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8 Reddit Saving Money Threads to Help You Keep More of Your Cash



Looking for ways to save money?

Don’t limit yourself to the ideas you think up on your own. There’s great benefit in joining a group of others who can share their tips, tricks and advice. That’s the reason we started The Penny Hoarder Community.

Another resource where tons of ideas are shared is Reddit. If saving money is your aim, check out these eight Reddit forums, also known as subreddits, that’ll help you cut costs on food, travel, weddings and more.

1. r/Frugal

Over 1 million members belong to the frugal living subreddit. Here, you’ll find a wide range of discussions about how to save money in your everyday life. There’s advice on reducing the costs of necessities like food and utilities as well as nonessentials like electronics and vacations.

2. r/budgetfood

You can’t cut food out your budget, but there are so many ways to save. The 150,000 members in Reddit’s budget food community share ideas on meal planning, low-cost recipes, grocery shopping tips and more.

3. r/CordCutters

Sick of your $100+ cable bill, but on the fence about canceling your service? The cord cutters subreddit is where to go to ask questions about various cable alternatives, so you can pay less while still enjoying what you love to watch.

4. r/NoContract

We can’t live without our cell phones, but we can definitely do without being locked into pricy phone service contracts. Reddit’s no contract community is the forum to join if you’re interested in learning about cheaper phone service without a long-term commitment to a particular carrier.

5. r/Shoestring

The shoestring subreddit is where world travelers go to share advice and post questions about ways to travel on a budget. If you’re looking for cheap airfare, inexpensive lodging or ideas about low-cost things to do at your destination, this is the group to join.

6. r/BuyItForLife

Saving money isn’t always about buying the cheapest thing out there. Sometimes it’s worth spending more initially for something of better quality that lasts for years and years. Reddit’s buy it for life forum is where folks go to show off their long-lasting purchases, share feedback on the durability of various products and seek advice about how to maintain what they own so they don’t need to spend money on a replacement.

7. r/Weddingsunder10k

Planning a wedding but don’t want to go into debt getting hitched? The weddings under $10K subreddit has all the ideas about how to get married on a tight budget. Get inspiration from other brides or ask the group to weigh in on your upcoming nuptials.

8. r/MUAontheCheap

If you’re looking to spend less on beauty items check out the MUA on the cheap subreddit. It’s full of announcements about sales and special deals for popular makeup brands, nail polish, skincare and more.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.



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How to Become a DoorDash Driver / Dasher


DoorDash is the most popular food delivery app in the United States, beating out competitors Grubhub and Uber Eats. If you live in or near a city of any size, it probably operates in your backyard. Maybe you’ve even used DoorDash to order from your favorite restaurant.

If you’re at all familiar with DoorDash, you know it’s not a one-way street. Without its thousands-strong crew of hard-hustling delivery folks, called Dashers, the app wouldn’t work, and the world would be a little hungrier for it.

As DoorDash grows, so too do the ranks of Dashers. You may have what it takes to become a Dasher if you have:

  • Access to a personal vehicle (car, bike, or scooter)
  • A valid driver’s license
  • Valid insurance
  • An ability and desire to hustle in your spare time

According to DoorDash, Dashers may earn $15 to $20 per hour – and perhaps even more during peak periods when DoorDash may issue “Busy Pay” bonuses. Fuel costs and vehicle expenses inevitably reduce take-home earnings, but Dashing is still pretty lucrative compared with other popular sharing economy gigs.

Should you apply to become a Dasher? Let’s find out.

What Dashers Do

The short version: Dashers pick up prepared food orders – and, in some cases, other goods – from DoorDash partner merchants and deliver those orders to customers.

The slightly longer version, in sequential order:

  1. The Dasher logs into the DoorDash app, either at their convenience or at the start of a shift they’ve previously scheduled in the app.
  2. The Dasher chooses to accept or decline orders they receive from the app.
  3. When the Dasher accepts an order, they travel to the merchant to pick it up.
  4. When the order is ready, the Dasher pays with their Red Card, a DoorDash-issued reloadable prepaid card. When necessary – for instance, at cash-only restaurants – DoorDash can facilitate cash payments to merchants, but it isn’t as common.
  5. The Dasher brings the order to the customer. If the Dasher needs to contact the customer – for instance, to let them know there’s a delay at the restaurant or to navigate secure building entry – they can use the in-app contact function.
  6. The Dasher hands the order off to the customer. If the order is cash on delivery, the Dasher accepts cash from the customer and enters the payment in the app.
  7. The Dasher marks the order complete in the app. Success!

This process assumes a relatively smooth delivery. If the merchant can’t find an order placed through the app or the customer is unreachable, the Dasher may need to contact DoorDash’s service team to work on a solution. In rare cases, the order may need to be canceled.

Dasher Pay

Dashers can choose weekly or daily payouts. Pay always consists of:

  • A base pay rate of at least $1 per delivery
  • 100% of customer tips (given at the customer’s sole discretion)

Pay may also include:

  • Busy Pay bonuses for working during peak periods
  • Incentive payments for meeting certain temporary criteria set by DoorDash (such as a minimum completion rate)

Each DoorDash order has a minimum guaranteed payment, which varies by order. If the combined total of base pay, customer tips, and incentive payments doesn’t reach the minimum, DoorDash issues a payment boost to make up the difference.

How to Become a Dasher

Intrigued by what you’ve read so far? Here’s what you need to apply to become a Dasher, and what to expect from the application process.

Requirements

Dashers must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have an iPhone or Android smartphone capable of running the DoorDash app
  • Provide a valid Social Security number
  • Have a suitable vehicle – depending on the market, this may mean a car (any make or model in working condition will do), motorcycle, scooter, or bike
  • Have valid insurance on the vehicle if required by law
  • Have a valid driver’s license and insurance if they’ll be driving

Signup & Approval

DoorDash’s application process is pretty straightforward. To get started, you’ll enter some basic personal information – name, phone number, and ZIP code – and consent to receive email and text notifications from DoorDash.

If DoorDash is accepting applications in your area – depending on demand, it may pause acceptance from time to time, but it’s usually temporary – you’ll need to provide your Social Security number and more detail about your vehicle.

You’ll then select one of two onboarding options:

  • A virtual orientation that walks you through the basics of Dashing
  • A home-delivered “activation kit” that includes a hot bag to keep food warm, your Red Card, and an orientation manual. The activation kit takes one to four business days to arrive, according to DoorDash.

If you choose to receive an activation kit, you won’t need to complete a virtual orientation. In larger markets, you may have the option to pick up your kit at a physical DoorDash office.

Next, you’ll need to download and install the Dasher app, activate your Red Card, complete a W-9 taxpayer identification form, and set up direct deposit. Once you’ve completed these steps, DoorDash will active your Dasher app and clear you to begin Dashing.

Delivering With Doordash

Advantages of Dashing for DoorDash

What sets DoorDash apart from other side hustle opportunities? For starters:

1. You Don’t Need Your Own Car

This is one of DoorDash’s signature advantages relative to popular gig economy apps such as Uber and Lyft. Although every market is different, most support alternative vehicles such as motorcycles, scooters, and pedal-powered cycles. If you’re content to live without a car or simply don’t have consistent access to a working car, Dashing may still be in your future.

2. You Can Earn Bonus Pay During Peak Hours

DoorDash issues bonus and incentive payments during periods of peak customer demand – usually during the lunch and dinner rushes, though the exact timing and volume depend on the market. A typical incentive might be something like: “Be active in the Dasher app in [your market] between 11:30am and 2pm, accept 80% of orders during that time, and complete at least three orders to receive $2 extra per order.”

To capture incentives, you may need to move between markets or submarkets. For instance, one example DoorDash provides distinguishes between two California Bay Area markets: Fremont/Union City/Hayward/Castro Valley and Oakland/Berkeley/Alameda. It’s up to you to determine whether the added drive time is worth the bonus.

3. Peak Hours Often Fall During Extended Business Hours

This is another key advantage over ride-sharing apps whose peak hours often fall on weekend evenings and early mornings. Late-night restaurants notwithstanding, DoorDash’s highest order volumes are likely to occur around lunchtime and dinnertime, making this gig if not quite 9-to-5, then not too far off.

