How NOT to Go Broke During the Holidays

It’s less than a month until Christmas, whoa! Wasn’t it just yesterday that you were making New Year resolutions?

With the holidays upon us, it’s time to start preparing financially for Christmas. If you fail to plan your finances, you’re likely to usher the New Year in debt.

According to a report by Gallup, the average American consumer will be spending about $800 on Christmas presents alone. This a substantial financial hit to take in a month, and the more reason why you should plan your Christmas finances.

Check out these tips that will save you from going broke during the holidays.

Make a Budget (and Stick to It)

Making a Christmas budget is the most important thing you can do this holiday season. A budget will help you to avoid going into debt.

You need a budget before starting to shop for gifs; not the other way round. Make a reasonable and realistic budget that you can stick to. Look at your current budget and check how much you have saved towards holidays. If your total savings for the holidays is $300, this is what you should spend on gifts. There are various awesome budget-friendly secret Santa ideas for any amount you have.

If you anticipate you would need more than you have currently saved, look for ways to increase the amount before Christmas. This may mean skipping your daily call at Starbucks or even getting a side hustle during the weekends for some extra bucks.

Shop for Worthy Deals

Stores offer deals galore during the holidays. If you know the gifts you’ll want to get your loved ones, start checking prices now.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner. Check deals during these days to find out whether you can grab a few gifts that are on your list.

However, make sure that the deals advertised at stores are really worth it. With customers expecting huge price drops during Black Friday, some stores actually charge more for items on the day but advertise them as deals. Do not buy an item simply because it has a “Black Friday Sale” sticker.

If you prefer shopping in brick and mortar stores, one easy way of confirming whether you are getting a good Black Friday deal is by using a QR scan app. Download the app on your phone and when you see an item you want to buy, scan its barcode in the app. The app will then let you know which other stores carry the same item and their prices.

Using a QR scan app will help you know whether you are getting a good deal or the store is simply taking advantage of the mad shopping frenzy of Black Friday.

Say “No” Often

Most holiday spending is done on impulse. This is the reason why many people end the holidays in debt. To avoid getting trapped by impulse spending, you will have to practice saying no. In particular, say no to the following:

  • Withdrawing your emergency fund money to spend on Christmas gifts
  • Charging Christmas gifts on credit cards and racking up interest
  • Opening a credit card to spend more than you have saved for the holidays
  • Spending more than you have allocated for your holiday budget

‘Tis the season to be jolly… but the season only lasts a short time. In a few weeks, you will be back to normal life with financial obligations to be met.

Before spending any extra amount during the holidays, consider your long-term financial goals. Perhaps you have a mortgage to pay, your kids’ tuition fees, insurance and so on. Is it really worth it racking all that debt for one season when dozens of financial obligations will be waiting for you over the next year?

If you have a spouse, have an open and honest conversation about holiday finances. Would you rather you rather use $1500 on gifts or invest it in your business? Make wise decisions.

They say money is jealous and when it goes, coming back is never easy. Spend money on things that will make you debt-free.

Check Return Policies and Save Receipts

If you wish to buy Christmas presents early, check the return policies of the stores where you are buying. You never know whether the gift would be suitable for the person you are buying for. Save the receipts just in case you would want to return the gifts.

New businesses and smaller boutique shops don’t always offer returns. However, if they offer returns, you may only be given store credit. Check the policy of the store where you are shopping just to be sure you can get your money back if you decide you do not need the gift anymore. Follow the tips above to avoid going broke during the holidays.

This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.

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5 Tips for Tailgating with the Family

The reasons people show up at ballgames early are not so that they can enjoy getting at the venue in good time for a seating area and a parking lot. Tailgating gives people the opportunity to socialize, eat, and get the energy to cheer and enjoy before heading for the stadium to watch their best teams. If you are new to tailgating, here are the five most essential tips you need to familiarize yourself with.

1. Pick A Prime Location

For your party to rock and tick every one of you, you need to pick a family-friendly spot. Whether it’s in the field, at the stadium, or a parking lot, the area has to be friendly and cozy. Be sure to watch out for loud music spots and kegs if your kids will be around.

The trick is to get there early so you can have the chance to stake out your family territory. The area should have low traffic and away from the student section. When parking, think about your exit strategy in case you will have to jump out of the party early.

