How to Make a Side Income Running a Vending Machine Business

As we continue to make our way through COVID-19, many people are still looking for ways to get items they need without physical contact with another person.

Vending machines serve that purpose — and make money for the machine’s owner.

Owning and operating vending machines is big business, providing passive income without any specialized skills. It’s also called automatic merchandising.

Basically, all you need to get started is some startup money to buy a machine, a good location and the right products.

The Vending Machine Business During COVID-19

Revenue for the vending machine industry was $24.2 billion in 2019, up 3% from the year before.

That data came from the Automatic Merchandiser’s Annual State of the Industry Survey — before the full impact of COVID-19 hit.

There were 2,175,756 vending machines in service in 2019 in a variety of locations including:

  • Manufacturing areas
  • Offices
  • Retail spaces
  • Hotels/motels
  • Schools
  • Hospitals and nursing homes
  • Universities/colleges
  • Correctional facilities
  • Military bases
  • Restaurants, bars and clubs

Cold beverages were the top-selling product category. A majority of vending machines involve food and beverage products including sodas, coffee, snacks and candy.

There are also machines for bulk vending like gumballs, stickers, toys, novelties and more. During COVID-19, machines popped up selling masks and hand sanitizer.

At places like airports, vending machines often sell tech accessories and travel essentials like neck pillows, blankets and eye masks. Laundry rooms in residential buildings often have machines with detergent and fabric softener.

With many offices, businesses and other public spaces closed or restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the vending industry is certainly taking a hit.

“We’re in a tough, tough industry right now with COVID-19. A lot of stores don’t want the machines there, they don’t want the kids congregating, they don’t want people touching them,” said Scott Ausmus, director of manufacturing for National Entertainment Network, Inc. and president of the National Bulk Vendors Association.

He grew up in the vending business. The machines he sells and operates are the novelty kind, offering things like stuffed animals, toys and gumballs. Many are in restaurants and entertainment venues like bowling centers.

Many factors make owning a vending machine an attractive business venture.

The startup costs are relatively low, sometimes around $2,000. The work is flexible and often doesn’t require much day-to-day involvement. The risk is comparatively low and there is growth potential.

“There’s a higher profit in the gumball then there is anything else,” Ausmus said. “The cost of goods is low on the gumballs and everybody likes gum, so everybody still purchases a gumball and so that is a winner for a lot of people.”

Starting a Vending Machine Business

While the startup costs are low and the income is often passive, owning vending machines is not without risk. You must be able to understand your own financial situation and how much you can afford to invest.

There is the cost of the machine, the cost of inventory, personnel to keep it stocked, maintenance and more.

The more perishable the product and the busier the area, the more of your time the machine will take.

“If (your machine location has) a big break room and a lot of employees, you would have to be there once a day to fill your machines up because that’s how busy they are,” Ausmus said. Other machines like toys and candy don’t require as much restocking.

One of the first steps in starting a vending machine business is finding your niche and deciding what to sell. That takes a bit of research and knowing who your customer is.

“You gotta buy the right product. If you buy the wrong product, it won’t move and you won’t make any money and you certainly don’t want to throw [product] away,” Ausmus said. “You’ve got to have the variety for people and find out which ones they want and that’s what you restock with, what sells.”

Vending machine businesses are scalable, meaning it’s possible to start small and expand. You don’t have to wait for payments because customers pay when they purchase an item.

Location, Location, Location

To put yourself in the best position to be profitable means finding the right location.

Places with lots of foot traffic are good. Before COVID-19, that meant schools and universities, malls, office parks, etc.

Think about where people need to wait. While waiting, they may get hungry or thirsty. Ausmus’ novelty machines need kids around.

“One of the hardest things to do is to locate a location,” he said.

Location can be about trial and error.

“It’s really not a bad risk to put it in a location and find out that it’s not making enough money. … You can remove it and move it to the next one until you find that right location,” Ausmus said.

When looking for locations, be prepared to approach the owner or landlord with a business plan for the machine.

Also be prepared to:

  • Pay a percentage of sales or other fee for having your machine in their location.
  • Pay for the electricity the machine uses.
  • Ensure the security of the machine. There is money inside a machine as well as inventory. Theft and vandalism are always possible.
  • Research state and local laws and regulations.
  • Pay sales tax on the revenue the machine generates.

Key Purchase: Your Vending Machine

Then you will need an actual vending machine. There are several types, and prices vary depending on what is in the machine, whether it needs refrigeration or heating, and the interactivity.

Buying directly from a manufacturer or supplier is one option, as is purchasing on a secondary market. Some companies also rent machines. Ausmus cautioned to make sure there are spare parts and support available for what you buy.

Machines range from about $1,500 for a used or refurbished machine to several thousands for a new, high-end machine with many technical features.

Some machines have:

  • Remote monitoring software: This helps keep track of how the machine is working and notifies the operator if something is wrong.
  • Low stock alerts: Notify the operator when items needs replacing.
  • Vending management systems (VMS): Tracks sales and other data to help owners make better business decisions.
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Running a Vending Machine Business

While owning vending machines does not require any special skills, it is a business.

You will need inventory and someone to keep the machine stocked and maintained. This may require a van or truck.

Perishables need to be stocked more often than other items. Learning some basic maintenance skills could keep you from having to hire someone if there is a problem with the machine.

Different types of machines have different capabilities. Some take only cash while others will process credit or debit cards. Some models have touch screens or voice capabilities.

“Make sure that you have your phone number on the machine, and that the store location knows your phone number,” said Ausmus. “If somebody didn’t get what they wanted, make sure the store can give them a refund and you pay the refund back to that store. Then get out there as soon as you can to fix the machine so that you can continue to make money.”

Automatic merchandising isn’t for everyone, but owning and operating a vending machine can be a good business. Being able to retrieve the money you make and restock your machines easily is the key.

“Then you only work probably three days a month, basically on the whole gig,” said Ausmus. “Three four days a month can make somebody a good little extra income.”

Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

6 Ridiculously Easy Organizing Resolutions You Can Actually Stick to This Year

home organizingmmpile/Getty Images

If your relationship with New Year’s resolutions is anything like ours, then things tend to fall by the wayside right about—well, now.

Mid-January has been statistically proven to be the time when all those well-intentioned goals get left behind and replaced with well-worn habits of years past. So if getting organized was one of your resolutions in 2021, there’s a good chance you’ve thrown in the towel and are already starting to see the clutter pile up.

Don’t despair! We’re here to help get you back in the saddle, and we called in the pros for some reinforcement. We’ve pulled together their insider secrets on the easiest organizational resolutions you can actually stick to this year.

Read on for the simplest goals you can achieve, and all the tips you’ll need to make it happen.

Resolution No. 1: Practice a daily 10-minute ‘tidy up’

One of the best ways to ensure that maintaining a clean house becomes a lasting resolution is to practice tidying up daily. But it doesn’t have to take the better part of an afternoon. Small but regular spurts of time devoted to organizing can keep things in order.

“This is perfect if you have kids, or a partner who’s on the messy side,” suggests Afoma Umesi of Oh So Spotless. “Do a 10-minute ‘blitz’ every evening where everyone picks up and puts things back in their place. You can even set a timer, to make it more fun.”

