4 Ways to Put an End to Your Debt

We have strong impulses that can quickly get us in trouble, and that’s a fact. Probably the strongest is the impulse to spend money – too much money. Sometimes it’s just a stupid thing, like relying too much on the power of our credit cards, but you don’t have to be reckless to end up in large debt.  Borrowing money has become a pretty normal thing in every grownup’s life – in this capitalistic society it may be the only way to get things we want or even really need. You’d say that there’d be a great debt awareness by now, but that’s not always the case. Even when it is, not many people are prepared for the unexpected that can take many forms – childbirth, lost job, an accident, etc. All these life-altering experiences will also quickly alter your finances and prevent you from paying back your loans on time.

Even if you lead a pretty steady life and are punctual with your repayments, their end may seem far out of reach. You’d want to pay off your loans faster and be done with it, but coming up with enough money seems impossible. That’s how you get accustomed to your debt. If you’ve signed a loan to finance your business you might expect that the growth of that business will take care of the repayments. But nothing can grow in financial shackles – not your business, not your life. And you’re the only one who can break from them. Poor financial decisions can be overcome with the right ones, and debt can become a thing of the past.

1. Make it a Priority

This is the worst thing about debts – the bigger they get, the less we want to look at them. You might say that you’d rather live your life than deal with numbers all the time, but there’s not much life in the situation where you’re running in circles. If you want to find the way out you need to look the numbers straight in the eye. It is actually a pretty obvious move and a really simple one. All you need is a Google Spreadsheet or a piece of paper if you’re a pen person. First, you need to visit the websites of each financial institution you have a debt to. Then simply copy down all balances along with their respective APRs, exactly as they appear – and pay special attention to your minimum payments for every account. Only after you track down all your debts this way you’ll know how much exactly do you owe and that is the road to getting rid of it.

2. Set Goals Along The Way

Knowing the exact amount you need to pay back can be overwhelming even for the most goal-oriented person, so the best way to go is to break it. Once your debt is in the form of manageable parts it won’t be scary anymore, and every small victory will provide you with more determination. The first thing you need to do is to assess how much money can you set aside for monthly repayments since that will shape your periodic goals. It will also provide you with a rough estimate of how long it will take you to get out, eliminating the factor of a neverending financial nightmare. To make these goals even stronger and boost your motivation, try to negotiate a lower interest rate with your creditors. Most people think that this possibility of interest rate reduction is a fairytale, but if you’ve done your homework on comprehensive credit reporting you should know better.  And now you have a bigger monthly repayment budget.

3. Catch The Big Fish First

When you have a clear list of debts in front of you it might be difficult to figure out where to start and decide on debt payment portion. Most people decide to pay balances low to high, not thinking about interest rates. It is understandable to try to keep your money, but that way you’ll do quite the opposite. If you’ve succeeded in reducing your interest rates you might be encouraged to take this road, but this should actually serve as a motivation to attack the debt with the highest interest rate and continue with the buildup of your budget. Debt is probably the only area in life where working your way down will get you much quicker above the surface. So you need to focus on the big fish you wish to eliminate first, making the minimum payment on other accounts. Then simply pass onto the next debt on the list, adding the money you’ve freed up to the minimum payment. People call this the snowball method, but once you try it it will seem more like a cleansing avalanche.

4. Balance Your Work And Savings

It is obvious that you’re gonna need to work more to pay off your debt faster. People go at great lengths, working overtime, taking second jobs, babysitting in their free time, etc. Although this is a very responsible thing to do, it could take you to the extreme where you’ll make your final payment in the nuthouse. That’s why it’s important to find the perfect balance between your work and savings. Yes, but you’ve thrown your complete savings on that big fish we’ve talked about above. Well, there are other ways to save up without working your ass off. It is just the question of how you look at the money. You have your bonuses, tax returns, birthday and wedding gifts, don’t you? Instead of treating that indirect income as a reward which you’ll use to buy you something nice, apply it directly at your debt.

But this windfall money is still not the only way to save up. You can downsize, for start. You have a shiny new car in your driveway, but you also have debt. So trade it for something cheap and you’ve saved up. Do the same with all your ʽtoysʼ – there’ll be plenty of time to play once you’re out of your debt. Once you’re out of big-ticket items that don’t mean your race is run. Every house or apartment is full of things we’re never gonna need, and yours is not an exception. And there are many people who do need (or think they need) that stuff, so it’s time for a garage sale.

In the end, you’ll save up by careful spending. Start with your utility bills. It’s pointless to pay for cable if you only watch Netflix, right? Then take a look at your fridge. Do you really eat all that? How about planning your meals? Maybe you can walk to the store instead of calling delivery every time? When you go shopping, leave your credit cards at home – handing cash will always remind you that you have to save up.

