So you’ve got an idea that’s going to revolutionize an industry. You’ve got some startup capital to invest in your business, and you’re ready to dedicate yourself to your startup. But before you launch your product or service, there are mistakes you can easily avoid when starting your business that will sink your startup before it starts up.

1. Write a business plan before doing anything else

You might be thinking, “But I don’t need any funding,” or “I’m bootstrapping this business,” or “I have to be first to market.” And none of that matters. A business plan isn’t just a way to entice investors to provide funding for your startup. It’s a way for you to get to get to know your business intimately.

Most startups that fail do so because the CEO provided a product or service that didn’t solve a problem. Don’t try to solve a problem people don’t know they have; solve a problem they know they have. Writing a business plan is the best way to determine whether your business is solving a problem people know they have.

A business plan will also help prepare content for your website. You’ll nail down your company’s mission and answer key questions customers will have about your business. You’ll likely realize where a section of your business plan fits on your website while you’re writing it.

Most importantly, a business plan will help you prepare for each phase of your startup process, both operationally and financially. You’ll know how much startup capital you’ll need to start your business and have a budget so you don’t overextend yourself. You’ll also know who you’ll need to help start your business, and the list is probably longer than you imagined.

2. Invest in people before your product or service

The most important assets a company has is its employees, and it’s no different for a startup. Before you invest in a prototype or technology, surrounding yourself with the right people can help you avoid a failed launch of your business.

The first people you need are potential customers. You’re not selling them at this point, but their needs should dictate yours and that of your company. They can provide valuable feedback about your product or service that will help you perfect it prior to launch. Talk to at least 15 people you think would have an interest in your product or service. Let them know what you intend to offer and how they would improve it.

One of the best investments you can make in your business is in public relations. You might think you can do this work yourself, especially after writing a business plan. After all, you know your business better than anyone else. But journalists and editors of newspapers, magazines and websites are more apt to publish something about your business when it comes from a PR person or firm with whom they’re familiar. A press release received from an email address that contains the same business name as the press release doesn’t exactly scream “trust me.” A third party writing about your business, though, does have some validity, even though you’re paying that party.

You’ll likely pay more than you think, too, according to Tom Hogan and Carol Broadbent’s new book, The Ultimate Start-up Guide: Marketing Lessons, War Stories, and Hard-won Advice from Leading Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors. Hogan and Broadbent recommend you never have a PR firm work on your account part-time and to hire a local firm where available. You should also seek out a PR firm that has contacts with media members who publish to your target market. And when you set the initial meeting, request that the people who will be actually working on your account are at the meeting. Some firms will send principal members of the firm who will never actually work on your account. Don’t allow them to pull the “bait-and-switch.”

Once you’ve chosen a PR firm to spread the word about your company, set regular updates and weekly meetings to keep everyone on the same page and make sure your goals are being accomplished. Also be sure that your public relations team is fulfilling your agreed-upon reporting style.

Another place new business owners attempt to save money is by not hiring a social media manager. Don’t do this unless you are a social media wizard that understands how to read Facebook Insights and analytics and where to best invest your social media advertising dollars. If your target market is Millenials, the majority, if not all of your advertising budget should be spent online.

3. Don’t do business with family

If you have a family member with money to invest in your startup, don’t allow them to do so unless they’re aware they could lose every penny and you know it won’t alter your relationship.

If your big brother is a social media wizard, think twice about hiring him as a social media manager. How will your big brother handle taking orders from you? Believe me, I know what it’s like to work with family. I made my senior film a family affair and ended up being ordered around by my elders despite being the writer, producer, assistant director and assistant editor of the film. While I didn’t follow their orders, it wasn’t pleasant for anyone else on set.

4. Don’t go it alone

You need a partner. While no one likes to give up equity in their company, investors like to see at least two people working together to start a business. It shows that both are capable of working with others. If you go it alone you don’t give that impression.

Having a partner also allows you to get a different perspective to make more well-informed decisions early in the startup process. Working within your own bubble puts your business in a bubble that will burst. Be open to new ideas and different perspectives because your business can benefit.

5. Find a mentor

You can find business executives that will give you free advice through SCORE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping small business get their start. Just enter your zip code and find business mentors near you. They’ll give you tips on your business plan, sales, advertising, operations management, etc.

There are also other tools available through SCORE. There are templates for business forms, webinars that will answer your immediate questions, and you can even register for a workshop in your area our schedule time with a business counselor. Even if you’re confident in your business plan, run it by a mentor to see what you and your partner are missing.

6. Stick to a timeline for launch and expansion

Whether you’re planning a soft launch or a massive grand opening, your launch is the first impression potential customers get of your business. Don’t screw it up too badly because it can sink your startup before is starts. Plan every part of your launch (and expansion) meticulously and stick to that timeline. Set goals that you want to reach within a certain period of time and then meet those short-term goals. If you say you’re going to launch on a certain date in press releases and advertisements, the worst thing you could do is push back your launch date because you’re behind schedule.

You’ll also want to set goals for expanding your company and meet those goals within a certain timeframe. If you say you want to open a new store within three years of launch, make sure you do your damndest to be in a position to do so. Meeting your goals gives you a lot to brag about as a company and CEO.

These are the easiest and most common mistakes you can avoid when starting your business, so don’t let one of them sink your startup before it starts.

--

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl

Published in News & Information

Amazon is attempting to monopolize retailing with its acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. While Amazon started as a business unreliant upon brick-and-mortar locations, it is now realizing the products and services the company can offer is limited to the locations of its warehouses. The company even has actual bookstores now.  

 

For instance, While Amazon’s Prime Pantry service allows customers to purchase non-perishables online and have them delivered to their front doors, Amazon does not have the ability to connect customers with fresh food, which is where the more than 400 Whole Foods stores comes in.

Food Prices will Fall

Amazon’s price war with Wal-mart just got a steroid injection. The only revenue Amazon was yielding to Wal-mart was on fresh food purchases. That’s no longer the case. Amazon will likely change little in Whole Foods stores to start, simply absorbing the revenue already created at those locations from the customers who would shop there regardless. But it won’t be long before Amazon updates its online catalogs with Whole Foods products that can be delivered to your door the same day you order.

 

Food delivery has to be the way Amazon intends to cut into Wal-mart’s grocery market share. A service that started as a way for the elderly to get their food and evolved into a means for donated food to find its way to people lacking transportation is going to make a comeback on a massive scale. Since the grocery business is such a low margin industry, Amazon can charge a premium to the customers who are already Whole Foods shoppers to not come to the store. All they’ll have to do is go online, pick their food products and wait for them to arrive at their door later that day or the next. Whether Amazon closes the Whole Foods stores entirely and turns them into order processing warehouses for their fresh food is unknown, but it’s a pretty safe bet Amazon is looking to beat Wal-mart into the food delivery market.