Resolution No. 2: Make your dang bed

making the bed
Start your day by quickly making the bed.

svetikd/Getty Images

If we’re giving you flashbacks of your mother with this one, well, that’s OK—Mom knows best, after all. Right?

“Visualize your dream bedroom,” says Ali Wenzke of The Art of Happy Moving. “Imagine what it would be like to enter your room every day and have it feel like a five-star hotel. Declutter any items that take away from that feeling, and tie making your bed to a current habit like waking up in the morning. As soon as your feet land on the floor, pull up the sheets and comforter.”

Not only will making your bed please Mom, but it will also elevate the overall look and feel of your bedroom.

Resolution No. 3: Ditch bulky packaging

We’re all guilty of keeping too many cardboard boxes around, especially in this age of endless deliveries. But one easy way to keep your stuff (and clutter) in check this year is by ditching packaging as soon as you get it.

This is a tough one, and we know what’s going through your mind:

“What if I need it later?”

“It’s a really good box, though…”

“It doesn’t take up that much space.”

Well, we’ve got news for you: You can always find more boxes. And that packaging is killing your decluttering efforts: “Cardboard packaging often takes up double or triple the space of its actual contents,” says Amy Bloomer of Let Your Space Bloom.

Beyond cardboard, Bloomer also recommends removing plastic wrap or any other kind of packaging from products (as much as possible) before putting them away. One example Bloomer gives is frozen foods.

“Remove cardboard packaging and label the plastic bag with a Sharpie marker to make the contents easily identifiable,” she says.

Resolution No. 4: Get better at recycling and composting

compost
Composting is easier than you might think.

svetikd/Getty Images

While most of us have at least tried our hand at recycling or composting, it can be a hard habit to keep up.

“Don’t overthink composting,” says one professional organizer, Caroline Clark. “A mixing bowl with a lid works great, and is easy to move around the kitchen as you cook, and throw in the dishwasher after emptying it.”

If the actual compost pile is what’s dragging you down, check with a neighbor or even your city council to see if there’s a communal composting bin you can use.

As far as recycling goes, one of the best ways to ensure it that becomes a habit you can keep is by keeping a bin in the kitchen.

“Make sure your recycling bins are easy to access, without doors or lids that make it harder to put things in them quickly,” says Clark.

If the recycling bin is as easy to operate as the trash can, you’ll have no reason not to use it.

By ditching bulky packaging right away, you’ll be able to conserve more precious storage space for the things that actually matter.

Resolution No. 5: Get rid of your ugly stuff

We’ve all got some stuff hanging around the house we can’t stand—whether it’s artwork you bought in college that you thought was so cool back then, or well-intended Christmas gifts that didn’t hit the mark. This year, it’s time to get rid of it.

“The ugly statue you got from a distant cousin for your wedding? Don’t feel obligated to keep it,” says Marty Basher of Modular Closets.

“Let go of the guilt of getting rid of a gift you don’t want. This can be hard for people who might see it as an insult to the giver, but the reality is, if you hate it and are never going to wear, display, or use said gift, it’s better to donate or otherwise dispose of it.”

Resolution No. 6: Eradicate surface clutter

We’re all guilty of letting things pile up here and there, but clutter is especially problematic once it starts taking over every usable surface space in your home. Wenzke gives us some tips on wiping out surface clutter in 2021.

“Declutter like you’re moving,” she says. “Get rid of items you wouldn’t want to move again. Then, with whatever’s left, put similar items together, and return them to your closets or drawers. The only items that should remain on display are the ones that you love and want to look at every day.”

The post 6 Ridiculously Easy Organizing Resolutions You Can Actually Stick to This Year appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Ways to Earn Extra Money for Paying Off Debt

Debt traps you in a seemingly endless cycle. More debt means more interest and less disposable income, which means you’re constantly fighting against the tide and are always one issue away from complete financial disaster. 

Once you start making repayments on this debt, there will be less interest to compound, which means the grip will loosen, you’ll have more breathing space, and you can look forward to a debt-free future.

In this guide, we’ll look at some of the ways you can earn extra cash to start clearing your debt, from acquiring additional work and responsibilities to making money-saving sacrifices.

Stop Wasting Money

The average American household wastes over $10,000 a year on unnecessary purchases. These purchases all fuel the economy and keep you and your family happy. But if you’re losing sleep because you have so much debt, it’s worth making these sacrifices to give you some peace of mind and build towards a better future.

Save on Grocery Bills

The average family spends between $300 and $500 a month on groceries and as much as 40% of this food goes to waste. The majority is fresh food past its expiration date but we also have a tendency to cook monster-sized meals that end up being thrown away.

To save money on your grocery bill, try the following:

  • Plan your shop carefully. Only buy fresh when you’re confident that the food will be eaten in the next day or two.
  • Reduce your portion sizes when cooking. It’s okay to err on the side of caution and make more than needed, but to cook double or triple what will be eaten is just wasteful.
  • Don’t worry too much about best-before dates. It doesn’t mean the food should be thrown away, just that it’s not at its best. The same applies to lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. In this case, you can rely more on the squeeze and sniff test.
  • Cook food that is about to expire and would otherwise be thrown out. You can freeze the meals for later. You can also try picking, preserving or juicing to reduce waste.

Eating Out

On average, American families spend close to $3,000 a year eating out. It’s a great way to spend time with the family or have a date night with your partner. However, if you have a lot of debt then $3,000 worth of restaurant visits is a little excessive. 

Stop spending so much money eating out and focus on some cheaper alternatives. A picnic is a great alternative. You can use some of that uneaten food and spend time with the family without paying a small fortune for the pleasure.

Stop the Vacations

Big families take one vacation a year on average and this costs them between $4,000 and $5,000. The more children you have, the more expensive it becomes. What’s more, around a third of these families will take as many as three additional, smaller vacations every year, potentially spending over $7,000.

Don’t sacrifice spending some time with your family but look for cheaper options instead. Choose a small cabin instead of a plush hotel. You can go for walks, play games, swim, hike—all free activities that could bring you even closer and cost even less.

Hold the Vices

Thousands are spent on cigarettes and gambling, and much more is spent on shopping sprees. If you have any of these habits, it’s time to put a stop to them. We don’t need to tell you about the benefits of stopping smoking or giving up those shopping sprees, but if you’re still not convinced about the gambling, then spend a few months recording every single dollar that you bet.

Most gamblers think they are breaking even or only losing a little, but when they monitor their activity, they discover they are actually losing a lot.

Check Your Subscriptions

According to a recent survey, most Americans underestimate how much money they spend on subscriptions. We’ve turned into a nation of subscribers, spending hundreds of dollars a month on dozens of services we barely use.

We pay for cable, streaming services, gyms—we convince ourselves that it won’t matter as it’s only a few dollars, but those costs can add up to a lot of wasted cash at the end of the year.

Sell Your Stuff

Many sites can help you offload your unwanted items. There’s a home for all the things you no longer need, from electronics and video games sold on eBay or Amazon, to clothes and furniture sold through sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Swappa. 