There you have it – looking your debt straight in the eye and breaking it down into manageable pieces it’s already half of the work done. It will boost your motivation to work harder and determination to keep the cash flow in the right direction.

Guest author Lucas is a business consultant with a passion for writing. Doing his research, exploring and writing are his favorite things to do. Besides that, he loves playing his guitar, hiking and traveling.

Bust the Rust: 4 Ways to Prevent Corrosion in Your Commercial Property

Rust isn’t just a problem because it’s unsightly; it also damages equipment and causes structural integrity. Rust causes pieces of iron equipment to flake off, contaminating products and putting employees at risk. Luckily, rust and other forms of corrosion can be avoided with awareness and regular maintenance. Here are four ways to prevent corrosion in your commercial property.

Identify Metals that Can Rust 

Rust can only appear on objects made of iron or iron alloys, including steel. You can easily tell which parts of your building are made of iron by testing to see if they are magnetic. Other metals like copper can become corroded, but don’t necessarily pose the same inherent health risks as rust. Take the time to identify the rust-prone areas of your building and maintain them accordingly. 

Clean Wet Surfaces Immediately 

Corrosion is caused when metal is exposed to oxygen, which means all metal will corrode if given enough time. Water spills kick start this chemical reaction and let rust set in significantly sooner. In addition, any salt or other minerals within the water can dry onto the metal surface and allow corrosion to set in even deeper. The solution is to clean up any spills as soon as you notice them. If the water had salt content, scrub the area to make sure no residue is left. 

Watch for Signs of Concrete Cancer 

Concrete cancer occurs when the steel beam within a concrete fixture begins to rust. This corrosion causes the steel to expand, displacing and cracking the surrounding concrete. If you notice signs of concrete cancer, including cracks and rust stains, make sure you attend to them immediately. Simple concrete repairs can fix the problem if it’s caught early enough; but if it’s not, you might have to replace part of the foundation. 

Perform Regular Inspections 

Rust and other types of corrosion occur when metal surfaces are left unattended for lengthy periods of time. Conduct regular inspections on your property and make sure to pay careful attention to any iron fixtures. Other areas of concern include plumbing, drains, areas exposed to weather, and anywhere else that moisture might be present. If you perform regular maintenance, you can greatly increase the lifespan of your property. 

Corrosion is a common problem that can easily be avoided with proper inspections and maintenance. Keep moisture away from sensitive equipment, and perform regular checkups on any problem areas. If you do notice signs of rust, take action right away; the potential damage to your property’s structure far outweighs the cost of an immediate repair.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

Opening a Bed and Breakfast? 4 Tips for Helping Your Guests Feel Right at Home

A bed and breakfast is one of the coziest lodging places a person can experience. As the proprietor of a bed and breakfast, you are responsible for giving your guests a place to stay that makes them feel as if they are not just a customer, but also something like a family member. These four tips will help your guests to feel right at home at your bed and breakfast. 

Cater to Requests 

When someone books a room at your bed and breakfast, you should ask them about any preferences they have. While most people will be fine with whatever default conditions you have, there will be some with special requests that need to be addressed. For instance, if you have a dog and someone is allergic to dog fur, you need to make sure they can keep their distance. Similarly, there are many who can’t or choose not to consume gluten. Ensuring you serve them gluten-free food will increase the odds they will write a positive review online and return to your establishment.

Parking 

Depending on where your bed and breakfast is located, there might be limited parking around. Make sure there is parking available in your garage or driveway. It should be cleared and roomy enough for vehicles or different sizes. When a guest books a room, make sure to ask them if they’ll need to park a vehicle and get things ready as necessary. 

Internet 

There’s likely to be people coming through on business trips. To give them the best experience possible, there should be customer Wi-Fi access. You can make this your own home network or a special one for guests. It should be password protected and from a reliable internet service provider. The last thing relaxing guests want to deal with is spotty internet service.

Cleanliness 

Few things can harm your reputation as an innkeeper more than a lack of upkeep in your bed and breakfast. You want to keep everything organized and free of dust and dirt. Don’t just do this after your guests leave for good. If your guests go out for the day, they should come home to made beds and dishes washed and put away. Your guests will greatly appreciate how much thought you’re putting into helping them feel comfortable. 

The quality of your bed and breakfast depends on how much you are willing to show your guests that you care. You’re going to meet all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. You need to make it clear that you see them all as being equally worthy of your respect. These tips will help to make your bed and breakfast one of the top spots to stay in your town.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

Improve Employee Retention with Workplace Perks

As a business owner, at any given moment you’re juggling tons of things on your plate—making payroll, managing the workplace, keeping supplies properly stocked, troubleshooting tech issues. Worrying about whether the staff you’ve hired is happy and fulfilled needn’t not be another thing on that ever-growing list. Employee retention can be tricky but in thoughtfully thinking of valuable perks to put in place, you can put both your mind at ease as well as ensure employees feel needed and valued. After all, employee satisfaction is a win-win for everyone. 

