Money management is a significant hurdle for millions of Americans. This is especially true of those who find themselves living paycheck-to-paycheck.
But still, whether you need to totally overhaul or financial life or are just looking for ways to free up extra cash, there are a number of important steps you can take.
1. Track Your Spending
The first tip involves being proactive about tracking your spending. The more you understand about where your money is actually going, the better the chance you’ll have at improving your finances moving forward. Look for things to cut like streaming services or other expenses that you may like but don’t need. Once you have a complete picture of your spending, you’d be surprised by what you’re able to free up.
2. Create a Monthly Budget
The second tip involves creating a monthly budget that is every bit as accurate as it is realistic. Take a long, hard look at all of your firm expenses. These include things like your mortgage or rent, your utilities and more. Find out how much money you absolutely need every month. Then, you’ll know what you have in terms of disposable income.
3. Pay Down Debt
Third, make an effort to pay down any debt that you may have – but try to do so in a strategic way. If you have multiple credit cards, focus on the ones with the highest interest rates first. You could even potentially take out a debt consolidation loan to combine all of those balances into one monthly fee that is more manageable with a smaller interest rate as well.
4. Pay Bills On-time
Fourth, make sure that you’re paying all of those bills on-time and in full every single month. Make a chart of all your due dates and outstanding balances and do whatever it takes to help pay them when the bill itself comes due. Not only will this help improve your credit, but it will also avoid costly fees and other penalties for late payments as well. There’s nothing worse than having a $200 bill turn into a $250 bill just because you missed a payment.
5. Save For Large Purchases
Finally, you should always make an attempt to save up cash to make those large purchases. Yes, those credit cards in your wallet may be enticing and instant gratification is a wonderful thing. But if you save up cash and purchase items that way, you accomplish a few key things all at once.
First, you avoid costly interest charges that will make those large purchases far more expensive than you probably realize. Next, you’ll avoid the possibility that you miss a payment on those cards. That could not just again land you with a late fee or penalty, but increase your interest rate as well.
In the end, taking control over your finances can be time-consuming and sometimes frustrating, yes. But it is also more than worth the effort, especially once you consider the types of hassles and stress that it is helping you avoid. This is truly one of those situations where a little bit of effort goes a long way.
Learning a foreign language can help you communicate better as you work and travel. For success, avoid five common mistakes people make when learning a foreign language.
Mistake Number One: Forget to Listen
People may use an educational textbook, online course, or app to learn a language. The study material will include various practice tools like memorization.
While you can learn a lot through memorization, remember to listen, too. Listening helps you identify patterns, structures, intonation, vocabulary, and pronunciation.
In your free time, listen to music, movies, podcasts, and news broadcasts. When possible, select options that feature native speakers. This way, you hear the language spoken in real life.
Mistake Number Two: Learn Rules but Not Context
Learning vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and other rules is helpful. But a language requires more than vocabulary and grammar.
Embrace a study approach that starts with context. Hear complete sentences, paragraphs and conversations. Also, learn words you frequently use in your daily life. Later, you can perfect your grammar, pronunciation and other details. This practical approach improves your motivation and boosts your learning speed and accuracy.
Mistake Number Three: Use Boring Learning Material
People may choose language learning tools because they are convenient or familiar. But using dull materials can limit learning and lead to low interest and motivation.
That’s why you want to use diverse and engaging study materials. Watch cartoons with or without subtitles. Read literature and write poetry. Attend a community gathering of native speakers. Be willing to challenge yourself and expand your learning.
Mistake Number Four: Study Irregularly
New language learners may spend hours each day practicing vocabulary or listening to the radio. Long study sessions can wear people out, though. And slow progress or daily distractions could dampen enthusiasm.
Boost your success with a sustainable and consistent learning schedule. Practice for 20-30 minutes a day rather than two hours once a week. Your brain is more likely to retain information when you study in short bursts. Also, commit to studying for a year or more. Give yourself enough time to master the language and gain confidence using it.
Mistake Number Five: Be Afraid of Mistakes
Learning and speaking a foreign language can be scary. To avoid feeling silly or embarrassed, people may avoid speaking the language with a partner or native speaker. They may also refuse to ask for correction or help.
For success, embrace mistakes as part of the learning process. Also, ask your teacher or language partner to correct you. Then track your errors in order to learn from your mistakes. Note any improvements you need to make and the progress you have made. As you become more fluent over time, you will mess up less often. But continue to permit yourself to make mistakes.
Have fun learning a foreign language and improve your success when you avoid these five mistakes.
