How to Live on One Income – Even if You Don’t Have To

paycheckMany couples and families would love the opportunity to be able to live on one income. At a minimum, a stay-at-home partner could go a long way toward minimizing so many of the stresses of everyday life. Let’s face it, with all the chores that it takes to run a household, to raise kids, to pay bills, and to write letters, emails, and make phone calls in order to straighten out whatever seems to go wrong in life, it can be a real backbreaker if each partner also has a full-time job.

If you have been thinking about switching over to living on one income, there are ways to go about it that will make it happen, even if it doesn’t seem possible with your current budget.

Why Live on One Income?

I just covered some of the stresses that a dual-income couple faces, but that’s hardly the only reason why you might want to live on one income. Here are some other reasons:

The birth of a child demands a stay-at-home parent. This is probably the most common reasons why couples shift from dual-income to single. It enables one partner to stay home and raise the children. Fortunately, there are some financial advantages to this arrangement. At a minimum, a stay-at-home parent eliminates the need for costly day care.

To get out of debt. If you have a substantial amount of debt, you can get out much more quickly if you can earmark an entire paycheck to paying off debt. If you live on one partner’s income, and use the other to apply toward the debt, you can get out much quicker than you could simply by cutting corners and making higher loan payments.

To fast-forward retirement savings and early retirement. Early retirement is a dream for millions of people. But in order to do that it requires an extraordinary level of savings. Dedicating one partner’s income to funding retirement plans and other investment accounts will make it happen much more quickly.

Any of these reasons and more could motivate you to want to live on one income. It begins with the ability to regiment your income – dedicating one paycheck to living expenses, and the other toward a financial goal.

But how do you make it happen?

Try Living on One Income

If you would like to live on one income, the best strategy is to take a dry run first. That means that while you still have two incomes, you test the waters with living on just one.

This will enable you to find out what works – and what doesn’t – before you actually get yourself into a situation where you have only a single income. More important, it provides an opportunity to find out if perhaps you will be unable to live on a single income.

It will be better to find that out while you still have the second paycheck coming in. In reality, for some couples living on a single income works – but for others, it turns out to be a financial disaster. You need to find that out before doing it for real.

Lower Your Standard of Living

It goes without saying that living on one income will require you to cut your budget, and probably drastically. This will require eliminating any expenses that are not absolutely necessary, and maybe even one or two that you now think of as necessary. Here are some examples:

  • You may decide you no longer need cable TV – a Netflix subscription will have to do.
  • You may have to cut your grocery bill drastically by shopping at a food warehouse, cutting coupons, and buying in bulk and on sale wherever possible.
  • Thrift shops may replace the mall when it comes to buying clothing.
  • A second car may have to be eliminated, or at least replaced by a used car that does not require a loan payment.
  • Restaurant meals will need to be replaced by lots of creative cooking at home.
  • Vacations may need to become more modest.

These are just some examples, but they can save you several thousand dollars per year. Examine your own budget closely, and look for areas where you can make cuts. The more expenses you can cut in your budget, the more likely living on one income is to be a success.

Get Out of Debt

Part and parcel of lowering your cost of living is getting out of debt. The loan payments that you have been making as a dual-income couple may be completely unsustainable once you go to a single paycheck. Each debt that you can pay off will bring you a step closer to your goal of being able to live on one income.

There probably isn’t much you can do about your mortgage, but that focuses the spotlight on any other debts that you have – car loans, student loans, credit cards, and even home equity lines of credit. The more of these that you can pay off, the more comfortable life will be on a single income. In fact, you may discover that once your non-housing debts are paid that the second income is completely unnecessary. Problem solved!

In addition, it should go without saying that you should avoid taking on any new debt once you shift to a single income.

Build Cash Reserves

If you have been living without savings as a dual-income couple, you’ll find that situation won’t work at all on a single income. A cash cushion will not only enable you to cover any budget shortfalls, as well as emergencies, but it will also help you to stay out of debt.

As a single income household having savings will be an integral part of your survival. Dual-income couples can often rely on each other’s paychecks whenever there is a cash shortfall. But when an entire household is living on one paycheck, having an adequate amount of savings will be the difference between financial survival and going perpetually deeper into debt.

Once you develop your single income budget, there should be a generous line item in there for regular savings contributions. With living expenses lowered, and debts paid, you should have adequate cash flow to keep your savings healthy and growing.

