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Sophia Belnap - Blog

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4 Tips for Calculating Your Business Expenses

Calculating your expenses is an essential aspect of starting and maintaining a business. You need to make sure you have money to spend on the things you need without breaking the bank. Here are four tips for calculating your business expenses.

  1. Start With Your Expense Road Map

Before doing anything else, determine what expenses you definitely need, are likely to need and would like to have but aren't necessary. If you don't do this, then your budget is unlikely to have the structure that will make it effective. Make sure you factor in all your expected expenses, including advertising costs, taxation, research and development and operations costs such as insurance quotes. You should also factor in your projected revenues based on how much of each product you intend to offer, each product's price point and how many of each you expect to sell. A solid estimation of what you can expect from revenues will help you determine whether you can spend on the nice-to-haves along with the necessities.

  1. Utilize Budgeting Software

Budgeting software is a hugely beneficial tool for your business accounting. Whether you use a free tool such as Google spreadsheets, a custom accounting program or one of the many other software options available, digital budgeting has several distinct advantages over pen-and-paper calculations. You can adjust calculations by quickly and easily changing the numbers populating a cell, create charts, graphs and data analytics with a few keystrokes and save more of your work more securely.

  1. Separate Cost Categories Carefully

There are three categories for costs in a basic business budget: fixed costs, semi-fixed costs and variable costs. You should keep these three categories separated so your budget is better organized and you can make adjustments to the semi-fixed and variable costs without affecting the fixed costs. Fixed costs such as utilities, insurance bills and rent are, for the most part, rigid and unchanging so you need to make sure you have the revenue each month to cover them. Semi-fixed costs, such as advertising, are more flexible so you can adjust those over time if you need to. Variable costs rely on the availability of materials or labor, as well as on the demand for your products.

  1. Develop Contingency Plans

A contingency plan is an essential aspect of a high-quality business budget. Revenues may vary quite a bit over time, particularly in riskier industries, compared to the relatively more stable expenses side of your budget. A good rule of thumb to follow is that it tends to be safer to under-promise on your budget and then over-deliver. Your contingency plan will depend on the type of business you're running and the industry your business is in. If you're expecting volatility in your industry, run predictive analytics based on your current budget so you can determine how much revenue you can afford to lose in the next year. Then, you can determine what your best options are for expense reduction, such as whether you can decrease variable or semi-fixed costs by five or ten percent or higher. It's unlikely you'll be able to cut any expenses entirely, so your contingency goal should be to make reductions in your expenses where you can.

By determining your needs and expenses, carefully constructing and following a budget and allowing flexibility and contingency plans in case of unforeseen circumstances, you'll be better equipped to adequately calculate your business expenses.

Publish Date: September 18, 2021 8:41 AM

Start Building Your Dream Kitchen With These 6 Easy Steps

Many families utilize their kitchens as the hub of the home, doing everything from cooking and eating meals to finishing homework and hosting family game night in their favorite room. If you're ready to update your kitchen to better suit your tastes and lifestyle needs, here's how you can start building your dream kitchen in six easy steps.

  1. Finalize Your Budget

Your budget is going to determine everything about your dream kitchen build. You should figure out how much you're willing to spend, and if there's wiggle room for issues or unexpected problems that pop up along the way. If you start to get overwhelmed, go back to your budget. You may find that you stress about things that aren't in your budget, or you may be trying to pinch pennies over things you can afford to indulge in. 

  1. Pick Your Priorities

For many people, buying the dream kitchen is at least a little out of their budget. In this case, you'll need to determine your priorities, or the items that you'll splurge on, and which items you'll settle for. You might want to buy true manufacturing products for your appliance needs, and as a result spend a little less on cabinets, tiles, or counter tops. A good idea of where to start is picking statement or focal pieces to style the rest of the room around. Finalizing these aspects can help the rest of the process flow smoothly.

  1. Make a Plan

Once you have your budget, it's time to plan your build or renovation. The time of year, the places you shop, and the experts you hire can all have a big impact on the success of your project, so your plan can help you stay on track. 

  1. Pick a Contractor

Unless you plan on completing this project by yourself, you'll need to hire a contractor. This can be a little intimidating, especially if you've never hired anyone before, but a little research can go a long way. Ask family and friends for reliable companies, and check reviews online. Look at portfolios, get quotes, and ask about equipment and insurance. Don't be afriad to shop around.

  1. Start Shopping

When you start shopping for materials, think of both style and function. Some materials are absolutely beautiful, but also expensive and a nightmare to clean. If you can, shop in person so you can check out colors and textures beyond what you see on a screen. If you hire a contractor, they can likely point you in the direction of great companies or advise the right season to buy in. They may even be able to get you some discounts.

  1. Prepare Your Space

To begin your project smoothly, prepare the space well in advance. Plan out the meals you'll eat while your kitchen is being worked on, make sure you cover or move fragile furniture or decor, and make sure there's a clear path through your home for tools, equipment, and materials. It's also a good idea to come up with a cleaning process. If you clean up as you go, you'll be less overwhelmed when you're wrapping up. 

Building your dream kitchen doesn't have to be stressful or time consuming. With a little planning and research, you can design and build a beautiful kitchen that serves your family for years to come.

