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10 Tips for Improving Your Finances

10 Tips for Improving Your Finances

The vast majority of Americans are only one $500 emergency bill away from being financially destitute. In fact, a survey indicated that 62 percent of U.S. adults could end up homeless if they skipped even one paycheck. Out of this group, only 58 percent believe that they could make up for an unexpected $500 expense by reducing their other expenses, using a credit card or borrowing money from a family member or friend. In other words, there are far too many people who currently do not have any type of safety net.

To help prevent yourself from remaining or falling into this trap, it is imperative to take a close look at your finances and make a few lifestyle changes. Fortunately, this does not need to be nearly as drastic as most people fear. By implementing even a few of the following suggestions, you should be able to build your savings account and begin more effectively planning for retirement.

1. Do an Audit of Your Bills

When was the last time you sat down and thoroughly looked through all of your bills? If you are like most people, you pay the minimum due amount on each bill without paying much attention to errors or interest rates. Auditing your bills can help you make sure that billing mistakes are not unnecessarily increasing your expenses. Additionally, a bill audit will enable you to learn how much money you would save in the long run by adding $10 to each of your credit related payments.

2. Purge Unnecessary Expenses

We all make choices regarding how to spend our money, and most of us have developed at least one or two unfortunate blind spots. For example, you may really like the version of yourself that goes to the gym once a month and continuously pledges to go more often, but this does not mean that you are making a wise financial decision by paying that monthly fee. Unless you are regularly utilizing something, it is best to purge the unnecessary expense.

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It is also smart to look at unrealistic expenses such as a beer budget that outweighs what you pay for electricity. If you are struggling to build a savings account or pay your bills on time, you must make difficult choices that will include cutting back or eliminating things that serve no practical purpose.

3. Contact Creditors to Renegotiate Your Repayment Terms

Many people erroneously assume that their interest rates and repayment terms are set in stone. However, the truth is that you always have the ability to call and attempt a renegotiation. In some cases, this technique may not get you anywhere. Overall, though, creditors are usually willing to work with people who have kept their payments up and express a need for a temporary or permanent alteration to their repayment terms in order to continue paying everything off on time.

4. Carefully Explore Your Trading Options

There are numerous trading options that can help you save for retirement, but you need to carefully examine everything before you make any large investments. The stock market can be very volatile, but there are some stocks that tend to stay more stable or have a better chance of rebounding quickly. Studying trends and talking to an experienced stock broker will help you make a better choice.

Binary options are another robust possibility that many people are not very familiar with. In a nutshell, binary options allow you to not only get involved in trading stocks, currency pairs, commodities and indexes but to also make predictions about how well they will do within a specified time period. If your predictions are accurate, you can earn a nice return on your investment. You can also use loss protection to prevent yourself from losing a lot of money when your guesses are inaccurate. In other words, binary options can be a viable way to earn some extra money for your savings account.

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5. Utilize High-Yield Investments

High-yield investments do come with a bigger risk factor than turning to treasury bills that have an almost non-existent return rate, but this does not mean that you cannot use them to your advantage. The younger you are, the safer it is to gamble on truly high-yield investments because you will have more time to recover any losses.

Please note that it is not wise for people who have a minimal savings account to invest everything they have into these investments. But if you put 10 to 20 percent of your savings into an investment that has high-yield results and a relatively solid history, you could end up cashing out with a significantly higher amount of money that can then be rolled into a safer opportunity.

However, if you want to play it safe altogether, a money market account should help you earn at least 1 percent annually on your savings. Once you achieve a savings of $50,000, this would provide you with a free $500 bonus after one year.

6. Optimize Your 401k

Your 401k options are probably diversified and very confusing, especially if your employer has put a few plans in front of you that do not come with a detailed description. When you add the recent turbulence of the stock market into the picture, it can become quite terrifying to invest money in this way.

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Instead of running away from this investment opportunity, take the time to more carefully examine your choices. You may find that the plans that are being pushed toward people in your age range are not right for you. After all, a conservative plan will not accrue much money, but it will also minimize your risk of losing everything you have contributed to your 401k.

7. Make a Weekly Savings Plan

In just one year, you can put together a savings account that will enable you to avoid any $500 financial disasters. $10 a week is all it takes to build up a savings account with $520 in it. It may seem unrealistic for people who live paycheck to paycheck to set aside $10 weekly, but you should be able to find this money by prioritizing your expenses and purging anything that is not necessary.

8. Build a Precise Budget

According to a Gallup poll, 68 percent of Americans do not build or use a detailed budget to help them manage their expenses. This is a major mistake that could seriously hinder your ability to get your finances on track. Instead of allowing yourself to spend money without having any idea if you can afford it, you need to sit down and build a precise budget every month. This budget should include everything from your major expenses to minor purchases.

By doing this, you will be able to see how your money is really being used, and this will make it easier to cut out unwise expenditures. Looking at this budget regularly and updating your check register daily is the absolute best way to keep yourself from spending money you do not have.