 

Wal-mart is currently the top provider of food in the nation, and by large margin because of all its locations, so there’s plenty of market share to be had by Amazon. It’s already shown an interest in catering to the low- and moderate-income American by lowering its Prime membership (which includes Prime Pantry access) to $5.99 monthly for those utilizing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). That’s a pretty good indication of what Amazon intends to do.

 

Amazon has basically exhausted its retail market share for all demographics but one -- the poor. But when Amazon starts enticing the low-income Wal-mart shopper to forego the taxi or bus ride down to the closest store for an online order they can have delivered to their door, there will be little market share for Amazon to gain and no place for prices to move. Until that day, you can expect prices on food to fall. This includes packaged foods like General Mills and Kraft Heinz offerings that have been forced to interior shelves inside grocery stores as Americans have become more conscious and cautious of what they’re eating.

The Acquisition Could Slow Inflation

While it’s unlikely the growth of inflation will come to a dead stop due to Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, there will be a slight effect felt. Consider that Whole Foods private label, 365 brand, comes along with Whole Foods, and now that Amazon owns a private-label food brand, you can bet that label is going to be well-represented online. Amazon has been selling private-label perishables for about a year. Available food is cheaper food, and the 365 brand being available to consumers online could put Amazon in a position to compete with other private labels.

 

So while the effect on inflation might not be to the point that the Fed decides against acting to reach its two-percent growth target in 2018, cheaper food will certainly curtail inflation growth. Even considering real estate and rents increasing in cost, steady fuel prices that are relatively low given recent history help counteract living expenses. And with companies attempting to create an emissions-free semi-truck to change the way food is delivered to Wal-mart and Whole Foods, the cost of food could be falling ever further in the near future. You can do more than hope, though. Here are a few more ways you can save on food.

You’ll Never Have to Stand in the Line at the Store Again

The biggest value the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods has for you, the consumer, is all the time you’ll save not standing in line at the store. We hear it all the time in America: “Time is money.” Well, companies are going to do their best to save you time like Amazon has done with its acquisition of Whole Foods because they can only cut prices so much, and making your purchase easier or more enjoyable is cheaper in the long run. If you don’t have to drive to the grocery store anymore, that’s likely an hour or so per week you have to do literally anything else. That’s four hours per week, and even if you make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, that’s almost $350 you’ll save annually. So if it costs you $6 per month for a Prime membership as a SNAP member, you’re still ahead $276.12, and you get streaming video at home. If you’re paying the full-price for Prime ($99 annually), you’re up almost $250 if you work for the country’s lowest wage.  Also keep in mind that Amazon will now be able to accept SNAP and WIC benefits.

 

Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods will have long-ranging impacts on the fresh food market and grocery market. It makes Wal-mart’s monopoly over low- and moderate-income Americans’ dollars vulnerable to the influence of Amazon. When my brother-in-law saw people getting out of cabs to go grocery shopping at Wal-mart he was stunned. “Why would you do that?’ he asked. “Well, people without transportation gotta eat, too,” I said. “And they’re not going to take a bus and haul groceries home everyday.” Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods will be good for the average American, but it could change the lives of low- and moderate-income Americans. There never seems to be access to fresh food in low-income areas. That’s why people eat so much fast food -- because it’s there. Well, now Amazon is there.

 

Editor's Note: An update follows.

 

Amazon’s next task is to apparently undermine Wal-mart's clothing sales by offering something called Wardrobe Prime, which allows online shoppers to have clothes delivered to their home to try on, and they can return what they don't like or what doesn't fit. You can sign up for when it goes live here. You'll get 10 percent off for keeping three or more items and 20 percent off for keeping five items or more.

 

--

 

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl, What’s Cookin Today

 

Published in News & Information

This is the second of a series of articles about how the impoverished American can overcome proposed budget cuts by utilizing other services and methods.


Donald Trump’s proposed budget would cut funding that provides low-income Americans with affordable housing. Specifically, the $3-billion Community Development Block grant program would be cut entirely. Of that $3 billion, 70 percent must be used to benefit low- or moderate-income persons. It prevents or eliminates “slums or blight” and addresses “community development needs having a particular urgency because existing conditions pose a serious and immediate threat to the health or welfare of the community for which other funding is not available.” I repeat, “for which other funding is not available.”

That’s not all, though. The entirety of the Section 4 Community Development and Affordable Housing Program funding -- the measly $35 million of it -- would be cut. That $35 million was distributed as grants in the following manner last year:

The HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the largest federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households, would also be cut from Trump’s budget. The HOME program awarded nearly $1 billion in grants in 2016 that built affordable homes all over the country.

Also proposed to be cut is the Choice Neighborhoods program, which has funded affordable housing on blighted or empty lots all over the country. To get an idea of what they’ve built go here.  

The Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program, which awards grants to nonprofit organizations that build affordable homes with volunteer labor (like Habitat for Humanity), would also cease to exist. So affordable home builders would have fewer funds to build fewer affordable homes, and fewer Americans would realize the American Dream.

You might say the government shouldn’t be in the business of providing affordable housing, but if you say that, you’ve likely never been near a project or witnessed people sleeping on the sidewalk or under bridges. And just because you don’t see it everyday doesn’t mean it’s not happening. This money is an investment in America. It provides (or if cut, provided) funding to decrease the number of homeless Americans -- 8.6 percent of which are veterans.

But now that affordable housing is on the chopping block (actually it’s always been) and there will be fewer affordable homes to go around, a lot of low- and moderate-income Americans will have to find a way to pay a higher percentage of their income in rent.

There is still hope, though. The proposed budget cuts have to get through the Senate after all, and those programs are still at work building affordable housing throughout the country. Here are three ways you can pay less in rent despite budget cuts to housing and urban development programs.

Buy a Home

Bet you didn’t think that would be the first suggestion to save money on housing, but a mortgage on a single-family home is currently a cheaper monthly payment than a lease in most of America. I can see how much cheaper here. The Economist provided a review of America’s housing market in five interactive charts back in August of 2016, and the ratio of home prices to rents was below the long-run average.

In my area, even considering the low rent I pay because I share a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate, buying a home is 23 percent cheaper than renting. I know what you’re thinking: “But I don’t have enough for a 10-percent down payment.” Well, you don’t need it necessarily. There state and local, down-payment assistance providers who will loan or grant you a portion of your down payment if you live in the home for a certain period. You could end up putting down the minimum three percent down by coming up with one percent yourself and getting the other two percent as a grant if you live in the home for three years.