It’s time to let go, stop hoarding, and earn some cash from the things you don’t need. Be honest with yourself and get rid before the value of those items depreciates more and you end up with worthless, dust-covered junk that just takes up space.

As an example, let’s imagine that you have a dozen old video games worth just $5 each on average, 10 old school textbooks worth just $2 each, a couple of furniture pieces worth $10, an unwanted guitar worth $50, and a couple of handbags worth $25 each.

Individually, those items aren’t worth much and you might think they’re not even worth your time trying to sell them, But combined, you’ll get $200 and if you put that towards a high-interest credit card debt, it could save you twice that in interest over the term. You will also free up some space in the process.

Get Another Job

You know you can make more money by asking for a pay rise. It goes without saying. The problem is, life isn’t quite that easy and, in most cases, asking for a pay rise will elicit little more than a short, sharp laugh from your employer. 

However, there are many ways you can earn money from a side hustle, taking advantage of the gig economy and swapping a little talent, a little time, and a lot of hard work for some cash.

Get a Part-Time Job

There is a multitude of ways you can earn some extra cash these days. The pay isn’t always great, but if you’re working towards clearing your debts and have some free time, every dollar helps.

Uber and Lyft are always looking for new drivers; retailers need shelf-stackers and greeters, and there is no shortage of delivery jobs. Review your free time, calculate when you can work, and see what’s available. 

Teach a Skill

Can you play a musical instrument or speak a second language? Do you have some other teachable skill? It has never been easier to make money as a part-time teacher, as sites like Preply.com, Udemy.com, Tutor.com, Noodle.com, TakeLessons.com, and many more bring all of these opportunities to you. 

You can visit the student’s house, invite them to yours or simply conduct the lessons via Skype or the site’s built-in conferencing software.

Freelance

Upwork.com, Guru.com, Fiverr.com—these sites and more have created a world of possibilities for skilled writers, designers, coders, and other experts. But they offer so much more than that. 

You don’t need to be particularly skilled to work on these sites as the pay is scaled based on ability and experience. If you have a little free time and some competent language skills, you can hire yourself as a virtual assistant to do basic admin work.

There are countless entrepreneurs seeking individuals to complete basic tasks such as transferring data, reviewing images, and answering emails. The pay isn’t great if your skills are limited, but you get to work from home on your own time. 

Cover the Basics

Freelancing and teaching may be out of the question if you don’t have any skills and are not computer literate. But there are still a few other options, including dog walker, lawn mower, babysitter, and general handyman. 

Ask your neighbors, friends, and family if they need any work; check Craigslist and local classifieds. Everyone can do something and there are always odd jobs available if you’re willing to work.

Try Some Other Methods

When the ordinary fails, it’s time for the extraordinary. There are some weird and wonderful ways you can make extra cash when needed.

Sell Your Hair

If your hair is long and untreated, you could make a tidy sum by selling it. Good quality human hair is used to make premium wigs and some companies are willing to pay thousands for the right locks. However, there are some strict conditions, such as the fact that it must be untreated and very well looked after.

House Sit

Sites like Thumbtack can connect you to homeowners looking for skilled workers, as well as people willing to look after their homes and belongings. They will pay you to stay in their homes and perform some basic chores while they’re away, such as watering plants, feeding pets, and mowing the lawn.

Make Something

If your skills are practical and not creative, turn your hand to making things and sell them through sites like Etsy, Facebook or your own online store. The world has been obsessed with single-use plastics for many years and it’s now waking up to the damage that has been done. Many consumers are willing to pay extra for something that has been handmade and is unique, especially if the money supports an independent creator.

Grow Your Own

If you have a yard and some free time, start growing some produce. Crops like potatoes, carrots, greens, and even some fruits are easy to grow and can give you a bumper crop every year. You’ll pay a few cents for the seeds and simply need to devote some time to digging, watering, and harvesting.

Think about how much money you’ll save if you have your own supply of vegetables and fruits and can just pick fresh from the yard whenever you’re cooking. If your family eats a lot of cheese or drinks a lot of wine or beer, you can also start producing your own supply. 

Cheese can be made with a lot of milk, a little rennet, and a few simple steps. Beer can be made using some do-it-yourself kits. 

As for wine, it’s one of the easiest things you can make yourself. You don’t even need grape juice as wine can be made from a multitude of fruit juices, vegetable juices, and more. You can even make a strong, fragrant white wine with a handful of fruit teabags. The only expense is the sugar, which means you can make several dozen bottles worth of wine for less than $10.

Join a Clinical Trial

Although it’s not a method we would recommend, it’s one that’s worth including. If you join a clinical trial, you’ll be paid to act as a guinea pig. The good news is that the majority of these trials run without incident and most subjects are as healthy at the end as they were at the beginning. The bad news is that there is always a risk and there’s no telling what will happen.

You can search for available trials on the Clinical Trials website run by the US National Library of Medicine. 

Summary: Paying Off Your Debt with Extra Money

Your first priority is to meet your minimum payment obligations and avoid any missed payments. Once you meet this obligation every month, you can put any extra cash you have towards clearing those debts. Every little helps, even if it’s just $50 or $100 here and there.

As an example, if you have a credit card debt of $10,000 with an APR of 25% and a minimum payment of $300, you’ll repay $17,251 in total over 58 months. Add just $100 a month and you’ll reduce the term by a whole 12 months and the balance by a massive $3,000. Take a look at our guides to the Debt Snowball Method and the Debt Avalanche Method to find the right payoff strategy for you. Both methods rely on you earning some extra cash and now that you’ve made it to the end of this article, you’ll know just how to do that!

Ways to Earn Extra Money for Paying Off Debt is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Truth About Reward and Store Credit Cards

On the surface, reward cards are a great way to make a few extra dollars or grab some air miles without increasing your spending or your debt. If you spend a lot of money at a particular shop, store cards will seem like an equally beneficial prospect. But these cards exist for a reason—they’re there to make more money for the providers and the retailers, not you.

Sure, reward/store cards have other benefits if you use them properly, but there are a host of disadvantages and hidden terms that you need to be aware of before signing on the dotted line. 

What are Store Cards?

Store cards are tied to specific stores and offered by chains of retailers. These cards work just like traditional cards and are often branded by networks like Visa and MasterCard. The difference is that they can only be used in the issuing stores and their rewards are tied to those stores.

In essence, they are store loyalty cards that come with a lien of credit attached. 

What are Reward Cards?

Reward cards are also tied to credit card networks, including American Express and Discover, as well as Visa and MasterCard. They award points every time they’re used for qualifying purchases and these points can then be swapped for air travel and other benefits. 

Some reward schemes award a specific amount of cash back, often fixed to 1% or 2% of purchases made on specific items, such as groceries or utility bills.

How Can Providers Offer These Rewards?

If a provider offers you cash back every time you spend money on your credit card, someone has to foot the bill. Many consumers assume that the credit card network covers the cost, and to an extent, they do. But it’s not quite as simple as that.

Every time you use your credit card to make a purchase, the retailer is charged a fee, often between 1% and 3% of the purchase. This is the network’s charge. With reward cards, this fee increases, and the extra money is used to fund the rewards program.

