Saving, investing and making money with technology

Author: Kayla Matthews

Use These 4 Calculators To Save Your Business Money

There a variety of online calculators that entrepreneurs and business owners can use to budget better and save money. Many of the calculators are accessible and easy to use, helping replace pricey financial professionals that can cost new businesses a pretty penny.

Although economic factors fluctuate, especially regarding interest rates and taxes, many calculators update to reflect present rates. Additionally, most of the calculators are compatible with mobile phones.

Businesses have numerous financial needs and necessary calculations. Many businesses regard the four types of calculators below as essential components of wise budgeting and conservation:

1. Loan Calculators

Most businesses are familiar with loans, a necessary frustration for many businesses in need of cash. Businesses tend to fail if they overestimate their ability to pay off a loan. Loan calculators help by providing a clear picture of how long it will take to pay off the loan, while also informing businesses in the midst of a line how certain adjustments will impact the time it takes to pay off.

Bankrate’s business loan calculator is a straightforward and useful loan calculator. Users can insert their loan amount and term, resulting in monthly payments cost, total principal paid and total interest paid, in addition to a viewable amortization schedule. Alternatively, you can provide the loan term in months and interest rate per year.

Another useful loan calculator comes courtesy of FinAid. Although useful for general loans as well, FinAid is especially helpful for business owners still paying off educational loans. In addition to general fields like loan balance, interest rate and loan term, you can also input enrollment status, degree program and total years in college to provide a comprehensive calculation of what’s owed and how long it will take to pay off.

2. Investment Calculators

Investments can vary wildly. Some investments can be high-risk and high-reward, while other investments are safer, though without the upside. Investment calculators can help distinguish which area an investment falls in. The Ultimate Investment Calculator provides a plethora of options to help decide.

With the Ultimate Investment Calculator, you can set numbers such as starting amount, periodic investment amount, number of cash flows, the annual rate of return and your goal amount. Inputting today’s date and the first cash flow date can help project the potential return on investment. Additional options include setting your state’s marginal tax rate and annual inflation rate, which can project even more personalized numbers. The results will include your total cash flow, internal rate of return, total investment return and IRR after taxes and fees.

Dave Ramsey’s investment calculator is simpler than the Ultimate Investment Calculator, with retirement in mind. In addition to inputting your age and the age you plan to retire, you can input how much you have saved, how much you contribute monthly and your estimated annual return, to help calculate your estimated retirement savings. These two investment calculators cover both your present-day investments and how these will impact your retirement savings.

3. Fuel Tank Calculator

A calculator that aids with fuel tank savings is especially useful for businesses with transportation options and fuel-related operations. Inefficient spending regarding fuel tanks can be very costly. Ecogreen Monitors’ Fuel Tank Savings Calculator lets you project annual tank savings by inputting the tank size, average delivery, distance to tank, number of deliveries, labor cost and estimated delivery percentage.

For general fuel, the U.S. Department of Energy has a calculator that helps save money and fuel. You can select your specific vehicle, among other options, to determine cost estimates each year and month. Knowing these numbers can help when developing a business plan regarding transportation costs.

4. Markup and Discount Calculator

Useful for businesses and consumers alike, Financial-Calculators’ Markup and Discount Calculator provides a great way to calculate a markup or discount. To calculate a percentage increase, enter the net amount and percent increase while setting the other three inputs to zero. Percent off and percent change values are also available via a similar method. This calculator is a very convenient one for businesses, ensuring their coupons and discounts match with their advertising. Omni’s Markup Calculator is a useful alternative.

Investments, loans, fuel costs and markup estimates are all common costs for most businesses.

These calculators can help save time and money among small businesses, which can use them to conveniently and cheaply make estimates, projections and business plans.

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How Making More Informed Decisions Saves Businesses Money (And 2 Apps To Help)

As a small business owner, you’ll be faced with many decisions. While some of these decisions will be more important than others, it’s important to always think through the potential outcomes of each. In some cases, making the wrong decision could cause you to waste money.

Rushing through the decision-making process isn’t good for anyone. If you’re not taking the proper time to think through your options, you may be inclined to make a rush judgment.

Unfortunately, making decisions without all the right information could cause you to make an incorrect assumption. If you purchase the wrong product or service, this means you may waste money needing to replace it.

