Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Small Business Grants for Women

You’ve analyzed your financial situation, have a good handle on how much money you need to start up or nurture the growth of your small business, and you’re ready to seek outside support. You could apply for a business credit card or a small business loan. With both of these options, though, you’ll need to pay back what you’ve borrowed (and often at unfriendly interest rates).

A third option worth exploring is small business grants. While there aren’t a ton of grants available, opportunities from small family foundations to corporations to governmental programs do exist, and some business grants are specifically for women. The applications may be wieldy, timelines lengthy, and reporting excessive, but if you’ve got the time to put into the process, you could come out of it with some hard cash for your business.

National Grants Awarded by Foundations, Nonprofits, and Corporations

One of the most dedicated proponents of small business grants for women entrepreneurs is the Amber Grant Foundation. Not only do they provide a website with free basic grant “how-to” tips and a free grant report that lists available opportunities across the country, but they also run a small funding component, awarding $500 to a different woman-owned business each month.

Of the 12 recipients they choose each year, one will be selected to receive an additional $1,000 grant. And, it’s the easiest application process around: Aside from basic contact information, there are just two questions: “Tell us about your business,” and, “If awarded a grant, what are your plans for the funds?”

The American Association of University Women offers $2,000 to $10,000 one- and two-year Community Action Grants that are dually woman-focused, in that applicants (all U.S.) must either be an individual woman or a nonprofit organization focusing on AAUW’s broader mission of promoting education and equality for women and girls on a community level. Applications are accepted between August 1 and January 15. The grants panel reviews all proposals once a year, with applicants notified by April 1.

For 13 years, women’s clothing company Eileen Fisher has funded the Women-Owned Business Grant program. Annually, they award $120,000 in grants to up to 12 recipients. Businesses must be majority women-owned and -led, at least three years old with financial records for those years, have revenues not exceeding $1 million in the year prior to application, and founded on “creating environmental and social change.”

State-by-State Grant Opportunities

Larger corporations (and some foundations as well) may manage grant-making programs for which the requirements vary widely — the most common of which is your company benefiting the state in which the corporation is headquartered or does business.

For example, Zions Bank awards one $3,000 Smart Woman Grant in each of six categories, including small business, to an entrepreneur “whose proposal promotes the empowerment of women or directly benefits women or low-income or underserved populations in Utah and Idaho.”

Googling a phrase like “small business grants for women in [your state]” is a good place to start when researching state, regional and local opportunities like Zions Bank’s, but you can also contact your local U.S. Small Business Administration-run Women’s Business Center. Most offer individual business counseling in topics such as grant funding, provided by consultants who are business owners or experts in entrepreneurship themselves.

Federal Small Business Grants for Women

While the U.S. Small Business Administration does not offer grants for starting or expanding a business, it is the coordinating agency for the federal Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Generally speaking, these are some of the only government grants available to small businesses, and they are focused on scientific research and development, including high-tech innovations.

The SBIR and SBTT programs are open to all types of applicants, but since 2011 one of the goals of these programs has been to encourage women-owned small businesses (WOSB), and economically disadvantaged WOSBs — and, as such, some of the contracts have been set aside specifically for women business owners in these two markets.

To search for other federal grant opportunities, both women-specific and not, or to learn more about governmental funding, visit This website is the clearinghouse for all discretionary grants offered by the 26 federal grant-making agencies, as well as the home for application registration and process FAQs. Note: The website can feel overwhelming — there’s a ton of information — so make good use of its quality search page.

Related Articles:

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“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

I will spend significantly less than what I earn, and save and invest the difference.

I will give ample time and energy to the small handful of things I care most about, and give minimal time, money, and energy to the other areas of my life that I care less about.

I will work toward a day, sooner rather than later, where I no longer have to work to earn an income, and I will achieve it by saving the excess of the fruits of my labor.

I will work hard with diligence and focus at the work task at hand in order to earn a healthy and steady income that gives me more than enough resources to both pay for those things I care most about and to save for the future.

I will work hard with diligence and focus to discover new income streams and new ways to earn money, so that if one avenue for earning income goes away, I’m not suddenly caught without a way to earn a living.

I will rest my body and mind adequately at night and give myself proper nutrition so that hard work with diligence and focus comes easily.

I will continue to learn more about personal finance and related fields primarily through books and other trusted sources that are focused on quality timeless information and less focused on promoting the hot mutual fund or stock of the day.

I will attempt to repair broken things around my home myself first, so that I may learn something in the process and, often, save myself the cost of hiring a repairman.

I will stay away from name brand products and use inexpensive store brand versions unless there is a clear reason based on personal experience to do otherwise.

I will open the windows instead of running the heating or cooling during most seasons, as my body was designed from birth to enjoy most reasonable changes in weather.

I will make a conscious choice to use as much of the food brought into our home as possible through the processes of consuming leftovers, using remaining scraps for soups and stock, and maintaining a compost bin.

I will consistently choose to do things rather than buy things. I choose to read books rather than to accumulate them. I choose to watch movies rather than to fill my shelves with them.

I will put aside time-wasters such as internet browsing and television viewing if I ever feel I do not have time for the other important things in my life.

I will avoid debt, but should debt find me, I will repay it as quickly as possible.

I will pay off any debts I have in the fastest way possible, which means making large extra payments on the debt with the highest interest rate first.

I will accept responsibility when I make a spending mistake or a financial mistake. When I do, I will reflect on that mistake, understand what caused me to make that mistake, and make the needed changes in my life so that they don’t repeat.

I will appreciate the things I have and the things that are free and not lust after the things that I do not have.

I will prepare most of my meals for myself, so that I can enjoy fresh and simple and inexpensive ingredients and also build the skills needed to prepare them quickly in the future.

I will find variety in my life not through opening my wallet, but opening myself to the widest array of experiences that life provides for us without having to exchange money for it.

I will build deep friendships and other relationships, not with my words or with my purchases, but with my actions. You cannot build a lasting relationship with someone on the back of the things that you’ve purchased or the things that you own, so I won’t pursue that path.

I will second guess every single purchase I consider making, just to make sure that it’s something that’s really worth the money I’m investing in it and whether I’ll really use it enough to make it worth the cost.

I will keep a careful eye on the actual dollars that I spend and be vigilant against spending too much on things that aren’t really in line with the core things that matter most to me.

I will use credit cards as a spending tool to make life easier and to earn rewards, but I will not use them to leverage purchases I could not otherwise afford or have otherwise not budgeted for.

I will use the multitude of free resources that the community provides for me, from the abundance of books and films and audiobooks and other equipment found at the library to the parks and trails and walkways maintained by the parks and recreation department, and make a continuous effort to discover new resources and opportunities that are made available for free in my community and in neighboring communities.