Publish Date: September 18, 2021 8:39 AM

How to Earn More Tips as a Server or Hostess

Kitchen, Work, Restaurant, Cook, Chef, Professional

If you work in the front of a restaurant as a server or hostess, chances are that most of the money you make comes from tips. Restaurant owners are allowed to pay you a much lower hourly rate on the rationale that you can make up the difference in tips. The problem is that tips are always optional, which is why they are also known as gratuities. It is up to the patron to decide whether they want to tip and, if so, how much. The better the service you provide, the more you are likely to make in tips. Here are some ways to improve at your job and earn more in the process.

Provide Prompt Service

If there is a delay in the service, make sure that it is never on your account. Know how to use the restaurant equipment included in your job duties and leave it alone if you are not trained on it. Move as quickly as you can while still being careful not to spill the food. Sometimes a delay occurs due to something that is beyond your control. When this happens, explain the situation to the patrons, apologize for it, and offer them additional options if you can. This situation can be frustrating, and some customers may take it out on you, which is unfair. Try not to let it bother you, and do the best you can for your customers even when they are giving you their worst.

Be Positive When Asking People to Do Things They Don't Want to Do

If you work long enough in the restaurant business, you will occasionally encounter people who keep sitting at their tables even after the meal is finished and the bill is paid. These people are referred to as "campers," and you will occasionally have to move them along so you can seat more guests. Try to do so in a positive way, e.g., compliment them by telling them how much you've enjoyed serving them. Not only might this help you get a bigger tip, but they may be so flattered that they'll keep coming back.

Be Accessible, Not Pushy

Since you have probably also eaten at a restaurant, you know that there are few things more frustrating than being unable to locate or get the attention of a hostess or server when you need assistance. Perhaps the only thing that is more annoying is a server who hovers like a helicopter and won't leave you alone. Try to strike a balance between the two extremes. Be accessible to your customers when they want you but not insinuate your presence when you don't.

Use Customers' Names Judiciously

People like to be acknowledged by name, so if you find a good reason to do so, it may result in you getting a bigger tip. If you call a customer by name after he or she hands you a credit card, they may be flattered that you cared enough to pay attention. However, calling someone by name can quickly turn from complimentary to creepy. If they are regular customers whom you talk to on a daily basis, that is one thing, but it is something else entirely if it is someone you barely know and don't have a good reason to know his or her name.

Compliment Food Choices

You might not think that it matters what your customers order, but if you can compliment their choice of entrees, it helps you to make a connection with them without getting too personal. People like to be complimented on their taste and to have the choices they make affirmed. This is especially true if the affirmation comes from someone with some authority in the matter. Your customers may see you as such because you are presumably familiar with all the menu offerings.


It can be difficult to avoid sounding like a robot that's been programmed to say certain things. On the other hand, it can come across as insincere or overly familiar if you sound too enthusiastic. Striking the right balance can be a challenge, but it can pay off significantly if you succeed.

Publish Date: September 18, 2021 7:15 AM

Effective Tips for Reducing Manufacturing Costs

As a business owner, you may search for methods to reduce manufacturing costs in your facility when profits are slim and hard times. However, you probably want to ensure you aren't compromising product quality when making these cost reductions.

It doesn't matter if your company manufactures foodstuffs or electric transformers; the tips below can help you cut costs while ensuring continued growth.  

Conduct a Facility Audit

When trying to reduce manufacturing costs, you must know what these costs are. Take time to carry out an audit on all key operating costs and then continue tracking them for a specific period of time. Determine what you can eliminate by managing debt and reducing administrative costs. You should also look at what you pay for your overhead, such as office supplies, insurance coverage, utilities, rent, and building maintenance.

Reduce Direct Material Costs

You can often reduce total costs by finding more competitive suppliers for your materials. If you cannot find a cheaper supplier, it may be possible to negotiate a longer contract, which will provide a lower unit price. In some situations, you can get bulk discounts if you increase your supplier's annual revenues and turnover. Other suppliers provide savings if you pay in cash.

Evaluate Your Production Processes

Take time to consider how your products are made and eliminate processes that are redundant or time-consuming. It's best to break down every step of your production cycle and track the length of each step. When necessary, consult with staff members who use some equipment or perform certain tasks. Making sure that you keep your machinery in good working order will help to minimize downtime, too. To ensure this is possible, be sure to utilize pre-emptive or predictive maintenance programs. Regular maintenance is beneficial during slow periods to help maximize your use of time and improve overall efficiency levels.

Consider Product Restructuring

It may be beneficial for your company to use more affordable or fewer base materials for the product you manufacture. However, this is only a step you should take if you can do so without impacting product quality. You can further streamline your product by eliminating features that don't contribute to the item's market appeal.

Eliminate Surplus

Subsidiary materials, such as packaging and documentation, can be reduced, too. Using too much packaging is wasteful. It is also bad for the environment and adds to the weight of the product. As a result, shipping costs are increased, often significantly. Consider converting all your documentation processes to paperless, too, which will help reduce the use of paper, printers, ink, and paper.

Reduce Shipping Costs

Consider the amount of fuel and time required to bring in raw materials and deliver a finished product. It may be possible to adjust delivery routes to help optimize travel time, reduce total distances, and increase daily shipments. If you decide to sub-contract shipping, consider finding a transport company that can handle the unloading and loading process for you. You should also see if it is possible to negotiate a longer-term contract with a company that offers more competitive pricing and chooses a non-brand or local company when possible.

Optimize Your Workforce Efficiency

It's a good idea to get hands-on with your workforce. Try to motivate your team and share goals and successes, which will increase how much they are invested in the business. Employee efficiency can also be enhanced by training your team on working at a much faster rate.

