Saturday, November 22, 2014

Would you like a bonus $5,000 for your business? #ShopSmallAU #AmexAU

Business grants are a great way to get funding for those much needed business makeovers, especially when starting out or looking to expand. American Express want to help small businesses and are offering 120 $5000 grants to small business owners. That equates to $600,000 toward supporting our small business communities. How good is that?

It’s been going for a few months and the way it works is each month 20 small businesses are awarded $5,000. To be eligible the business must welcome American Express warmly (not surcharge differentially or charge extra fees for using them). Each transaction through your business is an entry in the draw for one of the grants.

Not only that, but they are encouraging Card Members to Shop Small too, with a special deal for them. Check that out here.

What could you do with $5,000?
$5,000 can go a long way for your small business with things like marketing, boosting posts on Facebook, maybe running a competition yourself to drive traffic and sales, purchase some new equipment or stock.

Or it could be used to pay some staff so you can take a holiday!

You can read more about it here or check out the video below

I know what I would use $5,000 for in my business, but I want to hear what you would use it for, how would you make that $5,000 really have an impact on your business?

*Ends November 30th, 2014, so be quick!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How I Realized I Had Realized My Dreams Without Even Realizing It

When I started at University at the tender age of 18, I was a determined kid.  I had gotten into a school my guidance counselor had told me would be "shooting too high," and had decided I was going to become a marketing executive.  I was on the path to make big bucks doing something I thought I'd love.  (To that point, I had no practical experience in marketing, but it sounded like a good plan to me.)

Then, something devastating happened.  Part way through school, I got slapped in the face with tuition costs, a family who made too much money for me to qualify for a cent of financial aid, but a family that was simultaneously incapable of helping me pay for school.  This was not part of the plan.  I did the only thing I could do:  I withdrew.

I felt like a failure.  I was a college drop out.  I wouldn't have a big career with big money or a big house.  I didn't know what I'd have.  At that point, I had nothing.

I always say that in retrospect, it was an amazing thing.  I reevaluated what I could afford to study, and discovered a field I loved in languages.  I wake up every morning looking forward to going to work, even on the days when I know my job will be a challenge.  I absolutely love doing what I do. 

But there's still an tinge of resentment that I couldn't pursue the education I was brought up to think was normal and a given.

While I was still in school as a non-traditional student, our family hit a little bit of a rough patch as I took some time off work to finish my degree and take care of my children.  I was hustling to find creative ways to save and earn.  When I discovered those avenues of revenue, I'd get excited and want to tell everyone about them.  No one in my personal life cared.  But I had to share them with someone, thus a blog was born.

I've been at it for three years, but wasn't until a couple of months ago that something hit me.  I was writing an advertorial post for a service I loved.  I was tweeting it.  I was pinning it.  I got it up on Google+.  Other people viewed it.  Other people shared it.  That's when I realized:  I'm in marketing

Sure, I don't have that expensive degree.  I don't make a six-digit income from blog advertising.  But I've built a platform to reach people that others want to utilize. It's not that big of deal; other bloggers do it everyday, and many have done it much faster than I.  But for me, what started as an outlet and a way to help others morphed into the achievement of a dream I had long ago abandoned.

Our passions have a funny way of creeping up throughout our lives.  Our lives have a funny way of giving us what we desire.  Though the path may wind and twist and layer over with fog, there are moments of beautiful serendipity along the way.  If there's a dream you've abandoned, do not mourn it.  If there's some resentment you're holding onto, let it go.  You may still get that thing you want out of life.  It just may come in an unexpected form a little bit further down the road.    

Monday, November 17, 2014

10 tips to avoid credit card fraud

I personally know people who have been the victims of credit card fraud. Some of the tips in this post might seem basic, but that is because I have seen people make these mistakes and it is often the little things that trip us up.

1.) Keep your details private!
Do not share your details with anyone, don’t take pictures of your cards and post them online, don’t give your cards to others to use or anything else.