4. DoorDash Is Widespread & Growing

DoorDash operates in virtually every major U.S. metro, many second- and third-tier metros, and a fair number of smaller college towns and rural hubs. You likely live in or close enough to a DoorDash market to make Dashing viable. The same can’t be said for some other popular courier apps, whose coverage may be thin or nonexistent outside the 50 or so largest U.S. metros.

Considerations for Prospective DoorDash Drivers

Dashing is a great way to earn a side income on your own schedule, but it’s not a perfect side gig; no side gig is. Before applying, consider:

1. The Implications of Independent Contractor Status

DoorDash classifies Dashers as independent contractors, not traditional W-2 employees. The advantages of working as an independent contractor are clear: you have more control over your working hours, environments, and (at least in theory) earning potential.

But independent contractors don’t enjoy all the same legal rights as traditional employees, such as protection from certain types of discrimination and coverage under minimum wage laws – though DoorDash’s minimum guaranteed payouts often exceed the local minimum wage when converted to hourly rates.

Moreover, independent contractors must:

  • Manage Their Own Income Tax Obligations. DoorDash doesn’t withhold income tax from Dashers’ payouts. Dashers are responsible for calculating their own income tax liabilities (which involves accounting for actual and expected earnings and expenses), setting aside funds to cover those expected obligations, and making quarterly estimated tax payments (federal and state, if applicable) to avoid interest and penalties.
  • Pay Self-Employment Tax. Dashers earning more than $400 per year on the DoorDash app may be subject to self-employment tax, which comes out to roughly 15.3% of their income from Dashing. (Dashers who earn an income through other gig economy apps must pay self-employment tax on those apps’ earnings too.) By contrast, W-2 workers generally pay just half the self-employment tax rate, with their employers picking up the remainder. For situation-specific information, speak with a tax professional or consult IRS Topic Number 554.
  • Cover Their Own Expenses Out of Pocket. Independent contractors, including Dashers, are typically held responsible for paying work-related expenses out of pocket. For instance, DoorDash does not reimburse Dashers’ fuel or vehicle maintenance costs, which inevitably reduces their take-home pay. Fortunately, most expenses incurred by independent contractors are tax-deductible – see this list from Intuit – but the deduction is far from a one-to-one reimbursement. Dashers do better when they operate like miniature business enterprises, using apps such as MileIQ and Everlance to track common expenses ahead of tax time, even if they choose not to formally incorporate.
  • Deal With One-Off Expenses. DoorDash does not reimburse road tolls, parking fees, parking tickets, or traffic tickets. Reduce the risk of tickets by driving and parking responsibly, and take the DoorDash app’s toll-avoidance suggestions to heart. You’ll get better at consistently avoiding parking fees with time. Generally, it’s best to avoid Dashing by car in commercial areas with limited or nonexistent free parking. If you Dash in a congested urban core, there’s a good chance you’ll be more efficient on a bike or scooter, anyway.

2. The Learning Curve

Like any new gig, DoorDash comes with a learning curve. As someone who’s worked as a delivery driver, I can tell you that Dashes one through nine won’t be as quick or efficient as Dashes 101 through 109.

But that’s OK. The important thing is that you go into the process with the understanding that you’ll learn and improve over time. Every Dasher starts somewhere.

3. Personal Vehicle Expenses

Dashing puts extra miles on your personal vehicle, whether it’s a car, motorcycle, scooter, or cycle. That means wear and tear, which means potential maintenance and repairs that otherwise wouldn’t be necessary. Precisely how much more you’ll spend on your vehicle depends on factors such as:

  • The vehicle type (car, motorcycle, scooter)
  • The make and model (foreign cars typically cost more to maintain and repair)
  • How much you Dash
  • The condition of the roads you’re Dashing on
  • The type of driving you’re doing (highway driving is gentler on vehicles than driving on congested surface streets)

Again, these expenses will eat into your take-home pay. It’s up to you to determine whether the additional wear and tear on your vehicle is worth the cost and headache. For many Dashers, it is.

4. Order Volume & Dasher Competition in Your Area

Not all DoorDash markets are created equal. In markets with fewer – or sparser – customers and merchants, Dashers may earn less per hour than their counterparts in livelier markets. On the other hand, competition among Dashers may be lower in slower markets, which may make for busier, more lucrative Dashing sessions. There’s no way to know for sure until you’ve been Dashing for a while.

5. Factors That May Lengthen Completion Times

As a former delivery driver, I’m well-versed in all that can stand in the way of a smooth order. At one time or another, every Dasher will have to deal with:

  • Traffic. No matter where you Dash, traffic will be an issue, whether it’s due to road construction, crashes, or plain old congestion. If you Dash during peak driving periods, such as the evening rush hour, traffic will be worse. Keep this in mind when projecting your potential earnings.
  • Parking. If you Dash for merchants located in congested urban areas or busy suburban shopping centers, parking will be an issue. You may find yourself paying for parking – which DoorDash won’t reimburse you for – or competing for parking spots. Plan accordingly.
  • Merchant Delays. During peak periods, merchants may struggle to keep up with order volume, and you may find yourself waiting at the pickup counter for the kitchen to finish your order. Although it’s impossible to completely avoid order delays, experienced Dashers may learn to decline orders from consistently backed-up merchants.
  • Faraway Customers. Dashers working larger territories may find themselves driving five or 10 miles one way to complete an order. In the interest of maintaining an acceptable completion rate, you may need to accept some orders that take longer than you’d like; DoorDash’s minimum pay guarantee is, in part, designed to compensate for these situations.

6. How DoorDash Evaluates You

In the interest of quality control, DoorDash continually evaluates Dashers. Dashers who fail to meet minimum quality standards may be subject to deactivation, though DoorDash typically issues formal warnings to failing Dashers before kicking them off the app.

Three Dasher metrics are particularly important:

  • Dasher Rating. This is the aggregate of customer-generated Dasher quality ratings. After receiving their completed order, the customer rates their Dasher on a scale of one to five. Dashers with aggregate ratings under 4.2 may be subject to deactivation.
  • Acceptance Rate. This is the rate at which the Dasher accepts orders in the app. Although it’s not clear that DoorDash has a minimum acceptance rate, Dashers with meager acceptance rates – those who consistently decline multiple orders before accepting one – may risk deactivation. Dashers who appear to be idle may be logged out of the app automatically.
  • Completion Rate. Dashers are expected to complete every accepted order, even when things don’t go smoothly. DoorDash adjudicates serious issues on a case-by-case basis – when the restaurant fails to prepare an order and refuses to make it up, for instance. However, Dashers whose completion rates fall below 70% may be subject to deactivation.

These aren’t groundbreaking metrics. Still, you’ll want to understand how they work before signing up for DoorDash and accepting orders. The onboarding process is designed to address common questions, but if you’re unsure about something, it never hurts to reach out to DoorDash’s support team.

Final Word

Some people Dash for fun. Others do it to reach a savings goal, such as a much-needed vacation or a down payment on a home. Still others work it around their studies, content to earn a few hundred discretionary bucks per month.

There’s no right or wrong reason to Dash. You don’t even need a car of your own to get started. And as your own boss, you’re free to dial back or quit Dashing altogether if you find it’s not working for you. So why not give it a try? Sign up to become a Dasher today.

Are you a DoorDash Dasher? What do you like about it?



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The Value of Time Tracking – And How I Do It


Over the past few years, I’ve made several small references to the fact that I’m a pretty active time tracker. I like to keep track of what I do with my time throughout the day, to the best of my ability, and I find a ton of value not just in doing so, but in the accumulated data.

A few readers over the years have touched base with me on the subject, asking for more details, so I thought there might be value in explaining the full system in detail – why I do it, how I do it, and what value I get from the results. There are definitely some real financial and professional benefits, and benefits in other areas of life, too.

What Is Time Tracking?

Time tracking is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. I simply keep track of my time use each day. Any time I do something for more than about five minutes, or if I interrupt an ongoing task for more than about five minutes, I record that.