A good rule is to never pay more than 25 percent of your monthly income to your mortgage, home insurance, and property taxes. Use a mortgage calculator to determine the maximum amount you can spend on a home, and don’t let a lender tell you different, because they will.

I attended a Home Stretch homebuyer education course to get a better understanding of the homebuying process, and you should too. Registration fees for many of the courses are waived during the month of June for National Homeownership Month, and you can even complete the course on nights or a Saturday.

These classes tend to be offered by your state’s housing finance agencies, which you can find with a Google search of “<your state> housing finance agency.” I just searched “Home Stretch homebuyer education course near me” and registered in minutes. The class was very helpful, explaining the importance of inspections, budgeting and saving for a down payment, shopping for mortgages, working with a realtor and closing the sale. You even get a manual to take home, but the best part is you’ll get the business cards of people who can help you with the homebuying process. And since these folks already take time out of their day to help first-time homebuyers, you can trust them to look out for your interests. Sure they leave their business cards for a reason, but most of them wouldn’t present at the class if they weren’t interested in helping homebuyers.

The first thing you can do before you even start shopping for a home is start saving for a down payment by putting together a budget. The more money you can put down the lower monthly mortgage you’ll pay. And you should shop for a mortgage. There are so many banks out there, which means there’s plenty of competition for your money. Don’t take the first mortgage you’re offered. You should take the best of three or four options.

People think they can handle the homebuying process without a realtor, but a realtor doesn’t cost the homebuyer anything. Their fee comes out of the seller’s fees, so there’s no reason not to employ a realtor. It’s important to have someone looking out for your interests, and just because that realtor is from the same agency as the seller’s realtor, that doesn’t mean they’re trying to screw you over. In fact, it could work in your favor.

The one thing that does cost you money is the home inspection, which is worth the $400 to $600 you’ll pay. If you waive an inspection and buy a house that’s on land being eroded and have to repour a foundation, you will have wished you paid $500 for an inspection. And always be there for the inspection. It’s probably some of the most important information you can get before buying a home.

Also your responsibility is to investigate the neighborhood where you’re buying a home. The first rule of real estate is location, location, location. Go to open houses (they’re good practice) and afterwards talk to the neighbors to get an idea what the neighborhood is like. Come back at night and check the crime statistics online. Most police departments publish a crime map on their websites. If not, call them and ask what crimes have been committed in the area lately and how often. Zillow has a 10-point rating system for the schools in the area, but it’s not a bad idea to drive by them and the parks to see what kind of shape they’re in.

Even with average home prices increasing due to a lack of supply and low interest rates, it’s not a bad time to buy considering the proposed cuts to housing and urban development budgets. Supply is expected to increase but still won’t satisfy demand, and while it’s a seller’s market, taking advantage of the relatively low interest rates before they climb could save new homeowners thousands. Homes are only going to get more expensive, albeit at a slower rate, so you might as well get in while the getting’s still good.

Rent to Own

If you can afford to purchase a home outright, negotiating a contract for deed on a home is still better than paying rent. Paying rent doesn’t allow you to create equity in your home, but a contract for deed does. You’re going to own that place someday, but be careful to read your contract for deed carefully. Some are written so that just one missed payment can void the contract. Then all the work you put into the place that wasn’t yours yet is lost to holder of the deed. A lot of condos and townhomes can be found on a rent to own basis, and can still be cheaper than renting.  

Rent a Spare Bedroom

If you don’t qualify for a mortgage, you can still make renting more affordable if you rent a spare bedroom. Yes, renting more space than you need is more expensive and costs more to heat and cool, but you can make a whole lot of money in a whole lot of places renting that spare bedroom by the night using Airbnb. There are stories of Airbnb hosts making $1 million annually, but you’d need pretty nice digs to do that. But if you’re struggling to make rent (which is likely why you stumbled onto this piece), an Airbnb business can be a lifesaver.

If you’re a natural clean freak and don’t pay for water or laundry, an Airbnb business is perfect for you. All you have to do is figure out how much you can afford to pay in rent, because if the third month comes along and you don’t have half the rent because you couldn’t get enough people to reserve your spare bedroom, you won’t have a home for very long. Generally, if you're paying more than half of your income on rent, that's an unsafe place to be. But if you're going to rent your spare bedroom, you can stand to pay half of your income in rent. Whether the owner will accept your credit based on your income is another story, though.

The beauty is Airbnb does most of the work for you (for a small fee, of course, generally 3 percent of earnings). Take some pictures of your clean home and describe it, you and the location. Be honest. Don’t expect people from out of town to know what they’re getting into. You don’t want to host the people that give you bad ratings because of your location, even though they actually choose the location. If you’re in an urban area where gunshots are regularly heard, make sure people know that before they wake up to gunshots. Even community demographics can be helpful, because some people are racists, and you don’t want to host those people. Being thorough in the description of your home and location can save you from bad ratings down the road, and your rating will affect how many reservations you secure and what price you can charge.

Before you get ahead of yourself, though, call your city hall and ask them if there is an ordinance governing short-term renting or home sharing. Airbnb is not legal everywhere. Some cities have outlawed “transient lodging” or “short-term rentals,” with hefty fines accessed to those who are caught.

New York City started fining Airbnb hosts in February, but has issued only a few fines since. Basically, it’s a really hard law to enforce in large municipalities where city employees are already overwhelmed. But neither GCN Live nor I advocate illegal home sharing. I’m actually trying to change the ordinance in Bloomington, Minn. outlawing short-term rentals less than 30 days by forcing hosts to pay the same percentage in lodging taxes that hotels pay. It’s only fair, and it won’t cut too much into hosts’ profits. The city council doesn’t seem to be interested in taking me seriously, but if I get enough people to help me persuade them they’ll have to address the issue.

If home sharing is illegal in your city, move. If you can’t afford to move, you can use the following as a template to get the ball rolling on legalizing home sharing or short-term renting in your city. Of course, you’ll have to find the law governing transient lodging or short-term renting in your city code and alter it accordingly. Otherwise, you can use this to draft a letter or email to your city council:

To Whom It May Concern:

I think Bloomington’s ban on transient lodging is wrong, and I have a solution. First of all, what people do with the homes they own or rent is up to those people and their landlords, and the City of Bloomington, or any municipality, should not be allowed to limit a person’s ability to make a living.

Secondly, the current law is nearly impossible to enforce, because despite monitoring websites like Airbnb, there will still be transient lodging made available through Craigslist, WarmShowers, and other websites. People will find a way.

