How Do You Thank Your Coworkers Without Breaking the Bank?

Every quarter things get really busy at my job and everyone works like mad to get things done on time.  Teams stay all night and work weekends, it really sucks for the people involved.

Since the majority of people are salaried employees, there is no incentive for staying late and working insane hours.  As a team lead, saying “thanks a lot, I really appreciate your help” tends to ring hollow quarter after quarter.

Of course the nice thing to do is treat them to a dinner or lunch or buy them a gift card.  But if you figure you have 10 people to thank @ $10 for a meal or gift card, that’s $100. Multiply that by 4 times a year and you’re looking at spending $400 a year.

Why do I struggle with this? We all just worked a lot of overtime without pay to ensure the company earns more money, why are we the ones paying each other for recognition? The current company recognition program will earn anyone submitted a crappy metal pin.  Frankly, I’m almost insulted every time I get one.  So my evenings and weekends away from my family are worth a tacky pin?

Is there any way to show your co-workers and team members you appreciate their hard work without shelling out money from your own pocket or is that the only way to make a genuine gesture?  What non-cheesy techniques do you use to express gratitude to people at your job?

Why Selling on eBay is a Great Way to Make Extra Money

Get a free tutorial on how you can start your own Easy eBay Business

Anytime someone is looking for an easy way to earn some extra money, I recommend eBay since it shows quick results, is simple to get started, and has a low cost of entry.

Quick Results
One problem many people run into when trying to earn extra money is that they start out eager to generate extra income on the web but lose steam when their hard work doesn’t immediately turn into profits. In my experience, eBay is a great way to overcome this roadblock since you can start seeing the results of adding extra income in a relatively short period of time.

Simple Startup
In addition to the motivation issues I mention above, another obstacle to creating a side income is not knowing how to get started.  Since the eBay website provides an abundance of resources on how to sell on eBay, the beginning steps to selling online are pretty much laid out for you.  If you already shop online, selling online isn’t that much more difficult with eBay.

Low Cost of Entry
Another reason eBay is a good place to earn extra income is the low cost of doing business there.  Your selling fees are the largest cost of doing business and are proportionate to the amount of items you list and sell.  You don’t need a lot of money to get started just selling a few items.

Gateway Income
One thing that’s a little intimidating about earning extra money is that you often have to spend/invest cash in order to make more.  It’s easy to avoid taking the initial risk since we don’t want to lose the money we already have.  Once you figure out how to sell on eBay, you discover a tried and true way to make extra money. 

At that point you’re a little more open to re-investing that money, you know if you lose it you can always make more.  That’s why I think of eBay earnings as a sort of gateway income. Money you can use to expand your earning potential, either through additional business on eBay or other methods you’re interested in.

eBay Training
If you couldn’t tell from this post, I’m a big fan of eBay : )  I’m working on a guide to selling on eBay if you’re interested in learning more check out the free tutorial for an Easy eBay Business.

How Spending Money Can Actually Save You Money

I’m not one for spending money.  It’s actually one of my least favorite things to do.  However, there is something to be said for preemptive spending that can help save you time and money.

The Crisis
The story begins like this. I arrived home late yesterday evening after a long, horrible day at work to discover the router in our small home network was kaput.  This is a huge problem for me since I spend many hours a night working online so I needed to get up and running as soon as possible.

The Unprepared Scenario
The plot of the story could have been a stressed-out, frustrated guy racing around an electronics store before it closed looking for a good deal or maybe spending the next day at work shopping online and placing a rush order on a router.

When you need something in a hurry the objective shopping and price comparison process can go out the window.  You’ll likely spend more than you want in order to buy something you’re not quite sure is what you’re looking for.  Top it off with expedited delivery if you’re shopping online and the costs of a crisis can really add up.

The Strategic Shopper Scenario
Luckily for me, I had done some preemptive shopping so the story has a happy ending.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t make a specific trip looking to buy something, shopping trips aren’t usually my style.  I happened upon a great deal for a Belkin wireless router when a local store went out of business and I snatched it up to store for future use.

Upon diagnosis of a dead router, I made a trip to the storage room and had the new router up and running in 15 minutes. Since I wasn’t scrambling around in crisis mode I didn’t have to spend a premium to get new equipment quickly, even better, I bought it ahead of time for a big discount!  Plus it allowed me to barely miss a beat in my work, which is worth some money itself.

Strategic Shopping Questions
Of course you don’t want to overdo it and spend too much on strategic shopping.  The key is whether an item will save you time and money down the road. Here are some questions you can ask when considering making a strategic purchase:

– Will the item need to be replaced or upgraded in the future?  If so, you’ll have to buy it eventually, why not buy it now for a good deal?