For small business owners in any industry, it’s important you’re thinking through every decision-making process — even if it seems small. Not only will this make your business run more efficiently, but you’ll also save money.

Let’s take a look at a few of the areas companies should think more about, as well as some apps that can make that decision-making process a bit easier.

1. The Hiring Process

When you’re looking to build a team of employees, you’re probably eager to get started. However, having the right people on your team is much more important than simply having people on your team.

If you’re hiring the first person who submits an application, you could have a difficult time creating a successful business — and it will cost you in more ways than one.

Hiring a new employee can be costly. You need to post job announcements, go through the hiring process and bring people in for interviews.

You may even need to relocate employees to get them in your office. If you’re going through this process and it ends up being a poor fit, you’ll only need to start again — wasting both time and money.

When hiring, you want to be sure you’re slowing the process down and really looking at your candidates.

While someone may be a great fit on paper, you want to ensure they actually represent the information on their resume. You can use a hiring management tool, like Workable, to help you make the right hiring decisions the first time around.

2. The Pre-Decision Prep Work

If you have a timely decision to make, you may be tempted to go to the first option available to you. While sometimes the first thing you consider is the right choice, other times you’re overlooking what could be a perfect fit.

When you’re faced with a decision you need to make as a business owner, you need to consider your various options.

For example, comparing your options by browsing through various guides and other sources of online information can help you come to the best conclusion for your problems.

You can find detailed information and project specs for nearly any business decision you could imagine online. Only a fool wouldn’t take advantage of that.

3. Investor Influence

To get your business off the ground, you may need investors and funding.

However, those investors will have a say in how you run your business. If you make the wrong decision and take money from the wrong investors, you could end up butting heads — all at the company’s expense.

Doing proper research about your investors is important.

To make the process run a bit more smoothly, you can use investment matching apps, like Gust, to help you find investors who share your passion.

As a business owner, you need to be smart about the decisions you make.

Taking the time to slow down and really consider the information at hand is important for saving money and ensuring you’re making the right choices for you, your business and your team.

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How to Address Tech Needs When You Don’t Have an IT Team

As IT becomes more prominent in the day-to-day lives of average consumers, global enterprises and startup businesses alike are racing to accommodate the increased reliance on IT systems.

Considering the ever-evolving state of modern technology, as well as the need to meet consumer demands as soon as possible, some companies are forgoing large IT teams in favor of a more do-it-yourself approach.

1. Figure It Out Yourself

The do-it-yourself approach is great if you are already familiar with technology. Even those with a basic knowledge of computers can typically figure out how to diagnose and troubleshoot common problems. If you grew up with the finicky operating systems of the ‘90s, you’re already in a better position than most.

Many common problems can be solved through simple trial and error. Today’s operating systems are meant to be as idiot-proof as possible, so don’t be afraid to try out the utilities and apps that come with modern computers. Disk cleanup and disk defragmentation programs can work wonders when trying to free up hard drive space or refresh a slow computer.

The Internet has become an invaluable resource in diagnosing and troubleshooting common computer problems. Simply typing a vague description of the issue into a search engine will yield many results, but you may need to turn to an online message board or forum to solve more complicated matters.

2. Hire a Freelancer

Freelance IT specialists are the ideal solution for a business that wants to outsource their IT needs without taking on a full IT team. The Internet has opened up many new avenues for tech-savvy professionals, who benefit from greater job flexibility and, in many cases, the ability to work from home.

When trying to find a freelance IT professional, it makes sense to go straight to the source. Since the niche of IT freelancers is comparatively small, there are a few sites they can use to find jobs. Posting your openings on the most popular sites will make it easy to find a talented recruit who’s able to meet your needs.

Just make sure you properly vet any freelancer you plan to hire. There are plenty of horror stories out there, and you don’t want to add yours to the pile.

3. Use Managed Services

Managed service providers, or MSPs, supply dedicated IT services to their customers. These services can vary greatly from one provider to the next, but they typically revolve around networking, remote monitoring and technical support. Some MSPs offer cloud connectivity, data archival and even disaster recovery services.

Unlike freelancers, who can work from nearly anywhere in the world, it’s a good idea to stay local when using IT managed services. This gives you the benefit of onsite tech support and a myriad of related IT solutions that you can call upon whenever you need.