Off-the-beaten-track travel allows you to have unique experiences rather than simply following in the footsteps of millions of travelers before you. Whether you’re dreaming of a rustic tropical paradise or castes you thought only existed in storybooks, there’s a place for you to visit. Following are just five exceptional destinations.
Greenland is not typically thought of as a tourist destination. However, an increasing number of travelers are falling under its spell. Mesmerizing landscapes, pristine fjords full of mysterious icebergs, and a unique culture are waiting there to be discovered and enjoyed. Greenland’s largest city, Nuuk, has less than 20,000 citizens. Despite its small size, Nuuk has a vibrant cultural scene, with outstanding restaurants and nightlife. Nuuk even has an international airport.
Chena Hot Springs
Situated approximately 50 miles east of Alaska’s second-largest city, Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs offers an ethereal ambiance complete with a natural light show in the form of the aurora borealis. The geothermal hot springs keep guests toasty warm even when temperatures plunge to well below freezing. Accommodations in the area include modern lodges and restaurants. Those who would prefer to visit during summer won’t be able to view the aurora, but they may feel as if the midnight sun makes up for it.
The Cook Islands
Visitors to the Cook Islands are treated to crystal clear waters, some of the most diverse marine life on the planet, and the charming hospitality of the Polynesian people. There are 15 islands here, each one with its own special charm. Whether you choose to go island hopping or remain in one place during your stay, you’ll enjoy an unspoiled tropical paradise. Snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts particularly love this location because of its stunning coral reefs and colorful fish. Because the weather is beautiful all year round, there is no bad time of year to visit the Cook Islands.
Situated off the eastern coast of the African continent, Madagascar is the biggest island in the Indian Ocean. It offers incredible biodiversity, including its iconic lemurs, orchids, birds, and baobab trees. Because Madagascar was cut off from the African mainland millions of years ago, its animal and plant life evolved in isolation, leading to the island’s renowned diversity. Human civilization in Madagascar is also relatively undeveloped, and the lifestyle of the locals is relaxed and unhurried.
Antarctica is the farthest you can go off the beaten path without leaving Planet Earth. Accessible only by cruise ship, Antarctica offers amazing natural beauty. You’ll see iconic penguins, whales, seabirds, seals, and icebergs. The polar sunsets are magical to the point of being otherworldly. Their bright red, orange, and pink hues are reflected back in crystal clear waters near the Antarctic Peninsula, making a stunning spectacle among the icebergs. Traveling to Antarctica is also an incredible learning experience. The cruise ships have onboard scientists who provide presentations about the continent’s ecology and history. With no noise or light pollution, Antarctica offers immense peace and quiet.
English can be a difficult language to learn, speak, and read. Here are the top 5 most misunderstood English words.
The word "bemused" in English means to be mildly or somewhat amused. But many people believe it means that someone is confused or bewildered. Sometimes, it gets mistaken for meaning someone is engrossed in their own thoughts or is daydreaming.
Here is a correct sentence with the word "bemused."
"The old woman was bemused at the commercial playing on television because she used to love the song they used."
The word "infamous" is commonly thought to be synonymous with the word "famous." It is often used to describe any person, place, or thing that is popular or well-known. But this is not the actual meaning of the word. "Infamous" actually means that something or someone has a bad reputation. Even though the subject may indeed be famous, "infamous" is never used in a positive context. It’s used explicitly to denote that a person, place, or thing has a negative reputation.
Here is a correct sentence with the word "infamous."
"I know that man from my previous job and he’s infamous for making people feel uncomfortable with his corny jokes."
Although many people use the word "ironic" in everyday language, this English word is actually used out of context most of the time. It is commonly believed to mean that something is coincidental or serendipitous. But this word should really only be used when there is an outcome opposite the expectation. For example, if someone expects sunshine and it rains, this would be considered ironic.
Here is a correct sentence with the word "ironic."
"I dressed for warm weather because I read the forecast, but it’s ironic that it’s actually freezing cold now!"
"Literally" is another word that is used frequently in the English language albeit incorrectly. Many people use the term "literally" to denote emphasis on something or in place of the words "actually" or "really." However, this is not how the word was originally designed to be used. It actually means in a literal manner, or verbatim.
Here is a correct sentence using the word "literally."
"My computer literally got fried during a thunderstorm, as in, an electrical current shot out from the wall and up the cord into my computer!"
The word "travesty" sounds similar to the word "tragedy." Many people use these words interchangeably, but this is incorrect. The term "tragedy" refers to a distressing, catastrophic event. The term "travesty" means that a representation of something or someone is false or has been mischaracterized or distorted in some way. For example, you might use the word "travesty" in the context of someone mocking another person. You might use "travesty" in place of "mockery" or "parody."