Let’s say I wake up in the morning and I decide that I first want to take a shower and get dressed for the day. I mark the time, that I’m no longer sleeping, and that I’m now practicing morning hygiene. When I’m done with that and I decide I want to meditate, I mark the time, that I’m no longer doing morning hygiene, and that I’m now meditating. This goes on and on, to the best of my ability, until I’m ready to go to sleep, at which point I mark the time, that I’m no longer doing whatever it was I was doing right before bed, and that I’m now sleeping. I’ll get into the mechanics of this in a bit, but it takes me less than a second to record those transitions, so it’s practically effortless.

In general, I don’t bother recording very short things, less than five or ten minutes or so. I’m more interested in the larger blocks of time I devote to things like sleep, work, hygiene, meals, hobbies, and so on.

I do not aim for perfection. That would be impossible. Instead, I just aim to get as close as I can to recording the actual edges of the significant chunks of time throughout my day. I’m never absolutely perfect at it.

Why Do It?

The first question most people ask when they hear about this is why. Why would a person even want to do this?

This actually is a practice that I started using at my previous job to document my personal time. I was frustrated by my performance reviews and felt that the reviews didn’t actually assess all of the different things I was actually taking care of and responsible for at work, so for the last year or so of my job, I started tracking my time very carefully using an Excel spreadsheet, doing it all manually. I wanted to produce documentation that showed that I spent X hours in an average week – and Y hours over the last year – doing a particular task and so on. So, the entire thing was initially borne out of a frustration with managers not really understanding or appreciating all of the things I was quietly doing and maintaining.

I learned several things as I was doing this.

First of all, the act of time tracking nudges me to make better use of my time. When I made the conscious decision to be as honest as possible with my time tracking, I quickly realized that I didn’t want to track silly uses of my time. If I were to look at my time tracking data at the end of the day or the end of the week or the end of the month and think to myself that some of those entries were absolutely wasteful or silly, that wouldn’t feel good. I don’t want to see entries like that in my data. So, during the day, I consciously choose things to do that will look better in the data.

This is very similar to the phenomenon of writing down every dime you spend. If you do that honestly, there will be bad expenses that you don’t want to write down, and that desire to not have to record that silly expense pushes you away from that expense. You don’t want to write it down, so you don’t do it.

Second, time tracking keeps me on task. I have a rough rule that if I’m stepping away from the task at hand for more than five minutes, I write down that the task has ended and that I’m moving on to something else. This actually does a great job of keeping me on task. I recognize that if I start browsing websites for very long, I’m actually effectively ending the block of time I spent on task and, as noted above, I don’t want to do that, so I find myself nudging away from pure time-wasting activities.

Finally, time tracking data is incredibly useful, especially as I accumulate more and more of it. I’ll get into this below in the “How I Use the Data” section, but suffice it to say that the data has a great deal of value, professionally, personally, and financially. The things I’ve learn from looking at the time tracking data I’ve accumulated have helped me make better career decisions, make better hobby choices, make better personal decisions, and so on.

When I walked away from that job, I found that the unstructured life of self-employment and contracted work made it very easy to start using time in a … let’s say, less than optimal manner. After a while, I began to realize that I needed to figure out better practices for using my time, and that’s when I returned to time tracking, and I’ve more or less been using it constantly over the last several years. I found that the benefits it brought to my professional life back then actually exist in almost every aspect of my life now.

How I Track My Time

So, how do I actually pull this off without being overly clunky?

For me, the number one most important principle of time tracking is that it must require absolute minimum effort to actually track time. When I first started doing this, I would manually track time in a spreadsheet document, and that was often cumbersome. I had to develop a set of codes to use to make the entry more efficient, but even that was fairly slow. It is very likely that if I were still recording my time manually on a spreadsheet or with a piece of paper, I wouldn’t still be doing it.

The big change for me was the arrival of online services that handle time tracking for you. They basically handle all of the data tracking and reduce it all down to a single button click, though there is a lot of setup work that needs to be done to make it work that well.

I’ve tried a bunch of services and the one I’ve been using for the past few months is far and away the best one I’ve ever used. I use Timery, which is an app that serves as a very user-friendly front end for the Toggl time tracking service. This might require a bit of explanation.

I have been using Toggl as my time tracking service for years because I like the way they handle all of the data that I’ve recorded. The only problem with Toggl is that their actual data entry tools are a bit cumbersome. I usually use my phone or (occasionally) my tablet to record when tasks start and end, but the tools Toggl provides themselves require several taps to do almost anything, which often takes me out of my train of thought.

Timery‘s entire focus is on making data entry into Toggl as simple as possible, reducing most of the time entry down to a single tap off of the Control Center screen on my phone or tablet. I can literally do it in less than a second, fast enough and thoughtless enough that I don’t have to break whatever I’m concentrating on. This has been a revelation for me.

Basically, I have a section on the Control Center screen on my phone called Timery, and within that is a selection of the most common things I track for time. If I have a timer running, it’s shown at the very top in a bigger button, so I just tap that button if I want to end the timer, then I find the button matching what I’m going to do next and tap that to start a new one. Timery handles all of the start and end times and data recording for me so I don’t have to deal with any of it.

I have a much longer list within the app itself for other things, so if I don’t happen to see the thing I’m doing, I tap the Timery app and just scroll down to that timer.

The nice thing about Timery/Toggl is that for each task, you give it a name, assign it a project, and can give it as many tags as you wish. This is huge in terms of sifting through the data once you’ve recorded a bunch of it.

I personally have a couple dozen different projects that are all named with the following structure “[Life Sphere] – [Specific Element].” Life sphere simply refers to one of the eleven areas of my life that I’m concerned with – physical, mental, spiritual, intellectual, social, marital, parental, family, professional, leisure, and financial. Some of those things break down into a few broad groups that I want to track. For example, I have a “Parental – NAME” project for each of my children to record when I’m spending one on one time with them, as well as a “Parental – All” for when I’m doing things with multiple kids at once. I have a “Professional – TSD” project for when I’m doing things with The Simple Dollar, as well as a few other “Professional – ” projects that relate to other professional things I’m doing.

So, for example, I have a task called “Playing Magic with my oldest child” that’s in the project “Parental – Oldest Child.” (Obviously, I use his name in that task, but I try to respect his privacy as much as possible on the site.) He loves playing Magic: the Gathering, so I tap that timer whenever I sit down to play a game or two with him.

Tags are used to include attributes of tasks in different spheres that might have things in common. This is usually to help handle specific tasks that I think are mostly in one project but have a lot in common with tasks in another project.

For example, I use the tags “#mtg” and “#tabletopgames” for the task described above, and there are tasks under the “Leisure” category that have similar tags, so that I can always have a full picture of how much time I spend playing tabletop games and playing Magic in general, with my son and other people combined.

Another example: I have several tasks that are within one of the “Professional” categories that have the tag “#writing” associated with them, so I can always figure out with a few clicks what time I’m spending writing.

Once one of these timers is created, I don’t have to do anything with them again other than to tap it once to start a timer for that task, then tap it again later to end a timer for that task. The name of the task, the category it’s in, and the tags it has are saved by Timery/Toggl, so I don’t have to ever re-enter them again after the first time. I just tap to start a timer, then tap again to end it.

How I Use the Data

So, I’m accumulating all of this data. How am I using it?

First of all, I really like to see week-over-week and month-over-month changes in my time use. Are those changes matching up with what I expect? With what I want out of life?

In terms of planning out my days, I use a “time block” system where I assign several big chunks of time to various things I want to get done, and each of those is usually associated with a timer. When I start to see changes in the data that I don’t like, I usually use that information to change how I’m blocking out my time going forward from there.

For example, let’s say I notice that my time spent with my daughter has declined in the last few months. I’ll likely give that some thought. How is my relationship with my daughter changing? Maybe I need to be spending more time with her. What kinds of things can we do together, just me and her, that would be meaningful and enjoyable for her?

Second, I use the data to help me figure out which work tasks are really worthwhile and which ones aren’t. Ideally, I want to be in a situation where, when I’m actually applying skills to produce work, I’m extremely efficient and earning a nice dollar-per-hour rate for that effort. What productive tasks are most efficient at producing the highest income per hour? Over the last several months, what ones have gone up, and can I connect that to my effort toward learning and improving skills?

