Budget Holiday Road Trip

With the holidays right around the corner, travel planning is in full swing. Since volatile airline ticket pricing has made plane tickets for your family of five to visit Grandma way out of your budget, you’ve decided to hit the road and make the big drive instead. Spending more on gifts from Santa instead of on a seat next to a mouth breather in 10A sounded like a good idea, but with high gas prices, you realize how important it will be to get the most fuel efficiency out of your vehicle. Here are some tried and true tips to help you stay within your budget on your holiday road trip:

Check Tire Pressure

While slightly under inflated tires can make for a smoother ride, they make your vehicle guzzle more gas than necessary. Check the pressure on all of your tires to ensure it’s within the manufacturer’s recommended range listed on the tires. If the pressure is low, fill up your tires at a local gas station or visit a service station if you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself. Do this a week before your scheduled departure and check the pressure again a few days before you leave to ensure the tires are holding air and you don’t have a slow leak. If you do, you’ll need to replace the leaking tires before hitting the highway.

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Utility Bill

Electric bills can be huge in the summer and the winter, water bills are excessive when you have to water the lawn and you can pretty much always count on a high cable bill. That’s the bad news. The good news is there are ways to bring all of your utility bills down. Here are a few tips:

Electric

If you live in the certain parts of the Southwest, you know summer temperatures can hit 115 or higher. This really stresses your air conditioner and runs up the electric bill. Depending on where you live, your monthly electric bill can run several hundred dollars. If you live in the northeastern part of the United States, then you are familiar with below zero temps. This makes your heater run and run. No matter what time of year, electric bills are high for everybody. What can you do to lower your electric bill and raise your bank account?

  • Change your air conditioning filter: According to EnergySavers.com, not changing your air conditioner filter is the single biggest contributor to a high electric bill; you can lower your energy consumption by up to fifteen percent and save $9.00 per month, or $108.00 per year if you change the air conditioner filter once a month.
  • Turn the thermostat down in the winter: A high number on the thermostat in the winter means a higher number on your electric bill. Turn your thermostat 68 degrees (or lower) during the day, and then lower it more at night, suggest US News & World Report. Every degree lowered full time cuts down on 3 – 4 percent of your electric bill. Lower it three degrees and save thirty dollars per month.

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Where to Sell Your Stuff for Extra Cash

by Scott Sery on October 3, 2014

Craigslist

Most of us accumulate stuff. It is just the culture that we live in. We like to buy things, and when one gets outdated, broken, or we just don’t want it anymore we store it rather than get rid of it. Being financially savvy we often will go through our items and decide to sell them in order to raise some extra money. Not only does this clear out our living spaces keeping us clutter free, it also gives us money that we can use toward a better purpose. But sometimes selling items is just not that easy, and the hardest part is figuring out where to list them to make the most money the fastest. Here are the places I have discovered that work the best.

Craigslist

I like Craigslist because it is free to place an ad and free to sell. However, where I live Craigslist is not all that popular. For whatever reason, maybe because the site is trolled by scammers constantly, people rarely use the site. That said here is what sells on Craigslist quickly:

  • Up-to-date electronics – Think phones, stereos, televisions, and the like.
  • Appliances – They’re too heavy to ship, so selling in town is the way to go.
  • Clothing – Especially when you have a bulk lot of children’s clothes to get rid of.

I have also found that many items sit on the site until the ad expires with nobody ever contacting me about them. They include:

  • Auto parts – the more obscure the harder to sell
  • Tools – Unless you have a high quality, new tool priced competitively, nobody will bother responding
  • Jewelry – Almost every contact I have had for jewelry has been from a scammer. The others were lowball offers that I laughed at.
  • High End Merchandise – Think of Craigslist as an online garage sale. You wouldn’t pay top dollar at a garage sale, nobody will on Craigslist.

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How to Use Social Media for Your Business

by Sean Bryant on October 1, 2014

Social media can generate customer engagement and additional income for your company. The key is to choose the right social networks for your business. For example, Facebook has a broad audience and is driven by media (images and videos) and Twitter, while it also has a broad audience, is primarily text- driven (links). LinkedIn on the other hand, is a professional networking site. Social media networks may also be industry driven. If you own a restaurant for example, you may want to use Pinterest to share recipes and images of food to garner likes and shares. Check out these social media marketing tips to enhance your social presence and grow your customer base.

Choose the right social media networks for your business

Each social network has its own set of rules and a distinct audience. It’s important to find the right ones to focus on so you aren’t wasting funds on a media plan your target audience isn’t engaged with. Social media networks include, but are not limited to:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube

When engaging on these platforms, keep in mind what posts will potentially drive the most traffic. Will an image on Twitter boost user response? How can you improve your posts on Facebook to drive not just engagement on the platform, but also traffic back to your website? Are Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram, which are media driven, the right venue for you or will you find your product or service doesn’t fit as well here as on other social media outlets? Finally, can you use LinkedIn to develop business connections or cultivate new prospects? Examine the core elements of your business and do some research to find out where your industry is engaged and where your customers are engaged. For example, an accountant or real estate agent will likely fare better on LinkedIn than they would on Instagram. Narrowing your focus is critical to proper customer engagement, budgeting and avoiding overwhelming yourself with social media. Choose two or three platforms, preferably the ones your audience uses, and spend the majority of your time, effort and money there.