– Will your purchase hold its value?  How long can you keep the item in your storage area without it becoming outdated and unusable?

– Is it a large enough discount to make it worth your while?  The percentage or total dollar amount of savings is up to you.

– Can you store it easily?  Where will you keep the item for an extended period once you bring it home?

Start Your Christmas Gift Fund in October to Avoid Holiday Debt

Although we haven’t even seen Halloween yet, let alone Thanksgiving, it’s not too early to start budgeting for Christmas.

Make It Easier To Save
Are you paid twice a month?  Then you have 6 paydays between now and Christmas.  If your paycheck only comes once a month there are just three money days before the end of the year!

If you can save a portion of each paycheck between now and the end of December you’ll have built up a Christmas gift fund to pay for the load of presents you’ll shower on friends and family over the holidays.  It’s easier if you start saving small amounts early, rather than wait until the end of November and panicking about how much money you’re going to need; or worse just putting it all on your credit card and trying to pay it off in January.

How Much Should You Save?
The amount you spend on gifts is of course a personal choice.  One way to look at it could be to decide you’ll spend money on Christmas presents as a ratio of your disposable income. For example, if you have $500 left after expenses each pay period you could decide to set aside 30% of that for gifts.  The grand total that you’d save by the end of December would be your gift budget. 

The nice thing about this approach is that you have no reason to put it off.  Since you don’t have to figure out what you’re going to get each person and build a budget you’re less likely to procrastinate and delay your savings.  The other benefit is that it ties your spending to the amount you earn.

Another approach is to make a gift list of everything you’d like to buy, tally up the total, and set that as your Christmas budget.  Although saving as a percentage of your earnings is a simpler approach, itemizing your present wish list may be a little more realistic.  I imagine you’d tend to spend more overall with this approach but if you can identify the expenses in advance and save for them then that could be the better approach for you.

Avoid Holiday Debt
I can tell you right now some of the radio commercials you’ll hear come next January.  “Have a Holiday debt Hangover? Come down to XYZ Credit and consolidate your loans.”  They’ve got the ads lined up and ready to run.  Do you really want to have to go down to XYZ Credit and consolidate your loans next January? 

It will be the start to a new year, a time you can begin again fresh.  Why ruin it with a load of holiday debt?  Start planning now for your Christmas gift spending and you’ll be much happier in the new year, or at least less broke : )

Who Will Pay for Baby Bonds and How?

One of the best tips for building financial assets is to start early. Some people are fortunate enough to have family give us some seed money when we’re born.  Others of us are lucky to have money savvy parents that start saving for us when we’re young and pass that money sense on.

Of course, there are many people that don’t get that head start.  What can be done to help them? Hillary Clinton is proposing a “Baby Bond” program that would give every child born in the U.S. $5,000.  The idea is that they could use it to pay for expenses later in life such as college, a first home, or a business venture.

I think it’s an interesting proposal, putting the power of compound growth to work from the moment a person is born.  Letting people see the benefit of saving early and watching it grow. Of course there are many questions such as who would oversee and distribute the funds and what criteria would exist for cashing them in.  But before we answer any of these questions, I think we should first ask how we’re going to pay for it. An ABC news article makes the following cost estimate:

“Presuming that approximately 4 million children are born in the United States each year, a $500 “baby bond” would only cost roughly $2 billion per year. A $5,000 “baby bond” would cost the government $20 billion per year.”

Thanks to a variety of reasons the Federal government is already in massive debt.  Are we willing to commit to spending another twenty billion dollars a year when we don’t know how we’re going to pay for it?  I think after hammering out all the details to account for fraud, oversight, etc. it could really help give people a leg up but where will the money come from?  Is the government going to cut spending somewhere else, raise the money somehow, or just go deeper into debt?

Preferred Customers Specials – Sales Tactic #6


Remember the high school cafeteria where all the coolest kids sat at their own table?  You wouldn’t likely sit there without an invitation, what some people wouldn’t give for an invite like that.  Hopefully we’ve all grown up some since high school but everyone likes to feel special and a preferred customer invitation can still be hard to turn down.

Retailers love to pull out the Preferred Customer tactic when gunning for sales. A common approach is to send out a letter or email announcing a big sales event that is open to special customers only. “How did I become a preferred customer?”, you ask yourself.  “Oh well, who cares, I don’t want to miss out on preferred customer pricing”.

The truth of course is that retailers invite you because they prefer that you spend your money with them instead of someone else, making you a preferred customer. 