There’s no reason why the City of Bloomington shouldn’t profit from transient lodging, though. If every Airbnb or similar host paid the applicable lodging taxes for their location, hotels would have little reason to complain, as the people renting Airbnb rooms are more likely to camp than pay for a hotel, and the hosts would be paying the same taxes as the hotels.

I propose the following alteration to the City of Bloomington Code of Ordinances subsection 14.577.

14.577 ILLEGAL RENTALS, OCCUPANCY LIMITS AND NO SUBLETTING

An owner may adopt standards that reduce the maximum allowed occupancy of a dwelling unit from the standards set forth herein. The maximum permissible occupancy of any licensed rental dwelling unit is determined according to the 2012 International Property Maintenance Code and as follows.

 (a)   Not more than one family, except for temporary guests, will occupy a licensed rental dwelling unit.

 (b)   No one will lease, license or agree to allow the occupancy, possession or tenancy of a licensed rental dwelling unit to more than four unrelated persons.

 (c)   Tenants of a licensed rental dwelling unit must not lease or sublet the dwelling unit to another without the prior approval of the property owner.

 (d)   No one will lease, license or agree to allow the use of a dwelling unit, or portion thereof, for transient lodging, unless applicable lodging taxes are paid.

I believe that tax is seven percent for the City of Bloomington. You can find the applicable codes here: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/lodgetax.pdf.

Since Airbnb hosts must pay taxes on their Airbnb income and fill out a W-9 or other appropriate tax form, collecting the tax would be as simple as applying that seven percent to the Airbnb income already reported each year. Let me know your questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Your Name

If a member of your city council or an administrator from city hall doesn’t get back to you in a couple of weeks, contact them and ask when it will be addressed. If they say the council isn’t interested in addressing the issue, ask them when the next city council meeting is and attend. There’s always a time for public comment at those meetings, and it’s a good way to get media exposure for your cause and recruit other supporters. There really is strength in numbers, so if you show up to the next city council meeting with 20 people behind you, and every one of them takes the time to speak their mind on the issue, your city council members will have little choice but to refer your suggestion to the ordinance committee for review.

It takes months to accomplish anything in city government, so be prepared for a lot of waiting. Take solace in the fact you’re trying to improve your community by increasing tax revenue for street and sidewalk repair, etc.

So there are three ways to pay less in rent despite housing budget cuts. Next up in our series on how to navigate federal budget cuts, we’ll look at how to get around proposed cuts to energy and transportation.

--

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, The Tech Night Owl, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, USA Prepares, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Home Talk

Published in News & Information

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of articles about how the impoverished American can overcome proposed budget cuts by utilizing other services and methods. 

Donald Trump has proposed to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) by $190 billion over 10 years. The entire SNAP budget in 2016 was $70.9 billion, and the program provided an average of $125.50 per month in food per person enrolled.

Executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, Colleen Moriarty, informed that a proposed cut to SNAP that size would result in 120,000 Minnesotans losing SNAP benefits. There are only 400,000 Minnesotans utilizing the program, which is seven percent of the state’s population. That’s roughly half the national rate -- 13.4 percent of all Americans utilize SNAP benefits to obtain food -- two-thirds of which are children, seniors and the disabled. Trump has also proposed cuts to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grants and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in the amounts of $15.6 billion and $200 million, respectively.

Moriarty was en route to Washington D.C. to accept a national award from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) when she spoke to GCN Live on Tuesday. FRAC is “the leading, national nonprofit working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States.” Moriarty’s receiving the award because of her SNAP innovations like a one-page application for seniors, securing state funding to give beneficiaries an additional $10 to spend at farmers markets, and a help line to answer calls from all counties in Minnesota. She’s concerned that the Trump administration seems to be targeting children and seniors to fund increased defense spending. She called Trump’s proposed budget cuts “devastating,” adding later that “this administration seems intent to target the people who need help the most.”

Trump’s budget still has to get out of the Senate, though, so it’s unlikely the cuts will pass as they’re proposed. But Senate Democrats won’t be successful in fighting for all the funding programs like SNAP, WIC and TANF have received in the past. They’re going to have to compromise, which means the programs will be available to fewer Americans. This guide will provide five ways to feed yourself and family if you lose SNAP or WIC benefits.

Visit the Nearest Food Bank

Moriarty believes those who lose their SNAP benefits will spillover to food banks, but she doesn’t think there’s enough donated food to go around.

“The emergency food system cannot accommodate that. It would break the system….I think some people say...let the charitable organizations handle it, but just five percent of all funding is a charitable response, and most of it comes from the federal government,” she said.

Regardless, if you were on SNAP and got kicked off, you still have to find food, and you most certainly qualify for a monthly visit to your local food bank. If you don’t have a food bank in your town, try a neighboring town. Food banks are very welcoming of everyone in need, so if you let them know you drove 30 miles to get there, you’ll almost certainly come home with food. This won’t replace the $125.50 you were getting from SNAP, as a typical, monthly visit to a food bank results in less than $100-worth of food for a single person.

I do qualify for food bank benefits given my income, and my first trip to a Minnesota food bank resulted in more than enough food for one person for one month. This was the case in Montana as well, and I suspect this will be how food banks will support the increased number of families that will have lost SNAP or WIC benefits. By cutting the number of items a single person can take home, food banks will be able to help more families, seniors and starving children.

The value of the nearly 40 items I was able to take home was roughly $103.49, mostly due to a five-pound bag of shredded cheddar cheese ($25), three loaves of bread ($9.95) and five packages of meat ($20.74) -- all of which I can freeze. 

Meat is expensive, which is why it’s the best value at food banks. Only a few options have fallen in price since last year (chicken and bologna are two), and with budget cuts to agriculture looming, you can expect prices to continue rising. More on that in a later article, though.

If you don’t eat meat, there are vegetarian options like tuna, vegetarian refried beans and dairy proteins like cottage cheese. If you’re vegan, you probably weren’t on SNAP or WIC in the first place. If you were, at least you’ve nearly replaced the $125 monthly food allowance you had. If you can’t make it to a food bank, many offer delivery service as well. If you can make it, sign up for any nutrition or cooking classes offered. You’ll get some great information, healthy recipes and take home even more groceries.

But there’s an even better way to get more, lean protein in your diet that’s so easy even your children can do it.

Buy a Fishing License

Fishing licenses are cheap and easy to obtain. For as little as $15 you can fish all of Illinois’ freshwater for an entire year, and the average price in the Midwest is $20 annually. California has the second-highest annual, base fee of $47.01, but you pay even more to catch certain fish in the state, likely making it the most expensive license in the country.

TakeMeFishing.org is a fantastic place to get all the information you need about acquiring a fishing license, and in some cases, you can even apply and pay online. Many states even offer free or discounted fishing licenses to Veterans, the disabled or impoverished. I have a friend in Minnesota who lived down the street from a lake (almost everyone does), and he and his kids caught so much fish they cleaned it, froze it and had enough to donate to the needy.