The process of working with an MSP is also very involved and hands-on. While freelancers will tend to take full control over the entirety of your IT operations, MSPs work with you every step of the way. This lets you retain full control over your IT visions, timelines and expenses — while still benefiting from the knowledge of a team of IT experts.

Weigh All Your Options

Make sure to consider all your options before making a final decision. The decision ultimately comes down to analyzing your needs, defining your goals and forecasting your progress.

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Time Is Money: 4 Simple Things Worth Buying to Save You a Ton of Time

Any expense requires time to pay it off. Many purchases do not return direct monetary value.

Of course, purchasing something like food has its own benefits, providing energy and nutrients so you can focus and be efficient. A super-comfy mattress could have a similar payoff by helping you sleep better and awaken well-rested.

These items may not be returning their investment directly, though their benefits are contributing to greater productivity and comfort, which can save time and consequently help make money.

Beyond the obvious, like a good diet and comfortable mattress, there are several things worth investing in that can save you a ton of time. They return their value quite well, especially for those in business:

Outsource Avenues

When done correctly, outsourcing provides high-quality results at a low cost. Many businesses would benefit greatly from outsourcing, though are apprehensive when budgeting for it. In reality, there are a number of areas where the differences between outsourcing and keeping it in-house are negligible, making the lower-cost option of outsourcing desirable.

  • Manufacturing — Perhaps the most common area for outsourcing, manufacturing makes sense, since creating a tangible good is often more dependent on machinery and instructions than actual workers. As such, outsourcing manufacturing to a lower-cost area in China can make sense, with many products costing 30 to 80 percent more to make in the U.S. Strive for a long-term relationship with a particular manufacturer to make this outsourcing process more efficient.
  • Tech Work — Web development and virtual assistance are also ripe with outsourcing opportunities. Technological knowledge is often universal, so as long as the outsourced rep can speak English, a similar service can be provided for a portion of the cost. Plus, VOIP now makes it so there’s no international calling barrier, making outsourcing technology work cheaper than in the past.
  • Graphic Design  — If a graphic, logo or layout looks good, it reflects well on your business, regardless of the country of origin. As a result, using platforms like Elance, Fiverr and 99 Designs can be a great way to acquire quality graphic design at a cheaper rate than working with a Stateside designers.

Outsourcing these three areas can result in the most savings compared to keeping these services inside the U.S.

Contact and Phone Lists

Compiling a list of relevant contacts for your business’ marketing campaign or general outreach can be dull, repetitive work requiring many hours. As a result, buying pre-compiled lead lists can be extremely beneficial and time-saving.

With such services, you can specify by area and audience, working alongside the broker to secure a list of contacts that are a great fit for your individual business.

Business Internet

For a small additional fee per month, business Internet can provide a wide array of benefits compared to residential Internet, which many small businesses are still using. With many ISPs, business Internet customers have their own 24/7 helpline and can have day-of service to resolve technical issues.

Business Internet packages also provide higher speeds, which — combined with superior service — makes it worth the cost.

Plants and Office Accessories

Mundane office and desk settings have been proven to elicit less productivity than a desk filled with color and personal keepsakes, providing a glimpse of great memories in the midst of hard work days. As such, don’t be wary of purchasing a plant, special lighting or other desk décor to make your workspace feel more homey.

It can be the difference between feeling burnt-out and turning in poor work and feeling fresh and ready to impress.

Since time is money, the four areas above are good places to invest for enhanced productivity and overall business results.

Some of them are small adjustments, like buying business Internet and office brighteners. Others, like department-specific outsourcing, can be bigger.

Regardless, they all share the quality of being well worth their price.

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4 Work Productivity Tips And How They Save Money

They say time is money, and they’re right — especially when it comes to workplace productivity. The more efficiently you get things done, the more money you save.

There are lots of methodologies out there on how to increase productivity, some of which involve technology. Utilizing technology is one of the most effective ways to make your workplace more efficient.

Technologies designed to improve workplace productivity abound, and they’re growing in popularity. Here are four things tech can do to make you more productive and save you some money along the way.

1. Get Organized

Businesses need to keep track of a lot of information, documents and data. Employees also need reliable access to these resources. While technology increases the amount of data we have available, it also provides a lot of innovate ways to organize it.

Storing information in the cloud is one way tech can help keep businesses organized. Using the cloud allows you to store everything in one place, so it’s easier to find. It also enables more dependable access to important resources, even if an employee is not physically in the office.

