Save your hard earned money during snowy winter travel

By Rhonda Campbell

winter scenePlans to stay indoors on snowy, winter days don’t always pan out. After several days, not venturing outside starts to bring on feelings that travelers feel while they’re stranded on a deserted island. Despite the best intentions, it’s not easy to limit yourself to the living room sofa, basement recreation area or den for a week or longer. As any submarine sailor knows, cabin fever starts to set in.

Tracking winter weather conditions before traveling

Client meetings, faraway visits home to see family and face-to-face management discussions could also pull you outdoors and onto snow covered roadways. Head outside during winter and you’ll have to devise a way to deal with rising hotel rates, airline prices, rental car fees, winter skin treatments, car accessories, medicine and clothing gear.

One of the biggest ways to save money while you travel during winter is to plan all winter trips in advance. Weather forecasters communicate expected temperatures and precipitation several weeks out. Stay in tune with winter weather forecasts until the day of your trip. For some trips, you’ll want to check in on weather as far out as possible.

Reserve airline tickets six weeks in advance. According to the Airlines Reporting Corporation, you might save more money if you book international flights as far as 20 to 23 weeks in advance. International flights to the Caribbean might need a 12 week advance reservation to get the best savings. Also, be willing to reserve a flight that has one to two stops built into it.

More about flights and what to pack

flying during winterShould you have to cancel a nonrefundable flight, you might be in luck. Contact the airlines you purchased the nonrefundable ticket from and tell the representative why you are unable to travel. If you can’t get a cash refund, see if you can use the ticket on a future flight. Don’t just assume that you’re out of the money. This tip applies to anything travel services that you pay for.

As you’ve probably learned in other sales exchanges, you never really know how price discount and refund negotiations will turn out until you pick up the phone and call the travel organization’s customer service line. Build a relationship with the customer service representative who answers the phone the same as sales reps build a relationship with you to make a sale. Explain your situation to the rep, clearly outlining why you need and deserve a refund.

Other ways to save money while traveling during winter focus on packing. If you pack the following items during winter, you could avoid dry itchy skin and colds, events that lead to pharmaceutical or doctor’s bills. So, be sure to pack:

  • Vaseline
  • Vitamins
  • Lotion or body moisturizer (ceramide helps to treat dry skin)
  • Long johns or thermal underwear
  • Hat and gloves that do not soak thru when they get wet
  • Winter boots
  • Extra socks
  • Batteries
  • Flashlight (for road travel)
  • Cell phone and cell phone charger
  • Winter coat
  • Laptop and laptop case
  • Two to three extra blankets if you’re traveling by car
  • Enough perishable food to last one week (again if you’re traveling by car)

Hotel prices and other ways to save

To save money on hotels, book hotels in warm locations early. Snow birds will be looking to grab up rooms at the same time, enticing hotel owners to raise prices to yield a bigger profit. Use applications like Kayak and Hotel Booking App to compare hotel prices. Got a friend who works for a major corporation? Ask her to search for great hotel deals for you. Corporations contract for low price deals with hotels.

Take advantage of membership discounts (this is when your AAA membership could save you 10%). Also, book hotels, flights and rental cars as a package deal. You could also save money by booking travel to off season locations. Be sure to ask about group discounts.

If you have friends who travel for business or pleasure, ask them to suggest winter travel deals to you. While traveling through airports, keep a close eye on your laptop. After all, laptops are the number one stolen item at airports. No need to have to put out money to buy a new laptop.

By creating and sticking to an agenda, you could avoid spending extra money on clothes, food and entertainment. Consider bringing a journal to capture memorable events. Your cell phone is also a good resource for picture taking. Track how much you spend on your winter trip in case you return to the area. This way you’ll have an idea of when you’re getting a good price on flights, hotels and/or rental cars.

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Get the job you’ll really love this year

By Ericka Simpson

job search tipsIf you’re like many American adults, losing weight isn’t the only resolution that you’ve set for the new year. You’re also committed to getting a new job, a job that brings you closer to your ultimate career goals.

You could post your resume on every major job board and hope that luck strikes, search company websites aimlessly and apply for dozens of jobs a day. But, don’t be surprised if that approach wears you out, leaving you frustrated, angry and jaded.

