative ways – in this case while cars are symbols of power for some people, they also ultimately take money out of our pockets.

Speaking of which, something that’s been documented in numerous books and which wasn’t explained to me early on was that brand-new cars depreciate significantly as soon as you drive them off the lot. This is something I pondered as I decided to get rid of my car and not immediately get another one. I also realized that I was never really a ‘car guy’ meaning that I never really fantasized or obsessed over them. In fact, I got to a point where saw them as ‘necessary evils’ in a way which were put here to keep us dependent on the energy and auto industries, and at the mercy of those running them.

I’d like to now introduce the concept of ‘Minimalism’. Though this was always a part of my nature, I didn’t know what exactly it was though I had been called both ‘cheap’ and ‘frugal’ in my lifetime. Minimalism is basically the practice of getting what you need, and not wastefully looking to consume more. I credit writer and YouTube content creator Aaron Clarey for the term because I first heard it from him – something he encourages – something which goes against the grain of most of our society. If you’re in the mood for a laugh, his video content on culture and economics are both very funny and insightful.

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“If you live right next to the metro, why would you own car?” I’m going to say something controversial here. I’ve gotten this reaction from a certain group of people. It’s the same group of people who are content to eat soup and sandwiches according to my Dad as described in my piece entitled; Challenging Misconceptions in Wealth, Income and Privilege. I’ve gotten the ‘side-eye’ from another group of people, and for the single guys reading this, I’ll just say that many ladies frown upon a man who doesn’t own a car. Interestingly the other more important aspects I described above usually don’t come up in conversations about why I don’t own one.

I’ve also been ‘clowned’ about it in some instances. When you’re doing something like this, knowing in your heart why you’re doing it, and keeping your goals in mind is very, very critical when someone challenges you. Oh, and if you’ve thought it out and it’s working, don’t argue with anyone over it. It’s not worth it. This is an instance where even in adulthood, being the leader of your own life and not caving into peer pressure is key.

How does one get by without owning a car? Well again it helps to live right next door to a metro system. My first year of college at SUNY Brockport, I was amazed by the number of classmates from New York City who didn’t have their driver’s licenses. Where they were from, they just didn’t need them and openly admitted that.

Once I got rid of my car, I now noticed that there were quite a few other people in the Washington, DC metro area using “Zipcars”. Then within the last couple of years ‘ride share’ programs and ‘apps’ like “Uber” and “Lyft” became prevalent. Admittedly if you need to go to an area that’s further out, it usually requires some planning – maybe using a Zipcar, or maybe just renting one, but again you must keep your overarching goals in mind.

Again, it’s a tradeoff. There’s a definite convenience to getting in your car whenever you want to and zipping off some place, and that’s what you’re paying for when you own one unless of course it’s giving you some sort of social prestige or personal confidence boost. How much is that convenience worth to you?

So in summary, again I’m not telling anyone what they should do with their lives. I chose to make a tradeoff (a car and certain people) with specific goals in mind. Now that I had a grasp on money and finance as described above, my new ‘drivers’ (no pun intended) were:

• To become ‘financially peaceful’ and to build wealth;
• To be able to handle all the costs associated with homeownership – something I stumbled into which came with its own set of financial costs and surprises and;
• To maximize my cashflow so that I could save, invest and to be able to give.

In terms of giving, we often think about giving to our churches and alma maters but sometimes there are other needs. A fellow alumnus from Johnson C. Smith University recently needed to raise money to buy winter clothes for the students at his school in Grand Rapids, MI. Because of some of the personal choices I’d made, I was easily able to support his effort and help the kids in his community stay warm this winter.

Again, major components to all of this are long-term thought, and budgeting which I’m going to cover shortly in its own blog post. Another important piece is being a secure individual, following the beat of your own drummer and not being peer pressured into keeping up with other people’s thoughts of what’s acceptable for your life. The other piece is being malleable and willing to continue to learn more information and applying it to your life.

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I’m going to end this post with some quotes. The opening quote for this piece is from the popular and outspoken sports talk show host Colin Cowherd who weaves life parables into his sports commentary. This one involves our personal drivers and motivations. “My investing advice to the average individual, is don’t be average,” is a quote that has stayed with me from Robert Kiyosaki’s books. It involves thinking outside of the box and doing the opposite of the crowd.

Dave Ramsey’s famous quote is, “We’re going to live like no one else, so later we can live like no one else!” It involves making temporary sacrifices for greater gains later. Finally, one of the content creators on a YouTube show I regularly watch often says to, “Keep your savings high, and your overhead low!” I think you get the picture. What are your motivations and where are trying to go in your life?

