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Business and EDU

5 Tips for Cutting Retail Costs

1412644_dollars (1)As it has been said many times, it takes money to make money. Running a retail business comes with a host of costs. Whether you are experiencing a financial crunch or are just interested in taking a good hard look at your expenses to see where you can cut the fat, there are probably many areas where you are spending more than you need to. It may take a bit of work, but you will likely be very happy with the results of money saved that can be used to help grow your business. Here are some tips for retail store owners to keep expenses in check.

Do a Thorough Inventory of Expenses

Just like you may take inventory of your goods to what you need more of, you must do the same with all of your expenses. You need to get the full financial picture before you can go about making any effective change to the situation. Write down each and every business expense, no matter how small. From there, you can start going through the list to see what you can do without or what you may be able to cut back on.

Do a Thorough Inventory of Inventory

If you are not carefully tracking how quickly your inventory is moving, you may be needlessly spending money on products that are just sitting there. If you offer seven different brands of a particular product but only three happen to be selling quickly, just stock those three. Research by firms that study shopping behaviors has found that too much selection may actually lead to customers buying nothing at all.

First Areas to Focus On

If you are not sure where to start, you might consider tweaking expenses that have nothing to do with the customers. After all, you need to find that delicate balance between keeping expenses in check while still providing quality goods and a retail experience that keeps customers coming back for more. For example, you might consider getting an energy audit to see how you could cut back on utility costs. If you are paying a lot for various types of software, you might consider moving to a cloud-based service which allows you to access these same programs for a fraction of the price, plus technical support. Switch to internet-based phone and fax services.

Evaluate Store Hours

Longer hours do not necessarily translate to more customers and more money. Carefully evaluate your point-of-sale purchase figures to see if being open certain times of the day is just not profitable for your business. You may find you can save a great deal by opening later in the day or closing earlier in the evening; if your biggest chunk of downtime is smack in the middle of the day, you may need to re-evaluate your staffing during those times to reap cost-saving benefits.

Vendor Negotiations

It never hurts to try and get better pricing from vendors; the worst they will say is no, so it is certainly worth a shot. If you are interested in cutting inventory for example, you may have some leverage in getting better pricing if a vendor is concerned he might lose your business altogether. They may also be able to suggest cost-saving measures that you have not considered, such as purchasing a similar, but lower-priced item that meets your needs just as well. So, no matter what the product, whether you want to get cheap plastic bags or a high-end beauty product for a better price, reach out to suppliers and see if you can make it happen. You might also consider looking around at other vendors to see if you can create some leverage through offers of better pricing.

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who enjoys discussing all things business.

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Real Estate

3 Top Tips to Sell Your Home Faster

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People are constantly looking to buy houses, regardless of the market. You may be thinking of putting up a “For Sale” sign and just waiting for the offers to roll in. But it isn’t always so easy, and many hopeful sellers begin to feel the frustration as their house just sits on the market for months or even longer. While there is no magic formula that can guarantee your dream buyer offering a dream price, there are some things you can do to help move the process along as best you can.

Define and Depersonalize

Each room in your house has a specific purpose, and if that has gotten away from you, it is time to get back on track if you are selling your home; if your dining room has become the final resting place for the treadmill you no longer use, and the table is covered in mail, clear that stuff out and make it look like a dining room; if the family room has become a storage room, restore to its original condition. You also want to depersonalize the space as best you can. You want buyers to be able to picture themselves in the home, and that can be hard with family pictures, your extensive collection of porcelain cats on every surface, and your child’s finger paintings and macaroni pictures covering every inch of the fridge.

Stage Your House

Staging your house can be a great way to sell it; while many people may think that it does not matter what the house looks like now since the new owners will be bringing in their own furniture and are free to repaint the walls, emotional appeal is a huge factor in the buying process. Of course, house hunters are concerned with price, but when it comes down to choosing between the good deals, how a house makes them feel is what will be the ultimate deciding factor. Make your home feel more spacious by removing extra furniture; your daughter may love her lime green walls, but you might consider repainting for a more neutral tone. If you do plan on doing the staging bit, be willing to invest in the costlier improvements like replacing beat down carpeting—a house that requires minimal investment from the owners and is essentially in move-in condition will be much more appealing. You might consider setting up a consultation with a professional home stager for maximum benefit.

