How to Save Money Fast

During a tough economy or times of trouble, many people need to know how to save money fast. If you have lost your job or have suddenly accrued some unexpected bills, you need to figure out where to cut expenses immediately to redirect money towards essential costs (housing, food) or towards debt. With some evaluation of your budget and some quick action, you should be able save money quickly to help bridge your immediate financial situation and will hopefully also learn some valuable lessons in how to save money long-term.

saving

Essentials vs Non-Essentials

If you want to learn how to save money fast, you will need to understand the difference between essential and non-essential spending. Your mortgage or rental payment is an essential expense, your cable bill is non-essential. Make a list of all your monthly expenditures and label each expense as essential and non-essential.

Prioritize your non-essential expenditures based how important they are to you and then begin cutting the least important ones out. If you have a gym membership that you use infrequently, cancel it. If you rarely watch TV, cancel your cable bill. Get rid of as many expenditures as you can that are unnecessary.

Making the Hard Cuts

After you have trimmed away the easy non-essential bills, it is time to look further at what is left. Can you cut costs on the expenditures you would like to keep? If you have chosen to keep cable, is there a cheaper package available? Do you pay for both a land line and a cell phone – could you get rid of the land line? Could you cut back on your cell phone plan and pay less per month for less minutes? These are the types of things to look for in your budget when you are learning how to save money fast.

Now that you have eliminated some bills and hopefully modified other bills to cheaper plans, start looking for areas of negotiation. Phone, cable, and internet plans are a good place to start, especially if you have a bundled package. Search online or call competitors of your current provider to see if you could get the same packages for cheaper. Even check with your own provider to see if they offer cheaper rates for new customers. With this information in hand, call your current provider and negotiate a lower price based on competitive prices.

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Saving Money on Groceries

After cutting back on regular monthly bills, your grocery budget is the next good place to evaluate when you are looking at how to save money fast. If you eat out, stop. If you buy all name brand food items, begin to try generic brands. Start cutting coupons and checking the weekly grocery flier to try and buy mostly food items which are on sale and for which you have a coupon. Start keeping a price book where you list the lowest prices of common items in your pantry to understand what is the lowest cost you can pay for a particular item and pay no higher.

Besides groceries, learn to shop smarter all around. Try to only buy clothing or other necessities when there is a sale. Check out thrift stores and yard sales. If you are not use to spending within a budget, learn how to save money fast by learning to dislike spending.

Go Big if Needed

Finally, if you need to learn how to save money fast because of a very desperate time, start cutting out every extraneous expense you have. You may not think you can live without cable TV, but you can. If you cannot afford your car payment, consider selling your car and buying a cheap used car with cash. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and you will be better off making difficult adjustments to your lifestyle now than spending years trying to dig yourself out of debt.

Christian Debt Consolidation – Yeah or Nay?

Christian debt consolidation is performed in the same way as non-Christian debt consolidation – one loan is taken out to pay off many smaller debts. The supposed advantage of having one large loan is that an interest rate can be secured that is usually lower than the interest rates being paid on the smaller debts, especially when high-interest credit cards are involved. The second supposed advantage is the convenience of one payment that is designed to be an affordable monthly payment based on your current financial status.

credit-card-debt

Is Debt Consolidation Right for You?

If you are having trouble keeping up with your debt payments, owe money to multiple lenders, or are paying high interest rates on some or all of your debts, then debt consolidation may be a necessary evil for you. A debt consolidation loan could help you to save money on interest charges and simplify your payment plan. But if there is any way possible for you to avoid a consolidation loan and pay off your debt on your own, you should.

Disadvantages of Debt Consolidation

There are many disadvantages to consider when evaluating debt consolidation. First, often times a consolidation loan will require collateral which for most people is their home. As with any home equity loan, failure to pay could jeopardize your house, so these types of loans should be taken seriously. Second, there are many fees involved with these types of loans so be sure to determine whether a lower interest rate plus the associated fees will actually be saving you money. Finally, a debt consolidation loan often has longer terms, much like a home loan. While this may be necessary to result in a monthly payment you can afford, this could prolong the time it takes you to finally pay off all of your debt.

Christian Debt Consolidation

A Christian debt consolidation loan involves finding a Christian organization that specializes in these types of loans. Provided that the organization is not just Christian in name only, a Christian debt consolidation provider should provide financial advice that meets with biblical principles. It is also possible that a Christian organization may be able to provide their services at a reduced rate if they are funded by outside donations.

Whether you choose a Christian service provider or not, be sure you do your homework before deciding on debt consolidation. There are many scams or less than helpful debt consolidation programs available, so if you can avoid this route altogether, the better off you will be. If you cannot pay off your debt own your own, look for a non-profit Christian financial organization in your area that is recommended by someone you know.