I will enjoy some of the pleasures of life irregularly so that they remain special and feel like a genuine treat, rather than enjoying those pleasures frequently and have them sink into part of the ordinary routine.

I will build and maintain a strong relationship with my wife, as she is my life partner who helps me face all of life’s challenges and makes every single mountain in life that much easier to climb.

I will step back from my desires and ask myself why I have them, rather than simply acting upon them rashly.

I will work to maintain and improve my personal health every single day, as the freedom I desire is best expressed with a healthy body.

I will cultivate that personal health by eating a diet primarily focused on fruits and vegetables while incorporating consistent exercise into my life.

I will choose to walk or bike to nearby destinations rather than drive there in order to both maintain and improve my own health and also save money on the costs of operating and owning a vehicle.

I will work to maintain and improve my mind every single day as well, as the freedom I desire is best expressed with a healthy mind.

I will cultivate that mental health by meditating and also engaging thoughtfully in deep ideas through reading challenging books.

I will teach my children about the basics of personal finance from an early age and make those lessons a regular part of their gradual evolution into independent adults.

I will be a constant example of frugality and good choices for my children and my friends, not through my words, but through my deeds.

I do these things because I want to live a life with little stress and abundant possibility for myself and for my loved ones, and I recognize that, for me, this can only come from the freedom to use my time and energy in whatever way I see fit. A joyous life comes not from spending money and buying things, but from being able to freely choose what I want to do with my time and energy without the overriding demands of employers or the constant need to earn money just to stay afloat.

I do these things because I want to be free and I want to be as secure as I can in that freedom as I move forward.

We are in the midst of a revolution of thought, of education, of opportunity. Through our innovations, the world is more abundant than it ever has been before, with the knowledge of the world and the tools of endless exploration and enjoyment available at our fingertips with minimal cost. The question is, do we choose to use these resources to build a life of maximum freedom or do we let those resources go to waste while chasing a never-ending path of more and more things that bring us less and less pleasure and freedom? The choice must be made by each of us.

I have made my choice. Have you made yours?

“For those who understand, no explanation is necessary; for those who don’t understand, no explanation is possible.” – Unknown

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Teaser Of Sipora Gurung’s ‘Yamphawati – The Princess’ Promises Plenty Of Action: Watch

We’ve often seen that many Nepali filmmakers fail to recognize the value of a film’s teaser. Most of them take it very lightly and use it just to let the audience know the names of the producer and director of the film. But what they don’t understand is that a teaser must be capable of teasing the audience and leave them wanting to see some more of the film. In fact, a teaser is the first impression of a film and that’s why it might be considered even more important than the trailer.

We’re glad that the teaser of Sipora Gurung starrer ‘Yamphawati – The Princess’ succeeds in grabbing all the attention. The 47-second trailer has a plenty of exciting action sequences that actually make us want to watch the film. The film produced under the banner of Thumrow International is written and directed by Krishna Kumar Gurung. The film based on true events also stars Bal B. Gurung, Tara B. Gurung, Shakti Gurung, Dhan B. Gurung and Bhupal Gurung.

The release date for the film has not been scheduled yet but it is expected to hit the theaters later this year. Watch the teaser below and let us know what you think of it.

The post Teaser Of Sipora Gurung’s ‘Yamphawati – The Princess’ Promises Plenty Of Action: Watch appeared first on NeoStuffs.

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Achieving Health and Fitness Without Breaking the Bank

Almost every week, I receive a message from a reader looking for strategies to improve their personal health or fitness without spending substantial amounts of money.

It’s an understandable question. For starters, good health and personal fitness improves quality of life and reduces long term medical costs. In general, a person who is in good physical shape is going to feel better each day than a person who is in worse physical shape. The person in better shape will, in general, have more energy, be more well rested, and be better equipped to handle both the physical and mental challenges of modern life.

At the same time, there’s a strong perception that the strategies for achieving health and physical fitness are expensive. A healthy diet is often seen as a costly diet, for example, and the keys to physical fitness in the minds of many are deeply tied to expensive equipment and gym memberships.

What makes things even worse is that the media conveys health information very poorly, and corporations with a profit motive stir up the water even more. A corporation selling a marginally healthy product is going to want to make that product sound as healthy as possible, so they’re going to do everything they can to focus on health benefits and ignore health drawbacks in their advertising and in their public relations. At the same time, most media sources are pretty bad at actually sharing the results of scientific data. After all, scientists themselves are often not good at PR and can’t afford PR, either, and it can often be easy to draw the wrong conclusion from scientific studies.

Thus, it’s not surprising that most Americans are unclear on what they actually need to do to become healthy, even on the things where there’s a clear scientific consensus. Add on top of that the fact that many of the things that actually improve health have an appearance of being expensive and time-consuming and it’s no wonder that people make some awful health choices that, eventually, turn into very expensive health choices.

In an effort to maintain and improve my own health, I’ve read a ton of books on personal health and fitness (if I had to recommend just one book, it would be A Short Guide to a Long Life) and, along the way, I realized that out of all of the information out there, there are really only a few consensus strategies that are really recommended for virtually everyone. I can literally count them on my fingers.

Simply put, if you do the following five things, you will improve your long term health outcomes. (There are a few more that are nearly 100% consensus, but I’m going to stick with just these five.) It’s really that simple. Improving your long term health will not only save you money, but it will improve your quality of life today to boot.

But are they inexpensive? Here are the five consensus strategies for personal health I’ve learned over the years, along with some tips on how to do them without blowing out your paycheck.

Eat a Wide Variety of Fruits and Vegetables and Make Them the Majority of Your Diet

Eat fruits and vegetables. It’s that simple. They’re good for you. They’ve been the backbone of the human diet since the dawn of mankind. Our systems are designed to primarily run on fruits and vegetables.

Want a simple rule of thumb? At minimum, half of what you eat should either be clearly identifiable as a fruit or a vegetable. Things like grains, dairy products, and meats should make up the other half of your diet. If you’re not sure whether you’re eating half vegetables and fruit, err on the side of more vegetables and fruit. It really is that easy.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is actually pretty accurate.

How do I make this cheap?

Many people have the impression that eating in a healthier way like this is expensive, but it’s actually not bad at all. Here are some strategies for keeping it cheap.

Buy the produce that’s on sale. Check your grocery store flyer each week and check out the produce that’s normally on sale, then buy some of that for snacks and breakfasts (like bananas, apples, oranges, and so on) and vegetables for other meals.