There are plenty of other services available for organizing specific aspects of a business. A customer relationship management platform, or CRM, can help you keep track of all your marketing, sales leads and customer data. A virtual timeclock can allow you to track hours worked even if that work is done remotely.

This improved organization will reduce the time employees spend looking for information and allow them to focus more on completing work and bringing money into the company.

2. Collaborate

Organizing a collaborative work project can be a complex task. Project workflows involve usually between 16 and 20 steps and can require employees from different departments, and even from different office locations, to work together.

Web-based collaboration tools can help you organize all those steps. There are both free and paid programs available that have a wide range of functionalities.

They often include chatrooms where team members can communicate via text, video or audio. They also often allow project managers to assign tasks to specific people and provide a space for employees to create a project plan and schedule, which can help keep everyone on the same page. Cloud-based documents can be edited by the whole team, and everyone can see changes being made in real-time.

Ensuring everyone is up-to-date on a project’s progress can help it get done on schedule — and sometimes even quicker — and reduce the likelihood of miscommunication and the mistakes that can result from it. Reducing the amount of work that needs to be redone saves money, and getting projects done quickly allows a business to increase its amount of work and make more money.

3. Automate Tasks

Automation is a popular topic today. Some lament the job loss it can create and others praise it for the way it can increase productivity. Automating repetitive tasks can save a company money, because it enables them not to pay someone to do the task and eliminates the possibility of human error.

While not everything can and should be automated, computerizing the right work can benefit a business immensely. Repetitive tasks like sending out a thank you email when someone makes a purchase and backing up your files are suitable candidates for automation. There are plenty of online services that will help you automate these tasks and many others as well.

4. Work Remotely

Being able to effectively communicate, share files and work with other people whether or not they’re physically in the room with you allows businesses to be a lot more flexible and efficient.

Teleconferencing and videoconferencing do away with some of the costs and time requirements of in-person meetings. Driving time eats away at work hours, and gas, food, lodging and renting meeting spaces can be expensive. Virtual meetings allow you to talk with customers, business partners and co-workers no matter how far you are from each other at little to no cost and in much less time.

Internet technologies also allow you to expand your customer base outside of your company’s physical location, connect with other people in your industry no matter where they are and hire people from all around the world to work remotely with you.

Technology can help businesses increase their productivity and save money if they implement it well. Taking a look at where your company’s productivity needs improvement allows you to develop a plan. Trying out technologies that may help fix those problem areas lets you discover what works for you.

When you find the right technology and plan for implementing it, the likelihood is high that you’ll save plenty of time and money as well.

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4 Ways Trash Is Becoming More Innovative

When you think about re-using trash, reupholstering an old sofa or refurbishing a table that has seen better days might come to mind. It goes well beyond that, however.

In fact, advances in science and technology have created a situation in which trash is essentially wasted money. Actual waste or garbage — beyond things such as aging furniture or used clothing — can be turned into useful items that may one day provide a sizable impact on the global economy.

Here are four ways we can use trash to produce new and sometimes surprising items you may never have thought was possible.

1. Fabric for Fashion

Imagine how many plastic bottles of water and soda you’ve consumed over the years. Now imagine turning those bottles into fabric or yarn that could be used to make clothing.

A company called Thread International is doing just that. In 2015, the company sent 440,000 pounds of plastic from Haiti to the U.S., where it was blended with cotton to form fabrics such as jersey, canvas and denim.

Thread International’s effort is valiant in two ways. First, its method of creating fabric cuts energy consumption by 80 percent, though that cost is roughly 10 percent higher than non-recycled fabric. Also, the company has established more than 300 recycling jobs in Haiti, which is particularly helpful following the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

2. Plastic Materials From Veggies

Believe it or not, it is possible to fabricate plastics from vegetable waste products, such as rice hulls and spinach and parsley stems.

The creation of these bioplastics originally drew criticism, because even though the materials are more sustainable, they often required more energy than traditional plastic. While the process has improved, it still could take some time before this type of plastic becomes common on the consumer market.

There are other ways pull plastic from waste as well. Chemists at the University of Arizona developed a process called inverse vulcanization, which can create plastic from sulfur, specifically used for infrared lenses.

