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Keeping Your Teen’s Dream Night From Becoming a Budget Nightmare

Group of Friends Being Videotaped at School Dance

 

 

The following are several helpful tips for you to implement this prom season. By following these suggestions, you will ensure your teen’s dream night doesn’t become your budget nightmare.

Make and Budget and Stick to It:

It only stands to reason that in order to prevent yourself from going over budget paying for your teen’s prom, you should have a predetermined budget. Sit down, go over your finances, and decide what you are willing or able to spend. The average cost of a prom night can range anywhere from $700 to $1,400. However, you don’t have to spend anywhere near that much if you follow the tips listed below that reveal how to save on each aspect of the special night.

Save on the Dress:

Before you say yes to a dress that your daughter just has to have, consider the following easy ways to procure an affordable dress:

  • Rent: Today you and your daughter have an excellent alternative to buying a dress, thanks to sites like RentTheRunway. Sites like these allow you to rent designer frocks for a fraction of the cost. In fact, you can get your daughter a fabulous dress for approximately 10% of the retail price. Now that is a big savings. After the big night, simply return the dress. Since your daughter likely won’t wear the dress more than once anyway, this is a perfect way to save some money all the all important prom dress.

 

  • Buy a Versatile Dress: As mentioned before, most of the time, a prom dress isn’t worn more than once. However, if you make a point to select a dress that is versatile and can be worn again, then you can justify spending a bit more on the dress. Select dresses that are plain, so they are appropriate for other events, such as weddings. Then, utilize jewelry to dress it up some.

 

Get Thrifty With the Tux:

Perhaps you are on the other side of this event and have a son. You also likely wonder how to reduce your spending. Thankfully, there are a couple of ways you too can save some money. Read below to learn more:

 

  • Buy a Suit: Although the traditional attire of the prom for guys has been tuxedos, there is no rule that states that this has to be the case. Therefore, purchase a high-quality suit for your son to wear to the prom, and then he will have it to wear again on other occasions. This makes the investment more worthwhile.

 

  • Get a Group Rate: Some tux rental companies will offer group discount rates if more than a few young men all need to rent tuxes at the same time. Therefore, encourage your son to team up with his friends and hopefully receive a discount from the tux shop as a result.

 

Minimize the Cost of Hair and Makeup:

An updo and professionally applied makeup for your daughter can run you upwards of $100, conservatively. Therefore, it is smart to try to save some money in this area, when possible. Consider using a cosmetology school for hair and makeup. These schools have students who are often very capable. However, since the students are still in training, the cost is considerably less than going to a regular salon for hair and makeup. Note: It’s important to do a practice run before the big day regardless of where you go for hair and makeup. 

Lose the Limo:

A limo is a popular and impressive way to arrive at the prom. Unfortunately, it also is pricey. Therefore, think outside the box when it comes to prom transportation. Have your son or daughter borrow a classic car from someone you know who would be okay with this arrangement. If you can’t find anyone who is willing to let your teen drive their expensive classic car, which is understandable, offer to play the role of chauffeur and take on the responsibility yourself. On the off chance that your teen refuses to let you drive them, arrange for another responsible party to drive them instead. Arriving in a beautiful classic car is unique, and if you can acquire it for free or very cheap, it is better on your budget as well. If your teen insists on a limo, ask them to get a group together and share one limo so the per person rate isn’t so high.

Forget the Formal Photos:

Unless your teen ends up marrying whomever they attend prom with, which is unlikely, any formal prom photos will be relegated to the bottom of a storage box in future years. Therefore, another way to save on prom costs is to forgo the formal photos. Instead, take photos with your phone or a nice camera. They will likely turn out better anyway, since they will be candid shots instead of posed photos.

The prom is a magical night for your teen, a dream night if you will. However, your son or daughter’s dream evening doesn’t have to turn into a budget nightmare. If you follow the helpful tips listed above, you will ensure you are able to fund your teen’s prom without going bankrupt.   

 

 

Source

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2012/04/23/perfect-prom-on-a-budget-13-ways-to-spend-less-and-still-shine/#!fullscreen&slide=980610

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/promposal-where-one-third-of-prom-costs-go-today/

http://www.promgirl.com/prom-guide/costs

Link to Rent the Runway: https://www.renttherunway.com

Without These Five Products, Your Startup is Doomed

 

Casual People Meeting At Industrial Office

Deciding to start your own business is exciting and scary. You may have dreams of becoming the next big thing in your niche, but if you go into it unprepared you will crash and burn quickly.