Can you think of any other strategies that would help a dual-income couple to live on one income?

How to Start a Business Without Quitting Your Job

startabusinessA lot of people would like to start a business, but not if it means quitting their job. If you’ve never been an entrepreneur, it can be scary. While a job promises a steady paycheck and usually benefits too, being self-employed promises neither. But that fear disappears if you can start a business without quitting your job. You can start and grow your business, all while having the reliability of the steady cash flow that your job provides.

But how do you handle both a full-time job and a new business?

1. Pick a business that you actually like.

Juggling a full-time job and a business isn’t the easiest combination, but if the business you start is one that you actually like, the balancing act will be a more comfortable one.

Just the fact that you want to start a business at all may have something to do with the fact that you don’t exactly like what it is you do on your job. If the same condition exists with the business you start, you’ll likely burn out long before the business even gets off the ground.

But if you like the business you start, it will flow more easily with your life, and even within the confines of a tight schedule. The business may not seem like work, and that will enable you to handle both the job and the business for long enough to make the venture profitable.

That being the case, before starting a business, inventory your list of hobbies and passions. The business you start should closely match these. One of the reasons for going into business at all is to pursue your passion or hobby to the “nth” degree. And if you do, it won’t take much motivation on your part to make it work – the energy will just flow.

2. Set a goal for the business.

In combining your job with your new business venture, the chances of success increase if the combination is “only temporary” (note: some temporary arrangements can go on for years!). Spending 40 hours per week on your job and 20-30 hours per week on your business is probably not something you can do indefinitely. But if you attach a specific goal to your business, it might make doing double duty workable.

For example, you can use the business to jump start your retirement savings, to get out of debt, to buy a new car – with cash – or to stock up on your emergency savings. The establishment of a goal will not only give the business a specific (and desirable) purpose, but it will also remove any strict timelines as to how long you’ll work both the job and the business.

And as one goal is achieved, you can add another. If the cycle goes on long enough, you’ll be giving your business sufficient time to grow into where it may become your full-time occupation. It will come about not by adhering to an arbitrary timeframe, but by completing a series of very desirable goals.

3. Set a time budget – and stick to it.

This is perhaps the most critical area in juggling a job and a business. You’ll have to set boundaries as to how much you spend on each, and stick to them no matter what.

When you are on your job, your attention must be 100% on the job, and not on your business. But you’ll need to be completely focused on setting a time budget for your business when you’re not at work. You may even need to set a very specific schedule for the time you will devote to your business each week. You may decide, for example, that Monday through Thursday, from 7 pm to 10:30 pm, and Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm will be devoted to your business. That will give you 20 hours to devote to the business.

If you don’t set up such a schedule, the business will become a completely casual venture – as in whenever I get time for it – and that will doom it to failure.

4. Sub out work when needed.

Most businesses have busy seasons, times when business is heavier than others. Depending upon the type of business it is, you may find that your busy time is on Fridays, at the end of the month, or during summer. Alternatively, you could reach a point where your business is growing and needs more time.

If you aren’t in position to provide the extra time but you also aren’t ready yet to make the business your primary occupation you’ll need to find a way to fill in the gap. One of the best ways to do this is by sub-contracting out the work. With the Internet, you can find people who can handle all sorts of specific functions on a contract basis.

You can, for example, sub out certain technical, marketing or administrative functions. This will free up your time to do what you consider most important for the success of the business. Perhaps it is filling orders, or customer contact, but whatever it is, subbing out work will enable you to concentrate on what you most need to do.

5. Finally take the “leap of faith.”

If your business has been around for a while, is growing steadily, and you’ve needed to hire out subcontractors on a regular basis, it may be time to consider making it your primary occupation. This is the leap of faith that comes with any new venture – that point where you finally give up your job, throw caution to the wind and make your business your main occupation.

Even if you feel pretty confident in your business, quitting your job to pursue it full-time can be a tense situation. But you can minimize the stress by stair-stepping your way out of your job.

At this point you may want to discuss your plans with your employer – you’ll be leaving anyway so why not? See if you can cut your job from full-time to part-time, or even to a contract arrangement. If you can, you’ll be giving yourself the time you need to devote to your business, without completely cutting out your job as a source of income. And as any entrepreneur can appreciate, having an extra source of revenue is never a bad idea. Your job could be that source.

Have you ever had a business and a full-time job? How did you make it work? Leave a comment!

