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take a bite out of your expenses for BIGG Success

How to Control Your Finances in 3 Simple Steps

take a bite out of your expenses for BIGG Success

How can you take control of your personal finances?

Look for the low-hanging fruit!

Step 1: Take a bite

Pick one of your biggest, optional expenses and take a bite out it. Let’s take eating out as an example.

You don’t need to eliminate it altogether. Just reduce the amount you spend a little bit…say ten percent.

Let’s say you eat out ten times a month. You go to really nice restaurants. You order either an appetizer or a dessert each time.

You may:

  • Opt for staying in one of the ten times
  • Order a less expensive entrée two or three of the ten times
  • Go to a lower-priced restaurant two or three of the ten times
  • Don’t order an appetizer or a dessert five of the ten times

It doesn’t matter what you do. Just do something to start harvesting some extra money immediately.

Step 2: Don’t let it spoil

So now you have picked some low-hanging fruit. What do you do with it?

This is really important because, if you let it sit around too long, it will spoil. It will be used for something that doesn’t advance you toward BIGG success.

So use the money you save in Step 1 to:

  • shore up your emergency fund
  • pay down debt
  • PREFUND purchases

Start with the emergency fund so you’ll have the cash you need when reality bites. You won’t have to rely on a credit card or some special financing deal. How good will that feel?

Once you have six months in your emergency fund, you’re ready to start paying down your debt. Can you imagine not having any debt? Month by month, you’ll see it coming true.

When your debt is gone, use the extra money (and the money you’re saving from payments on debt that doesn’t exist anymore) to PREFUND future purchases. So instead of financing them, you’ll have the cash to pay for them on the spot!

Step 3: Take another bite!

Once you’ve fully digested the first bite we discussed in Step 1, repeat the process again. You may take another bite out of the same expense or pick another one.

Don’t fret about your money woes. Take action with these three simple steps! You’ll soon feel a sense of control over your personal finances. It leads to BIGG success!

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Should I Pay Down My Mortgage or Make Home Improvements

bigg_question.jpgBigg success is life on your own terms. The five elements of bigg success are money, time, growth, work and play. Today our focus will be on money.

One of our listeners, Bob, called us with a bigg question. He and his wife have some extra money and they are wondering whether they should use it to pay down their mortgage or make some home improvements.

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Both options are very illiquid

You can’t get your money back once you spend it with either option. So make sure you have enough extra cash to cover between six to twelve months of living expenses before you do either one.

A guaranteed return

Paying down your mortgage is one of the safest investments you can make. It’s a guaranteed return equal to your mortgage rate.

For example, if your mortgage rate is 6% and you pay it down early, you’re essentially earning 6% on your money guaranteed!

That’s a decent rate of return right now.

Returns on home improvements are often more sketchy. Start by asking yourself this question:

How does the value of your home compare to other homes in your neighborhood?

If you’re one of the most expensive homes already, making improvements probably won’t do you a lot of good financially. However, this is your home. It’s more than just an investment. So ask yourself a second question:

How long do you plan to live there?

The longer you plan to stay put, the higher the emotional returns – an important point to consider because money isn’t everything. What types of improvements yield the best financial returns? Most major outlays don’t return much if anything. Cosmetic improvements usually show a better return – paint, new floor coverings, landscaping, and those sorts of things. Remodeling the kitchen or bath can yield a reasonable return, particularly if they look a little outdated, as long as you don’t go over-the-top.

Weighing your options

Determine how much it will cost for your desired improvements. Then ask a Realtor or an appraiser to find out the expected increase in your home’s value. Now calculate your return:

Return = (Increased Value – Cost of Improvements) ÷ Cost of Improvements

Compare that to your mortgage rate. If the return for making the home improvements is significantly higher, you might consider making the improvements instead of paying down your mortgage.

Just keep in mind, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Paying down your mortgage offers a guaranteed return. Making home improvements does not.