Sweeten the Deal

In a competitive market, you may need to woo buyers with some freebies that offer financial benefit. There are many incentives that you can offer to get your house off the market sooner than later. Offering to pay closing costs can be one of the most effective—these costs, which total thousands of dollars, are something the seller has to worry about right now, and offering to take that off their plate can be very attractive. You can also offer to pay down mortgage interest rather than dropping the home price by a few thousand dollars—for the first few years, buyers can knock as much as a few hundred dollars of their mortgage payments. Purchasing a home warranty is also a good idea, giving the new buyers peace of mind that they have recourse to address any problems they may experience with appliances or systems in the home. You can also assist them with the down payment—you cannot give them the money directly, but through organizations that assist buyers with purchasing a home.

About the Author: Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who enjoys blogging about all things real estate;  if you are in need of a Phoenix home warranty, she recommends you visit nhwusa.com, which also provides services to the rest of Arizona as well as Nevada.

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Finance and Law

5 Ways to Invest Money Besides Your Savings Account

546207_green_piggy_bank_isolatedMost of us wish we were making more money; relying solely on an exchange of money for time put in can leave a lot to be desired in terms of our finances. The only true path to financial freedom is putting the money you have now to work, to make you more money. Wise investments are a key part of this equation and there are lots of different ways we can invest our money; there is no one best way for everyone and the best avenues will depend on many individual factors, such as the amount of money you want to invest and how much risk you are comfortable with. Here are some ways you can make your money grow.

Pay Off Credit Cards

When it comes to investing, anything related to credit cards may not come to mind; but if you are letting money sit in low-yield savings accounts, while you continue to pay down a credit card, the money would probably be better spent getting rid of your debt—that interest adds up to a lot of wasted money over the years. If you have the money to pay off your balances, it might be a good idea to do just that.

High Dividend Value Stocks

Investing your money in high-dividend value stocks can be a great way to get some more bang for your buck, rather than having the money sit in a savings account. While any sort of investment in stocks can be risky, this is one of the safer routes. The goal is to invest your money in stable companies, let it sit there and collect on the dividends. A good place to start your research would be taking a look at Fortune 500 companies.

Credit Unions

If you are interested in more traditional investment avenues, such as earning interest on savings accounts, you might consider putting your money in a  credit union rather than a bank; because they mainly operate on a not-for-profit basis,  they are able to give back more of their earnings to members  rather than trying to increase their bottom line.

Online Banks

Online banks can also be a more lucrative alternative to traditional savings accounts; many offer high-yield checking and savings accounts that give you a lot more bang for your buck compared to regular accounts. There are many reputable FDIC-insured online banking institutions to choose from. They typically have no fees and no minimums, and linking up between these accounts and your standard bank account is very simple.

Peer to Peer Lending

In the last few years, peer to peer lending has grown in popularity; just like banks and other financial institutions make money off the interest from loans, so can you. These sites allow for people to connect with other people who are either looking to borrow money or loan it out. Potential borrowers are required to undergo credit checks and provide documentation of their income, such as W-2s; you also have an opportunity to ask potential borrowers questions that will help you evaluate whether they are a good candidate for a loan.

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who has covered a variety of personal finance topics; if you are interested in investing your money for guaranteed returns in Canada, check out the GIC comparisons at Kanetix.

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Real Estate

Ready for a Change? 3 Important Considerations to Pick Your New City or Town

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The idea of packing it all in and transplanting yourself to a whole new area can be very exciting; it can also be a bit daunting as there are so many places to choose from. In a country like the United States, you have a range of geographies, climates and cultures. But, with a bit of careful thought, you can really narrow down the choices to a select few that really fit the bill. And, remembering that you can always move again can help take some of the pressure off the decision.

Size

This is probably one of the most important considerations since it will set the stage for the availability or lack of other important elements in the decision-making process. Do you thrive on the energy of a crowded urban area? Do you want all the big city has to offer right outside your front door? Or do you prefer a quieter, suburban area where you can easily commute into a big city or offers plenty of restaurants, shopping and entertainment within a reasonable driving distance? You need to figure out what you most value when deciding between bustling life in the big city or a quieter existence in a smaller town. More urban areas always seem more appealing because they have more things, but having 15 movie theatres to choose from rather than three, or 75 restaurants rather than 20, will probably not make you love an area. So, while having options is important to consider, an area with the largest number does not mean it is the best.