Improve your chances of getting the best job

Do yourself a favor and cut down on the time it takes you to get hired into (and appropriately paid for) a job that you’ll love and appreciate for years. Start by considering your passions. If you take a job that never allows you to use your passions, you’ll long for a new gig soon. Note skills and abilities that you have gained over your work career. Information knowledge counts.

Do you possess knowledge about financial, technological, educational or local political systems? Your knowledge has value. Consider this knowledge when conducting a job search.

This is important. Should you (and you probably do) have the skills and knowledge to work two or more jobs, create a separate resume and cover letter for each position that matches your skills. For example, if you’re a courtroom stenographer who teaches graphic  design software programs at a community college on weekends and you also have in-depth knowledge about local real estate markets, you could significantly increase your choices of landing a job that you’ll love if you create a teaching, a graphic design and a courtroom stenographer resume and three corresponding cover letters.

Include keywords that are listed in descriptions for positions you are searching for in your resumes and cover letters. Two to three keywords repeated twice should do it. Monitor the results that you get from keywords that you use. Be open to using different keywords if you’re receiving less than a 10% response rate from recruiters and hiring managers.

Steps to getting hired right

Speaking of monitoring your job search results, a spreadsheet is an effective tracking tool. Fields that you could include in your spreadsheet are the dates that you apply for jobs, the names of companies you applied with, email addresses or other contact information for recruiters or hiring managers that you sent your resume and application.

Highlight rows (jobs) that you receive a response on, whether that response is an interview request, inquiry for more information or a personal “thanks, but no thanks”. Use a different color background to highlight jobs that you land (even if you decide not to accept the jobs due to low pay, etc.).

This spreadsheet tells an important story. It reveals what is working and what is not working with your job search strategy and action steps. Pay attention to it.

For example, if you apply for three different types of jobs (i.e. teaching, courtroom stenographer, graphic designer), one look at your job tracking spreadsheet may reveal that you’re getting the best results with your graphic design keywords, resume and cover letter. If you tweak (i.e. updating keywords, adding licenses, including credentials) your courtroom stenographer and teaching resumes and cover letters, you might improve the results that you’re getting for these roles.

find jobs that you will loveMore job search tips are:

  • Post your resumes on professional industry job boards.
  • Attend professional industry networking events. While engaging in sincere conversations, let other attendees know that you’re looking for work (also let people know the specific type of work you want).
  • Follow up on jobs you apply for three to four days after you submit your initial application. Follow up on each job that you apply for at least twice.
  • Let family, friends, former colleagues, neighbors, etc. know that you’re in the job search process, asking them to let you know if they learn of open positions that are similar to what you’re looking for. Ask them to email me the link to open positions, again, saving you time.
  • List the top 15 organizations that you’d like to work with. Search these companies’ job boards twice a month for jobs in your fields.
  • Create job alerts at major job boards.
  • Create Google alerts for jobs that you want to work.


Save yourself time and search two to three major job boards three to four times a week. Only search for jobs that have been posted in the last 24 hours. The same applies to sites like LinkedIn. The longer jobs have been posted, the less likely it is that recruiters are still searching resumes and applications for those jobs. Be patient. If you don’t quit, a door is bound to open.

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Should you pursue a hot, steamy office romance?

By Eric Bradford

romantic relationshipsIf you have hot, romantic feelings (the kind that feel too strong to fight) for a colleague, you are not alone. Happy Worker reports that 42% of adults have had a relationship with a colleague. Another 50% of adults have had a secret crush on a colleague. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

Where else do you see people as regularly as you do at work? Even if you work at a factory that requires employees to wear ugly, bland uniforms, there’s bound to be someone who you find attractive. If the attraction if purely physical, it’s a good idea to take things slowly. After all, in time you’re likely to meet someone at a social event, club, airport, sporting event or cultural festival that you think is good looking.

Yes. As intense as it can be, physical attraction comes and goes. If that’s all there is to a workplace attraction, you might want to set your sights on someone other than your colleague.