2.) Keep your cards safe
Keep your cards in your wallet and know where they are at all times.

 3.) Report lost/stolen cards immediately
As soon as you realize your cards are missing, inform your relevant financial institution so they can cancel the cards.

4.) Check all your transactions
With online banking it is easy to check your transactions daily. Keep your receipts and you can check your purchases against the transactions online or on a statement. Report any unauthorized transactions immediately.

5.) Sign your cards in permanent ink as soon as you get them
Permanent ink will prevent the signature being rubbed off if they are stolen.

6.) Never leave blank spaces when you sign
When you are signing an invoice or paying for anything, never leave any blank spaces! Total it all, fill it in completely then sign, otherwise you are leaving yourself open for fraud.

7.) Have cards processed in your presence
While many restaurants let you give them your card to process away from you, this is also an easy way to fall victim to credit card fraud.

8.) Shred confidential papers 
Any paper with personal details, credit card or account numbers should be shredded and destroyed, not just tossed in the bin.

9.) Keep your details up to date
If you move or are travelling overseas, let your financial institution know. You don’t want mail going to your old address and you certainly don’t want issues while overseas.

10.) Have one card for online purchases another for every day
By having one card for online purchases and a separate card for normal transactions you reduce your risk of all your money being taken. I use two separate banks, one for online things such as buying and selling on eBay, the other for business and personal transactions.

For more tips on credit card protection and credit card fraud check out the advice from American Express here.

What tips do you have to avoid credit card fraud?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Swedish Phrases to Use in Your Everyday Personal Finance Conversations

The last time I was here on Aspiring Millionaire, we talked about language families and a bunch of cool German words to integrate into our everyday personal finance conversation.  Today, I thought we'd do the same thing with Swedish.

Why Swedish?  Because they're both in the Germanic language tree, but recent linguistic studies show that English itself is more closely related to Swedish than German, moving it over a branch in the same tree.

Also, Swedish can be funny for English speakers.  For example, "fart" means speed, and "slut" means end.  But it's not just the accidental homonyms that are giggle worthy.  They've also got some fun phrases and idioms that will totally work when you're talking about ever-serious personal finance matters.

1. Is i magen

Literally means "ice in the stomach."  Actually means you stay cool under pressure, or a good investor.  For example:

Everyone was selling their shares in 2008, but not him.  He ignored the pandemonium because he has is i magen.

2. Glida in på en räkmacka

Literally means "to slide in on a shrimp sandwich."  Actually means you've got it real easy.

Sure, she has a college degree, and a nice job, and mini mansion, and she's not even 30.  But in her case, I know it's because her parents paid for school, used their friends to get her in at that company, and gave her money for a down payment. She glida in på en räkmacka, but I'm still secretly jealous.

3. Fingertoppskänsla

Literally means "fingertips feeling."  Actually means you have a pretty good gut feeling, or intuition.  For our concerns, can be applied to people skills or investing.

She was negotiating a deal when her fingertoppskänsla told her they were uncomfortable with some of the terms.  Though they weren't yet voicing it, they were about to back out.  She reassured them of the value and saved the sale.

4.  At köppa grisen i sacken

Literally means "to buy the pig in the sack."  Actually means to buy something sight unseen.

She ordered her wedding dress online.  When it got there, it looked nothing like the picture, and she had hundreds in additional charges added to her credit card bill for shipping, taxes, and customs across multiple countries.  That's why you don't at köppa grisen i sacken.

5. Åsnan mellan två höttapar

Literally means "a donkey between two stacks of hay." Actually means you're indecisive to the point where the lack of decision causes a negative consequence.

He was planning his trip, but was åsnan mellan två höttapar when it came to booking his hotel.  He couldn't decide whether he wanted the amenities or the lower priced room.  He waited too long, and a result, lost both of them.  

6.  Kissa i byxan för att hålla värmen

Literally means "to pee in the pants to stay warm." Actually means making a short-term decision that turns out to be horrible in the long-run.  