Weather

Weather is another huge factor when deciding where to live—climate can have a big impact on peoples’ satisfaction with their location. It can impact mood and how you are able to spend your time. While living in a area with your preferred weather is unlikely to key to everlasting happiness in life, going against your preferences in favor of other attractive elements of a location will probably catch up with you sooner or later. As someone who despises cold weather and has spent the last two years living in a tropical climate, I know I would be miserable in Buffalo, NY, no matter how much it met my other criteria for an ideal spot.

Interests and Desired Lifestyle

Different areas all have unique offerings in terms of how you can spend your free time and the general way of life. Going somewhere that will allow you to indulge your interests is an important consideration; you also want to think about the type of lifestyle you prefer. If you find the harried, rushed nature of city living does not sit well with you, moving to another city thinking it will be different is probably not a good idea. When it comes to your interests, you want to consider the extent you want to engage in them to decide on the best place. You may think that if you lived right on the beach, you would go every day, but you will probably find that the novelty will wear off—this is coming from someone who loves the beach and spent quite a bit of time living within minutes of it.  If living a bit farther away, while still being able to access it easily, will afford you a much nicer place to live, that is something to consider.

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who has blogged about various real estate topics; if you are thinking of moving to CA, check out these San Jose homes for sale.

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Business and EDU

3 Key Ingredients for Succeeding with Online Studies

987822_httpOver the years, the advances of technology and the ever-growing role of the internet in our lives, getting an online degree is no longer being seen as an inferior way to get an education; there are lots of legitimate online schools and a growing number of traditional institutions are offering distance learning degree programs. Online degree programs are particularly popular among people who work full-time, are raising children or have other responsibilities that make it more challenging to attend a brick and mortar campus. The flexibility of these programs is very appealing. But, all the benefits of going to school online can be liabilities for the wrong person. Going to school via the internet is great, but not for everyone. Here are some important considerations when deciding if this is the right path for you.

Self-Motivated

Getting an online degree requires a greater level of self-motivation. You have a lot of flexibility when it comes to when you can do your assignments. The lack of a face-to-face interaction with a teacher , lack of a set class schedule and not actually having to go sit in a classroom may prove problematic for some people. There is a greater degree of independence when pursuing your studies online and you need to be the type of person who can motivate yourself to do things, not rely on outside factors such as another person or a schedule set by someone else. If you are one of those people who has a hard time doing anything for themselves and can only get moving when someone is hovering over you, going to school online will probably prove very difficult.

Good Time Management

We often lament about the lack of time to do all the things we need to do, and while this may be part of the problem, the bigger issue is usually that we have the time, but we do not use it well. Getting a degree online can be very time-intensive, and some people say it requires more time than pursuing a traditional degree. Good time management is essential for successfully completing your studies—again, there is no one hovering over you to do that reading, no in-person classes at a set schedule that often motivates people to get their school work done by a certain time. The flexibility of being able to do most of your work at your own leisure can spell doom for those who do not manage their time well. If you are going to school online, chances are you have a job, possibly children, and other responsibilities that are also competing for your time. You need to find a way to fit it all in and this requires good time management.

Motivated to Succeed

If you do not have a strong motivation behind why you want to get your online degree, you will likely never get it, or you will find it much more difficult than the average person. Doing well with online courses takes a lot of effort and you need to adopt certain ways of doing things—you will only do so if you really have a strong driving force behind your intentions. If you are taking online courses because you think it will be easy and require less work, you are going to be in for a big surprise.

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who has covered a range of education topics; if you are interested in going to school online, check out the huge variety of programs now available to you, such as the master in health administration.

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Traveling

3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Budget Travel

For many of us, finding the time to get away from our daily routine and recharge is a top priority. But, vacations can be costly, and if you are in a position where you cannot just book whatever trip strikes your fancy, you will need to do a bit more planning to put together a trip you can afford. It is actually not too difficult if you keep a few important points in mind. Here are a few considerations for getting the most out of a limited travel budget.

budget travel tips

Do Your Research

This one sounds pretty obvious, but many people plan a trip to a popular hotspot without doing any research on what is actually on offer. By doing some more thorough research into your potential travel options, you can uncover lots of important information that may help you out in the money department. For example, you may find that one particular city offers great passes that allow you to access some of the top attractions for a fraction of the price or really great public transportation passes for tourists. You want to get the most out of your trip and doing your homework on potential destinations will help you get the most out of your money.