When it comes to reducing manufacturing costs, there are more than a few steps you can take. The tips and information here will help you achieve the goals you have for your business and minimize your costs while helping to maximize profits. This will pay off in the long run and ensure that you make the most money possible. Being informed is the best way to begin cutting costs in your manufacturing company, which will be beneficial when it comes to growth and ongoing success.

Publish Date: September 17, 2021 8:29 PM

Planning a Family Trip? Everything You Need for a Smooth Vacation

Family vacations are excellent ways to bond with one another and make memories that will last a lifetime. Planning a family vacation looks a lot different than a romantic getaway or a work trip. When there are several ages, interests and developmental stages to consider, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the details. 

For a smooth, successful trip that the whole family can enjoy, it’s possible to mind the specifics without getting in over your head. This guide will help you to make clear, sound decisions and plan a great vacation that every member of your family is sure to remember. 

Determine Your Budget

Whether you’ve always wanted to invest in Costco Universal Studios discount passes or you want to set off for the wilderness, determine how much of your savings you have to dedicate to your vacation. Keep in mind that even a modest budget can buy a wonderful experience, and it isn’t always necessary to shell out the big bucks for an unforgettable family vacation. 

Look at Your Lifestyle

If your family is the self-proclaimed “indoorsy” type, they may not necessarily enjoy a trip spent backpacking in the backwoods. Still, stretching the limits of your hobbies can be a good thing if everyone needs a significant change of scenery and a trip that is outside of your family’s comfort zone. 

Plan your destination, and your activities, around the way your family generally spends their time. If your baby naps every two hours, while your pre-teen is thirsty for adventure, find a good balance of activities to suit everyone’s vacation dreams while staying realistic to what you can actually manage with each member of your family while on the road. 

Request Time Off

With school schedules, soccer games, work deadlines and carpool duties, there is a lot to consider when looking for the right window for a vacation on your family’s calendar. Check everyone’s schedule, and then double check to make sure no events, school pageants or important games conflict with your dates. It may be easiest to book a vacation during peak times, such as spring break or holidays, even if you know the destination may be a bit busier. 

Book Wisely

Airlines often charge passengers extra to select their seats ahead of time, and this is ever important when flying with children. As well, it may seem like a wise choice to book a hotel slightly outside of your chosen destination, but if a child needs a sudden change in clothes, or you have a cranky toddler who needs a break, the trek back to your accommodations could eat up valuable vacation time. Try to look for family-friendly hotels, avoid flights during naptime and book kid-friendly tours and excursions to save yourself any potential headaches down the road. 

Plan Your Itinerary

To combat boredom, make sure you’re ready to take the reins when you hit the ground at your destination with predetermined activities and options. Hold a family meeting to talk about what’s available to you and gauge interest for each activity. When planning your itinerary, make sure to leave some room for breaks. These cushions in your schedule will prove invaluable in the event of any hiccups where your schedules don’t go according to plan. 

Stay Flexible

When traveling with your family, snags are bound to happen. Vacations are enriching and relaxing, but no one is immune from the potential stress of travel and homesickness. From sibling fights, wrong turns and messy spills at the dinner table, obstacles big and small may arise. Try to adopt a mindset of flexibility. The more prepared you are for eventual hiccups, the better and more smoothly you’ll be able to handle them and breeze past the solution to enjoy the rest of your trip. The rest of your family may also follow your lead, and each of you will have a better chance at a great trip–no matter what the experience throws your way. 

Publish Date: September 17, 2021 7:38 PM

5 Ways To Take Care of Your Body

In today's day and age, it can be difficult to put your needs first when you're so focused on your other responsibilities. However, taking care of your body is essential for boosting your physical and mental health. Here are five tips for how to put your health first. 

  1. Get Enough Sleep

Although the amount of sleep your body needs depends on a number of factors, doctors typically recommend that you get seven to eight hours of rest a night. Not only can sleep improve your memory and boost your immune system, but it can also enhance your mood, stabilize your blood sugar and even allow you to control your weight. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can negatively affect concentration, judgement and mood. If you're having trouble sleeping at night, be sure to:

  • Turn off any electronics at least one hour before you to go bed
  • Avoid caffeine late at night
  • Stick to a consistent bedtime
  • Avoid vigorous exercise a few hours before bed
  1. Invest in Health Insurance

Even if you think that you're generally healthy and know how to take care of yourself, investing in health insurance is still a smart decision. Because you don't plan on getting sick or hurt, health insurance can help you prepare for the unexpected. Paying for an emergency room visit, which can include multiple tests and procedures, will usually end up costing more than purchasing insurance. Be sure to research online health insurance quotes to find the best plan for your needs.

  1. Eat a Healthy Diet

You've probably heard it many times before, but eating a nutritious diet full of fruits, vegetables, protein and fiber is one of the best ways to nourish your body. It's important to keep in mind that nutrition isn't about weight; it's about health. Fueling your body with high-quality foods can give you the confidence that it can function at optimum capacity.

If you don't think that you're getting enough vitamins and minerals from your diet, adding supplements to your daily regimen can be a great way to give you that extra boost. Supplements such as fish oil, probiotics, vitamin D and antioxidants are effective for supporting overall well-being.

