Sure the bathroom mirror is the easiest place to snap a selfie. But how exciting is easy? This hot list of some of the most exotic, inspiring and unusual locations to click a selfie are sure to make you the envy of your friends and immortalize you in selfie history.

1. Sunset Beach, North Shore of Oahu

Oahu Selfie Edit

It’s all in the name. Set your alarm clock to make sure you catch a sunrise- and/or sunset-lit selfie on this famed strip of sand.

2. The Acropolis, Athens, Greece

PLACES TO TAKE A SELFIE ACROPOLIS SELFIE

Once considered the greatest and most magnificent temple of ancient times, the monument still represents grandeur, power, and wealth.

3. The Lincoln Memorial Reflection Pool

lincoln memorial reflection pool places to take a selfie Source: JonoLewis.com

Get a little creative and snap a selfie of your reflection next to the Washington Monument’s reflection.

4. The Great Barrier Reef

GREAT BARRIER REEF PLACES TO TAKE A SELFIE Source: ExperienceOZNZ.com.au

The largest living structure on the planet makes the perfect backdrop to your underwater selfie.

5. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls Places to Take a Selfie

Its 80m drop and roaring waters that can be deafening, you don’t want to get too close while you’re taking your selfie. Keep in mind the mist can wreak havoc on cameras, tablets and phones so keep your selfie-snapping to a minimum.

6. Backstage At The Oscars

Ellens Backstage Selfie Oscars

If you’re lucky enough to score a pass, you can fill up your phone’s SD card with snaps of you and the hottest celebs of the past 50 years or so.

7. Victory Lane

victory lane selfie

What better to cap off watching a few hundred miles tick off during a NASCAR race than slipping into the post-race celebration going on at Victory Lane? Even racing superstars like Dale Earnhardt Jr. stop to snap themselves posing.

8. Pont de l’Archevêché Bridge, Paris, France

 Pont de l'Archevêché Bridge Selfie

The Eiffel Tower gets all the credit as being the red hot spot for love in Paris. But scores of lovers have flocked to fences and gates at bridges all around the City of Love, including this famed one, placing a locked padlock with the names of two lovers scrawled on it. Take your own lock and throw away the key (legend says that’s the only way you and your sweetie will stay together). The snap a pic in front of your love lock on this bridge crossing the Seine River.

9. With A Rex named Sue

SUE SELFIE WITH A REX NAMED SUE Sue Hendrickson takes a selfie with T. Rex fossil she discovered and named after herself

At 42 feet long and 12 feet high at the hips, Sue is quite an imposing photobomber. Position yourself just right and it will look like Sue is about to pounce, making you her next meal.

10. The Great Sphinx of Giza

sphinx selfie pictures Source:Irene-Travelogue.com

The limestone statue that’s part lion part human is the perfect exotic backdrop for any selfie. Just make sure to stand far enough away for the creature to fully engulf the frame’s background.

11. The Skybridge connecting the Petronus Towers, Kuala Lampur

petronus towers selfie Source: Tianchad.com

Allowing pedestrians to travel from one building to the other, this aesthetically appealing bridge with spectacular views is about 41 stories in the air.  If you’re not keen on being so high up, snap a picture from below. Just be sure to get the unique arches that support the bridge which, according to the bridge’s engineers make it impossible for the bridge to topple over.

12. Times Square

Jamie Chung kicks off Old Navy`s 20th birthday selfie in Times Square

The heart of The Big Apple is bustling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So there’s no wrong time to click a selfie.

13. The Shadow Selfie

Whether you’re in a parking lot, on the beach or strolling the city streets on the way to work. Snap a selfie of your silhouette and start a collection of shadow selfies to capture your quiet essence and spirit.

shadow selfie Source:lessismorephotography.com

14. National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C.

national cherry blossome festival washington selfie

Washington, DC’s greatest springtime celebration celebrates the gift of the cherry blossom trees and their symbol of enduring friendship between the citizens of Japan and the United States. Once these trees are in bloom, it is truly a site to see – and a great opportunity to snap a selfie.

15. Sydney New Year’s Eve Fireworks display

sidney new years eve fireworks Yeah, I know. Not strictly a selfie, but I’m choosing to believe they used a tripod and self-timer mode

Dubbed “the best in the world” this pyrotechnic display starts every year off with a one-of-a-kind bang. Head down under and click your selfie during part of the world’s most exciting New Year’s Eve celebration.

16. Running With The Bulls, Pamplona, Spain

san fermin selfie Don’t try this at home, or anywhere for that matter

Thrill-seekers and selfie snappers who can click on the run should spend head to the corral in Calle Santo Domingo in July. When the clock on the church of San Cernin strikes eight o’clock in the morning, rocket launches signal the charge of bulls chasing runners for 825 meters through the streets of Spain.

17. Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

trevi selfie Corny is cool when you’re on vacation

The largest baroque fountain in Rome and arguably, the most beautiful one in the world. Tossing a coin into this fountain has been depicted in dozens of films and talked about for decades. And doing so while snapping your selfie will hopefully bring you years of good fortune.

18. The steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

philadelphia selfie museum of art Selfie-arms are nifty

Known at the “Rocky Steps” make sure to snap at least one selfie at the bottom of the impressive 72 steps. That way in case you can’t make it to the top to raise your arms in victory, you’ll still have proof you stood where Rocky trained.

19. In The Sky

skydiving selfie

If you can get over the notion of jumping out of a perfectly good plane, capture your feeling of floating (falling??) through air during a base jump. Sign up for a skydiving class and on the way down, snap your selfie!

20. The Great Wall of China

Great-Wall-Selfie

Shaped like a giant dragon, this wonder of the world is steeped in history and reverence. Misty? No worries. Some of the most awe-inspiring and moving photos on the bridge have been snapped in the fog and mist.

