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how to set up a real estate business
Lifestyle, Planning, Real Estate,

How to set up a Real Estate business

Many people ask me how the can set up a Real Estate business as I did. Just to be clear, I am not talking about my Real Estate company or my consultancy business; I am talking about a Real Estate business composed of many properties that you buy and rent out (typically kept under an LLC). This is comparable to your own Real Estate Trust. Currently, my Real Estate includes 10 units and generates about $1400 in passive income every month.

How to set up a Real Estate business

You can certainly set up a Real Estate business in many different ways. However, what I explain in the following is the way I used to set up my own business. Not only my business is working fine, as I also witnessed at least one of my clients to experience the same degree of success. So, without further due, let us get to it.

Step 1: Save some money

I would attract way more viewers from Google if I wrote: “buy Real Estate without any money down” or “invest in real estate without money”. However, I will be pretty honest with you… You’ll need some money to set up a real estate business as I did. I personally bought my first property (a condo) all cash, after liquidating my stock portfolio. It was about 35K for me. However, I invest in Portugal, where properties are cheap (especially if you compare them to most markets in the US).

Say you don’t have a good pay and you really have to struggle to save some money. Well, I am not going to lie to you, this may be time-consuming. If your salary is low, you need to find other ways to increase your income and save money aggressively.

If your salary is high enough, you’re all set. Simply throw money to a savings account every single month. The minimum you need to spend is 20% of your first property (for the down-payment to the bank, assuming you need 20% down) plus the closing costs on the property. Those you need to check from property to property.

Step 2: Get credit approval first

I’ve seen a lot of people making this mistake: going out for shopping without credit approval. This is a big mistake because you may never get approval, which means that the entire period you were looking for a property is wasted. It may also mean that you submit an offer for a property which you don’t have enough money to back up.

Don’t waste time, or even worse… get yourself into trouble. Simply get your letter of approval from the bank before anything else.

Important note: in many countries like Portugal, you must have a property under contract before the bank gives you approval. Talk to me if you have questions about this process.

Step 3: Find great, honest contractors

I always invest in distressed properties because typically rehab costs are not priced correctly in distressed properties.

As such, I need to surround myself with great contractors. I always get to know if contractors are legit and honest. The truth of the matter is, there are many dishonest contractors. Their job is simply favorable to report extra hours or extra materials: nobody is there to really check how long they worked and what materials were in fact used.

My recommendation is not to go shopping without getting to know two different contractors. Here are some great tips to hiring contractors.

Step 4: Make friends with proactive Real Estate agents

I can’t stress this enough.

Unlike the stock market, where pricing rules don’t really depend on the brokers you know, Real Estate is not like that. Real Estate is a much more personal business, and most of the aspects of your deal depend on other people. But it doesn’t end with the tenants…

Knowing proactive Real Estate agents is the key to finding great deals. At least it has been for me. I made sure I got to know many real estate agents and became friends with them. Eventually, I was offered many deals before they were actually released to the public. I highly recommend you to check local legislation and check whether this is legal in your state or country. This is absolutely fine in my markets, according to the local legislation. Make sure you don’t get yourself into legal problems.

Step 5: Find deep value deals

This is probably the hardest step to accomplish. It also shows why you need to be good friends with Real Estate agents: this will accelerate and make the process a lot simpler.

If you check my real estate and previous posts, you’ll see that I focus on multi-units that I can buy at a huge discount. For instance, I explained my strategy to find awesome multi-units for low prices. I am not saying you should necessarily go for multi-units. I am simply saying that for me, they are like a sweet spot in my markets. Maybe they won’t be the sweet spot for you, I don’t know. But my point is… come up with a sound strategy and test the market until you find your sweet spot. Your corner. Once you do, stick to it.

Regardless of what corner you choose, make sure you always go for the deep value deals. What is the most effective way to make money through Real Estate. I always buy properties that are worth 2-4 times more. How can I possibly lose money that way?

The trick to finding deep value deals? Seeing value where nobody does. A distressed property that looks like the last place where you want to live is likely to be undervalued. The reason for that is because people look at Real Estate emotionally. They wouldn’t live there, so it is must be worth little… they won’t do the math and sum whatever they would have to spend to make it look good.

You, as a Real Estate investor, have that ability. Just find those properties. Instruct the agents you work with you to find them. Look for them yourself. Relentlessly. That is the secret.

Step 6: Always inspect the properties before closing

Remember I advised to get to know good, honest contractors? They will come in handy in this step: just call them up and let them know you are considering a property. Asked them to visit the property with you and estimate rehab costs. They may be wrong because contractors won’t be able to accurately estimate the costs unless they usually check the foundation (which is not always checkable without damaging the property). However, this will give you an idea of how much you should look at. My advice? Increase the estimate by at least 20%. Play safe, no surprises.

OK – you’ve got the numbers. Run them. Is it a good property (I use the 7-year rule to check that)? Close, then!

Step 7: Remodel the properties… intelligently

Renovating a rental is a heck of a whole new topic. You can simply remodel the property and throw a lot of cash into it, or you can do things intelligently. The truth of the matter is that you can rehab one property in various different ways with the same budget, but some make it look much better. I provided several examples on a different post, which show that 10 dollars worth of tiles can make a bathroom look way better:

kitchen remodel kitchen design home renovation costs

I also suggested having a look at magazines to have ideas for your remodeling!

Make sure to track the expenses on the property since day one, too!

Step 8: Monetize!

Any investment has to yield a return. Unlike stocks and bonds, in Real Estate, it is up to you to monetize it. Your properties won’t return any money unless you monetize them, that is the cold hard truth. There are some tricks to monetization, though.

The first thing I recommend is to use craigslist (and craigslists competitors) to advertise your properties. Note that there are many housing scams on craigslist, so do not strange if people ask too many questions and double check data often. I like to use facebook pages. The big advantage to Facebook pages is that you can invite your friends to like it and you can ask your friends to invite their friends. I talked about this in my series of tips to Real Estate investors).

The key trick is to have as much exposure as possible. If a lot of people see your property listed for renting, you’ll rent it out eventually. This is not rocket science.

Remember… always create value!

If you follow my blog you already know my philosophy, when it comes to Real Estate investing… above-average quality for below-average prices. In fact, that is my philosophy for every single one of my businesses, including my consultancy business.

The truth of the matter is that if you want to buy and rent one home, you don’t have to be concerned with value markets. However, if you set up a business, you’ll have to make sure that you know the market numbers and you pay with them. Setting above-average quality to below-average price is really how great businesses are built. If you wonder why this is sustainable, be aware that I recommend you to find deep value deals. That means that you will have huge margins to play with. And what I suggest is to leverage those margins to offer great products at great prices. This will not only make you find tenants quicker – it will also make you have tenants for longer periods. And vacancies must be taken into account when calculating ROIs too!

There are a few other things that you should consider when starting a Real Estate business, including insurance and a solid business plan for real estate investing.