A tent or canopy would be a great landmark for members to easily locate it in the sea of others. You could also choose to fly a flag on your spot if you don’t have a tent or canopy.

2. Dress for the Party

You get to pick your tailgate note right from your wardrobe. Be sure that every member of your family attending the party is dressed in a way that supports your team. You are not just leaving for the tailgate to grill but to show your absolute support.

You are there to celebrate your favorite team. Everyone attending a tailgating party expects to stand out. They expect to be the best fan in the crowd and so will be careful to choose the right gear. From crazy wings to costumes and face painting, everything should spell “best fan”.

If some members would like to dress in cheerleading outfits or a nice jersey, have them outfitted in their tailgating ensemble. Remember to carry warm clothes too. If you are not into jerseys or sports outfits, you could at least wear the right colors.

3. Be In The Know

It is vital to have some basic knowledge before setting out for your tailgating party. First, find out what the weather will be like to ensure you are dressed appropriately for the day. If there is a downpour, for instance, there definitely won’t be grilling. You also need to find out when the gates open. Of course, you don’t want to get there early and idle around.

Also get familiar with the parking lot fee and be sure to carry extra cash in case it is a cash only parking lot. If you’re trying to save money, you could even consider buying your tickets from Stubhub and using a coupon.

Be familiar with the party rules. It could be simple things such as not leaving any grill unattended. Also, some do not allow charcoal grills.  You could do a quick search on some of the rules the stadium holds.

Also, remember that not everyone in your team enjoys having meat in their meals, so be sure to also carry some shrimp cocktails, pasta, salads, and veggies. At tailgating parties, don’t expect to get essentials such as plates, cups, and spoons. You have to bring them along, not forgetting to include napkins and trash bags. You may also need to carry beverages, matches, chairs, and tongs, among other things.

4. Pack It Up

When tearing down your site at the end of the game, you need to take out everything you bring along. There could be trash cans around, but then they could be missing. As such, you need to have something to dispose of all your litter.

If the stadium allows charcoal coal and you decide to use it for your grill, you need to have a plan of how to dispose of it at the end of the event. Note that coal has the potential of staying hot for hours, while at the same time you have to dispose of them. Do so using the aluminum pans you use while preparing the meal. You could also opt for melted ice to put off the coals.

5. Make It Fun

Your guests should stay entertained before the game starts. You could include tailgating games or flip cups to set the right mood. Other activities could include listening to music, or you could choose to walk around the rows getting to know a few other tailgaters.

Tagging along with some entertainment keeps the rest of your team distracted as you prepare a meal. However, remember everyone is there to have fun so try and respect other tailgaters regardless of their team affiliation. Even when the neighboring tent is supporting a different team, avoid going overboard.

This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.

 

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Guide on Converting SWF Video Files to MP4

Small web format (SWF) is a flash file originally created by Macromedia for use in creating animation. SWF files can frequently be downloaded online and opened in a SWF file player. This type of file cannot be played on Apple devices, Android phones or Windows Media Player. You will have to convert the file to a MP4 if you want to play it on your devices. MP4 is smaller and more suitable for sharing on YouTube. It is also supported in more video players.

There are several ways to convert SWF to MP4. The first method is to use the free online converter. If you search on Google for online file converter, you will see a long list of sites that offer this service in the search result. The downside of using an online converter is that you have to wait for a long time for the file to be converted. There is a file size limitation, for example, 100 MB, which means you have to divide your files into smaller file size. Besides, you cannot convert a lot of files at one time.

If you use the online converter, you will have to upload your video to its server. If you do this, they will have a copy of your video on their server permanently. Uploading your video is also going to take up a lot of internet bandwidth. So, if you have a weak internet connection, using the free online converter will not be the best method for converting your videos.

Depending on your connection speed, it can take a long time to upload. If the connection breaks, you will have to re-upload it. After you upload the video, you will have to wait for some more time for it to be converted. After that, you have to wait again for the file to be downloaded to your computer. If you are not patient, using the online converter will not be the best route.

The second method is to buy a video converter software like Movavi Video Converter. The video converter software is desktop based so you don’t need to have an internet connection to use it. Paid video converter software can convert your videos faster with zero wait time and no size limit. It also supports more video formats and allows you to convert batch video files at one time. There is also no risk of your computer getting infected with the virus when you use the paid video converter software.

