How to save money on home insurance – 15 frugal tips

Can you save money on car insurance? Of course you can. Here are 18 frugal, money-saving tips.

One of the biggest expenses any home owner faces is home insurance.  And it comes around every year or every month, depending on how you have it set up. 

But there are ways you can save on home insurance.  Here are 15 tips for frugal home insurance. [Read more…]

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The ins and outs of life insurance riders

Insurance policies are among the most customizable of financial services, thanks to something called riders. Let’s take a look at some of the most common insurance riders.

As with any major financial decision, before you get life insurance, it’s a good idea to research all your options. While there are probably a gazillion life insurance policies to choose from, each offers different levels of coverage. 

After choosing the package closest to what you want, you can personalize your policy with a rider. [Read more…]

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When should you refinance your mortgage to save the most money?

Some things are obvious. Refinancing your mortgage is not. Here are all the things you need to consider to make sure that refinancing actually saves you money.

When to refinance your mortgage is a much more complicated question that might appear at first glance, especially if you want to save the most money. 

There are many factors to consider before making the decision.  And if you miscalculate, you might end up paying more in the end than if you left your mortgage as it currently stands, which would kind of defeat the point of refinancing. [Read more…]

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Selling clothes online? Check off these items first

Tips for Selling Clothes OnlineHave you ever thought of selling clothes online.  Whether it’s your own used clothes (and those of friends and relatives) or designer items that your niece has created, you need a plan!

Even if you plan to sell only your own used clothing online, there are some essentials that must be met to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

One or two missed items can mean the difference between making enough from your online store to be worthwhile and struggling to make ends meet.  So it pays to get it right from the start. [Read more…]

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Four ways web stores can help you save on shipping

When you shop online, do you look only at the sticker price? Maybe you should also be concerned about how the retailer handles shipping costs.

More online consumers abandon shopping carts due to unexpected costs than for any other reason – those costs are usually shipping and handling. This is one of the main reasons why the average conversion rate for eCommerce websites is around four percent, according to Marketing Sherpa.  The good news for us consumers is that even if a store thinks it has reduced its shipping costs as low as they can go and still make a profit, there are several effective strategies that they may not have tried.

Save on shippingPlan their shipments in advance

When it comes to finding affordable shipping and handling rates, timing is everything. If they pay close attention to the standard shipping schedule of the carriers they choose, especially when it comes to weekend deliveries, they could find a bargain.  So if you want to save money, don’t worry about how fast a company ships; be more concerned with what they charge for delivery.

Even though it may seem to be more convenient to have shipments delivered on Saturday and Sunday, all carriers that offer this service charge expensive fees to go right along with it.  Keep in mind that you will always save more money with 3-day shipping than next-day shipping, according to the Wall Street Journal. If you as a consumer have the option, use an online shipping calculator, which can easily be found either on the retailer’s or the shipping carrier’s website, to calculate and compare delivery fees accordingly.

Save on shippingThey can search for competitive rates

Just as you can shop around for the best price on sandals, perfume, gadgets or whatever, so can the retailer shop around for the best shipping rates. You will get a better deal from a retailer who shops around for a lower price.

Postage rates and shipping expenses change rather frequently among carriers, because they are continuously striving to gain an edge on their competition. As a general rule of thumb, on products that weigh less than 5 pounds you can get the best deal with USPS (assuming, of course, that this is a shipment within the USA), according to Entrepreneur.com. However, for much heavier products, you will more than likely be able to get a better deal and faster delivery time by using UPS or FedEx.

Save on shippingBe cautious about international shipping

Even though you may want to shop on a global scale, it is important for you to remain mindful of international shipping rates and the increased cost of shipping across international boundaries and particularly overseas. Keep in mind that, unlike with standard domestic shipments, there are several other fees and charges that need to be factored into the equation when calculating international shipping costs. You might save a lot more by buying locally, within your own country.

So location is one of the first things to check when visiting an online retailer, especially when shopping for a product that is likely available form many websites. You can save money by avoiding

Getting the order right the first time

Although it might not seem to have very much to do with a store’s upfront shipping and handling charges, making sure that orders are fulfilled and shipped accurately the first time around is essential.  And it does play a role in the overall cost of shipping.  Why?  If a company has a lot of returns and reshipments, they will have to recoup that cost somewhere.  And somewhere is always you.

One study shows that close to 30 percent of consumers who receive an incorrect order from an eCommerce business never buy from that company again, according to Entrepreneur.com. You might be one of those 30 percent, and the odds are that the choice is a wise one from both a pocketbook and a stress-reduction perspective.

Check the company out online, and search specifically for reviews that talk about fulfillment – whether the right product arrived, whether it was damaged and whether it needed to be returned or exchanged.