Learn easy ways to prepare them that taste good. Making vegetables on your plate taste good without investing much time is simply a matter of learning some solid techniques. Steaming vegetables is actually really easy, as is grilling them. It’s also very easy to make them more flavorful; usually some black pepper and a pinch of salt and perhaps a bit of butter is all you really need for most vegetables. You can also buy flash-frozen vegetables in the freezer aisle that steam pretty well in the microwave in five minutes right in the bag.

Grow a garden and preserve the extras. A vegetable garden can provide an abundance of fresh vegetables during the summer months. Not only does this provide a ton of nearly free vegetables (and fruits) for your meals, it also allows you to stretch them into the fall and winter if you preserve the extras via freezing and canning and drying.

Eat as Little Refined Sugar as Possible

Refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup are not just in sodas. They’re in many of the foods that we eat – everything from pasta sauce to frozen dinners can contain sugar or corn syrup.

The truth is that a little bit of corn syrup or sugar is okay, but the typical American goes far, far beyond any reasonable recommendation for daily consumption. They get sugar from their meals, from their beverages, and from their snacks, too.

Sugar overconsumption is bad because it’s an extremely high-calorie food and it causes your blood sugar levels to escalate, which can really wreak havoc with your energy levels in the short term (sure, you might get an energy bump immediately, but that bump will have a crash and it will affect your baseline levels too) and cause serious long-term conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

Beyond a very small amount of daily sugar intake – an amount virtually all Americans get with incredible ease – additional sugar is almost entirely bad for you.

How do I make this cheap?

Unfortunately, many inexpensive foods and typical American household staples are laden with sugar and high fructose corn syrup. How can you get away from these foods and still keep your food bill in a reasonable place? Here are three strategies.

Dump soda. Almost all sodas contain some type of sweetener. Whether it’s sugar or corn syrup (or something that imitates their effects), that sweetener either directly brings about the negative effects described above or, in the case of artificial sweeteners, has other side effects that you really don’t want. The solution’s simple – dump soda from your life. If you switch to primarily drinking water, you eliminate the cost of soda as well as the negative health effects.

Dump sugary additives like coffee creamer. Many additives to coffees and teas, like sweetened creamers and, well, sugar, trigger almost all of the bad effects described above. Black coffee itself isn’t a problem – it’s the stuff that gets added to it. Slowly trim back on the sweetened creamers and sugar over time. Not only will this make the coffee cheaper, it’ll have health benefits, too.

Make simple staples like pasta sauce yourself. Whenever you have a chance to make something from raw ingredients or at least from simpler ingredients, it’s going to be healthier and it’s also probably going to be cheaper. For instance, you can make a great pasta sauce out of just a bit of olive oil, some diced tomatoes, and maybe some sauteed onions and green peppers. It takes about as much time to make it as it does to boil pasta, it’s cheaper, it’s incredibly tasty, and it comes without the extra sugar. (Plus, you can make extra and store it in the fridge in a closed container for a while, as the acids from the tomatoes give it a long fridge life.)

Choose Whole Foods over Refined Foods

This one’s simple. If you’re unsure as to which food to eat, choose the one that’s closest to the natural form that it takes when it’s picked or when it’s killed. If it’s been processed into some other form, eat as little of it as you can.

Why? In the industrial food era, whenever a food is processed by a company, lots of other ingredients that you usually don’t want are added to it. Look at the ingredient list on almost any food product on store shelves outside of the produce and meat sections. It’s loaded with stuff, much of which a typical American can’t identify and much of which you really shouldn’t be putting in your body.

The solution is easy: when in doubt, eat foods that are as close to the natural form as possible. That allows you to avoid lots of unnecessary things in your food that are, on the whole, detrimental to your health.

How do I make this cheap?

Many such processed foods are really cheap – I mean, have you ever looked at a ramen packet, for instance? How can you eat whole foods cheaply? Here are three tricks.

Keep lots of fruits and unseasoned nuts on hand for snacks, and buy the ones that are on sale. It’s very similar to what I mentioned earlier. Watch the grocery store flyers and pick up fruits and nuts when you see them on sale, then enjoy them as a snack. Many nuts are heavily seasoned with all kinds of stuff, so get unseasoned nuts and add your own simple seasonings if you’d like. Make nuts and fruits your default snack.

Eat simply-prepared vegetables as a side dish for most meals. As I mentioned above, it’s pretty easy to steam some vegetables – you can even buy pretty inexpensive bags of frozen vegetables that can be steamed in the bag in five minutes. You can also grill them or saute them in a bit of oil, too – there are lots of ways to do a simple prep of vegetables to get them on the table as a tasty side dish.

Get Some Moderate Exercise Most Days

No one expects you to become a superathlete, but most medical sources do encourage at least a little bit of exercise several times a week. The most common recommendation I’ve found is to exercise moderately for half an hour five times a week.

Moderate exercise simply means that you’re doing enough to get your heart rate pumping a little bit and getting a little bit out of breath. Depending on your fitness level, it can take different exercises to reach this point, but as long as you’re doing something regularly that raises your pulse and your breathing pace, you’re good.

I suggest trying to make it a daily routine because it’s easier said than done.

How do I make this cheap?

Many people turn this into a gym routine, but it doesn’t have to be a gym routine. It just has to be a routine that you can repeat yourself. Here are some ideas for home exercise that don’t include the cost of a gym.

Make a daily walk part of your routine. I find that going on a walk/jog at whatever pace I need to do to raise my breath and pace a little is a great and incredibly inexpensive way to get that exercise. I do it as part of my normal workday as a method for clearing my mind and working through problems, and I’m often listening to a podcast while doing so.

Find exercises to do at home that you enjoy and can do every day. There are many, many bodyweight exercises you can do at home that can improve your health, from pushups and squats to planks and situps to lunges and jumping jacks. I like using my own variant on the lifetime fitness ladder for these exercises. You also might want to try a 7 minute workout for a similar effect.

Find simple ways to incorporate lifting weight into that home routine. Lifting even a little bit of weight can really amplify the health effects of exercise, as you’re working more muscles and building some muscle tone (you generally don’t build large muscles unless you’re intentionally trying to do so). One thing I like to do is to do lunges with a barbell, lifting it above my head with alternating arms. You can get a barbell at almost any secondhand sporting goods store for just a few bucks.

Don’t Smoke, Don’t Do Drugs, and Don’t Drink to Excess

If you’re intentionally putting things in your body that you don’t need for basic hydration and nutrition, they’re probably a waste of money, plus many of those things have detrimental side effects with even a little bit of consumption (the jury’s still out on very moderate alcohol use, but heavy alcohol use is quite bad).