Usually, the software will offer a free trial that allows you to try out yourself to convert your files. Most video converters support a drag and drop interface where files can be dragged to open. Next, you just have to select the destination file format and press the convert button to convert it.

You can choose from a lot of resolutions, for example, a smaller resolution so that your converted video will have smaller resolution without you having to crop it yourself. If you choose bigger resolution, the output video will appear blur. When the file is converted, the folder will pop up and you can play back the video to check it.  

You have the option of overwriting the original video or saving it as a separate file in another folder. As a rule of thumb, you should always back-up the original video format in case you make mistakes and need to access the original video file again. Many video converters come with built-in video editing tool that allows you to edit the video before converting it. This video editing tool is included for free so that you don’t have to waste money to buy a third-party video editing program.

Almost all video converters include a crop tool. With this tool, you can crop off the edges of the video so that those areas are not shown when you play the video. This, in turn, reduces the video resolution and file size. The Crop tool is especially effective for removing black bars, and put more emphasize on the main subject. Cropping a vertical video can also change its orientation to horizontal.

The rotate tool is handy when you need a rotate a video that is recorded in the wrong orientation on your phone. Usually, it is a basic rotate tool that can rotate by 90 degrees at one time. Now that it is rotated in the right orientation, you can delete the unwanted part by using the trim tool. As the video is being played back, you must look for the points where the unwanted clip starts and ends. Then, you can use the red marker tool to select it and press the trim tool button to delete it.

You can also add subtitles to video by uploading the .srt subtitle file. Subtitles can also be added with the ready-made text animation template in the text tab. Adding subtitles can increase the accessibility of the video to people who have a hearing impairment. It makes it easier for your audience to follow up on what the speaker in the video is talking about. It is also an alternative for adding the soundtrack in the background.

Without the soundtrack, your video will be smaller in size. Adding subtitles also give you the ability to add the translation to another language on the video.  If you want a text to run across the video, you can go to the text animation library and add a ready-made text template to the video. You will be able to customize the font, color, and alignment of the text you input in the ready-made text template.

This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.

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3 Simple Ways To Hit The Ground Running With Your New Business

As an entrepreneur who has recently left the security of a nine to five, a regular, steady wage and excellent promotion prospects, it’s understandable that you want to hit the ground running with your new business. Gone are the days of a monthly paycheck to be replaced by financial uncertainty and a lack of future clarity. Your business plan may be top notch, you might have backing from the bank, and you might have a unique product or service ready to bring to market. As you have developed your startup, you will already know your target niche, and you should already have the research to inform your marketing strategy. To be sure of your ability to hit the ground running, follow this guide for business success.

Administration

There’s nothing more tedious and boring when starting your business than the administrative aspect. If you are not careful, the paperwork involved in your startup can slowly take over your days until your business becomes stagnated because you cannot fill your time with anything else. Instead of becoming bogged down with documentation, consider setting up a virtual mailbox, like the ones at https://physicaladdress.com. This prevents paperwork from coming to your door, and the outsourced company will scan everything to a virtual mailbox ready for you to look at as and when you are ready. People can still send you mail, but you won’t have sackfuls landing on your desk.

Social Media

Prior to even launching your startup, you should have generated a following and interest by utilizing social media platforms. The millennials chosen method of communication in the twenty-first century is Facebook and Instagram, so it’s vital that you get in on the action. Find your company voice, post relevant and meaningful content, and encourage comments and shares from your followers. If you can harness the interest prior to your launch, then you will have a greater chance of generating sales at the moment of launch.

SEO

Search engine optimization can be the bane of many an entrepreneur’s existence. While you can choose to clue yourself up on the algorithms of Google, keywords and meta tags, it will be more effective to outsource this business function to an expert. By relinquishing the responsibility for your SEO and web design to an offsite expert, you will revel in the joy of having a business with a greater online presence. Your brand visibility will be strengthened as explained at https://www.lifehack.org/, and you will appear on the first page of search results. This means you can convert more visits to your site into sales, generating more cash flow to keep your business on track.

Launching your new business venture should be an exciting time. You are following your passion and making a name for yourself in your chosen industry. The anxiety of knowing where your next paycheck is coming from shouldn’t be at the forefront of your mind. By hitting the ground running, generating sales immediately and keeping your cash flow buoyant, you will help your business to go from strength to strength.

This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.

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