For example, let’s say I notice that my time invested in all tasks tagged with “#writing” has gone down a bit over the last few months, but my actual income for writing has gone up. That improves my hourly rate, but why is that? Is it due to the specific tasks? Did I happen to have a really lucrative writing gig? Or maybe it was because I’ve invested some time into honing my writing skills over the past several months. I actually have clues here, data I can work with to figure out how valuable skill building actually is and what tasks and projects are really worthwhile for me. (I have at least one long term contract that now feels like a “dog” because it takes far more time than it gives me, so I know I won’t renew it or sign a similar one going forward. This is something I might not have realized without time tracking.)

In practical terms, this knowledge has led me to spend a fair amount of time working on skill building and knowledge building in the fall and winter months (when I have more time for such things) and then more time on producing things in the spring (where I want to produce a lot of good material quickly to free up time in the summer months). This cycle has worked out well and has enabled me to do some things in the summer that would have never worked in earlier years. It has also led me to agree to some additional projects and decline some others, because the data gives me a pretty clear sense as to whether I can handle them efficiently or not.

Third, seeing time use that I’m unhappy with is an incredibly powerful motivator to get me to cut out less valuable uses of my time. What I’m generally aiming for in life are uses of my time that seem purposeful now, but also seem purposeful when I look back on the data six months from now. If I see time uses that aren’t purposeful, I want to make changes, and those changes are usually positive for my life.

I’ll use computer games as an example. I think a small amount of computer game use is great for me. It is a powerful tool for short term de-stressing and the types of games I play usually make me think and analyze complex puzzles. I’m actually happy with a small amount of it – say, three hours a week. What I’m not happy with it is a steady uptick in the time I spend on computer games or when my time given to them adds up to a lot more than three hours a week. When I see that, I recognize immediately that I need to cut back and give more time to other things.

The reverse is also true. I generally like to see as much time as possible devoted to physical fitness and meditation, two practices I feel are extremely helpful in my daily life. When I see the time devoted to those things going down, I recognize that I need to consciously give more time to those things.

To put it simply, I have in my head an idea of what an “ideal week” and an “ideal month” look like. (An “ideal day” is kind of impossible because days vary too much.) There’s a certain portion of hours devoted to each area of my life, with some areas receiving more focus depending on the time of year. When I start to deviate a lot from that picture, I usually feel it in my life in a negative subconscious way, but I often don’t pick up on it consciously aside from a vague sense that something is off in terms of how I’m living my life. Time tracking almost always points me to what that problem is.

Finding Time for Time Tracking

Honestly, it doesn’t take much time at all to do this, once you’ve got a bunch of timers for the things in your life you want to track set up.

When I’m going through my day and tracking time, I can stop a timer and start a new one with a flick and two taps of my finger; it’s so fast that it barely registers as a conscious thing. It’s kind of a habit that you build up over time, so that it almost becomes unconscious to do it. (Yes, for some less common tasks, it takes an extra tap or two, but that’s like a five second thing.)

As I’ve mentioned many times, I take an hour or two each week (usually early on Sunday mornings, before anyone else is up) to do a “weekly review” of my life, looking at what I accomplished this week and figuring out what I’m going to do next week and going forward beyond that. I use the time tracking data as part of this review; I spend some time looking at my data for the past week and digging into anything that stands out at me. Sometimes, I’ll have a particular question in mind (like “how effective is time spent on focused research in terms of how efficient my actual writing time is?”) and I’ll dig through the data until I get a good answer. Usually, those conclusions help me figure out how to use my time better going forward and informs my planning for the coming week.

When I initially set up the system, it took about an hour to set up my initial handful of timers, and for the first month or two, I was adding timers fairly regularly (took about a minute each, most of which was thinking about exactly what I wanted to track). After that, I’ve occasionally added a new timer, but not often.

So, time tracking takes up very, very little of my time. It’s super convenient and not cumbersome in any way. Although previous iterations of my system were a bit cumbersome, that’s been eliminated thanks to technology improvements.

Final Thoughts

Time tracking is something that has had surprising positive value in my life. It’s helped me figure out lots of different life problems and helped me figure out what’s going on during times when I’ve felt things were out of whack in my life. It’s helped me figure out how to become much more efficient with my professional work and understand how time spent building skills actually ends up helping my overall professional life tremendously. It’s helped me identify areas of my life that need work, and other areas of my life to which I’m devoting too much of my time.

The system takes a bit of time to set up – an hour or two, most likely – and it definitely requires you to build a habit of tracking time as a natural response to changing what you’re doing, but once you get there, actually tracking the information is slick and natural.

The data, once you start to accumulate a sufficient amount of it, is incredibly useful in terms of figuring out what’s really going on in your life and setting priorities and goals going forward.

I’m really glad that time tracking is a part of my life. For the relatively small amount of time I’ve given to it, it’s resulted in a lot of insights and a lot of positive directions for me. I’m glad I chose to start doing it, and I plan on continuing to do this for a very long time, likely until I hit early retirement and our children have moved out of the home.



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Why you should tackle one goal at a time


I used to be the sort of guy who loved to have a list of goals. At least once a year — usually around New Year — I’d sit down and make a list of all the things that were wrong with me, all of the things I wanted to change.

In 2007, for instance, I made a list of 101 things I wanted to accomplish in 1001 days. (It took me longer than three years to finish that list, by the way. In fact, I still haven’t done everything on it because my priorities have changed. But now, ten years later, I see that I have completed nearly all of the ones that still matter.)

Eventually I realized that making a long lists of resolutions is a sure path to disappointment — at least for me. There’s a reason you see newspaper and TV stories every spring about how most people aren’t able to maintain the resolutions they set at the first of the year. It’s because most of us try to do too much. (And, I think, because we try to set goals that aren’t truly aligned with our primary purpose in life.)

Nowadays, I do something different, something that’s actually proven to be successful. Instead of trying to change many things at once, I’ve learned to change only one thing at a time.

One Thing at a Time

In 2010, for instance, I focused on fitness. In fact, I dubbed 2010 “The Year of Fitness”. My aim was to lose fifty pounds. Every decision I made, I made with that goal in mind. You know what? It worked. Though I didn’t lose fifty pounds that year, I did lose forty. (And I lost the final ten by the middle of 2011.)

[Weight Loss Progress]

I was able to do this because for the entire year, my only goal was to get in shape. I was focused. Nothing else mattered. I didn’t have any other big goals clouding my view or competing for my attention. I set one goal, and I worked hard to meet it.

In 2011, my one goal was to learn Spanish. And I did it. Three times a week, I paid a Spanish tutor for ninety minutes of personal instruction. In my spare time, I watched Spanish movies and listend to Spanish music. I read Spanish books. I consumed Spanish podcasts. Within a year, I’d achieved reasonable fluency in the language. I could carry on converstations in South America, and I could read Spanish-language novels. (Though not all Spanish-language novels.)

In 2012, I tried something a little different. Instead of one big goal for the year, I chose to work on one goal each month. Some examples:

  • In March, I had lunch or dinner with a different friend every day. This let me reconnect with people I’d been missing.
  • In April, I embarked upon my Extreme Dating Project. I’d just been divorced, and my goal was to meet as many women as possible. (April was a fun month! And it led to my current relationship with Kim.)
  • Next, my goal became to make it to the gym every day in May. I didn’t quite succeed — I only worked out 28 out of 31 days — but I came close.
  • My next goal was “no junk in June”. I focused on my diet, which helped me lose five pounds and two percent body fat.

Sometimes I spend a year on any given goal. Sometimes, I spend a month. And sometimes I spend even longer! After Kim and I decided we wanted to take an RV trip across the United States, for instance, I spent the next eighteen months devoted to that project.

During the first part of 2015, we shopped for and purchased a motorhome, then prepped it for life on the road. We left Portland on 25 March 2015 and spent the next six months exploring the U.S. We paused for six months in Savannah, Georgia, before beginning our homeward journey this time last year. On 29 June 2016, we made it back to Portland. We had a blast — because for those eighteen months, we were committed to one thing and one thing only.

You get the idea. At any given time, I’m concerned with only one major goal.