Is there anything missing in this strategy, in your opinion? Let me know, I will cover that too!

banknote-1396286_960_720
Lifestyle, Planning,

Spend money to make money

Over the years, I changed my philosophy as far as spending money is concerned. Today, I think that it makes sense to invest money, but it wasn’t always like this…

30 to 90 days of
Daily life, Health, Lifestyle, Planning,

30-90 days of… a new set of challenges in my life!

Hey guys!

Today, I want to bring you something I’ve been working on and I am really excited about! I decided that I will try a certain technique for 30/60/90 days, and I will report the results on the blog. I will cover pretty much everything, from money to personal development. For the most part, I will cover health and personal development techniques, though. This will go hand in hand with my new diet, which I expect to maintain throughout the year.

I will try to report everything in a scientific matter (or at least, as much as possible). I will try to record every single time I apply the technique and on what day. Then, I will report the results. Some techniques may produce results after 30 days. Some may only work after 60 or even 90 days. Either way, I will report after 30 complete days of a given technique. Every time I report the 30-90 day experiment and the results, I explain thoroughly why I decided to do it and the meaning of the technique.

Here’s a few things that I am eager to test:

#1: 30-90 days of Deep meditation

I have been meditating for a while, but it is easy to forget about it. Honestly, on most days, I feel I didn’t have time for anything I wanted to do (and I could only do what I had to do). I want to meditate for at least 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes before going to sleep, for 30 days, and assess the results.

#2: 30-90 days of Visualization

Visualization is a very powerful tool that, put roughly, takes advantage of the fact that the brain cannot distinguish between what we are thinking of and what is in fact happening. Logically, if you accept that bad thoughts affect your overall health, then we could use visualization to affect our health in a positive way. That is what I want to do. This is the best video on visualization I ever saw:

the most important part of visualization is focusing on the feeling that you experience when visualizing.

#3: 30-90 days going to bed before 11.30

I will use the time until 00 to meditate and visualize and get to sleep at midnight or even before. The crucial thing is to be on my bed at 11.30, the latest. Ideally, I will try to be there at 11 and use 30 minutes to meditate and visualize.

#4: 30-90 days on Ginseng every single day, twice a day

Ginseng is known to be an excellent adaptogen, which helps with memory and fatigue. I’ve personally used Ginseng with great success, but I will report on it again. I personally like Ginseng from Now Foods as I said many times before.

#5: 30-90 days being grateful for everything I have

In particular, I want to be grateful for what I have every day in the morning, and before bedtime. My research has shown me that our mind is really the catalyzer of life, in the sense that I personally think that a strong mindset it is the most powerful and quick way to change your life for the better. Some scientific evidence has shown that being grateful can translate into things like sleeping better and having stronger immune systems. This source also reports that there is Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons (the author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier) shows that keeping a gratitude journal can increase well-being and life satisfaction.

Does it look obvious of why I want to do this now?

#6: 30-90 days being super kind to others

…almost to the point where they think it’s fishy, I don’t care. Many people have told me that this works beautifully in making friends and having others being kind to you. You remember the commercial with that guy who waves to those who are pissed and insulting him? That is also part of the experiment. I simply want to check what result this will have on me.

#7: 30-90 days acknowledging and complimenting others

Same thing as #6.

#8: 30-90 days with irreprehensible posture

Living is learning and I am always trying to learn more and more. I recently learned that your posture affects your spine’s health, which in turn affects your well being. I wonder how much this could affect my personal situation. To maintain a really good posture, I will use a posture vest and remember myself every single day to sit straight at the computer – if I dominate that, I will pretty much be on a correct posture 95% of the time.

In this context, this is a pretty good exercise you can do at the gym:

#9: 30-90 days forcing myself to feel

Feel the smells, the air against my skin, the water falling on my body (in the shower), the sensation of success, etc.

In this context, I’ve found 5 things I can do right away to improve and harnessing the power of feeling good now. This challenge is tightly connected with other challenges (#1, #2 and #5) and they all boil down to having the part of our brain that experiences the best pleasures and emotions turned on.

#10: 30-90 days forcing myself to relax

Very connected to #9, and yet a heck of a different one… We live life so up close that it is super hard to appreciate the small moments. When I sit on my couch I do not feel that I am relaxing, yet I am. Feeling the relaxation – noticing it and letting it go through your body – is key! At least I suspect it is. Let me do 30 days of this and report the result back to you!

#11: 30-90 days going for a walk every day, for at least 10 minutes

Did you know that some people think that taking walks might be better than going to the gym?

Just forget about the routine, problems, and simply go for a walk (and enjoy it). I suspect this will free my mind, get my muscles to work and have a positive effect on my day. I am only able to do this during the Summertime (which in Portugal is pretty much 9 months in the year) LINK MISSING, but I am super curious to assess the results.

#12: 30-90 days without Facebook

Being constantly on is clearly preventing my body from relaxing. Facebook is a big part of that – although certainly not the only on. Maybe I will actually cut everything all along, including Whatsapp and other social media I use. As a hard-work blogger, I also check google analytics quite often (and Amazon affiliate/book fees), and I think that I will also refrain myself from checking those.

BTW, you can friend me now, I just created a profile: Facebook.

#13: 30-90 days without coffee

I love coffee. I absolutely love it. A good Italian or Portuguese espresso (which mean great Cameroon’s or Bolivian coffee) is certainly one of the most enjoyable parts of my day.

Coffee has a myriad of health benefits, in case you don’t know. However, coffee worsens my dizziness and therefore I would like to try out a period without any coffee whatsoever and assess the results.

#14: 30-90 days without chocolate

Actually, this is almost part of my new diet, but I want to completely remove chocolate for 30-90 days and assess the results.

Chocolate is another big pleasure that I have, but something I tend to overuse. I typically buy 70-95% cacao chocolate bars (meaning with as little sugar as possible) but this is still something I’d like to use less and less. Usually, raw cacao is preferred over any form of processed cacao for health benefits.

I figured that starting with 30-day chocolate periods is the best start to eventually eat less and less of it.

Lately, I’ve been having some trouble losing weight and I think I am overeating chocolate (really one of my favorite things to eat). Let’s see what comes out.

#15: 30-90 days focusing on others

Someone told me that the best way to feel better – especially if you have a health problem that is tightly connected to your emotions – is to focus on others. This topic has actually gotten quite popular on Quora.

I must admit that I am really going through some of the worse periods of my life. I feel quite sick and dizzy for more of the day, which are two symptoms of CFS. However, I know that this is a tight connection with my emotional status. In fact, I tend to think too much about my problem and I often have thoughts of “this is my worst phase ever” or “I will never be healthy”. Focusing on others (probably together with visualization) may be a good way to flip the switch, and I am willing to give it a shot.

#16: 30-90 days stretching every day after waking up and before going to bed

If you don’t know the benefits of stretching, I think you should have a look at those. To me, the most important one is that it may increase our energy levels. This is the routine I think I will follow (if you have one that is better, do let me know!).

