Budget for a Better Life

Although they often seem daunting, budgets are essential for managing your money and achieving the financial health and stability you yearn for in life. Budgets are a matter of simple math, but can seem overwhelming when it comes to managing the cash you have and planning for the future. In order achieve a better life and have money for bills, expenses, entertainment, and savings, you need to know how much money you have coming in each month and where it is all going. You do not need to be an accounting whiz to successfully manage your finances, as there are several easy ways to create a budget that will help you to live a better life.

Smartphone Apps: Smartphone budgeting apps offer quick and easy solutions to managing your money. These smartphone apps are free and make it possible for you to budget your money and pay bills from anywhere. With these budgeting apps, you can link to your bill payment accounts and bank accounts and set up automatic payments, payment reminders, and notifications. You can also set up spreadsheets within the apps that will categorize your spending automatically when you pay with a debit or credit card, so you do not need to worry about carrying around receipts.

Cash Only System: If technology is not your thing, try the good old fashioned cash only system method of budgeting. You can set up the cash only system in several ways, and it works because you only use the cash that you have to pay for expenses and bills. The most popular version of the cash only system is to set up envelopes that hold cash for all of your bills and daily needs. When you get paid, pull out cash and sort it into the various envelopes based on the amount of money you need for each bill and expense you incur each month. The amount of money you accumulate in each envelope translates into the amount of money you have to spend on each expense for the month. If there is money left over at the end of the month, you can add this extra cash to your savings account or save it for a vacation.

Decreasing Budget Spreadsheet: As the name implies, this is a budgeting system in which your expenses decrease over time so that you have more spending and savings money available at the end of each month. Create a separate spreadsheet for reoccurring bills, non-reoccurring bills, income, and daily expenses. Once you have these spreadsheets created, identify bills you can pay off or get rid of, and work on eliminating these debts immediately. You can then look at the bills that reoccur every month and figure out ways to save money on each. The second part of this budgeting system consists of keeping a detailed log of everything you spend money on and find ways to decrease the amount you spend on each category per month. Popular opportunities for money savings can be found in line items like restaurants, entertainment, and groceries.

Chip Away Budgeting: If you are in a position where there is not enough money to cover all of your debts each month, consider chipping away at them over time. With this method, you pay all of your necessary bills each month to keep your life going like your mortgage or rent, utility bills, loans, and insurance, and then pick out another debt that you want to pay off over time. This can be a collections bill, medical bill, or other non-reoccuring debt. To start off with, try to find a bill that collects interest and get that one out of the way first. Whether you can only afford to pay $3.00 on it each week or $20 per month, create a schedule and pay the bill religiously. Once you have successfully cleared the debt, pick out another bill and start the process all over again.

Separation of Accounts: Another method of budgeting consists of creating different accounts for different needs in your life. Many banks and credit unions offer free checking accounts and allow you to open up several different accounts as long as you keep a minimum balance at all times. You can set up a checking account that is specifically used for bills and another for expenditures. Open up a savings account at the same time and do not link a debit card to this account. Once you have your accounts set up, set up automatic bill payments with your checking account and let your bills take care of themselves each month. If you receive direct deposit through your employer, see if they will split your check for deposits among the different accounts you have.

Achieving financial well-being is not a feat that happens overnight, but it is possible when you learn to make a budget and stick to it. Creating a budget that works for you requires a little thought and numbers crunching, and a lot of dedication to see it through to the end. Once you have created a budget strategy, work through it diligently and you will be well on your way to being debt free and living a better life.


Creating a Home Office

Are you suddenly getting the opportunity to work from home but you don’t have a space that you can use? While it might be challenging to find a spot, particularly if you prefer not to have to renovate. Here are a few tips that you can use to help you fashion a home office out of an existing space.

  1. Finding a Good Location

The most obvious places in a home to consider include spare bedrooms, basements, and garages. Of course, a barely used den would also provide a useable location for an office. The simplest choice in terms of the amount of work you would need to do is to select the bedroom or den since they are already wired, insulated, and finished. Both the garage and the basement would probably need additional finishing in terms of insulation, walls, flooring, and electrical wiring.