Choosing between improvements

If they go with the improvements, Bob wants to replace the windows. His wife wants to remodel the kitchen. Which would be better for the money?

We wonder why you want to replace the windows, Bob. Is it for cosmetic reasons or are you thinking about energy-efficiency? Perhaps it’s both.

Stimulus for you

We hate to disappoint your wife, but right how is a great time to replace windows or make other energy-efficiency improvements. The Economic Stimulus Act extended and improved the tax credit for these types of repairs.

You get a 30% tax credit up to a $1,500 limit. So you can spend up to $4,500 on qualified improvements.

A tax credit is better than the deduction you’re used to getting on Schedule A. Deductions reduce your taxes by the amount of your marginal rate. Credits reduce your taxes dollar for dollar.

So $1,500 of your new windows could be paid for by the government!

The one cash outlay that pays you back year-after-year

However, it doesn’t stop there. It’s amazing how much air can leak out through poor windows. You’ll save money on your utility bills for years with the right windows.

Your returns for making any energy-efficiency improvements aren’t guaranteed but they’re close. They may also be higher than the returns on a lot of other investments these days. Improving your energy-efficiency is a cash outlay that pays you back year after year!

Thanks for your bigg question, Bob!

Do you have a bigg question?

Please share it with us by calling us 888.455.BIGG (2444) or sending an e-mail to bigginfo@biggsuccess.com.

Please join us next time when we talk about two recent examples of saying, “We’re sorry.”

Thank you for sharing your time with us today. Until next time, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

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Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00391-051109.mp3

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3 Tips for Buying Health Insurance

memories.jpgToday we want to talk about insurance … just for the health of it!

Health insurance is a significant expense. If you’re fortunate enough to be part of a group, your company is probably paying a good portion of the cost. However, companies are increasingly asking their employees to bear a bigger share of the total cost.

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Of course, if you’re self-employed, you have to pay it all. This really hits your budget in either case and, as we look to the future, it appears it will occupy an ever larger share.

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georgeI used to sell insurance years ago so I’m familiar with that side of it. I also approved our group plans when I was in business before Bigg Success.

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marylynnWhen we started Bigg Success, it was an eye opener for me. I went from being an employee with group insurance to being self-employed buying individual coverage. I saw the full cost, not just my share of it. I was amazed at the array of choices. And I couldn’t get some of the coverage I really liked under my group plan.

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Obviously, your age and your health are two major factors in the cost. The other key factors are:

Your deductible. This is the first money that will be paid out. You pay it up to the deductible you choose.

Your co-pay percentage. Once the deductible is satisfied, you begin sharing the cost with your insurance provider. You may split it down the middle or some other arrangement.

Your stop loss. You don’t have to share costs forever. At a certain point, your insurance company will pay 100% of the covered costs.

Your maximum coverage. It will look like a large number (e.g. $2 million) but it can be used up fairly quickly if there’s a serious health problem.

Your maximum out-of-pocket. This compiles the first three factors. Your maximum out-of-pocket equals your deductible plus your maximum co-pay amount. It only considers covered costs so just be aware that your actual out-of-pocket could be higher.

So now we want to talk about three mistakes that people often make when buying health insurance.

Pushing too much risk onto the insurance company. Being too conservative is very costly. For example, the higher your deductible, the less you’ll pay.

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marylynnBut George, I know when I’ve been light on money, it’s scary to think about a large hospital bill. Even a doctor’s bill of $300 – $500 can be a burden when you’re really strapped for cash.

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georgeI understand that, Mary-Lynn. But I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about. A couple we know has over $50,000 in the bank, yet they insist on having a deductible of $500. They could save a lot of money by being a little less risk averse.

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Not shopping around. As we’ve said, this is a major expense. Like most major expenses, it’s worth your time to try to save some money. So get two, or even better three, quotes.

Make sure you’re comparing apples-to-apples. The plans from two different insurance companies probably won’t be exactly alike.

Settling in. Shop carriers at least every other year. You may be surprised at how much you can save by switching plans.