As a result, retailers are not exactly happy with these programs as they drive their costs up and reduce their profits. The only way around this, is to increase the cost of the product or, more likely, to reward customers who pay with cash/debit. Retailers are not allowed to add a surcharge for credit card use, but there’s nothing stopping them from choosing which cards they do and don’t accept.

Your local Mom & Pop enterprise isn’t being antiquated and old-fashioned by refusing credit cards. They just can’t cover the costs. 5% may not sound like a big deal, but for retailers with minimal buying power and the massive overheads of running a brick-and-mortar store, 5% can be a deal breaker.

Smaller retailers are fighting back against reward cards while bigger ones are embracing them by adopting their own store cards. With a store card, they have more say, more control, and they know that those small losses will be offset by the increased purchases.

Issues with Store Credit Cards

Store cards carry a big risk and have far few benefits than reward cards. The advantages of these cards are obvious: If you shop a lot in a particular place, you can save money via the cash back schemes. 

They can also help with emergency purchases, providing you clear the balance in full. But, while the benefits are obvious, the same can’t be said about the disadvantages.

Con 1: They Have High Interest Rates

The average credit card interest rate in the United States is around 16%. The average rate for store cards is over 20%. That 4% may not seem like much, but if you don’t repay your balance every month that interest will compound, grow, and cost you a small fortune. 

At 16% with a $10,000 balance and a 60-month repayment term, you’ll pay $243 a month and over $4,000 in total interest.

Increase that rate to 20% and your monthly payment grows by $20 while your total interest increases by nearly $1,500. The longer you leave it and the smaller your monthly payments are, the greater that difference will be.

For example, if you repay just $200 a month on that balance, the difference between 16% and 20% is 26 extra months and close to $5,000. Of course, store cards rarely offer such high limits, but this is just as example to show you how much of a difference even the slightest percentage increase can cause.

It’s worth keeping this in mind if you ever apply for a traditional rewards card. Getting rewards in return for a higher APR is great if you repay your balance in full every month and terrible if you don’t.

Con 2: They Have High Penalty Rates

If you miss a payment on your store credit card you could be hit with a penalty APR as high as 29.99%, as well as a late payment fee of $39. The rates are high to begin with, but these penalty rates are astronomical and will make a bad situation worse.

That’s not all, as some providers are known to be very unforgiven when it comes to missed and late payments. In some cases, your account will default even if you underpay just once and just by a few dollars. 

Con 3: They Have Low Credit Limits

Retailers are not lenders. They don’t have the time, funds or patience to chase debts and deal with collection agencies. As a result, they don’t offer high credit limits and generally you’ll get a fraction of what an unsecured credit card might provide you with.

This might not seem like much of an issue. After all, a smaller credit limit means you’re less likely to accumulate large amounts of debts. However, this has a massively negative impact on your credit score that few borrowers consider.

30% of your credit score is based on something known as a credit utilization ratio. This looks at the total available credit and compares it to the debt that you have accumulated. If you have several cards with a combined credit limit of $10,000 and a balance of $5,000, then your ratio is 50%, which is considered to be quite high.

If a store card is your only account and you spend $450 on a $500 limit, then you have a credit utilization ratio of 90%, which will reduce your score. Your credit report is also negatively affected by maxed-out credit cards, a feat that’s much easier to achieve when you have a low credit limit.

Con 4: There Are Better Options

It’s better to have one good reward card than multiple store cards. The former will provide you with far better interest rates and terms, while the latter will hit your credit report with several hard inquiries and new accounts. 

A rewards card will still benefit you when shopping at those stores and will also provide you with a wealth of other benefits.

Con 5: You May Spend More

Store cards are not designed to make your life easier and give you a few freebies. Regardless of what the store tells you, they’re not made to reward loyalty, they’re made to encourage spending. 

This doesn’t always work, and research suggests that many individuals use reward cards just like they would normal cards. But for a small minority, the idea of acquiring points is enough to convince them to spend more than they usually would.

Some good can be good debt, such as when it’s used to acquire an asset or something that won’t depreciate. But very rarely do we use credit cards for this purpose and generally, if you’re spending more on a store card it means you’re wasting more money on things you don’t need.

Con 6: You Can’t Use Them Anywhere Else

A store card can only be used in that particular store. This renders it redundant as an emergency card and also means you’re encouraged to shop in that one place. You don’t have a chance to shop around and find the cheapest price; you may spend more just to use your card and get the benefits, with those benefits rarely covering the additional money you spend.

What About Reward Cards?

Some reward cards have very high rates as these rates are used to offset the rewards program. However, this isn’t always the case, because, as discussed above, networks often charge retailers more to offset these purchases and therefore don’t always need to cover the costs themselves.

Some credit cards, such as the Discover It, offer solid reward schemes and would also be included on any list of the best non-reward credit cards. It’s a solid all-rounder and it’s not alone. However, many reward cards charge high annual fees and penalty rates, just like you’ll find with a store card.

It’s important to study the small print and make sure the card is viable. If you’re going to clear the balance every month, a slightly higher interest rate won’t hurt, especially if it comes with some generous rewards. But if there is any doubt and even the slightest chance that you won’t clear the balance, it’s always best to focus on a low-interest rate first.

Even the most generous 5% cash back reward card will not offset the losses occurred by paying a few more percentage points of interest.

Will Reward/Store Cards Affect my Credit Score?

Credit cards trigger hard inquiries, which can reduce your credit score by up to 5 points. This is true for every credit card that you apply for. Rate shopping can combine multiple inquiries into one if they are for the same type of credit, but this doesn’t apply to credit cards.

A new account will also impact your score. This impact is often minimal and if you keep up with your repayments then it will vanish in time. However, if you miss a payment, max-out your card or increase your credit utilization score, it could have a detrimental effect on your score and your finances.

Keep store cards to a minimum and only sign up if you’re 100% sure you’re getting a good deal that will benefit you in the short-term and the long-term.

Truth About Reward and Store Credit Cards is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

How Can Your Small Shop Get Off To a Roaring Start?

Are you just trying to get your own shop or retail business off the ground? Do you have physical items to sell but don’t have the capital to open a brick-and-mortar store? With the latest iPad point-of-sale (POS) systems, you can sell your products, manage your inventory, show your products to potential customers, and even analyze your progress. This allows you unparalleled flexibility to alter your business strategy for the best results in today’s rapidly changing retail landscape.

Whether your own shop or retail boutique is still a glimmer in your eye or you’ve investigated avenues to making it a reality, you may not realize just how easy it can be to get up and selling. Renting retail space may not make as much sense during a pandemic, but there are other ways to get your products in front of your prospective customers beyond the online arena.

One such way is to investigate opportunities for popup store locations in your area. Farmers markets are great for this, but you need a location that’s equally effective in warm or cold weather. All across the country, malls are looking to repurpose themselves as their anchor department stores go bust. Many mall owners, noting the consumer trend toward buying local, are looking to fill these spaces with small-scale merchants like you. Combining a popup location when it’s cool with an outdoor spot when it’s warm could give you an effective high-traffic spot without shelling out what it would cost to rent, say, space in a strip mall or downtown location.

Get up and running

When you think of opening up your own store, you probably picture a daunting checklist as long as your arm and myriad expenses that would make launching such a venture unacceptably risky. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Today’s POS providers offer packages that can get you up and running for less outlay than you might imagine.