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9. Take Advantage of Free or Inexpensive Hobbies

We all need hobbies or a way to blow off steam. For some of us, this comes in the form of televised entertainment. The average cable bill has reached an astounding $99, though, so this is not a good way to scale back your expenses. Instead, you should consider cord-cutting measures such as Netflix or Hulu. For a fraction of the cost, you will be able to enjoy countless movies and TV shows.

Walking and many other physical activities are another free or inexpensive way to fill up your spare time, and they come with the added bonus of being good for your health. If you prefer to stay in and do something quiet, Scribd provides readers with unlimited access to eBooks and comic books for less than $9 per month. Adult coloring is another popular trend that has an initial cost due to acquiring the necessary supplies but will ultimately provide many hours of cheap entertainment.

10. Prioritize Your Personal Goals

We all have personal goals aside from the desire to not fall into bankruptcy over one medical bill. Prioritizing these goals can help ensure that you spend your money as wisely as possible. A good example is that some people buy a daily latte from Starbucks but then bemoan the fact that they cannot afford a monthly wellness massage.

If reducing stress and improving your health is your top personal goal, then it makes sense to skip your daily latte so that you can save up for a massage instead. Keep in mind that you could always make coffee at home for a smaller fee. This will give you a personal daily indulgence without derailing your goals. No matter what your personal goals are, you can achieve them in this same way by being smarter with your daily expenditures.

Now that you have access to several actionable tips, it is time for you to put some of them to work! You may also want to download some handy expense apps to make it easier to monitor your spending. With a little practice and some dedication, you can reach your goals and build a savings account that will allow you to avoid financial disaster during an emergency.

Featured photo credit: Piictures of Money via flic.kr

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Holly Chavez

Writer, Entrepreneur, Small Business Owner

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Last Updated on July 4, 2019

25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless.

Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent free online education awaits on the following 25 sites.

1. Coursera

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    Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

    Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education, and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

    Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups.

    2. Khan Academy

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      Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

      Among the more well known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly useable, which may make it easier to keep learning goals.

      3. Open Culture Online Courses

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        If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos and podcasts from universities around the world. The site features a lot of material found only on universities private sites, all in easy to browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses, without having to visit and search each university’s own site.

        Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales and many state universities around the United States. A very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

        4. Udemy 

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          Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

          Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top quality content. This is another site however, that mixes free and paid content.

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          5. Academic Earth

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            Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources, and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

            Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

            6. edX

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              Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics.

              7. Alison

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                Unlike the previous sites on this lists, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

                It’s a great option if users need certification for their learning as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

                8. iTunesU Free Courses

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                  A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod, or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

                  Desktop users can access  iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

                  Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos, and paid content.

                  ITunesU does include courses on a pretty wide scope of topics, but does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

                  9. Stanford Online

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                    Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

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                    Stanford Online is a great site for high quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school.

                    10. Harvard Extension

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                      Like Stanford Online, Harvard Extension features free online education courses from Harvard only. This is another excellent source for top notch course material, though the course variety is less rich than multi-school sites.

                      Additionally, Harvard Extension allows you to search for courses by professional certificate. This makes it much easier if your online education goal includes certification.

                      11. Open Yale Courses

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                        Open Yale Courses echoes Harvard Extension and Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses, but learn better by watching than by reading.

                        12. UC Berkeley Class Central

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                          Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

                          13. MIT OpenCourseWare

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                            Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, plus includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

                            14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

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                              Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list, however, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics. But for the topics that are covered impressive, in-depth material is available.

                              15. Codecademy

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                                Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

                                The courses at Codecademy are well written and easy to follow and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, plus organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

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                                16. Code

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                                  Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

                                  In addition to kid friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics and Javascript.

                                  Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

                                  17. University of London Podcasts

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                                    The podcast page on the University of London website is another great source for free education. While the courses are limited to podcasts, the site features podcasts from it’s own campus, as well as eleven universities in and around London. This gives learners a wide base of topics and lectures, but still ensures in-depth material.

                                    18. University of Oxford Podcasts

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                                      Similar to the University of London, the University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

                                      The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. Another good site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

                                      19. BBC Podcasts

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                                        For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly, and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

                                        Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

                                        20. TED-Ed

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                                          Another great destination for more general learning is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all encompassing, motivational web series, comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

                                          Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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                                          21. LessonPaths

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                                            LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

                                            22. Memrise

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                                              Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

                                              Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

                                              23. National Geographic Kids

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                                                The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keeps kids interested on this site.

                                                National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

                                                24. Fun Brain

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                                                  Fun Brain is another good option for kids who want to learn online, but focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

                                                  Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

                                                  25. Whyville

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                                                    Similar to the sites for kids free online education is Whyville a destination for preteen online learning. The site includes a variety of social features, with a focus on learning materials geared for young teens.

                                                    Whyville also mixes in educational games, to make the site a well rounded option for kids too old for simple games, but too young for heavy reading based material.

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                                                    Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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