For non-scientists, vulcanization is a chemical process that turns rubber and other polymers into more durable materials. Vulcanization is used to make fish paper with all sorts of applications, such as railroad track insulation, fuse tubes and electronic devices.

3. Turning Plastic to Fuel

In addition to fabric, there is another emerging use for recycled plastic bottles. In a joint effort between the U.S. and China, researchers have developed a way to break down polyethylene compounds into oils and waxes while also limiting toxic by-products.

The process is somewhat complicated, but it basically uses a chemical reaction that turns two parts of two substances into two new substances.

It’s a large advancement to be sure, but more work needs to be done. Researchers are now looking to make the process more efficient, so it costs less. They also hope to evolve it so it can be used to turn other types of plastic waste into usable items.

4. Making Recycled Paper Waste

A team of researchers in Singapore recently discovered a process that converts paper waste into non-toxic, ultra-light, flexible and water-repellent green cellulose aerogels. Put in layman’s terms, it’s a material ideal for cleaning oil spills or used for heat insulation or packaging.

Traditional aerogels are typically made of silica and are not environmentally friendly. Not only is this new method of aerogel creation better for the environment, but it’s also cost effective. Even better — the process uses 70 percent less energy and gives rise to far less pollution.

Generating usable items such as fabric for clothing or biodegradable plastic from waste products may sound like science fiction, but it’s quickly becoming a reality. The science and technology is already there. The next step is making these processes easier, so they’re affordable on the mainstream consumer level.

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3 Reasons 3D-Printed Skin Might Be More Practical Than You Think

You might have heard how scientists have relied on 3D printers to create everything from car parts to wheelchair ramps.

Now some of them are taking the technology to the next level by creating printed human skin.

I know it sounds kind of sketchy, but stay with me here.

Keep reading to learn about this advancement and why it might be more practical than you think.

1. It Could Help Burn Victims

Skin grafting is a complex procedure, but it’s often the only thing that makes severe burn victims look and function normally again. Researchers have developed ways to print skin using a technique that might replace traditional grafting techniques. They also say the technique could be suitable for creating internal organs.

A team of Spanish scientists has published research describing how they make skin one layer at a time using human plasma that contains skin cells. Notably, their technique has already been successfully on Spanish patients suffering from burns and other traumatic wounds. Eventually, it might make skin grafting more affordable and efficient.

While outlining their research, the team admitted some improvements need to be made before printing 3D skin more frequently and outside of labs. For example, it takes several weeks to produce enough of the printed material to cover a large burn.

Also, the process is currently done by hand and would be much faster if things were automated. However, the scientists generated about 40 inches of skin in 30 minutes during tests, which shows the technology’s promise.

2. It Could Reduce Animal Testing in the Cosmetics Industry

Another potential benefit to 3D-printed skin is it might allow cosmetics makers to test their products on that material rather than resorting to animal testing. The worth of the global cosmetics industry is projected to reach $267 billion this year.

Certain techniques are already practiced within that sector to ensure quality, such as depending on industrial sieves to filter out product impurities without using harsh chemicals. It makes sense that cosmetics companies are looking at ways to print 3D skin and cut down or reduce animal testing without sacrificing quality control.

Notably, a Shanghai-based company called JALA Group announced it has used 3D printers to create Asian skin. There are known, unique biological characteristics of Asian skin, so this accomplishment has captured headlines and made people wonder what else is possible.

Engineers at the JALA Group conducted nearly 100 experiments before they came up with suitable 3D skin, but say the results include all the typical layers. The company wants to come up with better cosmetics for Asian wearers, and thanks to this improvement they may be able to do so without using animals for testing.

3. It May Be Cheaper Than Buying Makeup All the Time

If you wear makeup, you understand the often-frustrating process of finding makeup that complements your skin type, has staying power through busy days, and doesn’t cause irritation. Then, if a company suddenly stops making a beloved product, the whole cycle starts over again and can become very expensive.

What if 3D printing could be used purely for appearance-based reasons, so people don’t have to keep buying makeup all the time?

There’s already a 3D-printing makeup pen that scans your cheek to determine skin tone, mixes the perfect shade of foundation and dispenses it. Eventually, it might be possible to print 3D skin that already has a person’s preferred makeup on it, so they can simply apply it.

Wearing 3D-printed skin doesn’t seem so farfetched after all. Because of this technology, the future will certainly be interesting.