One Problem, One Correction

My friend (and personal trainer) Cody espouses the “one thing at a time” philosophy when he works with clients at his gym. Here’s how he describes his approach:

One of the teaching skills that is developed in good coaches is the concept of “one fault, one correction”. The idea is to take the most important correction needed and just focus on that one thing. Attack it from different angles if needed, but be tenacious on correcting the biggest fault only. Once that has been achieved, the Coach and Athlete can move on to the next biggest fault, then the next and so on, in a never-ending journey toward excellence.

Cody says that by focusing on one thing at a time, you can:

  • Obtain greater focus. When you try to correct more than one thing at once, it’s easy to become distracted. You can’t do any one thing well because you’re trying to do many things poorly. But if you concentrate on a single goal, you’re able to obtain a laser-like focus that better helps you achieve that objective.
  • Reduce stress. If tackle too much at once, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It seems like you’ll never get it all done. When you focus on one thing at a time, you know that’s the only thing you have to worry about. This relieves a lot of pressure.
  • Build confidence. “Honing in on one challenge and overcoming it can give you a tremendous feeling of success,” Cody says. This boosts your belief that you can overcome other obstacles. When you kick ass on your first goal, you know you can kick ass on the next one.

Cody puts this philosophy into practice every day in the gym. He uses it when coaching me on squats, for example. When I started at his gym, my form was awful. I couldn’t do an actual squat — not even without weight. By correcting one thing at a time, I made great progress. (At my peak, I could backsquat 245 pounds, which was 150% of my body weight!)

The myth of multitasking and the magic of single-tasking are well known. Study after study after study has demonstrated that when we try to do more than one thing at once, quality and quantity both suffer. It’s much better to finish one thing before tackling a second. (Did you know that those who claim they’re best at multi-tasking are actually worst? It’s true!)

Exercise: Here’s one of my favorite demonstrations of how multitasking hinders rather than helps. Grab a pen, a piece of paper, and a stopwatch. First, time yourself as you write the alphabet from A to Z followed by the numbers 1 to 26. Next, time yourself as you alternate between writing the letters and numbers, putting them each in their respective columns (or rows): “A 1 B 2 C 3”. When I tried this just now, it took me 30.49 seconds to complete the first pass (with no errors). It took me 43.57 seconds to complete the second pass (with one error — I wrote F instead of 5.)

In his book The ONE Thing, entrepreneur Gary Keller advocates relentless focus on a single goal at a time. Specifically, he recommends asking yourself this question: “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

Keller writes, “Extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus…You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.”

The Bottom Line

I’ve been using the “one thing at a time” approach for more than seven years now. It’s made me happier and more productive. And it’s because of this success that I’ve become such a huge advocate for creating a personal mission statement. When you have a single over-arching purpose, it’s so much easier to prioritize the other things in your life.

But I want to point out that I’m not advocating slavish devotion to your one goal. Not at all. While you’re pursuing fitness or learning Spanish or traveling the country in an RV, there’s still time to work on other areas of your life. And you should constantly strive toward holistic personal growth.

What I’m advocating is choosing one thing that takes priority over all other things, and then sticking to that until you meet your objective. If your aim is to achieve a certain weight or — better yet — to develop a fitness routine, then make sure that is the one thing that never gets pushed aside for other priorities.

Also note that the one thing that’s most important to you this year or this month or this week might be different from your personal mission. Or it might be some small subset of that larger goal. My personal mission is all about personal growth and exploration. But this month, my primary aim is to reduce my alcohol consumption. My aim for next month is to — finally! — complete the Get Rich Slowly redesign.

Lastly, I should note that although I’ve found this strategy effective and I’m writing an entire article advocating it to you, the reader, I still sometimes forget to use it.

One reason I suffered from anxiety this spring is that I had forgotten my own advice to tackle one major goal at a time. I was trying to do too much. My therapist helped me to see that I had unrealistic expectations for myself and that I needed to dial back my ambition.

“Oh yeah,” I thought. “One thing at a time. I need to focus on one thing at a time.” So I am.

Author: J.D. Roth

In 2006, J.D. founded Get Rich Slowly to document his quest to get out of debt. Over time, he learned how to save and how to invest. Today, he’s managed to reach early retirement! He wants to help you master your money — and your life. No scams. No gimmicks. Just smart money advice to help you reach your goals.



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The Best Cash-Back Credit Card Out There


Photo by Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com

Money Talks News has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Money Talks News and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Ka-ching! With this American Express card, you’ll receive a $150 statement credit after spending just $1,000 with the card within three months of membership.

American Express Cash Magnet Card

American Express

Why do we like this card, besides that $150 credit? Here are the highlights:

  • You get unlimited 1.5% cash back on purchases.
  • You can easily redeem your “Reward Dollars” for statement credits, gift cards and merchandise.
  • You get an 0% introductory rate for purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months.
  • You pay no annual fee.
  • If you need to make a large purchase, this card allows you to set up a monthly payment plan with a fixed monthly fee and no interest charges.
Click here for all the details on this offer and compare it with others.

If getting cash back is not your top priority — maybe you want to rack up hotel or travel rewards, or get a low ongoing interest rate — we’ve got you covered. You can explore all your options here on our credit card search page.

What’s your favorite credit card benefit? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.



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4 Cool-Down Summer Escapes You Can Book With Points – NerdWallet


Summer vacations don’t have to be summery. When it’s 85 degrees and you’ve already spent a month reading pulp thrillers in the inflatable kiddie pool in the backyard, getting away from it all can mean going somewhere cool. And there’s nothing cooler than using points and miles to pay for your dramatic change of climate.

Here are four destinations that will allow you to beat the heat, along with some ways you can use travel rewards to get there.

Cruise to Alaska

Is there anything less beachy than a glacier? You’re likely to see one on board a cruise up the panhandle of Alaska. You can also take in sights like orcas, whales or the stunning Misty Fjords national monument.

But even airline miles could work. For example, United MileagePlus cruises lets you redeem your United miles for an Alaska cruise. Seven-night Alaskan cruise departing Vancouver on Holland America starts under 40,000 United MileagePlus miles per person, double occupancy, for an inside cabin.

Hit the slopes Down Under

While vacationers are water-skiing in the northern hemisphere, tourists in Australia and New Zealand are enjoying the full range of winter sports. You can see snow in the middle of August in Victoria, a 35-minute drive from Melbourne airport. But for world-class snow-skiing, fly into Sydney. From there, take a five-hour drive or a one-hour flight to Perisher Ski Resort in New South Wales.

If you’re booking award flights through a U.S. airline, it’ll generally cost at least 40,000 miles each way to get to Australia or New Zealand. In terms of accommodations, you won’t find a lot of award redemption opportunities close to the slopes. Opt instead for a travel statement credit from a card like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. If you’re headed to Australia, for example, you could reserve The Man From Snowy River Resort, where cash rates in mid-August start around $635 per night.

Chill in the mist in San Francisco

San Francisco is every kind of cool. Its famous fog brings some of the lowest summer temperatures anywhere on the U.S. mainland. Think average highs of just 67 degrees in July and lows dipping into the 50s at night.

Stroll the breathtakingly beautiful Golden Gate Park, crack some crab down at Fisherman’s Wharf or set sail for a bone-chilling tour of Alcatraz.

You could depart from scorching hot Burbank this summer for as few as 5,200 Southwest Rapid Rewards points each way, then check in to the swanky St. Regis San Francisco for 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. Or use your American Airlines miles to fly at saver levels from anywhere in the U.S. for 12,500 miles each way.

Dive into ice in sweltering Vegas

If you’re into contrasts, consider this: Las Vegas, where summer temps can soar past 110 degrees, has put a lot of thought into how to lure summertime tourists who aren’t eager to drop dead of sunstroke. The result: some truly cool ways to cool off, like the Arctic Ice Room at the Qua Spa at Caesars Palace, where “snow” falls from the ceiling.

There’s also the Minus5 Ice Bar at Mandalay Bay, where you don a borrowed parka before bellying up to a bar made of carved ice to order a frosty cold vodka drink.

Get there from virtually anywhere in the U.S. for 25,000 United MileagePlus miles round-trip, then check in to the Tropicana Las Vegas for just 19,000 Hilton Honors points per night.



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Free Workshop: How to Write Your First Book in 90 Days


July 20, 2019 | Crystal Paine


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Have you ever thought about writing a book? If so, you’ll want to sign up for the free workshop on how to write and launch your first book in 90 days.