Save on shipping

The Bottom Line

If you are able to save money on shipping expenses, or if your retailer is able to do so, you can increase save some serious money. It does pay to shop around and to look at more than just the sticker price of an item.

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Frugal and fabulous DIY Christmas treats

Here are two yummy DIY Christmas treats that will wow your guests: Cupcake Rudolfs and Rice Kristmastreesicles. You can make them yourself at home with almost no effort and almost no cost.

So you want to really Wow your guests at Christmas this year, but a chocolate fountain and a dozen French maid server girls can’t be squeezed into your budget? No problem. Here are two tried and tested (by Mrs. Happy Guy and our girls) do-it-yourself Christmas treats.

What these two treats have in common:

  • They are each incredibly simple to make.
  • They look adorable…and pretty fancy.
  • They taste great.
  • Among several dozen items at the dance school bake sale, these were both among the first to sell out.

High-in-demand reindeer cupckaes!

Cupcake Rudolfs

Cupcakes!You start with a cupcake. You can bake these yourself, as Mrs. Happy Guy did in Christmas-themed cupcake paper (here are some cupcake recipes), or you can buy them from the store. Any flavour will do; pick a flavour that your guests will like, or make several flavours to lend an air of surprise.  Chocolate, vanilla, red velvet – any will do.

Frosting!Ice them in brown frosting. Reindeer are not dark-furred, so mixing chocolate and vanilla icing might be best, or you can do what Mrs. Happy Guy did and just add brown food coloring to white frosting.

Snout and Nose!For the snout, add miniature cookie. We used ginger snaps. I say “we” because I very helpfully taste-tested several of them (for quality control purposes).

For the nose, any red candy will do – Skittles, M&Ms, gum drops. Just use a touch of brown frosting for “glue”.

Candy eyes!For the eyes, we bought them read-made at the bulk food store. Tip: put the eyes close together, or they start to look uncannily like brown bears.

For the antlers, just add mini pretzels, tucking them gently into the frosting deep enough that they stay.

That’s it. Ta-da!

Rudolf the red-nosed cupcake!

Rice Kristmastree Squares.

You start with a large tray or two of regular Rice Krispy Squares about an inch deep. Here is the recipe.

Then you cut them into triangles, shaped like Christmas trees. If you want them to look like they came off an assembly line, measure them carefully to make sure they are all the same size and shape. If you want them to look home-made and like real trees – various sizes and shapes – go wild and cut with abandon.

Candy-coated!To turn them green, we coated one surface generously with melted green “chocolate” melting wafers. Melt them slowly, stirring occasionally over low heat. Feel free to use a knife to ensure that they form a smooth surface for the trees.

Now stash them in your covered porch to cool. If you aren’t blessed with an unheated covered porch, a fridge will do.

Once the green coating is hard, you can decorate. How you decorate is up to you. We used piping icing for the garlands. We used Skittles (my younger daughter’s favourite) for the ornaments. Use some green piping icing for the “glue”.

Fondant stars!And we used fondant for the stars. We added a yellowish coloring, but it turned out more orangish. But that’s OK, because stars are actually balls of flaming gas, and orange is good for that, right? Besides, it didn’t stop people from grabbing them up.

For an added dash of festivity, carefully stick a popsicle stick through the bottom, and Presto! – your Rice Kristmastree Squares become Rice Kristmastreesicles.

Rice Kristmastree Squares!

With that, you are all ready to receive your guests and make their eyes pop and their mouths salivate. And you didn’t even have to hire 12 drummers drumming.

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Coming soon to a store near you.

The old notion of lining up at the cash register could be a thing of the past, with mobile POS (point of sale) systems. Could we now be given surprise rewards and impromptu discounts, even as we are trying on clothes in the fitting rooms?

I don’t know whether to publish this in the “Frugal” section or the “Too Cool” section. Oops, it seems I don’t have a “Too Cool” section, so…

Most frugal shoppers keep one eye open for sales and the other for loyalty programs. Over the long term, they amount to the pretty much the same thing: take 10 percent off, or win 10 percent more merchandise later on.

Well, this post is inspired by a local gas station that keeps trying to get me to take on their points card. Notice that I did not say points “program”. I said “card”.

“Sorry, I don’t want another card in my wallet.”

There is a company called Coin working on a card that will replace all the other cards. You just push a button and it becomes any card you want. But that hasn’t yet arrived and it will cost us (consumers) money.

Why does a loyalty program require me to carry an extra plastic card? I found myself both laughing and nodding my head at about 12-18 seconds into this video by Vend …

Tweet quote: “I don’t want to carry another loyalty card in my pocket.

The video goes on to show how stores can run loyalty programs using Cloud-based Vend from an iPad. Aside from freeing our wallets and purses from card-bulge, it also means that store staff can run around the store and do all sorts of crazy things with their loyalty programs.