The problem with many such substances is that they’re addictive. It can be very difficult and even quite painful to get out of a routine of using them. However, breaking an addictive habit like these habits will not only improve your health, it’ll also improve your finances as well.

Hopefully, you can go by this section and simply mentally mark it with a check, as you’ve already done it. But if not, read on.

How do I make this cheap?

Obviously, cutting the expense of alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs out of your life is going to be a money saver, so here are three strategies that work well for cutting a bad habit out of your life.

Quit cold turkey. Almost every story I’ve heard about individuals quitting a bad habit involves them simply deciding to stop at some point and never returning. A gentle slowdown rarely seems to work – the best approach is to stop, deal with the short term intense challenges of breaking an addiction, and moving on from there. Make the choice to quit and just do it.

Find social support for not using that substance, and avoid social situations that encourage use. If you have a normal social routine that involves using a particular substance, do everything you can to change it. Instead, consciously choose to spend your time on social and life situations that don’t encourage use and, in fact, subtly discourage it. You’ll be far better off with that new routine.

Learn other ways to handle stress and challenging emotions. Many people rely on substances in times of stress or even to just handle the emotional twists of everyday life. Seek out a new outlet for those feelings. (Personally, I find exercise and long walks to be a killer outlet, so try those strategies listed above).

Final Thoughts

Like it or not, poor health has a steep financial cost, and the day to day choices that many of us make put us on a direct path toward poor health. From the food we eat to the activities we choose to the ways we relieve our stresses, we often end up doing bad things to our bodies that end up costing us a ton of money over the long haul, never mind the reduction in life quality.

The best solution, of course, is to stop those routines now rather than later and establish better ones. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Cut back on sugar. Eat more raw foods. Get some regular exercise. Stop the use of any vice substances.

What you’ll find if you make those choices is that your long term health prospects improve and your long term health costs go down significantly. You’ll also find yourself feeling better, which increases your earning potential and also increases your likelihood of making good decisions.

These changes aren’t costly, either. Most of them can be done at minimal cost and some of them directly save you money. In fact, you can probably make all of the changes in this article and find yourself spending less money on food and health than you do right now.

It just requires some changes in routine, and those are the hardest changes. Your best approach for making those changes is to do it with others. Get the support of people around you for all of the changes you make and you’ll find those changes become easier and easier.

Good luck!

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Adrian Pradhan To Debut On Silver Screen. Here’s What We Know About The Film So Far!

When he sings, we feel; and along with him, our hearts sing. His songs make us smile, make us cry, fill us with patriotism and make us dance. That’s the magic of his songs — the one and only, Adrian Pradhan. After a spectacular career in music, the former 1974 lead vocalist is soon to debut on the silver screen as an actors as well.

Durgish Films; the makers of successful films Saayad, Hostel and Hostel Returns; have roped the rockstar in for their new film titled ‘Woolen Marry’. Pradhan will be playing the lead role in the film that will be directed by Keshav Pandey, a graduate from Film and Television Institute of India, who has recently directed ‘Kara’ which is soon to be released. Most of the crew members and technicians for the film are being brought from Mumbai.

The film that will go on floor in February next year is not actually based on music and it’s a social drama film. Half of the film will be shot in Nepal and the other half will be shot in various locations of Australia. When asked about this collaboration with one of the most loved singers in the nation, “It’s an honor for us that we will be introducing Adrian Pradhan on the big screen. He is a perfect fit for the lead character of our film and we are sure that he will do justice to his role,” producer Sunil Rawal told NeoStuffs. “He is a hard working person and that’s why he is considered as one of the finest musicians in Nepali music industry. We’re pretty sure that he will shine in the film industry as well.”

Also, the team is currently looking for a female lead for the film. A Newar girl aged between 16 to 20 is preferred. A biodata along with some photographs can be emailed to in order to apply for the role.

On Cover: Adrian Pradhan & Durgish Nandine Thapa

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Will Paying Collections Raise Your Credit Score?

So you’re ready to start rebuilding your damaged credit? That’s a smart decision. One of the first places that many consumers like to begin when setting out to rebuild their bad credit is by paying off or settling their collection accounts.

Unfortunately, eliminating your collection account balances may not have the huge impact on your credit score you’d expect. While paying or settling your outstanding collections certainly can be a good idea, it’s important to set realistic expectations as it pertains to your credit scores.

The Impact of Outstanding Collection Accounts

Collection accounts can certainly damage your credit scores — this is not breaking news. The reason collection accounts can be detrimental to your credit scores is the fact that credit scoring models like FICO and VantageScore heavily weigh the presence or lack of derogatory credit report entries in the all-important payment history category of your credit reports.

The impact of a single collection account is going to vary from person to person and from credit report to credit report. However, if a single collection account is added to an otherwise clean credit report, the negative score impact is likely to be severe. The best way to avoid the potential impact of a collection is to avoid the collection altogether.

The Impact of Paid Collection Accounts

While paying collection accounts is certainly a wise move — it protects you from further escalation on the part of your debt collectors, such as lawsuits — doing so likely won’t have the positive impact on your credit scores you might have hoped.

Zero balance collection accounts are still allowed to remain on your credit reports for seven years from the date of default on the original account. Unless you’ve negotiated a pay-for-delete settlement arrangement with your debt collector (a settlement that’s very difficult to achieve), your collection accounts will continue to remain on your credit reports even after you’ve taken care of your outstanding balances.

Since paying collection accounts doesn’t remove them from your reports, doing so will not erase the fact that the negative event occurred in the first place. You may have resolved the situation after the fact, but at some point you still failed to pay a lender according to the terms of your agreement — and that’s what credit scoring models will look at. Statistics clearly show that consumers with collection accounts are more likely to have problems paying their bills on time in the future, which is why FICO and VantageScore consider them in the first place.

Future Changes

It is worth noting that newer versions of the most commonly used credit scoring models will ignore paid or settled collections entirely when calculating your credit scores. And however the balance was eliminated — whether it was you paying it in full or settling the debt — the newer scoring models still ignore them. Specifically, FICO 9 and VantageScore 3.0, the newest versions of credit scores available from FICO and VantageScore, were designed to actually exclude paid collections from their scoring calculations all together.

However, since most lenders still currently use much older versions of the FICO scoring model, it will likely be many years before paying collections will have a positive impact on your credit scores.

Finally, despite the fact that newer scoring models will ignore the zero-dollar collections, if they’re still present on your credit reports then lenders can certainly build policies around the consideration of the negative entry, even if scoring models do not.

So again, the best way to avoid all of this mess is to avoid the collection in the first place.