  1. Exercise

A little bit of exercise can go a long way in improving your health. From reducing the risk of chronic disease to boosting feelings of well-being, exercise comes with a multitude of benefits. The good news about exercise is that you don't need expensive equipment to get the job done. Simply taking a brisk walk outside can invigorate you and motivate you for the rest of your day. You can also try exercising with a friend or family member to make the experience more enjoyable and also have someone hold you accountable for sticking to a daily routine.

  1. Stay Hydrated

It can be difficult to remember to stay hydrated during your busy day. However, even mild dehydration can negatively affect your mood and energy levels. Although the amount of water your body needs depends on factors such as your height and weight, it's generally recommended that you drink 64 ounces daily. If you're having trouble reaching this amount, try supplementing with:

  • Smoothies
  • Chamomile tea
  • Coconut water
  • Sparkling water

Taking care of your body doesn't have to be difficult if you start with small steps. Following these five tips can help you put your health first.

Publish Date: September 17, 2021 7:34 AM

How To Become Financially Literate

Did you know that less than 30% of Americans are considered to be financially healthy? Often, this is because people don't have the knowledge necessary to understand their finances and the impact of their daily financial decisions. Financial literacy is important if you want to pay bills on time, purchase a home or car, ensure you have savings, and retire without worry about your future. Luckily, it is never too late to learn more about your finances and how to handle them responsibly.

Create a Full List of Your Expenses

The first step to being more knowledgeable about your finances is to understand exactly which bills you have to pay. Naturally, you'll think about your rent or mortgage payment, your utility bills, and your car payments, but have you considered other expenses? Fuel for the car, groceries, property taxes, annual appliance maintenance, HOA fees, and a range of other often forgotten expenses can pop up and cause spending issues in the future.

Think about insurance as well. You probably already have home and auto insurance, but what about life and health insurance? Now is a good time to determine what you need, look up online health insurance quotes, and start adding these policies to your budget. Remember to include entertainment money, savings budgets, and even those daily coffees you tend to buy as well.

Read the Right Material

Now that you have a full list of your expenses, it's important to understand the best way to pay for them while still being able to grow your wealth. There are hundreds of books, magazines, and online periodicals that teach financial literacy. By spending a minimum of a couple of hours a week reading about financial literacy, you can learn more about investments, credit scores, current financial news, tips for saving money, and much more that can help you on your way to a bigger bank account. 

Invest in Financial Management Software

Unless you're an accountant and numbers are your job, it's a good idea to invest in a financial management tool to help you keep on top of things. When you try to do it on your own by creating your own spreadsheets, there is a higher risk of human error. A variety of software is on the market that can help you organize the money you have now, remind you when bills are do, set goals for the future, and more. Depending on your needs, you can also find tools that help you track your 401(k) and IRA, see where you're spending money unnecessarily, and recommend good investment moves to you. 

Learn How To Protect Your Identity

Understanding how to manage your finances is only part of being financially literate. You also need to know how to protect your identity and your money. Identity theft is one of the biggest reasons people end up in financial distress. Learn how to safeguard your social security number, credit card number, and full name with tactics such as using two-factor authentication on the internet and never giving your credit card number out over the phone or on unsecured websites. 

Whether you are fresh out of college and starting your career path or you're an empty nester who is ready to get a better handle on your finances, learning how to budget, how to save, and how to invest are important facets of becoming more knowledgeable about your money. It's never too late to start saving.

Publish Date: September 17, 2021 7:26 AM

The Best Fall Gifts for Your Teen

Every parent gets used to the idea of getting new clothes, gear and shoes at the change of each season, and it doesn’t cease just because your kids have reached their teen years. Fall is a great excuse to upgrade your teenager's wardrobe and gadgets, just in time to head back to school and hunker down for the winter. Whether your teen has a birthday coming up, you’re looking ahead to the holidays or you just want to put a smile on their face, check out this guide to select the perfect gift they’re guaranteed to love. 

Cold-Weather Clothes

Teenagers are at the forefront of any trend–especially any movements in the fashion industry. Give your teen’s wardrobe a stylish boost with new clothes that are both cool and functional for the colder months. A warm jacket, a good pair of lined leggings, a few mens Irish sweaters or a cool, new beanie or hat make great, sleek gifts that will make the fall and winter a lot more comfortable. 

A New Pair of Headphones

Chances are, one of their favorite artists has a few new hits to stream, and your teen needs a way to play their favorite tunes while sitting on the bus or walking to and from school. Fall is a great time to invest in a really nice pair of over-ear headphones, as the extra cups double as ear warmers, too. 

Fresh Kicks

Your teen may seem to be done growing, but that’s no reason to stop seasonal shoe shopping. Go big and grab a pair of boots or sneakers that your teen wouldn’t be able to afford with whatever is leftover from their summer job earnings. You’re sure to get bonus points if you scour the internet for the latest trends and get a pair that will garner attention from everyone in their friend group. 

A Trendy Bag

When in doubt, go for a gift that will give them a stylish way to store their stuff. Grab a durable duffle bag for gym class, a fashionable backpack from a trendy European retailer or a new sleeve to keep their laptop safe while walking from class to class. 

Great Seats

Show your teen you’re up on all the coolest musicians, events and galleries by scoring great seats to a show. Confer with one or two of their friends ahead of time to see if they’d like to join, too, and make it a special night for their crew by sending them off to dinner before the show

A Good Read

Your teen may grow weary of reading the teacher-assigned classics required for school. To help foster their love for a good book, one that they won’t need to write a summary or report on once they finish the last page, give them the latest release in a favorite series, a book you treasured when you were their age or even a subscription to a magazine or periodical for bite-sized information. 

