4 Ways To Do Christmas Frugally

It can be a very difficult time of year for many people. But does Christmas necessarily need to destroy your bank balance? Or can you take steps to have a more frugal festive holiday?

I have been celebrating the Christmas season for over 30 years now, and one thing I’ve learned over that time is Christmas is about one thing. And that is being surrounded by the people you love (and eating way too much food).

So you really don’t need to spend a fortune to have a fantastic Christmas, and these 4 ways will demonstrate how you can do frugally and for less cash.

Recommended article: 12 Days Of Spectacular Frugal Christmas Tips

Plan Ahead of Time
You should consider running your Christmas like a business. I don’t mean you need to fire Grandpa for falling asleep after dinner, but instead, keep a tight watch on the spending.

And the best way to manage the Christmas finances is to plan, and in order to do this successfully, you need to start early.

The more planning you do the more money you can save. Much like a business would, you should ensure you have everything planned with military precision. That way you are left without costly last-minute surprises.

And the more time you have to plan, the more creative with your spending you can be. You could even start thinking about making some gifts yourself, experimenting in the kitchen, or even getting your gift wrap and crackers the year before.

Did you know gift wrap and crackers are usually 75% less than retail price just a few days after Christmas day?

Save the Year Before
If you really want to have a positive impact on your finances start setting aside money for Christmas the day after. And yes I mean the day after Christmas for the following year. A little saved often is far less impactful both on a physiological and practical level.

It also means that you can afford some treats over the festive period. It is all well and good living frugally, but everyone needs to let their hair down with a drink and something nice to nibble on once in awhile.

Set aside a few dollars each week over the course of 50 weeks building up to Christmas. Even saving just $10 a week will give you a nice $500 package for the holidays.

Shop Smart
When you’re thinking about Christmas gift ideas you should make sure what you are buying is not too expensive. Don’t get carried away and try to think outside the box.

Practical gifts are often way more affordable.

And let’s be honest, far more useful in the long term.

You don’t necessarily need to buy socks and pencils, but something that is useful will be much better and definitely worth the money you do have to spend.

Recommended article: 13 Wonderfully Awesome Christmas Gift Ideas For Men

Cashback
You can’t escape the fact that Christmas is a time of year when you need to spend money. But if you really want to be frugal, then make sure you are getting some of that money back.

Cashback is a great way to get back 2-10% of the total purchase price – and there are countless providers offering this service.

TopCashback has been one of my favourites for many years now.

And if you need to spend the money anyway, you may as well get something in return. If you are spending a total of $1000 on gifts over Christmas, and you are able to get an average of 5% back for all purchases, then that’s $50 for your wallet.

And you can always double down on the savings by searching for discount codes and promotional offers as well.

It truly is a lot easier to have a frugal Christmas than you may think.

9 Tips for Developing an Amazing Mobile App

Americans spend a lot of time on their phones. The quality of their online experiences is largely defined by what applications they use, which has created a unique niche market. Developers have already created millions of apps, but there’s always room for innovation and improvement.

Interested in becoming a developer? Making waves in competitive markets can be tough. Follow these tips to maximize the chances of creating the next big cell phone app.

Start by Identifying Unmet Needs

The average entrepreneur getting into app development isn’t going to be able to compete with established industry giants that are already providing valuable services. Instead, he or she will need to identify other Internet users’ needs that are currently going unmet.

Recommended article: 7 Steps of App Development

Start by doing some brainstorming and market research. Keep the focus not on existing apps that are already popular but on ways a new app could fill in the gaps.

Focus, Focus, Focus

Once entrepreneurs have developed a stellar idea, it’s time to focus and refine it. It’s much easier and more effective to develop an app that focuses on simplifying one aspect of users’ lives or online experiences in a specific niche.

If the app is successful, entrepreneurs can switch their focus to adding features and content later. In the early phases, the app should do one thing exceptionally well instead of losing focus and creating unnecessary clutter.

Incorporate Free Content

The best way to get users to try out a new app is to provide basic access for free. If the app offers some value in its basic, free form, users will be less likely to balk at paying for more advanced features or services.

Many successful apps offer both free versions and paid subscriptions. Developers make money on the free versions by relying on ads, then make the paid subscription services ad-free. It’s a winning strategy for everyone from app developers to advertisers and, most importantly, end-users.

Develop for Both Android and iOS

To achieve maximum success, new apps must be able to reach as many potential users as possible. Designing for the two most popular operating systems, Android and iOS ensures that the app will be available to the vast majority of consumers.

Designing for both operating systems requires implementing a cross-platform development framework. Experienced developers know just what it takes to design apps that are perfectly streamlined for both Android and iOS. They also know that cross-platform design will cut back on costs later once the app becomes more popular.