Related Articles: 

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Best American Express Credit Cards

If you like rewards, you’re going to love American Express. Depending on which American Express card you choose, you can earn cash toward your statement, Delta SkyMiles®, Hilton HHonorsTM points, Starpoints® to use on the Starwood hotel network, a certificate toward the purchase or lease of a Mercedes-Benz, American Express Membership Rewards® Points, or Plenti® points.

So which card should you choose? If you read that list of rewards and immediately thought “I stay at Starwood hotels all the time!” or “I want Plenti® points!” then your decision will be obvious. For the rest of us, I examined American Express’ 12 credit cards and their reward options, and came up with five top picks:

The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks

Although all of American Express’ cards offer rewards, I focused on the ones that either offered rewards that would appeal to the largest group of people (not everybody’s going to be interested in the Mercedes-Benz Card from American Express, for example) or that offered high-value rewards, such as a free companion flight every year.

Best for Cash Back

Apply Now on American Express’ secure website

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Highlights

If you’re hoping to earn cash back on your purchases, you want one of American Express’ Blue Cash credit cards. First up: the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. You’ll earn $100 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Other perks include earning 3% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases — beyond that, you’ll still earn 1%.

In addition to these cash back rewards, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express also boasts no annual fee and a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months.

If you make a lot of purchases at supermarkets, gas stations, and department stores, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express might be worth the $95 fee. Let’s say your grocery budget is $700 per month; 6% of that gets you $42 cash back a month, so you’d earn back the cost of your annual fee in just over two months. Everything else is just gravy — but you should do the math on your own purchase history to determine if the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is right for you.

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Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Highlights

Be aware that all of the cash you earn from both Blue Cash cards comes in the form of statement credits, which means you can only use it to pay down your statement — that $42 from the example above you’d use on your next credit card bill. (Occasionally, though, American Express may give you other ways for you to redeem your cash back rewards, such as merchandise or gift cards.)

Best for Points

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Amex EveryDay® Credit Card Highlights

If you’re looking to rack up American Express Membership Rewards® Points, get your hands on the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card.

This card is designed to help you earn Membership Rewards® Points, which can be used to help pay off eligible charges. Membership Rewards® Points can also be used to make purchases via American Express Travel, buy gift cards, and more (you can check out American Express’ Membership Rewards® site for the full details).

If you can afford the $95 annual fee, you’ll get significantly more benefits with the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card — and since you can use Membership Rewards® Points for everything from charitable donations to Uber rides, it might be worth the annual fee if you’re committed to getting as many Membership Rewards® Points as possible.

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Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card Highlights

Here’s just one example from the vast Membership Rewards® Points catalog: You can get a $25 Home Depot gift card for 2,500 points. So, if you had the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, you could earn that $25 gift card by spending $834 on groceries and earning 3 points per dollar. If you had the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card, you’d have to spend $1,250 on groceries to get your 2,500 points and your $25 gift card.

Here’s the real question: Is it better to get an American Express card that gives you rewards in cash, or in points?

I’m always in favor of cash, simply because I know what the value of cash is. I also like the idea of earning simple statement credits, instead of navigating the overwhelming amount of options that you can purchase through the Membership Rewards® catalog. It’s also worth noting that the Blue Cash cards let you earn extra cash back at department stores, and the Amex EveryDay® cards don’t — so I’m slightly partial to Blue Cash.

Best Travel Perks

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Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card Highlights

American Express offers three different Delta credit cards, and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card hits the sweet spot between the perks you’ll receive and the annual fee you’ll pay for the privilege.

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card has a variable APR of 15.49% – 19.49% (no 0% intro rate, sorry) and it’ll cost you a $195 annual fee, but you get the impressive list of benefits mentioned above.

If you’re not into that $195 annual fee, you can apply for the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express instead, but you’ll lose the 20% savings on in-flight purchases and the domestic round-trip companion ticket. (You know that ticket is going to be worth more than $195.) The base mile earnings are the same — 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases, 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases — but you’ll earn smaller mile bonuses and won’t get the Annual Miles Boost™.

If you want to max out your Delta SkyMiles® experience, there’s always the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express, but be careful — this one comes with a $450 annual fee and the perks are only slightly better than the perks you’ll get with Platinum Delta SkyMiles®. Your mile bonuses are higher with the Delta Reserve Credit Card, and you’ll get free access to the Delta Sky Club® lounge, but that might not be worth the extra cost.

This isn’t the only travel card American Express offers. If you’re a Hilton HHonorsTM member, you’ll definitely want to check out the Hilton HHonors™ Card from American Express and the Hilton HHonors™ Surpass® Card from American Express, and it also has the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card® from American Express if you want to earn Starpoints® toward hotels in the Starwood network. However, I chose to highlight its Delta cards because I like cards where you can see the tangible value of what you’re getting — like a free flight, free checked bags, and 20% off in-flight purchases — instead of cards that put you into a sometimes confusing points system.

Heads-up: American Express also offers three “charge cards” in addition to its 12 credit cards.

With a charge card, you can charge as much as you want to your account — as long as you pay it off in full every month. The Platinum Card® from American Express, the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, and the American Express® Green Card each come with their own rewards and perks, so check them out if you’re interested in learning more about the charge card experience.

The Bottom Line

All of American Express’ credit cards have lengthy and sometimes complicated rewards systems, so read through everything carefully before deciding which card is best for you. Remember that American Express wants you to earn rewards, so they’ve set it up to make sure you get something from nearly every purchase — it’s up to you to decide what that something should be.

The post Best American Express Credit Cards appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Questions About Basis Points, Churning, Scentsy, and More!

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to summaries of five or fewer words. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question.
1. Will or trust?
2. Basis points?
3. Safe withdrawal rate
4. Replacing work with more work
5. Churning
6. Lacking motivation
7. Term policies waste of money?
8. Want to be single?
9. Staying in shape while telecommuting
10. Do programmable thermostats save money?
11. Minimal food budget for family?
12. Scentsy refills?

This past weekend, my family visited a community festival not too far from our home. We had a great time as always enjoying the usual parts of a Midwestern community festival – there are usually a ton of activities related to the town’s history and heritage, a free parade, and usually lots of free things to see.

It can be expensive, too, especially with kids. “Fair food” is usually overpriced and every single festival tries to mine money for future festivals from the parents by having rides or inflatables for the kids. The money usually funds the “free” things next year.

Usually, we just bring some of our own food and water, but we’ll often buy some rides for the kids. For me, though, the best reason to go is the performance by local bands, many of which are talented enough that they could make a career out of their music if they so chose. They’re usually completely free and performed on a community stage.

