Don't Let Debts Take Control Of Your Life; Dealing With Debt*

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For many People Debt Is An Unavoidable Aspect of Life

*This is a Collaborative Post*

There are only a few things in the world which can be so debilitating to a person, (mentally and physically), than being burdened by debts. Seeing no light at the end of the tunnel can really take it's toll. With recessions and economic downturns as well as a rocky international geopolitical landscape, debt is experienced by the vast majority of us. Like many people, I willingly walked in to more than £30 000 worth of debt in order to pursue my dream of studying at university.

Unfortunately there wasn't a trust fund or a 'college fund' or any other such resource, and, with being the first person in my family to go to Uni, the hidden expenses which inevitably accrue were unforeseen. I was quite fortunate in that during the holidays from University I would come home and work in construction as a general labourer. This money was really helpful in taking out some of the sting out of the cost of those few years of 'study' and in contributing to an overall debt reduction. However, I was fortunate as it is not easy to come to an arrangement with someone who will let you show up a few times a year and then disappear again soon after.

Another big help was getting a job a few nights per week doing PR work for a nightclub in the small city I was living at the time. I was lucky to have the construction work as it helped to keep my head above water financially. Most of us will experience debt during our lifetime, whether via credit cards, borrowing for personal, car or business reasons, or even in securing a mortgage, which for most people will be the biggest and most colossal debt acquired.

Debt is construed in the negative generally speaking, but of course there are different kinds of debt. I am not saying that getting a mortgage is a negative thing because for a lot of people as well as being their biggest financial investment it can also offer them a real sense of security. I know for my parents growing up the notion of owning one's own house to them seemed like an intangible representation of financial security.

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Be Aware; There Are No Guarantees In Finance

Of course we know a little more than they did back in the 1950s and 60s, and we are all familiar with the fluctuating nature of the property market; and how in 2008 the property industry like many others here in the US/UK and elsewhere came to a complete standstill. From construction companies to lettings agencies, and everything in between, everything stopped and then everything plummeted. Many a millionaire property landlord became bankrupt practically overnight. Then there was the whole Sub-Prime Mortgage Scandal from 2007-2010; a banking crisis which rocked the United States economy. It is perhaps worth noting that no one in the world of finance, and no investment is 'bulletproof'.

Important to mention I feel, although there is a lot of truth in the saying; 'there's always money in bricks and mortar', you should always be aware that every financial investment you make comes with some element of risk. Even getting a secure looking mortgage. It is better to recognize this as a possibility ahead of time in order to have plans B and C at the ready should you ever require them. It can be difficult to see any way out but it is important to note that there are companies out there who specialize in helping you to get out of your financial difficulties.

Nationwide Debt Reduction Services are one such company, they offer a bespoke service and pride themselves of tailoring a payment plan which works around you and your unique circumstances (With no fees to be paid until the debt is settled). As depressing as the burden of debt can be it manageable in most cases and with companies such as this which also donate to scholarship funds I think it demonstrates that not everyone out there is simply 'after your money'.

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Male Grooming: On The Lookout For A Good Shaver*

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*This is a Collaborative Post*

Trying To Look After Myself A Bit

I've never really been the vain type and at any rate, I knew from a youngish age that I was never going to look like Brad Pitt. That said, as 'Father time' has slowly crept up on me, it suddenly seems only sensible that I take some of the necessary steps to prolong my youthful looks for as long as possible. Recently I became the proud new owner of a Sonicare electric toothbrush which promises to do miraculous things for my teeth! Unfortunately despite doing my best to look after my teeth, they aren't as white now as they once were. Still, all in all they are in pretty good condition considering what I've put them through growing up . . . rugby collisions, falling out of trees, toppling over on my bicycle and such like.
Despite all the bumps and scrapes, my mouth has escaped relatively unscathed. Ironic really because when I did eventually lose three teeth it was only to create space for orthodontic treatment. Three perfectly healthy teeth I might add, extracted in order for me to have a fitted brace when I was fourteen years old. The toothbrush is very expensive to buy and bearing in mind I haven't had a toothbrush which cost more than £15 before, I'm curious to see whether it will improve my overall mouth health. I shall keep you posted and may well write a post in a few weeks time to chart my progress (if there is any.) If I see impressive results or anything noteworthy then I shall be sure to inform you!