Read on for some ways to get a hold on employee retention at your business and ensure in both small and large ways that new and old employees stick around for the long haul. 

Health insurance 

Our health is truly our wealth and quality health insurance will go a long way with your employees. Having to manage a persistent sinus infection or a larger health crisis can be stressful, especially without health insurance. In providing health insurance for employees of your business, you demonstrate a level of care for their well-being. Beyond that, many gyms offer deals to businesses who want to incentivize employees to join. Employees that are in good health are those who can contribute effectively to the bottom line of your business. 

Family-like environment

Yet another way to demonstrate care for your employees is fostering a family-like environment. Keep a running tab of employees birthdays in an office-wide calendar for both you, as the business owner, and for fellow colleagues to see. If an employee has recently gotten married, had a new child, purchased a new home, had a death in the family or any other victory/setback, make note of it. Give employees cards or gift cards to both celebrate and comfort them in their time of need. These thoughtful notions speak volumes. 

Vacation and paid time off

Everyone needs a little time off sometimes. In offering vacation and paid time off for your employees, you contribute to work satisfaction long-term and give space for your staff to take breaks avoiding burnout. What’s more, having adequate vacation and paid time off is a great way to attract top notch talent to your business during hiring stages. Employees need to feel encouraged to both work and rest to be the best staff member they can be. 

Performance bonuses 

Another great way to contribute to employee retention are performance bonuses. What better way to show those you’ve hired and remind them they are an integral part in rewarding them with extra money? Plan in advance when you’ll offer performance reviews and bonuses based on the results of those. 

Paid sick days 

To the addendum of health is your wealth, and paid sick days fall into the same category. Employees need to feel that when they are unwell, it is okay for them to rest and take time off work to get better. And to be paid for that time when they are unwell. Make sure to have paid sick days as an option for employees to opt into. 

401(k), retirement plan and pension

As much as you’d love to have your employees with you forever, there will come a time when they will move on and retire. When that time comes, you’ll want to, as a business owner, have protections for them in place to cushion them for their hard work for your business. Have 401(k) or other retirement plans or pensions available to be chosen from. 

Flexible schedule 

An additional method for improving employee retention is to have flexible schedules as an option for all new hires and for employees period. Talk to both your new hires and employees that have been with your small business for a while to ask if their schedule works for them. Be open to allowing employees to come in later and leave later or come in early and leave early. Remember: a happy employee is a productive one and one that will stay with your company. 

Office perks

Your employees will spend the vast majority of their waking life at your small business so why not have some perks in office for them to enjoy? Think of things that would be appreciated such as a free lunch every now and then, employee appreciation barbecues in the warm weather months or even office parties for the holidays. A robust break room with free snacks as well as coffee and water are always good ideas, too. 

Employee development programs 

Want to motivate your employees to continue to invest in themselves and ensure employee retention at the same time? Employee development programs are the route to go in. Offer a robust list of activities for employees of your small business: tech skills, interpersonal communication, leadership. Encourage employees to take part in these programs with frequent reminders and updating offerings throughout the year. 

Sam Casteris is a small business owner and freelance writer operating out of Phoenix, AZ. You can find more of her work on Contently.

4 Simple Strategies for Boosting Your Employees’ Morale

Employee morale makes a big difference in workplace productivity. As an employer, you can’t control your staff’s mood, but you can definitely ensure that they have a happy, healthy, and considerate environment to work in. Here are four simple strategies to consider implementing.

Open Up Communication

People like to feel as if their work makes a difference. This can be a difference in the world at large, or simply a difference for the person they are working for. It’s difficult to put in effort all day without understanding the reasons or seeing the results. Keep staff updated on your business’s successes and pitfalls, and make sure you let them know the results of projects they have personally worked on. Good communication builds trust and rapport. If you set a standard of openness, your employees will understand when something simply must be kept under wraps. 

Stock the Break Room 

Snacks in the break room can be a small but effective way to show that you care. A coffee machine is a good place to start; warm drinks offer comfort, and caffeine provides an energy boost to finish out the workday. To avoid the classic problem of burnt break-room coffee, try a Keurig brewing system. Single-serving Starbucks K-Cup pods let your employees brew themselves a cup when they need one, and don’t share the mess or cost of brewing an entire pot. Don’t forget to stock decaf pods too; everyone deserves something hot to drink. 

Fight for Employee Benefits 

To be an employee is to invest a large part of your time and energy into someone else’s business. The deal doesn’t have to be a bad one; as an employer, you have the opportunity to make a large difference in your employees’ lives. Look for ways that your business can provide benefits that staff would not be able to acquire on their own. This might include package insurance plans, vendor discounts, or even chances to travel. Working for your business should feel like an opportunity, not a cost. 

