Saturday, October 3, 2015

Use Your Look to Increase Your Expertise

The harsh reality of today's society is that more often than not our credibility is judged on how we look. Presenting yourself in such a way that it is clear you look after yourself and are confident in your skin will help project to others that you are a capable, confident and knowledgeable person. People love to look at and talk about others so give them something wonderful to say about you by looking the part of an expert.

Thankfully creating a professionally appropriate look is not going to cost you an arm and leg as many would have you believe. There are a few tricks you can use to keep the cost low and the style high.

1: Stick to a neutral colour mix

The point here is to have majority of your clothes in a colour range that can easily mix and match with other. Neutral colours are better for this as they can be brightened up with bold coloured accessories, or glammed up with metallic accessories or darker with muted or sombre toned accessories.
Neutral tones include Browns, black, white, creams, tans, navy, even maroon and olive green.
Depending on what field you are in, too much bright colour or bold prints can be perceived as tacky, so it's best to keep them to your accessories to avoid any dramas. For myself, I go a statement necklace to keep my personality alive in my look but still keeping my outfit respectful to my workplace environment.

Emerge Cowl Fitted Dress found via Fashion Lane
Emerge Cowl Fitted Dress found via Fashion Lane

Heine Dress found via Fashion Lane
Heine Dress found via Fashion Lane

2: Research from the comfort of your own home

Get comfy and do your research online. There is an abundance of websites that sell great basics at a fraction of in store prices. There is an even greater range of sites that have basics with a twist, like a different print, colour, a slightly different cut or style.
By looking online you are giving yourself the opportunity to compare pieces and find a cheaper price in your own time, not restricted by opening hours, and it is much more comfortable.
Check out Fashion Lane where sales from over 100 stores like Asos, Shopbop and The Iconic are all in teh one place.

Lydia Double Layer Maxi Dress found via Fashion Lane
Lydia Double Layer Maxi Dress found via Fashion Lane
Panelled Bodycon Dress found via Fashion Lane
Panelled Bodycon Dress found via Fashion Lane

3: Know your body shape

This one is the most important. If you are purchasing clothes that are not the right style for your  body shape you can look frumpy, "fat", and unattractive. You'll feel much more negative about yourself in clothes that don't fit or suit your body. It's a bit like square peg, round hole. Check out this post to help determine your body shape.
Knowing your body shape and what cuts and styles suit your shape will help narrow down appropriate options for you. It will also help you discard anything that won't suit you, so you won't have clothes (essentially your money) sitting in your cupboard doing nothing. Your wardrobe will be full of items that will look good on you, help you feel better about yourself and you will also impress others by always looking the part.
Midi Pencil Dress in Rib found via Fashion Lane
Midi Pencil Dress in Rib found via Fashion Lane

Praslin Plus Body Con Dress found via Fashion Lane
Praslin Plus Body Con Dress found via Fashion Lane

What tips do you have to look the part on a budget?


 *Sponsored Guest Post by Jac Lambert of - Thoughts and opinions are her own

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How far are you willing to go to get out of debt? 10 steps to pay off debt

First world countries seem to love debt. Statistically we have a lot of it from the governments to businesses right down to teens with credit cards! I avoid debt although currently I do have a little and it does my head in.

With most cases I see or am asked for advice on, it is consumer debt that has gone crazy. We buy something to make ourselves feel better, we buy stuff as a celebration, we spend up all the time and without much effort I know many couples who owe $20,000 to $100,000 with nothing to show except 'stuff' collecting dust in their homes.

If you had excessive debt, how far are you willing to go to pay it off?
Me, I hate any debt so am willing to do pretty much anything (within reason!) to clear it. When I say within reason, I won't do anything that goes against my morals. What would you be willing to sacrifice or sell, what extra work would you take on to pay off your debt?

Since I do have some and I hate it, here are the steps I am taking to pay off my debt

Step 1 - Get real with the debt
Add up all debt, where it comes from, what it was for, what the interest rate is, repayments on it and how long you are locked in for. List everything - credit cards, personal loans, car loans, loans from friends or family.

Step 2 - Work out which to pay off first
I don't have loads of debts, so this is easy for me. Which one you pay off first is up to you. Some find the method of paying off the smallest debt first works best for them, others work on the one with the highest interest rate. 
As each debt is paid off roll the payments you were making on that debt into your next one plus any extra payments you were making to help you clear the next debt. This is called debt snowballing. 

Step 3 - Work out your budget
If you don't already have a budget, you should. How are you spending you money? What income is coming in? Where can you cut back? Be realistic about what you are currently spending and account for all your income. 

Step 4 - Set a time frame
Knowing your budget and repayments you can now see how long it will take you to repay your debt. Set a timeframe for each a little shorter than anticipated. For example, if with your current payments and budget it would take you 12 months to pay off one debt, set your goal at 10 months, then find ways to reduce expenses and increase your income to bring it down to 10 months. 

Step 5 - Look at ways to cut back
Go over your budget with a fine tooth comb and start implementing ways you can cut back. For example, can you forage for food, barter, do meal swaps or start growing some food from scraps such as herbs and spring onions. 