Your home is a big investment. When you are looking to spend money on improvements or upgrades, you want to get the most bang for your buck. Even if you don’t have plans to move, keeping new trends and other value-based factors in mind is always a good idea. Typically, the trends that make a home more desirable to potential buyers are also the ones that are going to add the most value to your home overall if it were to go on the market. There are several areas in which you can renovate your home to not only add to your home’s value, but also make it look and feel like new. And some of these ideas are even affordable enough that you won’t have to take out a second mortgage just to get them completed.

Kitchen Remodel

kitchenRemodeling your kitchen can be one of the best investments you can make to update your home. This is an area that will retain the investment and actually add quite a bit to your home’s value. Upgrading cabinets, installing granite counter tops, or under-cabinet lighting can not only increase value, but enhance the overall aesthetic appeal of your home, which can be a great selling point for potential buyers.

Finished Basement

basementAnother beneficial use of home improvement dollars is to finish your basement. Typically, basements extend under the entire base of your home. It is a relatively inexpensive way to increase the living space in your home, as compared to a home addition. Even leaving part of the basement unfinished for a storage area, you can still add valuable living area, such as a family room, exercise room, or game room. If your home happens to be set up with a walk-out basement, then the finished basement area will also increase the square-footage count of your home—a huge plus, should you want to sell.

Updated Bathroom

bathroomMuch like a remodeled kitchen, updating a bathroom is a great selling point for most homes. Even in older homes, it is relatively easy to transform an old porcelain bathtub into a newer, easier-to-clean, one piece, acrylic shower and bathtub combination. Updated sink or faucets can also add to the visual appeal.

Landscaping

home_landscapeThis is one area that can really attract a potential buyer to want to come in or take a second look at the home. While curb appeal is very important, it can do relatively little to actually add value to your home. With that in mind, you must be very careful how much money you intend to spend on this type of improvement. The good news is, you can do most of the work yourself and save a lot of money instead of hiring a professional landscaper—if you do a little research (check out this video). Some things to consider are: the climate zone in which you live, whether you are looking for evergreen or deciduous shrubbery, perennials or annuals, and height, width and color of shrubbery or flowers.

Outdoor Living Area

Outdoor-Living-SpaceMake your own backyard into an outdoor oasis by adding a covered or screened-in porch, deck, patio, or built-in barbecue area. Giving your family an outdoor area to gather for dinner, parties, or just relaxing can make your house feel like new. You can make this very simple by building a small deck with a grilling area or it can be a much grander scale by adding a swimming pool, built-in fire pit, or multi-tier deck. There are so many options with outdoor living when it comes to low-maintenance composite decking, with built-in runner lights, to pavers for patios, to outdoor solar lighting, to gazebos. This can range from very small, do-it-yourself projects to those which require professional assistance. One thing to keep in mind when creating an outdoor living area is that the money you put in won’t give you much increase in overall home value. Outdoor improvements can, however, be a great selling point to the right future buyer though.

Paint

paintBelieve it or not, sometimes, home improvements can be as simple as just adding a new coat of paint. You can make it really unique though by going with a textured paint, glaze overlay, or crackle paint. This is probably the quickest—and least expensive—way to give a room in your home a totally brand new look. Accessorizing with some new artwork for the walls, a new, modern rug, and a few new throw pillows can make a huge difference when doing a cost-effective room makeover. This type of improvement is also the easiest to do when trying to stage your home for open house viewings if you decide to sell.

Updated Fixtures

fixturesAnother inexpensive way to update your home and make it feel brand new is to change out old and outdated lighting fixtures, lamps, faucets, doorknobs, and hardware on cabinets and drawers. These are typically small details that we don’t think much about, but in the overall scheme of the way a house looks, they make a big difference.

Energy Efficient Windows

windowsYou may not notice much of a difference in the way that they will look in your home, but when it comes to paying your heating bill in the winter and electric air-conditioning bill in the summer, you will notice a big difference. Getting rid of drafty-old windows will save you money each and every month. Keep in mind that you may qualify for a tax deduction the year that you actually buy your new energy-efficient windows. New windows, especially in an older home, can be a nice selling point as well.

Wood Burning Stove

Wood-Burning-StoveWhether it is a small wood-burning stove in your home or a large outdoor wood burner, you also have the opportunity to save money on your heating bill. While an outdoor wood burner will still require electric to push the heat throughout the home, an in-room wood burning stove can provide nice radiant heat and save your even more money when it comes to heating your home during those cold winter months. This type of home improvement is also a nice feature to have in colder climates, where power outages can happen due to winter storms, or areas that are susceptible to losing power frequently.

Geothermal Heating/Cooling System

geothermal-graphAdding a geothermal heating and cooling system is an investment that is very low maintenance and can last for generations. This type of system utilizes the consistent underground temperatures of the earth to heat or cool your home. This type of “green” option can not only save on month to month heating/cooling expenses, but again, for the right buyer, this is a meaningful selling point.

 

 

 

credit affect my life

How Does My Credit Score Affect My Life?

You may have heard or read the advice that you should work to maintain your credit if you have good credit, and to improve your credit If you have bad credit. But you may wonder just how much your credit actually affects your life. If you are attempting to make changes in your life, your credit score could have a significant effect on your day-to-day activities. But if you never use or need credit, your credit score may have little or no impact.

Rent and Mortgages

Your credit score may have a profound effect on whether or not you are able to rent an apartment or buy a house. Landlords routinely run credit checks on prospective tenants. Banks and mortgage lenders also perform extensive credit checks before approving prospective home buyers for mortgages. If you have bad credit, your prospects for purchasing or renting an apartment or house are grim. You’ll have to work hard to find a landlord or lender willing to overlook your poor credit score.