  1. Create a Diagram

A diagram is useful in determining what you need to do to make the space useable as a home office. You can use it to calculate where electrical outlets are needed or to figure out quantities for construction materials. Your diagram should include any structural changes that are needed including built-ins, shelving, closets, and cabinetry.

  1. Plan the Space

The diagram should list the dimensions of the area so that you can determine which pieces of furniture will fit in the room. Having a visual display of the intended result should help to prevent any forgotten details.

  1. Hire a Contractor

A licensed contractor can assist you in identifying necessary aspects of the project, such as insulation, waterproofing, electrical work, flooring, and permits. Make sure that you hire someone who is licensed for this type of work to protect your financial interests.

Designing a home office can provide you with the space you need to get some peace and quiet while working from home.

Achieving Productive Work Meetings

Meetings are an important part of a company culture, they showcase individual strengths and are a great opportunity for brainstorming sessions from all perspectives. Here are a few tips to improve the quality of the meeting and others time.

Cut the jargon

Businesses deal with complicated subjects and use jargon to simplify communication, but this can sometimes confuse your audience. New employees might not understand critical words or concepts, so providing a brief and simple background at the beginning of the meeting could be helpful.

If an employee uses too much jargon, then calmly explain why this can difficult, and work with them to adjust their vocabulary. Remember, it’s hard to change your word choice, especially if you’ve used the same vocabulary for years or decades – so be patient.

Hold fewer meetings

Anyone who has work meetings knows how easily they can waste time. All it takes is one talkative, overeager employee to sabotage a productive brainstorming session.

Many businesses don’t consider how much money they spend on each meeting. Stationary, hardware, and refreshments aren’t even their most significant investments, employees time.

Instead, understand why you are holding the meeting, and make sure to meet all of your goals by the end. If you are unsure, stop holding meetings until you can gather more data.

The key is to streamline meetings. Employees need to talk to each other to stay productive, and you can’t avoid all group discussions, they are healthy for the culture. You can however make sure every minute benefits your company and staff members.


How To Get More Eco-Friendly At Work

In business, being eco-friendly is one of the biggest current trends. When people are looking for new companies to work with, one of the top things they search for is a company that works in an environmentally friendly way. Luckily, there are a few easy things you can do to make sure that you’re both eco-friendly and up to date with the latest technology in your workplace.

Make Your Workspace Eco-Friendly

First of all, look at your workspace and consider what changes you could start to make. Becoming more energy efficient is a lot easier than you may think it is, and a bonus is that you’ll end up saving money on your energy bills, which you could then push back into your business to continue your aim of becoming more eco-friendly.

Changing your light bulbs to LED or energy-efficient bulbs is a great first start; they last longer than regular bulbs, so they will have to be replaced less often. Also, make sure that people turn off their computers overnight instead of leaving them on, and start a company-wide program of focusing on energy efficiency; encourage taking the stairs instead of an elevator or turning off lights whenever people leave a room.

Change the settings on your technology so that they’re eco-friendly, and when you get rid of technology like laptops and phones, don’t add it to landfills. Instead, wipe the data off it and donate it to charities.

Go Smaller

Many of us think that bigger is better, but when it comes to eco-friendliness, that isn’t the case. You don’t need an enormous office if you don’t need the space; this is just a status symbol that isn’t necessary, and it will turn out to be a whole lot more expensive to run, particularly when it comes to heating and air conditioning bills.

Use laptops instead of desktop computers, and try to veer away from using plastic as much as you can. Bamboo products are much better for the environment. If you offer company cars to your employees, do they need huge trucks? Consider using eco-friendly vehicles instead.

Focus on Waste

Disposing of waste is a huge problem worldwide, but it’s possible for you to make a small difference with what your company puts out into the world. Focus on recycling, and remember that it goes further than throwing leftover printouts into a paper recycling bin.

In the company kitchen, provide different recycling bins for different materials. If you’re changing the furniture, donate the old products to charity instead of just trashing them. If you like to bring in food to have company lunches, then make sure you don’t over-order. If that does happen and you have a lot of food left over, your local homeless charity might be thankful for those donations. Finally, consider packaging: if you provide food for your employees, go for paper bags of fruit instead of individually wrapped candy bars, and check the labels to see just how far those products have traveled.