Most start-ups fail due to lack of funding, but without a solid foundation and clear understanding of your customer base, a start-up can never get off the ground.

An often overlooked part of a solid foundation are essential business products that help with preparedness. Without these five products, your start-up is doomed from the get-go.

A Business Plan Kit

When I started my own business a few years back, I had no idea business plan kits existed.  I also had no idea why I would need one. Because I never put a clear vision for my business on paper, I restarted and changed direction three times, costing me valuable time and money.

A business plan kit helps you define company values, set forth a funding plan, marketing plan, launching plan, and more. All start-ups and established companies need a business plan regardless of business type.

Accounting Software

I remember taking my receipts and putting them into a pile thinking it would be easy to figure out my income and expenses once tax time came. It only took one time of sifting through mounds of unorganized receipts for me to understand what a mistake I had made.

You do not need to be an expert in accounting, but you do need to understand the basics. Luckily basic accounting software can teach you those basics and keep your finances organized. Choose a program that is accessible on both your computer and a mobile device. That way you can enter expenses on the go. When first starting out, there are several excellent free products out there. You can always upgrade to a paid version down the road.

All-In-One-Printer

Printers that can do it all are not expensive, and they are a necessity for any new business. You want to be able to print, scan, copy, and fax when needed. You also want to be able to choose black and white or color.

When a new business is just starting out, money is tight. Being able to print your own business cards and letterhead can provide professional quality business essentials while saving lots of money.

Social Media Products

Part of launching a successful new business is creating buzz around the business. Many new entrepreneurs have a great idea that could make them a lot of money, but once they launch, all they hear is crickets. Why? They didn’t market their business properly through social media.

Free products like Hootsuite can help you identify the people with the most influence in your niche. Once you know who they are you can begin to build a relationship through social media. You can also schedule your own tweets and posts to go out regularly through the day. A shout-out by someone with influence in your niche can sometimes bring more business than paid advertising ever could.

Email Marketing Products

Without an email marketing plan, it is difficult to be successful. Basic plans are inexpensive and bring a lot of value for the cost. Not only do they give you a database for communication with potential customers, but also they give you an avenue for marketing funnels and more advanced methods as you grow.

There are free products out there but beware. If you do not have a program with a double opt-in and auto responder, you could easily violate anti-spam laws. You usually need a paid version to add these features.

There are many other products you can utilize to prepare for a successful start-up, but these five are essential. As you grow, you will learn more successful ways to market your business while keeping accurate records.

In the end, all that matters is delivering what the customer wants. Learn as much as you can about their desires and fears, and then utilize social media and other means of marketing to get the word out that you have what they need. Most importantly, deliver on your promise, and you will be a success story among the many start-ups doomed from the start.

5 Routine Home Maintenance Tips to Save Money and Aggravation

Spring Cleaning Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds,

By MJ Plaster

No one wants to do it or pay for it, but a dollar saved on home maintenance is not a dollar earned; it can be many dollars lost. Follow along and mark your calendars while you learn a few tips the pros and salespeople would prefer you didn’t know.

  1. Keep drains clear – I recently had a clogged kitchen sink drain that nothing—from vinegar, baking soda and boiling water to sulfuric acid—would clear. After the plumber snaked the pipe for $80, he told me to squirt a little dish washing liquid into the drain and run hot water for a minute after I finish washing dishes every day to keep fats from solidifying and clogging the pipes. For a few pennies a day, it should keep the pipes clear indefinitely.One day I saw this odd-looking thing called a Zip-It at Ace Hardware. With $4 added to my tab, I headed home, squirreled it away, and forgot about it until my bathtub drain started to slow. I shoved the Zip-It down the drain into the trap. When I tried to remove it, it didn’t budge—not an inch. It was an OMG moment—what’s this going to cost when the plumber comes? So I pulled harder, and harder, until bit by bit, I removed the device along with a huge wad of gunky, shoulder-length, brown hair. The drain opened, and that $4 piece of industrial-strength plastic has removed the “same time next year” date with the plumber from my calendar now that I use it every month without fail.
  2. Change or clean heat and a/c intake filters – Bob Vila says, “The primary purpose of a filter is to protect HVAC equipment, not to improve indoor air quality, as many homeowners have been led to believe.” Vila also warned that filters that are “too good” at keeping the air clean can also damage HVAC systems. If you want cleaner air, buy an air filter, don’t upgrade your HVAC filters. To keep my intakes clean, I purchased one permanent filter and one disposable filter for each intake, and I use the disposable filters each month while I clean the permanent ones. Today’s permanent filters cost only about three time the cost of a disposable filter, so after three months, you’ve made your money back and eliminated monthly expenditures on filters. If you have pets, vacuum the grill covering the intake once a week. Flying fur from longhair pets can block the grill and obstruct the exchange of air in a week.
  3. Protect your water pipes – Invest a dollar in a Styrofoam cover for each outdoor faucet. Install them at the same time you disconnect and store your hoses for the season. And when you get a hard freeze, don’t even entertain the thought of saving a few cents by not letting your water drip indoors. You’ll be sorry when the pipes burst and flood your home.
  4. Replace fire alarm batteries – Many smoke detectors operate with 9-volt batteries. Who stocks those at home? No one! A few years ago, the battery in one of mine died during an ice storm—beep, beep, beep at an ear-piercing level—for days. But what if the battery is still good? Change it anyway. While you’re at it, change the batteries for your fan remote controls each spring and for your gas and electric fireplaces each fall.
  5. Clean you gutters and downspouts – Last fall, I didn’t have the gutters and downspouts cleaned. Big mistake—one day during a week long, below-zero-degree cold snap, I heard something that sounded like someone playing a xylophone on the patio. A huge icicle caused by runoff from the gutter had broken off and landed on a small table with a glass top and shattered the glass. I was lucky; it could have hit someone in the head and caused a bad injury.