Employment

get a jobOne of the ironies of life is that if you have bad credit, you may have a hard time finding a job. In some industries, running credit checks seems prudent – such as banking or even retail. Someone with credit problems might be more prone to financial misconduct. But employers also run credit checks in totally unrelated industries, using the premise that good credit is a sign of good character.  Of course, if you’ve been unemployed for months or years, your credit may be damaged due to lack of income, which is one reason why California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington forbid employers from running credit checks as a condition of employment. In Nevada, employers who illegally run credit checks on prospective employees may be forced to hire them anyway.

Utilities

Your electricity. Your heat. Your cell phone – all utilities that often conduct credit checks for new customers. You may be charged higher electricity and heating rates if your credit is poor. If you attempt to obtain a cell phone with bad credit, you may be forced to put down a large deposit or settle for a prepaid phone.

Insurance

You may be surprised to learn that home, rental and car insurance companies also check your credit. If your credit is good, you are offered lower rates. If your credit is bad, you may be denied coverage or obliged to pay much higher rates, even if you have never filed a claim for insurance policies you have held in the past.

Private Student Loans

Federal student loans do not require or use credit checks. But private student lenders almost always run credit checks on prospective borrowers. If your credit is damaged or poor, you will need a credit-worthy co-signer to be approved for private student loans.

Credit Cards

It goes without saying that credit card companies run credit checks. But so-called subprime credit card companies focus on customers with damaged or poor credit. Some credit card companies work with their customers to help them rebuild their credit; others simply soak their customers with high interest rates and stiff fees.

A secured credit card can help rebuild damaged credit. Secured credit cards work just like regular credit cards, and can help rebuild your credit by reporting a good payment record to the three major credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Beware of prepaid credit cards which almost never improve your credit score.

Bank Accounts

moneySome banks run regular credit checks on new prospective account holders. Other banks check out potential customers through ChexSystems, a proprietary credit reporting agency that focuses specifically on the banking industry. If you have a history of overdrafts and bounced checks, you will likely have trouble opening a bank account.

Auto Loans

auto loanAmericans love their cars, and why not? Cars represent the freedom to go where you want, when you want. And in your own car, you can play the music you like as loud as you want. But if you have bad credit, you may find yourself depending on public transportation or walking to get around. Auto lenders almost always demand credit checks.  So called “buy here, finance here” dealers advertise that “everyone drives, “ but the main driving forces at such establishments are high interest rates and overpriced cars, many of which are sold, repossessed and resold several times to desperate buyers who cannot obtain approvals for auto loans elsewhere.

If You Never Use or Need Credit

The above list may give you the impression that your credit score affects nearly every aspect of your life. For many people, this is the case. But if you never move, never need to look for a job and choose to make purchases only with cash, you can get by without dealing with credit.  For everyone else, obtaining and maintaining good credit is one of the most important aspects of good financial health and a satisfying life.

earn extra cash

Think about what you do in the course of a day. If you’re fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom, then your scenario would include doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, and caring for children. We all know that it never hurts to make a little extra cash, but most work would interfere with your already busy schedule. Yet the work you’re already doing for your family often includes things others will pay you to do for them.

Out of the following ideas, it comes down to what you can fit in, how much it will cost you to add in the work (electricity use, water, etc.) and if it’s worth your effort. An important consideration is if you’re able to provide services for friends and relatives, or are going to turn it into an actual business. For instance, if you babysit a friends children along with your own, it’s no big deal. Yet should it develop further, you’ll end up having to legally set up a registered child care facility. Get the picture?

Check out the following options to see if any make sense in your world.

Doing Laundry For Others

laundryIf you already have your laundry running most days, it may not be a big deal to add a friend or a neighbors load in and get paid for it. Alaina Hollander shared her experience providing laundry service on offbeathome.com with some excellent advice:

“Do your research, and charge according to your costs. Think of it like any other business venture, and make sure you are netting a minimum 30% profit (from my personal experience it will be significantly more). Where I am at, I can charge $1 per pound (or a little more). You can also offer drop off/pick up service for dry cleaning. This is great if you have weekly errands you would do anyway that are near the dry cleaner. If you go grocery shopping every Monday, and take your kids to soccer practice every Friday, you can turn those two days into your drop off and pick up days. It’ll more than pay for the gas to run your family errands.”

“You should expect to make killer tips. Most of the loads I take in are between 15-25 pounds, I end up getting $40 for the work, and at times more than a 100% tip. The best stain remover I have found is one I make myself: equal parts hydrogen peroxide, water, and a healthy squeeze of Dawn dish soap.” Also remember you can do this one day, a few days, or even just try it out with a friend to see how it suits you.

Babysitting

babysitIf you’re already home with kids, you can make some money by adding kids of friends or relatives. As mentioned earlier, if you’re going outside your circle of friends, then you’ll need to be legally registered as a child care facility. This is something you can do temporarily until your children head off to school, or pursue long-term, depending on your interest in caring for children. Feel free to do a ‘test run’ to see if it’s helpful, or stressful. Some people will babysit children the same age as those they have at home and end up with extra free time while the children entertain each other.

Ironing

ironIf you already have to do some ironing, are skilled at it and don’t mind the task, you can take on ironing for others. Wikihow.com gives some important information should you consider this work:

“Make sure you have the time and energy do the job. Meet with your local government to find out what licenses you need to run your home business. Speak to a business adviser, lawyer or accountant to learn how to set up the business and accounting of it. Get the best iron you can, as well as a backup in case it breaks. Get a clean, wide, sturdy ironing board. Decide how much you want to make per hour. Then think about how much time it will take to iron each piece. You can offer quantity discounts, and add charges for heavily wrinkled or special clothing.” Make sure you have a space set aside for this activity that is free of clutter so you can focus.

Recycle

RecyclingSomeone is making money off of your recycling, so why shouldn’t you? No matter where you live, it’s worth exploring where you can turn in plastic, glass, cardboard, paper products and other trash in return for money. First off, check for your local recycling centers to see who will pay you for recycling products. Should you use a printer, don’t forget to take them to office supply stores like Staples that will pay you a few dollars for each ink or toner cartridge you return. Depending on the age of your children, they can get involved by going to parks with you to look for cans and bottles for you to recycle. They will gain some important environmental education in the process.