On with the questions!

Q1: Will or trust?

My husband and I just had a baby and we can’t figure out what’s better for our situation, a will or a trust. We aren’t rich, but we own our home and started a college find for him as soon as we decided to get pregnant.
– Amy

I’m assuming by “trust” that you’re referring to a “revocable living trust,” which is a mechanism that some people use to pass their estates along to their descendants instead of or in addition to a will.

For your purposes, a will is probably the document you want. A trust requires you to transfer control of your property to that trust, which is a step that does make handing the property to children easier in some cases, but generally ends up meaning more paperwork over the years. The benefits of it usually aren’t worth the time, paperwork, and legal fees involved for small estates, especially for people just starting out.

A will allows you to name guardians for your child should you pass away early and will also allow you to put all of your assets into a trust for your child should you pass away early. It’s a pretty simple document that a lawyer can help you set up quickly or you can set up on your own.

Q2: Basis points?

What is a basis point? The Google definition seems way too simple to need an extra term for it (0.01%? Really?) I hate reading about financial stuff because they use complicated words for stuff that’s like common sense once you know what it means.
– Adam

As you correctly stated, “basis point” is simply 1/100th of one percent. In other words, it’s a percent of a percent. 100 basis points equal 1 percent. That’s really all there is to it.

Now, why do they use an extra term like “basis point” to describe something so straightforward? 1/100th of 1% is a bit more wordy than basis point, and it’s a term that’s commonly used in finance when you’re dealing with huge numbers. A basis point in a $1 billion deal is still $100,000. It makes sense to have a term for this.

In most ordinary personal finance, this term shouldn’t come up too often except to describe the expense ratio on a mutual fund, which is sometimes described in basis points. That’s mostly done because many of the people that actually dig into that level of detail are institutional investors who are managing a lot of money.

Q3: Safe withdrawal rate

Wanted to drop a tip that makes me feel really good. I like to add up the value of all of my retirement and other investing accounts and calculate my monthly “safe withdrawal rate.” Basically, I just multiply the total of all of those accounts by 0.04 (to get the 4% withdrawal rate) and then divide that by 12 to see how much I could withdraw from that account. For example, if I have $100,000 total, my safe withdrawal rate would be $333 a month. Feels good to see that number right now but when that number gets high enough to support me, I’m going to feel great.
– Andrew

I really like that way of looking at your retirement (or early retirement) savings. I also completely agree with you that, when that number starts getting big enough to look like a total you could survive on, it feels really good.

It’s also a fun number to chart over time, just like your overall net worth. As it gets bigger and bigger, it not only represents you getting closer and closer to retirement, but it also represents a larger and larger “emergency fund,” meaning you could survive some pretty major changes in your life without skipping a beat.

For example, if your investments give you $1,000 a month in investment income, you could easily handle it if you moved to a lower paying job. Perhaps it’s one that pays $1,000 less per month (for a job you really love), in which case you could be breaking even if you start tapping that $1,000 a month from your investments.

Q4: Replacing work with more work

I’ve been reading a lot online about people who retire early in their thirties with just enough money to survive on and it often seems to me like they’re just trading one job for another. If you quit your job just to spend all of your time around home doing things to save money, aren’t you just basically trading jobs?
– Nick

I think that “lean” early retirement, which is what you’re describing, comes down to personal values more than anything else. The people that engage in it get a lot of value out of things like repairing their own bicycle and preserving their own food. Such manual tasks can bring a lot of positive spiritual rewards.

If you’d like to dig more into this idea, I’d suggest reading things like Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson or Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford or Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin (all of these links go to my own discussions of these works).

Beyond that, many people simply find the freedom to make such a choice to be highly exciting. It’s an option that’s now on the table for them and, because of that, their personal freedom is significantly expanded.

For others, such activities might not seem all that enjoyable. It does seem pretty pleasant to me, though. I often daydream about simply getting up from my desk and heading outside to fix a lawnmower or something like that.

Q5: Churning

Are you familiar with “churning”? Does it work? It seems to be kind of a hobby where you get lots of rewards credit cards and get the signup bonuses from each of them and then eventually cancel them and transfer balances around in order to never pay any interest and get lots of sign-up rewards. Seems like a fair amount of work for relatively small benefit to me but some people I know swear by it!
– Debbie

Churning is pretty much exactly as you describe it. It’s the practice of signing up for credit cards with big signup bonuses, doing what you need to do to get the bonus and keep the bonus, and then cancelling the card.

The benefit is obvious: you can get a lot of very nice signup bonus rewards – usually big bundles of frequent flyer miles or hotel points or other rewards.

There are some drawbacks, though. It takes time. You have to pay attention to the details of offers. It’s going to ding your credit somewhat as you’re opening new lines of credit quite regularly, though this shouldn’t be a real problem if your credit is otherwise good. You have to stay on top of a lot of different credit card bills and also pay attention to new offers coming down the pipe. If you mess up, you can sometimes end up getting hit with enough interest payments to devour the value of the rewards you get.

I usually view churning as a hobby rather than as a real personal finance strategy. It’s a way to spend some spare time earning airline miles or hotel nights if you’re willing to invest time and effort in it.

Q6: Lacking motivation

I’ve been reading your blog for the last few months and I love your story of financial turnaround and working toward retiring early. Great stuff to read!

I have tried many times to get on this road myself but I just can’t keep the ball rolling. I basically feel completely unmotivated to continue after a while and kind of grow to hate the whole idea. Then a few months later I’ll cycle back to loving the idea and jump on it whole hog again.

Thoughts as to how to continually motivate myself?
– Daniel

For me, the best tool for keeping the motivation rolling was to just automate my savings. This forced me to learn how to live my day-to-day life with less money in my checking account and it kept the ball rolling toward financial independence even when I wasn’t too motivated to do it.

Once you have that automated system set up, you can’t just stop saving because you’re unmotivated for a while. You actually have to take negative action to undo it. You have to go in and turn off the automatic savings. That’s actually a threshold that’s much harder to cross than deciding simply to not contribute any more this week or next week.

What I actually found is that by automating it, it took the process out of my regular thoughts most of the time. I don’t even really think about it. It just happens – the money goes out of my checking and into investments. When I’m not feeling hugely motivated, I just don’t think about it or check it at all. When my motivation naturally rises, I check it and I’m so glad that the ball kept rolling while my heart and mind were elsewhere.

Q7: Term policies waste of money?

My insurance agent says 97% of term policies never pay out and you’re just throwing your money away buying one. True?
– Nate

It’s true that some high number of term policies never pay out. 97% is believable. However, that doesn’t mean they’re a waste of money – they’re actually a bargain.