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this one, you might also enjoy:

Your Net Worth, Your Gross Salary, and what they mean
A look at the Law of Compounding Interest and why you should care
My personal experience with Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball revisited
Mother’s Day 2017: One of my mother’s greatest gifts, getting engaged, and avoiding my own personal fiscal cliff
The difference between being cheap and frugal
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An Investing and technology story
Challenging misconceptions and stereotypes in class, household income, wealth and privilege
What are your plans for your tax cut? Thoughts on what can be done with heavier paychecks and paying less tax

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or by adding the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on Instagram at @anwaryusef76, and at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Easy Ways To Save Money To Start Your Own Business

Two of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. One of the challenges to starting a new business is raising the money. There are several ways to approach this problem. What are some simple ways? The following contributed post is entitled; Easy Ways To Save Money To Start Your Own Business.

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When you’re starting a business, the first thing you need is a great idea that has the potential to sell. The next thing you need is money. You can come up with all of the great ideas that you like but you’re never going to get anywhere without startup capital. At some point, you’ll need to go to investors to get some cash to build the business. But people aren’t going to put their money behind a business that hasn’t proved itself yet. You need to get things going and start building a bit of a customer base before you can realistically approach investors. If you’re lucky, you might have that kind of money sitting in your savings account but most people don’t. If you’re serious about starting this business, you’ll need to take some drastic steps to get the cash together. These are some of the best ways to save up money to start your own business.

Image From Flickr

Slash Your Budget

You’re never going to get to where you want to be without making some sacrifices. If you’re going to put together that kind of money, you need to be brutal with your budget. All of those luxuries that you normally enjoy are just eating into the cash that you could be saving for your new business. Write a new budget that covers all of your essentials and get rid of any extra luxuries. That doesn’t mean you can never enjoy yourself again but every time you think about spending money on something frivolous, look to the future and consider your business.

Earn Some Side Income

Your job might not be earning you enough to save for your business. If that’s the case, you need to find some ways to earn more money. Looking for a better paid job is one option but if that doesn’t work out, there are plenty of other ways to make money. If you know how to make a lot of money fast through side hustles, it’s a lot easier to save up the startup capital you need. You could do anything from becoming an Uber driver to trading cryptocurrencies. Whatever it is, just find as many ways as possible to bring in extra cash on the side.

Cut Your Startup Costs

You should have a goal amount in mind when you’re saving. Look at what the rough startup costs of your business will be and that will give you something to aim for. Things will be a lot easier for you if that bar is a lot lower, that’s why you should think about cutting startup costs for your new business before you even start it. Running it from home is one of the best ways to do that because you cut a lot of overheads like office space and lots of employees. If you plan a way of running your business on a barebones budget to start with, saving up the cash you need will be a lot easier.

Saving up for your own business is hard, but if you’re dedicated enough, it’s absolutely possible.

10 Things To Teach Yourself To Make More Money

A key focus of my blog is Financial Literacy/Money. In the Rich Dad Poor Dad books, Robert T. Kiyosaki described two money problems; having two little and then having too much. Most people suffer the former. The following contributed post is thus entitled; 10 Things To Teach Yourself To Make More Money.

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Most people want to make more money, but they are unwilling to do anything about it. They stay in the same, dead end job for years on end – maybe they even climb the ladder a little bit. Very little happens with the money they are earning. Rather than going out there and improving their skills so that they can perhaps get a pay rise, land a better role within their company/outside of their company, or even start their own business, they just stay in their comfort zones and stick to what they know.

It’s true that change can be scary, but working on yourself will give you more knowledge and confidence, and these things can be extremely powerful when you want to make more money. So, what can you set out to teach yourself if this is what you want to do? Read on for 10 suggestions…

1. The Right Mindset
Having the right mindset before you set out to make any more money is key. Otherwise, you might make more money initially, but you may lose it. You might even struggle to see opportunities that are being presented to you.

Changing your old thinking patterns and getting into new, money positive patterns can be tough. After all, much of what we think has been ingrained into our subconscious from a very young age. However, with consistency, it’s possible! Read books, watch videos, go to seminars – do whatever you can to change your mindset around money. Figure out your limiting beliefs and work on your blocks. Then take action.

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2. Passive Income Techniques
Passive income allows you to make more money while you sleep. If you want to build real wealth over time, these techniques are key. Why? Because one day, you’re going to run out of time. You’re going to be unable to work as much as you once did. It makes sense that swapping time for money is no longer the best way of getting that cash! Passive income techniques include things like vlogging/blogging, writing ebooks, creating online courses, and starting simple businesses on sites like Amazon. Do your research and select one method to start with. This is a long game, so don’t be upset when you don’t become an overnight success.