Shaving - Traditional Or Electric?

I'm also looking for a Men's Trimmer as mine is old and no longer working properly. Over the last twelve months I have been shaving for the most part with a more traditional Razor (which I wrote a review on last year for Girl Gone Dreamer.) There's no denying there's a certain romance attached to the notion of the wet shave, the careful application of the foam onto the wet synthetic soft-haired brush and then to skin. However you do have to concentrate more to take care not to cut the skin as it's so much easier to do than with an electric shaver. One of the other difficulties when using a traditional shaver is maintaining the correct angle at all times. As a child my brother and I would watch my Dad shave. It seemed like such a manly and grown up thing to do. Little did we know then, that having to shave daily would become one of the biggest chores in life. That said, when I use a traditional razor, due to the closeness of the shave combined with the fact that I'm not blessed with thick facial hair, I usually then don't need to shave for at least two or three days.

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Unless I'm enjoying a slow paced wet shave in preparation for a good night out, a wedding or a business function, most of the time shaving is somewhat of an inconvenience, as I know it is to most. Bearing this in mind, I'm now on the lookout for a trimmer which I can shave with in a time efficient manner, (although granted, I shall still keep my traditional shave as an alternative). I like to be able to shave and leave a little stubble, rather than rendering myself completely hairless. 

This also helps me avoid any skin irritation which although is a rare occurrence, can sometimes happen. I'm not particularly interested in all the features regarding making patterns in my facial hair; I just want a simple clean, smooth shave with the option to edge and style my facial hair on the rare occasion that I have it long enough to require some neatening up. Again I might do a product review once I've tried a few. I'm definitely looking for something simplistic compared to some of the high tech gadgets on the market. The Panasonic Trimmer is of interest. Designed for use on body, head and facial hair, it seems like it would meet some of my time efficiency requirements.

For the more seasoned 'beard-groomers', the Panasonic trimmer features settings which enable professional styling and design of the hair. Prepare yourself for an eclectic mix of potentially wondrous results!

This trimmer has many perks! Featuring a 45 degree blade, this gadget trims – which is what I'm looking for - makes lines, cuts through tougher hairs and bristles and if you fancy having a haircut then you'll be pleased to know it can do this too! It's sensitive enough that you can even shave under your arms. Is there anything the Panasonic trimmer can't do?

What do you use for grooming? Are you a fan of the traditional razor or do you prefer an electric shaver?

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Financial Loans for Small And Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) In The UK*

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*This Is A Collaborative Post*

Sometimes, 'It takes money to make money'.

For anyone who has set up a business or even if you haven't but are considering it, then you will probably have an insight into one of the most difficult aspects at the outset of most business ventures; i.e. raising capital. Businesses will usually find it fairly difficult in the first couple of years of operation. After the initial outlay of capital in launching the business and then the struggle of 'keeping afloat', businesses often require some financial assistance in order to then reach long term profitability. It is often much easier said than done, with the current state of the economy, and with banks unwilling to part with much cash in order to help fund small businesses; It can be very difficult for people to raise capital but there is hope out there and for those of you who might need a financial boost then this article may be of interest to you.

Boost Capital are a company which specialize in business loans from £3000 to £500,000 depending on the specific business in question and other relevant factors of course. They are a company who firmly believe that entrepreneurs and SMEs (Small & Medium sized Enterprises) are the backbone of the UK economy and they aim to help people across the UK realize their business potential by providing fast and flexible financing options.

I think the fact there are such companies which are doing what they can to help out small businesses in the current climate of globalization and corporate conglomerations is positive and refreshing to see. For those of you out there who might not qualify for a bank loan, then at least it offers a glimmer of light in knowing that companies such as this are out there.

