Saturday, April 25, 2015

Looking to Sell Your House? Here Are 5 Things You Need to Know

There are a lot of traps that people looking to sell their home for the first time often fall into. It’s not their fault though; they’re in uncharted and quite complicated waters. So what are the things you should be aware of when starting the process? Here are a few things to keep in mind when getting ready to sell.

1. Hidden Costs

There are so many costs involved in selling your home. You have to account for things like government charges (including stamp duty and registration), marketing costs, the conveyancer’s fees and the real estate agent commission. Leveraging sites like Local Agent Finder will allow you to better compare agents in terms of rates, experience and reach so you can budget more effectively.

2. Spruce Things Up

Your home should be dressed to impress. If you plan to sell, you should be making an effort to remove weeds from the gardens, repaint anything that’s looking a bit worn or drab, and replace any cracked tiles. A good first impression – even if only in photos online – is worth an awful lot and will help drive potential buyers in your direction.

3. Accessibility

How easy is it to get to your property? This is something that many first-time sellers don’t think about because they know exactly where their place is and are used to getting there. But if potential buyers can’t figure out how to find you, you’re going to have a hard time selling your home. Make sure any directions to the property are clear and that you have obvious, eye-catching signage out front to let people know they’ve arrived.

4. Pricing

First timers have a bad habit of over-valuing their property. Everyone wants to think they’re sitting on a gold mine, but you still have to keep your expectations realistic. This is somewhere an agent will be able to steer you in the right direction. If you don’t go that way, do your homework. Research the last three homes that sold in your area and are similar to yours. See what price they were listed at and what they eventually went for.

5. De-Clutter, De-Personalise

You want any prospective buyers to be able to visualise your home as their home. That means cutting down on your personal accoutrements. Photographs, personal effects, decorations and even unnecessary furniture should be dispensed with. This serves two purposes: it opens a room up and makes it feel much more spacious, and it makes it easier for a potential buyer to imagine what they would do with the space.
If this was a list of all the things first-time sellers should be keeping in mind, this would be a very long article indeed. As it is, these are the five things you should be concentrating on from the beginning. For the most part, it comes back to being informed – if you do your due diligence and prepare accordingly, you’ll get your house sold in no time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Budgeting for Life's Little Emergencies

What if I told you I had a way to pay for your car breaking down?  Or the clothes dryer dying?  Or all of your doctor's appointments for the year?  You'd probably want to know who was supplying me with my money.

It's me.  Present me.  Giving a gift to future me.  So when the car breaks down, my finances won't go into a tail spin.  When I have a doctor's appointment, I'm ready to pay for all my out of pocket costs without sacrificing any funds I had set aside for investments.  I do this by budgeting small amounts monthly for the inevitable problems and their associated costs that life has a way of throwing at us.

Let's look at some examples.

Household Appliances

Major household appliances generally have a lifespan of 10-15 years.  Let's use a refrigerator as our example, and we'll stick with ten years to be conservative.  We'll say that an average fridge costs about $1,200.  So from the time you get your new refrigerator in your home, you'll need $1,200 in ten years. This means that if you save $10, you'll be ready when the time comes. Ten dollars a month is so much more manageable than $1,200 at once.  (Feel free to alter the numbers depending on your taste in refrigerators and your comfort level with the ten year number.)


Cars can get expensive, especially when they need repairs.  Those repair jobs can pop up out of nowhere and send your budget for a dive.  Start by deciding on the absolute most you're willing to spend on fixing up your car.  If you spend anymore than this number, you think it's worth it to just get a new one.  Then, set a time frame for saving up that amount of money.  Maybe you can contribute $50/month or maybe you can contribute $200.  Once you've reached that savings goal, you don't have to allot any more money to it.  Just replenish it after any maintenance or other repairs so that you're ready for the next time.  (With older cars you may want to build this account up more aggressively as the odds you'll run into trouble is higher.  That being said, the absolute most you're willing to spend on it may be lower, as well, so you may be able to reach your goal faster.)

Health Costs

Saving for health related costs is a smart idea, too.  If I knew I was responsible for 25% of my doctor's bills, I'd try to calculate how many times I needed to go for routine check ups and tests.  This will vary based on my age and any medical conditions I have.  Then I'd factor in getting sick or injured a few to many times a year accounting for my lifestyle and comfort level for risk.  I'd take all those costs (25% of the bill) and then divide it by twelve.  The first year you won't be in a good spot if you have an unexpected illness in the first part of the year, but if you have any leftover at the end of the year you can roll it into the next one, making the amount you have to save in year two a bit lower.

