Category Archives: Holidays

Five tips for staying on budget and keeping the holidays jolly

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Candy cane cache: Maintain your holiday budget through these 5 tips

(BPT) – If you’re one of those savvy consumers already strategizing how to best fund gifts and other expenses this holiday season, you’re not alone. Sixty-five percent of U.S. adults who give holiday presents establish a budget for these purchases, according to a recent Coinstar survey. Yet 85 percent admit they still tend to go over budget when it comes to gift buying, entertainment, travel, decorating and other holiday expenses.

Fortunately, planning ahead can reduce the risk of overspending. Consider how implementing the following ideas can help you stay on task and on budget when it comes to this year’s holiday expenses.

1. Estimate all of your anticipated holiday expenses, not just gift purchases. Consider costs for decorations, food/alcohol, travel and special events to gain a realistic idea of your projected cash output. If the total is out of reach, consciously decide where to cut back so you’re less likely to spend impulsively. You may have to acknowledge that you’re not able to host a lavish party or buy generous presents for everyone on your list.

2. Reduce your stress by starting your shopping early and taking advantage of sales throughout the year. These strategies will help spread your costs so they don’t all hit at once and reduce your overall holiday spending budget. A full one-third of U.S. adults shop throughout the year, according to Coinstar’s survey, and 27 percent buy the majority of their presents on sale. Only 14 percent are last-minute shoppers. Looking for bargains and unique gift items at stores, at special events, and on websites can even be fun when you’re not in a panic.

3. Think of ways to boost your spending power. One method is turning to the spare change you’ve stashed away in a coin jar, in vehicles, and around your home. It’s easy to take your change to one of about 20,000 Coinstar kiosks located at grocery stores throughout the country. For many, that’s found money that can be converted into cash or transformed (at no fee) into e-gift cards from popular vendors such as Amazon, Best Buy, Sephora, Lowe’s and Starbucks.

4. Draw names and set gift-spending limits for family gift exchanges. As families grow through marriage or children added to the brood, it’s easy to allow spending and gift giving to get out of control. White elephant exchanges can be great for the kids in the family. Have them gift one of their toys or possessions to another child in the family. That will not only be softer on the wallet but will teach them the power of gifting and reusing.

5. Consider gifts big on thoughtfulness and small in cost. Perhaps a handcrafted work of art, homemade baked goods or a meaningful service, such as childcare, would mean more to some recipients than a store-bought knickknack, electronic gadget, or sweater.

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself if you go over budget despite your best efforts. You can always make up for it by cutting expenses outside the holiday season when you may face less temptation and pressure to buy.

For more information on how Coinstar works, visit www.coinstar.com.

Resolutions: Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em?

baby-new-year1Well folks, it looks like another year is in the books. And as we await the arrival of baby new year, we all tend to ask ourselves: are we going to resolve anything from 2015 for the prospect of a fantastic 2016? Chances are, that answer is yes. There is always room for improvement and it’s this time of year that brings to light all the changes we feel need to be addressed. Health, personal relations, and money are generally at the tops of said changes.

We all know that business for us in the real estate industry slows down in the colder winter months, so this is a perfect time to take stock in what we currently have, and what we need in order to fine tune our business practices to ensure continued success. As a real estate agent, this isn’t your typical 9 to 5 career. There are three arenas that we use in everyday business: an office, the field and an online presence. We can’t let one of these areas slip through the proverbial cracks or our production will suffer. So why not take a moment to re-evaluate what resolutions need to be put into place to make sure you will begin into the new year ready for anything.

First, let’s look at your office. Does your office project a confident, well-organized agent? Is finding necessary documents on your desk simple or more like a game of Marco Polo? Every professional needs to have a clean, organized office to conduct business in. Start with your desk and move outwards. There are literally tons of organizational equipment at your disposal. A desktop organizer, file cabinet and a little shelving will not only present your skills in a professional light, but a good filing system will also make you seem ready for any situation. So take advantage of the newest technologies available to give your office a bit of a makeover. Streamlining your equipment will only improve the daunting task of keeping up with client paperwork.