#17: 30-90 days drinking 1 gallon of water every single day

Although one gallon of water may sound like a lot, we need to consider that our body is 60% water.

Now, no one can tell you exactly how much water you need.

If one gallon of water is too much or ideal, no one knows. What I know is that, back in the day, I’d drink close to a gallon a day and feel great, so I will give it a shot. If you think about drinking one gallon a day yourself, consider that a few things may happen in the transition.

#18: 30-90 days doing acupressure every single day, especially before going to bed

I’ve used acupressure before, with success, and it is also part of my lifestyle to fend off CFS symptoms. Some sources claim that regular acupressure will certainly increase immunity against all such diseases. For that reason, I want to give it a shot on a recurrent basis and assess the results.

Here are three acupressure points for overall health.

#19: 30-90 days drinking tea

The first good news about tea is that it can significantly reduce anxiety levels after suffering a stressful experience. This was confirmed by a study conducted by Malcolm Cross, of City University London.

I am not a big tea lover, I must confess. Coffee turns me on way more. However, I know that tea is a healthier alternative and can be used very effectively to treat anxiety and dizziness. I will pretty much drink chamomile and ginger tea in this experiment.

#20: 30-90 days preparing each day the night before

Have you heard that preparing your day the night before comes with a hand of benefits?

I think that the main point for me is that I won’t be anxious to make a break or something similar to that. I will be in control and know what I am supposed to do. I am curious to see how well this will work for me.


The goal of this experiment is quite intuitive, right? If something produces results in 30-90 days, then it will have a heck of a result if we apply it throughout my life. And habits compound too! We’re creatures of habit and I honestly feel I work better if I follow a specific routine. I will test out all these and adopt those that work better.

Let me know in the comments down below if you have any suggestions on what to try out!

my consultancy business
Lifestyle, Planning,

My consultancy business

During the last two months, I’ve been receiving a few e-mails asking about my consultancy business and whether it is replicable, what are the costs, etc. I figured it would be helpful to write a post on it, showing you the nuts and bolts of my business so that we clear the field here. My blog is getting known for being totally transparent and I would like it to continue like that.

If you checked my online income report from April, you’ll see that I’ve made about $1000 on consulting. I actually turned down a lot of work because I can’t fulfill, due to my part time research position. Should I have more time, I would have made at least $3000. I received all kinds of messages regarding how I set up the business, how clients get to find me, etc.

Just so you know, I actually went through all consulting opportunities I had from January until the beginning of April, and those would sum up to over $10k. I turned down all that work, but I honestly didn’t realize it would sum up to more than $10k. If we set taxes aside for a while, this calculates into the nice sum of $40k/year. Needless to say, this income is declared and I pay taxes on it. I explain how in the following.

Note that consulting itself is not where the pretty bucks are. Some of my clients ask me for products that cost thousands of dollars. This is made through my Real Estate company.

…wait, so what is the difference to the Real Estate company?

My consultancy business operates under a small consulting company, which is a different entity than my Real Estate company (which again is different from the entity that holds my Real Estate). My Real Estate company only sells Real Estate and looks for properties to investors, on a 1:1 basis. This service costs thousands of dollars, and can also be sold to the people that consult with me. I have a partner in this Real Estate company.

In essence, none of the money I make through these businesses goes directly into my pocket. They go to the checking accounts of their respective LLCs, into the books, and distributed at the end of the year, as dividends, or kept in the company to grow the company. I cannot keep detailed reports on the checking accounts of the companies in my net worth updates; However, I will keep you guys posted regarding how they do.

The bottom line is that I have 3 businesses, all of them hosted on different entities. My consultancy business, whose income is reported in my online income updates because I find my clients through From Cents To Retirement, is separated from everything else. As I write on the income reports, the figures I present there don’t represent the actual net profit as I have logistic costs to keep the company going. I do most consulting work out of my living room:

my office at home

In case you wonder, I’ve gotten people contacting me through From Cents To Retirement that could have been served directly by my Real Estate company (although I have turned the work down because I didn’t have the time to fulfill). However, most leads I have from From Cents To Retirement are served by my consultancy business. Either way, this is transparent to the clients, as the only difference is really the bank account they transfer the money to, and the company that issues the receipt.

Licenses

I always get questions about licences upfront, because to consult on finance you usually need to be a licensed advisor. Well, not exactly accurate because… that highly depends on where you’re located. Being (now) located in Portugal, I could leverage the local legislation and get away as a financial consultant who doesn’t have any license. I could charge $200/h and still get clients. I’d make so much money I could actually set up a real company (by real I mean with offices and stuff :-P) and hire people at $8/h to do most of the work.

Yet, I prefer to go a much more honest (I am not as much profitable!) way: 1) I am not a licensed financial advisor and although I promise to provide tons of value, I will charge affordable rates and 2) you should see my “consultancy” as mere “sharing of experience and knowledge”. This is a much more honest way to portray my services, and people appreciate my honesty. I am not the ultimate investing guru. I simply acquired so much knowledge (both by reading and practicing what I learned) over the last years that I can put people way ahead of where they are. From my experience, this is in fact what people are looking for.

If you want to have a better idea of what you’d learn from me… Just ask yourself what you could learn from a guy who bought 10 units in less than 2 years and is able to generate great returns on those investments. Or a guy who needed a few months to hit 65k monthly views on his blog. Or a guy who read over 100 books on personal finances and investing. I am not bragging at all – I am writing this so that you could think of you could learn from me.

Services of my consulting business and pricing

As I said, in my consulting business, my work revolves around sharing my experience. That may mean:

  • structuring personal finances,
  • investing in different asset classes,
  • general things about investing,
  • starting an online business
  • and much more.

I’ve had people paying me exclusively to learn from me how to negotiate real estate or buy and manage real estate abroad. I’ve had people paying me to successfully negotiate a 30-year fixed rate mortgage in Portugal, when “the bank told them they couldn’t”. And the list goes on and on.

As for pricing, I started low. My partner in crime (just so I don’t get problems, I must say that I mean business) charges €30/h. I learned a lot from him, so I figured that at most, I’d charge as much as he does. He has already achieved financial independence, so he does it exclusively for fun. I am still trying to retire in my early 30s, so I did start at €30h and slowly moved the needle up.

Currently, I don’t consult for less than €50/h (= $60/h) and if I continue to have this volume of clients, I will soon set the price to $100/h. I’ve seen other bloggers charging between $500/h and $5000/h – so please don’t think that I am stretching the game like nobody… For example, John from Simple Programmer charges a minimum (and “minimum” is actually in bold) of $500/h but if you want 1:1 consultations, it can cost you $2000/h.

I hate translating my time into dollars. I think that my time is worth way more than $100/h, but I am taking clients at $60/h and I spend hours and hours writing posts for From Cents To Retirement that are not returning anywhere near what I invest in them (time-wise). However, I will make From Cents To Retirement a reference in the context of Early Retirement and if this is what it takes (or part of it), then heck – let it be!