A Cozy Blanket

At the end of a long school day, few things are nicer than cozying up on the couch to catch up on your teen’s favorite show. Give them even more of a reason to look forward to this ritual by giving them a really soft, warm blanket that they won’t have to share with any younger siblings. 

A Gift Card

Your teen’s newfound independence is one of the most exciting things about this season in their life. They may have just gotten their first job, or just passed their driving test. Think of a way to make their new adultlike autonomy a lot more fun while they’re out on the road cruising around with their friends. A gift card for a drive through or a local movie theater provides entertainment for both them and their friends, and you won’t have to worry about where they are when you know you’ve given them the gift of a good, wholesome time. 

Publish Date: September 15, 2021 2:48 AM

What You Need To Do To Keep Your Business Updated and Moving Forward

With the help of the internet, starting a business has become increasingly easy. While this is great for many who want to launch a business, it can also mean that there is more competition than ever before. For some, this can make it more challenging to stand out and grow their business effectively.

While this can seem difficult to deal with at times, the good news is that there are things you can do to help keep your business updated and moving ahead of the competition. If you are looking for ways to make it easier for your company to move forward at a healthy pace, then here are some things for you to keep in mind. 

Take Advantage of Technology

If you want to keep your company updated, then it is important to keep up with new technology. Whether this takes the form of zero trust architecture or new accounting software, taking advantage of the newest tech available to you can make a difference in your business's daily operations, and help you get ahead. 

Even though introducing new ways of doing basic operations may seem like it is slowing your business down at first, over time it can help make strides for your company's efficiency. While there will be an adjustment period as you and your employees learn to adapt to the new forms of technology you use, after the adjustment period many tasks will likely be completed more quickly, and more accurately, too. This means more free time for you and your employees to focus on projects that truly require close attention.  

Work On Your Website

Besides using new technology, making sure that you have a solid and well-functioning website is also essential for keeping your company moving forward. In the online age, more and more customers will be getting their first impression of your business from its website.

If your website doesn't work well, or is full of things like broken links, it could cause a potential customer to lose confidence in your company, and even go to a competitor instead. By making sure that you update your website regularly, and that it is simple to use, you can help ensure that it is making the right impression on those using it. 

Hire the Right Team

The people who work for you make a big difference in your business's success. Not only that, but the smaller your business is, the more that each person matters. For this reason, making sure that you hire the right team is key for ensuring business stability and success. 

When hiring employees, it can be beneficial to keep a couple of things in mind. When you are hiring new employees, you need to make sure that they will fit in with current company culture. Something else you need to consider is the experience level of potential candidates.

Even though most may think that it is always best to hire those with the most experience, it can sometimes be helpful to also consider those with less experience, as they may be more likely to put in the effort to prove themselves and to go above and beyond for the company, too. 

Stay Active On Social Media

Social media may sometimes feel like a chore to keep up with.That being said, it can be a powerful tool for keeping your business up to date and in tune with its audience. By posting questions about what your customers think of your products and services, you can gain valuable insight to how your business is viewed. This can not only be great for helping you develop new marketing strategies, but it can also help you refine your products and even create new ones, too. 

A Few Final Thoughts

With the help of the internet, starting a business has become easier than ever. However, that means that there is more competition than ever, too. The reality is, though, that there are straightforward ways that you can stay ahead of the competition and keep your business moving on an upward trajectory. 

Publish Date: September 13, 2021 10:49 PM

How To Raise Your Home’s Value

Improving your property value can help your home sell quicker, increase your asking price and make your home more attractive to potential buyers. Although some of the improvements require a significant investment, other projects like painting and landscaping are inexpensive and can be accomplished without professional help. If you make essential repairs and modifications before a home inspection, you’re more likely to have more success with the buyer. You can examine the ways that you can improve your home’s value in these passages.

Renewable Energy Systems

Installing a solar power system makes your house more appealing to buyers and saves you money while waiting to move to your new home. If you study the benefits of solar energy, you may wonder why every home isn’t connected to a renewable energy source. Unlike the systems used in the early 21st century, today’s solar products are more efficient, less expensive and lighter. The upfront costs for solar power systems make some homeowners hesitant, but federal and state incentives can lower your initial expenses. Although the incentives vary by location, they can reduce your costs by as much as 20%. When your house is evaluated after the installation, your property values can increase by several thousand dollars.


Compared to other home improvements that raise your property values, painting is one of the cheapest. Potential buyers typically focus most of their attention on the interior, but you shouldn’t ignore the home’s exterior condition. Peeling paint and deteriorated caulking can convince buyers that your home is not a sound investment. You can save money by painting the house if you have talented help, but exterior painting often requires professional painters and equipment depending on the complexity of the architecture. Unless an unusual color scheme is one of your selling points, paint the exterior with a neutral color. Check with your homeowner’s association before choosing a wild tint, and try to choose a color that fits the surrounding area.

Kitchen Remodeling

Kitchen renovations can become massive projects that tie up your kitchen for several weeks or worse. If you have to install additional plumbing or fixtures, the price can skyrocket, but you can improve your property value without a complete renovation. Instead of replacing the kitchen cabinets, you can paint them and add new handles. Adding a new mosaic backsplash or shelving above the stove can also refine the styling. Updating your kitchen’s style by removing outdated appliances, replacing faded curtains and modifying the color scheme can make your kitchen irresistible to buyers.