Who knows, maybe some creative stores will start offering on-the-spot prizes, windfalls, contests and all sorts of entertaining stuff. Why not? – online marketing over the past few years has become all about engagement, so why shouldn’t the same thing apply to the retail environment.

And now that they are integrated with PayPal, I don’t need cash or a credit card to pay, either – which makes it easier for consumers and less of a headache for retailers.

Shopping in a mobile-enabled store

Imagine this scenario. You are trying on two items in the fitting room, unsure which one to pick, and you decide to buy one. You don’t want to wait in line at the checkout, so you make the purchase right there in the change room. And – Surprise! – you have just earned enough points to get the other item free, so you don’t even have to choose between the two.  And no need to even reach into your pocket for a credit card.

Actually, I can see clothing retailers using this system to offer buy-two-get-one-free specials only accessible right there in the fitting room.

Although I have yet to see anything this creative in the stores around here, this mobile system is already being used by numerous small retailers.

This soup is not for saleThe Not For Sale Campaign is using it in stores In the Netherlands to sell merchandise that it uses to funds its charitable works around the world.

The Ben Espresso Bar in New Zealand makes it easy for customers to enjoy seasonal brews.

LoMo Market uses the iPad based system to be mobile – to bring farmers markets near to you, so you don’t have to travel so far (assuming you live near Durham, North Carolina – if you live in Norway or Botswana, I suspect you’ll have to drive pretty far to get to LoMo).

Not only might we soon do away with loyalty cards, but also with those pesky paper receipts. “We just ask if they’re happy to receive a receipt by email, and not one customer has said no,“ says Andrew Paine of Sitka, a surf shop and retail clothing store in Victoria, British Columbia.

For the retailer – the guy who wants our loyalty – the whole Vend system is much more than just about loyalty programs, as Mobile Commerce Daily reports. In fact, that is a pretty small portion of what Vend does. The folks at GetApp point out that the big benefits of a cloud-based system is that it allows an entrepreneur or manager to keep track of things from anywhere. So if you are flitting between store and factory and warehouse and another store and…well, wherever you are, you have real-time data on sales and customers and whatever else you’re tracking.

And the folks at GrowMap point out how easy it is for smaller merchants to use Vend because it integrates well with PayPal. Can you say “Frustrating banks that won’t give my small business a merchant account with Visa or Mastercard”? Sure, I knew you could.

So don’t be surprised if over the next few years, you see a lot more iPads checking you out – I mean “checking you out” as in a check-out counter without the counter. And not just at the “store”. Your kid’s piano teacher might bring Vend to your house. Your plumber surely will. Your insurance agent, too. The volunteer firemen who stop your car at the main intersection in town. The cow you milk…no, wait. Maybe not the cow.

* Want to keep up with the news on Vend, Follow them on Twitter or GooglePlus.

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Yawn… time to get out of debt

Think getting out of debt is boring? Find out why some really creative people disagree

When you’re dealing with debt, it’s normal to feel like you’re alone – the only person facing this struggle. However, even though it’s not something most people talk about, a significant percentage of Americans have their own problems with debt. For example, 24% of Americans have more debt than they have savings with an average of over $15,000 in credit card debt per family.  Meanwhile, Canadians are saddled with record debt, hitting $500 billion last month.

While pundits may have a point when they say widespread change needs to occur, the one good thing about credit card debt being a prevalent problem is that plenty of people have already gone through the process of eliminating theirs. And from others’ experiences, there are a lot of things you can learn about getting rid of your own debt. Best of all, some of those lessons show how creativity can be used to make this process interesting and not overly unpleasant:

Don’t Be a Lone Wolf

Lone Wolf in DebtA common reason people get depressed by their battle with debt is because they try to tackle it all on their own. Instead of going solo, you should involve your significant other in the process. Even if the two of you aren’t married, the support you get can make all the difference.

If you’re not in a relationship, does that mean you’re out of luck? Absolutely not! There’s a good chance you have a close friend who also has debt they want to eliminate. By opening up to each other, you can get support whenever you need it. You can also turn this process into a fun challenge by creating a friendly competition between the two of you.

Turn an Interest Into a Part-Time Job

One of the most effective ways to get rid of debt is to make more money. But since most people can’t get a raise just by asking for it, this may seem impossible. However, a great way to generate more cash is to start charging money for something you enjoy doing. Whether it’s writing, building things or editing videos, for less than $30 you can get a website and a stack of business cards, and start promoting your services to everyone you know. Here is a list of 10 hobbies that pay well.

What if you don’t really have an interest that makes sense to turn into a part-time gig? Another option to consider is to think back to all the jobs you’ve had and identify any that you really enjoyed. For example, maybe you were a waiter during college and really liked the work. Even though you’re probably not going to make as much as you do at your full-time job, picking up a few evening shifts each week can be a fairly enjoyable way to get extra cash flowing in.