Here is a correct sentence using the word "travesty."
"The school made an absolute travesty out of the Pride and Prejudice play with the cheap powdered wigs the cast wore."
When it comes to saving money, it’s not tricky. Yet many people find it almost impossible to build up savings. The key to building savings is to reduce spending. If you make saving money easy, then it won’t be difficult to build up a little nest egg. Based on our findings, here are the top five easiest ways to save money by reducing spending.
1. Stop Unnecessary Spending
Everyone has areas in life where they waste money. The key is to find your weak spots. Common areas of unnecessary spending include buying lottery tickets, overpaying for designer coffee to go, splurging on luxury food items and more. An easy way to check your unnecessary spending is to review last month’s bank statement.
2. Lower Car Insurance Premiums
Another easy way to save money is to lower your car insurance premiums. First, review your declarations statement from your car insurance policy. See if you can reduce coverage in certain categories that might reduce your premium. Next, contact two other reputable car insurance companies and see if you can get a better rate. Be sure to compare apples with apples, using that declarations statement as your coverage comparison sheet.
3. Cancel Subscriptions
If you’re like most folks, you have at least one subscription to a service you barely use, or don’t need. Many people are re-thinking their subscription services to things like streaming accounts. After all, how much TV can you possibly watch in a day? You can cancel things like magazines, food delivery subscriptions and more. Calculate how much you just saved and transfer that amount into your savings account each month.
4. Buy Used
When you buy used, you can save a ton of money. The only thing you should never buy used is food. That would be gross. But other than that, you can buy used clothing, used office equipment, used fashion accessories, etc. So where do you access all this great used stuff? Online, of course. Check out eBay, Etsy, Facebook Marketplace for starters. Factor how much you save on each used purchase and then put the difference right into your savings account.
5. Use Cash Not Credit
There’s something about swiping or tapping a card that doesn’t feel like spending money. You can’t physically see your balance going down, for one thing. An easy way to save money is to pay cash not credit and not debit. Take out however much cash you think you’ll need for a week. Consult your budget to calculate the amount. Whenever you buy something, you’ll see that clump of cash dwindling down. It will make you think twice about how much you’re spending. It may even keep you from buying things, especially when there are only a few bills left.
These are the easiest ways to save money with practically no effort on your part. If you do these things, you’ll find that the next time you look at your savings account balance it’s actually got some money in it!
Many people think of cooking as a mysterious gift that only some people have. However, there are easy ways for those who’ve never had much success in the kitchen to raise their cooking game. Following are five of them.
Use Seasonal Ingredients
Seasonal ingredients make everything taste better. Because they are fresh, they are more nutritious than food produced out of season. Cooking with locally grown, seasonal ingredients is also better for the environment. As an added bonus, you will be supporting your local economy by buying from farmers in your community. Visit a nearby farmers market to purchase seasonal ingredients and to find inspiration on how to prepare them in the home kitchen.
Buy the Best Cookware You Can Afford
It’s difficult to produce a good meal using poor-quality cookware. Good cookware manages heat better. It’s also important to use the right pan for the right job. Don’t use a sauce pan when you should be using a sauté pan. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get good, solid cookware. Buy a few basic pieces such as a saucepan, a stock pot, and a sauté pan and build from there. Avoid buying cookware collections unless you’re sure you’ll use every piece. Consider buying restaurant-grade cookware for best results.
Plan Your Meals
Busy people sometimes neglect to plan their meals in advance. However, making dining decisions on the spur-of-the-moment is a recipe for disaster. Only extremely experienced cooks can consistently wing it with good results. Planning your meals lets you carve out enough time in your schedule for the dishes you have in mind and shop for the proper ingredients. Don’t forget to plan to set an attractive table and choose an appropriate beverage. Even the best tasting food is better when paired with the right wine and served on a well-set table.
Use Fresh Spices and Herbs
Many home cooks have spices in their cupboards that are several years old. However, this may cause some herbs and spices to lose their distinct flavor. Dried herbs and spices that have been allowed to sit for years may also take on a dusty flavor. The exception is when you’re making a soup or stew that will simmer on the stove for hours. After 15 or 20 minutes, the volatile oils in fresh herbs will be thoroughly dissolved by the heat of the cooking process.
One of the best things any cook can do is to organize their ingredients prior to starting the cooking process. Make sure that all the ingredients are minced, sliced, and diced before you even turn on the stove and that the cooking utensils you plan to use are close at hand. This way, you won’t risk burning the steak while scrambling for salad ingredients. This approach also eliminates the possibility of suddenly discovering during the middle of making a meal that you don’t have all the necessary ingredients.