What About Water?

Wasting water is something that most people do every day without even thinking about it, whether it’s taking an unnecessarily long shower or keeping the water running while you’re brushing your teeth at night. But at work, it is possible to cut down on your water usage. First of all, make sure you have your pipes checked regularly for leaks so that your faucets don’t drip through the day. Invest in taps that stop after a certain amount of time; even though employees might hit them to start them running again, it will remind them that they don’t need to wash their hands for much longer.

Consider Going Paper Free

Going completely paperless isn’t an option for every company out there, but you can always cut down on paper use in your office. Make sure that employees know they should only print documents for which they need hard copies, and consider investing in new technology to encourage people to use tablets and phones instead of paper. Make sure that the paper you use gets recycled regularly. Using less paper means that you’ll require less storage space, which means you can spend less on rent and energy bills.

What About Your Power Sources?

Finally, start thinking about where exactly you get your power from so that you can make some new eco-friendly choices. Installing solar panels on the roof of your building or using wind or water energy means that you’ll be using sources of energy that are entirely renewable, unlike fossil fuels which are gradually running out.

Becoming more aware of the environment is a crucial move that will keep you on track with all the other companies in your industry, winning you both friends and clients. Eco-friendliness is the future.

Effective Employee Onboarding

Finding qualified employees can be a real challenge, and then there is the problem of training those new hires and steeping them in the corporate culture.

Many business owners and hiring managers do everything right, from posting complete job descriptions and screening potential hires with a fine-toothed comb, only to fall down with the onboarding process. They work hard to hire the right people, and then leave them adrift on their first day. That is a big mistake, and one that can be easily avoided. Here are some simple tips for effective onboarding of your new hires.

.   Create a welcoming environment. First impressions count, so take the time to set up a workspace that will make the new hire feel right at home. The computer should be up and ready to go, the desk should be freshly cleaned and there should be a welcome kit with important paperwork and lots of company swag.

.   Schedule time for a facility tour. Too many new employees end up wandering the hallways looking for their colleagues — or their own desks. Scheduling a quiet time for a thorough facility tour can prevent this common problem and make the newcomer feel at home.

.   Build a “Who’s Who” section on the company intranet, complete with current photos, job descriptions and short biographies. This mini directory will give new hires more confidence and make it easier to match names with faces.

.   Send your new hires home with the important paperwork they need, like signup forms for the workplace 401(k) plan and a copy of the employee manual. This will allow new employees to read about the company and its policies at their own pace.

.   Post orientation materials in a central location. Instead of making them search through the entire company website, post all new hire orientation materials, from the employee handbook to an extensive list of FAQs, in a dedicated spot. Use the standard new hire email to link to those orientation materials.

.   Use mentors to make new hires feel more welcome. The personal touch is often lacking during the onboarding process, but a mentor can make things a lot easier. Some companies assign individual mentors based on common interests and backgrounds, while others assign a single mentor to each newly hired group of employees.

.   Sit down for a one-on-one chat. The first day of work can be overwhelming, and this feeling of being overwhelmed can wreck the onboarding process. Hiring managers can fight back by scheduling a one-on-one chat with all their new hires. This chat session gives new employees a chance to ask questions, and hiring managers a chance to learn more about their newest team members.

.   Check in at the end of the day. That first day can be pretty overwhelming, so smart hiring managers always check in with their new hires before the close of business. This last check-in gives employees one final chance to ask questions and learn about the company, and sets the stage for a great second day.

The onboarding process can be a difficult time for hiring managers and new employees alike. Starting a new job can be an intimidating experience, but setting the right environment, providing the right materials and guidance and having a friendly chat can go a long way.


Work Lunch Ideas That Will Save You Money

Making lunches at home to take to work is far more economical than going out to fast-food restaurants every day. Eating at an average burger joint can easily cost as much as $12 a day. The cost isn’t the only reason to switch to homemade lunches, however. The calories in a cheeseburger, french fries, and large soda combo meal are often equal to three-quarters of a full day’s suggested caloric intake. While millions of people grab lunch at fast food outlets every day, taking lunch from home is far less costly.