Or you can see what jobs people are looking for at Freelancer.com .

Focus on Alternatives Instead of Deprivation

There are plenty of personal finance gurus who will say that if you want to get out of debt, you basically need to put your life on hold and only spend money on absolute essentials. While cutting frivolous spending is definitely a smart idea, that doesn’t mean you have to make every day a miserable experience. From enjoying free events in your area to borrowing DVDs from the library instead of paying to rent them, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy life without constantly needing to spend money.

Here are some tips to save money on protein and on food in general, on laundry and on recreation.

The One Thing About Debt Elimination You Don’t Want to Forget

As you can see from this list, the process of getting rid of debt can really be molded into just about anything you want. Although it definitely takes work to succeed, that doesn’t mean you have to be miserable for the duration of this process. Instead, you just need to unleash your creativity and find solutions that work.

In addition to using creativity to your advantage, the most important thing to remember about debt elimination is you always want to have a backup plan. For example, even though you may be making a point of spending as little as possible, there’s always the possibility that a significant unexpected expense may come up.

If that occurs, one approach to having a backup plan is getting an auto title loan from TitleMax.com. There are several benefits to taking this approach. Not only can you get a loan for up to $10,000 without a credit check, but you’ll be able to continue driving your car while making payments that work within your debt elimination budget.

Want to start chipping away at your debt? Then the best thing you can do is take action. Even if you don’t have a perfect plan, doing something is going to be much more productive than not taking any action at all!

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Marketing Training Based on Testing and What Works

Frugal is fine, but the best way to save money is to earn more…and that takes training. When you work for a company, corporation or the government, they train you. But if you’re a solopreneur, you’re on your own.  Even if you already know what specific skills you need, how do you know whose information and training to trust?

Leading Marketing Training Programs

Were you trained to market?If you are a solopreneur, you are your own marketing department.  So where do you get your training? Three top marketing resources immediately come to mind: HubSpot, MarketMotive and MECLABS (which includes MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments). These are all excellent sources because what they teach is based on actual results at real businesses. Here’s how MECLABS describes what they do:

“MECLABS is the world’s largest independent research lab focused exclusively on marketing and sales. Our scientists and analysts have conducted rigorous scientific tests across more than 10,000 pages.”

Results are what matters – and these all share specifically what gets results. MECLABS offers online digital marketing courses. MarketingSherpa publishes “Practical Case Studies, Research and Training for Marketers” while MarketingExperiments focuses on discovering “what really works in optimization” and offers both self-guided learning and formal training (live or online).

MarketMotive provides extensive training on skills with growing demand and few to meet them.  They provide online internet marketing online certification courses.  Analytics, Conversion Optimization and Mobile Marketing are the specialties that are most needed today.

HubSpot is best known for their inbound marketing software platform.  Their advanced lead generation system is used in-house at businesses of all sizes to increase ROI. They publish extensive marketing case studies. Experts in inbound marketing, they publish separate Case Studies by business size: Small Business, Mid-Market and Enterprise. They have “proven success with over 10,000 companies across a variety of industries”.

They teach marketing skills as well as how to close more leads through the HubSpot Academy. Look for their Inbound Learning Webinars and Inbound Conference. HubSpot certified professionals are in high demand and can be found on their site.

Basic Marketing Training

All of the above are the highest quality, most in-depth training you can  find. Some people might find them too advanced, though. Before you jump in the deep end you need some basic marketing skills. One unique way to get them is also a way to make money. If you join Empower Network you are paying for internet marketing training.

It is important to note that you do not have to buy every level. You can get the viral blogging system for $25 and the Inner Circle Audio training for $100. Note that these are recurring per month – but you could access them all the first month and then cancel once you get the basics if you don’t feel they are of continued benefit.

The first question I asked Brad Campbell when he told me his income was over $35,000 a month – and most of it was from Empower Network – was whether he learned what he was doing from their training.  He told me that he was making more money from ALL of his marketing ventures because of what he had learned in that training. (But do note that he got ALL their training including the advanced levels.)

What is unusual about this training is that you can become an affiliate and sell it, but is is structured like an MLM (multi-level marketing).  I am no fan of MLMs generally because 99% of the people that get involved in them lose money. But at $35,000 a month, Brad isn’t even in the top 50 earners, so clearly this one does pay IF you are willing to really do the work.

That is the key question about any kind of marketing training. Are you willing to learn and then actually apply what you learned? If making a lot of money – or at least making your business successful – would make you happy, I encourage you to check out these resources. Remember that you can also use the skills learned to offer your services or qualify for a position at a company. All of them have a ton of information online so even if you never spend a penny with them you will learn from the best.

A career as a solopreneur?  Not completely “solo”.

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