Make Money While You Wait

wait in lineWe all have to spend quite a bit of time in life waiting. Waiting in line for groceries or other stores, waiting to see a doctor, waiting in carpool lines and so on, all produce valuable minutes that can be used to make money using your cell. Eric Ravenscraft provided a ‘how to’ article on lifehacker.com:

“If you’re looking for sites that you can perform quick tasks to earn a bit of money, here are a few of the legit ones: Google Opinion Rewards, CashCrate, 20|20 panel, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Harvard Business School Research Study Participation. While individual tasks can be quick, it’s also up to you to not let it take up your time if you want to keep to the minimal effort.”

“Gigwalk can be used on a similar principle, checking for nearby “gigs” that you can complete for cash. Retailers sign up and enter tasks like auditing a display or checking to make sure things are in order. You can think of it like bite-sized secret shopping. The great thing is that many gigs are available at large retailers like Walmart, so if there’s one available at the store you’re already going to, you can make an extra few bucks just by stopping by the electronics department.” Sounds worth checking out if there’s a task available at a store you frequent!

 

 

disney

Despite my age (suffice it to say I’m older than 12), Walt Disney World is still one of my favorite places on the planet…and it’s a pretty big planet! Disney always impresses me with their cleanliness, efficiency, awesome staff, and their awe-inspiring ability to take a theme and run with it. I’m probably as hard-core as you can get as a Disney fan; the nightly fireworks almost reduce me to tears.

That being said, it’s an expensive place to hang out, so over the years I’ve found some great tricks for shaving a few bucks off the cost of our stay.

More is Better

moreBuying park tickets can get a little overwhelming because of all the combinations and options available, but you can apply a couple of rules of thumb. For one thing, the longer you stay, the cheaper the per day rate gets on the tickets.

For example, a one-day park pass is about $94, but by the time you get to the 10-day pass, you’re only paying $35 per day for the same access. Also, the more options you buy, the cheaper each option gets. The park hopper and waterpark options are sold separately for $60 each, but you can buy both for only $86.

The park hopper option seems steep, but the flexibility it allows you is amazing. Not all the parks open and close at the same times, so you can maximize your park exposure by park hopping.

Also, it opens up all your possibilities for restaurant reservations. In other words, you can spend the day in the Magic Kingdom and have dinner at Epcot without having to pay an extra entry fee to Epcot. Similarly, you can spend the day at one park and still enjoy an evening show, parade, or fireworks at a different park.

Purchase the Dining Plan

diningThe dining plans are available to visitors staying at Disney resorts or using Disney Vacation Club points. Again, there are many options to consider, but it’s the most flexible and affordable meal plan I can think of.

For example, a family of 4 (with 2 kids under 10), can buy the “plus dining” plan for about $160 per day. This sounds expensive, but you’d be hard-put to feed your family for this little each day. This plan includes one table service meal, one quick service meal, and one snack per day per person.

Quick service means cafeteria style, table service means restaurants with a waiter, and snack is basically anything worth up to about $4 at any of the kiosks or shops in any of the parks, including drinks and ice cream sundaes, among other things.

Both the quick service and table service meals include an entrée and a dessert. The plan is flexible, meaning that you can spend those meals in any order or capacity per day; you could literally eat all of your meals the same day if you wanted to.

Already, it’s an awesome deal, but pair that with the fact that the meal portions are so huge, you can easily share the quick service meals between two people. That way, you can purchase both breakfast and lunch at quick service restaurants each day, using up only one adult and one kid meal each time. Trust me, you won’t go hungry…have I mentioned the portions are huge?

Another tip for stretching out the meals and maximizing your experience is to use the table service meals as your lunches instead of your dinners. Some of the pricier, more popular, and more expensive restaurants require a reservation (some are booked months in advance) and lunch reservations are often easier to come by than dinner reservations.

When we took a two-week trip a few years ago, we had driven to Florida from our home, which was about a two-day drive. We had so many unused meals left on our plan at the end of our vacation, we were able to stock up on sandwiches, muffins, fruits, and drinks to fill our cooler for the long drive home!

Take Advantage of the Disney Vacation Club

hopperDisney Vacation Club is the timeshare program for access to Disney resorts. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not trying to sell you a timeshare. I’m saying you can benefit from Disney Vacation Club members not using their annual allotted points.

When members aren’t going to be using their points, they can sell them to a third party (called “renting” points). There are websites dedicated to the renting of these extra points. You’ll have to do some research, though, because each different Disney resort costs a different number of points per night, and you may not find all the points you need from one seller. Because these are private sales, you’ll also have to do your due diligence (like when you’re buying off Ebay or Craig’s List), and you may not pay the same price for all the points, even though you’ll be using them at the same resort.

Remember, members have already paid their annual dues, so you can make an offer less than they’re asking for the points; they may be glad to recover even just some of their money.

With a little extra time put into it, you could potentially be staying at a top-notch Disney theme resort for as little as half price!

title

When it comes to shopping, you’ve got it down to a science; you budget, haggle, comparison shop, and find the bargains. You always make sure you’re getting maximum bang for your buck. But what about those everyday household products? Are you sure you’re getting all your money’s worth? Most household product packaging just isn’t designed to get every single drop out. You’re very likely wasting valuable dollars throwing out the last of those cleaners, lotions, soaps, and some food.

waste
Don’t despair, there are ways to get at those last few precious drops.

Use the Force

Gravity, that is. By storing bottles upside down, the product gets pulled towards the opening, saving you lots of shaking, pounding, and squeezing. If the bottles shape or lid makes it difficult to store this way, you can put it into a coffee mug or small paper cup.

gravityDilute it

Not every product can or should be mixed with water, but there are many that are just as effective, even when diluted. Add a bit of water and shake the bottle to loosen what’s left and make it easier to pour out.

diluteNail polish is a good example of a product that you wouldn’t want to dilute with water, but they make a product especially for this, called Seche Restore. You just add some to your bottle when it gets near the bottom and is too thick to get at.