Sandwiches and Wraps

A non-conventional sandwich could consist of unique toppings like baby spinach, strawberries, and peanut butter. It could be a sandwich with cream cheese, olives, and chopped ham on a bagel. Wraps are the most popular non-conventional sandwich type by a long shot. Those avoiding gluten or carbs have been able to step back into the world of sandwiches with wraps, which can contain anything that you can roll up in a tortilla or flatbread. Get creative with your sandwiches and wraps, and you’ll never be disappointed by homemade lunch.

Canned Soups

Canned soup has one benefit that most other lunches do not. A few cans of soup, a can opener, a bowl, and a spoon can be kept in most large desk drawers. For office workers, keeping these things on hand can save a lot of hassle and money when there simply is no time to prepare lunch in advance. Also, the amount of worry over your midday meal, when you already have it in your desk drawer, is almost nil.

Crackers, Cheese, and Sliced Fruits

Some folks don’t want a heavy lunch. This preference is where assorted lunches come into play. Crackers, cheese, and sliced fruits can put something in your stomach without leaving you feeling sluggish and bloated, which is a perfect option for people with light appetites and individuals on low-calorie diets.

Make Your Own Salads

There is no need to limit yourself to salads made with leaves and chopped vegetables and fruits. There is a multitude of different types of pasta salad, egg salad, grain salad, fish salad, and fruit salad. Salad recipes are plentiful online, as are those for dressings. If you’re adventurous, check out some dressing recipes and make something unique.

With a little bit of extra planning, anyone can save money on work day lunches. All it takes is minimal effort and commitment. Take lunch with you from home for a week. Keep track of what you spent, and compare that cost to what you spend eating out every day for a week. The money you’ll save will speak for itself.


Easy Exercises to Do at Your Desk

When you work an office job, or at any occupation where you must sit at a desk most of the day to perform your job, it is easy to become stiff and sore from remaining in this seated position for so long. Many people who work all day report that they have difficulty finding time to exercise.

The following strength exercises, which can be performed efficiently at your desk, will get you toward these goals during a short workday break.

Tricep Book Raise

  1. Find the heaviest book at your disposal.
  2. Stand and hold the book with both hands behind your neck.
  3. Raise the book directly over your head.
  4. Lower the book back behind your neck.
  5. Repeat 15 times.

This exercise will:

  • strengthen your triceps muscles

Sitting Leg Raises

  • Turn your desk chair around so that you have room in front of you.
  • Straighten one leg directly out in front of you.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Bend your knee, and lower your leg until your foot is just above the floor and hold it there.
  • Repeat with the other leg.
  • Repeat each leg 15-20 times.

This exercised will:

  • strengthen your lower body
  • strengthen and tighten your abdominal muscles

Carpal Tunnel Buster

  1. Stand up in front of your desk.
  2. Place the tops of your hands on your desk palms up, with your fingers facing toward you.
  3. With your arms straight, lean gently forward on your arms.
  4. Hold for 15-20 seconds.
  5. Repeat several times throughout the day.

This exercise will:

  • relieve the stiffness that occurs in the wrists from working on a computer
  • help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome

Sitting Side Stretch

  1. While sitting at your desk, raise your arms above your head.
  2. Grab your left wrist with your right hand.
  3. Bend sideways to the right in your chair, about 45 degrees, pulling your left wrist with your right hand.
  4. Grab your right wrist with your left hand.
  5. Bend sideways to the left in your chair, about 45 degrees, pulling your right wrist with your left hand.
  6. Repeat on each side five times.

This exercise will:

  • increase flexibility
  • increase core strength

Chair-back Calf Raises

  1. Stand behind your chair with your feet together.
  2. Rest your hands on the back of the chair.
  3. Rise up onto your toes as far as you can (you may need to remove your shoes, especially if you are wearing heels).
  4. Hold for 10 seconds.
  5. Repeat 15-20 times.

This exercise will:

  • strengthen your calf muscles
  • relieve leg stiffness

There are other health benefits to doing these exercises such as reduced stress and anxiety. Your body will thank you.