Quick Money Saving Tips

It doesn’t take a financial expert to know that we are in a down economy. Everywhere you look, companies are laying off workers, homes are being foreclosed on, and institutions that have been the backbone of the American economy are facing incredible losses or even bankruptcy. Watching the news today is a just a grim and depressing look on the reality that we are facing the worst economic downturn since the great depression.

Now, more than ever, individuals need to pay attention to their finances and be proactive in working on a plan to help themselves and their family make it through. Most people living today never experienced the harsh times of the 1930’s and many are simply unprepared to be able to take control of their own financial situation and take the steps necessary to turn it around. To survive financial hardship, you must have a plan. Following a plan consistently is extremely important and can lead to significant savings.

money saving tips

Below, I have listed 5 tips on saving money. This is by no means a complete list, but I believe the items below are action items that you can implement right now to help you see more money in your bank account each and every month.

1. Make yourself noticed at work – Now is the time. Forget about what you planned on doing at work but never got around to it. DO IT NOW. Take on a project you have been neglecting. Offer help to others. Become a leader in your workplace. Layoffs are coming hard and heavy, and those that are not adding to the company’s bottom line may soon face the axe. While this may not jump out at you as a money saving tip, saving your job ranks as number one in importance in any financial plan.

2. Make a budget. Follow it. – This one seems like a no brainer. Most people feel as if they already have a household budget, but few people actually write one down. In fact, it is estimated that fewer than 50% of American households actually have a budget. Writing down all your bills is a great start, but a solid budget will contain every single cent you spend each and every month. Get together with the family and look at the snapshot of your monthly expenses. Identifying and cutting out things that are not true needs often save families hundreds of dollars right there.

3. Clip Coupons – Clipping coupons used to have a bad rap. So many people shared the opinion that clipping coupons was something only poor people did. To me, money is money, and I clip away! This one money saving tip alone, if done consistently, can easily save you 25% off your monthly grocery bill.

4. Turn off the lights – Turn off the TV, turn down the heat, and unplug everything. We are creatures of habit, so this can be tough, but proactively working toward using less electricity every day can make a big difference in your monthly budget. Oh yeah, the “unplug everything” comment? Did you know that almost all electric appliances cost you money when they are plugged in, even when they are NOT turned on? Look into it if you don’t believe me. Then, unplug everything.

5. Review your insurance policies – This area is one that is often overlooked by families looking for money saving tips. We get our policies, assume the coverage is solid and then go about our business. By sitting down with a knowledgeable insurance agent, many families can save hundreds of dollars per year by increasing deductibles, maximizing discounts, and deleting coverage that doesn’t make sense for their families needs. This can apply to your auto, your home, your health insurance and more.

Okay, so, let’s look at this list as a good start. As I said, true success with a money saving plan will come from consistency and commitment. Look for other ways to save money, and I guarantee you will find them. It is time for all of us to begin thinking a little differently. Through a good plan of action, however, we CAN come out on top.

Extra Income Ideas – Online Photo Selling

If you are a decent photographer, you can make some money by selling photos online to micro stock photography websites. I’ll be honest, you won’t get rich fast. But if you enjoy taking pictures this is a potential small revenue stream you could use to put towards debt or savings.

freelance photographer

Each of these websites has different set of guidelines to comply with in order to sell your photos so you will need to read through each site’s guidelines carefully and submit your photos accordingly.

Getting Started

Obviously, you will only get paid for your photos if they are accepted yet not all kinds of photographs will be accepted by these sites. You will first need to have quality stock photographs. But you will alos need to have photos that are in demand by graphic designers, artists, advertising agencies, art directors, marketing professionals, websites, magazine ads and all the other buyers at these stock photos sites.

The photos need to be conceptual and keyword-oriented so that each of your pictures can be used by above mentioned people and purposes. Each of your photos has to be crisp, clear, well lit, nicely composed and free of digital noise. To understand better take a look at these websites and browse through the various categories of photos and their titles, you will know the exact kind of pictures to be taken.

To start selling photos online, you have to open an account with the website or sign up as a contributor. This means that you are entering into a contract with the company. Understand their guidelines and also know about the rights of ownership of photographs; whether you can submit your work to other similar websites etc.

When you have chosen a particular website, view the type of images in the various categories mentioned there. Check if your photos are on par with these. Also check how many times each image has been downloaded etc. You will have a fair understanding about how much your photos can earn.

You may have to submit a few samples of your work before being accepted. When you are accepted you can add images to appropriate categories for maximum visibility. Provide keywords that will be most commonly used by visitors. The words should be straight and simple. Instead of just describing the pictures literally, also use conceptualized keywords for commercial purposes and to appear on searches. Such photographs are in great demand especially by the advertising agencies and art directors.

sell your photosYou will be paid on a commission basis for the number of times your images have been downloaded. Some of them even pay you a percentage of the actual price of the photos sold. Remember that each image can be downloaded multiple times

If you have a large collection of photos, selling them online is certainly a unique way to pocket some extra income. But be realistic. It will take time to learn what type of photos sell best and to learn how best to help market those photos. You may not make money right away, but if photography is a hobby you enjoy anyway the wait is certainly worth it.