She kissa i byxan för att hålla värmen when she bought the bargain brand dishwasher; it had to be replaced in six months.  She ended up spending $200 more than if she had gone with the nicer model in the first place, which would have lasted for a decade or more.

Do you have any experience with Swedish and want to add to the list?  Leave some more in the comments below!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Barcode Equipment and the Bottom Line

I was recently asked about barcodes and similar for small businesses. I know many of you are small business owners or want to have your own business. Here is some information with various options.

Barcode Equipment is one of the most easily available additions a company can make to increase its efficiency. In the realm of production and management, barcode systems increase their operation immensely. For a small to medium business, acquiring a barcode system might seem like a daunting task. However, there are a lot of websites, such as Shopify that offer great options on barcode printers and scanners. What a company is really concerned about when it comes to barcode equipment is how expensive it is to buy and to maintain. A lot of equipment sounds like a great addition to a small or medium enterprise, but upon buying it, the company realizes the returns it gets for the money it spends is far too little by comparison. Here we examine how barcode systems can influence the bottom line of a company.

Low Cost for Installation
Probably one of the biggest concerns that companies have when examining barcode systems for use with their operation is the startup cost involved. In the case of dedicated point of sale terminals and other systems like those, the startup cost can be quite expensive, sometimes running into the tens of thousands. For a barcode system, however, the startup costs can be as low as a couple hundred dollars. Some barcode systems can even be set up for under $200. The benefits it gives for the setup cost far outweigh the paltry sum needed to start using it. Efficiency and improved inventory management can make a lot of difference to a small or medium business by making the company more attractive in the eyes of consumers. Since the startup cost is small and it increases the potential for earnings in the long run, it's not surprising that a barcode system can pay for itself within the space of six months easily. All things considered, a barcode system is definitely the best value for money for a small or medium enterprise.

Low Maintenance Cost and Effort
When purchasing a new system for integration with a business, you need to consider the amount of money and time that needs to go into maintenance of the system. For example, when a company purchases an asset like a vehicle, it must be in proper working condition so as to limit the probability of it breaking down when it's needed. For a barcode system, there is little worry about that happening. Barcode printers and scanners do not require a lot of maintenance. In fact as far as barcode printers go, the only thing they require are ink and paper to make their barcode labels. Cost for these additions are minimal and can usually be recovered after a single hour of business. The time it takes to deal with maintenance is similarly trivial, since it doesn't involve anything complex or complicated to replace these things.

Increased Productivity and Efficiency
Implementing a barcode system can lead to an increase in productivity and efficiency across the board. The result for the bottom line can be quite large over time. Efficiency in a business' dealings can have the inadvertent effect of making the business more desirable as a partner. This leads to a larger flow of contracts or retainers for the business, which effects the cash flow in turn. Productivity increases are desirable for another reason. Workforce productivity means more things get done and more work gets pushed through. In many non-retail industries there may be a backlog where work comes in and tends to remain without being processed for a certain amount of time. Barcode systems deal with fixing this problem by providing a method of tracking and responsibility making sure that no pending projects fall through the cracks resulting in disgruntled clients.

In the world of retail, a barcode system is extremely impressive in what it can do to bolster or boost the profit margin of a particular business. Understanding that barcodes are basically electronic assistants that never make a mistake goes a long way towards incorporating their unique talents into making a retail company more efficient. In a non-retail industry, the use of barcodes can make for some interesting work flow improvements, especially across multiple departments. The end result is a much better aligned work force combined with a more detailed system of tracking and following up on pending projects. Productivity and efficiency impact the profit margin of a company significantly and since barcodes work towards increasing a company's performance in both of these areas, it's not a wonder why these companies grow exponentially after the addition of their barcode systems. The first step for a small to medium enterprise to be able to compete with larger stores or chains is to give them a competitive edge. Barcodes do this, making a small business operate like a multinational chain with very little cost to the owner and very little effort from the workers. Barcodes basically allow a company to gain profits by working smarter, not harder.