Why do people contact me?

I’ve been approached by many people lately. Should I have a perfectly working firm with a few employees and I’d turn all those contacts into revenue. Sadly, I can’t do that because I would be overwhelmed pretty fast.

The channels I get most of the contacts from are my blog (people usually shoot me an e-mail directly, at fromcentstoretirement [at] gmail [dot] com), Quora and a few other sources. Ever since advertised on Quora that I started to consult on REI, I’ve got many requests for consulting services.

Right now, I think that I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to start your an online consulting business. I would also promote it in similar ways to what I am promoting it now, but it would essentially happen much faster are more effectively.

Philosophy

My philosophy revolves around keeping my clients as happy as possible, regardless what problem they have. The key idea is to provide tons of value. I always put myself in my client’s shoes and think “do I think this was a good investment?” and obviously think that the answer is yes.

The obvious benefit is to have a lot of referrals, but this is also who Ben Davis is. I believe in creating standing out value in any business. That is for example what I do through my Real Estate business: have above-average homes renting for below-average prices. Same thing on my consultancy business. Yes, at some point I may charge more (especially with demand going higher and higher) but I will probably be able to help my clients (or at least some topics) in a much more effective manner. Either way, I’ll be above-average charging below-average, regarding my market is the $40/h range or the $400/h.

But why consultancy?

I always loved to coach people, as I said. Consulting was sort of a natural step: I am working part time for a university, and I need to make extra bucks. The blog is growing (although I projected way more) but I felt I needed more money to execute my plan to retire in my 30s. To be quite honest, my third rental property sucked way more money than I thought, as I said over the last months, and I felt that I needed to feed the beast. At the same time, my relatively big pay from Germany was about to finish and I had to reason to believe I would get a contract so fast.

If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you know that coaching people is something I like because I actually plan to do it after my retirement. We all love certain things and seeing others succeeding by following my advice is something I love. In fact, I think this is why my consulting business is being successful. At the end of the day, I love doing it and I try my best so that my clients succeed.

My advice for you, regardless you’re planning to retire early, is to do what you love and enjoy life. Always chase your dreams – there is nothing to stop you. I decided to consult because it was a way to make some extra buck, but also because I love it. If I could, I would definitely escalate it and turn it into my full-time job until retirement. In fact, I can see myself becoming a self-employed blogger, who makes most of his money consulting. Let’s see what the future holds!

Toodles!

Ben

economy 10 years
Lifestyle, Planning,

A few things that will be big in the economy 10 years from now

Becoming a blogger allowed me to open my horizons at many levels. Last month I rebranded my blog, with a new logo and a theme. I also ordered a promo video for the blog on Fiverr. It got me thinking… My blog became a (very small) business and I find myself outsourcing a few things to cheap freelancers all over the world. I talked to many online entrepreneurs this month, and they all told me the same: online businesses can be great and their potential is definitely augmented by freelance online marketplace platforms, such as Fiverr and Upwork.

I feel that if we had to hire somebody full time (or a regular freelancer, for that matter), the vast majority of us would refrain from starting a (online) business. The setup costs would simply be too high. Online businesses enable us to get access to very cheap labor, without having to compromise quality. Do you want to hire an expert for a one-off job without having permanent costs? Fiverr-alike platforms enable you to do just that. On top of that, you can find pretty much every type of service offered on this kind of platforms.

More and more people value flexibility in their jobs. 20 years ago, no company would allow you to start “until 10am” and work from home “a few times a month”. Companies have learned that people want flexibility, and offer them just that. On top of that, it’s now known to increase productivity (and working time and productivity are two very different things…). At the same time, more and more people decided to start their own businesses. As for Fiverr-alike platforms, the majority of people work there to make some extra bucks at the end of the month, but you also find many people making a living off of it.

There are many advantages to this type of platforms. First, they enable you to get in touch with people from all over the world (meaning every kind of market). In some markets, $100 is enough money to live on the entire month. No wonder they only charge $5 for 3 hours of their skills. Second, they allow you to outsource without having to hire. Yes, regular freelancers did that before Fiverr came about, but they were certainly in your market and you didn’t have the full spectrum of skills that Fiverr offers.

Environment

I honestly think that we’ll quickly migrate to an environment where the main workforce of businesses is outsourced online. Both having a business and trading your time for dollars is becoming more and more deprecated. I think we’ll witness a stellar growth of these platforms (in terms of customers and providers) in the next years. Personally, I see myself as a big client of these platforms as I grow my online businesses.

I should also say that after blogging I realized that the only institutions I will ever work for are universities. I will not consider working for a company ever again because I now understand the game. The main point is that companies pay you a fraction of what you generate every month. You’re happy with your salary, the benefits and what not. They don’t want to lose you, so they will increase your salary every now and then just to keep you motivated – most increases are actually ridiculous, BTW.

At the same time, because of your pay, the bank will lend you money so you can buy a home and turn your dreams into reality. You’re officially in the rat race. You need that paycheck at the end of the month, you’ve got a mortgage to pay. And kids to feed. You’re stuck. They make more money with you, so they increase your salary once again, by a tiny amount. It motivates you for that year. And this goes on and on and on like a hamster on a wheel. If we stop to think about it, we’ll realize that this strategy will prevent most of us from setting ourselves free. People get themselves more and more into the rat race as their salary increases. Companies will adjust the salary with fine detail: they want people to think they are getting rich, but they can’t let that happen – otherwise they leave.

Machine learning

A final note on machine learning, because it will be very big, in my opinion. Some visionaries do now believe that art degrees will be more valuable in 10 years from now on. I think this says a lot about it. In particular, I believe that many algorithms will have a lot of machine learning and AI components. My particular opinion is that online algorithms are rapidly moving that way.

At the same time, I think that mass tech gadgets will continue to steadily evolve over the next years. In particular, I believe that there will be a huge progress on smartphones and drones.

Virtual – real world interaction

We can’t deny it. Social media has really become the thing of the past 10 years. It has been happening so fast that it is actually difficult to realize how big social media got. Pinterest has launched about 7 years ago. As of February 2017, it had 150 million active users. Not many companies get so big so fast, with… about 800 employees. Also launched about 7 years ago, Instagram has now 600 million monthly visitors. It is happening, whether we realize it or now. I happen to think that there will be a lot of room for growth in the interaction with social media – we have way too many people using it to not capitalize on that.

At the same time, I think that mass tech gadgets will continue to steadily evolve over the next years. In particular, I believe that there will be a huge progress on smartphones and drones and the economy will revolve around mass tech and its usage in the real world. It will also increase mobility. I am not only talking about Uber and Uber-alike companies that will come about but mobility from every angle. Apps will definitely be the body of mobility of many things we thought were only possible to do or experience in one particular location.

Again, virtually everyone uses smartphones now and everyone has experienced some of their potentials. The money is where people are at. I have no doubt that smartphones will become way more sophisticated and have way more impact in our lives.