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georgeThis is something I learned the hard way. I liked my insurance company, but when I finally shopped coverage, I was astounded at how much I could save.

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marylynnThis really boils down to personal preferences. It’s nice to only pay a small amount of money when you go to the doctor. But make sure you’re weighing that convenience against the actual cost.

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The key question to ask yourself is, “How much risk can I afford?

The general rule, in a financial sense, is to assume risks that are small, frequent, and inexpensive. You cover large, infrequent and expensive costs.

But also consider the emotional costs. If it’s going to keep you up at night knowing that you’re bearing a larger share of the burden, then push more risk off on the insurance company.

Think about the impact on your finances and your personal preferences to help you make this bigg decision.

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Get the tips and tools you need to be a BIGG success.
Subscribe to the Bigg Success Weekly – it’s FREE!

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Please join us next time when we talk about bright, shiny objects.

Thanks so much for reading our post today. Until next time, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

Subscribe to the Bigg Success feed.

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00386-050409.mp3

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10 Danger Signs for Business – Part 1

danger We’ve heard that diagnosing a medical condition early greatly increases the chances of successful treatment. The same is true for our businesses – we want to spot the minor issues so they don’t become major problems.

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Cash to a business is like blood to our bodies. It has to continue flowing or we won’t survive. As a small business owner, the bottom line is that you can’t run out of cash. So you have to know how to diagnose and treat the source of the ailment before it spreads. With that in mind, here are ten signs that your business may be heading for trouble:

#1 – Lost market share

Your sales may be growing, but your share of the market may be falling. Are they up because you’ve increased prices? Is the growth of your sales keeping pace with the growth of the markets you serve?

Market share is precious – among other things, it provides leverage to raise prices as your costs increase. As competitors enter your market, you have to work even harder to maintain (and hopefully increase) your share.

#2 – Declining customer counts

Your sales may be holding steady, but fewer and fewer people are making purchases. Your remaining customers are spending more, possibly because of price increases. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you have to find a way to attract new customers because a certain amount of customer attrition is natural.

We don’t want our customers to leave because they’re unhappy. But you can’t make everyone happy all the time so even that will happen. We’ll also have customers move away, pass away, grow out of our product or service, and the like.

#3 – Low repeat and referral business

Many businesses actually lose money to get a customer for the first-time. If they break-even, they’re very happy. It’s the follow-up purchases that make a difference to our bottom line.

A healthy percentage of repeat and referral business also shows that your product or service is still meeting the needs of a core base of people. And these people are the ones who will refer other people to you, which is much less expensive than depending totally on advertising to grow your business.

#4 – Declining sales

Right now, a lot of businesses are experiencing this. It may have nothing to do with you – it may be your industry that is experiencing trouble. So you have to ask yourself … is this a long-term trend or is it cyclical? That’s the first thing you have to determine.

Next, ask yourself, will my industry recover? Some industries were facing challenges even before this recession. It’s only accelerating the long-term trend. Other industries will do just fine coming out of it. You have to know which one applies to you.

Once you’re satisfied that your industry will survive, you have to look at your own business. A lot of shake-out is happening even in healthy industries. Isolate whether it’s a problem with your business or the industry as a whole to know your best strategy.

#5 – Disproportionate sales to a small group of customers

Picture this extreme situation – all of your sales come from one customer. You’re totally at the mercy of that customer. It’s like being an employee without the safeguards that go with employment!

Generally speaking, if more than ten percent of your sales are to one customer, you may face trouble at some point. Five percent is even better. Bigg customers are great. But serving a bigg number of customers leads to bigg success.

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Get the tips and tools you need to be a BIGG success.
Subscribe to the Bigg Success Weekly – it’s FREE!

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Thank you for reading our post today. Join us next time when we talk about five more early warning signs of trouble ahead in your business. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

Subscribe to the Bigg Success feed.

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00348-031109.mp3

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(Image in today's post by asifthebes)