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How This Tech-Savvy Van Could Save Businesses a Ton of Money

You know better than anyone that running a business is costly in terms of money and time. Naturally, anything that could save you either one of those things — even just a little bit — is a good investment.

Well, you’ll be pleased to know Ford Motor Co. is working directly with Transport for London — the city’s transit agency — to test hybrid prototypes. They are hybrid Transit Custom vans running on electric, also known as plug-in hybrid or PHEV.

The first question you’ll probably ask is why is this such a big deal? The next, what impact does this have on me and my business?

How Ford’s Hybrid Commercial Vans Will Save Money

Ford’s vans will run on electric power for a vast majority of their daily commutes. This will save a significant amount of money — thanks to lowered fuel costs — and it will also “contribute to cleaner air targets while boosting operator productivity in urban conditions,” says Ford.

The company will be distributing 20 of their Transit Custom commercial vans to businesses across London, which will take place over a 12-month trial. Both Ford, and the City of London are looking to “explore” how the vans will contribute.

The project was funded by nearly five million pounds of UK government money. The aim is to reduce carbon emissions and develop “next generation technology that will make a […] difference [in] people’s lives,” according to the UK’s Minister of State for climate change and industry, Nick Hurd.

So, we know it’s going to save a ton of money, and that it’s great for the environment. But how does any of this have an effect on you and your business?

If the program is a success, it means we will likely see these vehicles rolled out elsewhere. Not to mention, Ford is clearly not the only auto manufacturer working on hybrid or electric vehicles. Mercedes-Benz is also looking at launching an electric Sprinter van, which would have the option of an electric powertrain.

Eventually, this will translate to businesses being able to outfit their entire fleets with electric and hybrid vehicles. Imagine the kind of cost savings that would contribute to your business. How much do you currently spend on your conventional vans and transport fleet?

When you consider what your traditional transit van looks like, it’s evident they’re one of the most efficient ways to transport goods and products for your business. They’re used by industries that range from party planning to carpet cleaning and everything in between. While it’ll be interesting to see the benefits eco-friendly vans have for such businesses, current pricing models for alternative energy vehicles mean we might be waiting a few years before companies start to adopt them.

Is That It?

The new hybrid van is just one of 13 advanced models Ford is promising to introduce to market by 2020. All of this is part of their $4.5 billion “electrification” effort.

As no stranger to the business world, we don’t need to tell you that the transit can is one of the most popular commercial vehicles across a wide swath of countries, including the US, Europe, China and more. If Ford can effectively prove their new hybrid vans are worth investing in — and it certainly seems like they are — we could be on track to phase out the conventional fleet by the end of the decade.

That will bring a sweeping bout of cost savings and green — environmental — benefits for the world.

Get excited, folks — the future is here. You may soon be swapping out your fleet for something more efficient and cost-friendly. Who knows? Within the next couple of decades, conventional fossil fuels may become a thing of the past — at least when it comes to transportation.

One can only hope.

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Simple Ways Tech Can Save You Money Around the House

Technology has certainly made life easier in many ways, but people often don’t consider how tech tricks can also save money.

Keep reading to learn practical tech can save you money around the house.

1. Swap Cable TV for Netflix

Statistics show that the average monthly cable bill is over $100, and they’ve been rising steadily. If you’re looking for a way to cut costs, and cable is currently your sole method of watching TV and movies, consider canceling your subscription all together and going with Netflix instead.

The streaming provider offers subscriptions starting at $7.99 per month, plus you can take a free trial to browse the types of things available to watch on the website. Recently, Netflix has also made select movies and shows available to download and watch later without an internet connection.

2. Get Rewarded for Scanning Grocery Receipts

Manufacturers and marketers are understandably eager to learn as much as possible about the things people purchase. There are now numerous apps that provide that information, and they reward participants for disclosing it. By downloading an app that gives you money for scanning your receipts, you could have more money in your bank account just by using your smartphone to take a quick snapshot.

3. Figure out Your Energy Consumption Habits

Before upgrading to new energy-efficient systems, many businesses do careful cost-benefit studies and verify the amount of energy currently consumed. You can take the same approach to find your baseline energy cost and determine which appliances in your home use the most energy.