Basics-Seche-RestoreUse a soap foaming bottle

These handy bottles allow you to use a fraction of the soap, but still get all the cleaning power out of your hand or dish soap. The only warning I should probably dole out for this is to watch your kids when they’re using it. These foaming dispensers are so much fun to use, your kids are likely to defeat the purpose by using it a lot.

foamCut it open

When it comes to thicker products that come in a tube, you can access a lot more product by cutting the tube open once you’ve squeezed out everything you can. This also works for pump bottles. You’d be surprised how much is left in there!

cut it openHeat it up

When you’re dealing with thick creams, you can put the container into a bowl of hot water for a few minutes. The heat will liquefy it a bit so it will pour out easier. This also works for mascara and lip gloss.

hot waterLipstick can be melted down, poured into a palette and then applied with a brush. The heat from a candle is enough to melt it, but it’s best to scrape the lipstick out into a spoon first.

lipstickAmalgamate

Wetting that last sliver of your bar of soap will help it to adhere to a new bar of soap, making it much easier to use. It’s important to use this method before that sliver becomes an impossible slimy mess, though.

soapFoundation can be tricky to get at inside a glass bottle, but adding a little face moisturizer to it will make it a bit more liquid and you can use up that last bit as a tinted moisturizer.

foundation

Get the right tool for the job

Check out these awesome products especially for getting to the bottom of our tubes, bottles, pumps, and jars.

Sephora Swoon Lip Gloss Pick Up Artist is a lip gloss wand designed to get every last drop.

sephoraThe Oxo Good Grip silicone spatula is made for getting under the rim and down to every corner of a jar.

oxoClorox Smart Tube Technology spray bottles will apparently get 98% of the product out.

cloroxSpatty is a tiny spatula made for getting the last of your makeup out of its jars. Norpro also sells some spatulas designed especially for this purpose.

spattyMy Botto is a handy plastic stand made for holding your bottles upside down so gravity can do its thing.

mybotoThere are several toothpaste keys and squeezers available on the market for helping you squeeze your tubes (although a smooth glass or rolling pin will likely do as good a job).

squeeze          toothpaste

FInally, the Last Drop pump bottle is designed with a unique shape in order to get the last drop of shampoo or lotion out of the pump.

last-drop2

 

credit score

What’s In A Credit Score?

A credit score is a number ranging from 300-850, which creditors use to evaluate how well you will potentially be able to repay your bills.

credit scoreThere are three credit bureaus: Transunion, Experian, and Equifax. These agencies receive information about you from creditors and compile that information into a credit risk score. Some creditors send information to only one credit bureau, some to all three. Each credit bureau only uses the information that is supplied to it in order to calculate your score, so it is entirely possible to have different scores from each bureau. Your credit score reflects everything that is reported to the credit bureaus about you — good or not-so-good.

credit scoreYour credit score is decided by several factors, including:

  • The Number of Accounts — the number of creditors that send information to the credit bureau regarding your account.  If you only have one or two creditors reporting about you, it will take longer to build a good score.
  • The Types of Accounts — do you have major creditors, such as a mortgage loan or auto loan, or just creditors of revolving debt (credit cards)?  Obviously, an on-time payment history is important for any type of account, but some accounts, such as mortgage loans carry a bit more weight when it comes to your credit score, and even approval for loans from future lenders.
  • Debt Level as Compared to Available Credit — when calculating your credit score, they also take into account where you have available credit on the accounts that you have open. Alternatively, they will also be looking to see if you have maxed out all of your available credit.  You should aim to try to keep each account level at or below the 50% level of debt to available credit.
  • Length of Credit History — how long have creditors been reporting to the credit bureaus on you?  If you don’t have a very lengthy credit history, this can be a negative when calculating your score because there is just not enough information available to calculate your score.  However, time is on your side—the longer creditors report on your account payment, the more information there is to base your score on.  Just make sure you are making on-time payments and that will build a solid, higher score.
  • Payment History — do you make your payments on-time each month?  Keep in mind, an on-time payment per the credit report is anything less than 30 days late.  So that means that even if you forget to pay your credit card bill that is due on the 1st of the month until the 10th of that month, it will not hurt your credit—it will, however cost you late fees, so try to avoid being late.
  • Credit Inquiries — how many creditors have pulled your credit recently?  Too many inquiries within a short period of time can actually lower your credit score.  Make sure that when you apply for a new credit card, auto loan, or mortgage that you shop around for the right lender BEFORE you start letting potential financiers pull your credit.  Get an idea of which lender you want to go with and then allow your credit report to be pulled.

reviewIt is important to regularly review your credit report to make sure that the information reporting on you is accurate and up-to-date.  If old accounts are showing up or negative items have not been cleared, they may be damaging your score.  It is also critical to review your credit to make sure that no fraudulent activity is taking place.

It was only one generation ago that people had no choice but to live on cash alone. Credit was a very new concept when my parents were my age. My dad would get his pay and they had to make it last. They tell stories about going to the grocery store with only $6 to spend because payday was still 2 days away. You had to get a pay advance from your employer if you wanted to take a vacation, and never mind buying big ticket items if you didn’t save up for months ahead of time.

It’s amazing how in such a short amount of time, credit has become so readily available and so widely used. My kids will never experience the reality of not being able to afford something, because even if they can’t afford it, they’ll still be able to go out and buy it. They’ll probably have a credit card before they’ve even moved out on their own.