Only Do the Stuff You Want to Do

Tourist spots became tourist spots for one important reason—lots of different things to do and see. When we are traveling, it is easy to feel pressure to do all of these things and see all the sights there are to see. But, packing all of this stuff in can be costly and it is not necessary to have a good time. Do not feel pressure to engage in all the signature activities if you could not care less about doing them, especially if they are expensive. By doing only the things you want to do, you can have a great time, while still spending less money. You will have more money to throw towards the things you truly want to do.

Be Realistic about Preferences and Go Somewhere You Can Afford to Enjoy

To be able to afford trips to certain destinations, you may not be able to indulge every desire and whim—nothing wrong with a bit of sacrifice if that means being able to hit your desired destination. But, it is important to be realistic about what you can and cannot live with. I, for example, have long outgrown the hostel atmosphere, shared bedrooms and community bathrooms; and if the only way I could afford to travel to a certain destination was to stay in one, I probably would not have as good a time.  It is important to carefully consider the manner of travel your budget will allow for in different destinations—if everything has to be bare bones or requires you giving up things you know you really do not want to give up, consider a destination where your dollars will take you a bit farther.

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who enjoys discussing all things travel; if you are on a budget, you will certainly save on travel with Expedia.

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Finance and Law

5 Things to Know about a Personal Injury Lawsuit

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If you were injured in a car crash or any other type of accident, and you believe it resulted from the negligence of another individual or entity, you may have a personal injury lawsuit on your hands. A suit aims to compensate you fairly for problems resulting from the accident, such as injury, lost wages and medical bills. Like any area of law, it can be complex and lots of factors are considered when determining whether or not a party was at fault, and if so, how much money are entitled to. If you think you have a case, here are some important things to know.

There is a Time Limit to File Suit

Like many other areas of law, there is a set timeframe in which you may file a lawsuit to seek compensation for your injuries. Personal injury is something primarily subject to state laws, and as such, there is no one answer that applies across the board. Typically you will have at least one year to file; Connecticut, for example, allows up to three years. It is very important to find out this information if you are thinking about pursuing a case.

It Can Take Awhile

If you plan on filing a suit, know that it could be quite awhile until your case comes to a conclusion. Whether you end up settling outside of court or going all the way through to a trial, it does not happen overnight. Typically, a case will not be resolved for at least six months, but can take up to three years. On average, you might expect to wait two years.

Lawyers Typically Work on Contingency

Lawyers can be expensive, and a lot goes into working a personal injury case; the thought of paying for legal services may make you sweat a bit, but lawyers who work these types of cases typically operate on contingency, which means that you only pay them if they recover damages for you. The fee can vary, but typically, you will be handing over about 1/3 of your settlement to your attorney. When meeting with lawyers, it is important to discuss payment terms and find out if you are responsible for any fees even if you do not win your case.

Personal Injury Lawsuits are Not the Lottery

Damages awarded in personal injury cases are meant to compensate the victim fairly for pain, suffering, medical expenses, lost wages and other problems resulting from the injury. You should not seek a claim hoping to be awarded large sums of money that are not justified by the nature of your injury. If you fall down in the supermarket and are out of commission for a few months, do not expect a 20 million dollar settlement.

Find a Lawyer Experienced with Your Type of Claim

Personal injury encompasses lots of different types of cases, and to ensure the most favorable outcome, you want to choose a lawyer experienced in your type of case in particular. If you are going up against a big company, a lawyer who primarily handles auto accidents may not be the best bet, and vice versa. A lawyer who practices personal injury but rarely handles your type of injury may not have the experience and knowledge that will give your case an edge. You want to choose your accident law firm carefully.

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Traveling

3 Tips for Picking Your Next Travel Destination

Trying to decide on your next vacation spot can be a tough decision—so many places in this world, offering so many different things; overall, though, not a bad problem to have when you think about it. If you are currently pondering the possibilities and feel stuck about making a decision, here are some tips that may help ease the burden.

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Do Not Rely Too Much on the Opinions of Others

Travel is a hugely subjective experience , and if you have ever engaged with other people about the travel spots you have each hit, you will see the glaring truth of this. I have been touring Southeast Asia for the last 20 months and I cannot tell you how many times I have encountered someone telling me how much they disliked a spot I absolutely loved!  If you are dying to go to Vegas, but everyone you talked to did not like it, go anyway.