Part of the problem with traditional POS systems was that they were so cumbersome to learn that you could spend a month digging into their complexities and still be unable to perform some basic functions. iPad POS systems are far more intuitive, which means you’ll be able to take advantage of everything the system can do within hours, not days, weeks, or months. At first, you’ll barely be scratching the surface of your system’s capabilities, but as you grow you’ll be well served to take advantage of key features such as inventory management and customer tracking.

Optimize your inventory

The true power of today’s mobile POS systems lies in their ability to track your sales and help you manage your inventory based on your results over time. What do you sell the most and when do you sell it? What’s collecting dust? You’ll be able to view all of this at a glance, and more importantly, you’ll be able to take appropriate actions to load up on what sells and rid yourself of what doesn’t. If you do have an online store, most systems allow you to integrate your inventory management so that someone shopping online isn’t surprised that an item they want is actually out of stock because it was sold to a walk-up customer or vice versa.

Customer tracking and rewards

These days, customers have become accustomed to sharing some data with their favorite shops. This is especially true when they're rewarded for doing so. Forging mutually beneficial customer relationships takes time and can cost you a bit in the short term. However, in the long term, they can pay huge dividends not only in frequent repeat business but also when it comes to spreading the word about your shop on social media and among friends and colleagues. It’s never too early to start identifying and rewarding your loyal customers.

Fortunately, most POS software makes this easy. Simply by providing the phone number or email where they would like their receipt sent, you can start building a profile of their likes and dislikes. You can also use this info to send them promotional messages, though you will need to make sure they opt in to this service.

Customer tracking is a win-win. They win because you can use their preferences to recommend products in which they will likely be interested; you win because you can keep presenting them with products that they’re eager to buy.

If you do start building an email or SMS list, that’s an excellent way to reach out to them with a killer deal when things are slow, or to let them know about an item that you're sure they’ll want to see. Take care, though—it’s very easy to overuse these capabilities, which can drive customers away and turn them into brand ambassadors of the worst kind, former customers who tell prospective customers to stay away. However, done with the right touch, direct marketing programs can bring in a solid core of business on which you can expand.

Contactless payment

With the pandemic raging, no one is eager to touch surfaces outside their home. That’s why it’s so critical to employ a contactless payment solution. iPad POS providers charge a bit more for these card readers, but being able to loudly tell potential customers that you have this capability will pay for the additional expense and then some.

Setting up your own shop is far from a walk in the park, but with a solid plan and a simple iPad POS solution, it need not be nearly as complicated as it has been in the past.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

9 Ways to Recover from Overspending During the Holidays

The post 9 Ways to Recover from Overspending During the Holidays appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

The packages have been opened. The kids are loving their new toys.  You are enjoying your coffee one morning and reading your mail when you see them…

THE BILLS! Yikes!

It seems you went a little over your budget. It was fun and the joy you brought to your kids’ faces was worth it.

However, now you need to find a way to recover from overspending during the holidays. It is not fun, but is necessary. Here are nine steps you can take to recover from any spending mistakes you made during the holiday shopping season.

1. Put the credit cards on ice – literally

The first thing you need to do is stop spending.  You need to put the credit cards away. Take them out of your wallet and put them in the safe.

Or, if you want to make sure you really do not use them – freeze them in a block of ice! That way, if you do feel the pull to shop, it will take time to thaw out and the urge to spend my pass by then.

2. Calculate the damage

You can’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to seeing the damage done to your budget. Face it head-on.

Total every receipt and credit card statement to find how much was spent. While it may be painful to see the balance due, it is necessary.

When you see that figure in writing, it helps you know what you are facing and where you may need to cut back.

3. Review the budget

 Once you know the amount you need to pay off you also need to review (or create) your monthly budget.   That means including those new monthly payments to the credit card companies.

Make sure your budget is balanced, in that you are not spending more than you take in each month.

4. Create a repayment plan

Up next, you have to create an exit strategy – which will be to pay off those credit card bills. Grab the statements for each and then list them by including the balance and the interest rate.

You may be tempted to pay the highest balance first (which is what I recommend when it comess to getting out of debt). However, when it comes to this debt you just incurred, I recommend starting with the highest interest rate first.

By eliminating that bill quickly, you are reducing the amount of interest you will pay to the credit card company. There is no need to pay them any more than you need to!

Once the first card is paid in full, roll the monthly payment amount into the payment for the next card. Repeat until they are all paid in full.

You’ll not only pay them off quickly but also minimize the total interest paid as well!

5. Reduce your spending

When you have bills to pay it means you need look at the budget to find areas where you can cut back.

It may mean cutting cable or eliminating dining out. You may need to cancel the subscription to the gym or find frugal date night options.

Be willing to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains as the sooner you can eliminate these bills, the better.

6. Use your bonuses

If you are fortunate enough to get a holiday bonus don’t blow it on what you want. Use that to pay off your holiday bills.

If you don’t get a bonus then use any of that Christmas cash you received for your bills! Look ahead to see if any other money will be coming your way such as birthday money or a tax refund. Earmark that to pay off your holiday spending.

7. Get a side-hustle

If you need to tackle your balances then a side-hustle may be the solution – even if temporary. Look around the house for items to sell. If you are a teacher, consider tutoring students.

Every penny earned can be money used to put towards that holiday spending.

8. Build your savings

You don’t want to find yourself in this same situation again next year. It is not a fun cycle of rinse and repeat.

The holidays come at the same time each year. It is not a surprise or an unplanned expense.  You need to plan for it.

Review the total spent this year and divide that by 12. Focus on saving that amount each month, all year long, and you’ll be able to pay CASH next year and not even use the credit cards.

9. Save using the coin challenge

One simple way to save money for holiday shopping is to switch to a cash budget. Then, save the change and any “leftover” money each pay period.

For example, if you budget $300 for groceries and spend only $270, don’t blow that left-over $30…put it back for the holidays!

The same premise works with change. If the total is $7.49, hand over $8 and put $0.51 into your savings jar.

Saving doesn’t have to be hard

Simple tricks can help you quickly build your savings!

It is easy to spend too much during the holidays but with some smart strategies, you can get your budget back on track.

The post 9 Ways to Recover from Overspending During the Holidays appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

Plymouth Rock Assurance Review

Founded in 1982, Plymouth Rock Assurance provides a selection of property insurance and bodily injury insurance products to customers across the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire.

In this Plymouth Rock Assurance review, we’ll compare this provider to other regional and national insurance carriers, helping you find the best insurance policy for your needs.

Plymouth Rock Car Insurance Coverage

Plymouth Rock Assurance offers a host of car insurance coverage options, allowing you to meet the minimum requirements in your state and go above and beyond those requirements when needed,

Bodily Injury Coverage: Limited to a fixed amount of money per person and per accident, bodily injury insurance covers the harm done to other people in an accident. It is designed to help them with their medical bills and other payments resulting from an accident.

Property Damage Coverage: Also fixed to a specific sum, property damage insurance is designed to cover the other driver’s vehicle in an accident, as well as other property that you damage.