With this part, I tend to do a pantry clean out and work out a stack of meals I can make based on what we have so I needn't do groceries for a while. Then I get really strict on meal planning and shopping. I look at ways to stretch meals further, find free food etc.

After food, I look at our transport, electricity, compare insurances, look at what I can DIY again if I have stopped doing some of that. Every area of my budget gets scrutinised.

Step 6 - Realise it isn't forever
Think about what you can give up for the period of time it'll take to repay the debt at least. The aim is to never be in this debt again, so you don't want to go back to the way you were before starting to pay off your debt, because it is those habits that got you into this mess in the first place. However, sometimes thinking you are giving up something permanently can be difficult and make it harder to pay down the debt or give things up. This way, you have a timeframe and if at the end of paying off the debt you really want to incorporate somethings back into your lifestyle, you can work out an affordable way to do that.

Step 7 - Make more money
Getting a raise isn't always realistic (but it often isn't unreasonable to ask, provided you pick you timing well), so what other ways can you bring in money?

Take on another job? Pizza delivery, cleaning, gardening, packing shelves at night, working the check out, petrol stations, any job that has out of usual business hours will help you pay down debt. 
Do a side hustle like babysitting, cleaning, ironing, selling books, make things to sell, catalogue run or paper route.
Look at one off options such as market research, donating hair, selling things you own etc.
Look at irregular options such as modelling and voiceovers
Start a side business yourself such as blogging, running workshops, importing something to sell. 

Step 8 - Get an emergency fund
One thing we often find when trying to pay down debt is that we pay a little off, then something happens like all our tyres blow or there is a health issue and we end up spending on the credit card again.

Try to save $1,000 - $2,000 in an emergency fund fast. As soon as you have that, redirect all your extra funds to paying off the debt. 

Step 9 - Throw all extra money at debt
Any money you save or extra money you make pay off the debt, even if it is only $1.05 saved at groceries, throw it on your debt to get it down. All those small amounts add up. 

Step 10 - Change your mindset
Don’t view yourself as poor or broke or sacrificing your lifestyle. Change your mindset to that of someone who wants to be financially free and is taking the steps to do so. A broke mindset is depressing and often makes repaying debt harder. Having a positive mindset of one where you are taking control of your finances to give yourself a financially free lifestyle is empowering and more likely to help you succeed.

What tips do you have for paying off debt?

Not Spending on Things That Don't Matter

Not spending on things that don't matter means you're able to spend money on the things that do.  Everyday, we come up against spending decisions.  Some of them are big, and some of them may seem too small to matter.  Those small things really add up, though.  If we can instead throw those small amount of money into savings, we'll be all the closer to our goals.

Here are five things that I've chosen not to spend money on:

1. Curtain Rod Hardware

We used to have slat blinds in our apartment.  They weren't surviving our children well, and I had noticed some of our neighbors had curtains.  When my mother's neighbor offered up some of her old ones, I happily took them, along with the curtain rod.  After asking our landlord if he was okay with the switch, we got to installing.

There was only one problem:  we had no hardware to hang the rod from.  I know that my interior design doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things, so I flipped the hardware for the blinds, cut off the end of a hanger, and secured them together thoroughly.  It might be rigged, but it's hardware we didn't have to spend a cent on.

2. Haircuts

For a few years, I cut my own hair.  I'm no professional, so eventually I inevitably botched a job.  It was traumatic, and I decided never to cut my own hair again.  In subsequent years, I visited the dresser about once a year.  I was able to get away with it with my long style, and wasn't overly concerned with having a trendy cut.  After a few years of this, I decided to try a cheaper, walk-in salon.  The hair dressers knew what they were doing there, too.  I've stuck with them.  Now I'm able to get cuts more frequently, and they only run me $15/cut as opposed to the $30-$60 I was paying before.  I have found no difference in quality despite the disparity in price.

I do like to look presentable, but if I can do so without going to the salon every month, I can allocate that money to more important goals.

3.  Furniture

I have young kids, so furniture is not high on my priority list.  Any furniture I have will surely be destroyed in a few years thanks to spilled sippy cups, unauthorized jumping, and art projects gone awry.  Instead of going out to buy matching pieces, I accept every hand-me-down that comes my way.  I've avoided spending thousands, and still provided my family with couches, a table where we all eat together, and all the other trappings a typical home has.

4.  Gift Bags

I hate spending money on overpriced wrapping paper. I do, about twice a year, but mostly I use gift bags my own children have received at birthdays and Christmases past.  I also save the tissue paper.  They get a lot of wear, and I don't have to go out and buy every time someone gets invited to a birthday party.

5.  Family Time

Hear me out on this one.  Family time does matter to me.  Very much.  But I've realized over the years that it doesn't matter so much what we're doing, as long as we're doing it together.  Instead of spending a ton of money every time we go out, we seek out free events, discounted or free days at our local attractions, and utilize the parks and numerous green spaces in our city.  By doing things together that are low-cost, we're able to splurge on the occasional kids' concert, and do whatever we want when we go on vacation.  We save that money every time we go out so that we'll be able to enjoy a few extravagant things together.  Another part of the savings allows us to propel ourselves to our family goals, like home ownership, at a faster clip.