Everything except cleaning your gutters and downspouts takes just a few moments of your time; there’s no excuse for letting these little chores go unattended. When you do need help on a major home maintenance problem, before you plunk down your hard-earned money, always fire up your favorite search engine to find out if there’s an easy solution. You might just get lucky.

From Nothing to Something: My Small Business Success Story

Small tree, plant  in the hand

Jurissa Ayala

Running your own show is no picnic. You have no one to report to, sure. You can work in your pajamas while eating too many pancakes. Any time you feel like it, you can take a yoga break. Or a Big Bang Theory break. I won’t lie, that’s all pretty awesome.

There are some downsides to owning a small business, however. When you are self-employed, you report to you. Which means that sometimes your boss is a lazy slob who won’t demand that much of you. Who might make excuses for your poor behavior or let you cut work more often than you should. Plus, your boss has only as much experience as you do, and that can really hogtie you.

It took me more than seven years after graduating college to consider myself a “success.” This is partially due to a lack of determination to get there, and partially to a number of mistakes I made. By sharing them with you, I hope to reduce the time it takes you to find your own success. Ready for a crash course in small business life? Put on your helmet and let’s get started.

Mistake #1: I Went to College Too Soon. Then I Did It Again

I was always a good student, and the occasional C in Chemistry didn’t stop me from getting into one of the top programs in my state. Because school came easy, I never really tried that hard. Nor did I question whether it was “worth it” to spend time and money on college when I was still finding myself. Too bad for me.

When I graduated with a degree I would never use, I shrugged my shoulders and found jobs that didn’t thrill me: first in insurance sales, then at a bank. I used the money to pay rent and party, and started looking for another path only when banking made me so miserable it was starting to ruin my life. I chose teaching, and got another expensive degree that didn’t pan out due to a bad economy. Then I went to school for journalism. Finally: something I loved. It only took me an extra four years and untold student loans to get there.

Mistake #2: At First I Didn’t Stick With Anything

Even after receiving my master’s degree in journalism, I found it hard to settle down. School was so easy for me: I got better grades than most of my peers with my eyes closed. Naturally I assumed this would translate to my career, and was spectacularly disappointed when it didn’t.

No one cared that I was smart, or that my teachers liked me. They just wanted to see results, and I didn’t have any. My dreams of being a world-famous writer and author soon evaporated. I was crushed and lost, and only after a year of soul-searching did I finally settle into the less-glamorous but better-paying world of freelance copy writing. I had finally found something I was good at and loved … and it paid the bills too. Add two years to the clock.

Mistake #3: I Thought Success Came Before Hard Work

At the beginning, I was convinced I had to find a glorious gig to in order to really apply myself. Once I took care of my ego, I reasoned, the hard work would feel natural and the success would come.

The opposite turned out to be true. Once I took a deep breath and accepted that there would be no glory for a long while – perhaps ever – I was able to settle into my day job with a joy and willingness I’d never before experienced in life. It came naturally, fitting into the flow of my life well enough that I was able to care for my tow children at home and keep up full time work. My world became perfect. It only took one more year.