You might think you need a bunch of expensive gear to fish, but that’s not true at all. You can use a stick, some fishing line and a hook to start. If you want something that will last, though, visit your local pawn shop. You can almost always find fishing rods and sometimes tackle at a reasonable price. If not, you can get an entire fishing tackle kit for $10 at most retail outlets. And you’ll need a fillet knife and sharpener, which you can also find at a pawn shop. For a tackle box, just use what you can find and throw it all in a five-gallon bucket. That way you can turn the bucket over and have a seat while you fish.

When it comes to bait, just dig up some worms where you see fresh, moist soil. You can also use your first catch as bait if it’s not worth eating. Fish eyes tend to work well because they reflect light, but they can be a pain to cut out. Try to utilize the scales of the fish to draw the eye of other fish. Here’s an instructional on how to fish. Here are some knots you should know. Here’s how to fillet a fish.

The most tolerable freshwater fish to eat and easiest to catch tend to be Sunnies, Crappies and Bluegills. Catfish aren’t terrible, but you have to be careful about their fine bones, so chew slowly. If you manage to hook a trout or walleye, you’ll be eating pretty well for quite some time.

If the fish are biting, you can generally take home one, one-person meal per day per person fishing ($5) minus the license fee ($15-$50) and fishing tackle expenses ($11 pawn shop rod + $1 in fishing line + $10 in fishing tackle), which comes out to a payback period between eight and 15 days, depending on the fish, of course. That’s a pretty good deal considering fishing season never ends if you have an ice auger ($40), which makes the payback period just eight days longer. Don’t forget to check Craigslist and the pawn shops for augers as well.

Start a Community Garden

If you live in a duplex, quadplex, or condo and have any lawn space, get together with your neighbors and ask your landlord if you you can install a community or urban garden somewhere. Try to convince her by saying it would mean less lawn for her to mow, and it would increase the value of the property. 

While the biggest problem with community and urban gardens is loss to the grazing of animals and humans, I think you’ll find there’s always a bit of food out there when you need it. If you’re worried about losing food to grazers, plant foods they wouldn’t eat raw, like peppers and onions. You can also ask your landlord to install a motion-activated light overlooking the garden. That should spook some animals, and if you put up a security camera, some humans. The security camera doesn’t even have to be hooked up; it just needs to look like it’s sending a signal somewhere.

Since you and your neighbors likely keep different hours, get a rough idea of when everyone is available to do some gardening. You’ll find it gives kids something to do, too. Be sure to place the garden where it gets the most sunlight. And try to put the garden in a place where every tenant can see it from a window in their apartment.

Grow Food in Your Windows

If you live in an apartment building downtown, you probably don’t have room for a community garden. But there are a lot of foods you can grow indoors, including everything you need for a salad (carrots, mushrooms, lettuce, mandarin oranges, tomatoes) and guacamole (avocados, tomatoes, lemons, onions, cilantro). You can also grow herbs like basil, chive, ginger, mint and rosemary, and fruits like strawberries, grapes, figs, papaya, mulberries, watermelon, nectarines, peaches and apricots. 

You can grab window sill planters at Wal-mart for under $5 each and seeds for about $3.50 per package. Harvest times vary by plant, but you can expect to harvest onions every three weeks, lettuce once a month or so, and carrots every two months. Fruit takes a lot longer, and here’s a guide for herbs.

Dumpster Dive

Americans throw away 40 percent of their food, so if you’ve lost your SNAP benefits and can’t make the four previous recommendations work for you, there’s plenty of edible food to be found in dumpsters. Here’s a guide on how to prepare for dumpster diving.

While I’ve only ever “dove” in a dumpster for flowers, I worked many years in grocery stores and know the delis in those stores toss a lot of perfectly edible food out at the end of each night. So be aware of your local grocers’ business hours. If you get there just as they close, you’ll end up with a plethora of fried foods ranging from day-old chicken to pizza sticks right on top of the trash. If you get there early, I bet you can even convince one of the high schoolers working in the deli to wrap the food in a separate bag so it doesn’t get trashy.

Any restaurant that offers a buffet will also create a lot of edible trash, so frequent those places around closing time and see what you can score. And don’t just look for food in dumpsters. People throw away all kinds of valuable things that can be resold.

So there are five ways to feed yourself and your family despite budget cuts to food assistance. Next up in our series to help you make it through the budget cuts, we’ll look at how you can work around the proposed cuts to housing and urban development.

--

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, The Tech Night Owl, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Free Talk Live, The Easy Organic Gardener, The Magic Garden, The Paul Parent Garden Club Show, USA Prepares, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Home Talk

Published in News & Information
Friday, 26 May 2017 05:17

Get intimate with your money

While Birdman might sleep on a million dollars cash, you can get intimate with your money without sleeping with it. That’s a more lustful relationship with money than it is intimate anyways. The relationship I’m talking about is one that allows your money to give back.

I recently wrote about how the science of keeping checkbook register is dying but is still badly needed. But it didn’t take long to realize that in order to make my money make more money, I’d need more than a checkbook register in my smartphone. To truly get intimate with your money you have to bring in a third party -- a money ménage à trois, or partie carrée for those ready for a finance orgy of four.

Bring a Money Monitor into the Bedroom

Having someone or something monitor your money habits might sound a little uncomfortable. There they are, looking lustfully at your money, salivating perhaps. But there’s really no need to worry. While online money monitors connect to your bank and credit accounts, their interest is to sell you their money management plans -- not steal your money.

I used both LearnVest and Personal Capital, and I prefer LearnVest because it does more of the work for you. You can just make yourself comfortable and let her take control, so to speak. While LearnVest has a hard time determining from where your money comes and goes, she attempts to organize it in three key areas: income, fixed costs and flex spending. Personal Capital simply puts your money into two categories: assets and liabilities. So I like that LearnVest lets me know how much money I’m spending on things I might not need.

LearnVest can easily identify your income and does a pretty good job of doing so (unless your income doesn’t show up in your bank account via direct deposit). It’s the debits that cause a problem for LearnVest. Some electronic withdrawals aren’t very specific. For example, an auto-payment to a Chase credit card of mine simply comes up as Chase Bank in my bank statement. That was one of many transactions I had to put in the “Credit Card Payments” folder. You can even create a folder for regular expenses that don’t fall under broad descriptions like transportation, travel, gifts, groceries, shopping and home.

LearnVest also has the easier user interface of the two money monitors. There’s no struggling with the bra on this software. Pretty much anyone can figure her out, and she allows you to set priority goals like paying off credit card or student loan debt.