5 Career Moves that Will Earn You More Money

careermovesIf you’re looking to super-charge your career, opening the door to more money, it makes sense to improve yourself. If you want to boost your career – and your income – here are some moves that can help:

1. Read a relevant book.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to read a relevant book. An autobiography or biography of someone you admire can give you pointers on how to conduct yourself. You can also read a book related to your industry to gain deeper knowledge of your career field. No matter what you’re doing, there is probably a book on the subject, and reading it can provide you with insight and knowledge that you can apply to your career.

2. Develop interpersonal skills.

I’m a little awkward when you meet me in person. I generally express myself better in writing than I do over the phone or face-to-face. Since I work online, this doesn’t matter as much. What’s most important is that I continue developing my writing skills.

Think about your own career field. What interpersonal skills should you have in order to succeed? Good oral and written communication skills can help you advance in almost any career. The ability to network with others, and talk to them comfortably, can also help. Presentation skills and speaking ability can also help. Developing these skills can help you articulate your value better during salary negotiations and when you ask for a raise.

From developing confidence to learning to listen effectively, the interpersonal skills you develop can help you get ahead in your career, leading to higher-paying positions.

3. Work with a mentor.

A mentor can help you learn “insider” tricks to advancing in your career and earning more money. Your mentor has already been there – and can help you learn how to get there as well. Look for someone who can provide you with helpful advice and information about your career field. Even if all you do is take your mentor out to lunch (your treat!) and pick their brain for a couple of hours, you can leverage that into better career opportunities. Make sure to thank your mentor for their help.

4. Update your resume and cover letter regularly.

Rather than waiting until the last second to update your resume and cover letter, make sure you do it regularly. My husband updates his curriculum vitae every few months so that he’s not struggling to remember everything he’s done in the last year or two. Instead, when he completes a new project, he goes into the vitae and makes changes.

Updating your resume regularly can ensure that all of your latest accomplishments are included, and that you have time to tweak it a little bit. You don’t want a rush job, especially if you are asked to bring your resume into a meeting with your boss when you’re looking for a promotion or raise. Your resume can be a cheat sheet as you share your accomplishments.

5. Develop marketable skills.

Don’t forget to develop marketable skills. Look at your career field, and recognize what is most valued. If you need a particular certification to move to the next level, or if a degree is required for you to apply for a better job at a new company, do what you need to do. Develop the skills that are most marketable in your career field and for the position and pay you aspire to.

What are some of your tips for earning more money? What career moves have you made that have paid off?

How to Pay Less for Food on Vacation

foodVacations are expensive, and even though you want to have a good time, there are still ways to save money, many of which that won’t hurt the quality of your trip. One of the biggest areas of potential savings is with food. You need to eat while you are away, but there are ways to pay less for food.

1. Stay at hotels with free breakfasts.

Staying at hotels that provide a free breakfast is a way of eliminating the need to pay for at least one meal a day. Though it’s often thought that a “free” breakfast is anything but free – and yes, we all know that it’s part of the price you pay for the room – but typically, hotels that offer breakfast as part of the room rate are less expensive than those that don’t offer it. In pricier hotels, you’ll not only pay separately for breakfast – or any other meal – but you’ll probably pay a fairly steep price at that. Certainly more than breakfast will cost at McDonalds.

In point of fact, even breakfast at the golden arches will cost at around $25 for a family of four, and if your vacation is a week long, you will spend $175 ($25 x 7 days) just for breakfast. And that’s the optimistic number!

At a typical full service, sit down breakfast restaurant – the kind you’ll usually find in higher priced hotels – will be closer to $50 for a family of four. For a one week vacation you’ll be looking at $350 ($50 x 7) just to feed your family for breakfast.

Obviously, working around breakfast can be a rich source of savings with food on vacation. It’s just one meal a day, but not having to pay for it can make a real difference.

2. Stay at hotels with kitchenettes.

If you can get a hotel room that has a kitchenette, you can make at least some of your meals in your room. This will of course require that you stock your room with groceries and that you spend some time in meal preparation, but any meals you can avoid eating in restaurants will be a substantial savings. This is especially true when it comes to dinner. Unless you will be eating dinner at fast food restaurants, it will be tough to find dinner for a family of four for much less than $50.

