image2Are you someone that gets paid only to be broke the very next day? Don’t worry, I’m not singling you out or anything, it just seems to be one of those things that happens if you don't track your spending. One minute you’re excited to get paid and by the weekend you don’t have a cent to your name. While there could be a host of reasons why this happens, one that held true for me was poor financial management. Haphazardly paying bills and spending money each pay period without having the slightest idea of my finances left me broke more times than not.

You see the thing about effective financial management is first having a clear understanding of exactly where your money is going. Without having an honest and accurate account for where things are going, you cannot have an accurate budget of any kind. While it could be very true that you make just enough money to pay your bills each pay cycle, chances are you’re doing some excessive spending in places that you can cut back and save money. If you’ve never truly tracked your expenses in the past, here are a few ways you can start.

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tipThere seems to regularly be a lot of discussion about the death of tipping, but is this tradition really on its way out? Even with minimum wages on the rise, you likely want to be sure you are behaving appropriately and paying a reasonable amount so you and those in the service industry can stick to a budget and make monthly debt payments.

Here’s a guide to tipping the right way:

1. Basic Percentage Guide

Part of what makes tipping so frustrating is that it is not always clear how much of a tip you should leave for whom. The environment you are in dictates the tip that is expected and deserved.

The wage of workers is often based on tip expectation. Servers who do behind-the-scenes work in restaurants to make your experience enjoyable or wait on your table actively are likely not earning a high hourly wage.

The standard advice is to tip servers between 15% and 20% of the pre-tax bill. And the U.S. average stands at about 18%, according to a 2014 Harris poll. Ultimately, you can use your own discretion to make that decision based on your evaluation of the service. ...continue reading


hotel room

For years now, getting a good price on a hotel room has become quite the cat-and mouse game. The Internet made comparison shopping incredibly easy, putting price pressure on hotels. They responded by inventing tack-on surcharges like “resort fees” to obscure the bargain-hunting process. Then they beefed up hotel rewards programs in an effort to steer users away from comparison sites. And all the while, dynamic pricing and other digital-age tricks have made getting a good hotel price a lot more like hitting a moving target.

There are plenty of tricks you can use, however, to at least make sure you aren’t overpaying during your summer vacation. So here’s a guide to buying a hotel room.

1. Go Opaque

For starters, most of the really great deals are on the so-called opaque sites that sell “distressed” room inventory, says travel expert Chris Elliott of Hotels pay to keep the lights on whether a room is used on not, so they will often find ways to sell rooms very cheap on sites like Priceline or Expedia. Otherwise, when buying from the hotels themselves, pricing is actually a lot more consistent than you’d think.

“Unlike airfares, hotel rates are fairly stable and not subject to the wild swings like airfares,” he says. You will rarely see a hotel room offered for $200 on Thursday morning but $300 on Thursday afternoon, as can happen with a plane ticket. You do, however, see hotels sell out, so timely booking can be a good idea. ...continue reading