Sustainable transportation

As a Tesla lover and believer, I can’t really avoid this one. I believe that electric cars will take over in the next years. Actually, they won’t take over because they are eco-friendly or anything of that sort, if you ask me. I think Tesla is a magical company which is going to make electric cars more beautiful (this is already done, really 🙂 ), faster, safer and cheaper (well, most of this is already true). The model 3 will probably be the game changer and I do believe that Tesla will achieve all this with the profit made on the model 3. OK, but ain’t most of this already happening?

Yes, but what if I told you that I believe that the car technology we have right now will soon migrate to airplanes? Have you thought about the actual reason why Elon Musk – the greatest – has invested in electric cars (Tesla), rockets (Space X) and Solar panels (Solar city) all at the same time? Synergies…

What do you think will become big in the next 10 years? Let me know!

salary vs hourly
Lifestyle, Planning,

Salary vs hourly: benefits, pros and cons, and taxes

Since I started working, I was always salaried (or had a grant). Now that I decided to completely change my life (and if you’re in that transition period, check out this awesome book), this old question popped up and I found myself thinking about it. As I said before, I was offered a part-time research position (in the form of a grant), which I took. This is the most unscientific graph of history, which shows that I will devote as much time to this blog as I do to my new job:

salary vs hourly : moving to a new job and time allocated to the blog

 

As I define the number of hours I work every week, it is somewhat comparable to being an hourly employee. I decided to address this “Salary vs hourly” question in a broader context, using my own situation as a reference. Let us first go through the pros and cons associated with this question.

Salary Pros

I have been a salaried employee my entire professional life, so I know this position very well.

  • There are usually way more benefits in salaried positions, such as unemployment benefits, sick leaves and what not. On top of that, as you develop a relationship with your employer, you are also allowed to take some time off, work from home and leave earlier. In Germany, it is common that most employees leave earlier on Fridays too. In Portugal, working from home is becoming more and more of a trend.
  • Vacation and bonuses. While in Europe it has been more and more common to structure each employee’s salary such that bonuses are included, in the US most employees who receive bonuses are those working in sales or are managers. In most cases, bonuses programs are based on the performance of each employee, which means that higher productivity may translate into a higher salary in this case.
  • Stability. I know that most salary positions among my friends tend to be way longer than hourly positions. This is one of the most important questions of the salary vs hourly debate, in my opinion.

Salary Cons

  • For most positions, the hourly rate you end up getting earning may not be that attractive. Especially if you end up working more than the default 160 monthly hours. In my own case, I ended up doing that and I actually figured that I worked upwards to 220 hours, which meant that my salary came out at $10 per hour.
  • The flexibility that you have sometimes is compensated by not really knowing when you are done for the day. Usually, your tasks are part of monthly or yearly goals, so if deadlines come about, you may end up leaving way later. I feel that this is way more common in Portugal and Canada than Germany, where people tend to follow more standard working schedules.

Hourly Pros

Some of my previous co-workers were hourly workers, and I’ve got to talk to them often about this topic, and so I think that I know what are the main pros and cons of this position. At the same time, I must say that this is way more common in the US and Canada than in Europe (both Portugal and Germany).

  • Set hours. Maybe you’re like me and like to define your entire schedule for the day. It helps greatly to have set hours.
  • Overtime paid really well. You may end up earning 2.5x your hourly rate. If you are requested a lot, and you are willing to work your but off, it may be a great way to save some big bucks.
  • Increased earnings potential. If you work by the hour, chances are that you can work more time and optimize your working schedule. I actually think of hourly as you being your own boss and renting your time out. You can choose the companies that pay you well.

Hourly Cons

  • Thorough, stressful documentation of your working time. If you spend 5 minutes more at lunch time or leaving a few minutes after 5pm, it won’t go unnoticed. If you are looking for a not-so-stressful position, this salary vs hourly debate should become much simpler because of this.
  • Lack of career progression. While this is not a universal true, it is usually the salaried employees that get the most important positions.
  • Lack of status and creditworthiness before a bank. At least in the environments I know, banks tend to lend you money more easily if you have a salary.

If you are given the option to decide between salary vs hourly, consider the pros and cons for both positions. You’re the best person to decide what fits you the better. Either way, chase your dreams.

Other sources on this subject:

financial freedom
Daily life, Planning,

Financial freedom – what is it, what is necessary to get it and why I want it

I have covered the topic “financial freedom” in detail in my book “My strategy to retire early” but today I want to go over on a few angles of this topic.

What is financial freedom?

For me, financial freedom means that you attain a certain level of wealth that you don’t need to work for money anymore. This can be achieved in various ways. You can win the lottery. You can inherit more money you’ll ever spend. Maybe even sell the company you’ve built from the ground up and get a nice exit. Or you can do what I am doing: save aggressively, invest wisely, and ultimately build a nest egg that pays you enough money to live off.

If you ask people whether they want to be financially free, most will say yes. However, they lose site of this by putting other things first. Most people get themselves into huge debt for a home and a car (not to mention college debt). Others keep using their credit cards to buy stuff they really don’t need, just to have a spike of excitement (I will not even call it happiness) when they buy it.

If you want to achieve financial freedom, you will have to adopt a whole new set of rules for your life and eventually become a different person. And to truly do and embrace that, you’ll have to assess whether this is a true priority in your life. Otherwise, my experience is that it won’t work. Ask yourself questions like “am I OK with living off of 30% of my salary for 10 years?”. Or “am I strong enough to make my own meals and coffee (instead of going out) every day?”. I can’t tell you exactly what it will take for you to become financially free. However, questions like these will give you a good idea of what it really takes.

What is necessary in order to achieve financial freedom?

Piling up money is probably not the best strategy to attain financial freedom. Technically, you can achieve financial freedom if you pile up enough money to live off of, but this is a very hard way to do it. It is simply extremely difficult to pile enough money to live off of, for the rest of your life. To start off, inflation will remove transactional value of your money every single year. The idea is to save and invest, and make more money on your saved and invested money. Think of it as buying your own salary by pieces, if that makes sense. There is one especially popular chart in the ER community that works magically well:

(taken from familymoneyplan.com)

The chart basically represents a trade-off of how much you save and how many years it will take you to retire. For example, if you save 70% of your salary, it will take you about 10 years to retire. Interestingly enough, this works regardless you make 300k or 30k! The key idea is that you can live off a certain amount and you have to build a nest egg that will pay you that amount every year (ideally you want to grow it a little just to be on the safe side). Of course that this means that two people living off of 300k and 30k will have very different annual spending figures.

I like to think about in a slightly different way. To live comfortably well in Portugal, I will need a net “salary” of about €20k/year (as of April 2017). In order to net 20k from my investments, assuming a 8% return rate and 2% inflation, I would need a portfolio of about €333k. Now, let us consider a more conservative return rate, of 6,5%, and 3,5% average inflation. This means that I will net 3% of my portfolio, every year. To get €20k net per year in these conditions, my portfolio would have to be at €670k. This is, in fact, my first goal.