That estimate may be too low as well. In many resort areas, restaurant dinners are even more expensive than this. Preparing meals in your room can be a viable alternative that will provide you with a hot meal without having to rely too heavily on fast food.

Worst case, if you can’t get a hotel room with a full kitchen, at least look for one with a microwave oven and refrigerator. Most hotels – even and especially lower priced ones – will allow you to add a microwave or refrigerator to your room either for free or for a very small fee. A microwave and refrigerator will at least enable you to store perishable foods and to do light meal preparation.

3. Bring food for the road.

If you are driving to your destination (or between destinations if you’re going to more than one) you can save money by packing snacks and light meals for the road. Not only will this save money on buying restaurant meals, but it will also enable you to get where you’re going more quickly. Every stop you need to make on the way to your destination – including food stops – will slow your progress.

You don’t necessarily have to have food prepared for every meal you’ll need on your trip. You can prepare to eat half of your meals at restaurants, and the other half with the food you pack for the trip.

Snacks and drinks can be a big plus here too. Many times when you’re hungry, a drink and a light snack is all you need to get the job done. This is especially important when you are traveling. Since you are sitting in a car for many hours, you are generally better off eating light, and even more frequently.

4. Limit the number of meals you eat.

Often when you are on vacation you may not need to eat three meals a day. This is especially true if your vacation is largely sedentary in nature. You may find that one large meal a day, supplemented by two lighter ones, is all you need to cover the food side of your vacation.

A free hotel breakfast, along with a light lunch prepared in your room, and dinner at a restaurant will get you through the day without costing too much. In fact, the money you save on breakfast and lunch can allow for a more elaborate dinner. After all, part of what you want on vacation is to experience the local fare. And it’s fine to do this – but just not spending too much money in the process.

What do you do to save money on vacation? Leave a comment!

The Finances of Homeschooling

homeschoolingWhen it comes to my son’s education, I’ve never considered homeschooling. Our personalities are such that it probably wouldn’t work out very well. I don’t like the idea of having to keep him on task with his education, and he just doesn’t like learning anything from me (it’s why someone else teaches him piano – even though I am capable).

However, I know several families that homeschool, and it works for them. And, there are times that I think homeschooling would be a little more convenient than dealing with someone else’s school schedule. Additionally, there would potentially be some financial benefits of homeschooling. Here are some of the financial things to consider as you make the decision whether or not to homeschool.

School Supplies and Clothing

We just finished shopping for school clothes for my son. It wasn’t very pretty. He also has “home clothes” that he wears around the house. These home clothes (sweats and inexpensive t-shirts) are less expensive than the nicer things he wears to school. Homeschooling would cut out the cost of buying new clothes for school, and reduce the amount of school-type clothing we would need to purchase.

On top of that, it is possible to purchase school supplies at our convenience. And all of the costs that come with extracurricular activities could be reduced as well.

Curriculum Purchase

Homeschooling, though it can be cost-efficient, isn’t completely free. While you can use resources like the public library, and find solid information online, it can help to purchase a curriculum. Many parents (I’d be one of them) like to have structure to their children’s learning. While that structure might be a little looser, it’s still nice to have an idea of what to teach, and what order to teach it in.

If you’re the kind that would like to have a lesson plan laid out, you can purchase a curriculum. Curricula can be purchased for different age levels, and at a variety of prices. It’s also possible to pay monthly subscription fees to sites that allow you to access a variety of materials for various age levels. This can cost a little more, but you do have more freedom and flexibility when you choose your curriculum, rather than relying on the school system to do it for you.

Educational Tax Credits

In many cases, the fact that your child is not in the public school system doesn’t stop you from paying taxes to support that system. This is why, in some states, it’s possible for you to receive a tax credit for the homeschooling that you do. This can offset some of the taxes you pay to support public education, and reduce your overall costs. Check with your state to see if it offers homeschooling tax credits or education vouchers.

Flexibility and Travel Savings

One of the biggest draws homeschooling has for me is the potential for flexible travel. Instead of always having to travel during peak times (spring break, summer, holidays), my son and I could travel off-peak and reap the savings. Travel is cheaper during times when fewer people are traveling – but those times are usually times when my son should be in school. Homeschooling gives you a little more flexibility, and the ability to take advantage of the savings that come with traveling during certain times of the year.

Is Homeschooling Worth It For You?

