Getting Out of Debt

We live in a culture where more is better, and spending beyond our means is encouraged. Because of this, the average American household has an average of $15,611 in credit card debt, over $150,000 in mortgage debt, and $32,000 in student loans. These numbers are alarming, and are a reality for many people. There’s nothing worse than feeling suffocated by debt, but the situation is not hopeless. Though it takes dedication and sacrifice, these few simple steps can help you save money, and work your way out of debt.

Stop Borrowing Money

This one may be obvious, but don’t take on any more loans, and don’t borrow money to pay off your loans. If you truly want to get out of debt, you need to stop spending, and concentrate on shrinking down what you have.

Know Your Number & Organize Debt

Pull out all of your loan paperwork, or access it online. Even if it’s cringe worthy, add up your total debt to know exactly what you’re working with.  Organize your loans with the ones accruing the most interest as a priority and the ones with the lowest interest being paid off last. You’ll want to avoid extra interest charges by tackling the high interest ones first.

Make a Budget

Sit down, and really look at the expenses of your family. Be realistic with your expenditures, but realize that you are also going to need to cut back on luxuries in order to tackle your debt.  Make sure to look at things like past credit card statements, utility bills, and car payments to accurately set your budget.  If your numbers just aren’t adding up, consider taking on extra work.  Nobody said getting out of debt was easy, and working after hours just might be what it takes.  Cut out things like eating out and going on expensive outings to movies and concerts.  Instead of shopping at expensive department stores, consider more budget friendly stores like Sears where you can get more for your money.

Start an Emergency Fund

Oftentimes, when families encounter a crisis, they borrow money to stay afloat.  By stocking a small emergency fund, usually about $1000, the money will be available for those unexpected situations.

Stay Committed

Though it’s tempting to spend your tax return on a family vacation, that money should be used to pay off debt. If fully committed to the cause, any extra money should be used to pay down loans.  Use your tax return, birthday money, and rebates to get one step closer towards your goal.
Getting out of debt is possible if you’re willing to work hard, make sacrifices, and stay committed.  Follow these steps, and you’ll experience the financial freedom you’ve always dreamed of.

Keeping Your Tools Safe

It would be an understatement to say that a tradesman’s tools are essential. Being a victim of theft could have a devastating effect on your earnings and your business’s reputation.  So make sure you do what you can to minimise your risks with our quick tips for keeping your tools safe.

Keep Them Out of Sight

A large number of thieves are opportunists. So one of the most effective ways to prevent theft is to remove the element of opportunity.

Tinted windows on your business vehicle can make it hard for anyone to decide if the contents of the vehicle are worth the risk. The same goes for a vehicle parked in a garage – if they can’t see your tools, they’re less likely to try and take them.

Whether you’re at home or on-site, don’t leave your tools in your vehicle. It might be an effort to bring everything indoors with you every night, but it’s nothing compared to losing a day’s work and having to replace your entire collection of tools.

Keep Them Locked Up

Whenever you leave your tools anywhere – at work, at home or in the van – make sure they’re always secure. There are many different options for installing fixed, secure lockboxes in your van, and you might even consider installing mesh windows.

For larger equipment, such as ladders, you can secure them with a chain and padlock. But remember – a dedicated thief can force locks and cut chains, so always buy the highest quality security devices that your budget allows.

And don’t forget to make it clear that you take your security seriously – lights over your garage, visible alarm boxes and heavy chains are all powerful deterrents to a would-be thief.

Prepare for the Worst

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, thefts may still happen. That’s why it’s important to be prepared – make it as easy as possible to recover or replace your tools.

Buying tradesman insurance is one way to protect your tools and means you can keep your business running even if disaster strikes. But make sure you keep your policy up to date when you buy new tools.

For particularly valuable items, it might be worth etching unique identification numbers onto the tools themselves. Keep a written record of your entire inventory and any associated identification numbers – this can help the police to recover them if they’re found at a later date.

Is Technology Becoming Too Ubiquitous?