The reason you’re buying insurance is for that 3%. You don’t want term life insurance to pay out because that means the person you insured has passed away. Unless you want someone dead – and I seriously hope that you do not – having the policy pay out is a highly undesirable outcome.

Term life insurance is the cheapest way out there to protect that 3% situation. It’s there in case the insured person dies. If the insured person doesn’t die, that’s great; that person lives! If that person does die, then there will be plenty of money from the term policy to replace their income.

Other policies try to tack on a pretty awful investment package to this term life policy. Avoid all of it. It’s virtually always laden with expensive commissions and high fees and expense ratios. Buy the cheapest term policy you can from a reputable insurance house (shop around a little) and get your investments elsewhere by shopping around for them separately.

Q8: Want to be single?

Sometimes you write posts about doing things that just don’t make any sense at all with a family. Do you want to be single again?
– Anthony

Not in the least. However, I do respect that there are many aspects of minimization that are simply easier to do if you’re single. It is far easier to live out of a backpack and couch surf if you don’t have three young children, for example. It is far easier to live in a tiny efficiency apartment if you’re single.

I don’t write The Simple Dollar for myself. I write it for a lot of people, some of whom are single, many of whom who are looking for alternative ways to seek financial success or find a new direction in their life. If I didn’t present interesting ideas that I think up or learn about, even if they don’t directly apply to me, I wouldn’t be doing a very good job.

Would I move to a much smaller place if I were single? Absolutely. Do I sometimes think about how I would do things if I were single? Absolutely; I can learn from those thought experiments. Does that mean I want to abandon my family in any way? Absolutely not. There’s nothing in the world that I would trade my wife or my kids for.

Q9: Staying in shape while telecommuting

As a work from home / telecommuter what do you do to stay in shape? I have to actually make a special trip to go to the gym instead of just stopping on my way home so my exercise routine has fallen apart since starting telecommuting. Thoughts?
– Sandy

Well, what kind of exercise do you really enjoy? Do you like running? Go outside your front door and run! Do you like lifting weights? Buy a few weights and figure out a reasonable routine at home!

Personally, I like having an exercise routine. I kind of jump around – in the past I’ve done both DDP Yoga (which I return to whenever my back hurts because it is WONDROUS for lower back pain) and P90, but I mostly stick with the Lifetime Fitness Ladder, which I try to do twice a day. I also really enjoy long walks to clear my head when I’m trying to think through a problem or how to write about a particular topic.

It really depends on what you want to do. However, more than anything else, I’d encourage you to start scheduling exercise time, either at the start of your day or right in the middle of your workday or at the end of the workday. Make it a completely normal part of your routine.

Q10: Do programmable thermostats save money?

I’ve been thinking about buying a programmable thermostat because of all of the positives I’ve read online about them but then I talked to my friend and he says it hasn’t saved him any money. Is a good programmable thermostat worth it?
– Adam

I don’t think you need a high-end programmable thermostat to enjoy the benefits. Even an entry-level one does the job you need.

The real benefit in a programmable thermostat comes from raising the temperature in your home when you’re not there during the summer and lowering the temperature when you’re not there in the winter and doing it automatically. If you do this normally when you leave the house, a programmable thermostat isn’t going to save you money.

For me, I don’t mind the house being warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter than the rest of my family, so I have a weekday schedule built in that basically turns off heating and cooling for most of the day in our house. It kicks on automatically in the mid-afternoon to get the house to a nice temperature for the family evening hours and then kicks back off overnight, turning back on in the early morning for everyone’s morning routine.

It saves money by doing this automatically without me having to remember to do it each morning and evening. I don’t have to remember to move it at all – it just happens. It’s the adjustments that actually do the money saving, not the thermostat; the thermostat just makes sure that I actually do the adjustments.

So, do you naturally do those kinds of adjustments? If you forget quite often, a programmable thermostat will probably save you some real cash.

Q11: Minimal food budget for family?

What is the minimal food budget for a family of four?
– Randu

The USDA “thrifty” family cost of food estimation for a family of four is $558 per month with young children and $639.60 if you have older children. We have a family of five (two adults, two “older” children by the USDA standards, and one “younger” child) and my monthly food cost estimate for us is about $800, though I know we could cut it further than that with ease if we needed to.

I know that with some careful home economics, a family can definitely get below that “thrifty” number from the USDA. The more you cook at home – and the more you prepare meals from scratch using low cost ingredients like dried beans and dried rice – the lower you can make that number go. If you supplement that with a well-tended garden that can provide vegetables for you and you save the excess for future months via preservation (canning, drying, etc.), you can cut it even more. These things really depend on having someone at home who will do all of that work, though.

Many two-income American families end up relying at least somewhat on convenience-based shortcuts at least some of the time – things like prepackaged foods, takeout foods, delivery, and dining out – so that increases the cost simply out of necessity. Thus, I think the numbers from the USDA are reasonable in a two-income household that pays attention to the dollars and cents.

Q12: Scentsy refills?

Do you have any suggestions for cheap ways to refill Scentsy? Love my house smelling good but don’t want to pay the high price.
– Nina

I’d just suggest doing what we do to keep our house smelling good: we regularly air out our house by opening the windows, we use baking soda to absorb bad odors, and we regularly cook things that smell good or leave out aromatic parts of our meals.

For example, whenever I smell something bad or an aroma I just don’t want, the first thing I do is open the windows if it’s at all possible with the current weather. I also put a bit of baking soda into a saucer and sit it somewhere near where the bad aroma is.

To add a good smell, I’ll just cook something that smells good. I’ll cook apples in the fall and use a lot of nutmeg and cinnamon in it, then use the apples for a pie or a cobbler. I’ll make an aromatic tea. I’ll make something with oranges or grapefruits in it – or just eat an orange or a grapefruit – and leave the peels out in a few places around the house (picking them up in a day or two). Those things naturally make the whole house smell great.

Got any questions? The best way to ask is to follow me on Facebook and ask questions directly there. I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag (which, by way of full disclosure, may also get re-posted on other websites that pick up my blog). However, I do receive many, many questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

The post Questions About Basis Points, Churning, Scentsy, and More! appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Piroo Rana Drops Debut Original Single & We Must Say, She’s Got Potential!

Piroo Rana has so far been limited to covering songs and the only original song she has worked on till now is GX Soul’s ‘Satayera’. The 23-year-old Kathmandu girl has finally released her first ever original single. The song titled ‘Shabda; is written, composed and performed by Rana herself. It’s an acoustic song and she has played the guitar herself. Her voice sounds soothing, the words are good and the song in overall is a melodious one. The music video is shot, edited and directed by Shreshan Shrestha (s2s).