For me, one thing outweighs all the benefits of homeschooling: my relationship with my son. At the end of every summer, it becomes apparent that everyone in the house needs a break. My son is eager to return to school; we’ve gotten on each other’s nerves. I can’t imagine trying to force-feed him education every day would be good for our relationship. As it is, he comes home from school ready to share what he’s learned. And if there is something he’s especially interested in, I help him supplement his knowledge in areas that he’s interested in. That way, the learning we do together is fun, and the stuff he doesn’t like is someone else’s responsibility.

What do you think? Is homeschooling worth it? Is it something you’d try? Leave a comment!

How to Get a Good Paying Job Without Going to College

Good Paying Jobs Without CollegeMillions of young people go off to college each fall, convinced that it is the only way to enter a career-type field. That is no longer the case, if in fact it ever was. There are plenty of career fields available that do not require college, or at least not a four-year undergraduate degree.

The Trades

One of the unexpected outcomes of the flood of high school graduates into college was the decline of young people entering the trades. This has created an imbalance in which college norm jobs are flooded with applicants, while employers are scrambling to fill positions in the trades.

As a result, the income levels of many trades people have increased substantially, to the point where they compete favorably with careers that require college degrees. One such example is elevator installers and repair people. The median income level for the field is $70,910, the future job outlook is solid, and it requires no more than a high school diploma to enter.

There are many fields in the trades that pay well and do not require a college education at all, including electricians, plumbers, and aircraft repair. These are just a few of the possibilities, but if you have an orientation toward repair and maintenance, you may want to seriously consider these options before signing on to a college degree program.

Two-Year Degree Programs

The notion that you need a four-year degree in order to enter just about any career field is more of an assumption than a reality. There are many stable, well-paying careers that you can enter with just a two-year college degree.

Forbes has listed the Highest Paying 2-Year Degree Jobs in the US, and it includes jobs such as:

  • Registered nurses (average income, $55,000 per year)
  • Physical therapy assistant ($46,000)
  • Radiologic and X-ray technicians ($52,000)
  • Web designer ($47,000)
  • Graphic designer (up to $50,000)

Before assuming that you need a full undergraduate degree in order to enter a career field, first investigate the minimum requirements for entry level positions in the field. If you can get in with a two-year degree, you can save a substantial amount of money on the cost of your college education, and consider working toward a bachelor’s degree after you’ve entered the field and are earning a substantial income to help pay for it.


The prospects for self-employment are growing particularly with the advent of the Internet. It is now possible to sell products and services globally, and to mobilize resources in almost any category you can imagine. The Internet makes this much less expensive than it once was, not the least of which because you could operate at home from your own computer, without needing to pay rent or hire employees.

At the same time, there are many opportunities available providing services for businesses that operate on the web business-to-business. This would include people with social media skills, web building and development skills, and just about any marketing ability possible.

There was a story in our local newspaper this week about two 16-year-old boys at a local high school that started a Twitter account tweeting country music lyrics. The pair have identified a serious niche, and their account has grown to over 300,000 followers. As a result of their popularity, they have been approached by advertisers, music promoters and even some big name operators like MTV and some radio stations, with advertising and promotion opportunities. The two are building a serious business before they even graduate high school!

This is just one example of what can be done, but the options in self-employment are probably greater than they’ve ever been.

A Career in Sales

The best sales people I have ever known were never educated in sales – it is just an ability that they have, or have developed over the years. While it is true that you may need a college degree in order to enter certain technical sales fields, in many of the more general ones, it’s more about people skills.

If you are an extrovert, have strong persuasive skills, and a hunger to make money, a sales career could very well be much more lucrative than any field you can enter in a college norm. A good sales person can easily earn over $100,000 per year. Perhaps just as important, many large companies and departments within those companies are often headed by people who have very successful sales careers.

As a successful salesperson, your skills are often more important to a department or company than any technical skills that others may have. Employers put a premium on those who can increase the bottom line – as in increased sales revenue – and few people are in a better position to do that than salespeople.

There are plenty of ways that you can get a good paying job without going to college. But it does require that you think outside the box, and consider possibilities that may be a little less conventional than what most young people are looking for.

Have you discovered any other good paying jobs that don’t require a college degree? Leave a comment!

Whole Life Insurance Pros and Cons

life insuranceThere’s an ongoing debate between whole life insurance and term life insurance. The pro-term life insurance opinions practically consider whole life to be a useless option. Is that really the case?

