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Easy, Peasy, Cheap Way to Clean Off Your Car in the Winter

First thing’s first: Happy MLK Jr. Day! Today’s a great day to engage in service for others. If you have kids in the Burgh, it’s a great day to head to the Mattress Factory for free, fun and educational programming!

Affordable. Fast. Easy.

Winter has been weird here in Pittsburgh. We had one snowfall in November, but it was light and dissipated quickly. Since then, it’s been fairly warm. Over the holiday break, it was so warm we abandoned coats in the Spring-like weather. The air was pregnant with an unseasonably warm humidity. Everyone I ran into simultaneously loved it and was, on a deeper level, disturbed by it.

All illusions of Spring vanished this weekend as we had our first real snow pass through. Things got icy. Things got a little dicey on the roads for a minute. For better or worse, it began to feel like a Pittsburgh winter.

I hate scraping off my car.

I’m not the tallest person. When this season rolls around, I typically bust out the car brush, curse myself for moving into yet another home without a garage (that rent tho!) and curse some more as I try in vain to get every last chunk of snow off of my car.

It’s a miserable process.

A lot of times, I’ll just “leave” half an hour early, sitting in my car with the heat blasting on defrost until things have thawed enough to make the job easier.

Burning fuel like that is not cost-effective and also is a pretty terrible thing to do the environment I claim to be so worried about.

Scrape-A-Round to the rescue!

Earlier this winter, Scrape-A-Round had approached me with a few free snow scrapers for myself and my family. I watched their videos and was intrigued. It looked like it was going to be a ton easier to clean off my car. And that’s something that makes me super happy.

This weekend, I had my first real chance to try it out.


I applied almost no pressure and easily cut through ice within seconds. I was able to reach the same parts of the windshield I am with the scrape-y part of a regular brush tool, so range was not an issue. Because it’s a hollow cone, I figured out a technique to scoop the snow off the car which was just as efficient as brushing it off had been in years past.

I’m never buying a brush tool again.

Scrape-A-Round is Affordable

You can get a pack of three Scrape-A-Rounds for $18, making them just $6/piece. Scrape-A-Round is an American company, and it’s probably best to buy directly off their website.

Their marketing indicates that they have had problems with knock-offs made in China. These knock-offs might be cheaper, but they also don’t work as well as the original. I’ve noticed this same problem with other products lately, especially when I order off Amazon. You have to be vigilant nowadays!

Best Ways to Make an Income from the Comfort of Your Home

This post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a college grad who knows they want to pursue remote work, there are several efficient ways that you can set your financial future in stone from the comfort of your own home.

Before determining your method of creating an income from home, you will need to assess your available finances to confirm which solution would be the most appropriate for you as an individual. Another factor you should consider include determining how much time and effort you will be willing and able to invest daily. Once you have set the groundwork for your ideal work environment, the following ideas have been effective for others.

Renting Properties

Even though most young professionals assume that you will only be able to create an income by renting property if you are able to purchase a property without a mortgage, comparing deals and opting for low-interest rates will garner optimal savings. While you will be able to compare deals with Habito, you should take as many measures as possible to save on your mortgage repayments – including creating an income in the process.

Charging market rent even after the mortgage is paid off and taking advantage of equity on the property when you are able to are just a couple ways that you can make money from renting a property. The key to this method is to invest as much as possible upfront. Then, you might set the goal of purchasing multiple properties. The intent of this move is to multiply your income and compound your profits.

Freelance Work

If you are unable to invest in purchasing properties, you could opt for work as a freelancer. There are several different fields to consider from graphic design to customer support, which means you won’t be limited for choice. Freelancing is widely considered the best form of self-employment as you will be able to rely on clients that could become ongoing without having to be tied down by an employment contract.

Trading Shares And Currencies

If you have time and some disposable funds to invest in your future financial situation after maxing out your tax-advantaged retirement accounts, trading shares and currencies may be a good solution for you. While many aspiring traders make the fundamental mistake of believing trading does not require effort, you will need to monitor your shares and investments to identify potential loss on a daily basis. Forex trading has become particularly popular in recent years as many traders have taken on the opportunity to create an impressive income from the comfort of their homes by trading with specific strategies on a daily basis.