EvoEnergy is one example of an easy-to-use energy consumption app. It can track the amount of energy you use per month, day or hour, allowing you to see if certain appliances in your home cause you to have a higher-than-necessary electric bill. After reviewing the data and making positive changes, you can keep referring back to the app to see if you’re achieving your goal.

4. Use an Energy-Saving Power Strip

If your household always needs to charge phones, keep electricity flowing to the TV and have an available outlet to plug in the Wi-Fi router, you probably have at least one power strip lying around. If the one you own is a standard version, think about upgrading to a kind that helps you save energy by preventing devices from constantly consuming electricity.

Belkin makes a high-tech power strip that can tell when your TV — or anything else plugged into it — is off. As soon as the television is no longer in use, it cuts the power to that appliance, plus several other devices plugged in as well. Take a look at your energy consumption analysis. Are some of the things that require the most energy are devices you only use during limited periods of the day? Then plug them into the power strip so they only take electricity during active usage.

5. Download Apps to see Deals and do Price Comparisons

It’s extremely frustrating to buy something and then find out a day or so later you could have gotten it for cheaper by using a coupon or taking advantage of a special offer. If you encounter that situation a lot, consider downloading one of the many apps that let you search for deals and do price comparisons. Websites ranging from Amazon to RetailMeNot offer apps that put discounts at your fingertips, which could make it so you never again pay too much for household goods.

These suggestions prove that saving money around the house doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. It just involves making use of technology to slash spending and make it easier to find ways to save, or even earn, money.

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3 Simple Strategies That Save Startups Money

There’s probably no tougher time than when you’re beginning a startup. Money and time are especially tight at this stage. The work is never ending as you try to get your product off the ground.

On top of those concerns, there’s always that nagging doubt over whether you’re doing the right thing. These are all totally normal problems that every startup — even the super successful ones — have gone through at one point.

There are only so many hours in the day, as anybody in a startup knows, so there’s not much to be done about saving time. Money, however, is a far different resource. There are ways for any startup to save money when they’re in their earliest and leanest stages.

Saving money, even a little bit at a time, goes a long way in making a startup sustainable. If you’re wondering how to stop burning through resources, you’ll want to follow these three strategies:

1. Don’t Buy New Unless You Have to, and Trade If You Can

Stocking up on new equipment, whether it’s machinery, computers or just about anything else, is especially challenging in the earliest days of a startup. Instead of buying new, it’s almost always a better idea to go second-hand or upgrade your current equipment when you’re trying to get your business off the ground. While the equipment might not have the satisfying “new” feeling, second-hand goods will be considerably cheaper and are often at least as good as a brand new version.

Scour website listings and check your contacts for leads. If you do your research right, you will likely find items that suit your needs perfectly.

Alternatively, you can even try bartering your services in exchange for other services or equipment. This isn’t uncommon, as some startups have an unused capacity that other businesses could benefit from. Maybe you’re an exceptional bookkeeper who can help out, or perhaps you have top-notch programming skills. Whatever it is, you can use those skills to save money and help out a fellow business owner.

2. Turn to the Gig Economy If Needed

Money can be your best friend or biggest enemy when at a startup. To earn some extra cash on your own time, consider the gig economy. Time is no doubt tight, but there are a number of micro-job sites out there where you can put your skills to use.

Helping out with some coding, for instance, won’t make you rich or solve all your financial troubles. It does, however, help stretch out your money so it can last longer than it otherwise would.

If you’re starting off in the gig economy, keep close records of the time you spend and the money you earn to see if the jobs are worth your time. In some cases, the money isn’t worth the time. If you play your cards right, however, then you can earn a decent amount of money.

3. Know the Most Important Numbers

Data is totally underrated as an asset, even though it’s one of the most valuable things a startup has. If you track your data, whether it’s sales, website traffic, engagement, etc., then you can make smart decisions. The right calls based on the data will make your startup more efficient and ensure you aren’t wasting your resources.

These numbers don’t have to be solely about customers or revenues, either. Knowing internal figures about how your startup is operating can ensure you’re investing in the right places. For example, businesses report that 74 percent of ongoing client communication is done by phone. If that figure applies to you as well, then you’ll be able to come to a sound decision about what kind of communication system to use.

Getting Into Good Habits

There are so many things to stress about at a startup, but developing good financial habits will lessen those stresses. Follow these practices, and you’ll find your startup in a strong position.

Image by iDriss Fettoul

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