Collision Coverage: A type of insurance that covers you for damages done to your own car. With collision insurance, you will be covered regardless of who caused the accident and you’ll also get cover if the accident involves an obstacle (tree, guardrail, wall, fence) as opposed to another vehicle. You will not, however, be covered if you hit a deer. One of the quirks of this coverage option is that you’re only covered for animal collisions if you swerve and hit a wall/tree.

Comprehensive Coverage: With comprehensive coverage, you’re generally covered for the things that collision insurance can’t reach. It covers deer collisions and other accidents involving animal strikes and it also covers damage caused by weather and vandalism.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP): This coverage option works like bodily injury coverage, only instead of protecting the other driver and their passengers, it protects you, covering you for lost wages and medical bills.

Medical Payments: A type of insurance specifically designed to cover your medical bills. Unlike PIP, medical payments coverage will not give you money lost as a result of missed work.

Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage: When the other driver’s insurance cannot cover your claims, either because they don’t have enough or they don’t have any, uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance will step in.

Plymouth Rock Assurance Auto Insurance Features

Plymouth Rock Assurance has three different levels of auto insurance: Plus, Preferred, and Premier.  There are different coverage options available at each of these levels and you can upgrade if you feel that those options will serve you well.

Some of the features offered at these different levels, along with the additional coverage offered to all policyholders, include:

  • Door to Door Valet Claim Service: Plymouth Rock auto insurance customers can arrange for their cars to be picked up from their homes and taken to a nearby repair shop. Once it has been fixed, it will be returned at a time that is convenient to the policyholder.
  • Guaranteed Repairs: If performed at a listed repair shop, all repairs will be guaranteed by Plymouth Rock.
  • Comprehensive Claim Forgiveness: Plymouth Rock promises that your insurance premiums will not increase just because you make a claim about a stolen or weather-damaged vehicle.
  • Get Home Safe: If, for whatever reason, you don’t feel safe to drive home, Plymouth Rock will cover your taxi ride. This can happen one time per year as part of most Plymouth Rock car insurance policies.
  • Glass Coverage: Plymouth Rock offers several coverage options and policy features related to windshield repair and glass repair. This includes a $100 glass deductible and a waived glass deductible repair.
  • New Car Replacement: If you have a new car that gets totaled within a specific timeframe, Plymouth Rock will replace it completely.
  • Crashbusters: Plymouth Rock will send a Crashbusters team to your location at your request. They will assess the damage done to your vehicle and can help you to file a claim.
  • Pet Injury: In the event that your pet gets injured during a car accident, some Plymouth Rock policyholders can claim a small portion of the vet fees. After all, your dog or cat needs cover too!
  • Roadside Assistance: With the Plymouth Rock roadside assistance program, you’ll be covered for some of the services charged on broken down vehicles at the roadside, including towing, tire changes, fuel delivery, and more. 
  • Key Replacement: Lost your key? With the right cover from Plymouth Rock, you can get a replacement set.

Plymouth Rock Car Insurance Discounts

Plymouth Rock discounts differ from state to state and from user to user. The biggest of these are multi-policy discounts, which are offered when you purchase multiple policies, and prepay discounts, which are offered when you pay your insurance premiums upfront. 

Other available discounts include:

  • Paperless Filing: Go paperless and do your bit for the environment while helping to reduce waste and saving a few cents in the process.
  • Membership Organization Discounts: Make big savings when you are a member of specific organizations.
  • Senior Discount: Drivers above a certain age can apply.
  • Good Student Discount: Offered to young drivers who obtain at least a B average.
  • Safety Features and Anti-Theft Devices: If your car contains key features like trackers, alarms, airbags, seatbelts, and anti-lock brakes, these discounts will be available to you.
  • Driver Training: Complete driver training courses to prove your skills, show your commitment, and make some savings.
  • Low Mileage: Drive less and you could pay less.

Other Plymouth Rock Insurance Products

In addition to car insurance, the Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation offers a wealth of insurance products. These are also confined to a very small part of the United States and include:

Home Insurance

Plymouth Rock offers comprehensive insurance quotes for all homeowners. These policies will cover you for the breakdown of key appliances, loss of personal items, identity theft protection, and even protection against hacks and cybercrime.

You can apply for Plymouth Rock home insurance directly if you live in New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.

Renters Insurance

Renters insurance will cover you for personal losses in the home, as well as providing liability protection for anyone who gets injured in your home. Plymouth Rock renters insurance is available in the same states as Plymouth Rock home insurance.

Life Insurance

Plymouth Rock life insurance policies are only available in the state of New Jersey. Both term life insurance and variable life insurance policies are available, of which term life is arguably the better choice.

Policyholders can opt for a term of between 10 and 30 years, with the insurance premiums and payouts dependent on your age, health, medical history, and other key factors.

Umbrella Insurance

An umbrella insurance policy essentially increases your liability limits, going the extra mile to protect you. It is a supplemental insurance policy, designed to be added onto car insurance or homeowners insurance and to protect you and your family in the event that a claim is made against you.

Plymouth Rock Customer Satisfaction and Claims Satisfaction

Plymouth Rock has good ratings from customers and experts. It has an A- rating from AM Best, which isn’t the highest possible rating but is a great effort from a relatively small company (when compared to giants like GEICO and State Farm).

The insurance claims process is quick and easy, and while there are a number of bad reviews and complaints out there, Plymouth Rock seems committed to remedying these as quickly and completely as possible.

Furthermore, if you have a bad experience with Plymouth Rock, make your discontent clear and they will make a donation to a charity of your choice. This proves that Plymouth Rock is committed to keeping customers happy and willing to do whatever it takes.

Bottom Line: Car Insurance in New England

Plymouth Rock is a very highly-rated insurance company offering a selection of products directly and through insurance agents. It has accident forgiveness and claims forgiveness; offers a multitude of ways to pay your premiums, and the support team is available around the clock. 

If you reside in one of the states where Plymouth Rock operates, visit PlymouthRock.com, get a quote, and start comparing. If not, don’t worry, as there are many other great insurance company reviews to check out, including The General, Progressive, and Esurance.

Plymouth Rock Assurance Review is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Did You Know that Amazon Has a Secret Luxury Site?

Amazon’s best-kept secret is out. VRSNL, (short for “versional”), has been quietly selling luxury fashion items since September 2019. A total of 30 designers are currently on the VRSNL roster, including Alexander McQueen, Balmain, Prada and Jimmy Choo. What distinguishes VRSNL is a section called “The Remix,” which features original editorial content that tells stories behind the brands and designers. The retailer also has an app, which allows today’s trendsetters to shop wherever, whenever.

The post Did You Know that Amazon Has a Secret Luxury Site? first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com

How to Decide If Pet Insurance Is Worth the Cost

Woman deciding if pet insurance is worth the cost

Last fall, our greyhound Tivo refused his breakfast on a Friday morning. He didn’t eat or drink water all day, and we were worried. That night, we took him to the 24-hour emergency veterinarian and Tivo was diagnosed with a bacterial stomach bug and dehydration. We went home with antibiotics, a saline IV, and a $200 vet bill.