The busty, budget monitor is a really nice feature, too. She let’s you know if you’re in the black or in the red, and by how much. You can even set expected income and expenses and budget for specific things like eating out, transportation, travel and entertainment.

The best thing about bringing LearnVest into the bedroom is it will help you save and better invest your money for retirement. Now she’s not going to whisper hot, stock tips while nibbling on your ear, but by monitoring your money together, you get a better understanding of where it goes and where it could go.

Get Intimate with Your Money Outside the Bedroom

Spice up your relationship with your money by trying new things in new places. You can’t spend all day in the bedroom with your money. Your money needs to get out in order to make money for you. And you don’t need a chaperone, either. You can control your financial future and retirement planning without the help of an investment banker. Just read this first. Then check out Stash. Stash allows you to build a portfolio based on the things you love, so you’ll feel good about where your money is going when she’s not with you.

Stash groups similar companies together in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) so you can invest in an industry rather than a single company. An ETF is a marketable security that tracks an index, a commodity, bonds, or a basket of assets like an index fund. Unlike mutual funds, though, an ETF trades like a common stock on a stock exchange, so prices change throughout the day.

So if you’re into technology, you can invest in the “Techie” ETF on Stash. If you’re into social media, you can invest in the “Trendsetter” ETF, and so on. Stash is a great way for young people to start preparing for their retirement without needing a lot of investment knowledge or a large investment. You can get started for as little as $5, and you can set it and forget it with Stash. Regardless of how much trading you do, you’ll pay $1 per month to Stash, and twelve bucks a year is pretty cheap considering individual trade commissions range from $4.95 to $6.95 each.

There are plenty of ways to earn a good return on your money without paying commissions to an online trading service, too. Charles Schwab offers over 200 commission-free, exchange-traded funds (ETFs). You can trade any one of them anytime without paying a dime in commission. This is an even cheaper way to get started on saving for retirement.

Whether you’re a recent graduate looking to begin growing the very little money you have or an experienced stock trader looking to invest over $100,000, there’s an online stock broker that’s right for you. Nerd Wallet has again knocked it out of the park and reviewed every online stock broker for you. But there’s even more you can do to grow your relationship with your money.

Bring an Investment Manager into the Bedroom

If your money is too much to manage by yourself or with a money monitor, it might be time to bring another person into the bedroom. An investment manager can design an investment strategy that will hopefully meet your retirement goals. I say hopefully because not all investment managers are reliable in the bedroom, and I certainly wouldn’t pay one doesn’t perform.

If you live near a metropolitan area, your best bet is to sit down with a local agent of a few online brokerages. There’s a Charles Schwab and Scottrade office near me, so I’ll be visiting with their staff next week to see which one I like more. I’m leaning toward Charles Schwab because of their commission-free ETF options, but you never know what these people are willing to offer once you’re on the way out the door with your money. Do your research before you sit down with these people, though. Have an idea of what you’d like to do with your money, how risky an investment you’re willing to make and how often you intend to trade. You don’t want to bring another person into the bedroom without warming-up to them a bit first. 

If you live in a rural area, you’ll probably have one investment advisor in the whole town if you’re lucky. But it doesn’t cost anything to schedule an appointment and just chat about your plans for retirement. You might even learn something you didn’t realize just by uttering your retirement plans aloud.

Whatever you do, don’t commit to anything or sign anything, open an account or hand over any money based on your initial interaction with this person. First of all, these people are selling themselves in order to have an affair with your money. They aren’t who they seem, and you don’t want to realize that once they’re in the bedroom disrobing your money and tossing it around like a pimp. Secondly, these people are selling themselves, so they’ll likely offer you a better deal if you play hard to get. Investment banking is highly competitive, and customers don’t come along with your stash everyday. You are special, and you have a special relationship with your money. You didn’t get intimate with your money to hand it all over to someone else. You should remain involved in the relationship going forward, so find an investor who wants you in the bedroom with her and your money.

That’s how you get intimate with your money and stay intimate with your money. Online money management services and stock trading allow you to be more involved in your retirement planning than ever. And you should stay involved, because while you can’t take it with you, your money can work for you and those you love long after you’re gone. Getting intimate with your money will payoff for generations, so sit down with your money regularly and don’t be afraid to bring someone or something new into the bedroom.

--

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl, Travelers411, What’s Cookin Today

Published in News & Information

Online banking has all but made the checkbook register obsolete. You can check your balance on your smartphone, view it online or even print it, but the lost science of registering debits and credits hasn’t gone away, and it shouldn’t.

The importance of logging your debits and credits hasn’t changed. They still teach it in middle school family and consumer science courses, but fewer people stick with it. My sister still keeps her checkbook register up-to-date despite writing two checks per month for rent and utilities. Everything she buys with her debit card gets logged in the checkbook register, and it’s no surprise she’s better with money than her brother who doesn’t -- until now.

Log Your Debits and Credits

I don’t write checks. I pay my rent in cash and my bills online. I setup automatic payments for all my bills, so I never spend time with my money. This is a big mistake. It’s the number one easiest way to save money according to CNBC guest contributor Brittney Castro. Just sitting down with your money once per week to monitor debits and credits and budget for the week can put you in a better place financially.

If you’re like me and don’t have a checkbook but want to log your debits and credits on paper, you can print blank registers here. I’d rather use my phone to manage my money. I am logging my debits and credits on my iPhone using the Spending app. It’s also available for free on Android devices. It allows you to log debits under the following categories: eating out, clothes, entertainment, fuel, general, gifts, holidays, kids, shopping, sports and travel. You can also add a category of expenses and income. I added my Airbnb income for example.

You can view your debits and credits over the week, month or year. The best part is, turning your phone sideways reveals a pie chart of your expenses. This way you can see what’s costing you the most money and where you can start saving. Hit the cash flow tab and a graph reveals your income, so you can see those weeks you took some time off from work, or in my case, hosted more or fewer Airbnb guests. This is much more helpful than a checkbook register because it allows you to more easily see where you’re wasting your money. I’m a sucker for eating out, but since I’m new to my city, I think it’s only natural to be trying restaurants to see what you like and what’s worth the money you’re paying. Still, if I want to save money, I’ll have to cut out some of that spending.

Open an Online Savings Account

Using the Spending app to budget for your week or month isn’t the only way to better manage your money. It takes a lot more than monitoring your debits and credits to reach your financial goals. After I get my check today, I’m heading to my bank to withdraw some money to put in an online savings account. Remember those days your money in your savings and checking accounts actually made you money? Well, those days aren’t all gone. You just have to do more research and move your money around more often. Luckily, Jeff Rose has already found the top online saving account interest rates for you. Some online savings accounts require a large deposit to open the account, but many can be started for as little as $25, and while 27 cents doesn’t sound like much, it’s still 27 cents you didn’t have before, and will be a few bucks by the end of the year.