As a techy, and self-proclaimed geek, it pains me a bit to ask this question.  Are we too enamored of our technology?  I’m not quite old enough to remember when television was black and white.  But, I am old enough to remember when cellular phones were new, and people still had land lines in their homes.  My household hasn’t had a home phone for over a decade.  And, do you remember when a cell phone just performed phone calls?  I do.  Now, I have a phone whose secondary purpose is to make actual voice phone calls.

Even smart phones, it seems, are on the precipice of becoming outdated.  Every new technology announcement seems to have some talk about new technology that’s integrated into this device or that device.  Watches that operate as phones, and who knows what else.  I even saw a shower head with an integrated speaker.  And the hottest new electric car, the Tesla Model S, has it’s own internal Ethernet network, that Tesla seems to monitor in some way.

When is Too Much Tech, Too Much?

At what point does this stop?  Do we get so far as to have networked devices implanted into our skulls that integrate with a mini, flexible display surgically attached to our eyes for a heads up display?  When does the six million dollar man come into play?  It’s not that far in the future.  If I, not quite middle aged yet, can remember a time when technology required a 28.8kbs connection to a modem, and storage was measured in Mb, not Tb, how far are we really from implantable devices?  How far are we from being so dependent upon our technologies that we cease to remember how to function without them?

What Happens When Tech Fails?

And if we’re right around the corner from a world where tech is so ubiquitous as to be a part of us, literally, what happens when that technology fails?  What does a BSOD do to an implanted system?  I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out that it potentially could be bad.

Even now, with our smart phones and iPads seemingly attached to us, we sometimes find ourselves out of sorts if we suddenly lose our data signal.  We’re lost in an analog world that seems disconnected from our perceived “real world”.  If we integrate our technology that much further into our lives, and it fails, do we too fail?

Let’s assume that the next Tesla model uses it’s internal network to control it’s voltage to the batteries and engine.  When the internal switch fails, the car fails.  Unless there’s some sort of failover switch.  Worst case scenario, you’ve got a really expensive lawn ornament.  Maybe Tesla fixes it eventually.  But, if the implant in your brain decides to malfunction and sends a surge into your brain, you could become the lawn ornament.

Is It Time to Break from Tech?

As geeks, I think we all try and stay on the cutting edge.  We like to have the newest devices, the newest software, and find the best ways for them all to work together.  My generation hasn’t always had technology, but we’ve spent the majority of our time with some form of technology.  The youngest generations have grown up with technology that is leaps and bounds above what my generation had.  They’ve got more ram in their watches than I had in my first 3 or 4 PCs.  Possibly combined.

If you look around, the proliferation of tech has also brought about the proliferation of people looking to get away from it all.  There’s a new article, seemingly every other day, that talks about how refreshing taking a weekend (or week, or month, or year) away from technology is.

Technology is cool.  Technology is awesome.  Technology gives us the ability to do things in ways that we’ve never been able to do them before.  Heck, farmers can literally program the layout of their fields into a tractor, set the computer to plow, and then just ride along to make small corrections.

Because technology is always entering new spaces, in new ways, we always clamor to give it a try and to make it useful.  Rarely do we question what the cost of it is.  Of course, I don’t mean the monetary cost.  But the cost of what we lose in the process.  As texting becomes more and more used, many of us forget what it’s like to have a face to face conversation.  Or we forget what it’s like to have to wait an hour or two to know whether we have new email or not.  That’s the simple stuff though.  If self-driving cars become as widespread as smart phones, will we also forget how to drive?  It’s all well and good until technology fails.

It’s time we start using and adopting tech in a conscientious manner.  It’s time we make an effort to not forget what it’s like to have to do things without technology.  Even if you don’t have entire days set aside to be free from technology, maybe an hour or two here and there to spend without technology, doing something easily done with technology.  Write a letter.  Remember what it’s like to do things the “hard way.”  Most of them really aren’t all that “hard” anyways.