Having children changes things a little bit. If I were to have one child, I would have to increase my living costs by $1000/mo. With a return rate of 6,5%, and a 3,5% inflation rate, I would need a little bit more than one million bucks to net 32k/year.

Why do I want to achieve financial freedom?

If you follow my blog of you have read my book, you know that I want to retire because I have the Chronic fatigue syndrome and sometimes I just drag myself to the office. But even if I were absolutely healthy, I think I would trying to retire as well.

Whether you want to achieve financial freedom is up to you. Look deep inside and find out if you really wanna do that. Even if you already know you want to achieve financial freedom, looking deep down for the actual reasons will give you strength to fight. And boy, this is one heck of a hard road!

How do I imagine my financial freedom?

Just because I plan to retire early it doesn’t mean I will stop working. As I said, what I really want is to be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want. Maybe surprisingly for some, I love to work. In fact, most of my time is spent working on stuff I love. If you didn’t achieve financial freedom yet, you won’t be able to work on what you want. You will have to work for money. This may come in the form of a boss or your own business, but there are many things you must do even when you don’t feel like it. And that is the whole point of financial freedom. Here are some examples of stuff I will do after I achieve financial freedom:

  • Blogging. I’ve always loved to write, but blogging is a lot more than writing. If we consider the tasks underlying a blog, writing is one of the smallest tasks of a blogger. Content creation involves much more than simply writing. But content creation is not even the bulk of one blogger’s tasks. I want From cents to retirement to become a reference for personal finances and early retirement. In order to turn a blog into a reference, you need to work very hard.
  • Going into nature way more often. I love to hike (especially in not so popular wood trails), find hidden lakes and waterfalls and what not.
  • Working out more often. Between 2010 and 2012, I used to workout 3 times a week every week. My shape was amazing. I ended up giving up of that due to lack of time.
  • Write more books. I wish I had the time to write two books every year.
  • Give back to the community. I plan to help those in need, especially those with CFS.
  • Coaching other people. I have a few clients right now (I have a partner who is generous enough to send some clients over), and I coach a few friends. However, I would like to coach and help people on a much more broader scale.

If you liked this post, then I recommend you to check out the resources down below.

Ben Davis

More resources on financial freedom:

goals for the new quarter 2017
Blog, Planning, SEO,

Another quarter, new hard goals for the blog!

You know what I like the most? A hard challenge. I’ve bought myself one with this SEO story, really.

So the story goes that I didn’t rank for anything on Google, even if I had the best keywords. I’d work very hard to find the best keywords and be left on the 4th page of Google. Can you relate? Yes, I know, it sucks! As a result, I told myself I would not let this happen much longer, and I started a crazy SEO experiment (check out the first part here). The SEO experiment will include several parts, and cover various angles of SEO, from backlink building to social media. Of course, I had to start off with backlink building because despite what all other metrics may impact your rankings, backlinks are still the most important one.

Although I’ve been successfully executing most tasks, I failed most deadlines of the end goals I had defined. I said that I expected 10%-15% of traffic from organic search, but I am still at 7%… so something was wrong.

Looking at the backlink profile that I have built, you’ll see it is not the best one. I clearly made a mistake building so many nofollow links, as this generated a bad link profile. I committed myself to fix this ASAP and I am ready to make it right.

I’ve got a new challenge now, and I am publically assuming that I am in the SEO business now!

For now, let’s have a look at my ugly stats. I am still comparing myself to the competitor I used in the first part of the SEO experiment  – once I beat him, I will progressively compare myself to stronger competitors:

page authority domain authority moz

vs my competitor:

page authority domain authority moz

Yes, he got me. However, according to my estimates, I think that I can beat him by the end of this quarter, assuming he continues to grow at the same pace! Keep in mind that this guy is blogging for over two years whereas I just crossed the 1-year mark.

I can’t ensure dates on when to show my PA and my DA because Moz is not keeping the updates on the announced dates. I am not sure when they will be released. Let us now look at the rest of the stats.

As of March 24th, I had 5.420 backlinks:

backlinks

Not only I don’t have many backlinks, as my ratio of follow/nofollow backlinks absolutely sucks:

backlinks follow dofollow nofollow

My trust flow is 7, my citation flow is 17, making both of them well below average. This low number of backlinks (especially follow backlinks) translates in very little organic traffic from search engines:

traffic organic search

The reason why I have been increasing my traffic from search engines isn’t that much connected to the number of backlinks I built so far. It has primarily to do with the fact that I managed to rank for many keywords with low competition. Keep in mind that most SEO tools estimate your traffic based on the volumes of the keywords you rank for. So very high-volume keywords may actually lead the tool to think that you’re getting a lot of traffic, even if you rank 20th!

BTW – this is really me – I am never truly happy with the results I achieve as I always want more and more. I expect to hit the points above to reach 2000 by the end of this quarter as I expect to increase by at least 100% every month (meaning, for the worst case scenario, 400 by April, 800 by May and 1600 by June).

Clearly, my long-term efforts didn’t pay off so far. However, I am aware that I have chosen the hardest approach there is. Great keyword research won’t do the trick unless I increment my number of follow links substantially. I need to change this.

So, I am calling myself out and as always I am going big… I am setting the bar high for this quarter, and boy, I will do everything in my power to crush it!

The Goals

Goal 0: Fix my link profile

Drastically sanitize my link profile and have more follow links than nofollow links in the long term.

Goal 1: Increase my traffic from organic search to 20%

As I said, I failed my goals until now, in terms of traffic from search engines. I thought I would be at 15% and I am still at 7%. This time, I will play a little bit more conservative and aim at achieving 20% (instead of 50%, which is what I had planned to be in the beginning of the year). I am confident I will reach and cross this mark, but I’ll play conservative, as I said. Either way, this is enough time for SEO to take on, so I won’t have any excuses.

Goal 2: Reach 3000 subscribers and 6.000 likes on Facebook

Another bar I set very high – 6.000 subscribers until the end of the year. I think that it will be easier than Facebook’s goal of 25.000 likes, but a hard nut to crack, still.

There is not much secrecy on what it takes to increase the number of subscribers, as far as I know. Have awesome content and get your blog out there for people to visit it. Those who really like your content will subscribe. I will consider using more techniques – such as giving away small (yet valuable) e-books, but not in this quarter. What I will do is to guest post a lot, as I said, and hope that I bring a lot of targetted viewers who like my site and subscribe.

I am now on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (if you haven’t followed yet, please do). In this quarter, I need to ridiculously increase the number of likes/followers to meet my goals for the year (which I only set for Facebook – 25.000 likes). Maybe I set the bar ridiculously high for Facebook but I prefer to go big and fail then go small and win. This quarter, I will use a few tricks I have been learning!

