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6 Important Tips for Getting Your Home Finances in Order

6 Important Tips for Getting Your Home Finances in Order

When it comes to financial issues, people tend to get a little edgy, and rightfully so. There is plenty of advice out there that is somewhat unrealistic or takes things to an extreme (things like cutting costs by only having one vacation a year or firing your driver don’t exactly apply to the average citizen). At the same time, focusing on comical penny-pinching at the expense of basic human dignity—e.g. not flushing when you go to the bathroom, like some people advise—won’t make much of a difference anyway. Such advice only leaves you frustrated because online advice columns seem to mistake average working and middle class people, who have a lower income and want to make the most out of their pay check—with down-on-their-luck hobos.

The truth is that there are some changes you can make that will make a big difference in terms of your home finances, without sacrificing much in the way of comfort. I won’t lie to you—it takes a decent amount of self-control, planning and some effort to get your finances in order, but with a good strategy you won’t be giving up much.

1. Find a big, useful goal or item that is worth saving money for.

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Setting a goal

    It’s difficult to get yourself on board with spending less and putting some money aside if you don’t have a good goal in mind. You need to look for an effective source of motivation, something that will be in the back of your mind every time you think about making impulsive purchases. This can be something like a great vacation on a tropical island, a new car, home renovation or moving into a bigger house. The thing is, you can combine different goals, even something that’s not directly related to money—e.g. if you spend less money on sweets and soda, you will lose weight and have more money. You should always have that big goal in mind and think about how the money you want to spend on insignificant things in the spur of the moment can actually bring you a step closer to what you really want.

    2. Make paying off your debt a priority, but choose a good strategy.

    You can’t really take control of your finances until you have managed to free yourself of debt. This might seem like a long and arduous journey, and it is, but it can be done in a reasonable amount of time. First of all don’t fall for those minimum payments as they are designed to keep you in debt for a long time. Second, you have good strategies like snowballing, where you start paying off smaller debts first while keeping the rest at minimum payments, and you even have online tools available to help you out. It is important to exercise a little bit of control when it comes to spending money during this strategy—you don’t have to say goodbye to luxuries; just don’t go above your means and buy only what you can afford with the money that’s left over from the bills and payments.

    In case you are facing a lot of debt that you don’t know how to handle, you may need to negotiate with the creditors or even try a debt-settlement program. Make sure you do some research and find reputable companies that offer a good and reasonably priced service, as there are plenty of frauds out there that are only after your money. So, there are plenty of options for everyone, even in worst-case scenarios.

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    3. Start doing DIY projects around the home instead of going to the store.

    You’d be surprised at how many things you can fix, improve and make yourself around the house and save a lot of money on repair bills, cleaning products, new furniture, decorations and much more. It is fairly cheap to caulk windows and make small repairs. This combined with adding thick curtains and draft protectors can help you save some money on heating bills and keep you warmer in the winter. An old piece of furniture can be made to look brand new with a bit of glue, sandpaper and a paint job—I’ve had friends ask about my cool new table, after I had worked over the table that was sitting in the living room for 10 years and had put some wood grain print decorative paper on the top. Most of these projects are cheap and require nothing much than some hard work and creativity, yet they can look incredibly good.

    4. Plan your shopping carefully and stock up on what you need once a week or once a month.

    Shopping for groceries

      No one says you can’t go to a restaurant from time to time—just make it a less expensive one for the time being—or order a pizza. However, stocking up on food has its advantages. You will always have something in the fridge and pantries when you’re hungry and you won’t have to make trips to the store in the middle of your quiet time, which means you’ll also save some money on gas. You can go online and find some cost-effective brands for any type of food you need, complete with nutritional facts for the health-conscious.

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      There are also sales and special offers at stores you can check out online, as well as coupons that can be printed out. Buying in bulk can also get you a discount, and making fewer shopping runs and buying in advance can also help you manage your budget a bit better. Plan a big weekly store run for most of your groceries, and a monthly or even bimonthly run for household chemicals, hygiene products and canned goods.

      5. Cook your own food, and cook it in bulk.

      Take a page out of the bodybuilder playbook and start preparing your own food. It’s much cheaper to get a bunch of ingredients and prepare a dozen tasty meals than it would be to eat twelve meals at a restaurant. You have plenty of great recipes and cooking tutorials online, so it’s not all that difficult to become a decent cook with a month or two of practice. Cooking plenty of food at once and then keeping it in plastic containers in the fridge allows you to prepare enough food for the next 3–4 days in one go. This is great for healthy lunch recipes that feature fish, chicken or ground beef, combined with a whole lot of vegetables. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones, and can be cooked fairly quickly.

      Not only will you be saving time and making sure there’s always a tasty and healthy meal ready to go, but you will be saving money on your electricity bill as you won’t be cooking all that often—you can prepare enough food for several days in about 60–120 minutes. If you’ve stocked up on food, it also means that you can throw together a sandwich or make some mac and cheese quickly when you want a bit of a change.

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      6. Go green and start caring about the environment.

      Green earth

        Yep, being a green-minded hippie can actually pay off. Caring about the environment is all about recycling, not letting the water run all the time while you shave or apply your shower gel in the shower, turning off the lights and TV when you’re not using a room, not heating up the house to tropical temperatures in the winter, being careful about your car’s emissions and so on. You might also recognize these things as some of the most common energy-saving and frugal living tips. Just start being more or less eco-conscious and you will soon notice that you are saving a decent amount of money; plus you’re being fashionably green instead of cheap in everyone’s eyes.

        Putting the reins on your spending and taking control of your finances is not a project—it requires a few major long term lifestyle changes. You simply can’t get around that fact or make things easy. What you can do is find the right motivation, create a good strategy that ensures that you will be covering your basic costs of life, slowly paying off your debt and setting some money aside, all while not entire giving up the comfort that you are used to. It’s just a matter of getting used to a different way of thinking and making smarter choices.

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        Ivan Dimitrijevic

        Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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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.

                                                          More About Online Learning

                                                          Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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