Integrate Offline Functions

The Internet may be more or less ubiquitous in 2021, but that doesn’t mean users won’t appreciate offline functionality. Many users appreciate being able to access their apps’ most valuable features and contents offline. Since positive user experience defines an app’s success, entrepreneurs should plan to meet this expectation from the beginning.

Perform Extensive Testing

Pre-launch app testing is a crucial step in the development process, so don’t cut corners. Experienced developers can work with entrepreneurs to develop a testing strategy that’s appropriate for their apps’ unique contexts and applications. The plan will likely involve not just pre-launch testing, but also beta testing with customer feedback.

Laboratory testing can only offer so much insight into an app’s effectiveness and user-friendliness. Making the app available to beta testers prior to the official launch helps developers determine actual vs intended use. It also helps to ensure that the app will perform as intended in a real-world environment.

Welcome User Feedback

Before end-users get access to the app, developers should ensure that they have an easy channel for offering feedback. In-app communication is key. The app’s customer service channels should be intuitive and easy to access, connecting users to the right types of automated or personalized assistance, and making it easier to submit ratings, reviews, and feedback.

Creating an effective customer communications channel accomplishes three goals:

It motivates users to communicate problems directly to the development team instead of placing the app’s shortcomings in the public spotlight.

It minimizes the chances of users having bad experiences that could cause them to turn to competing apps, boosting app retention.

It gives developers an idea of what steps they could take to further improve the app’s design or service provisions in future updates.

Create an Effective Marketing Plan

Even a flawless app won’t perform well if no one knows about it. Coming up with an effective marketing plan during the development stages can be incredibly helpful. Assume that any successful marketing plan will involve pre-launch and post-launch campaigns.

Effective app marketing plans need to be more dynamic than some entrepreneurs may expect. If, for example, beta testing or initial customer responses post-launch indicate that the app’s actual audience is narrower, broader, or just plain different from its expected audience, the marketing plan will need to change to accommodate new potential users.

As with feature development, marketing plans should be focused. Don’t try to get everyone on-board at once. Remember, even Facebook started out as a highly targeted platform designed with students pursuing advanced educations in mind. It wasn’t until the platform established itself as an industry leader and began to attract attention from additional audiences that it expanded to target other key markets.

Trust the Experts

There’s a reason entrepreneurs hire development companies during the earliest stages of creating new apps. These industry pros know the ins and outs of everything required to create a stellar new product, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of their expertise.

If a professional developer recommends making certain changes, there are good reasons he or she has made that recommendation. Consider it carefully and work with the team to implement appropriate upgrades or alterations.

Ready to Get Started?

Already have an amazing idea for the world’s next big mobile app? The best way to get the development process started is to contact a company that can help. The online world changes fast, so don’t put off making the leap until someone else comes up with a similar idea. Take action and reach out now to discuss the first steps in the development process.

Who Are You Trying to Kid With That Business Plan?