Do You Want to Publish a Book?

Do you have an idea for a book? Or have you ever wondered what the book-writing process was like? Would you love to hear from someone who successfully self-published a book and become a best-selling author?

On Tuesday (July 23, 2019), I’m hosting a free live workshop with Chandler Bolt on how to become a published author. Chandler‘s story is so inspiring — he went from being a college dropout to a 6-figure business owner and bestselling author in less than two years!

In this live workshop, Chandler will walk us through the exact steps you need to take to go from Blank Page to Published Author in 90 days…in just 30 minutes each day. (Click here to register for free.)

Chandler’s students have had massive success implementing the same steps you’re about to learn. In fact, he’s had at least one student publish a book every single day for the last year.

What You’ll Learn in This Free Workshop

In this workshop, Chandler will share:

  • The 3-Step System he uses to write, publish, and launch a bestselling book in as little as 90 days. (And how to use your book to leave a legacy.)
  • How Chandler wrote his first book – 200+ pages – in just 1 week (and how you can, too).
  • An approach to find your book idea in under an hour – and turn your idea into a finished book in just 3 steps and a few hours.
  • How to leverage your book to grow your authority, income, and business.
  • All the details on how Chandler made $4,000/month in book royalties with his first book.


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Mark Your Calendar for Your State’s Tax-Free Weekend (or Week)



Back-to-school shopping may be exciting for the kids who’ll get new gear, but less so for the parents who have to pay for it all.

The National Retail Federation estimates the average household with kids in elementary through high school is expected to spend about $697 on new clothes, shoes, electronics and school supplies in 2019. 

Some shoppers will be able to find a little financial relief this summer as 16 states hold tax-free holidays during July and August, saving consumers from paying sales tax on certain school-related items.

Now, you may not save a ton of money by shopping during tax-free holidays. For example, if you bought $500 worth of clothes, shoes and school supplies during Florida’s tax-free weekend in a county where the sales tax is 6%, you would save only $30. But what parent wouldn’t want to save 30 bucks?  

And if you use the tax-free holidays in conjunction with smart comparison shopping and deal-stacking, you’ll save even more on your back-to-school supplies.  

Some states’ tax-free holidays are held over a weekend, while others are a week long. Each state has different criteria for what merchandise won’t be taxed, and many states require the purchases to be under a certain price threshold.

Tax-Free Weekends: When, Where and What

The states that have back-to-school tax-free weekends (or weeks) this year are Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Alabama

When: July 19-21

What is tax-free: 

  • Clothing and shoes — $100 or less per item. 
  • Books — $30 or less per item. 
  • School supplies — $50 or less per item.
  • Computers and related equipment — $750 or less per item. 

Arkansas

When: Aug. 3-4

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item. 
  • Clothing accessories — less than $50 per item.
  • School supplies — no price threshold, but must be on a state-approved list.

Connecticut

When: Aug. 18-24

What is tax-free: 

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item.

Florida

When: Aug. 2-6

What is tax-free: 

  • Computers and certain electronics — $1,000 or less per item. 
  • Clothing, accessories and shoes — $60 or less per item.
  • School supplies — $15 or less per item.

Iowa

When: Aug. 2-3

What is tax-free: 

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item.

Maryland

When: Aug. 11-17

What is tax-free: 

  • Clothing and shoes — $100 or less per item.
  • Bookbags/backpacks — the first $40 is tax-free.

Massachusetts

When: Aug. 17-18

What is tax-free: 

  • Most consumer products — $2,500 or less per item.
  • Clothing — Massachusetts does not charge any sales tax on clothes under $175 year round.

Mississippi

When: July 26-27

What is tax-free: 

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item.

Missouri

When: Aug. 2-4

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — $100 or less per item.
  • School supplies — $50 or less per purchase (exception: graphing calculators must be $150 or less).
  • Computers and related equipment — $1,500 or less per item. 
  • Computer software — $350 or less.

New Mexico

When: Aug. 2-4

What is tax-free: 

  • Clothing, accessories and shoes — less than $100 per item. 
  • School supplies — less than $30 per item (exceptions: backpacks, maps and globes must be under $100 and calculators must be under $200).
  • Computers — $1,000 or less per item. 
  • Computer hardware — $500 or less per item.

Ohio

When: Aug. 2-4

What is tax-free: 

  • Clothing and shoes — $75 or less per item.
  • School supplies — $20 or less per item.
  • School instructional materials — $20 or less per item.

Oklahoma

When: Aug. 2-4

What is tax-free: 

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item. 

South Carolina

When: Aug. 2-4

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing, accessories and shoes — no price threshold.
  • School supplies — no price threshold.
  • Computers and related equipment — no price threshold.
  • Bedding, pillows, bath towels, wash cloths and shower curtains — no price threshold.
  • Books and musical instruments — no price threshold (if they are for school assignments).

Tennessee

When: July 26-28

What is tax-free: 

  • Clothing and shoes — $100 or less per item. 
  • School supplies — $100 or less per item. 
  • Computers — $1,500 or less per item.

Texas

When: Aug. 9-11

What is tax-free: 

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item.
  • School supplies — less than $100 per item.

Virginia

When: Aug. 2-4

What is tax-free: 

  • Clothing and shoes — $100 or less per item.
  • School supplies — $20 or less per item.



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Morning Brew Review – Boost Your Career & Finances With This 5-Minute Business Newsletter


Want to be better-informed about business and financial news, but don’t want to read The Wall Street Journal cover to cover every morning?

You’re not alone. Over a million subscribers to Morning Brew feel similarly, preferring their business news quirky rather than murky. Morning Brew dispenses with the typical dull, overly professional tone and brings a youthful swagger and hefty dose of humor to the news.

If you enjoy a good pun, puzzle, and brainteaser along with your daily financial highlights, then Morning Brew may be the perfect way to start your day.

The Story Behind Morning Brew

Compelling businesses tend to have compelling origin stories. Morning Brew is no exception.

As an undergrad business major at the University of Michigan in 2014, Alex Lieberman noticed a pattern among his fellow business students: They all wanted to appear informed and claimed to read The Wall Street Journal every day, except that they didn’t. Not in full, anyway; they glanced through it, giving it a few minutes at most. Often, they missed key takeaways by trying to consume an entire newspaper over a rushed dining-hall breakfast.

So for fun, Lieberman launched what he called The Market Corner to his friends, a summary of the day’s business news told with some good old-fashioned college snark. One of the first subscribers, Austin Rief, reached out to Lieberman to ask if he wanted help with the project. The two teamed up, and before Lieberman graduated in 2015, they rebranded their little newsletter as Morning Brew. After graduating, Lieberman continued cranking out Morning Brew as a side gig with Rief, despite a demanding day job at Morgan Stanley.

Readership grew faster than Lieberman anticipated, and early sponsors started expressing interest. By 2016, Lieberman left Morgan Stanley, and when Rief graduated in 2017, he dove full-time into Morning Brew. Before the end of the year, the two had raised $750,000 in seed funding. Most of that came from friends and family, proving that your personal connections make a viable option for funding your small business.

By January 2018, Morning Brew reached 125,000 subscribers. By November 2018, the two co-founders made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Media List. And when the ball dropped to close out 2018, Morning Brew had topped $3 million in revenue – all with a team of only 11 full-time employees.

What You Get From Morning Brew

It’s hard not to appreciate the combination of brevity and wit that Morning Brew offers. When I read through my first edition of Morning Brew, I was treated to a pop quiz followed by a series of quick news summaries with titles such as “Disney Shoots First, Asks Questions Vader,” a brief outline of Disney’s gamble on its new Galaxy’s Edge Star Wars theme park.

The non-existent price tag is nice too; subscribing is free.

Daily Newsletter

The Morning Brew newsletter goes out daily Monday through Saturday. It opens with an interesting tidbit or piece of trivia to set the tone and remind you this isn’t the business section of your dad’s newspaper. From there, it may include a pop quiz or brainteaser.