Maximizing Your Income

You may find that one income stream may not be entirely sufficient for your needs. When considering that the ultimate goal should be to work towards financial freedom, it is best to use build up several income streams. What’s more, you should also create long-term goals, such as freelancing with intentions of saving and later purchasing properties to rent out as this would maximize your income in the future and provide ultimate financial freedom.

Are you Prepared for a Financial Emergency?

This post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

girl with blue and purple hair looking down as she wears a sweater with a rainbow on it

Financial emergencies can strike when you least expect them, even if you’ve been doing everything right. These emergencies cause stress and anxiety, especially if you’re the type of person who likes to be prepared. The first step for many to financial independence is having an emergency fund. By planning ahead and saving now, you can more easily handle unexpected events and emergencies when they do occur.

Prepare Now for Unexpected Events

Don’t be surprised when unexpected events arise that affect your finances. Be prepared to handle these events by building up an emergency fund to help pay for these instances, such as a home repair or medical bill you did not anticipate. It’s also important that you set up this fund to be easily accessible since you’ll want to be able to access the money quickly in some instances. Most experts recommend having three to six months of basic living expenses in your emergency fund. If this isn’t a realistic savings goal for you right now, aim to have at least $1000 in your account. 

If you’re single or a family living on one income, it may be even wiser to save for up to a year of living expenses. By having a year’s worth of expenses available, you’ll be protecting yourself and your family from events such as a job loss, or severe illness or injury that keeps you away from work for an extended period of time.

By having these funds available, you’ll be able to stress less and fully focus on the emergency instead of worrying about paying your bills. If you don’t have an emergency fund in place and you’re hit with a larger unplanned financial emergency, your best option may be a personal loan. Have bad credit? These are the best personal loans for bad credit (Our Top 8 Picks for 2019).

Get Insured

Most individuals have insurance to cover their home, care, health and their life. Health insurance drastically reduces the out-of-pocket expenses that need to be paid when an unexpected health-related event occurs. Home and auto insurance protects you in the event of a fire, damage from a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornado, or an accident. In the event that you were to die unexpectedly, life insurance would help protect your loved ones that you designate as beneficiaries.

These insurance plans act as contingency plans when things don’t go as expected. Your insurance plans should be periodically reassessed and updated as well. Life insurance is especially important if you have a family, and even more so if you are the only source of income. Life insurance benefits are given to your spouse and any children you share.

Your life insurance benefits should provide enough money for your family to pay off any debts if you were to unexpectedly pass away. Benefits can also help to cover the costs of education for your children.

It’s worthwhile to ensure that the health insurance coverage you have is adequate. Many people risk their finances each day by not having enough health insurance coverage when they choose a low premium, but high deductible policy. Health-care related debts are the #1 cause of bankruptcy. Accidents and unexpected illnesses happen, and the medical bills associated with them can add up quickly. Your financial issues could be compounded if an injury or illness leaves you unable to work.

Additionally, you should check if your home or renter’s insurance provides enough coverage. If your home were to burn down, would you be able to recover with your insurance benefits? Even if it seems like you’re just adding to your monthly budget with more coverage, you could be saving yourself from massive debt down the line.

Prep for Natural Disasters

If you live in an area that may experience tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, fires, or earthquakes, you need to be prepared to deal with these natural disasters. These disasters can come out of nowhere and drastically uproot your life. Talk to your insurance provider and find out which natural disasters are common where you live and if they are covered. Often, flood insurance is an additional “add-on” to home insurance and is not always covered.

You can also plan ahead by prepping an emergency kit for your home. A good emergency kit will contain at least a five-day supply of food and water. These kits do not need to be fancy or overstocked, but should be able to help you get through a few days without necessities. You can look into purchasing pre-stocked kits that will last you a few years in storage.

Have a Contingency Plan

If you do run into a larger financial emergency, it can give you some piece of mind to have a contingency budget in plan. This budget removes things that you don’t necessarily need and can do without for some time. The contingency plan is great to have in place if your financial situation arises suddenly since you’ll easily be able to go back and make cuts, particularly at a time when you may not be thinking clearly.