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I'd like to add that I do not endorse blindly throwing money at a situation in the irrational hope that by doing so the business is sure to come around to prosperity. Only look for outside financing if you know that by doing so you are giving yourself a good opportunity to succeed. 

As Napoleon Bonaparte once said; 'quitting while you are ahead is not the same as quitting'.

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Don't Get Left Behind: How Data Collection Software Can Benefit Your Business*

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This is a Collaborative Post*

Incorporating Tech Platforms Into Your Business

We are living in an age whereby more and more businesses are seeking to incorporate certain software platforms within their business in order to maximize its potential and efficiency. Never before has the collection of 'data' been so widespread, yet there are still many, particularly small businesses who do not make use of the numerous advantages to be gained from both the collection of data, to the useful interpretation of that information and then the implementation of any changes necessary for the growth of the company.

Analytics can be complicated, but it really doesn't have to be, even the word analytics, can evoke fear in the same way that an algebraic equation can for most people. But the fact is that most platforms are at a level whereby they are very simple to incorporate, use and understand. It doesn't matter what industry you operate in the benefits of collecting data are potentially endless. These platforms are built so that people like you and I can understand them without the prerequisite computer science degree.

It can be a little bit daunting if you are a small business owner with little experience of using embedded software platforms regarding data collection, but it really is worth learning about. As mentioned, such software platforms are designed with novices in mind, you can read more on the subject here, in order to familiarize yourself with some of the terminology and concepts.
As with any product, there are good and less good one's on offer, so how do you decide which is the best platform for you and your business. Well unfortunately I can't help you with that one, but there are many out there to choose from. Ideally you want a platform which will enable you to gain clear cut data, which is easy to interpret and understand. You do not want ad-hoc reporting of data sets which leave you scratching your head in wonder and confusion.

The Importance Of Graphology When Presenting Data

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I am sure some of you will be familiar with the term graphology from your days studying English at school, in which case it would refer to the aesthetic lay out of a page of text. Well, with regards to data collection, the presentation of the results is one of the most important elements of the process. There is no point in having a great platform which collects all kinds of pertinent data sets for you, if it is unable to depict the results in such a way as to be interpreted. That's where certain platforms really come into their own, with all manner of graphs and charts and easy to dissect visual representations of the data collected. This is obviously crucial in implementing any further changes or improvements to your business.

If you are new to the field then definitely do a little reading on the subject and soon you will be utilising such a platform for the advancement of your own business.

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The Importance Of Financial Education (For Young And Old Alike)

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The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”. Winston Churchill.

I would say at the outset of this post, that it may be of particular relevance to those of you raising children or those with nieces, nephews, grandchildren and such. It is a real life tip of sorts (or rather an insight into a way of thinking about finance). In business as with life, mindset is crucial and that is what today's article is about. When I first came across this concept it really resonated with me despite its apparent simplicity. Firstly, I just want to preface by saying that finance to many people is a mystery and in most cases through no real fault of their own; it can seem to be a subject which only a few 'specially trained' people can fully understand and capitalise from. 

Financial Education - Are We Failing The Youth Of Today?

'Money makes the world go round', or so the saying goes, yet finance and the subject of money is not taught in most schools until the senior years, if at all. Why is this? Well, the theories are aplenty, but the result is that most people are not as financially literate as they could or should be. I think it is important to try and introduce concepts of commerce, business and finance to children and am thankful I made efforts to improve my own financial literacy having remained fairly ignorant of the topic through childhood. Money was hard to come by, it was distant, it was fleeting, and the idea of financial independence was all but a lofty dream.

On the issue of financial education, please consider this statistic for a moment, bearing in mind the fact that the following people on average earn millions of dollars during their careers. According to a Sports Illustrated article (2009), 78% of NFL players either go bankrupt, or are experiencing serious financial issues within two years of retirement. The article also estimated 60% of NBA players, who likewise earn millions of dollars file for bankruptcy within 5 years of their retirement from the sports. Why? How? Well in large part it is because (generally speaking) we are not educated about financial matters resulting in what could be termed financial illiteracy.