Thankfully, we could afford this bill for unexpected emergency care for Tivo. But if he were diagnosed with a chronic condition or needed a very costly intervention, we might find ourselves facing some heartbreaking financial decisions.

Pet insurance is often touted as a solution to these worries. With pet insurance covering some costs of veterinary care, you’re never forced to choose between your beloved pet and your finances. However, does this kind of coverage make sense for most pet-owners?

Here’s what you need to know about pet insurance so you can keep your fur babies bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for years to come.

Premium costs

As with human health insurance, pet insurance charges you a monthly premium for your pet’s coverage. According to Value Penguin, the average monthly cost for canine pet insurance is $47.20, and the average for feline insurance is $29.54 for accident and illness coverage.

Of course, this doesn’t tell the whole story of what to expect from premium costs. Many pet insurers increase premiums with the age of your pet. Which means the $47 per month you pay to keep your 4-year-old pup healthy could rise with his/her age, making the premiums harder to keep up with just as they’re more likely to need age-related medical intervention. In addition, different breeds can have different premium prices, since there are some hereditary conditions that various breeds may be more prone to.

However, even with these potential issues, there are some methods to keep premiums manageable. For instance, some tried and true insurance reduction strategies work just as well for your pet’s health insurance as they do for your own. These include increasing your deductible, reducing the percentage that the insurance reimburses, or limiting the annual payout rather than choosing unlimited coverage.

These strategies can keep your premiums affordable while still helping with big veterinary bills. But you need to be prepared to pay anything above and beyond the coverage limits you set up. (See also: 8 Ways to Lower Your Vet Bills) 

Coverage

It’s also important to note that pet insurance does not necessarily cover every kind of health cost for your pets. To start, unlike (some) human health insurance, most pet insurance will not cover preventive care and annual exams. So you will need to plan for these costs on top of your premiums.

Pet insurance policies generally come in two varieties: accident and illness policies, and accident-only policies. In general, accident-only policies do not raise their premiums as your pet ages, making this kind of insurance more affordable long-term. However, accident-only policies tend to be cheaper because your pet is less likely to get injured than fall ill. If you decide to invest in pet insurance, getting both accident and illness protection will likely offer you more protection.

That said, each insurer gets to decide which illnesses, conditions, and services it covers, and not all ailments are covered. Many insurers also do not cover the diagnostic exam for a particular illness, even if the treatments are covered. Make sure you pay attention to the details of what your potential insurer will cover before signing up for coverage.

As with many types of human health insurance, most pet insurance policies exclude preexisting conditions. Unfortunately, some insurers consider health problems to be "preexisting" if they crop up within a year of the purchase of your policy. Insuring your pet when they’re young is the best way to avert the preexisting condition coverage gap.

Finally, pet insurance coverage is usually handled via reimbursement. That means you’ll be on the hook to pay the vet bill at the time of service, and you’ll submit your receipts to your insurer to receive reimbursement. (See also: 7 Things You Need to Know About Pet Insurance)

Should you buy pet insurance?

With all the caveats, coverage gaps, and reimbursement requirements, pet insurance is not necessarily a slam dunk for everyone. In fact, many consumer advocates recommend that pet owners put aside an amount equal to the annual premium into a savings account each year. This will give you the same peace of mind that you can cover any potential health care needs for your pet while also allowing you to keep the money if you never need to use it.

However, if you struggle with financial discipline, this strategy will leave you in a difficult situation if your furry friend needs an expensive procedure. Pet insurance can provide you with the protection your pet needs even if you struggle with money. 

Show your love with an emergency fund

Whether or not you decide to purchase pet insurance, remember that you’ll have to pay upfront for any veterinary procedures. With insurance, you will get reimbursed for covered care, but you will still need to have access to funds to pay for Mittens’ kidney stone removal or Rex’s arthritis care at the time of care.

This means that one of the best ways you can protect your furry friends and avoid heartbreaking financial choices is to have an emergency fund. With or without pet insurance, set some money aside for the unexpected so you can enjoy your four-legged family members for years to come. (See also: 7 Easy Ways to Build an Emergency Fund From $0)

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With pet insurance covering some costs of veterinary care, you're never forced to choose between your beloved pet and your finances. Here's what you need to know about pet insurance. | #pets #petcare #insurance


Source: feeds.killeraces.com

Planning a Home Office? Check Out These Budget-Friendly Tips

Working from home has its perks. There’s the money saved from skipping the commute, and just think about all of that time you get back by avoiding crowded freeways or public transit during rush hour. As far as workplace attire goes, few employees would trade “work-from-home casual” for dress slacks.

But while working from home affords some new freedoms, it also creates new challenges. One of your biggest tasks is to create a productive, ergonomically correct workplace in your home without breaking the bank. If this sounds familiar, you’re probably asking yourself, “How can I set up a home office on a budget?”

Whether you’ve always worked from home as a freelancer or started during the pandemic, these expert tips will help you get started as you design your home office on a budget:

From finding the right location to choosing the ideal furniture, these tips will help you create your home office on a budget.

Strive for an ergonomically correct home office

Being home all day creates an unexpected obstacle: pain. Many workers find that transitioning from a well-equipped office to a makeshift setup at home leads to discomfort. That’s because many of them go from having a spacious desk, comfortable chair, and monitor and keyboard in their office building to working from a laptop in their living room.

If you suffer from neck pain or eye strain when working from home, you may be feeling the effects of poor ergonomics. Ergonomics, commonly known as the science of work, aims to optimize productivity and health in a workspace.

As a physical therapist with more than 25 years of experience, Karen Loesing, owner of The Ergonomic Expert, knows this issue all too well. Loesing’s company performs ergonomic assessments for businesses and home offices. Over the years, she has seen countless clients suffering from neck, back or other health issues due to poorly designed workspaces. But it doesn’t have to be that way, Loesing says.

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“Having an ergonomically correct workstation enhances productivity and generally overall happiness at work.”

– Karen Loesing, owner of The Ergonomic Expert

There are relatively easy ways to transform an ergonomic nightmare into a well-functioning home office on a budget—even if you’re stationed at the kitchen table, she says. And the investment is worth it.

“Having an ergonomically correct workstation enhances productivity and generally overall happiness at work,” Loesing says. “For those who are able to designate a certain space in their home where they can work without distractions—maybe even a window with a view and the flexibility to work at your own pace—it has been proven this makes for a happier employee.”

Who doesn’t want to boost their health, productivity and happiness in one fell swoop?

Find the optimal location for your at-home workspace

When setting up a home office for remote work, location should be your first decision, says design consultant Linda Varone, author of “The Smarter Home Office.” Depending on your living situation, there may be an obvious answer, such as that spare room you’ve always thought could become an office space.

If you don’t have a dedicated office, don’t despair. While you design your home office on a budget, think creatively about where it can be.

Varone once visited a client’s home to help reconfigure her workspace. The client was running a business from a table in the hallway. “At the end of each workday, she had to pack everything up and store it in the closet in the guest room,” Varone says.

But as Varone learned, guests only stayed over two weeks a year, leaving the room empty the rest of the time. It hadn’t occurred to the business owner, but turning the guest room into a home office for most of the year was the perfect solution.

If you’re setting up a home office for remote work, picking the optimal location for your workspace should be your first step.