Getting Started with Predictive Analytics in Your Email Marketing

This post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

As companies grow and their customer lists with them, it’s easy to lose sight of personalization in your email marketing strategy. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

When 52% of people say they will find somewhere else to shop if an email is not personalized, it’s important to take the extra step. Why lose those sales if you can use the data and customer information that you already have to send them a relevant message that is more likely to result in a sale? 

Personalization is an important step in email marketing for nearly every industry. From media and entertainment to travel, customers like to see personalization in their inbox. Make the shopping experience easier and give them what they’re looking for. Image courtesy of Marketing Land.

The use of predictive analytics can help marketers continue to reach customers on a more personalized level. Predictive analytics allows you to use a lot of the data you already have, and new data you may decide to collect to improve email marketing through personalization and segmentation. 

The right predictive analytics strategy can help you grow your customer lists, increase customer lifetime value, and build better relationships with your customer base. It can also help improve accuracy and track customer data in real-time, allowing you to always have the most accurate information. Something that the manual data entry process of the past could never provide.

Predictive analytics won’t only benefit your customers by providing them with the most relevant products and content. It also provides your teams with a less manual process that eliminates the human error factor that comes with manual data entry. Image courtesy of Small Business Trends.

When you first hear about the idea, it might sound overwhelming — but it’s easier than you think to get started in the predictive analytics game. Let’s take a look at how any company, large or small, can get started using predictive analytics to their benefit.

Here’s a sneak peek at what we’ll discuss throughout this article: 

  • How implementing predictive analytics into your strategy is easier than you think
  • Customer relationship management systems can help you manage and analyze the data
  • Why email and predictive analytics are a match made in heaven

How to Get Started With Predictive Analytics

Here’s the good news — getting started with predictive analytics is easier than you think. There’s no special skill set (although the more analytical you are the better), or degree that is needed to take advantage of the improvements to your email marketing strategy that predictive analytics can provide.

In fact, you probably have almost everything you need to get started. Chances are good you’re already collecting data on your customers and site visitors, you just might not know how to dissect this information or what data is valuable.

Here’s some of the data you’re probably already collecting from users that can help improve your email marketing strategy with the help of predictive analytics.

  • The shopping preferences of users
  • How people are browsing your website
  • What their product interests are
  • How people are finding your site
  • What emails customers are engaging with

Although these are just a few examples, there is a long list of information you can collect from visitors on your website and email list. The problem that most companies run into is actually having the ability to manage this data in real-time — something predictive analytics and your email marketing system can help with. 

Use the Data Your Email Marketing Software Provides

If you have an email marketing strategy in place and using are using a customer relationship management (CRM) system to manage it, you’re already ahead of the game. If you don’t have a team focused solely on analytics, your management system can help you easily understand the data of how your customers are interacting with your emails.

A few of the types of email interaction data that can help improve personalization include:

  • The number of emails each customer is opening
  • What are people purchasing from your emails
  • Who might soon become inactive in your system due to no interaction
  • How many users are clicking through emails to your website
  • What subject lines are the most popular for your customer base

Each step of an email marketing campaign provides you with more data on your customers. Knowing who is opening, clicking, converting, and then becoming return customers can help you know what to serve a customer in the future. If you know a customer tends to drop off before converting, maybe a coupon will help get them to make a purchase. Image courtesy of Social Media Impact.

All of this data provides you with information on how each customer shops and provides you with new opportunities to personalize each interaction with them. If you know a customer often purchases a certain product, you can send them related products. Or, if a certain subject line performs well, you can begin to understand what verbiage and content your customers want to see.

Why Predictive Analytics for Email Marketing Works

Whether you’re looking to implement predictive analytics across all of your marketing efforts or just getting your feet wet, your email marketing is the perfect place to start. Not only are you able to collect a vast amount of information, but your CRM can help you understand and test the information. No matter your skill level, predictive analytics is within reach.

Customers want to receive personalized offers and content. If you’re willing to take the time to improve your personalization and give customers relevant information (with the help of predictive analytics) you’ll find retention and engagement rates will improve. Image courtesy of Finances Online.