What do you think about the proliferation of technology?  For the better?  For the worse?  Or, just meh?

Are You Doing Social Wrong?

No matter where you look online, there are experts that are saying that, if you want to win online, you must win in social.  And the truth of it all is that they are right.  You must win at social if you want to win online.  More and more content is being digested there.  More and more people are using social as the only source of information.  Unfortunately, many of you are doing social very wrong, and risk losing what foothold you have.

How you’re doing social wrong.

The single biggest thing that most of you can’t seem to figure out is that social is, well, social.  Mostly, those of you that are playing the game as if it were traditional marketing.  It’s not. Social WrongThis isn’t newspaper, or television, or even radio.  You don’t get to just develop your marketing plan, and push your marketing out and wait for the customers to roll in.  It won’t happen.  Not only will it not work for you, but it’s very likely to convince many of the users to disengage from you altogether.

Too many of you are performing the equivalent of hit-and-run social media.  You sign in long enough to drop your promotional tweet, facebook post, or other self-serving post, then running off to go about your business.  And yet, you can’t seem to garner any real growth or conversation.

Maybe you have even gone beyond that and are trying to return some value to your customers by posting coupons and giveaways.  I’m sure that your level of interaction really jumps when you do that too.  But, if it’s dropping back down to normal levels on your other posts, you’re still doing it wrong.

How you can start doing social right.

For the love of all that is digital, start being social on social.  If you really want results, you must start the conversation.  Interact with the people you would have as consumers.  They aren’t just wallets walking around, but actual humans with human thoughts and emotions.  And, for the most part, humans are social beings.

If you’ve ever been to a large social event, you’ll have noticed that the people at the event usually fall into immediate groups.  Maybe it’s the person they met right away in the hotel lobby, or someone they know from another event.  What you won’t notice are people just walking up and introducing themselves to each other.  Sure, there’ll be one or two people that do this, but for the most part, they’ll be sitting in their small groups, or alone at their tables, not really interacting with anyone at all.

If you want to grow your network at an event like this, those are the low hanging fruit.  You can walk right over to the table, introduce yourself and ask if you can sit down.  It’s not so much different on social.  The majority of the people are not going to “walk” up to your social account and interact on a regular basis.  Instead, they’ll wait until they have a problem with your product or service and you’ll know when they start blasting you.

Truly taking advantage of social means being proactive, and reaching out to customers.  Not when they have a problem with your company (although that’s also important), but when they don’t have a problem.  When they’re the ones sitting alone at a table in social, maybe they’ve mentioned your company or a product that’s similar to yours, introduce yourself, and start a conversation.

Which doesn’t mean you immediately start blasting them with promotional talk.  An actual conversation.

Consider; You have two people who want to sell you something.  One of them is a friend, and the other is not.  Which of them is more likely to get your business?  The friend.  Why?  Because you have an existing relationship with the friend.  To some degree, you trust the friend to not sell you up the creek and to treat you right in the transaction.

I doubt that you’ll ever reach the point where a social customer is going to consider you a true friend.  But, you can build relationships that will build trust in your company and your brand that give the customer the same trust.  If that relationship exists and the customer truly can believe that you aren’t going to disappear as soon as the sale is made, you’ll earn a lot more business through social.

Building those relationships doesn’t have to take all of your time.  Unless you’re rolling out a social team for a major corporation, you maybe don’t even need a full-time employee to manage the accounts.  With the right tools, you can set up alerts to notify your social media manager of mentions of your brand, mentions of similar products, and even certain activities.  When those alerts roll in, it can mean a quick 5-10 minute run through to respond, to open up the conversation, or answer the questions.

With the right social media strategy, you can be building up relationships with customers by reaching out and having real interactions with them.  Those interactions will grow the number of people listening and can help you grow the loyalty of your customer base.  It’s only a part of the overall business equation, but as more and more people migrate to the social platforms, it’s becoming an ever increasingly important part of an overall business marketing plan.

What are you doing right on social?