Cut Transportation Costs

Cutting your transportation costs is the easiest way to save money if you commute 12 miles or so to work everyday like me. I intend to start riding my bike to the bus stop to save even more money this summer, and, eventually, I’ll do the entire 25-mile commute on my bike to get in great shape. But the gas rewards card is a thing of beauty. I keep two of them on me at all times, so regardless of what gas station is nearest I have a way of earning points and saving money. That moment after you swipe your card and the screen on the pump reads “We’re lowering your prices,” or “Use $2.96 in rewards?” I get all warm and fuzzy inside. It feels like you’re cheating the system, and speaking of…

Take Advantage of Rewards Programs and Rewards Credit Cards

Sign up for every free, rewards program you can find. My favorite is Ebates, which I’ve been using for almost 10 years. During that time I’ve been paid $113.72 just for shopping at my favorite stores online. You can even install an extension for your browser, so anytime you happen upon a store that’s an Ebates partner it will ask you if you want to enable Ebates cash back. Just click the button and you’re on your way to free money for every purchase you make.

Another extension I’ve attached to my browser is Honey, which scours the internet for coupon and promo codes that apply to the store you’re visiting. It’ll tell you how many coupon and promo codes are available for that store, for what they can be used, and allow you to save money on your order right there and then. There’s no need to open a new tab and search those ad-happy coupon and promo code search engines anymore. Just install Honey.

If you travel a lot, open an Expedia account and start earning rewards points worth airline miles and discounts on hotel rooms and car rentals. You can even find discounted tickets for activities on your trip. The other day I was offered a free flight if I booked a hotel along with my flight through Expedia. I don’t book through anywhere but Expedia now, because Ebates gives me 10 percent cash back on top of any discounts I get with my rewards points.

If you travel for business, a travel rewards credit card will probably be a good thing to have in your wallet. Nerd Wallet has put together a fine list of the best available travel rewards credit cards, but if you intend to apply, be sure to note whether the credit card has an annual fee. If you travel enough to accumulate enough miles to use during the fee-free, introductory year, you can jump ship after just one year and move to another travel rewards card. If not, just pick one that doesn’t have an annual fee.

Finally, the most rewarding and money-saving rewards program and credit card are with the same company: Amazon. I buy a lot of books, technology and vinyl records. Most of my birthday and Christmas gifts are purchased on Amazon. In fact, I just sent my mom her Mother’s Day gift using Amazon (they do gift wrapping for $4 if you’re wondering and include a short, personalized message on a card). I also sent my sister her birthday present using Amazon, and neither of those gifts cost me a dime. Here’s why:

I got hooked on Amazon at a young age. I was really into Ebay when I was in high school, but when some of the items I purchased came with defects and weren’t returnable, I started using Amazon pretty regularly. I’m pretty sure the first credit card for which I ever applied was my Amazon Rewards Visa Credit Card through Chase.

My new, shiny Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Credit Card came in the mail just a few weeks ago. Since I’m an Amazon Prime member, I get five percent cash back on every Amazon purchase to be used on future Amazon purchases. I also get two percent back on purchases at restaurants, gas stations and drugs stores, and one percent back on all other purchases. While the interest rate is high, it doesn’t matter because I pay it off each month. So that’s how I ended up taking care of my sister’s birthday and Mother’s Day without spending a dime of my own money.

I cannot stress how rewarding Amazon Prime has been for me. I became a member when I was a sophomore in college because I was tired of paying way too much for textbooks at the bookstore. Instead, I managed to save a ton of money buying them on Amazon and had them shipped in two days for free thanks to my Prime membership, so I rarely fell behind in classes because I didn’t have a textbook. I even made a bunch more than most of my classmates selling my textbooks because I used Textbook Wheel, now First Class Books, instead of selling them back to the bookstore. Never buy textbooks from or sell textbooks to your university bookstore. We live in a global economy. Your campus is not the best place to get the books you need for classes or the money you need to celebrate passing your classes.

I’m just now taking advantage of Prime Pantry -- Amazon’s online store for mostly non-perishables. Here’s a breakdown of what I got:

The best part is all of it will be delivered for free to my apartment within four days. The real value is I got to compare prices from the comfort of my computer desk and didn’t have to stand in line at the grocery store checkout. Oh, and did I mention that my Amazon Prime membership includes video streaming of movies and shows and free, two-day shipping on any Amazon warehouse-fulfilled item?

So keeping a checkbook register is all well and good, but the internet and smartphones allow for so many more ways to save money, whether it’s by logging your debits and credits, transferring money to an online savings account that actually pays interest, saving money through online rewards programs or buying the things online you already buy at the store. Welcome to the online banking and shopping era and enjoy the savings.

--

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl, Travelers411, What’s Cookin Today

Published in News & Information
Tuesday, 25 April 2017 20:19

5 ways to leave Las Vegas with cash

My dad has been visiting Sin City for years, and always seems to leave Las Vegas with cash. Many times his entire trip is paid for thanks to thoughtful gambling practices like knowing when to cash out and knowing when to raise the bet. Instincts aren’t teachable, though, so here’s a foolproof way to leave Las Vegas with cash.

  1. Give yourself a budget and stick to it

Budgeting for Las Vegas is the most important thing you can do before you leave for Las Vegas. Right around the time you book a flight to Sin City, and that should be at least two weeks in advance (and departing on a Sunday and returning on a Tuesday), start putting some money aside specifically for entertainment, which includes gambling, shows, activities and escorts. While prostitution is not legal in Clark (Las Vegas), Washoe (Reno/Tahoe), Douglas and Lincoln counties, there are brothels in the rural areas of Nevada where you can pay for a legal, good time. GCN Live does not condone these activities. I’m just giving you the facts.

I started an automatic transfer from my checking account to my savings account and withdrew the accrued amount in my savings before boarding my flight to Sin City. That way when I arrived in Las Vegas, I knew exactly how much cash I was willing to lose. This is the key. Once you’re comfortable losing that money, you’ll always come back a winner as long as you don’t allow yourself to lose more. That money doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to Las Vegas. This mindset also improves your chances of winning money, because the best way to win is to act like you’re playing with someone else’s money -- as long as you play the games you can control.