Office romances to avoid

20% of workers reported that they dated a married colleague. This is one to avoid. After all, what would you do if your date’s spouse showed up at the restaurant or movie theater while you and your colleague were hanging out (showed up with the kids)?

If you’ve been hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit before, dating a subordinate might be a bad idea. Another instance when you might want to avoid an office romance is when you’re attracted to an office gossip. Move forward with that relationship and the details of every date that you go on could make the rounds throughout the entire workplace. Same applies should you two break up.

Should you have an ex who works at the firm, you might want to pump the brakes before you start another office romance. Start another office romance and your ex and new lover could bump heads, creating undue tension at work. And again, if the relationship is purely, sexual – think twice.

Successful workplace romantic relationships

office romances that workThe good news is that more than a quarter of office romances end in marriages. President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama met at work, so did Bill and Melinda Gates. Celebrity couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie met while working on set. According to Forbes,  CBS CEO, Leslie Moonves, also met his wife, Julie Chen, at work. AOL’s founder, Steve Case, met his wife, Jean, while both worked for AOL. Considering that more than 25% of office romances lead to marriages, it’s not surprising that some of these unions not only endure but go on to be lovingly successful.

Yet, not all office romances endure. When these relationships end, they can get ugly. The trickiest office romances occur between subordinates and managers. In fact, some company policies strictly forbid supervisors and managers from entering into romantic relationships with their subordinates. At the start of the relationships, the last thing from couples’ minds if what will happen should the romance end.

Think before you leap into the arms of a colleague

And just what happens? Subordinates have sued managers (and entire firms) after a romance ended, claiming sexual harassment and that they were coerced into the relationship. After breakups, former partners have also found it too hard to continue working together on a project or team. Approximately 7% of these partners leave the firm after the relationship ends. Then there are instances when one person in the broken relationship struggles to let the other person go. During these times, human resources and compliance managers might get involved, possibly putting someone’s job in jeopardy.

Therefore, as with any relationship, it’s smart to think seriously before entering into an office romance. Make sure that your feelings aren’t fleeting. For example, is what you’re feeling infatuation, a crush or lust? Generally, these three have not proven to be enough to keep a relationship going strong over the long term. Also, consider your professional relationship (i.e. subordinate, manager) with the colleague you’re attracted to. Think about what could occur should other people in the office find out about the relationship should you decide to start dating a colleague.

If you do decide to move forward with an office romance, give the relationship the same thought that you would give any other romance. Take the time to get to know the other person. Avoid putting on blinders. Accept facts as they present themselves. Also, avoid raising the other person to hero or heroine status. And keep your working relationship professional. If the relationship is meant to be, you’ll have plenty of time to hook up after work.

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Save money during snowy winter travel

By Rhonda Campbell

Plans to stay indoors on snowy, winter days don’t always pan out. It’s not easy to limit yourself to the living room sofa, basement recreation area or den for a week or longer. As any ocean traveler knows, cabin fever starts to set in.

Tracking winter weather conditions before traveling
Client meetings, faraway visits home to see family and face-to-face management discussions could also pull you outdoors and onto snow covered roadways. Head outside during winter and you’ll have to devise a way to deal with rising hotel rates, airline prices, rental car fees, winter skin treatments, car accessories, medicine and clothing gear.

One of the biggest ways to save money while you travel during winter is to plan all winter trips in advance. Weather forecasters communicate expected temperatures and precipitation several weeks out. Stay in tune with weather forecasts until the day of your trip. For some trips, you’ll want to check in on weather as far out as possible.

Reserve airline tickets six weeks in advance. According to the Airlines Reporting Corporation, you might save more money if you book international flights as far as 20 to 23 weeks in advance. International flights to the Caribbean might need a 12 week advance reservation to get the best savings. Also, be willing to reserve a flight that has one to two stops built into it.

More about flights and what to pack
Should you have to cancel a nonrefundable flight, you might be in luck. Contact the airlines you purchased the nonrefundable ticket from and tell the representative why you are unable to travel. If you can’t get a cash refund, see if you can use the ticket on a future flight. Don’t just assume that you’re out of the money.