Key Takeaways:

  • Consider waiting on college until you’re sure you know what you want to do
  • Prepare yourself for hard work at the outset, and do not expect success before you put in a lot of long, inglorious hours
  • Stick with it, even when it sucks
  • Consider talking to someone in the line of work you hope to go into to find out what it will be like and ensure you’re prepared
  • Have a positive attitude! No, really! It will totally help

As a small business owner, I now write for clients all over the world. I set my hours, I sleep in, I play with my kids … and I work hard. I’ve transitioned from the nothingness of endless ego drain to the true fulfillment of hard work and a quiet personal success.

Next up? I might take a sewing class. But it probably won’t be glorious.

 

Secrets and Tips to Save You From The Stress of Auto Maintenance

 

Auto Mechanic

By MJ Plaster

“A car is the most expensive purchase most Americans make. More Americans buy cars than buy houses. They feel like their car is a member of the family,” said Johnny Whitaker, retired auto-industry insider and consultant. He shares his top 15 tips below.

  1. Read the owner’s manual – “I’ll bet you’ve never taken the owner’s manual out of your glove compartment,” asked Whitaker. “This is the No. 1 mistake car owners make. Everything you need to know is in that manual, and you can save a fortune on car maintenance if you’ll just read the manual and do [with a few exceptions below] what it says.”
    When he set up Cadillac service departments at dealerships across the country, he saw mistakes everywhere that would have been avoided if car owners had read the manual.

What Everyone ‘Knows’ About Car Maintenance Might Be Wrong

Whitaker disagrees with some ‘conventional wisdom.’ He made no bones about saying that what he says might differ from conventional wisdom, but he’s not telling you anything that he doesn’t do with his own cars. For example:

  1. Oil Changes – Today’s manufacturers often suggest oil changes every 5,000 miles. Some new cars come with one or more years’ worth of free oil changes. “If you were a car manufacturer, would you want to eat the cost of oil, filters and labor every 3,000 or every 5,000 miles,” Whitaker asked. “I still change mine every 3,000 miles,” he added, “because the only change is that manufacturers are saving millions by raising the mileage.”
  2. Oil – “Never, under any circumstances, use 10W40 oil. It turns to a gel under heat.” He uses 10W50 year-round.
  3. Tuneups֪ – When I asked how often to get a tuneup, he said, “What’s THAT? What century are you living in?” Modern cars don’t require what used to be known as a tune up—tweaking the engine. Who knew!
  4. Tire rotation – “I always rotate tires back to front, not in the X formation. Once a tire starts to wear, you will not correct it no matter what you do. If you rotate in the X formation, you’re changing the direction the tire normally goes, and it could ‘sling a ply,’ which could cause more uneven wear. Tire places are in the business of selling tires, not rotating them.”

Common Car Maintenance Mistakes and Assumptions

  1. Car vibration – When a car vibrates, people assume it needs a front-end alignment. “It’s usually the wheels, tires and/or balance,” said Whitaker.
  2. Oil filters – People often try to save money by changing the oil without changing the filter. Whitaker’s standard reply: “Well, how about you just save your bath water, and bathe in that for a week?” He also cautioned against using generic filters because they can cause problems.
  3. Brakes –Most people think that when they hear a squeal as they apply the brakes, they need new brakes. That squeal indicates a glaze on the brake pads, and it does not mean you need new brakes. If you hear the squeal when you’re not touching the brake, and it goes away when you hit the brake, that’s the warning indicator that you need new brake pads.
  4. Brake pads – “Spend some money on brake pads. Don’t cut this corner. At a dealer, the standards are enforced, and the warranties are honored,” said Whitaker.
  5. Leaks – Did you know that leaks can be deadly? He said, “Think about it. What happens when oil hits a hot manifold? It can catch fire. Take care of leaks.”
  6. Air conditioning – If it sounds like your compressor has died, your air conditioner might just need some coolant and/or you might need some new hoses.

Tips for Saving Money on Car Maintenance

With labor costs running around $100 an hour, here are a few simple preventive steps:

  1. Air Conditioning – Run your air conditioner during the winter once a month for 20 minutes to lubricant through the system.
  2. Windshield washer fluid – It’ll cost you an hour of labor plus parts when the tank is full of fluid but it doesn’t spray on your windshield. Add 1 teaspoon of powdered laundry detergent to each tank of fluid.
  3. Gas – If your car requires premium, use it. Shell and Amoco have an engine-cleaning additive in their premium gas.
  4. Windshield wipers – When you think you need to change your windshield wipers, try this first: If the wipers are still soft, spray a little household ammonia on a paper towel and clean the wipers. Then clean your windshield with some ammonia to remove road grime.