Although having oodles of money available to us at all times is an awesome convenience, it does of course come with a price. This is why some people are staunchly opposed to having credit cards. I know some people who are bravely hanging onto their “no credit” attitudes in an effort to stave off consumer debt. But are they really doing themselves a favor or are they actually doing themselves harm?

creditWHY YOU NEED CREDIT

Today’s world is one of instant gratification; almost anything we desire, from information to products, is virtually at our fingertips. When it comes to consumerism, we’re more impatient than ever, and our money habits have followed suit. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, peoples’ personal savings rate has fallen to only 5.4 percent, from a high of 14.6 percent in 1975. As a result, we need to rely more and more on having credit made available to us for purchasing those bigger ticket items (and some of the small stuff too).

While our parents put money aside for things like vacations and furniture, we now rely on the banks and credit cards in order to buy these things. And of course, that’s in addition to things like mortgages and car loans which we were already counting on borrowing for.

So, when you combine our need to have things instantly with our reduced savings habits, it’s almost inconceivable that we’d be able to get through life without needing credit.

Advantages to using credit cards

Besides having a bonafide need for credit such as mortgages, loans, and lines of credit in this day and age, there are also a number of advantages to using consumer credit cards.

shoppingSign-up bonuses

As our voracious need for credit increases, the competition for our credit business is heating up. As a result, the consumer is in an increasingly advantageous position as far as getting more bang for our buck. Credit card companies are coming up with bigger and better bonuses all the time. Among the lures being used are awesome introductory APR’s (some as low as 0%) and bonus rewards.

Rewards

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows the current non-housing debt at just over $3 trillion. As the credit cards vie for their piece of the lucrative debt business, they’re constantly coming out with richer rewards for their loyal customers. You can now earn cash, air travel, cruise travel, groceries, and store gift cards, among many other enticing freebies.

And in most cases, the rewards are added to your account immediately, but the interest may not accrue for several weeks, giving you an opportunity to get paid to use your credit card. Of course, this only works if you pay off the entire balance on your card before any interest accrues at all.

Credit cardsInsurance coverage

Some credit cards have built in insurance coverages on certain purchases, such as travel insurance or car rental insurance. It’s worthwhile to read the small print to avoid accidentally paying extra for a coverage you already have.

Consumer protection

Some cards also offer extensions on manufacturers’ warranties or protection against fraud. Credit cards deal with potential fraud on your account very efficiently and quickly compared to how the banks handle a possible compromise on your debit or bank account.

creditHOW TO GET CREDIT

Although getting credit is getting easier as the competition mounts and more options become available to us, convincing the bank to extend those larger credit vehicles, like mortgages and lines of credit, can still be a challenge. The banks are getting more creative and diversified as far as the number of different credit products they offer, but they’re still wary of taking a risk.

In order to get approved for those larger amounts, you still have to have laid the groundwork by proving that you’re a good credit customer. The only way to do that is to start with smaller credit products and establish a proven pattern of responsibility and reliability for paying them back on time.

Luckily, as already mentioned, the credit card companies are chomping at the bit to have us as customers, so there are literally hundreds of cards to choose from. So where do you start?

creditChoosing a credit card

When comparing all the different credit cards out there, you’ll have lots of criteria to consider. Although interest rate is the obvious selling point, you may also want to consider the following:

Rewards

As I mentioned previously, there are several different types of rewards available, so whether you’re looking for cash, travel, or products, there is a program out there to suit your needs and tastes. Don’t take the reward program at face value though, as each program will have its own restrictions and possible fees associated with it.

Take travel rewards, for instance. You can choose from a generic program, where you can use the points accumulated to purchase any travel product, like flights, hotels, and even car rentals, or you can choose a program that only allows you to redeem points for a specific company, such as a specific cruise line or airline. It’s a worthwhile exercise to review the point redemption rules for the program you’re thinking of going with; sometimes there are additional fees incurred for the privilege of using your points.

Admittedly, travel rewards programs are becoming more flexible and generic though, as companies face more competition and face losing business to the programs with more flexible and affordable redemption options.

Also, keep in mind that generally speaking, the better, more affordable, and more flexible rewards programs are likely to be available at a higher interest rate on the credit card.

Minimum Payment

Each credit card will have its own requirement as to the percentage of the total debt that must be paid each month. Keep this in mind if you intend to carry a balance on the card from month to month. In other words, the card may be tempting because of its lower interest rate, but if you intend to do a balance transfer of a hefty debt from another card, make sure that you can still afford the monthly minimum payments.

credit trapGrace period

Different credit cards start to accrue interest after a varying number of days, and not all cards have a grace period. Some cards start to charge interest from the moment of purchase. It’s a real advantage to be able to pay your balance after 20 or 30 days without accruing interest, so make sure your card’s grace period aligns with your intended use of the card.

Fees

Another area that can differ greatly from one card to another, is the annual fee charged on the account. Fees on credit cards can vary from $0 to hundreds of dollars per year. Generally speaking, the better the reward program and/or interest rate, the higher the annual fee. Also, cards will sometimes charge for additional card holders as well.

Who’s offering the card?

Make sure you’re familiar with the bank or company offering the card and that the card is accepted where you intend to use it. For instance, some cards are not generally accepted by certain big box stores or in some foreign countries.

It can get overwhelming to choose the card that’s right for you, but this online comparison tool is awesome, letting you filter based on several different criteria.

creditHOW TO KEEP YOUR CREDIT RATING GOOD

Once you have your credit in place, whether it’s a credit card, line of credit, loan, or mortgage, it’s important to keep your credit rating healthy. Having poor credit can affect your success in getting more credit from the banks, like mortgages, and can result in higher interest rates on those loans. Also, having bad credit can be a barrier to making large purchases, like a car, or can even affect your ability to rent an apartment.

There are a few ways that you can build up and maintain a good credit rating:

Pay your bills.

Missing a payment will not only put a negative flag on your credit report, but missing a payment on your credit card may result in your interest rate being increased.

Pay your bills on time.

Missing the due date basically looks like you didn’t make a payment at all. Many times a late payment will result in a penalty charge and several late payments could even cause a service (like utilities or phone) to be discontinued. Also, some credit cards will increase your interest rate after a set number of late payments.