A lot of people dream of starting their own business. They have heard of the “unlimited opportunities” and the “complete freedom” and the “not having a boss”. If you are one of those who have that dream and believe it really can come true then I have something to say to you “WAKE UP!”When you start your own business you don’t have ‘complete freedom’. As a matter of fact there’s a really good chance that you will have less freedom, a lot less freedom. To be successful you will most likely be working seven days a week and you will be working longer hours and you will be working for a lot less money (at least in the beginning). Does it still sound like something you really want to do?As far as ‘not having a boss’ goes, well I hate to be the one to break this to you but you will always have a boss. If you don’t do what the customers want then you will go out of business and if you are lucky enough to borrow money to start and run your business then your banker/investors will be telling you a lot about how you are going to run your business. Okay so maybe they aren’t your ‘boss’ but they are still the ones who will tell your what you must do. And that’s what your current boss does now. Does it still sound good?Of course you can be stubborn and do what you want instead of what the customers want and there’s a word for business owners that do that. They are called employees because they went out of business and had to go back to work for someone else. Still interested in starting your own business?I’m going to assume at this point if you are still reading, that you are interested in starting your own business. Don’t get me wrong, I have started lots of companies and had a lot of success. Over a period of ten years I actually sold two of my companies to a Fortune 50 company for a LOT of money. At that time a lot of my friends commented on how lucky I was for that to happen. I just smiled and didn’t respond to those types of comments. You see, they only saw the end result of a lot of really hard work and a lot of really long hours working seven days a week. They didn’t see the failed marriage, the teetering on the brink of not being able make my payment to the bank. They didn’t see me working for free with no salary at all for weeks and weeks. They didn’t see me having to take money from my personal checking account in order to meet payroll. Yep, I sure was lucky.When you start your own business you don’t see things like those I just mentioned. If you are serious about starting your own business then you have heard that you must have a ‘business plan’ to take to the investors. Well, I have looked at lots and lots of business plans over the years and for the most part they were all worthless. People who want to start a business tend to see the world through rose colored glasses. For example when they get to the part on the business plan where they are to assess the competition nearly everyone completely under estimates not only the number of competitors but the strength of the competitors too. People who are convinced that they want to go into business for themselves tend to operate with blinders on. I’ve seen people come up with some really outlandish things in the ‘Competition Analysis’ of a business plan.Failure to properly analyze the competition is one of the most common flaws I see in start-up business plans. Here’s an example: I had a gentlemen come to me (as a potential investor) with the idea of starting his own Lexus repair shop. He had been a mechanic for over 15 years and had all of the ‘industry certifications’ and had been through all sorts of courses and schools on how to diagnose and repair just about anything related to Lexus automobiles. He had no experience in how to “run” a repair shop but that’s the subject of another article.Here’s how brief recap of how the conversation about competition went:Me: “What about your competition, who are they? Him: “There really isn’t any”. Me: “What? How do people get their cars repaired now?” Him: “Nearly everyone takes their cars to one of the local dealerships for repairs. I can do it a lot cheaper than the dealerships because I will not have all their overhead.” Me: “So there are no independent shops that work on Lexus?” Him: “There are some independent shops but they are so small that I wouldn’t consider them real competitors.” Me: “So why are they so small?” Him: “I think their prices are too high.” Me: “Are their prices lower than the dealerships who are doing the majority of the work now?” Him: “Yes. The independent shops are almost always a lot cheaper than the dealerships.” Me: “So maybe the independents are so small because people who own a Lexus are not swayed by lower prices. After all they paid a lot for their car. Maybe they are not as price conscious as you think.” Him: “I can do the same work for 30% to 40% cheaper, how could they not be interested in that?”Can you see what’s going on here. This guy was convinced he could do it better, faster and cheaper than anyone else. Yet the facts as he presented them showed that the customers he wanted to go after were not easily persuaded by the “cheaper price” argument which happened to be what he wanted to use as his unique selling proposition.One of my favorite sayings when talking to people about their business plans is “Don’t confuse me with the facts because my mind is already made up.” A business plan is supposed to get people to think. To do an unemotional analysis to see if there really is a viable opportunity there. But too many of them will do all sorts of mental gymnastics to justify their position. I don’t care what type of business you are thinking about starting, there is competition out there. Don’t kid yourself.Another big problem I see in business plans is a lack of management experience. Here’s another real world example. I had a ‘friend of a friend’ ask me to meet with a friend of theirs. It was a woman who had the idea of starting her own “cookie bakery”. She didn’t have the funds necessary and was coming to me as a potential investor. I agreed to meet with her. One of the very first questions I asked was “Where did you come up with the idea of starting your own bakery”? She said that for years she had baked cookies and she had lots and lots of people tell her she should start her own bakery. These people (mostly friends and family) said she baked the best cookies they had ever tasted. She had brought some to our meeting and to her credit, they were very good.When I asked her about her experience in running a bakery she told me she had never actually worked in a bakery. As a matter of fact, she had been a secretary up until the birth of her second child and had taken 6 years off. Now that the child was going to school, she was ready to “go into business for myself”.Out of respect for the friend who had asked me to meet with her I didn’t quickly end the meeting as I normally would have. Instead I took some time and asked her some questions. My goal was to try to get her to stop being emotional and to only analyze the facts. A few of the questions were:”Have you picked out a location?”
“Do you have any idea what the lease will be?”
“How much will it cost to renovate to get it ready?”
“How much equipment will it take?”
“Can you lease it or do you have to buy it?”
“Where are you going to get your customers?”
“How much is the insurance going to be?”
“What about liability insurance in case someone claims your cookies made them sick?”
“Where are you going to get your customers?”
“How are you going to advertise?”
“How about utilities?”
“How much will it cost you to make a single cookie?”She stumbled through most of her answers and in exasperation said “You don’t seem excited about this idea”. She said she was really excited about the idea and was hoping I would get excited to. I told her I get excited when the companies I have invested in are making a lot of profit.The meeting was going nowhere and I couldn’t get through all of her emotions so I told her to get all of the information together then total up the monthly expenses with no salary for herself and come back and tell me how many cookies she needed to sell everyday just to pay the bills. She told me that as the owner she should get a salary. I agreed and said your salary will be paid from the profits so your income is virtually unlimited. Just put the numbers together and give me a call when you can tell me how many cookies you have to sell everyday just to pay the bills.Guess what? I never heard back from her. I was the one who rained on her parade with a harsh dose of reality.It takes a lot of courage to go into business for yourself. It’s not for the faint of heart and requires a 100% commitment. And in the beginning it requires you to take a realistic look at the facts without deluding yourself. If you are going to present your business plan to anyone else with the hopes of having them invest in your new venture, you better be ready for some really tough questions. The best way to prepare yourself for those types of questions is to not kid yourself when working up your business plan. As a final note don’t EVER tell a potential investor that there is no competition. They know better.