Whitaker said, “Unlike home maintenance, you can’t use a calendar for car maintenance. Treat your car with care, but don’t go looking for trouble [like flushing fluids] unless there is a problem. When you try to fix a nonexistent problem, they will break something 90 percent of the time.”

How I Made $30,000 in One Day by Mistake

valuable papers, charts and diagrams - a collage

It was the go-go 90s and the stock market was on fire. In those days it was easy to make money in the market. It was a great time for momentum stocks and if you could get your hands on some shares of an IPO you had a chance to make a big score. From amateur investors to the most sophisticated traders on Wall Street, everyone was caught up in the exciting world of IPOs and short-term trading. I wanted to be part of that world!

TIP: Short-term trading carries higher risk than long-term investing. Traders can make a lot of money and also lose a lot of money.

Before I go any further let me just say that I have gone through different investment phases over the different stages of my life. Out of college, I preferred mutual funds and had my money invested with Fidelity, T.Rowe Price and Vanguard. In my early 30s I built my own portfolio of stocks. I invested some money in gold and silver bullion and I kept my retirement money in mutual funds. For a few short years, roughly from 1995-2000, I became a more aggressive investor. These were the years I got into day trading. They were also the years when I made the best investment of my life.

TIP: Base your investment strategy on your stage of life, tolerance for risk, and investment goals.

Online discount brokerage firms were in their infancy during the last decade of the twentieth century. Stock trading software was not nearly as sophisticated as it is today. However, it made it possible for people to trade frequently because you could buy or sell a stock for less than $10 per trade (a full service broker might charge $100 for the same trade). I opened a discount brokerage account and learned how to place market and limit orders. I eventually opened a margin account and it was nothing to buy or sell $10,000 worth of stock three or four times per week.

TIP: Open an online discount brokerage account and make your own trades. You’ll save on transaction costs, have a universe of stocks, bonds, ETFs and mutual funds, be able to view live quotes, do research, and track performance.. 

I am not going to lie and say I always made money on my trades, but I did make more good trades than bad ones. Most of the time I would make $200 – $300 on a stock I bought on one day and sold several days later. Sometimes the stock would go down and result in a loss. One thing I quickly learned was that you have to recognize when you made a wrong pick. I swallowed my pride, sold the loser, and went on to another stock.

TIP: Don’t ride a bad stock all the way down. Even Warren Buffet makes an occasional bad stock pick. When he does, he accepts a small loss (relatively speaking) and moves on. Limit your losses!

My best day ever in the stock market was the day I decided to buy into the IPO of a new stock called Books-a-Million (BAMM). The new issue was in great demand and I knew that it would immediately surge when the day’s trading session began. I got to my computer, proceeded to my online discount brokerage account, and placed an order for 2,000 shares at the market price (I wanted to make sure I was not shut out by a limit order).

TIP: Be ready when a great opportunity comes up. An IPO or a promising quarterly report can result in a rapidly rising stock price. Don’t be 100 percent invested. Have some cash on hand to take advantage of “special” situations.

For some reason, I thought that the market order had not been transmitted so I re-entered it. As you know, once you place a market order it is almost impossible to cancel it. A few minutes later I checked my account to see if my 2,000 share order had been executed. It had, and a second 2,000 share order also was executed. The IPO was priced at $12 and my two orders were filled at $17 and $20 as millions of shares traded in the first five minutes after trading began. It was not long before BAMM got very close to $30 and I was ecstatic. Then, reality set in and the stock sold off. I sold 2,000 shares at $27 and the remaining 2,000 shares at $25, netting me a one-day gain of $30,000. Although I did not sell at the very top I was still thrilled about being 30,000 richer!

TIP: Sometimes lucky is better than smart. If you buy a stock and it takes off, don’t be too greedy. Take some profits while it is going up and maybe hold on to some shares in case the stock continues to rise.

I would hardly call myself a brilliant investor, but I have been fairly successful over the last 30 years. Getting lucky is not an investment strategy. Sticking with some proven investment principles has helped me profit over the years.  

  • Define your investment goals.
  • Know your investment time horizon.
  • Never buy on impulse.
  • Always do your research before investing.
  • Create a risk-adjusted portfolio
  • Periodically review, adjust, and rebalance your portfolio.
  • Be diversified. 
  • Don’t invest under pressure.