Pick Somewhere You Have Enough Money to Actually Enjoy

I know for many people, being able to afford a trip may involve staying in hostels and other low-end accommodations , and eating at cheap restaurants – nothing wrong with cutting some corners to be able to make your dream trip a reality. But, do not pick a place where you will be on such a tight budget you will have to carefully contemplate every dollar spent and not be able to really enjoy yourself. You may really want to hit Hawaii, but if your budget means the bare bones experience, you are cheating yourself out of a good trip. If you find a great deal to Vegas or Florida that will give you some more wiggle room in the money department, go there instead. Start your Hawaii fund and wait to go until you can do it right.

Visit Where You Want and Not Where You Think You ‘’Should’’ Visit

Within every region of the world and within each specific country, there are tourist hot spots, the popular places that are often recommended for tourists. They are usually recommended for a good reason, but it does not mean that every person going there would necessarily enjoy it or have an interest in that area. When we travel, we often feel a lot of pressure to hit the hot spots and plan our trip based on guidebook recommendations, but this can often lead us to disappointment and wasted time. When picking your destination, go where you want and not where you think you ‘’should’’ want to go. If you are going to Thailand, love beaches and hate big cities, do not force yourself to spend time in Bangkok because you think you should see it, especially if it means taking time away from doing the things you really love to do. If you are planning a trip to America and really have no interest in seeing New York, but would rather experience the rugged beauty of Montana, go for it.

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who enjoys covering all things travel; if you are planning a trip to the Music City, check out the quality accommodation on offer at the Comfort Inn Hotel in Nashville Tennessee.

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Business and EDU

How to Use Visualization to Improve Your Grades

Did you know that visualizing can help you improve your grades right now? Seeing yourself as a successful student helps you create that amazing reality. Yes, you do need to work at improving your grades by doing work in the physical realm, like studying, but mentally attuning yourself can make your job many times easier. Really if you can simply see yourself acing your tests and rocking out your oral presentations it is only a matter of time before you improve your grades. Failures explain away visualizing and successful students speak volumes about using the visualization faculty.

You dream your life then live your life. The mental picture precedes the experience. If you can readily embrace this idea your life becomes a whole lot more simple and easy because you will not be straining and striving to get by, attempting to manipulate circumstances around you. No you will be happy to see yourself succeeding in the classroom then you can attract the ideas, people and circumstances to make this dream a stunning reality.

college students

You do need to work at this bit, and this is where attracting the ideas, people and circumstances part comes into play. You dream yourself as excelling academically. Then you move into actions on the ideas you receive. Persistently visualizing and then following up your dreaming sessions with action helps you to become successful. You might attract the perfect mentor, or maybe you generate a super effective study idea. Or maybe you receive the answer to an exam at the perfect time, when just a few seconds before your mind was completely blank. All of these results are the mere effect of someone who took the time to visualize, or to build a picture of themselves living their dreams. Take the time to do this. Be disciplined in apply a detailed dreamer approach to life and your academic life will become much more enjoyable. Instead of pushing yourself to low energy ends, working harder, straining more, staying up later and waking earlier, all to receive mediocre results, you can get great grades by visualizing properly each day.

Visualize for 20 Minutes Daily

When you are new to visualizing you might receive some serious objections from your ego. Your ego will question if this visualization thing works. You might hear chatter about visualizing being a waste of time, or perhaps that you need to work more and stop dreaming. Sit through the low energy barbs tossed by your ego. Take the time to ride out these limiting thoughts and eventually they will disappear. Sit quieting for 20 minutes each day. Build a mental picture of yourself succeeding in the classroom. Feel the elation of receiving a 4.0 for your semester, or maybe you will see yourself receiving a 98 on your next exam. By doing this you attract whatever you need to receive the grade. You become more motivated, studying more persistently and intelligently to do well on your tests. You might not receive a 98 if you are unclear on your vision or lack faith in your abilities, but if you use this technique day after day you will note a stunning acceleration of your academic success.

Study Detailed Dreamers

Notice how many millionaires and billionaires talk of having a vision, or dreaming? These folks used this faculty as effectively as any people on earth. You can apply the same power to your academic career too, and studying these titans helps to boost your confidence in the visualizing faculty. Study successful students too; most are big time dreams who see their awesome reality in mind before they experience it.

Use these tips to improve your grades with visualization today.

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who covers all things education; if you are interested in going to school online, check out the selection of Scranton University online degrees such as the  hr degree.