Thursday, April 02, 2015

Discount Dining Etiquette

Daily deal sites such as Groupon have become very popular over the last few years – they allow you, as the client, get to take advantage of some really great deals. On Groupon Coupons, Nordstrom has over 30 coupons available, which will lead to some real savings. In other cases, restaurants deals can be particularly enticing, often allowing you to get a free entrĂ©e, drinks, etc.

Of course, these deals and how you use them raise some interesting etiquette issues, especially when it comes to dining out with friends. Is it okay to use your voucher when eating out with friends and, if so, do you use it to pay for only your portion or do you set it off against the whole bill? What is the correct etiquette in these situations?

Who is it that you are going with?

Any time that a bill needs to be split; there is an opportunity for problems to arise. Why not chat to your friends and see what they think? Technically, since you paid for the voucher, you are still paying your share but your friends may not see it that way.

If you are going with friends that you know well, the chances are that they won’t object. If you are going out with acquaintances, or people that you don’t really know all that well, it is better to keep the voucher for a different day.

What is the occasion?

Is it a get-together where you will be running separate bills anyway? Then go ahead and use your voucher.

If it is a special occasion – maybe a friend’s engagement, for example, then you should apply the discount against the whole bill, not just your portion, or not use it at all.

What about the tip?

Remember that you should still contribute the full value of your meal when it comes to the tip, no matter what discount was applied. Not doing so is just going to make you look mean. The server still delivered the same service they would have had you paid full price and they are losing out if you pay less.

The best answer to what can be a sticky question is undoubtedly, if you are in doubt, ask the people you are going with what they think upfront or keep the voucher for another time.

What about the cost of the actual voucher?

Another sticky issue can arise when the voucher is being applied to the whole bill – do you get credit for the cost of the voucher in the first place? Say, for example, you had to pay $10 to get $30 off the cost of the meal. To make things easier, let’s assume each of you had the same meal – if the bill is split evenly, you’ll have paid $10 more than everyone else, because of the voucher cost.

In the simplified example, we are talking about $10, not a lot of money, but the principle is the same for $10 and $100.

Now whether or not the cost of the deal is counted or not can depend on who invited who. Generally speaking, it is assumed that if you invited the others, you are going to pay the cost of the voucher yourself.

If this doesn’t sit right with you, it is a good idea to communicate this before you and your friends go out – then your friends do have some say in the matter as well. It is too late to assume that everyone is on the same page when the check is on its way.

All in all, the issue of whether or not to use your voucher when dining socially can be a little tricky – if you and your friends communicate properly, however, there is no room for misunderstandings.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How to Find the Right Loan for Your Business

While many people dream of having their own business, many factors often keep it from becoming reality. One of the biggest stumbling blocks most people encounter is a lack of money, which unfortunately is necessary to make any business successful. While most people go to traditional banks to obtain funding for a business, this can present its own set of problems. The loan process can be very tedious and complicated, and many times potential entrepreneurs may be turned away due to issues with poor credit or past money problems. Other times they may need short-term loans to purchase products or equipment, yet find banks are unwilling to provide them with such small loans. However, as the financial industry has evolved over the years, many other financing options have become available.

Short-term lenders, such as, offer loans that often have more flexible payment terms than traditional banks. The requirements to obtain a loan from these lenders make qualifying for them much easier. In most cases, the person need only have a full-time job, an active bank account and a debit card that's linked to that bank account. Because these companies deal mostly in short-term loans, they are able to make the loan process much quicker for those needing money for their immediate business needs.

For those seeking short-term loans, they must remember that these loans are meant to be paid back within a limited time frame. Therefore, entrepreneurs need to carefully plan how much money they need for their business and make sure they have the income in place to make the loan payment on time. The good news with these loans is the lenders are very transparent with the terms and conditions associated with the loans, helping to avoid any potential issues. 

For entrepreneurs who are in need of short-term financing that will allow them to get the money they need to start a business or purchase necessary supplies and equipment, short-term loans offer a viable solution to pressing financial problems. Most loans can be obtained online, making the process even easier for those whose time is very valuable.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Can You Invest While You Are in Debt?

Most people carry some form of debt. It could be $800 in credit cards, $120,000 in mortgage, and/or $15,000 in student loans. Everyone's debt load is different, as are the kinds of investments that you will be able to make while in debt.

When considering how much to invest while paying off your debt, it is more important to look at the rate of interest that you are paying than the total you are paying. If you are paying off your mortgage at 3.5%, that debt is growing at a very slow rate. Sure, you would save thousands of dollars in total payment if you were able to pay it off all at once, but you experience that loss very slowly and gradually, often over either 15 or 30 years. Student loan debt is similar in that it is also paid off with a low rate of interest. By paying off just the minimum amount and putting the rest of your spare money into savings and investments, you have likely made a wise decision.

The thing you have to keep an eye on is the rates. If you have mutual funds that are yielding 8.9% every year, and a student loan at 4.6%, you are making money faster than you are losing it. However, if you are paying off a credit card at 23.9%, you are losing money much faster than you are gaining it with those same mutual funds. In this situation, it is much better to kill off the big interest debt before allocating much to your other investments.

There are two exceptions I would recommend for certain individuals:

1)    Limited Funds in High Risk, High Reward Investments. Of course this won't work for everyone. But some people become very skilled at an investment form called spread betting. It's a form of day trading where the user wagers on the behavior of markets and stocks, whether they will grow or shrink within a certain time frame. Get it right, and you win; get it wrong, you lose. You can make thousands of trades a day if you want to (though I don't recommend it). If you limit your investment to between 5-10% of your investment dollars, you may see a huge return, if you're careful. Use the free tutorials to see how you do before you sink much money in risky investments, despite their excellent payoffs.
2)    Everything you can spare in tax-deferred accounts. IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) are a way to save money in the stock market, but avoid paying taxes on it. You can choose to pay taxes now (and not when you withdraw at retirement). You can also choose not to pay taxes now (waiting to pay when you retire). Because these monies, invested in index mutual funds, mirror the overall growth patterns of the market, you're all but guaranteed to make money over time. You'll also have compound interest working for you, you yields going back into the pot to swell with the rest of your money.

Investment is tricky for people in debt. Getting out of debt should be your first priority, unless the debt you have is very low-interest. If you've gotten rid of your bad debt, invest away.