Warning Signs 
• Everyone Else Pays $100, You Pay $70  • Invitation Only
• Available Only for Preferred Customers  
• Use Your Preferred Customer Card

Tactic In Action
I received some sales letters from a local company a while back that epitomize the Preferred Customer tactic.  Here are some excerpts:

I truly appreciate your business. To prove it I’ve created an exclusive savings event just for you, something that WILL NOT BE ADVERTISED to the general public and will be available by invitation only!

Just mention this letter’s Special Financing and Savings and simply show your salesperson the enclosed card!

Because you’re a Preferred Customer, we want to offer you the price normally reserved for our Supplier Representatives for a LIMITED TIME only.  Supplier Pricing is the special low price offered to the representatives who sell supplies and services to us.

Offering Supplier Pricing to the public is a very rare event. On top of this special pricing, you can take advantage of Half-Off Delivery too!

What do you think?  Would this letter send you running as a preferred customer to the sale?

Protect Your Paycheck
At the bottom of the sales letter there is an interesting footnote:

“Because of the competitive nature of our business, some items may already be priced at or below Supplier Pricing.”

What I hear them saying is that they already offer the equivalent of Supplier Pricing on some items to the general public. If anyone can buy things at this price, what benefit is there to being a preferred customer?

In general it’s best to steer clear of Preferred Customer events.  They’re just a gimmick to get you into the store and give the retailer an opportunity to sell to you.  If you do attend one, remind the salesperson you’re a “preferred customer”. Tell them as a preferred customer you want special pricing below the advertised rates.  Chances are you’ll get a big fat NO.  If they’re willing to negotiate further then by all means take advantage of your preferred customer status : )

Sales Tactics
Preferred Customer is the 6th sales trick in the Sales Tactics Revealed series. Be sure to check out the first five if you haven’t already: Don’t Miss Out, You’ll Be Sorry, Buy Now, Pay Later, Rebate Ransom, and Sales Events.

Personal Finance Review – Working Too Hard Edition

I hate working over the weekend!  I hate working over the weekend! Did I mention that working over the weekend sucks?  The end of every quarter is a busy time at my job and this quarter was worse than normal for my team so I was stuck there late Friday and spent all day Saturday working.  The bad thing about working over the weekend for salaried employees, other than wasting away a day of your life, is that you don’t get paid any extra for your effort.  It’s easy to see why the movie Office Space resonates with so many people.  I’m gonna need you to come in on Saturday……

Despite working too hard, I managed to find some time to catch up on a little personal finance reading this weekend.  Here are some that I enjoyed:

Give Me Some China. Give Me Some India. Give Me Some Chindia! @ Suns Financial Diary

The Causes and Consequences of the Subprime Mortgage Financial Crisis @ The Digerati Life

Where Exactly Is The “Pressure” To Spend? @ Money, Matter, & More

GM and the UAW Tentatively Agree on New Contract @ Generation X Finance

Dear Politicians, Please Adjust Roth IRA Limits for Areas of High Cost of Living @ Lazy Man & Money

8 Personal Finance Lessons I Learned From Monopoly @ Blueprint for Financial Prosperity

12 Investing Mistakes I’ve Made (and How You Can Learn From Them) @ Get Rich Slowly

Q&A: Dave Ramsey and Debt Reduction @ Five Cent Nickel

Giving Makes You Wealthier @ Free Money Finance

Thoughts on Maxed Out @ Mighty Bargain Hunter

33 Ways To Save Money And Reduce Debt: Illustrated Debt Snowball @ No Credit Needed

Today is Better Than the Day Before @ Brip Blap

NetBank Fails, Taken Over By FDIC and ING Direct @ My Money Blog

Downsizing Your Home to Save Money @ Blogging Away Debt

The One Hour Project: Construct Your Debt Snowball (Or Something Like It) @ The Simple Dollar

Thanks to Blunt Money for including Should Healthy People Pay Less for Health Insurance in the Carnival of Personal Finance and to PGA Auctions for hosting the Carnival of eBay Sellers and including the eBay Market Research post.

Would You Rather Pay More Taxes or Pay More for Health Care?

Those Canadians have it made! Or do they?  I’ve talked with two Canadians recently about their health care system and taxes and neither one of them seemed too pleased.

With the rising cost of health care in the US, having medical services funded by the government sounds pretty nice at first.  Here is a summary I found of the Canadian health system.

“Canada’s health care system is a group of socialized health insurance plans that provides coverage to all Canadian citizens. It is publicly funded and administered on a provincial or territorial basis, within guidelines set by the federal government.