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In my humble opinion such pitfalls can be avoided with knowledge of a few simple principles,and by learning about aspect of personal finance; such as tax laws, knowing the difference between what Kiyosaki calls 'good debt' and 'bad debt', for instance; understanding the importance of cash-flow and distinguishing between your real assets and liabilities. (All to be covered in more detail in further articles). By teaching yourself some basic finance you can avoid a lot of strife and you will not be as dependent upon the afore-mentioned 'specially trained people' as much. This means you will have more personal control over your financial situation in the long term at least and you will be wiser to the false promises and 'spiel' for which the financial profession is famous or rather, infamous.

Finance And Parenting

So back to the point, and rather than technical knowledge of financial matters, this is more related to the concept of thinking about finance in a positive and optimistic way. I was reading a book called Rich Dad Poor Dad by a chap called Robert Kiyosaki during my late teens and in it he discusses the importance of a very simple trick of semantics and positive mental conditioning. In the book he discusses a common 'Phenomenon' within the context of finance and parenting, which I am sure many of you will relate to as much as I did. The hypothetical scenario he mentions is that of a child out with his Mother or Father trailing round the shops, when inevitably the family come to the toy section, and then just as surely the question comes; 'Please can I have X'.

To this the reply comes from Mum and Dad, that unfortunately on this occasion they cannot indulge the little mite. 'Why on Earth not?'; I hear you ask. The parents reply is along the lines of, 'You cannot have X because we can not afford it'. And there, with the finality of that seemingly innocuous even mundane comment is the crux of the issue at hand. 

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The statement 'We can not afford X', is a declaration of a position which in this context and in the eyes of the child is as fatal as the auctioneer's gavel. It cannot be argued with, and any further potentially creative thought processes related to the matter are immediately shut down, possibly followed by a period of sulking. Here's what you should be telling kids instead (in order to help them have a more positive outlook and a generally more competent level of understanding financial matters later in life).

Use Positive Reinforcement As A Motivator

Instead of the curt, thought ending, unarguable statement. Say something along the lines of 'No, we cannot afford X at the moment, but how could we afford X?'; (Lemonade stand, selling flowers, doing chores around the house etc). You see, this very subtle difference in delivery of the same message is in complete contrast to the former. Here we have a statement of fact followed by a question. So, instead of instantly seeing nothing but doom and gloom and endless miles of supermarket aisles, the child's mind will instead be abuzz with thought, and they will think instantly of ten ways to come up with X amount of money; some slightly more realistic than others of course, but all valuable ideas nonetheless, you will be helping them develop their critical faculties. It helps teach them to embrace a perceived negative financial position with a positive mindset in order to think of a solution to the problem and thus to further improve their own financial disposition later in life!

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Now this context is specific to financial matters and learning, but again, it boils down to conditioning your mind to seeing the multitude of possibilities in life rather than dwelling solely on the finite nature of things. In a nutshell, it stimulates and encourages further thought, which in turn leads to greater understanding and in time, the ability to think one's way out of potentially negative situations, financial or otherwise. This of course, is a crucial component to success in business, careers, family life, relationships, health and fitness or anything. Although I mention the importance of teaching children to think in a critical way and to actively work on creating their own solutions to problems, you will help their development in other areas too. Of course the earlier a child is exposed to this kind of positive mental conditioning the better, but it is still also relevant to you, it is never too late to improve your level of financial education and understanding. 

A Change In Mindset Can Change Your Life

The earlier you begin to start thinking in this kind of way the better your problem solving abilities will become. It was shortly after reading Kiyosaki's book that I created my first business which you can read a little more about here. I was in need of some money and was at a loose end for a few months, so I asked myself. What can I do? I found out! I didn't just have to settle for getting a job stacking shelves (which I had done as a 16 year old and that I disliked immensely). 'Where there's a will, there's a way!' Thanks for reading.

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