“There are some simple, simple ways that people can rethink their home office without a big investment and make that space really work for them,” Varone says.

In addition to using a guest room, a dining or living room can also function as a home office on a budget.

Establish the ideal setup for your workstation

Once you’ve decided on the room, determine the location for your workstation, Varone says. As you plan your home office, consider placing your desk or table near a window, allowing for natural light and an occasional glimpse of nature. Don’t face directly outside; instead, aim for a line of sight that’s perpendicular to the window, Varone says. That’s because, even on an overcast day, you’d be looking into too much bright light if you’re facing the window.

“What’s happening is your eyes are adjusting back and forth between the bright sunlight that you’re facing and the darker light of your computer screen,” Varone says. “And that ends up being really fatiguing for the eye.”

If you live with others, the biggest challenge will be privacy. Try to clearly define the boundaries of your “office” if you can, such as with an area rug, she says. Then ask your roommates or family members not to enter your space while you’re working, apart from an emergency.

When you're planning a home office, try to clearly define the boundaries of your workspace if you live with others.

If you use a multipurpose space, be sure to tidy everything up at the end of the day, Varone says. Taking the 10 minutes or so to clean up your “office” will reduce clutter. Ultimately, a clutter-free space can reduce your stress and boost your productivity.

“That also has a benefit of becoming a little ritual and helping you say, ‘All right, my workday is over,’” Varone says. “‘Now I can focus on my personal life.’”

Choose your furniture wisely

Now that you’ve found the perfect location for your home office on a budget, focus on finding the perfect work surface. Maybe it’s a traditional desk. Or it could be your dining room table or kitchen counter.

If you do need to buy a desk or chair, don’t feel like you need to spend a fortune. Try looking for a used office furniture store or liquidator in your area, Varone recommends. You could even try searching online marketplaces for a gently used model.

When planning a home office and considering your work surface, what matters most is the height.

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The average desk is 29 inches high, Loesing says. This will likely accommodate someone who’s 5’8”, she acknowledges, but for everyone else? It will take some adjusting to make it fit for them.

That’s where your chair comes in. Most people don’t need a high-end office swivel chair to work comfortably. As long as you can adjust the height of your chair to fit you and your desk, you’ll have a comfortable setup.

It’s important to adjust the height of your chair to achieve a neutral position, Loesing says. If you don’t have the instructions from the manufacturer on how to adjust your model, try searching for videos online, she adds.

One more chair takeaway from Loesing?

“If you can’t spend a dime, at least get as comfortable as you can where you’re sitting, and sit all the way back in your chair,” Loesing says. “When you don’t sit so your back is against the backrest, you’re using your back muscles all day long instead of them being at rest.”

When you design your home office on a budget, make sure your chair and work surface allow you to get into a comfortable sitting position.

Adjust your furniture and equipment

As you continue planning a home office, you’ll likely find that your computer is your most important piece of equipment. But it can also lead to neck strain. Whether it’s a laptop or an external monitor, Loesing says screen placement is key. In fact, she says it’s the single most important feature to address—as well as the most commonly disregarded one.

While you plan your home office, Loesing recommends keeping the following ergonomic guidelines in mind to help avoid neck strain:

  • Align your monitor so your eyes are level with the screen. (That’s typically about 4” from the top of the monitor.)
  • Place your feet flat on the floor and your knees at about a 90-degree angle with the ground.
  • Place your arms at about a 90-degree angle from the writing surface so your shoulders are relaxed.

If you only have a laptop, and no monitor, you still have options for raising your screen to eye-level. “There are budget-friendly laptop risers on the market,” Loesing says. “If you don’t want to spend any money, you can place books or reams of paper to bring the screen up to eye level.”

When setting up a home office for remote work and thinking about your arm placement, note that Varone is a strong advocate for an external keyboard. If you’re working at a desk that has a keyboard tray built into it, that’s a great way to keep your arms at about a 90-degree angle, she says. If you don’t have a built-in tray, she says you can improvise by placing your keyboard on an inexpensive laptop table situated directly under your desk.

While the exact adjustments will vary depending on your equipment, height and budget, the focus is on acquiring a neutral position or a position where there’s no strain on anything, Loesing says.

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“With the addition of standing desks, which encourage movement, employees often find they have significantly more energy at the end of the day.”

– Karen Loesing, owner of The Ergonomic Expert

Stand if it suits you

If you’re intrigued by the idea of a standing desk, you’re not alone. Standing desk sales have soared over the last decade, buoyed by reports of the dangers of too much sitting.

“Static postures (e.g., sitting all day in front of a computer) present more fatigue than dynamic working,” Loesing says. “With the addition of standing desks, which encourage movement, employees often find they have significantly more energy at the end of the day.”

You don’t have to buy an official standing desk to reap the benefits when planning a home office. “The least expensive way would be to take a laptop and place it up high on a built-in high counter using a compact wireless keyboard and mouse,” Loesing says.

Even if you don’t have a standing desk—makeshift or otherwise—you can still incorporate movement and circulation into your workday. Set a timer to remind you to stand up and stretch every 20 minutes, Loesing suggests.

For an even better boost, combine this with a popular guideline known as the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, give your eyes a break by looking out a window at something at least 20 feet away, and do so for at least 20 seconds.

Don’t forget the ambience and accessories

Your desk, chair and computer are the major players when you’re setting up a home office for remote work. But there are a few additional items to consider, like lighting, plants and sound.

Setting up a home office for remote work should include some thinking around ambiance, like lighting, plants and sound.

Your overhead light fixture likely isn’t enough, as it will create shadows and can be too weak by the time it reaches your workspace, Varone says. She recommends investing in a table lamp that creates a wider spread of light in your area. Pick one with a translucent shade that will softly diffuse the light and make it easier on your eyes.

As you’re planning your home office, Varone also recommends incorporating a potted plant or flower into your workspace. Not only can it help purify the air and boost your mood, a natural element can contribute to a restful atmosphere.

Working from home means working with home noises—especially if you’re in an environment with roommates, a partner or little ones. To keep the noise down, consider noise-canceling headphones for a quieter workspace and clearer meetings. Other budget-friendly options? Try placing a towel under the door to block out noise from other rooms, Loesing says. Consider curtains instead of blinds, since they’re better at blocking out sound. Even pillows or large cushions can help reduce noise, she adds.

After you’ve taken care of the essentials and if you have the space and money, think about adding a reading chair to your home office. You can use this as a space to review documents or do some deep thinking, Varone says. It can be a welcome respite from your desk while keeping you in the office area, she adds.

When planning a home office, think about adding a reading chair to your space.

One last tip? Add a personal touch, whether it’s a framed family photo or a souvenir from your travels. It’s your home office, after all. Let your personality shine.

Set up a home office for remote work that allows you to thrive

Now that you know how to create a home office on a budget, you’re ready to make a space that works well for you. Whether you’re an experienced remote worker or a newbie, you can apply these expert tips to set up an office that’s functional and keeps you motivated day in and day out.

Ready to break in your new home office? Keep that motivation going by learning how to increase your earning potential this year.

The post Planning a Home Office? Check Out These Budget-Friendly Tips appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com