Under the health care system, individual citizens are provided preventative care and medical treatments from primary care physicians as well as access to hospitals, dental surgery and additional medical services. With a few exceptions, all citizens qualify for health coverage regardless of medical history, personal income, or standard of living.”

Of course universal health care comes at a cost.  The income taxes in Canada are much higher than they are here in the US.  In fact the Canadian I visited with last night became an American citizen when his mother married a Texan and has no plans to move back to Canada simply because the high income taxes there. The other Canadian I talked with owns a business and said he’d gladly pay more of his own money for health care if it meant lowering taxes.

What do you think?  Do you prefer the current US system or would you rather see universal health care coverage at the cost of higher taxes?

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Most things are easier when they’re done with the support of a group.  Group collaboration and support are easier now than they used to be due to the communication medium of the web.  Nancy, from Debt Consolidation Care emailed me a while ago to let me know about the community they’ve built online to help people with debt problems.

According to the main page there are 91204 members, that’s a lot of people in debt : (  The site offers videos, calculators, and articles on debt in addition to the forum of people all dealing with debt.  They also feature a list of personal finance sites, one of which is Money Smart Life!  Nancy offered to add Money Smart Life to the list if I’d let my readers know about the community.

When a person signs up on the site they can elect to be referred to a debt counseling company in their area.  If I signed up, I wouldn’t use this feature simply because I’d want to research the available options myself and contact who was the best fit for me. Fortunately, the only debt we have is our mortgage so it’s not a place I’d hang out but it seems to be a good resource for those that need it. 

Six Ingredients for Generating Passive Income

Who doesn’t want to spend more time doing what they enjoy and less time working for money? After reading about both active income and passive income recently I came up with a list of things that can help you move towards generating passive income.

The Idea
You need either a great new idea or a great way to package and distribute an existing idea that hasn’t reached its potential. If you don’t have either one, don’t despair.  If you are observant and curious your list of potential ideas or twists on existing ideas will grow over time.

Always ask lots of questions and regularly give yourself time alone to think(driving to work, early morning walks, lunch break in the library, etc).  Stay in touch with the media whether through newspaper, radio, or the Internet to keep a steady flow of new information mixing into your idea pool.

The Courage
Eventually you’ll need to try one of the ideas on your list.  Courage will be required because doing something new can be daunting, in addition to the fact your first idea could fail.  Courage will keep you going when you doubt yourself and will help you try the next idea on the list when the first one flops.

Many successful entrepreneurs fail at several ventures before they find one that works for them.  Think of it this way, the things you learn and groundwork you lay working on the projects that fail will give you the experience you need to run with the idea that finally takes off!

The Time
We humans can only absorb, process, and act on a certain amount of information in a given day.  It seems there is never enough time in the day to do everything we need to get done.  So, how can we pursue our ideas if we don’t have sufficient time? 

One way is to utilize the time of others.  It might mean partnering with another person or hiring someone to perform specific tasks.  Timothy Ferriss gives some good examples of in his book, The 4 Hour Work Week.  He had an idea, got it up and running, then hired people to keep it going while he travels the world.  Okay, technically its not passive if you’re still working 4 hours a week but that’s passive enough for me : )
The System
One thing that enabled Tim Ferris to leave his business in the hands of others was the system that he developed for getting things done in the company.  He doesn’t have to be present because he has processes established and documented he can hand to an employee and walk out the door. 

Your system might be the partners and processes you use to distribute an eBook, movie, or CD you create.  It could be the training program you offer to teach people how to sell your product or perform your service. It might be the franchise you establish.  It could be the  software you build to automate a job.  Once established, you let the system do the work instead of you.

The Friends
Raise your hand if you haven’t had at least one stupid idea in your life. Friends are a great sounding board for your ideas to help weed out the ones with problems you hadn’t thought about.  They can offer suggestions and if you work well together they could even become business partners. Plus spending all your free time working on new ideas can get old, it’s nice to have a little comic relief now and again.

The Money
Notice money is the last thing listed. Sure you need some to get started, but lack of money shouldn’t be a barrier to progress. You don’t have to get venture capital funding to pursue your passive income ideas.  So where do you get it from then?  You can choose to either make some extra money, I’d recommend selling on eBay, or spending less and saving some of what you earn in your day job.

Enjoying Your Time
There is definitely work that goes into generating passive income. Jonathon offers a formula that helps determine just how “passive” income actually is.  Despite the work up front, once you have your system in place you’ll hopefully be able to spend more time doing the things you enjoy and less time working for money.

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