Next, it outlines six pre-market figures, plus the daily price trend of each for context:

  • S&P 500
  • Dow-Jones Industrial Average
  • Nasdaq
  • 10-Year Treasury Yield
  • Price of gold
  • Price of oil

After a sentence or two recapping the forces shaping the market today, Morning Brew jumps into the meat of the newsletter: a series of quick business news stories. For example, “iTunes Is Going to the Operating System in the Sky” outlined Apple’s plans to phase out iTunes in eight punchy sentences.

On Mondays, Morning Brew breaks down the economic calendar for the week. Events such as Federal Reserve meetings, major earnings reports, and significant political events make the cut.

And for fun, you get quirky little quizzes with titles such as “Quizimodo,” sporting an image of Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Morning Brew wraps up with a light “Breakroom” section summarizing sports news and anything else noteworthy going on in the world. On Fridays, there’s a puzzle here, for which anything goes.

All in all, the daily newsletter consists of easy-to-skim, entertaining business and financial news. It doesn’t center around one single industry but instead aims to keep readers informed about the big picture of business and money trends.

Advertising

Morning Brew is funded by advertisers. And it’s an impressive range of advertisers at that, with names including Fidelity Investments, Discover Card, and Duke University.

But you don’t have to worry about being bombarded with ads; Morning Brew features only one advertising sponsor per newsletter. They reference the advertiser in two places: a mention and logo toward the top and a Sponsored section in the middle of the newsletter. And since Morning Brew writes the ad copy on behalf of the sponsor, it feels seamless and integrated into the newsletter.

Also, in the Breakroom section at the bottom of the newsletter, Morning Brew often includes a reference to a non-sponsor affiliate as an additional source of revenue. To their credit, they mark each affiliate link and disclose it as such for transparency.

Rewards Program

To build their audience, Morning Brew relies heavily on word-of-mouth marketing, which accounts for 40% of their new subscribers. Part of what fuels that word-of-mouth success is a rewards program. As readers refer new subscribers, they become eligible for an ascending series of freebies.

These start with the Sunday “Light Roast” newsletter, which is only available to readers who have referred at least three other subscribers. This premium Sunday edition reviews the most interesting news of the week not previously covered, as well as providing exclusive content and insights about the week to come. Other rewards include swag such as mugs, a phone wallet, and a crewneck sweatshirt.

Still, all the referral gimmicks in the world wouldn’t work if Morning Brew didn’t deliver excellent content day in and day out. Readers ultimately pass along the newsletter because they believe it offers concise, entertaining news and financial advice for young adults.

Turbocharge Your Career & Your Money

Knowledge has always been power. In an age when we’re constantly bombarded by news, the ability to sift through the noise to find the information vital for your success is the key to unlocking that power. Here’s what you can gain from reading Morning Brew.

How Morning Brew Boosts Your Career

It pays to be better informed than your colleagues and competitors. When you know more about what’s going on in your industry, you can form better growth strategies, experiment with new marketing tactics, and capitalize on emerging trends that others haven’t heard about yet. And who doesn’t want to be the smartest and best-informed person in the room?

Still, few of us have an hour to spare each morning to read The Wall Street Journal cover to cover. Morning Brew enables you to get a bird’s-eye view of the day’s business and financial news, then drill down into any specific stories relevant to your career.

How Morning Brew Boosts Your Personal Finances

Beyond helping your career, it makes you a better investor to know what trends are driving financial markets. Even long-term investors who avoid timing the market like to know which way the wind is blowing – and who’s holding the fan. This knowledge can help you decide that you’re better off investing more in blue chip stocks this month and less in emerging markets, or vice versa.

If you pick individual stocks, Morning Brew helps you keep a finger on the pulse of which companies are making waves. If you’re a homeowner or real estate investor, news impacting your local housing market can also have a direct effect on you.

Final Word

Lieberman and Rief describe their ideal reader as a young professional in their 20s who is college-educated and in the business or finance world. They live in a metropolitan coastal city, earn a six-figure salary, and technology is second nature to them. But most of all, their ideal reader is curious and motivated. They’re smart, successful, and want to grow – personally, intellectually, and, of course, financially.

If you’re a busy professional who wants to stay on top of business and financial news, and you only have a few minutes each day to do it, Morning Brew is for you.

And you don’t need to be a millennial to appreciate Morning Brew’s light-hearted tone. Readers of any age appreciate succinct, occasionally humorous news summaries, especially when the alternative is sawdust-dry business stories delivered by yawn-inducing commentators.

It doesn’t hurt that it’s free, either. If you like your money talk brief, broad, and witty, subscribe to Morning Brew here.

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Being Frugal with Food When You Don’t Have the Space to Cook


Jennifer writes in:

I live in a single room efficiency apartment. The entirety of things that I have available for cooking are a sink, a table, a microwave, and a mini fridge. I simply don’t have the space or capacity to do dishes or prepare meals or anything like that. I can’t even really eat convenience frozen meals because there isn’t room for more than one or two in my mini fridge. What can I do to keep food costs low? It feels like my only option is to eat out all the time.

This can be a real struggle. For a period of time when I was in college, I lived in a similar situation as Jennifer, with almost no tools with which to make food. I also had very little money at that time, so I had to be extremely careful with my food spending. In fact, I used to “splurge” with a hamburger at the Wendy’s near my apartment once a week, and I still remember going in there on early Friday afternoon, as my last class of the week was done at noon on Friday, and enjoying that burger.

Many of the strategies I used then make up this article, along with some other useful tactics I’ve picked up along the way. Here’s my best food advice for Jennifer, and for anyone who is in a situation where traditional cooking at home just does not work no matter the reason.

Remind Yourself Constantly That Eating Out Is Not the Only Option

When you’re in a situation where home food preparation is extremely limited or difficult, it can be easy to sway yourself into thinking that eating at a restaurant is your only option, and once you begin to establish that as a routine, it becomes even harder to break out of that mindset.

For me, the best way to alter this kind of thinking is to simply adopt a schedule in which you only eat at restaurants at certain times and have to figure out how to eat elsewhere at other times. For example, you might decide that you’re going to set a rule for yourself of only eating at a restaurant once a day or, if you’re really going to push things, once every other day. Don’t worry about the details of how you pull this off for now – we’ll get to that.

It really comes down to forcibly breaking routines that you may have established in your life and finding different ways to do things. When it’s not obviously easy how you can eat without just going to a restaurant, restaurant eating becomes the routine. You have to break that routine if you want to start eating with less expense, and the rest of the tips will help you do that.

Eat One or Two Meals a Day Instead of Three

Rather than eating three meals a day, instead aim to eat one or perhaps two meals a day with some occasional small snacks in between them. This isn’t unusual; it’s a pretty standard dietary pattern in many parts of the world.

There are several reasons why this will cut deeply into your food costs, with the biggest one being that it reduces your need to go to a restaurant to roughly once a day (or perhaps even less often, as we’ll see later in this article). If you’re only eating one big meal a day and snacking a bit throughout the rest of the day, you really only need to go to a restaurant for that big meal and the rest can be small items you carry around in your bag for snacking as needed throughout the day.

Using this strategy makes it much easier to downshift to eating at restaurants once per day for your primary meal, which you then supplement with a few snacks throughout the day.

Drink Water, and Lots of It

Water, water, water. It’s healthy, it helps with feeling satiated, it’s essentially free, and it’s easy to get almost anywhere.

Get into a habit of having an empty water bottle with you everywhere. Spend a little bit of money and buy a sturdy reusable water bottle with a tight-fitting cap. Fill it each day before you leave, drink it throughout the day, and fill it frequently as you’re out and about.

If you’re a person who is used to drinking caffeinated and/or sugary beverages, get into the routine of drinking water with every meal and drinking it throughout the day and as long as you don’t adopt a new routine of buying bottled water, you’ll save yourself a ton of money and likely wind up healthier in the long run.

Eat at Buffets

If you’re eating one meal a day, try to eat at a buffet restaurant if possible.

Buffets you to have a large and varied meal for a single fairly low price. You can eat until you’re satiated and have a wide variety of items to choose from. If you’re concerned about overeating, drink a lot of water with your meal. I usually drink a glass of water with every trip to the buffet if I go to one, and that definitely cuts down on the number of trips.

Also, most buffets offer a wide variety of all kinds of foods, allowing you to easily get in an appropriate number of servings of vegetables. Make your first plate simply consist of a large salad and a variety of vegetables to make sure you’re getting a well-balanced diet.