Social media marketing tips

You want to put your best foot forward when you’re using social media in business, which will mean you need to adhere to some best practices and develop a basic understanding of the platforms and audiences with which you’ll be interacting. The timeliness of these platforms and the sensitivities that can sometimes be heightened make it important to always be tactful, professional and courteous when you engage with customers, advocates and antagonists.

Use these social media marketing tips to help your business get off to a good start in the social sphere.

  • Follow the guidelines for each network. You may need to resize images to make sure they fit your chosen social media network. The dimensions of a Facebook cover page are 851 x 351 pixels, while a Twitter header page is 520 x 260 pixels. Photos and assets you want to share on these networks may also need to be adjusted, or you may be creating assets specifically for these networks. This could require additional budget. When sharing content, make sure links are current and active so users do not receive an error.
  • Engage with users. Always keep your target audience in mind. Your community wants to hear from you. Most importantly, they want to know you’re listening to them. Respond quickly to questions and pass deeper issues to customer service or the appropriate team member. Don’t be afraid to ask them for feedback either – it’s important to understand what they want or need from you.
  • Post regularly. Don’t stay silent. Create a social media marketing calendar and stick to it. Whether you’re posting promotions, notable industry articles, or assets you’ve created yourself – it’s important to stay relevant in the space. It’s also important to respond in a timely fashion to questions or concerns from customers.
  • Stay engaged, keep your tone light, and position yourself as an authority in your industry. Remember, social media is about being social, so it’s important to show your human side as well as your business side. However, it’s also important to avoid becoming so casual no one takes your advice seriously.
  • Don’t give in to the “Haters.” You won’t please everyone all of the time and it’s better to keep a composed front than to be known for retaliation.
  • Consider hiring a professional to handle your social media. If you’re not savvy at social, you may want to hire someone who is. Whether it’s an individual or an agency, a dedicated resource can make managing social media simpler.

Create a social media strategy for your business

As with any element of marketing, it’s important to have a well-defined social media strategy for your business. Before you sign up for any social networks, you’ll need to lay the groundwork with a promotional calendar, the creation of social assets and more. Follow these steps when using social media for business:

  1. Allocate funds for advertising. No matter how in depth your social strategy will be, it’s important to make sure it’s properly funded before you begin.
  2. Create a posting schedule. How much will you post and when?
  3. Monitor all social networks. Consider downloading a tool that lets you review engagement from multiple sources at once.
  4. Test assets and platforms. What works for your company and consumers and what doesn’t? See what types of posts have the most likes, retweets or shares and try to create more of these posts in the future.

Open a business checking account to fund your business’s social media strategy

Social media is an investment in the growth of your business. If you plan to implement a social media strategy as part of your overall marketing initiative, make sure there’s room for it in your marketing budget. Consider opening a business checking account to handle the costs of a social media employee or agency, social ad spending, asset creation like videos, images, eBooks and memes, and social media monitoring platforms. Once you learn how to use social media, you can measure your return on investment. However, keep in mind that using social media for business is more about customer engagement with your brand and may not immediately impact your bottom line. If you’re going to engage in social, you need to be willing to stick it out until you see results.

Sponsored content was created and provided by Citizens Financial Group.

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Is Your Job Costing You Money on Auto Insurance?

by Sean Bryant on September 25, 2014

Car Insurance

You know insurance is necessary, but it can also be expensive. You want to get the best price you can, but without sacrificing coverage. There’s no lack of television ads and bulk mail letters promising lower rates and more fun. But who can you trust?

A surprising factor in car insurance rates

Call the toll-free number and you feel like you are being sold, not helped, by the fast-talking voice on the phone. Insurance is too important for doing business like that. On top of it all, every insurer you speak with has different options to consider, making it very difficult to compare insurers in an apples-to-apples fashion.

Car insurance rates are based on your driving record and your age, right? How difficult could it be to get a good quote? The fact is, though, there are numerous factors that go in to computing your insurance rate. Did you know your occupation is even part of the calculation?

Job factors affecting auto insurance rates

Who should get the best rate on insurance, all other things being equal: Your family physician or your “mad scientist” neighbor who is always launching rockets from his backyard? According to the actuaries — the statisticians who compile risk management data — the scientist gets the nod. Why? Insurance rates are based on probability, and it is more probable the physician is going to get into a crash (too many hours on the job, perhaps) than the scientist.

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Sucessful Strategies for Finding Your Dream Home

September 24, 2014
Dream Home

Most people save up for a lifetime to buy their dream home. They may search in different cities, localities, areas and then finally choose a property that seems perfect for them. They pay the money and move in to their perfect home. But after a few months, they realize that they have made a dreadful […]

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Investing in Real Estate – What to Ask an Expert

September 22, 2014
Investing in Real Estate

A highly experienced investor can help you to calculate your potential the return on investment from each property, teach you to find homes with features that can increase a house’s value and explain how to determine the average rent or repayments in a neighborhood. The expert will also be able to predict the costs of necessary […]

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