If your health care costs are 100%, the good news is you're covered for emergencies already, and can hopefully reach other savings goals more quickly that if you had to pay a percentage.

Isn't This What Emergency Funds are For?

Yes.  All of these things could fall under a general emergency fund.  But they're expenses you can predict with a certain amount of confidence.  When you are prepared for the inevitable, it allows you to free up your emergency fund for situations like job loss, a death in the family, a sudden move, or a change in family dynamics, all of which cannot be readily predicted.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to Successfully Deal With Workplace Drama


Women are often subjected to all kinds of drama in the workplace.  If you work in a female-dominated field, there are often gossip wars.  If you work in a male-dominated field, your abilities are often questioned purely because of your sex.  No matter what kind of drama you're facing, you can come out of it on top, maintaining your professionalism and dignity.

Don't Gossip

When there's a lot of juicy activity going on in the office, it's easy to play into it.  But the easy thing to do is often not the right thing to do.  If the person you're confiding in is relaying "news" to you, odds are they won't be able to keep whatever you say to them between the two of you.  No matter how tempting it is to join in the chatter, keep your head down and stay out of it.  This not only protects you from your own words being used against you, but it also builds your reputation as a trustworthy person to both your co-workers and your boss.

These situations aren't always unique to female-dominated workplaces, and there are many female-dominated companies and workplaces that have a great work culture where this problem is not even an issue.

Address Situations Professionally, And Only the Ones That Need to Be Addressed

Sometimes when you don't participate in workplace gossip, you become the subject of it yourself.  No one likes someone who won't play ball, and the good habit may just make you the odd man out. In other cases your professional capabilities will be questioned based on your gender, or crude jokes will be made that wouldn't be if you were a man. 

That doesn't mean you should lower your standards of professionalism.  Ignore hurtful or slanderous things that others say about you unless they need to be immediately addressed.  When they do, do so with professionalism.  Don't lose your cool or blow up.  Remember that anything you say to a gossip will be twisted and marred until it's interesting enough of a story to retell.  Don't give them anything interesting from the get-go.

If it becomes a problem large enough to take into management, like harassment, do so.  But if it's not, reserve your time with your superiors for offering solutions to problems that concern business.  If you run to them every time someone says something about your hairstyle, you risk leaving the impression that you don't know how to work well with others.  

Don't Become Friends With the Entire Office

While it's not a crime to hit it off with a co-worker and build a friendship outside of work, problems can arise when the entire office socializes outside of business hours.  Lines between work and play start to blur, and something that happens in your social life can negatively impact your work environment.  It's okay to let loose after work hours, but it's not a smart idea to be doing so with the people you want to view you as a professional.

Be An Influence For Good

Working in hostile work environment can be draining to say the least.  But when you do your work, and do it well, avoiding all of the drama that can attempt to derail you, people are going to notice.  As you are noticed, you'll more than likely gain more responsibilities and promotions.  Use these new capabilities not to exact revenge, but to build the work environment you, and other professional women, would be happy to work in.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Having a Positive Mindset Can Help Your Finances

When we set major goals, especially ones that will take a while to achieve, there's no doubt that life will throw obstacles our way.  Car repairs, an illness that takes us away from work, or actually having to file a claim and pay our insurance deductible are all examples of situations where we may have to siphon money away from our preferred objectives.

When that happens, and it almost inevitably will, we have two options:  we can respond positively or we can respond negatively.  It's easy to respond negatively.  After all, those obstacles are delaying the fulfillment of our goals.  At this rate, we'll never reach them, so why keep trying?

When we think negatively, we limit our options.  We see only the unfavorable options that lie in front of us.  When we think we can't achieve, we tend to stop trying as hard.  We start using our money to bring fleeting happiness in the here and now instead of saving for the things that really matter.  We binge shop.  We make impulse purchases.  We do everything we shouldn't be doing because we've given up.

When we think positively, our entire world shifts.  We're open to more possibilities, and see the potential positive outcomes more readily.  Maybe the car broke down, but with a positive mindset we can explore other avenues for making up the money instead of lamenting the fact that we had to spend the money to repair it.  We pick up extra shifts at work.  We pick up a side hustle.  We trim our budget.  We get back on track, and waste less time tending towards things like self-imposed depression.