Bathroom Renovation

Like a kitchen remodel, a bathroom renovation does not have to be ambitious to raise your home’s value. If you’re planning on leaving the toilet, shower and sink in the same position, the renovation will be far cheaper than a plan that involves new plumbing and electrical work. You can update the faucets and fixtures and paint the vanity without spending a fortune. Also, you can repaint the bathroom and improve the design with a row of shelving.

Structural Repairs

A home inspector will study your home’s structural components closely, and you may have to make a few small repairs to improve the home’s value. Installing premium weather-resistant windows and repairing or replacing your roof can significantly impact the property’s value. When your home is more prepared to handle a hurricane or ice storm, it’s a more attractive and logical investment.


Most potential buyers spend time inspecting the home’s exterior, and you can impress them by improving the yard’s landscaping. Remove dying or diseased shrubs and plant perennials and annuals that add color to the landscape. You can enhance the appearance of the exterior considerably by pruning the trees and shrubs and pressure-washing the walkways. You can also install stone or brick steps that lead to a workshop or gazebo to add a finishing touch.

Making renovations to the interior and exterior of your property can go a long way in raising the value. With the previous tips, you’ll be ready to sell your home and move on to your next destination.

Publish Date: September 13, 2021 9:12 AM

The Best Wellness Practices for a Healthy, Happy Life

Health and wellness are the keystones of a long, happy and fulfilled life. When you’re at your best, you’re on top of your game at work, thinking clearly through challenges, and are more likely to feel a sense of ease with your life. To be the healthiest version of yourself you can be, stick to these healthy habits to both look and feel your best. 

Set Up a Solid Morning Routine

A great start to your day can set the tone for the rest of it. From wondering whether certain breakfast foods are actually good for you to searching “does toothpaste expire” online, there’s a little bit of experimentation involved in establishing a balanced, nourishing morning regimen. Focus on eating a healthy breakfast, even if you're only in the mood for a small amount of food, and adopt a few other invigorating practices, such as a morning yoga session, a skin care regimen, a lively playlist or a cup of green tea. 

Get Enough Sleep

A well-rested body and mind are crucial to be able to function well throughout the day. Aim to get between seven to nine hours of sleep at night. If you have trouble sleeping, whether with falling asleep or staying asleep, revamp your bedtime routine to include activities that promote calmness and stillness. Stick to a bedtime and a regular wakeup time to better regulate your body’s internal clock and give yourself the best chance at a good night's rest. 

Drink More Water Than You Think You Need

The recommendation to get eight glasses of water per day is actually not enough for most people. Instead of waiting until your body’s thirst cues show up, a sign of mild dehydration, stay ahead of hydration by drinking as much water as your body needs every day. It helps to use a refillable water bottle and carry it with you to keep track of your water intake. Skip the sugary drinks and caffeinated beverages, too, as these drinks can actually leave you more dehydrated. 

Make Exercise a Priority

Regular moderate exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your body. Not only does exercise help you to stay trim and lean, but it also keeps your mind sharp, your muscles strong, your joints stable, your mood elevated and your immune system in good shape. Aim for at least 150 minutes of movement every week. 

Invest in Organization Tools

Stress is far from just a mental or emotional experience. Stress and anxiety have detrimental effects on your body in a variety of ways. If your to-do list is filled with tasks and your calendar is overbooked, take steps to relieve some of the mental burden. Buy a planner, start writing things on your calendar, set up reminders and alerts on your phone or even outsource some tasks when you have too much on your plate. 

Reduce or Eliminate Unhealthy Vices

While mild to moderate alcohol consumption poses no risk to your health, too much of anything is never a good thing. The same can be said of processed foods, sweets, too much screen time or even overindulgence in some seemingly healthy foods or habits. Balance is the key to a healthy life. However, some vices, such as smoking or drug use, should be cut out entirely for optimal health. 

Spend Time Outdoors

The vitamin D your body produces when exposed to sunlight is just one of many benefits of spending time in the great outdoors. As often as you can, unplug and head outside to enjoy the natural world. Greenery, fresh air and the increased likelihood of movement do wonders for your mental and physical health alike. 

Start a Soothing Practice

In an incredibly busy world, it can be challenging to find time, or even remember, to slow down once in a while. Rather than find windows of opportunity to take a break, schedule down time into your daily routine. When you regularly meditate, stretch, read, journal or just stop to take deep breaths, your nervous system is able to regulate better, and you’re more ready to tackle whatever life has in store when you get back to it. 

Publish Date: September 11, 2021 2:48 AM

Tips For Running a Startup For Beginners


Running a startup business is exciting and, at times, stressful. You'll stretch your knowledge and skills to the limit and will make many decisions by trial and error. Since you are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the business, running the day-day operations requires a strong set of entrepreneurial skills. You'll need to be flexible and creative, and prepared. Here are six essential tips to help you run your startup business.

Stay Focused

If you’ve created a detailed business plan, don’t just file it away. Use it. The research you conducted before opening will direct you to the right marketing and where you can find financing. It will also reinforce why you got into the business. Often your passion can get lost in the day-to-day business dealings. It’s good to review your motivation. 