Some Sites to Consider:
Bigstockphoto
– 123rf
– Stockexpert
– Fotolia
Shutterstock
– iStockphoto
– Dreamstime.

Did I miss any? Send me an email if you have done this and let me know how successful you were. I have heard of some people having success with this but I don’t have any hard numbers.

What is Debt Counseling?

When saving for retirement, debt is a bad thing to have. Not that debt is ever a good thing to have, but when debt is present it can make retirement saving that much bigger of a challenge. Wondering if debt counseling can help you with your debt problems? I prefer a do it yourself debt management program but if you are looking for more info, here it is.

no debt

Debt counseling, also referred to as credit counseling, is a comprehensive approach to debt management that can often incorporate the various debt services (debt management, debt consolidation, etc.). The terminology can be a bit confusing as debt counseling, debt management, and debt consolidation are sometimes used interchangeably even though the services are quite different. When evaluating debt counseling programs, be sure you understand exactly what services are provided.

Role of Debt Counselor

Since there are a variety of debt repayment options, a debt counselor can help you to decide which service will be most beneficial to you in eliminating your debt. This requires a very personal approach in evaluating your current financial status. A debt counselor should be able to make an objective assessment of your debts, income, and necessary living expenses to recommend a plan that best fits your situation.

A good debt counselor should also offer more than just a payment plan or loan to tackle your debt issues. They should teach you how to better handle your finances. This will help you avoid accruing debt again in the future rather than just paying off your current debt. Without changes in your money management behaviors, you may pay off your debts for now only to generate more debt further down the road. You can not allow that to happen.

Downside of Debt Counseling

Like debt management services, your involvement in a debt counseling program may show up on your credit report. This is a very important point to consider before committing yourself to this avenue. If you are considering debt counseling, evaluate different service providers and specifically ask whether your inclusion in their program will be listed on your credit report.

Because debt counseling is such a general term, it is possible that you may be able to find a Christian debt counseling service that provides guidance and support to help you pay off your debts yourself. This would avoid any mention on your credit report and may be all you require if you are still in control of your debt payments.

Finally, if you look into Christian debt services, do not assume that a debt counseling company with a Christian name is truly a Christian organization. Unfortunately, there are many companies looking to take advantage of people struggling with debt and a Christian name is no assurance that a debt service provider is operating under Christian principles. Before choosing any Christian debt counseling service, ask many questions and check with the Better Business Bureau.

My Tips on Working from Home Efficiently

When you say that you are working from home, there are some people who will automatically think of you: walking around in your pajamas, bathrobe and bunny slippers all day; as unemployment or currently in between jobs or recently fired from your old one; or having too much time on your hands and therefore available (or at least, amendable) to all kinds of demands and requests to do other things.

self employed

But what these people do not know is that fact that working from home is just as physically and mentally engaging as working in an office set-up. True enough, you do not need to commute to work every day, and you do not have to put up with the irritating office gossip, or dress up when your boss announces you have to do a staff presentation. However, in order to earn a respectable income from this gig, you would need to:

1. Make sure that you have your own work space, preferably where you can work without getting distracted by other members of the family, by the chores you have to do around the house, or by the show or movie you are itching to watch. Just think of it this way: you get less work done if you are constantly distracted which translates to less profit for you.

2. Set regular work hours. Setting a regular schedule has two advantages. One: you get as much work done as you normally would in an office set-up. Two: you get to have time-off from your work as well, which lessens or eliminates the 24/7 work-until-you-collapse routine.

3. Make sure that everyone in your family knows that this is your work place and this is your working schedule. Set a rule that you should not be disturbed when you are working. Tools, equipment and hardware that you use should be strictly for profit earning ventures only.

At the same time, make sure that you do utilize your work place efficiently and that you really work during your schedule. Using your computer to chat or play games, or simply hiding out in your “work place” to avoid the rest of the family is counterproductive, wastes a lot of opportunities and isolates you from everyone else.stay organized

4. Dress up for work. You can always stay in your pajamas if you are working from home, but putting on something decent will help you start the working day right. At the same time, this dispels the rumors that you walk around in the clothes you slept in. And dressing up a bit might prove a tad less embarrassing for you when you receive and sign for a package at the middle of the day.

5. Work even when you don’t feel like working. This also happens when you are working in an office and you can take the day off for some R & R. But you have to remember that taking too many breaks or off days also mean that you reduce the chances of getting paid well at the end of the month. So push yourself to work, even and especially on days when you just want to do something else.