Don’t overuse your credit cards.

Having too many credit cards at their maximum contributes to a lower credit score. In fact, using only about 10% to 30% of your available credit at any given time is near the optimal usage in the banks’ eyes.

swipeDon’t co-sign loans for others.

This is usually a lesson that’s learned the hard way. I mean, who doesn’t want to help out a friend or family member if they can? Co-signing for a reliable person seems like a no-risk situation, but your credit rating could take a major hit if someone you co-signed for becomes unavailable to make payments on their loan.

Have at least one credit card.

It may seem like I’m talking in circles now, but the fastest and best way to build up your credit rating is to get a credit card and use it… responsibly. So although some people believe that if you never have a credit card then you can never get a bad credit rating, the opposite is almost true; the only way to prove to the banks that you are a low risk when it comes to borrowing money is to borrow money from them.

personal finances

Ah, another new year. A time of renewal, re-commitment, and new ideas. It’s a new year, chock full of possibility. We all get excited in the early months of a new year to get ourselves in shape and it follows that we should take advantage of our beginning-of-the-year enthusiasm to get our finances in order too.

Follow these 15 easy steps to getting a grip on your money early on in the year, making the coming year your best financial year ever!

Update Your Budget

budgetAs with all things personal finance related, it all begins with the budget. Although budgeting is daunting to most, it’s a very simple concept.

Make two columns: with all the money you’re expecting to flow into your house in the first column and all the money you’re expecting to flow out of your house in the second column.

Add up both columns and then subtract the sum of column 2 from the sum of column 1. You should still have a positive number. If not, tweak your numbers until it works. If you need some additional help on making a simple budget using Excel, here’s my video series on the subject.

Update Your Debt Reduction Plan

no debtOnce you have a balanced budget, make sure you have a line item in column 2 for paying down your debt. Also, make sure that your plan includes enough money that you make a dent in the debt and while you’re at it, make sure your budget ensures that you don’t accumulate any new debt in 2015.

In practice, that means that you have your entertainment and household items thoroughly covered as budgeted items.

Like to travel? Make sure you’re putting money aside for that too, so that it doesn’t end up costing you 19% interest.

Assess Your Family’s Needs

familyTake a look at your family’s dynamics and assess if any money needs to be earmarked for upcoming needs. For example, is your child on the cusp of graduating high school? If so, college tuition is looming, so make sure it’s covered.

Don’t forget about your parents in this exercise. Your aging parents may need your financial help soon, too.

Gather Your Tax Receipts

TaxesTax season is just around the corner. Why not get proactive about making sure you’ve gathered all the receipts and paperwork you’ll need to make filing this year’s return less “taxing”?

Open A 401k Account

401k-planIf you don’t already have one, talk to your human resources department and make arrangements to open a 401k account. Money in a 401k is invested for you, you usually have a say in how risky the investment is that it’s held in, and the money is only taxed under certain withdrawal circumstances.

There are other advantages too, including the fact that it’s automatic, so the money just accumulates in the background, and some employers offer a matching program, so your money accumulates even faster.

Maximize Your Contributions

401k maxOnce you’ve opened the account, make sure you’ve maxed out your contribution to the best of your ability, especially if your employer is matching a percentage of your contribution.

Assess Your Investments

investmentLook at where your money is currently invested. Take a good look at the level of risk you’re assuming with your investments and make sure they still jive with your current situation.

For example, if you are very close to retiring, make sure you reduce the level of risk you’re investing in. Maybe a high-risk investment was appropriate when you first started investing, but you certainly can’t afford to gamble with money you may need in just a few short years.

Contrarily, if you’re just starting out in your career and retirement is still years ahead, now’s the time to invest in those heavy-hitting funds that you’ll be holding for the long-term.

Update Your Financial Goals For The Year

saving-moneyChallenge yourself. Make goals and hold yourself accountable to them. Check out this awesome guide to making goals you’ll be sure to achieve for 2015.

Assess Your Household Vehicles

vehicle costTake a good look at your vehicles and assess how much longer they’ll be good for. Don’t let a major breakdown catch you by surprise. Put money aside on a regular basis that’s in line with your vehicles’ maintenance needs.

Assess Your Credit Cards

credit cardsAre you getting the most out of your credit cards? Today’s competitive credit card market means that more than ever, we can benefit from using them. Take a look at the cards in your wallet and make sure you’re earning some awesome rewards instead of just accumulating crippling debt with them. Compare credit cards here and make sure you’re maximizing your cards’ potential.

Buy Life Insurance

life-insuranceIs your family covered in case of the worst case scenario? Too often, the answer is no. Take some time to assess your family’s life insurance needs and call an insurance broker today to find the best policy for you. If you’re healthy, most coverage is reasonable. You should also never under estimate the value of peace of mind.

Dump Unnecessary Insurance

types-of-insuranceReview your loan documents and make sure you aren’t paying for unnecessary life insurance or loan balance coverage. In most cases, the additional insurance is automatically added to your loan or mortgage agreement and must be waived by you.

If you didn’t sign on the waiver, you are paying for insurance coverage that you don’t need. In most cases, this additional coverage is very expensive, only covers a specific portion of your loan, is less beneficial over time, and in some cases, duplicates coverage you already have.

Also, make a quick phone call to some insurance companies and comparison shop your vehicle and household insurance policies. You may be surprised to find that, even when you take into account the multi-policy discount, you may realize savings by splitting up your insurance policies or by changing companies. Maybe your current supplier is willing to give you a discount in order to keep your business.

Commit To 3 Cost-Cutting Measures

cut costsTake a closer look at column 2 of your budget and look for ways to cut the costs of running your household. Try to find 3 places where you could potentially cut costs. Consider things like alternative sources for your television entertainment, utility saving measures, coupon clipping at the grocery store, or reducing your entertainment costs by eating more meals at home.