Obtain Adequate Financing

The number one reason that a business fails is a lack of funds. It takes money to start and operate a business. When you first start, you should have identified your financial needs within your detailed business plan. Make sure before you open that you have enough money for initial costs and then for 6 months of operating capital. It takes time to make a profit, and you need to ride out the time until your business becomes profitable. When you seek a source of capital for your business, consider personal savings, family, friends, and small business loans. It’s best to leave the credit cards for an emergency.

Market Continuously

Marketing your business is an ongoing task. Everything you do should tie back to marketing. When you sell your product or service, capture the customer’s email and build an email list for future marketing campaigns. Consider incorporating a blog into your website. A blog allows you to interact with consumers. The interaction helps drive more people to your website, which means more sales. Often engage with your customers and potential buyers on a variety of social media sights. Do everything you can to keep your product at the forefront of your customer's minds.

Ask For Help

Running a start-up can be fun but also exhausting. In the beginning, you’ll be performing most tasks. You will be in control, but you may not have the skill-set for all the tasks required to run a successful business. This is where you need to consider hiring outside experts from time to time. Maybe you need a website designer, legal assistance, or someone to consult on a new product line. The Small Business Association (SBA) is an organization that provides a lot of information for startups. They even have a program that matches entrepreneurs with retired business owners to provide mentorship.

Get Organized

Keep accurate records of all purchases and sales. In the beginning, you can use a spreadsheet if you're skilled, but once you grow, things can get complicated. You'll need to track sales to determine product pricing and profits. The IRS has business reporting requirements and a variety of forms, depending on your business.  All expenses and income need to be tracked to complete your tax forms accurately. It’s best to purchase accounting software, especially if you have inventory or employees. If you don’t feel comfortable, hire a bookkeeper.

Provide Excellent Customer Service

Always provide excellent customer service. Your reputation matters, and a poor reputation can bring down a business very quickly. If you run an online business, consider a survey service. Potential customers love to see what your other customers have said about your products or service. Even if you don’t have a survey service,  customers who felt they were treated poorly, or have unresolved issues, will find a way to have their voice heard.


Right now is a great time to be running a business. The internet has provided an avenue for many new niche products and services. The people who need your product can be from all over the globe. To be successful, you’ll need energy, passion, and a willingness to make changes. You’ll need to communicate with customers frequently. You’ll have the best chance of success if you get the basics covered. Follow the six tips above, and you'll be on your way to success.

Publish Date: September 10, 2021 3:59 AM

Extra Upgrades Your Home Should Have

There comes a time when many homeowners realize that their homes are no longer the homes of their dreams. Whether your home is no longer achieving the needs of your daily life, your circumstances have changed or it is just time for an upgrade, your home may need some love. There is a never-ending list of upgrades available to you, but if you want to make the most of the property, here are a few must-have upgrades you need to consider.


For the homeowner that enjoys fitness and fun, you need to add a pool to your backyard. With a prime spot for entertaining friends and family, a new way to exercise and the ideal place to kick back and relax, inground swimming pool costs will prove to be well worth it. You can have the backyard of your dreams with the right pool.

Patio and Pergola

If a pool is not the only backyard upgrade that you need, consider adorning your backyard with the perfect patio, covered by a beautiful pergola. With this combination, you will want to dine al fresco for every meal. With a cover from the shade and less desirable weather and a place to relax outdoors, you vastly increase your living space by extending it outdoors.


Another great feature to commune around is a firepit. With your picture-perfect patio and pergola, you can complete the picture with a cozy firepit. On cool summer nights, imagine the memories that you can make staring up at the night’s sky. Whether you want to enjoy this experience with friends or for a quiet night alone, this experience is sure to bring you much-needed peace and stillness.

Curb Appeal

While you are upgrading your home’s exterior, don’t forget to pay attention to the front of the house. If your curb appeal is less than ideal, it is time to give it a boost. Repaint, replace any decaying fixtures and add some eye-catching greenery. You won’t want your home to be known for its unsightly exterior, and with a few upgrades, you can turn it into something truly stunning.

Home Office

With a lot of jobs offering increased flexibility for work, having a home office can be invaluable. Whether you take this opportunity to increase your home’s floor plan with an addition to the property or repurpose an underutilized space, a home office can make major improvements. Having a space dedicated to conducting your business can help you establish and maintain a work-life balance that you never imagined. Having physical boundaries to do work and manage family matters can open up a world of possibilities and vastly improve your productivity. Once you have a home office, you won’t be able to believe how you worked without one.

Renewable Energy

Not all upgrades need to be as visually prominent. If you want to upgrade your home, consider changing your home’s energy source to something renewable. Adding solar panels to your home can leave you with decrease energy bills and reduce your environmental impact. Not only can this leave you with an improved living experience, but it can also help ensure that your house is prepared for now and well into the future.

Smart Technology

Another way to live more efficiently and effectively is by upgrading your traditional technology to smart home technology. If you want to elevate your living experience, you need to take your home into the digital age. Whether you add smart lights, thermostats or security systems, there are a wide array of options to make your home a little bit better and make your days a little bit easier. Don’t miss out on these key opportunities to improve your life and do your homework more efficiently for you.

When it comes to upgrading your home, you truly have an endless number of possibilities. Regardless of what your budget and timeline are, there are home improvement projects for everyone. Don’t waste any more time and use one of these and improve your living circumstances and home.