Most people say that social media platforms are not that relevant for SEO. I agree that they are not that tightly connected (even though social signals are part of Google’s ranking metrics for sure!). However, I feel it is a great way to disseminate my material and get the word out – which may get me some organic backlinks (and views, obviously). I do have a solid strategy to increase my facebook likes substantially, but I won’t reveal it before testing it. I will detail everything on my next SEO experiment update.

Goal 3: Publish every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

I have been accomplishing this week after week and I am confident I will not fail in the entire quarter. I try to schedule myself out for 2-4 weeks and that is the trick, really.

The strategy

So, in order to accomplish these goals, here’s what my strategy will revolve around…

Build more high-quality dofollow backlinks

Right now, most of my backlinks are nofollow. Although I’ve nailed it at keyword research, I need to dramatically increase my PA and DA for the keywords to work.

As I said before, nofollow backlinks are great for various reasons, but they won’t help with SEO. Plus, I believe that Google assesses the dofollow:nofollow ratio and penalizes sites with a bad ratio. That is my case (at least the bad ratio part – not sure I am being penalized), as I showed you above. So, the first thing is to build lots of dofollow links, and revert the situation. But there is more… my trust ratio and my DA are so bad I shouldn’t even be showing them. This means that I need links from highly trusted / high DA sources. In essence, I need lots of guest posts on great blogs. Guest posts are not the only way to increase backlinks from high DA sources, but as I don’t have my name out there yet (because I haven’t been guest posting enough, which means low DA, which means that very few new readers come to my blog) I don’t have many organic backlinks yet. See the catch 22? Me to! So…

Task no. 1: Write at least 40 guest posts and generate at least 80 backlinks

The key is to seek and find high DA sites that will accept a guest post from me. Sites with lower DA won’t help in the rankings, and guest posts do take a lot of time (at least for me – I like awesomeness), so I need to have a time-efficient MO. At this point, I feel confident that From Cents To Retirement has a lot of great content and I won’t have problems in getting the guest posts I am looking for. I will write 40 guest posts this quarter, which will generate 80 backlinks (at 2 links a pop, on average). 40 guest posts in the quarter mean one guest post at ever 2.25 days. Feasible? I am not sure yet but I will try my very best to do this. I am not starting from scratch, though, as I arranged some guest posts in March. I will aim at publishing 14 guest posts per month, in the next 3 months.

Interviews are a quicker way to get backlinks and exposure. I prefer to guest post than to give interviews, although I love to host interviews with other bloggers on From Cents To Retirement. I will give some interviews (instead of writing guest posts) depending on my schedule and preferences of the hosts.

As I said, I expect 80 backlinks from this experiment (an average of 2 links per posts). This will definitely be the hardest (and most time-consuming) task in the entire experiment. Although, I believe it will be the most profitable one – or at least the one with most impact.

Task no. 2: Legally “steal” competitor backlinks

On top of that, and just to make sure I attain my goal, I will also use other strategies to get bloggers linking to my site. In particular, I will test one strategy (of 3) per month. I am sticking to whatever generates 10 links a month! From this, I expect 20 backlinks for the quarter, thus reaching 100 dofollow backlinks in 3 months.

The idea is quite simple: spy on my competitors and go after the same links. I have done this in the past, successfully, for nofollow links! Now I will go after dofollow links (a much harder task, obviously), but I also have better tools and more experience now. Dofollows are much more complicated because they depend on the will of the admins of the sites where you’re looking to get a link from.

Of course that with so many guest posts, I will start to put my name out there and that will generate views and (hopefully) some organic backlinks, as people find my content. However, I won’t rely on that as a means to generate backlinks. On top of that, I can ensure you that I will publish 3 posts per week despite I have to allocate most of my time to write guest posts.

 

This is it, let us see how I do in the next quarter. As you can see, I could not be more transparent about this. I am working hard and I will work harder and above all more efficiently in the next quarter. Wish me luck!

Ben

how to save money
Daily life, Planning, Tricks,

How to save money every month: saving tips you can use right now!

The main question I go through with my clients and those I advise is how to save money. If you want to retire early, you must save money. But how? Although this is a simple question, only the right actions will do the trick.

I actually answered this question on Quora in December 2016, which ended up getting almost 100k views. This post is the result of a huge compilation of savings tips and tricks to save money that I’ve been using over the years. You may find that some of these tips don’t work for you. That is fine. Simply try to apply those that do. Without further due, let us get to it…

How to save money: 20 saving tips you can use right away to save money

The first thing you have to do when asking yourself how to save money is what is actually how much is realistic to save. In my case, I make about $2400/mo net, so I decided that I had to save at least $1600/mo. I will not say that each and every one of you can do this. Yet, most of these tips are applicable by almost everyone.

1 – Pay yourself first

Again, to start saving money, you must first define what is reasonable to save. You can certainly live off of 30%, as I do, but you will need to be an avid fan of minimalism. On top of that, you need to have a burning desire to save money. In my own case, I want to retire because I have CFS, which may prevent me from working..

If you figured this out, set up a savings account if you don’t have one yet. Then, simply transfer your savings as soon as your salary clears on your account, every month. I often recommend people to set up automatic transfers because they tend to work way better than manual transfers.

Buy assets on credit and try to aggressively pay it back

What really motivated me to save money was to pay back credit. Going to the bank and paying down my mortgages. Paying off the credit card debt I used to advertise my book “My strategy to retire early“.

Maybe you’re hypersensitive to credit. If that is the case, don’t use it.

Also, when the dividends of my stocks clear, I buy more stocks, so I never get to have the chance to spend the dividends.

Note that I do not advise people to use credit unless they really know what they are doing!

2 – Withdraw money from your account for the entire week

It is much easier to use your card to pay for your expenses, so you tend to spend more that way. If you get cash and use it, you tend to stick to it in a much more powerful way than using your cards. I’ve noticed that this greatly helped me. Now, if we’re not talking about great amounts of money, I actually think you should withdraw money for the entire month. Just try it out and see whether you do better.

3 – Record every single transaction you make

You may think this is contradictory with tip #2. It is not! Although it would be easy to record every transaction if you used your cards, you’d tend to spend more. Cash out and use apps for smartphones. Just google up one, there are plenty. Use the one you like the most. The biggest advantage of doing this is that you realize where you spend your money – and maybe change your spending habits for the better!

What happened with me is that I became so disciplined about spending money that I stopped recording where I spent money, with the same results. However, I do understand the value I gained by having done this!

4 – Shop on a budget

I entitle myself to spend a given amount of dollars at the supermarket. In order to do that, I always write down what I need before actually going there. And most importantly, I stick to whatever is on the list!

I follow pretty much the same diet all year long, I know what I need straight away. Plus, I know the prices I normally buy my groceries at, so I can go to a different supermarket and buy only if the price is lower.

5 – I take advantage of the intrinsic value of my money, by buying in bulk

I usually target high expiration date items, that can come in large containers. Rice is one example. I typically buy the best organic rice at a lower price than the average rice brand. This is only possible because I buy 20-50KGs (about 40-200lbs) at a time. Another example of what I buy in bulk is toothpaste.