What things don't matter to you?  Do you spend money on them anyways?  Or find ways to save?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

10 ways to get more water

Water is vital for health, so why is it so hard to drink enough of every day? We need to stay hydrated to function well. Our body organs depend on it and without it, we’d die. Considering that, you’d think water would taste like marshmallows or wine. Unfortunately it doesn’t, so we have to think up strange and creative ways of forcing ourselves to drink enough to get us by.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

1.) Make sure it’s clean. Town water can taste a little like chlorine or metal, so try filtering it first. You may find that improves the taste.

2.) Carry it with you. It’s easy to forget to drink but if you always have a water bottle with you and keep it full, there’s more chance you’ll sip through the day.

3.) Tea it up. Swap out coffee and black tea for naturally caffeine free variations like hibiscus or jasmine. They taste great hot or cold.

4.) Add fresh herbs or fruit.  A slice of orange, a handful of berries, mint or cucumber at the bottom of your drink bottle will give a little flavour without adding sugar or additives.

5.) Add it to food. It’s harder to drink water when it’s cold, so incorporate water based soups into your day instead. Chicken broth and vegetable soup are great options.

6.) Eat it. Foods with a high water content like celery and fruit will increase your hydration levels.

7.) Force yourself to drink it. By making yourself drink a small glass of water a few times per day, you’ll adjust quickly and start craving it when you don’t.

8.) Add ice. Some people find this make water more enticing.

9.) Have it hot. A hot cup of water with a slice of lemon will warm you up on a cold morning and set your digestive function up for a great day.

10.) Try an app like waterlogged. They remind you to keep drinking water through the day.

Make sure you stick it out. Your bladder will adjust after a couple of weeks and so will your body. After a while it will get easier and you’ll find yourself reaching for the water without even thinking of it!

How to Switch Careers Without Going Back to School

Bored at work?  Not as passionate about your field as you thought you would be at university?  Then you've probably thought about switching career tracks.  Oftentimes, this means needing more formal training or schooling.  But sometimes, you can get away with switching fields, doubling your salary, and doing it all by teaching yourself.

That's exactly what Mr. Stapler did.  Once bored in his career in the field of law, he now works as a programmer, making double what he did in the legal field.  The best part?  He gained all of his skills through self-education in his downtime.

Today we have an exclusive interview with him, including some tips and tricks to turn your side hustle into a lucrative career that you are passionate about.  Bonus for all the wanna-be programmers out there: he provides some great resources for you!

Tell us a bit about your career change.  What sector were you working in before, and where are you now?

Unfortunately, it took me three years of training, a bar exam, and two years working as a lawyer before I discovered that I didn't enjoy being a lawyer and that my passion was in software programming.

Why did you make the switch?

I took a full-time programming job because I was sick of my current legal job and saw no future for me there. Programming was so much more exciting and rewarding because there is a finished product. The legal work I had been doing was ongoing and pretty boring.

How did you initially get into programming?  What sparked your interest?

Honestly, I had a job with a lot of wasted time. We were "on call" at our desks for hours on end, with nothing to do. Some co-workers watched movies; some co-workers took naps. I taught myself how to program.

How did you build the skills you needed to be successful in programming?  What resources did you use?

Coding is a great skill to learn on your own because there are so many free resources and it's a very hands-on learning experience. You learn by thinking of problems and figuring out how to solve them. In the process, if there's something you don't know how to do, you can look it up online and usually find that other people have tackled that problem before. I read a lot of handbooks and "cookbooks," read through some of the open courses at MIT, and asked and answered questions on Stack Overflow. Code Academy is another great way to learn how to program.

How did you build the network you needed to be successful in programming?  What resources did you use to build relationships and find new clients?

At first, I found side projects on Elance. I also contributed to some open source coding projects. Once I started working full time as a programmer, the opportunities to meet new clients and learn about possible projects were hard to miss. I also joined a local Meetup group for my programming language and heard about opportunities that way.

Do you think this is something someone without a college degree could do, or do you find that your degree still gets you in the door even though it's not in your sector?

If you can learn how to program, you can develop a portfolio of sorts that demonstrates what you can do. Many interviews involve answering technical questions or even programming a solution to a specific problem. That said, a degree will get your foot in the door and get you the opportunity to prove yourself with your portfolio. If you don't have a degree, you can get your foot in the door by networking at Meetups, participating in open source projects, and creating a repository on GitHub.

What do you recommend to those looking to make the transition from side hustle to career?

I have contemplated going from full time to fully self-employed many times, but I would never make that leap unless I had a contract for a "side" gig or two that would replace my current income in eight months or less. That would give me room to get a raise and put it in the bank in case I had a slow period.

At some point in a side hustle, you just don't have enough hours in the day to do all the work that you want to do. That's when I think that it makes sense to take a leap into a full time job: when your day job isn't nearly as exciting as your "other" job.

Thank you, Mr. Stapler!  Readers, have any of you made a dramatic career change?  Did it require more formal education, or were you able to learn the skills you needed on your own?