Publish Date: September 8, 2021 9:48 PM

The Best Ways to Make Money Online

Many people have the desire to work from home, either as a side job to their normal 9-5 or as a way to build a business of their own, so they never have to work in a traditional setting again. There are a variety of ways to become employed when you work online, from working in contact-only jobs to being employed in the traditional sense and having taxes taken out of your paycheck. Check out these options and see which ones might be best for you and your lifestyle. 

Choose a Position That Involves Sales

One benefit of working in sales is that your income is uncapped. That means you can set the limit for how much you want to make, depending upon the hours you work, how many clients you have, and how driven you are to close sales. Before diving headfirst into a sales career, think about what you are passionate about and what would be easiest for you to sell. Some individuals find it easy to sell anything, while others would rather focus on things that would truly help their customers, such as life insurance or real estate. You might need to do research in order to find the best sales job for you, but it can reward you with unlimited income.

Start Your Own Business

If you'd rather not focus on sales, starting your own business could be exactly the type of work you are passionate about. Your own business could be anything, from dog walking to running your own Etsy store. Once you have your business plan figured out, it's important to get started with your own ecommerce website, no matter what you are selling. This can make it easier for people to Google you and your services or products, learn more about what you have to offer, and even shop with you. Many people find that although they are not passionate about a job they commute it, it is a different story when it comes to something they have put their heart into. 

Consider Contracting or Freelancing Work

If you're still looking for ways to have unlimited income but you don't want to have your own company or work in sales, contracting or becoming a freelance worker might be better for you. Many writers and designers often work in freelance-type positions, allowing them to take on as many clients as they can handle while charging differently depending on the skill involved and the work they are doing. Other types of freelance workers can include therapists and life coaches, a tailor or seamstress, and even hairstylists and nail technicians. 

Teach English Online

Teaching English online is another popular way to branch out into something different while making money online. Many countries have students of all ages who want to learn English, from young elementary-aged students to those who are studying at a corporate level and need it for their job. You can work on your own with yourself as your boss, or find a variety of different companies that might hire you, although often as an independent contractor. Make sure to do your research and learn as much as you can about where you are applying to since some companies have no-compete clauses and this might affect your ability to work as much as you would like.

When it comes to making money online, there are a variety of different ways that you can start a career or business that is just right for you. Sales online have become more popular and can help you determine if this is a good career path for you, along with unlimited income potential. You could also start up your own business, allowing your company to grow. Contracting or freelance work is popular for artists and others who like to take on multiple clients. If you enjoy helping others, teaching English online is a skill that will be in demand for many years to come. These ideas can help you get started as you find your true calling when making money from home. 


Publish Date: September 1, 2021 7:51 AM

Pros and Cons Of Virtual Court Hearings


As the digital era evolves and continues, more and more practices are going virtual. One that is surprising to some is virtual hearings. Today, it is possible to attend a court hearing through a computer or another digital means. However, many wonder if this is a good thing. Keep reading to learn more about virtual hearings and the technology like cloud computing used to make them possible. Knowing the pros and cons of this practice can help you form an opinion about it and better understand how it works.  

Scheduling Benefits

When virtual hearings are scheduled, it is much easier for everyone to find a time that works. There is also much less waiting involved. This is because it is not necessary to wait for another case to finish. If judges must postpone or reschedule the hearing, everyone involved doesn’t have to travel anywhere at a different time or date. They can simply log back into the software being used at the rescheduled time.

No Travel Involved

You don’t have to travel for virtual hearings. This is going to help you save time and money. Also, there is no need to reserve a room or office in the courthouse. Even better, you can avoid worrying about issues like lines, parking, security, and more.


Usually, when you opt to teleconference for a hearing, lawyers must have the exhibits ready to go before the hearing. This is done to ensure the judge can see and review them before the scheduled hearing. Usually, the opposing counsel is going to have the same opportunity as the judge.

Control Concerns

While virtual hearings offer several benefits, there are also some potential disadvantages. For example, when everyone is in a different location, it may be challenging for the judge to control what is going on. After all, a judge can’t see anything that is happening out of the scope of the camera lens.

Rule Enforcement

Usually, a court session will be open to the public. If a case does not involve a jury, it is usually just the clients, their lawyers, and the judge present. However, if you use an online service for the hearing, relatives, children, and anyone else can watch. This is particularly problematic when it comes to witnesses. During physical court, judges can make witnesses remain outside the courtroom until it is their turn to testify. It is much more difficult to enforce these types of rules when court is handled virtually.

Personal Records

Some personal records, which include medical information, psychological evaluations, and more, are presented during a trial or another type of court hearing. When this occurs, there is an increased risk that the information will be stolen or hacked during a video session. In some situations, there are also issues related to the security and privacy of medical records. This all relates to HIPAA, which is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Witness Credibility In Virtual Court

One of the most unexpected effects of having court virtually relates to witness credibility. Witnesses must be seen in person to understand how they react while being questioned. One way to determine how credible a witness is is to watch their hands. During physical court, a judge will be able to see a witness’s hands. During virtual court, this is not always the case. Small things like this may make it more challenging for a judge to determine if a witness is credible. In some cases, witness tampering may even occur. It is almost impossible to determine if someone is being coached by way of text or another method during virtual court.

Understanding Virtual Court

While virtual courts are now popular in many areas, some issues still need to be worked out. Be sure to keep the information here in mind and make the right decision if you have to choose between physical or virtual court. Being informed is essential when using technology for these types of things. 

Publish Date: August 22, 2021 8:27 PM

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