I also buy in bulk whenever an occasional sale of a product I already use comes up. Note that I didn’t say “whenever a sale comes up”. It must be a sale of a product I already use so I know that I am not buying just because it is cheaper than usual (which can, in fact, mean more expensive than the products I usually use).

6 – Avoid big sales and Black Fridays

Right. Take advantage of sales that feature the products you already use and trust but avoid the big ones. Why? Because in big sales like black Friday you are compelled to buy products you don’t really need. The only back Fridays I take advantage of are stock market black Friday. 🙂

7 – Turn off the television and the computer at night

You will save on the electricity bill. You’ll be less exposed to ads that compel viewers to buy stuff they don’t necessary need. I personally got rid of television for good about 8 years ago. Feeling bored? Read great books instead. Go online and learn new skills. Meditate (Affiliate link).

8 – Read on how to save money

Yes, posts like this very same one. But this is not necessary the end of it. Look for more articles. Read books that will help you even further. Browe the internet for more articles. Learn from people who did it successfully in the past.

If you are self-employed, I definitely recommend you to check this and this sources.

9. Practice minimalism: stop buying and start selling

minimalism how to save money

As I am currently in the process of moving to a new home, I wanted to make sure that I start off with the right foot. To accomplish that, I will write down a list of items I want to have in my home and stick to it. In addition, I will use the 1:1 item rule: to bring home another item, I have to get rid of one I already have.

People don’t realize it, but having many things is a lot of stress. Try to keep the minimum. Get rid of what you don’t need, by selling it online or market fleas. You’ll save money and make money. Win-win.

10 – Buy used, not new

I buy a lot of books (btw, as a 10.1 tip, aim for free books whenever you can!). The vast majority of them are used because I get a huge discount and yet, they tend to be in very good condition. Whatever you can buy used instead of new makes you saving money and help the planet.

Books are only one example. Another example would be a car, which I would never buy new. It depreciates too fast on my balance sheet. 🙂

11 – Negociate your mortgage

Having two mortgages myself, and a third one on the way, I feel competent to talk about this. Go to the bank and negotiate your mortgage! I do that every 4-6 months, or sooner if I feel that I have new arguments to negotiate. For instance, if I rent out another of my units, I try to negotiate my mortgage down. In fact, if you think about it, every month that goes by, the more creditworthy you get (assuming you don’t default)!

Your mortgage is probably your number one expense so you must be addressing it if you want to save money! Don’t be afraid of hearing the bank telling you no. That is for granted.

12 – Quit smoking. Please!

I cringe whenever I hear someone telling me they need to save money while they smoke a cigarette. Please, do me and yourself a favor: stop smoking! This is one of the best ways to start saving money because if you’re a smoker you are certainly spending lots of money on cigarettes. And smoking is SO expensive!

On top of that, it will largely benefit your health. Smoking has been shown to cause major problems to your health.

13 – Be a coupon and gift card savvy grinder

This is really for those who master the science of how to save money. So, coupons are a great way to save money. However, as I said in tip #6, you should not buy something just because it is on sale. Same thing with coupons if you’re really looking how to save money. Search for coupons everywhere and use them wisely. Don’t use coupons for products you don’t buy already. Search for coupons by typing the names of the products you already buy. Ask your favorite grocery whether they have coupons.

14 – Don’t change your cell phone

We live in a society which excludes us if we don’t have the latest gadget. Don’t go with that trend. Changing your smartphone every few years is fine, but buying the latest one all the time is certainly not a sustainable idea.

Stick to your gadgets until they don’t work anymore. Remember your excitement (if you were) when you bought them. Remember all the good things you’ve done with them. Change them when they stop working.

15 – Change to LEDs

My father comes from a very humble family. He greatly appreciates what he has right now because his family didn’t even have enough to eat. Yet, he remains super frugal and moderate. He used to float around the house turning lights off and complaining with me and my brother when we were younger. We were not particularly good at turning the lights off, you see. 🙂

Two years ago, I convinced my father to change to LEDs. I knew he was the best guinea pig I had to test whether it worked. It took me one electricity bill to become a devoted fan of LEDs. They truly work, and their price is coming down quickly, as the technology evolves. Do yourself an experiment at your own home!

16 – Pack food for the day

Start saving money is easy if you write down your monthly expenses and address the biggest ones. As I said in tip #11, your mortgage should be addressed first because I am sure it is one of the main expenses you have, if not the biggest! Food comes right after, I am sure. This is especially true if you go out for lunch. Going out for lunch every day of the week for 10 years translates into about $40k, if you spend an average of $15 per lunch.

Seriously, pack your meals. Grab what is left of yesterday’s dinner and take it to work, so you save on lunch. Make a healthy sandwich or salad. Won’t take you much time but will certainly alleviate your wallet!

17 – Downsize

Bigger homes mean more expenses, it is that simple. Downsizing is such a great way to save money! All too often, smaller homes mean also cheaper acquisition costs. If you downsize and you’ve got a mortgage, you’ll pay less for your mortgage. If you paid your home off already, you can take the extra cash and invest it. In general, you’d save on maintenance and utility bills, at the same time you create more income. Win-win!

18 – Write a “how to save money” list

This can be way more effective than it looks like. If you write down the list (and actually read it every now and then) you’ll remember what you should be doing! On the back of the list, write down the prices of your most common groceries. Next time you buy them, you’ll have good comparison terms.

19 – If you do use credit cards, choose those with cash back

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Although it really comes in the first pages of many books on how to save money, not many people do this. Choose credit cards with cash back and benefits, if you really have to use them. A reason to use credit cards is to get lower interest rates on your mortgage, as banks often do that when you get credit cards from them. Use all the benefits of credit cards – call their customer service and have them sending you the entire list of benefits!

20 – Cancel unused memberships and negotiate bank fees

I have made this mistake myself: I went on for a few good months with a club membership I never used. That was $40/mo, so we are not exactly talking about peanuts here. When I first started to think how to save money, this was one of the immediate things I changed. I have no memberships now. I pay for my gym “membership” on a monthly basis (which is 7% more expensive). As I don’t workout in August, it ends up being equally expensive – although I only pay for it if I am really using it!

Bank fees are another major component of how to save money effectively. Have your bank statements scrutinized every month and make sure you have no unknown fees popping up. If you do, question the bank right way – and don’t forget about it!

21 – Refinance high interest debt (to lower rates)

Student loans are so common that if you went to college, chances are you got yourself some debt. In most countries, such as the United States, you can refinance your student loans. Another common high interest debt that people should re-finance is credit card debt. I’ve had clients that payed upwards to 30% interest on their credit cards and found themselves in a very big hole, and one that is hard to get out of. Refinancing and consolidating is key. 
To refinance and consolidate high interest debt, I recommend checking out this and this sources.