That being said, much of this depends on what buffet options are available in your area. In my area, there are a bunch of different buffet options – there are multiple pizza buffets (most of which have a salad bar and a general “buffet” bar, too), multiple Asian buffets, and a couple of other general buffets as well. All of them are pretty reasonably priced, too.

If Not At a Buffet, Order Large Portions and Use Takeout Containers

If you don’t want to eat at a buffet or don’t have one available to you, there are some things you can do at traditional restaurants to save money.

For starters, never order a beverage besides water. Beverages at restaurants are extremely overpriced. Just avoid them.

When you’re ordering your meal, order a huge entree with the intent of only eating a third or a half of it. The rest should be take with you in a takeout container. When you’re home, stow it in your fridge and stretch it to one or two additional meals.

The reason is that the price gap between a small entree and a large entree at most restaurants is actually pretty small, much less than the difference between a small entree and nothing. For example, at Noodles and Co. (a chain pasta restaurant), most of the “regular” servings are twice the size of the “small” servings (roughly) but cost only a small percentage more. Order the “regular,” eat half of it, and take the other half with you in a container.

Similarly, if you’re at a restaurant where they assemble food to order (like, say, Chipotle), look into tips for that specific restaurant on how to get the maximum value out of your order. For example, I’ve learned that with Chipotle, you get far more food in a burrito bowl than in an actual burrito, enough so that I can usually stretch a burrito bowl into an additional meal of leftovers.

This doesn’t mean that you should order add-ons like appetizers or extra salads or things like that. Those end up being more expensive than they’re worth. Stick to water and a huge entree and you’ll get maximum value from most restaurants.

Now, let’s turn to the food you can actually have and use and prepare in a small apartment without a stove.

Try Lots of Low-Cost Pantry Foods and Lean In on Ones You Like

When I lived in a one-room apartment for a while, I kept a lot of shelf-stable foods in a large plastic tub that served as my “pantry.” It included things that I could easily turn into simple meals with basically no kitchen equipment at all or, in some cases, things I could eat directly.

Things that were usually in that container included a loaf of bread, peanut butter, dried fruits (raisins, dried cranberries, and so on), a lot of dry cereals, fruit and protein bars, ramen noodles (don’t make this a regular thing, but it’s perfectly fine to boil some water in the microwave and have ramen on occasion), beef and turkey jerky (my parents used to make or acquire this and give me a lot of it), and cups of pudding and applesauce.

I didn’t have a whole lot of money at the time, so I would typically buy these things in significant quantity when I found them on sale. The only tools I needed for eating these things were a microwave-safe cup for heating water, a fork, a spoon, and a bowl, all of which were easily washed in the sink.

Another thing I highly recommend keeping in your “pantry box” is pre-made meals that are room temperature safe and able to be microwaved, like canned soups and many of the Trader Joe’s Indian Fare meals. You can find inexpensive and healthy options for these things and all they typically require is a microwave, a bowl, and a spoon or fork.

Eat Oranges, Bananas, and Apples

Oranges, apples, and bananas are perfect foods for the situation Jennifer finds herself in. You can just sit them right on the table in a bowl or even just out loose on the table and they’ll last for at least a week, often more. They can be eaten at room temperature whenever you like. They’re incredibly healthy. Most people like at least some of them. And they’re really cheap, too.

A lot of other fruits have a more … specialized taste or have a higher cost or don’t last as long on the tabletop. For example, I used to eat a lot of grapefruits because they could sit out on the table for a while, but not everyone is a big fan of grapefruits.

The point is that it’s pretty easy and pretty cheap to get fruits into your diet. Just buy some fruit that can last on the tabletop for days and eat them at your convenience.

(Plus, orange peel can make your apartment smell wonderful. Trust me.)

Eat Whole Rotisserie Chickens

One of the best bargains in food, in my opinion, is the whole rotisserie chicken, which many grocery stores sell. They’re whole chickens, already fully cooked and seasoned, at a really nice price.

Just buy a whole chicken, take it home, and take it apart as you eat it. It’ll most likely fit in a mini-fridge – if not, break it down further and put the pieces into smaller containers that will fit.

A single rotisserie chicken costs between $5 and $10 and can provide food for several meals for a single person. Not only that, you can use the meat in a lot of ways. For example, take a few spoonfuls of the rotisserie meat and throw it into a container of chicken ramen, or add it to some soup that you’ve made.

Learn to Make Simple “No Cook” Items That Don’t Require a Lot of Refrigerator Space or an Oven

There are a lot of very simple and tasty things you can make that don’t really require much more than a bowl, a cup, a microwave, and a fridge to make and only require room-temperature items. Learn how to make some of them.

One of my favorite things to make in this regard is “overnight oats.” Just put 1/2 cup rolled oats in a large cup, add an equal amount of liquid (preferably milk or almond milk), and then add a bit of sweetener of your choice, whether it’s a bit of honey or some pieces of dried fruit or whatever. Put this in the fridge overnight and you have a killer filling breakfast in the morning.

Another thing I used to make (and still do, on occasion) that really only requires a coffee cup, a microwave, and a fridge is the “coffee cup scramble.” Just spray the insides of a coffee cup with nonstick spray, crack two eggs in there, add just a little bit of milk and salt and pepper, beat it with a fork until it’s consistent, and then cook it in the microwave at 45 second intervals on high until it’s done. If you want, add a bit of shredded cheese on top. It costs about $0.50 and is easy to make with just what you have.

Learn to Make “Dump Meals” in a Crock Pot

This is my final tip, and it’s a big one. Even in Jennifer’s situation, there are still a bunch of meals that can easily be made in a crock pot, with leftovers easily stored in a mini-fridge for later meals throughout the week.

“Dump meals” are meals where you simply put a list of ingredients into a slow cooker in the morning, turn it on low, and leave it on all day. At the end of the day, you have a ready-to-eat meal with plenty of leftovers if you’re a single person. That’s it.

If you have a handful of containers for leftovers – Rubbermaid makes really nice and nearly infinitely reusable containers for individual meals, like these, for example – you can just serve up a meal from your slow cooker right onto a bowl or a plate, then put the rest into a few meal-sized containers and pop them straight in the fridge. Eat them as they’re convenient. Clean up the slow cooker in your sink – it’s pretty easy to do – and move on with life.

For example, you can really easily make a “dump” beef stew. Just spray the crock of the slow cooker with cooking spray, then put the following in there: 2 pounds of beef stew meat (you can buy this pre-chopped at the grocery store), 1 packet of beef stew seasoning mix (found in the spice aisle at the grocery store), 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables, 1 pound baby potatoes, 1/2 pound baby carrots, 2 tablespoons dried onion powder, and 1 32 ounce container of beef stock. Turn the slow cooker on low and stir it around a bit. Then go about your day. 8 to 12 hours later, add a quarter of a cup of flour to the stew and stir it thoroughly, then serve yourself a bowl and put the rest in meal-sized containers in your mini fridge. Depending on your appetite, you’ll have four or five meals from this stew.

Like that one? Here are 56 more dump dinners for the slow cooker. Almost all of them consist of just dumping in a list of ingredients in the morning, turning it on low, going about your day, and coming home to a hot meal and a bunch of leftovers, no oven or anything required and only one pot to clean up easily in your sink.

Final Thoughts

If you’re in a situation like Jennifer is, where you have limited options for preparing food, you really have two main goals. One is to minimize how often you actually go into a restaurant by figuring out what you actually can prepare with your limited tools and space. The other is to get maximum value out of every restaurant visit when you do go by eliminating drink costs, utilizing leftover boxes, and taking advantage of buffets.

All of the strategies listed above center around these two core elements. Minimize restaurant visits (while recognizing that you’ll likely still go fairly frequently) and maximize value from those visits. It all boils down to that.

The thing is, once you feel comfortable preparing food with such minimal equipment, when the time comes later in life when you have a full kitchen available to you, preparing food won’t really seem very intimidating. Plus, you won’t have established a routine where the only source of food in your life is a restaurant. It will be very easy to move to a state where you prepare almost everything at home because it really is cheaper and more convenient.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put some rolled oats to soak in the fridge for breakfast in the morning.

Good luck!



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