  1. Only play the games you can control

This is the toughest part for people visiting Las Vegas. The bright lights of the slot machines stretching to the ceiling and featuring their favorite celebrities (Cher, Britney Spears, etc.) or television shows (The Walking Dead, Big Bang Theory, etc.) can be overwhelming. Don’t give into your urges, but if you must play the reel games or keno, play on the outskirts of the Vegas Strip. The slots are looser the farther from the strip you get because it’s harder for casinos farther from the strip to entice customers to make the trip. The slots at Fremont Street and the South Point Casino are said to be loosest according to locals, with South Point’s tagline being, “The point of more return.” If the slots are your bag, play where the locals play.

Otherwise, play the games you know you can control, which means play the games you know something about. My dad plays blackjack because he feels it’s a game he can control, especially if you place yourself properly at the table and are strong in math (not to count cards but to get a sense of what the odds are that you get a card you need).

I stick to Major League Baseball betting because it’s the sport about which I know most. I play fantasy baseball every year, so I’m already doing a bit of research everyday. I’m pretty good at picking pitchers who will toss quality starts, and you can even place bets on the first five innings of a game. Placing just a couple of bets a day, including a parlay that pays, I not only limit the amount of money I can lose, but I’m entertained the entire day by games I wouldn’t normally watch.

I’ve also been known to play No Limit Hold ‘Em poker, both cash games and tournaments, because it’s “the only pure game left.” You can outplay your opponents in Hold ‘Em by simply observing their mannerisms and remembering the patterns of their play. It’s a beautiful game, and you can generally find a freeroll tournament in any casino that will help you learn the game at no cost to you.

  1. Leave the plastic at home

Leaving your credit cards at home ensures you won’t attempt to make back your losses by taking an expensive cash advance out on your credit card. Credit card companies love people with gambling problems because they get to charge a fee between two and five percent for you to withdraw the cash and then charge a daily interest rate between one and seven percent higher than your interest rate for purchases. The easiest way to avoid this is to leave the plastic at home, and it will also force you to stick to the cash budget you set in step one.

  1. Read the coupon books and local publications

Reading the local newspapers and free publications is the best way to get to know any place you’re visiting. Buffets, drinks and entertainment in Las Vegas aren’t as cheap as they once were, but coupon books and local publications like The Sunday and even the Las Vegas Sun newspaper can steer you in the right direction for cheap eats, drinks and entertainment.

Most hotels will issue visitors a coupon book in an attempt to keep them in their casinos and restaurants, because the longer you stay within their walls, the more likely they are to get your money. The coupon books usually provide a few free drinks and cheap buffets, discounts on show tickets and other entertainment, and even free casino play for joining their members club. Do yourself a favor and join all the clubs. You might not win on the casino’s dime, but you’ll be entertained for free and your cash budget will be affected that much less.

Travel blogs can also be helpful in finding bargains in Sin City.

  1. Utilize the Groupon app and others

The best deals on food and drink are also off the strip, but you can find even better deals by using the Groupon app. Imagine getting $30-worth of food for $12. That’s what Groupon can do for you. It can get you a spa day for half price, too. There are also discounts on VIP Vegas club entrance, limo rides, painting and singing lessons, buffets, etc.

You can also save money using Expedia to find discounted activity tickets if you purchase in advance. Tickets to The Mob Museum are about $24 at the door, but just $19 if you purchase through Expedia a day in advance. It’s a very cool museum and fitting for Sin City. I highly recommend it.

This is how I’ll leave Las Vegas with cash, and it’s how you can, too.

--

If you like this, you might like these GCN Live talk radio shows: Travelers411, What’s Cookin Today, Free Talk Live, View from the Couch

Published in News & Information
Tuesday, 18 April 2017 16:45

The Taxman Cometh

Today -- April 18th, 2017 --  is the last day you can file your Federal Income Taxes. Uncle Sam has bills to pay and expects your check in a timely manner. I usually do my taxes at the last minute and this year was no different. I have oft wondered, “Is this the year where I don’t get my taxes done in time and have to file an extension?”

 

Thankfully, the answer is, “Nope. Not this year!” But what does one do if one has not yet filed their taxes? You can link jump to irs.gov and fill out: Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. It’s a pretty simple form.

 

Keep in mind if you file for an extension there may or may not be late fee penalties, accrued interest, nasty letters from the IRS, collection agents, tax levies and / or liens. Consequences all depend if you are filing late or not filing at all. There is a huge difference in the amount of consequences between filing late and not filing. All sorts of bad thing can happen to you up to and including jail time if you fail to file your taxes on time or at all. So don’t do it.

 

Even celebrities get in trouble for income tax evasion! And celebrities can get away with nearly anything. Here is a partial list of Celebrities Who Were Forgiven For Their Horrible Acts. I mean, look at that list! Matthew Broderick has killed people! And his grand punishment was that he had to fork over a colossal fee of -- $175. Not $1.75 million or $175 million.Nope. One hundred and seventy five dollars! For killing two people! Like I said, celebrities can get away with a lot of awful stuff. But not tax evasion. Just ask Martha Steward or Wesley Snipes or Willie Nelson or Nicolas Cage.  

 

Point being, the tax man gets his money. It doesn’t matter if it’s your $284 or Nicolas Cage’s $6 million. The tax man always wins. So file today  and you free, free, free from the tax man!


Well, until next year. Or until your extension expires. I guess I take that back. You will not be free. There is a reason, “Death and Taxes,” is a colloquialism. Nothing is inevitable except for … well, you know.

 

--

 

If you like this you might like the GCNlive talk shows: The CEO ShowKorelin Economics, Millionaire Roadshow, Wall Street Raw.    

Published in News & Information

Warning: mysqli_close(): Couldn't fetch mysqli in /home/gcnlive/httpdocs/JW1D/libraries/joomla/database/driver/mysqli.php on line 209

Warning: mysqli_close(): Couldn't fetch mysqli in /home/gcnlive/httpdocs/JW1D/libraries/joomla/database/driver/mysqli.php on line 209

Warning: mysqli_close(): Couldn't fetch mysqli in /home/gcnlive/httpdocs/JW1D/libraries/joomla/database/driver/mysqli.php on line 209

Warning: mysqli_close(): Couldn't fetch mysqli in /home/gcnlive/httpdocs/JW1D/libraries/joomla/database/driver/mysqli.php on line 209

Warning: mysqli_close(): Couldn't fetch mysqli in /home/gcnlive/httpdocs/JW1D/libraries/joomla/database/driver/mysqli.php on line 209

Warning: mysqli_close(): Couldn't fetch mysqli in /home/gcnlive/httpdocs/JW1D/libraries/joomla/database/driver/mysqli.php on line 209

Warning: mysqli_close(): Couldn't fetch mysqli in /home/gcnlive/httpdocs/JW1D/libraries/joomla/database/driver/mysqli.php on line 209