Other ways to save money while traveling during winter focus on packing. If you pack the following items during winter, you could avoid dry itchy skin and colds, events that lead to pharmaceutical or doctor’s bills. So, be sure to pack:

• Vaseline
• Vitamins
• Lotion or body moisturizer (ceramide helps to treat dry skin)
• Long johns or thermal underwear
• Hat and gloves that do not soak thru when they get wet
• Winter boots
• Extra socks
• Batteries
• Flashlight (for road travel)
• Cell phone and cell phone charger
• Winter coat
• Laptop and laptop case
• Two to three extra blankets if you’re traveling by car
• Enough perishable food to last one week (again if you’re traveling by car)

Hotel prices and other ways to save
To save money on hotels, book hotels in warm locations early. Snow birds will be looking to grab up rooms at the same time, enticing hotel owners to raise prices to yield a bigger profit. Use applications like Kayak and Hotel Booking App to compare hotel prices. Got a friend who works for a major corporation? Ask her to search for great hotel deals for you. Corporations contract for low price deals with hotels.

Take advantage of membership discounts (this is when your AAA membership could save you 10%). Also, book hotels, flights and rental cars as a package deal. You could also save money by booking travel to off season locations. Be sure to ask about group discounts.

If you have friends who travel for business or pleasure, ask them to suggest winter travel deals to you.  While traveling through airports, keep a close eye on your laptop. After all, laptops are the number one stolen item at airports. No need to have to put out money to buy a new laptop.

By creating and sticking to an agenda, you could avoid spending extra money on clothes, food and entertainment. Consider bringing a journal to capture memorable events. Your cell phone is also a good resource for picture taking. Track how much you spend on your winter trip in case you return to the area. This way you’ll have an idea of when you’re getting a good price on flights, hotels and/or rental cars.

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How to eat healthy meals without spending a lot of money

By Rhonda Campbell

healthy mealsFood is one of the earth’s greatest resources. Without it, the human body wouldn’t have the fuel or the energy to do anything. Yet, eating any type of food is not enough. In fact, eat the wrong foods and you could develop illnesses and diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. You could also start packing on unwanted pounds; no time may be easier to do this than the holiday season.

Food habits worth forming

To get into the habit of eating healthy food, set certain times of the day when you’ll eat. Stick to these times as closely as possible. This can keep you from going long stretches without eating only to feel famished in the evening, causing you to overeat on starches or carbohydrates. Drinking water before you eat helps to satisfy hunger pangs, keeping you from overeating.

Another thing – going too long without eating, then eating could cause your blood sugar levels to spark. Keep the habit of going too long between meals going and you could also develop low blood sugar. Eating healthy is not solely about the number of calories you consume each day, it’s also about “when” you consume those calories. If you’ve ever eaten a large meal before going to bed, then waken to find that you gained weight, you’ve had a first hand experience with the value of “timing” when it comes to eating.

Put a filter on your kitchen faucet and drink six or more glasses of fresh water a day. It beats paying for bottled water. If you don’t go with a filter, consider boiling and cooling water before you eat it. This one dietary habit will also help to flush your system of unhealthy food items after you finish digesting what you eat. Drinking plenty of water has also been shown to keep the skin smooth and vibrant. It’s also good for your hair.

Eat fresh vegetables instead of frozen vegetables, as frozen and processed foods are packed with sodium, an ingredient that helps your body hold onto excess water (which shows up on your bathroom scale as excess pounds). If you’re worried about the time it takes to cook fresh vegetables, consider cooking a large pot of the food on weekends so all you have to do is heat it up during the week. You could also juice your vegetables and enjoy a vegetable smoothie two or more times a day. Along with this, it’s a good idea to buy healthy food in bulk, definitely enough to last you a week or until you return to the grocery store.

Creating a healthy dietary lifestyle

It could take commitment and a high level of self-awareness to break out of the habit of eating unhealthy food like sugary foods, pizza, cakes, cheeseburgers, potato chips and French fries. It could also take a significant amount of money, especially if you replace the unhealthy food by starting to eat healthy food. But, it can be done. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to grow accustomed making healthy dietary options.