A decade ago, organic ingredients were available only in a few high-end supermarkets. Today even discounted grocery stores carry them. Despite the higher prices, people still rush to buy organic ingredients believing they are more nutritious and less likely to contain dangerous chemicals. But is cooking with all organic ingredients worth the extra cost?
Find out what organic really means, when you should buy organic, and when you should probably save your money.
What Does Organic Mean?
"Organic" does not describe the food itself but how farmers produce and process it. The USDA determines what is and is not organic food in the US. Farmers can not grow organic fruit and vegetables using synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge, and organic food must not undergo irradiation or genetic engineering. There are additional restrictions for meat producers, including not using hormones or antibiotics.
Is Organic Really Organic?
Food producers can get tricky regarding how they label their food. Do you think foods labeled "Organic" or "Made With Organic Ingredients" are entirely organic? If you do, you are wrong.
According to the USDA guidelines, food using the "Organic" label must only contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients by weight. And it only gets worse.
Foods can claim they are "Made With Organic Ingredients" when they have just 70 percent organic ingredients by weight!
Is Organic Food More Nutritious Than Non-Organic Food?
The jury is still out when it comes to whether organic food is more nutritious than non-organic food. There is little evidence that organic products contain more protein or fiber. But some studies should organic food may have more antioxidants and micronutrients.
Based on nutrition alone, organic ingredients may not be such a great deal. However, when you look at what is not in organic food, things start to look better. Organic products contain no pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, or genetically modified organisms.
So Which Organic Foods Should You Buy For Cooking?
If you have a limited budget and want to get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to organic foods, buy these foods:
- Milk, cream, and butter. There aren’t any recipes that call for antibiotics or bovine growth hormones. So, why would you want them in your dairy products?
- Meat. The same reasons that make drinking organic milk better apply to meat as well. In the US, livestock is subjected to a wide range of chemicals and medications. It’s not good for them and not good for you either.
- Eggs. Since you should already be buying organic chicken, you might as well make sure the eggs are organic as well.
- Corn and corn products. The majority of the corn in the US is genetically modified. Many people have concerns about the health risks that genetically engineered foods pose.
- Fruit without a peel. Soft fruit like peaches, nectarines, and berries are particularly susceptible to pesticides. However, it is also worth buying organic apples, cherries, and pears.
Knowing more about organic products leads to better choices when shopping and cooking.
Some people swear that they’re going to get in shape and immediately take radical steps. They adopt a rigorous diet and undertake an ambitious exercise program. Few people stick with such a regimen for the long run.
On the other hand, if you make small and gradual changes, you’re more likely to sustain them. They will make you happier and are more likely to lead to long-term success. Here are five to consider.
1. Make a Habit of Walking
A 10- or 20-minute walk after dinner won’t solve all your problems, but it will make you feel better. Also, you can work an extra minute or two of walking into your daily routine here and there. For example, park farther from the store entrance. If you work in an office, don’t use the closest restroom. Even 20 minutes a day, if you do nothing else, will lead to a 10-pound weight loss over a year.
2. Use Stairs
Resolve not to use an elevator if you’re going up one flight or down two. At home, walk up and down the stairs even when you don’t need to. A few extra reps during the day, every day, leads to significant calorie burn, as well as improved muscular health, over the long haul.
3. Replace Soda Pop with Carbonated Water
You may have already switched from sugared pop to diet. While you’ve eliminated some calories, diet soda isn’t good for you, either. Research suggests that it may even increase your appetite for unhealthy foods.
Buy bottled soda water or use a carbonating machine. You can enhance the flavor by adding a twist of lime or even dropping a slice of peach or some smushed berries into the glass.
4. Get More Sleep
Modern people are perpetually tired. For many of us, it’s a badge of honor how hard we work and how little we sleep. Yet sleep is the “third leg” of a healthy lifestyle along with diet and exercise. Make a point of going to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier. If your lifestyle allows it, sneak in a 10- to 20-minute nap in the afternoon. As with diet and exercise, it doesn’t take a big change to make a difference you can start to notice.
5. Take a Break from Your Electronic Devices
Set aside some daily time to shut off your phone, your tablet and your TV. The hour before you go to bed is ideal for this. It will improve your sleep and reduce your stress level. The world wants you to be constantly available, but ignore the world and think of this as your time.
You don’t have to grit your teeth and harness all your willpower to improve your health. If you adopt a few small changes, you’re more likely to feel better six months from now than if you try to change everything all at once.
