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7 Finance Tips From a Guy Who’s Broke

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7 Finance Tips From a Guy Who’s Broke

Because I’m dead center of trying to figure out my own personal financial Rubik’s Cube, and because I’ve been listening every day to the Financial Aid Podcast, I’ve had finance hacks on the brain. Besides, Graeme wanted me to talk about them, too. So, here goes 7 tips on finance from a guy who’s broke:

  1. Keep the change– Whenever you pay for anything with cash, always pay with bills. Then, take the coins at the end of the day and put them in a big jar. Use this money for the occasional treat, or put it towards a vacation. It’s a painless way to save some cash.
  2. An Anti-Raise– There’s great advice out there that says, when you receive your annual raise, adjust your direct deposit such that the raise doesn’t ever hit your paycheck. Instead, shunt it off into savings, or into your 401K, etc. Just don’t let it hit your pocket. Well, if you’re me and you never took that advice, consider giving yourself an anti-raise as a way to start fixing your finances. I called up my bank and had them put roughly 5% of my pay check every period into my Savings account. When I get a decent little chunk in there, I’ll pay off a few things, and then transfer the rest into investments.
  3. Pay Debt vs. Save Up– If you’re really in a bind and not sure where to start, nail your credit cards and bigger loans (not counting your mortgage) before socking away money in savings or money market accounts. Why? Because most credit cards have interest rates that will negate any effort of saving if you’re carrying a balance.
  4. Negotiate a Better Card– There are tons of credit card companies out there. If you’re trying to put your house in order, shop around for the possibility of transferring your balance into a low or zero-percent rate so you can get a little relief. Use that relief to get the card paid down to zero as fast as possible. BONUS HACK: Often times, once you know you have another option, you can call your current card company, tell them you’re getting ready to transfer your balance to another provider. They’ll sometimes (often?) offer you the same deal that the new company is offering, and I think that’s better, from a credit record point of view.
  5. Multiply Tiny Expenditures- Say you’re stopping by the local coffee shop for a large iced coffee and a bagel every morning. Say it costs $6. You might think, “Well, that’s not too bad. I didn’t have time at home anyway.”  But, $6 x 5 days = $30 a week on breakfast alone. If you spent even $15 ahead of time on grocery options that gave you things you can take with you from home, that’d cut that cost in half. Look also at magazine subscriptions and ask whether the value you’re saving off the cover price is really the same as whether you read the magazine every month. Ditto your cable TV service. Do you need all the channels you’re paying for?
  6. Consider Your Entertainment Budget– Are you paying for cable, Netflix, movies in the theater, live concerts, and more? If you threw your weekly revenue amount onto a spreadsheet, showing what you made, how much you paid in rent, bills, food, and other expenses, and then had a break-out column for entertainment, what percentage of the cash you’re spending in a given week or month would your entertainment budget be? How about if you add in your hobby spending, like that new lens for your camera, or that replacement iPod? How does that impact the way you see your finances.
  7. Plug the Holes– I learned this one when reading about adding a solar power system to a standard electrical system. The author of the article said that he was able to save money on his energy bill WITHOUT building the solar power system by doing a simple audit in his home. He found these items to be power-suckers (and thus expenses to you): modern TVs and DVD players. If they’re plugged in, most of them are drawing a significant amount of power to be in “standby” mode instead of off. Ditto your power supplies for recharging, like your battery charger for your cell phone, your digital camera battery charger, etc. Go for a walk around your house and see how many devices are plugged in that are drawing power without being used.  BONUS HACK: Put all your chargers on a power strip with its own off-switch, and keep the whole strip turned off when you’re not charging a device.

Your mileage may vary, and like I said in the title, I’m no expert, but because I’m working on this actively, you might find these tips to be pertinent to your own situation. But truly, YOU are the experts. Come on! Light up the comment section, or better still, add to our wiki !  Tell us your best finance and money-saving tips.

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-Chris Brogan makes almost no money from [chrisbrogan.com].

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Last Updated on November 25, 2021

Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

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Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

With all of the recent online services and companies falling under attack to hackers in the past few months, it seems only fitting to talk about password creation and management. There are a lot of resources out there discussing this, but it never hurts to revisit this topic time and again because of its importance.