In truth, there are both pros and cons when it comes to whole life insurance. In general, it’s true that you’re better off to “buy term and investment difference,” but what if you don’t actually invest the difference? It opens up the possibility that whole life will be the right choice for you.

Arguments for Whole Life Insurance

While it may be true that term life insurance is the right choice for many people – or even for most – there are some compelling reasons why you might decide to go with whole life insurance instead.

Permanent Insurance

Whole life insurance is sometimes referred to as “permanent insurance.” Unlike term insurance, which has to be renewed at the end of each term, a whole life insurance policy remains in force for as long as you pay the premiums. That puts the existence of the policy completely under your control. Once you have the policy, the issuing company cannot revoke it except for fraud.

Locking in Your Premium

Term insurance is much less expensive than whole life, however both are priced based on your age. When you buy a whole life policy, you’ll get the rate that applies to your age at the time the policy is put in force. By contrast, a term life insurance policy will always be more expensive upon renewal because you will be older when it happens. The cheap policy that you bought when you were 25 can become extremely expensive when you renew it at age 50. It could even be more expensive than what you could’ve gotten your whole life policy for at age 25.

Forced Savings

If you are not a natural saver, then forced savings plans are an excellent strategy. Since whole life policies contain investment provisions where a portion of your premiums will be accumulated in an investment account, you’ll be saving money with each premium payment that you make. Term life insurance policies are pure life insurance and contain no investment provision.

The Potential to Have a “Paid Up” Policy

A benefit of a whole life insurance policy compared to term is that the cash accumulation in the account can become so large that you can apply it to paying future insurance premiums. That can enable you to use your cash value (investment provision) to pay off your premiums for the rest of your life. That can be a valuable option when you’re 65-years old, ready to retire, and looking for ways to cut living expenses.

Arguments Against Whole Life Insurance

Despite all of its obvious advantages, whole life insurance comes with at least an equal number of negatives.

High Cost

Term life insurance is not just less expensive than whole life – it’s much less expensive! Whole life can cost 10 times more than term for an equal amount of coverage. With such a big difference in premiums, term insurance could end up being the only life insurance that you can afford.

Changing Needs

Since whole life insurance policies are permanent in nature, it’s not as easy to increase your coverage as is with term policies. In fact, the typical way to increase the death benefit on a whole life insurance policy is by adding a term rider. But when you do that, you’re also adding all the aspects of term that you’re trying to avoid by taking a whole life policy in the first place.

It isn’t the Best Place to Invest Your Money

While whole life insurance does offer an investment provision, it is typically not a terribly effective vehicle. You can generally do better by investing your money in index-based mutual funds. If you have the ability to save and invest your own money – apart from having a forced savings plan – your investment returns over the long run are likely to be far better than anything you could get from your whole life plan.

Most of the Early Premiums Cover Fees

Yet another negative on the investment side with whole life is that the portion of your premiums that go into your investment account are usually very small the first few years, and even nonexistent in the first year. If for any reason you cancel your policy within the first two or three years, you will have paid an extremely high rate for what will be essentially term life insurance, but you will have very little investment accumulation to take out of the plan.

For the most part, whole life insurance works best for people who are either looking for permanent life insurance, perhaps out of fear over future insurability, or for people who have no capability to save and invest money otherwise. But there are people who are concerned with either or both, and if this describes you, whole life insurance is worth investigating.

What are your thoughts on term vs. whole life insurance? Leave a comment!

How to Negotiate Your Rent Payment

rent paymentThe lease on your home or apartment is coming up for renewal and you’re wondering about negotiating a lower rent payment, or at least to avoid an increase – how do you do that? After all, in many rental markets, an annual increase in rent is practically the norm. How can you fight the trend and get a better deal on your rent?

1. Know the rental market in your area.

Any time you negotiate anything you first need to know what the options are. When it comes to rents, that means knowing what the rental market in your area is like. Not only will you be well informed in the negotiations, but you’ll know how much flexibility you’ll have. If the market is tight and your rent is on the lower end of the range, you’ll have less room to negotiate. But if your rent is on the high end – meaning that there are better opportunities elsewhere – you’ll have the confidence you need to go forward.

How can you determine what the market for rents in your area are?

  • Check classified ads for rentals in the local newspaper or on Craigslist. That will give you a ballpark on the latest rents.
  • Check with real estate agents and rental brokers in the area.
  • Talk to other tenants in the area to see what they’re paying on their units.
  • Use a rental service like Rentometer. It can give you a rough estimate of rents on comparable properties in your area.