You Already Have Lots of Data

Because most companies already have a customer list for emailing purposes, it eliminates the need to compile new information. This means you can get started today with the customer information you already have on hand.

Use this data you have to build segmented lists based on customer behavior. From there, you can continue to learn more about your customers and provide them with an even more personalized experience. The more relevant information you send, the more likely a customer is to convert. 

Use Your CRM to Your Advantage

With the help of a CRM system, email is easy to implement and you have full control of the message and audience. If you already have a CRM in place, all you have to do is create the email content, upload it to your email templates, and segment your lists — it’s as easy as that!

Having the ability to determine what the message is, and who it is going to help you to learn more about each different segmentation in your strategy. It also offers you the opportunity to analyze the results of your marketing campaigns with easy to read stats on each email that is sent out.

A/B Test for Best Results

Email allows you to easily A/B test to determine the best results. A few of the areas you can test for performance include the subject line, call to action, and imagery. By using an A/B testing method, you can test emails within different segments to see what works best with those customers.

As you analyze these results and learn what performs well and what doesn’t, you can apply these changes to future emails to improve performance. This will improve future email campaigns that you send out and provide your audience with more of what they want and less of what they don’t. 

A/B testing lets you understand your customers better and increase conversion rates. With the help of predictive analytics, you can start to understand the patterns and predict what your customers may want next. Image courtesy of Nelio Testing.

Let Predictive Analytics Improve Your Email Campaigns

Predictive analytics might just be what you need to take your email marketing to the next level. With the ability to utilize the data you already have and provide customers with a more personalized experience, you’re bound to increase conversions.

Although the capabilities of predictive analytics go far beyond what we discussed in this article, it’s much easier to get started than you may have thought.

10 Signs You May Need Debt Counselling

It’s become all too common for people to suffer from a huge amount of debt, but at what point does it become a serious problem that you need to tackle? Keep reading to get familiar with the warning signs that tell you when to get debt counselling as a Canadian and begin working towards a debt-free life.

1. Late on bill payments.

Are your bills increasingly piling up one after the other? Are you finding yourself behind on making payments? Don’t let this become a regular habit – the longer you leave bills unpaid, the more you will be charged in late fees, making it harder and harder to pay them off.

2. Inability to save money.

Have you opened up a savings account but unable to keep any or very little money in there? If you want to save money but find yourself unable to, it might just be because your money is tied up elsewhere in loans and late payments.

3. Using credit for monthly expenses.

If you’re using a credit card to pay for your groceries and other necessities like fuel because you have to (not because you want the cash back) then you may be in over your head. This kind of living is nowhere near sustainable.

4. Borrowing more to pay off debt.

It’s a vicious cycle when you need to borrow more money to pay off existing loans. This is perhaps one of the most obvious signs that you need debt counselling.

5. Getting calls from collection agencies.

Does the sound of the phone ringing make you cringe? If you’re avoiding calls from collection agencies, then it’s because you’re in rough financial shape and are truly in need of help.

6. Losing sleep at night.

Money troubles are a leading cause of why people experience stress. If you’re lying awake at night thinking about money, then it’s because you have a reason to be worried.

7. Lack of a healthy budget.

Ideally, everyone should set themselves a monthly budget in order to maintain financial well-being. Budgets help you spend within your limits and reduce your chances of getting into debt.

8. Spending beyond your means.

One of the sure signs of someone in need of debt counselling is when they are consistently spending more than they make. This kind of lifestyle is unsustainable and will quickly spiral you into debt.

9. Only making the minimum payment.

Making minimum payments on your credit card every month on time will help your credit rating but it isn’t enough to pay back what you owe. Eventually, the interest will catch up with you and you’ll just dig yourself even deeper into a hole that’s difficult to get yourself out of without help.

10. Living off overdraft or a line of credit.

An overdraft or line of credit should typically only be used in the case of emergency, not for daily expenses. If you find yourself needing to dip into these financial safety nets regularly then you might just be in a situation where you need help.

Talk to a Credit Counsellor

If you can relate to any of these ten items then it might be time to get the help you need. Certified Credit Counsellors in Canada are understanding and non-judgemental, and they’ll work with you to create a plan to get you back on track.