Clean Out Closets

clean out closetBelieve it or not, there are many financial benefits to doing a thorough closet clean-up. You may rediscover old favorites that can still be worn or jewelry that is suddenly back in vogue.

Also, if you have children, certainly they’ve outgrown last season’s stuff. Take all your children’s outgrown clothing and outerwear to a local consignment boutique and believe it or not, you may make enough to finance this coming season’s wardrobe for your little ones.

Get Rid Of Household Clutter

clutterIn the same vein, register an Ebay account and start selling all your unwanted household items online. Not only will your house feel less messy, but you’ll be able to give your savings or debt reduction plan a little boost.

So, it’s going to be a good year! These simple assessments and tweaks to your monetary affairs will have a lasting positive effect on your financial health throughout 2015.

 

overspending

The holiday meals are long digested and the presents seem like a distant memory when your January monthly bills and credit card statements come flooding in and break you out of a post-holiday stupor. If you succumbed to a buying high last month in a rush to make the season merry and bright, some budget triage is probably in order right about now.

If holiday shopping sent your family’s monthly budget into a tailspin, here are 10 tips to help you quickly get back on track for the New Year.

1. Assess the Damage

damageNow’s the time to take an honest look at how far off course you veered during the holiday buying frenzy. Adding up exactly how much you spent on gifts and entertainment may be unpleasant, but doing so makes your spending spree a reality. While sobering, the actual figure of your budget deficit will give you the facts in terms of how much you have to pay off, as well as put you in a determined state of mind for getting back on track.

2. Get Organized

organizedChances are that in the rush of the holiday season, your financial house got a little (or a lot) disorganized. Clutter can be dangerous to your finances, as it leads to the misplacement of important financial items like bills. Forgetting about payments due can lead to expensive late charges that will sink you even deeper into debt. Filing all of your financial paperwork in a physical or online budget organizer will help ensure that nothing is forgotten.

3. Devise a Pay-off Plan

pay-offPaying off credit card balances that resulted from holiday spending should be on the top of to-do your list. The Federal Reserve, which has a great deal to do with directing the US economy, recently reported the likelihood of interest rates rising in 2015. Interest charges on your credit cards may threaten to cripple your chances of getting ahead financially in the New Year.

Figure out how much you need to pay per month to resolve your credit card balance within the next 90 days, if possible. Paying the balance off by the end of the first quarter gives you three more quarters to save for the rest of the year.

Keep track of your payoff progress with budgeting apps that allow you to track what you spend, such as Mint.com, Track Every Coin, Expensify and eFinPLAN.

4. Do Some Financial Belt Tightening

Tighten Your BeltIn order to get caught up and pay off holiday debt, it may be necessary to go on an immediate financial diet. Review your spending and for the foreseeable future, cut out 80 to 90 percent of unnecessary expenses. This might seem drastic, but remind yourself that you did more than your share of spending last month, and the sooner you get back on track and slim down your financial bloat, the more likely you’ll have a financially healthy and prosperous New Year.

Some effective methods for cutting out discretionary spending for the next month or so include leaving your credit card at home and using only cash or a debit card, opting for low-cost or no cost entertainment options and keeping yourself occupied and productive by tackling projects that you’ve been putting off at home or work.

5. Earn Extra Cash

extra cashIf your holiday shortfall is substantial and budgeting and belt tightening isn’t enough to get you out of debt in a reasonable period of time, consider bringing in some additional income. A wide variety of options exist for making extra cash, such as doing online surveys, testing products, setting up and writing a blog, dog walking, mystery shopping, selling your craft creations on sites like Etsy.com and tutoring.

6. Sell or Return Unwanted Presents

returnChances are that some of your well meaning friends and family gave you at least a couple of presents that you don’t want or need. Return or sell these gifts and put the money toward your holiday debt. Many stores will give you cash back if you have a gift receipt. If you don’t, they’ll often give you store credit in the form of a gift card. You can resell the gift card and others you don’t want online for cash. You can also sell items online at e-retailers like Amazon Marketplace, Ebay and Craigslist.

7. Team Up For Support

team upJust as you would seek support for a New Year’s exercise and diet plan, team up with a budget buddy to keep you on track. There is a good chance that a friend or family member also overspent during the holidays and wants to get out of the red as soon as possible. Having someone to call gives you a sounding board when budgeting gets challenging. You can compare progress with one another and follow financial blogs that offer helpful advice. Agree to talk at least a couple of times a week, which will help ensure that you both stay within your budgets and pay off your holiday debt.

8. Devise a Gift Spending Plan

pay-offThe holidays aren’t the only time you’ll be tempted to spend on gifts. Birthdays and occasions like Valentine’s Day may cause a knee-jerk reaction to overspend, so it’s important to be aware of that fact and be ready. Avoid making the same mistakes you made last month by devising a spending plan of action ahead of time. Budget your gift buying purchases and shop ahead of time in order to get the best deals.

9. Don’t Forget Your Emergency Fund

emergencyA holiday deficit is no excuse for not having an emergency fund. If you think a rainy day fund can wait until you’re out of debt, consider how you got into debt in the first place. If you had savings to draw from, you’d be in the black right now. A good way to contribute to an emergency savings fund while you’re paying off holiday debt is to save a small amount via an automatic savings plan. Saving even 2-4 percent of gross income each month until holiday debt is paid off will give you operating funds if the need for extra cash arises.

10. Avoid a Repeat Performance

repeatPlanning ahead so you start off next year in the black, takes making some financial moves now to avoid the deficit. Start saving so that you have a holiday nest egg to use this December. Determine how much you need to save on a monthly basis by adding up what you spent last year and dividing by eleven.

Suffering from a holiday spending hangover happens to the best of us. Rather than kicking yourself for overspending, stay positive and stick to these get-out-of-debt tactics, and you’ll soon find yourself well on your way to a prosperous new year.