Also, when choosing healthy food to eat, look for foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals. For example, fresh fruit like oranges and apples are rich in vitamin C. Vegetables like spinach, broccoli and collard greens are rich in are rich in iron, calcium and fiber. Eat these foods and there’s a good chance that you’ll keep your energy levels high. You’ll also likely stay regular.

Trying to get your triglycerides down to keep your heart healthy? Add fresh fish and Omega 3 supplements to your diet. According to John Hopkins, you could lower your triglycerides by 20 percent if you lose 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. Cutting back on sugar, cheese and milk could also lower your triglyceride levels.

Remember; eat several small meals a day, maybe every three hours. Cut down on carbs and sweets. Eat plenty of fresh veggies and fruit and drink lots of fresh water. It goes without saying that you’ll also want to get moving. Studies are showing that sitting for hours (even if you’re eating a healthy diet) can have a negative impact on the human body.

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More than 12 places to get valuable exposure for your business

By Rhonda Campbell

business website

picture of business website URL

It’s not surprising that social media outlets (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) are top of mind when business owners and marketing managers think about steps that they will take to introduce their products or services to new customers. Even during the recession, online retail saw a sales increase of 11%, according to Buzzle.

Tap into growing online business sales

Future expectations for online businesses are good. Consider this. Online sales in the United States alone were at $225.5 billion in 2012. By 2017, those sales numbers are expected to increase to $434.2 billion.

Technologically savvy Millennials, ease-of-use, improved online customer service systems and shipping discounts are factors that are attracting more shoppers to virtual storefronts. Yet, not all businesses are online. Depending on how you look at it, that could be welcomed news.

However, if less than 10% of all United States based businesses are online, you’d still have to find a way to set your organization apart from over three million other firms (Manta reports that there are 34,725,120 companies in the United States across a broad range of industries).

How do you set your business apart in this crowded field, in perspective customers’ minds (not just in your mind as the business owner)? Fortunately, there are several options open to you, many which we will cover in this article.

Get more for your business online

To start, if you haven’t done so already, build an online storefront or company presence. Simply put, if over 2.8 billion people are online globally, having an online business is an early key step that gives you the chance to connect and communicate with those prospects. More ways to get exposure for your business online are:

• Build a customized Facebook page (tie the design in with your company’s branding elements, including colors, themes and imagery).
• Mirror your Facebook top of page design on your Twitter pages (stay consistently active on social media accounts).
• Post pictures of company events (i.e. speaking engagements conferences) at Pinterest.
• Send one to two press releases per month. Even if the press releases aren’t picked up by major media outlets, press releases can pull up in search engines when prospects search for products or services that your business produces. Be sure to include one to two links to your company website in the press releases.
• Set up a customized company page on LinkedIn and post job openings, news about upcoming company events, business blog posts, etc.
• Build a company blog. Link to at least one other article at your company website in several blog posts each week. Promote blog posts internally and externally (For example, you could send an email to employees inviting them to “Like” blog posts and post links to your blog posts at their social media accounts.)
• Produce professional videos. Make sure that the videos are informative and entertaining. Publish links to the videos at your company website.
• Create a YouTube channel for your company and post weekly videos at your company YouTube channel.
• Create online tip sheets and white papers that are specifically related to your business field. Offer these informative documents to prospects for free, only requiring prospects to provide you their name, email address, business name (if applicable) and regional or city and state location.
• Develop weekly podcasts (make sure that you list your podcast at iTunes and other podcast directories).
• Design a weekly or monthly digital newsletter (spice your company newsletter up with coupons, feature interviews, contests, holiday greetings, relevant statistics, etc.).
• Conduct feature interviews with local, regional and/or national media outlets that post the interviews online (even better if the media outlets also give the feature interviews print exposure).
• Post pictures of attractions that you visit in between business trips on Instagram

Each of the above steps could positively influence your Alexa ranking. The higher your Alexa ranking, the better.