In using any of the above sources, be sure to get as much written evidence as possible, just in case you need to present it to the landlord during negotiations.

2. Pay your rent on time; better yet, pay it early.

Few acts by a tenant will create more of a warm, fuzzy feeling for a landlord than paying your rent on time. It shows that you are responsible. Your landlord comes to bank on the arrival of your check. After all, he has bills to pay too. When you pay your rent on time, you show consideration for your landlord’s financial situation.

By paying your rent early, you may come to be seen as the best tenant your landlord has ever had. Do you think that will have value when you negotiate your rent? Count on it!

3. Be the model tenant.

A better way to put it is to do more as a tenant than you need to. How do you this?

  • Keep the house or apartment showroom clean.
  • If you are responsible for maintaining the property, treat it as an owner.
  • Communicate regularly with your landlord on any issues concerning the property or the neighborhood.
  • Fix what breaks, and find a diplomatic way to let your landlord know any time you do.
  • Never bother your landlord over minor problems.
  • Ask yourself: “If I were the landlord of this property, what kind of tenant would I want to occupy it?” Be that tenant.

Why go through all of this effort to impress your landlord? Many tenants are less than cooperative. By doing at least some of the above, you will distinguish yourself as a good tenant; that can be worth money to a landlord. When the time comes to negotiate your rent, your landlord will be more agreeable to your terms.

4. Let your landlord know you like the apartment, the neighborhood and the community.

Generally speaking, landlords prefer tenants who are long-term residents. That will mean less repainting and repair work, both of which are standard any time a house or apartment changes hands. Let your landlord know that you like the apartment (or house), the neighborhood and the community. That preference will indicate that you are a contented tenant who is likely to stay longer. And landlords like tenants who like their property too.

5. Offer to perform services in lieu of rent.

One way to negotiate a lower rent payment is by offering to perform services in lieu of rent. This can include cutting the grass, if the landlord does it himself or pays a service to do it for him. It can also include performing certain repairs or even painting the home or apartment.

Since a landlord will have to do this work sooner or later, the fact that you are doing it for him could be worth money to him, or at least enough to drop the rent a bit.

6. Propose a longer lease term.

Once again, we get back to the fact that landlords generally prefer long-term tenants. If you are a good tenant too, the landlord may be very anxious to keep you around longer. Offer a two-year lease if the landlord will agree to lower the rent a bit, or at least to avoid raising it.

7. Be prepared to hear “no.”

If you do want to negotiate a lower rent payment, you will need to be fully prepared to hear “no.” If that is the case, you’ll have to decide how you will react to that before you even approach your landlord about a reduction. If you are not prepared to deal with a negative answer, you may want to avoid negotiating at all.

If a lower rent payment is truly important, you may need to be fully prepared to move in the event the landlord doesn’t agree. Your decision to leave may induce the landlord to lower your rent, but if he doesn’t, you’ll have to be prepared to make the move, even if that isn’t your first choice.

Just be certain that if you do plan to move, that a better deal does in fact exist elsewhere. You’ll know that if you took the first recommendation above, and researched rents in your area. If you know you can do better at another property, it’s an option worth taking.

Are you looking to negotiate your rent? Have you tried to before? Tell us your story in the comments!

The 7 Qualities of an Effective Leader

leadershipIf you were to sit down and analyze effective leaders, you would find certain qualities that they each have and use effectively to be the person in charge that they are. Let’s take a look at what those qualities are . . . .

1. Passion

An effective leader, whether it is in sports, the military, religion or business, is someone who has a passion for their cause. To them, it is bigger than they are and they believe that this cause will make society, or at least some part of it, better. A passionate leader makes difficult decisions in the face of danger or adversity with conviction and courage.

2. Vision

Vision is something born out of that passion a leader has. It takes passion and commitment in order to study a plan, system, issue or subject enough to create a vision. A leader with vision takes their passion and finds ways to make changes to develop a better future for those he leads. Born out of passion, vision is actually found through the use of two other important qualities: intellectual drive and creativity.

3. Intellectual Drive and Knowledge

A true leader never stops learning about the world around them. They need to keep educating themselves in order to stay at the top of their game. Whether it is studying the competition, the industry, history or just learning to expand on their own knowledge foundation, that intellectual drive keeps a leader from being complacent. It keeps them moving forward and helps them overcome obstacles that may stop others.