Encourage Career Growth 

If you’re the business owner, you’re likely already living your dream. Your business is a culmination of your career and the effort you have put in. On the other hand, your employees are likely at the start of their careers. As much as you enjoy seeing them every day, it’s important to remember that your staff want to grow and move forward in life. Try to provide opportunities for growth and success within your business. If an employee has a dream that will one day take them outside of your company, don’t be afraid to encourage them. The person you help go to school today could very easily be your industry contact of tomorrow. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to employee morale; what helps one person’s mood might make no impact on someone else. The best strategy is to set a standard of respect, communication, and care for your employees’ needs. If you have a good attitude, a good work environment will follow.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

Keeping It Cohesive: 3 Customer Experience Tips for Every Season

Just like a personal relationship, customer relations need variety to thrive. You might have wracked your brain in the past for exciting ways to shake things up, only to fall flat and realize that most of the large-scale options tend to come off as gimmicky. Sometimes, you don’t have to think outside the box or break the mold to make a mark. There are many small ways you can tailor your business throughout the year to provide a dynamic and engaging experience to your customers. 

A brand is only as good as the people who support it. Customer service needs to be top-notch if it’s going to stand out in today’s oversaturated market. While most business owners are focused on the four quarters of the year, try shifting your attention to the four seasons for opportunities to enhance your customer experience. 

Seasonal Exclusives

Consider offering limited-edition stock for various seasons. Have summer door-buster sales or major holiday discounts. Offer exclusive complementary items that tie into the season or major holidays. The weather and seasons play a huge role in our everyday lives, so you don’t want to miss out on the chance to connect with your customers through something so human and relatable. 

Dress Up for the Holidays

Simple logos are good for many reasons, one of the primary beings that they’re easy to change without losing their identity. Switch up your graphics and logo colors to make the seasonal holidays. You can even put your own twist on them to stand out and grab attention. Seasonal designs and custom displays are a fantastic opportunity to humanize your brand and help contribute to the spirit of the holiday, whatever the time of year. 

Fine-tune Your Content to Seasonal Needs

A content strategy should be fluid and reflect customer needs and current experiences. You don’t always have to create something entirely new in order to thrive. In fact, your target audience is already looking for what you have to offer anyway, so why not diversify your blog posts a little and branch out? Find ways to demonstrate your business’s value through content that taps into your customer’s current wants or needs based on the season.

Business analytics and metrics go a long way, but it’s important to remember the numbers on your data sheets are driven by real people. Behind every click, every impression and every engagement is a live human being who could possibly benefit from your services. 

Stay in touch with your customers through social media. Interact as much as possible so you’re always in-the-know and equipped to make changes before they’re requested.

Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband.

3 Office Security Tips to Decline the Risk of an Electrical Fire

As a manager you have many responsibilities to many different parties. However, there is one responsibility that should come before everything else. This is ensuring that your employees have a safe work environment. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5,147 fatal workplace accidents in 2017. Just because your employees work in an office doesn’t mean they’re necessarily safe either. Electrical fires, for example, can certainly be deadly. With that in mind, below are three tips to use to prevent office electrical fires from happening. 

Be Careful with Plugs and Outlets

One of the most common causes of electrical fires is the misuse of electrical plugs and outlets. This is the case both for residential and commercial fires. While in the office, make sure to routinely check plugs and cords before plugging them into an outlet. Old cords tend to get frayed and can present a fire hazard. Don’t overload an outlet with adapters either. One plug should go into one outlet as a default to prevent fire hazards. You should also consider installing ground fault circuit interrupters to increase your protection against electrical fires from overloaded circuits. 

Maintenance

People tend to falsely assume that once an electrical system has been installed into a building it can be forgotten about completely. This is simply not true. Like all the systems of a building, an electrical system also requires routine maintenance to keep it working properly. Routine maintenance can also allow an electrician to spot and correct problems before they actually manifest into serious issues like electrical fires in your office. 

Create a maintenance checklist and stick to it. A professional will probably have to perform a good deal of this maintenance. Your employees are probably not qualified to work with a custom hermetic cable harnesses for example. 

Surge Protectors

Something else that can help to protect your office is the use of surge protectors. These are devices that can be used to prevent power surges from overloading a circuit. They can prevent electrical fires. They can also help to protect appliances during a power surge. All significant pieces of equipment in an office like computers, printers and fax machines should be plugged into a surge protector instead of directly into an outlet. 

Providing a safe work environment is your number one priority as a manager. Workplace accidents are common, and they can be deadly. This is even the case in office workspaces. Removing the threat of electrical fires can certainly make your office much safer for your employees.

Guest author, Kara Masterson, is a freelance writer from West Jordan, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max.