Easy ways to get more offline business customers

To get more exposure for your business offline, consider incorporating one or more of the following steps into your daily marketing and advertising initiatives:

• Design postcards that have loads of personality and send to targeted prospects
• Direct mail catalogs (again to targeted prospects and to current customers
• Offer customer rewards to customers who refer two or more new customers to your business
• Write and publish a training manual (include your business contact information, about us information and website URL at the front and back of the manual)
• Sponsor and attend community events
• Build a company foundation and get media exposure for large donations that your company makes to charitable and community organizations
• Use customized folders, letterhead, presentation templates, carry out bags, etc. that complement your company brand and logo
• Offer giveaways and freebies (always include your company branding and website URL in giveaways). Ask people who take the giveaways to tell their friends about your business and to “Like” your social media pages

As you can see, there’s a bounty of action steps that you could take to get more exposure for your business, online and offline. A key is to be consistent. Measure and monitor the results of your efforts. Some steps may produce stronger results for you than others.

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More than 10 practical steps to help you land your next high paying job

By Ericka Simpson

woman at work pictureUnemployment in the United States was at 5.9 percent as of September 2014. Hiring has increased, so too have salaries. National job salary index averages have also increased, exceeding $44,000. Organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) share that salaries are expected to increase by approximately 3 percent during the 2014 annual salary increase cycle.

Go and get the jobs you really love

It would appear that getting hired into a better job would be relatively easy. It would appear. . . However, anyone who has been searching for a better job for several weeks is familiar with how long and frustrating it can be to work your way to receiving an offer letter. Including the recruiter’s or hiring manager’s first and last name in your job cover letter is one way to give yourself a better chance of getting hired into jobs you really want. Other practical steps you could take to possibly land a job you truly want follow.

  1. Add two to three keywords to your resume and cover letter that are listed in the job description. You’re going to have to read through the job description to spot two to three keywords. For example, if you want to get hired as an administrative assistant, you might include keywords such as “administrative assistant,” “office manager” or “administrative associate” to your resume and job cover letter, depending on the words that the hiring manager or recruiter used in the posted job description. Why do this? Companies, particularly large companies, use automated tracking systems (ATS) to search through hundreds of resumes. Keywords are a major part of that automated search process.
  2. Proofread and edit your resume and job cover letter before you finalize the documents. Believe it or not, one typo could put you out of the running for a job.
  3. Read through job descriptions from start to finish. Be honest with yourself. If you don’t have the work experience or skills that match the job description, it might be advantageous to move on to another job. Instances when this may not be the case are when your work experience is close to the experience required for the job. For example, if the job description calls for four years of supervisory experience and you only have three years of supervisory experience, the hiring manager might find that you have sufficient experience, combined with your education, to meet the job requirements.
  4. Draft a cover letter and resume to fit each job you’re applying for. If you have graphic design skills, but you’re applying for a copywriting job, a graphic design resume may hamper your chances of securing the copywriting job.
  5. Set up job alerts with job boards that you regularly visit. This saves time and search effort.
  6. Visit niche and general job boards daily, so you become aware of new jobs quickly.
  7. Apply for jobs you want within one to three days or as early as possible.
  8. Get necessary training, including licenses and certifications, you need to get jobs you want.
  9. Network with former colleagues, relatives and other professionals, alerting them about specific types of jobs you want to work.
  10. Join professional organizations and forums that are geared to people who work in the industries you want to work in.
  11. Follow the directions included in job postings and at job application websites.
  12. Ask someone you know to recommend you for jobs you apply for (if you know someone who already works at the company you’re applying for a job at).
  13. Follow up with recruiters and hiring managers if they reach out to you to schedule interviews.
  14. Study hourly and/or annual wage rates for jobs you want to avoid asking for a salary that’s too low or too high.
  15. Dress professionally and approach telephone interviews (they are becoming more common) similar to how you approach face-to-face job interviews.
  16. Arrive to face-to-face job interviews 10 to 15 minutes early. Arriving to early could cause recruiters and hiring managers to feel as if they are being pressured to start interviews early (even if that’s not your intention).
  17. Ask questions during job interviews.

The more job interviews, both telephone and face-to-face job interviews, you conduct, the better you may get at interviewing. The less nervous you’ll likely get about interviewing. You’ll come to know what to expect from interviews, how to best answer questions and the signs to look for that clearly show that you have a good chance of getting a job.

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