If you’re like many people, you often wonder why your money seems to disappear. Chances are that your money is going down several drains rather than just one source. Most of us waste money without even realizing it. Following are the top five ways people waste their money.
Failure to Plan Ahead
Advance planning saves money in a variety of ways, ranging from morning coffees and weekday lunches to international travel. Making coffee at home and packing a lunch instead of grabbing these items at local retailers may seem like small savings, but they add up over the course of time. When planning a trip, the sooner you book your airline and hotel reservations, the more you save on travel costs.
Subscription services have a way of sneaking up on people. At first they seem convenient, and many offer an introductory price. After the introductory period is over, subscribers are often shocked when their credit cards are charged the full amount. Always read the fine print when you subscribe, and make sure it’s something you’ll actually use. Set aside some time to weed out subscriptions that are no longer useful to you.
Grocery Shopping While Hungry
Whether you do your grocery shopping online through a delivery app or visit your supermarket in person, always enjoy a good meal prior to stocking your cart. If you shop while you are hungry, you will end up buying more than you need. You will also be likely to make poor decisions based on what appeals to your taste buds instead of thinking about nutritional content.
Using Third Party ATMs
Despite the popularity of digital payment systems, cash still has its uses in today’s society. However, running to the ATM every time you need a bit of cash means running up unnecessary transaction fees that add up over time. You can avoid these fees by either using a local branch of your own bank or by using the "cash back" option during checkout at your local supermarket. If neither is possible, determine how much cash you will need at the beginning of the month and withdraw that amount instead of visiting a third party ATM every time you need some cash.
Most people don’t use their gym memberships the way they planned to when they enrolled. If you fall into this category, you’ve probably thought about canceling your membership. Staff at these places are trained to discourage members from canceling using a number of tactics, including playing on your guilt about not working out as often as you planned. You can bypass this pressure by sending your cancelation request to the company’s headquarters in writing.
Budget travel has vastly different meanings for different people. Whether your idea of cheap is a $100 hotel room for a night or an $8 hostel, there are destinations around the globe where food, lodging, and local sightseeing are so reasonable that you almost can’t afford to stay home. Shop diligently for airfare deals, and you can indeed see the world without spending a fortune.
Here are some top options:
There are many good reasons why Costa Rica has become a popular destination. First, it’s quick and easy to fly to this peaceful Central American country from major airports in the southern United States. Most travelers fly to San Jose or Liberia and then rent a car to see the country. Friendly people will welcome you wherever you go, but public transportation is not the best. Costa Rica has great beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. And in between are some of the most beautiful mist-covered volcanic mountains you’ll find anywhere in the world. You’ll also find rain forests and caverns, waterfalls and banana plantations. Did we mention cheap and delicious local food, and howler monkeys?
If you believe it’s impossible to see the nation’s capital on a budget, you’re mistaken. Even though major hotels are pricey, you can stay just outside the city core and ride the Metro to see the city’s major monuments and museums. Admission is free to almost all of them, and you’ll rub shoulders with government employees on safe, reliable public transportation. Plan to walk as much as possible. Visit neighborhoods where the rich and famous live as well as the Smithsonian, the capitol and the National Cathedral. Book a tour of the White House or Mount Vernon, and imagine what it must be like to be president. You’ll find plenty of great eateries here as well.
It may not be the cheapest city in Asia, but it’s certainly one of the best. Food, transportation and lodging are a real bargain compared to prices in most other world-class cities. Singapore has an exotic vibe that’s hard to beat. You’ll find budget hotels right in the heart of downtown, and the public transportation network is fast, extensive and reliable. Check out the hawker center stalls in various districts to sample local food specialties. Then be sure to visit free attractions like the light show at Marina Bay and the Treetop Walk at MacRitchie Reservoir. Singapore’s Botanic Gardens and Fort Canning Park are definitely worth a visit.
The entire country of Macedonia is a treasure chest for the budget traveler. Check these prices: A meal in a good restaurant might set you back about 4 Euro, and a night in a hotel room for two will be only about 30 Euro. Macedonia is beautiful, but definitely off the radar for most tourists. If that appeals to you, it’s a great choice for cheap travel, and this little Balkan country is filled with history, culture and beauty.
If your bucket list adventures include a trip to the Great Wall and the Forbidden City of ancient emperors, head for Beijing. With a population of almost 22 million people, it’s only the third largest city in China, but it’s the capital and it’s an experience! It’s also one of the cheapest cities in the world to visit, and it boasts some of the best food. And who doesn’t love Chinese food? A five-star hotel may cost $100, but you’ll get great street food for mere pennies and taxis for about a buck. Plan to spend at least three days in the city.