Speaking of clients, the next area to consider streamlining is how you conduct yourself out in the field. An agent’s on-the-go lifestyle makes running back to the office for forgotten necessities an impossibility. You need to have everything you need within arm’s reach at the drop of a hat, and before technology, it meant lugging around lots of lots of paperwork in the trunk of your car. Today, this isn’t the case. Now everything can be in the palm of your hand if you have the latest equipment. But it isn’t just about a smartphone and a lightweight electronic notebook. You will always need brochures & flyers, a digital camera and who knows? You may even enjoy writing your notes down with a pen & paper. What you need is a fantastic case to carry along with you to showings and client meetings. It should be roomy enough for all of your basic needs, but organized enough that it doesn’t end up looking like a child’s backpack at the end of the day. Having all of your specific tools with you at all times will make any meeting go smoother and will present you as a capable real estate agent ready to help your client any way you can.

Lastly, consider where you’re storing your business. These days, it seems as though everyone is working off of the internet, in something called the “cloud”. What is this cloud everyone speaks of? Well, it’s basically a more efficient way of keeping all of your records electronic and at your fingertips. Having contracts, forms and digital signatures electronic takes all of the thumbs out of flash drives, misplaced emails and backup storage devices. Everything is online and easily accessible, thereby making any document you need ready at a moment’s notice. And when your business revolves around always being on the go, considering these online tools really is a choice worth considering. It isn’t as complex and scary as it looks. So as we are days from the beginnings of a new year, consider stepping out of your comfort zone if it means a stress-free prosperous 2016.

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Christopher Columbus: America’s First Real Estate Agent?

christopher-columbusHappy Columbus Day, folks! As the first holiday of the autumn season, I thought it fitting to take this moment to propose an idea. After all, the banks are closed & the kids are home. Why not sit back and spin a tale to celebrate the discoverer of our great land?

The story of Christopher Columbus has been told many times. There are historical documents that trace his entire existence. But what if they were wrong? His dad was a wool weaver, his mom owned a cheese stand. Why would Christopher turn out to be a world-famous explorer? What if his intention was to be a real estate agent? He loved discovering new places to inhabit, he loved to sell people on letting him find said places for them, and in the end it wasn’t him that wanted to inhabit those places…he wanted to be the one recognized as the discoverer of places people wanted to inhabit. Can you say farming?

In 1485, Christopher Columbus decides he wants to open his own real estate business and has a good feeling about some area on the west side (of the planet). The Indies was all the rage, but it was becoming a more unsavory area due to the invasion of the Ottoman Turks. People were looking for a new place to go, so Christopher wanted to start to build traction on his farm by showing space not currently available to the public before. And now he’s off to find his first clients.

At first it was tough to find someone interested in this undiscovered property. He sought out King John II of Portugal, but was rejected. He then went to Genoa and Venice, but again, no one was in the market to buy. Even Henry IV turned him down. Columbus was getting frustrated. Finally, he went to Spain to approach the newly married monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. See, now that they were newly married, Ferdinand wanted to give his wife “something nice”. They wanted something large and spacious because they had a lot of family but cozy enough that the neighbors were welcoming enough to have a bar-be-que. Also on the list was lots of light and a good landscape to work with, but with lots of room for improvement.

Unfortunately, under the advice of their committee of Spanish savants, they rejected his proposal. But the monarchs saw something special in Christopher’s personality and trusted him and his farmed territory proposal, so they hired him to find their dream property and in return, ordered all their cities to allow him to live for free while they worked things out “with the banks and lenders”.

Finally, after years of trying to convince them of this great area he knows they’ll love, they finally agree to his terms and well, let’s just say he made quite the commission. He was given rank of Admiral of the Ocean Sea, appointed Viceroy and Senator of all the new properties he found them, 10% of all revenue accrued in this area and an option to buy into 8% in interest of any commercial venture with an 8% ROI!

So in April 1492, Columbus went off to travel west and report back the showing of a lifetime.

Sure, I could get into the ugly truths, but this isn’t about history. This is about inspiration! If you look at it this way, Christopher Columbus was one awesome real estate agent and you can learn a lot from his persistence. He believed in himself and his product, he got his clients to trust him and in the end, he made his sale. And now he has a world-wide holiday to celebrate his accomplishment. Pretty inspiring stuff, if I do say so myself!

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