3. Coding
Coding and programmers are in very high demand today. Anyone can learn the skills required, although they can be tough. You can take boot camps to learn programming languages in just a few months, and they will help you to get hired quickly. You can even find simple coding courses and help online. You can look at sites like Asap developers to begin your research and learn more about what you should be doing. There’s going to be something out there to suit every comfort level.

4. Writing
Writing is also a skill that anybody can develop, although you’ll need to practice every day. The more you practice, the better and faster you’ll get. You can also take courses online for this. These skills can be used both in a business of your own and in the workplace. They’ll help you whether you’re creating your own course, responding to an email, or writing a blog post.

5. Multiple Languages
Learning a language is something kids are fantastic at, because their brains are like sponges. However, as we get older, we can find it more difficult to let that language sink in. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try! There are free resources and apps that can help, as well as taking one to one classes or tuition to improve. This can prove beneficial in many jobs, and especially if you want to start a globally successful business.

6. Investing
Investing is one of the only true ways to build wealth over time. This is a fact. Saving money can help you when you have an emergency, but those savings are going to depreciate over time. Instead, making small investments while you teach yourself the lingo and the ropes will get you well on your way to having more wealth and a diverse portfolio. Again, this is a long game. You have to set it and forget it when investing your cash.

7. Graphic Design And Image Editing
Another skill that is valuable in today’s workplace. Many places need people with these skills for their websites. UI designers work to help improve the look and feel of websites and apps to make things easier for customers and consumers.

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8. Online Marketing
Every single business needs online marketing these days with these sheer number of people using the web to find things that they are looking for. You’ll learn all about SEO, PPC, social media, and more. It’s usually best if you pick one subject and roll with that for a while, however, Knowing these things will always make you a more valuable asset.

9. Public Speaking
Public speaking comes naturally to some people. Others can find it very difficult, and even terrifying. There will usually be a time in most employee’s careers where public speaking will be a must, such as making an announcement in office or speaking at a conference. Preparing or this now will take away any fears and reservations and ensure you knock it out of the park.

10. Social Media
Your social media skills might already be great – most people are on sites like Facebook and Instagram now, aren’t they? However, using these platforms professionally can be a huge bonus. This proves that you are technologically savvy and that you have excellent PR skills. If you work in any sort of marketing capacity, you need to prove that you are able to use social media effectively.
The above 10 skills are things that will help you to make more money, whether you’re trying to climb up the corporate ladder, ask for a pay raise, or get out of the rat race altogether and start your own business. Which will you start with, and how are you going to do it? Let us know!

Super Simple Ways To Free Up More Money

A key focus of my blog is Financial Literacy/Money. A key aspect of Financial Literacy is understanding how manage and minimize expenses. The following contributed post is thus entitled; Super Simple Ways To Free Up More Money.

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Freeing up money in your life might sound like something you want to do, but you’re not sure where to begin. We’re here to tell you that there are probably numerous ways you haven’t even considered that will help you to free up more money! However, there’s one thing you need to do first: take a look at your relationship with money and figure out how you really feel about it. Many people like money, but they feel guilty or ashamed of wanting more of it. Some people openly admit that they don’t like money at all. If this is the case for you, how can you expect to have and keep more of it? It just won’t happen. Get yourself into a place you can appreciate money and feel good about having it, and then start working on ways to free up money in your life. You’ll get far better results.

Now you’ve done that, read on for more suggestions!

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Switch Utility Suppliers
If you haven’t switched up your utility suppliers in years like many homeowners, now is the time to have a look and see if you could be getting a better deal elsewhere. Chances are, you’ve been paying far more than necessary for some time now! Check online for a better deal, then call your current suppliers and see if they will match or beat what you’ve found. If you do end up switching, the suppliers do all of the work for you!

Downgrade Your Phone
Do you really need the latest phone? There’s only so much we really need to do with them, and we spend a lot of time on them as it is – taking away from what’s truly important! Downgrading your phone could save you money and give you more time with the people you love.

Sell Items That Are A Big Drain On Your Finances
Take a look around your house and sell items you no longer use. Better yet, sell items that are a big drain on your finances. If you have a motorcycle that is mostly for show, you could sell it with the American Motorcycle Trading Company. Do you really want to keep the bike, keep the fuel topped up, pay for insurance and other maintenance costs, when you only really use it every now and again?

Shop At A Different Store And Always Take A List
Stop shopping at expensive stores when you can get the same items at a much lower price from a discounted store. Always take a list with you too, and never go hungry. You’ll save a fortune.

Track Every Expense
Track your expenses so you can see where your spending habits can be improved. You might be surprised at where a lot of your money is going.

Always Look For a Coupon Or Cashback
Never shop without looking for a coupon or using a cashback site. You could be wasting a ton of money – there are even apps to apply coupon codes for you these days!