When we pick up extra shifts, create a side hustle, or trim back our budget, what we're actually doing is creating more opportunity for ourselves.  In her broaden-and-build philosophy, Barbara Fredrickson backs this concept with scientific research.  It turns out that people who think more positively are not just happier in the here and now; their outlook allows them more opportunities in the future.  These opportunities lead to greater happiness and achievement down the road, making positive thinking an essential perpetual motion machine for happiness.

For example, maybe your boss sees the extra hours you're putting in and is a little more open to negotiation at your next annual review.  Your positivity just got you a raise.  Maybe your side hustle blossoms into a small business, generating more income and helping you reach your goals light years ahead of schedule.  Maybe you trimmed your budget initially because you had to, but after a few months you realize that you really can live on less.  You decide to make it a lifelong habit, and are able to reach all of your financial goals at a faster pace because you don't need as much to cover you month-to-month.

Life is going to happen regardless of if we meet it with a grimace or a smile.  But when we choose to meet it with a smile, we open ourselves up to a world of opportunity.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Making Money As An Artist

I have a good friend who is an artist.  It's not a dream.  It's not a side hustle.  It's what he does full time.  He's not showing in any national galleries or touring around the country, but he does make a living doing something he is incredibly passionate about.

A lot of people turn away from following their dreams because they view them as unrealistic.  With enough work and persistence, you really can make those dreams come true.  It may have to start as a side hustle until it morphs into something bigger.  But there's nothing half bad about making a little extra money while doing something you love.

Places You Can Sell Your Art

1.  Online.  There's no shortage of websites out there where you can sell your art via the web.  Graphic artists can choose to sell pieces on larger websites that sell an array of items to print your design on, whether they be t-shirts or coffee mugs.  These sites usually pay you a commission for each item you sell instead of the other way around.  There are also opportunities to network and find businesses that need logos or other graphic art for their website or a larger picture deal.

For fine art, there are also numerous online outlets.  These websites tend to take a listing fee plus a pre-determined percentage commission when your item sells.  Make sure you understand all those fees, along with any return policies, when making your decision where to sign up.

2.  Murals.  Indoor or outdoor, murals can be a great way to make money.  Having a hard time getting into the market?  Do one or two for free for people you know.  When others see your work in their home, word of mouth can enter into the equation in a big way.  As you gain popularity, you'll be able to increase your commission for each one you do.  Mural walls in people's home could be anything from realistic scenery to something cute for the kids' rooms.

Outdoor murals will most likely be a word of mouth, as well.  That's how it has worked with my friend.  But this word of mouth means getting into community centers, getting in touch with local government organizations, and letting businesses know you exist.  Put your name and your art out there, and connect with people to let them know you're available and interested.

3.  Commission Pieces.  There's money to be made painting on a canvas, as well.  A lot of people want fine art in their home, but most people don't place the value or significance on it to spend thousands of dollars.  Be their budget artist.  Once again, use your network to spread the word.  Let your friends and family know you're looking for work, and show them your projects regularly.  Don't be a pushy salesman, but hopefully they know somebody that knows somebody that's looking for something specific.  You can also get started by submitting your work to smaller art shows.  The piece may sell, but if it doesn't you've more than likely at least gotten your name out there.

This is where the bulk of my friend's work comes from.  As he is commissioned for more and more pieces, his work is seen in more and more homes.  As his work is seen, others find they want to commission him, too.  It's incredible how much his work has grown to this point because of it.

Thinking Long-Term

If you're serious about wanting to be a career artist, there are two ways to plan for the future.  The first is to make your artwork consistent and recognizable.  This isn't to say every painting has to look the same, but your style should be the same throughout your work.  When people are readily able to identify your work as your own, they'll be happier when you make those commission pieces for them, or more open with their pockets when your work appears in a gallery.

The second thing to do is realize that you will probably need to diversify your streams of income.  Your artwork itself may not be enough to sustain you, but when you add in speaking gigs or teaching jobs, balancing your checkbook starts to get a whole lot easier.

Following your dreams isn't always easy.  It may need to start as a side gig.  You will have to heavily research whatever industry you're going into, even if you're going into it because you find it to be fun.  But following your dreams is, indeed, possible.