Password management isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to do, yet it does seem like a bit of an annoyance to most people. When it comes to password management, you will hear the famous line, “I don’t really care about changing my passwords regularly. I have nothing important online anyways.” Let’s see if you have nothing important online when your PayPal account gets taken over because you thought the password “password” was good enough.

In my opinion, it is an “internet user’s” responsibility to make sure that they keep secure passwords and update them on a regular basis. In this article we will discuss how to make your online presence more secure and keep it secure.

The easy fundamentals

First thing is first; creating a strong password.

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A strong password is a mixture of alpha-numeric characters and symbols, has a good length (hopefully 15 characters or longer), and doesn’t necessarily represent some word or phrase. If the service you are signing up for doesn’t allow passwords over a certain length, like 8 characters, always use the maximum length.

Here are some examples of strong passwords:
* i1?,2,2\1′(:-%Y
* ZQ5t0466VC44PmJ
* mp]K{ dCFKVplGe]PBm1mKdinLSOoa (30 characters)

And not so good examples
* sammy1234
* password123
* christopher

You can check out PC Tools Password Generator here. This is a great way to make up some very strong passwords. Of course the more random passwords are harder to remember, but that is where password management comes into play.

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Managing your passwords

I know some people that keep their passwords in an unencrypted text file. That’s not a good idea. I suppose that if you aren’t doing much online and are decent at avoiding viruses and such, it could be OK, but I would never recommend it.

So, where do you keep your strong passwords for all the services that you visit on a daily basis?

There are a ton of password safes out there including KeePass, RoboForm, Passpack, Password Safe, LastPass, and 1Password. If and when I recommend any of these I always count on LastPass and 1Password.

Both LastPass and 1Password offer different entry types for online services logins (PayPal, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, etc.), credit cards and bank accounts, online identities, and other types of sensitive information. Both have excellent reviews and only differ in a few subtle ways. One of the ways that is more notable is that LastPass keeps your encrypted password Vault online where 1Password allows you to keep it locally or shared through Dropbox. Either way, you are the holder of the encryption keys and both ways are very secure.

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LastPass and 1Password both offer cross-platform support as well as support for Android and iOS (LastPass even has BlackBerry support). 1Password is a little pricey ($39.99 for either Windows or Mac) where LastPass has free options as well as premium upgrades that allow for mobile syncing.

Upkeep

You should probably change your passwords for your “important” accounts at least every 6 weeks. When I say “important” accounts I am referring to ones that you just couldn’t imagine losing access to. For me that would be Gmail, PayPal, eBay, Amazon, all my FTP accounts and hosting accounts, Namecheap, etc. Basically these include any account where financial information could be lost or accessed as well as accounts that could be totally screwed up (like my webserver).

There is no hard and fast rule to how often you should change your passwords, but 6 to 8 weeks should be pretty good.

Alternatives

You may think that all of this is just too much to manage on a daily basis. I will admit it is kind of annoying to have to change your passwords and use a password manager on a daily basis. For those people out there that don’t want to go through all of the hub-bub of super-secure, encrypted, password management, here are a few tips to keep you safe:

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  1. Create a unique and hard to guess “base password” and then a pattern to use for each site you logon onto. For instance a base password could be “Ih2BaSwAa” (this stands for “I have two brothers and sisters who are annoying”). Then you would add something “site specific” to the end of it. For Twitter Ih2BaSwAaTWTTR, Facebook Ih2BaSwAaFCBK, etc. This is sort of unsecure, but probably more secure than 99% of the passwords out there.
  2. Don’t write your passwords down in public places. If you want to keep track of passwords on something written, keep it on you at least. The problem is that if you get your wallet stolen you are still out of luck.
  3. Don’t use the same passwords for every service. I’m not even going to explain this; just don’t do it.

These are just a few things that can be done rather than keeping your passwords in a management system. Personally, with over 100 entries in my password management system, I couldn’t even dream of doing any other way. But those out there with only a few passwords, having a simpler system may be beneficial.

So, if you want to be a “responsible internet citizen” or you just don’t want to lose your precious account data, then creating and maintaining strong passwords for your online accounts is a must.

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