4. Creativity

Nobody has ever accomplished anything by following the status quo. Over the course of history, it has been leaders who have broken from or expanded the norm, ones not afraid to take a risk and try something different who have stood on top.

5. A Combination of Confidence and Humility

It takes passion to drive something. It takes vision to re-create it, but it takes confidence to carry it all out. A law of physics states that a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Without the confidence to spring into action, nothing changes. However big-headed egocentrics are very dangerous. These leaders also have a touch of humility. A good leader is only as good as the people they surround themselves with. Being aware enough to utilize gifted people inside the company, organization or other entity is imperative to the overall success of that entity.

6. Communicator

There have been horrible leaders over the course of time that have driven people to the edge of destruction just by using their ability to speak. However, there has not been one good leader who couldn’t. The ability to communicate and rally the troops has, and always will be an integral piece of leadership.

7. Values

Without values, leadership becomes manipulation and exploitation. It is things like respect for other and respect for society in general that has made some of the world’s best leaders great. This does not mean that a leader has to be warm and fuzzy to be successful. Respect and warmth are two completely different ideas. These values shape everything discussed before. It is the basis in which we all grow.

Each leader has their strengths based in one of these ideas, but has a little bit of each. Take a look at what you think your strengths are. Do they fit this idea? How can you change to better help your organization? Think about it.

What are some other important qualities that leaders should possess? Leave a comment!

Sometimes All You Need is Time Management

time managementTime. It is a dwindling resource. There is never enough of it. It’s gone immediately and can never be retrieved. It is one of those things we all want more of, but in many cases, it is a problem of time mis-management.

Some people get it and have everything organized and planned down to exactly how many brushes on their teeth and how long it takes to do it. For others, effectively planning and organizing themselves is as simple as herding billy goats. Time management skills just do not come naturally to them.

These individuals start each day with an idea and the best of intentions. Perhaps some of their time is eaten away by things out of their control: a traffic jam on the way to work or a meeting that ran over. It could however be self-inflicted; an extra five minutes chatting while getting coffee or that last smoke break in the afternoon.

At the end of the work day, they often realize that they didn’t get nearly as much done as they had planned, leaving them stressed. These people are in every office and in every business. This could always be a struggle for them. However, there are some tips and techniques that can reduce stress and improve their quality of life and work productivity. The following list will help you get started if you struggle with time management:

  • Prioritize: It seems so simple but it is amazing how often this is forgotten. Each day and/or each week should start with a list of everything that needs to get done. The items on that list should then be put in order of importance (or deadline). As new tasks or projects come up, analyze the current list and prioritize accordingly. This priority list will help keep you on track and keep you from missing those important project deadlines.
  • Create Goals: Setting up goals or routines is one way to keep that priority list in line. One goal may be to not check or answer email until just before lunch and/or before the end of the day. You can hold all calls while you prepare for that big meeting. You can use it in your personal life too. Propose to throw a load of laundry in every morning, put it in the dryer when you get home and fold it while watching your evening television. A move like that can free up a whole weekend.
  • Delegate: As an owner or manager, you may feel that in order to get something done, you must do it yourself. Every person cannot be everywhere and do everything. You have a staff, even if it is an employee or two. It is time to start using them to the best of their capabilities. If you have not begun to train any of your employees in certain things, there is no time like the present. It helps their confidence and makes them feel more invested in the company and you can take some things off of your plate.
  • There’s an App for That: Smartphones these days come with an amazing amount of abilities. Calendars are just a small piece of the type of time management tools available. The great thing about using these phones for this is that you always have them. You don’t need to check in your office or carry a bulky book anymore.
  • Just Say No: There is only so much one human being can do. Being on the board of this non-profit, and the chair of this committee, and also working on this project and that initiative is commendable, but it can also be career suicide. Your boss or client will not remember all the great things you were involved in, but instead just the one thing they cared about that you messed up because you were not focusing on what they really needed.

Lack of organization creates a tremendous amount of undue stress on many individuals. With just a few time management skills, they may gain a bit of their life back. One should not overwhelm themselves though. Try one of these at a time, or a combination of a few. Find what works best and stick with it! Six months from now, you will look back and be amazed at the difference.

Do you need work on time management? How so? Leave a comment!

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