We liked the song and hopefully, so will you. Give it a listen below and let us know what you think of it.

The post Piroo Rana Drops Debut Original Single & We Must Say, She’s Got Potential! appeared first on NeoStuffs.

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Fresh Tunes: Prasant Limbu Releases Music Video For ‘Chahanchu’

If we had to research and come up with a verdict on which foreign country has the most number of Nepalese creative people; we are pretty sure that there would be quite a tough competition between the UK, the US and Australia. But if you ask us, we would probably go with the UK. The folks out there have been coming up with beautiful music, entertaining short films and videos; and they seem to be consistently improving.

One such talent is Prasant Limbu. The Intake Beats singer has been entertaining us with beautiful songs and their lovely music videos. He has just released a new music video for his single ‘Chahanchu’ and it’s good, like really good. The song written and performed by Limbu himself is arranged, mixed and mastered by Sanzip rai. The music video that stars Devendra Gurung and Sirjana Gurung is filmed by Diamond Studios and edited by Binay Kansakar.

We loved the song and its music video. What do you think about it? Watch it here.

The post Fresh Tunes: Prasant Limbu Releases Music Video For ‘Chahanchu’ appeared first on NeoStuffs.

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Watch: This Short Film Starring Keki Adhikari Is Definitely Worth Your Time

Keki Adhikari might not have a long list of successful films in her career so far but that absolutely doesn’t mean that she is not a good actress. In fact, she is undoubtedly one of the finest actresses we have in the Nepalese film industry. And she has proved it again in her latest short film.

The 14-minute-film titled ‘Savitri’, written and directed by Sujit Bidari, is inspired from a short film ‘Typist’. The film set in 1995 in Kathmandu also stars Manju Devkota, Dipesh Bhandari and Raj Sharma. Keki plays the title character who is a married working woman and has an unemployed husband. At workplace, she has a friend, and a male colleague whom she seems to be interested in.

We’ve often spotted various flaws even in high-budget feature films that are set in the past years. There are always some mistakes that don’t make them look like the story from the year it was intended to be shown. Surprisingly, this short film succeeds in staying away from such errors. The radio that Savitri listens to actually talks about the happenings from that very year and it all seems very relevant. Strong performances by the actors, good direction and a story that might still be relatable to many — these very things make this short film a must-see.

Well, we liked the film. Watch it below and let us know what you think of it.


The post Watch: This Short Film Starring Keki Adhikari Is Definitely Worth Your Time appeared first on NeoStuffs.

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The Emergency Food Fund: Why Every Family Should Keep Three Cheap Meals On Hand

If you’re like most people, finding an excuse to skip making dinner is a piece of cake. Perhaps you’re running late from work, or your kid is running late from practice. Or maybe your kid’s baseball game falls during your normal dinner time, practically forcing you to swing through a drive-thru.

Some other potential excuses:

You haven’t been to the store in a week, and refuse to make dinner out of canned beans and oatmeal.

You’re starving and cannot wait another minute to eat! 

You have approximately 19 minutes to squeeze in dinner before your next appointment.

You’ve had an awful day, and you don’t care anymore.

Trust me, we’ve all been there. Before I limited our family’s grocery spending several years ago, I would use any reason I could think of to choose curbside pick-up over cooking. Usually, it was because I was so short on time. As a working parent, I was always rushing from place to place.

But once we started using a zero-sum budget, I was forced to change some of our worst spending habits. With a self-imposed grocery spending limit of $600 a month, I had to get creative with the resources, food, and time I had.

Even when I was short on time, I didn’t have enough wiggle room in our budget for Chinese take-out twice a week. And if my kids were hungry? Well, they were just going to have to wait.

Was it hard at first? Absolutely. Still, it was totally worth it for the huge savings we started seeing every month.

Our Emergency Food Fund

The biggest- and most helpful – strategy we employed was keeping a fully stocked “emergency food fund” we could turn to on our busiest days. For us, that meant keeping the ingredients for three or four easy-to-make meals on-hand at all times.

When we were short on time, we could turn to any of these simple meals in a pinch. The only rules for these meals were:

  • The ingredients had to last long enough to be stored for weeks at a time.
  • Each meal had to take less than 15 minutes to make.

Over time, we were able to come up with a few easy meals we could throw together in just a few minutes to bail us out on a busy weeknight or overbooked weekend – without blowing our budget. And from that point forward, we made it a habit to keep ingredients for those meals on hand no matter what.

Here are our family’s food emergency fund meals, and the recipes for we make them!

Emergency Meal #1: Breakfast for Dinner

  • Pancake Mix (the kind where you add water)
  • Eggs
  • Frozen peppers and onions
  • Frozen fruit

Depending on what the kids want, I’ll usually cook pancakes and create a fruit topping by cooking frozen fruit on the stove. In another pan, I generally cook peppers and onions, then make scrambled eggs or omelets with them. The entire process takes less than 15 minutes, and all of the ingredients are easily kept for weeks at a time.

Emergency Meal #2: Spaghetti with Toast or Garlic Bread

  • Can or jar of spaghetti sauce
  • Boxed pasta
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Toast
  • Garlic Bread

While we all prefer homemade pasta and sauce, this meal is for emergencies. Generally speaking, I’ll prepare pasta and heat up whatever sauce we have on hand, then add some frozen vegetables to round out the meal. If I have bread, I’ll usually toast a few pieces and slather it with butter for the kids. If not, I usually keep frozen garlic bread that can be cooked in the oven in less than 10 minutes. The best thing about this meal is that all of the included ingredients can last for months!

Emergency Meal #3: Vegetable Stir-Fry

  • Bagged or boxed rice
  • Frozen vegetables of any kind
  • Teriyaki sauce and/or soy sauce
  • Canned miniature corn or water chestnuts

Here’s another meal that’s extremely easy to make and equally easy to clean up. Generally speaking, I start by figuring out whether I have time to steam rice in my rice cooker. If not, I cook it on the stove. Once I get that situation squared away, I throw the rest of my ingredients into a pan and start cooking. Once my vegetables are fully cooked and seasoned with teriyaki and/or soy sauce, I serve them over rice.

Five Reasons You Need an Emergency Food Fund

While none of these meals are the world’s healthiest, they save my family from making excuses when it comes to dining out. Best of all, these meals are incredibly cheap and easy to make.

If you’re tired of letting your restaurant spending ruin your budget, you should consider creating an “emergency food fund” of your own. Your emergency meals might look totally different than mine, and that’s okay. For each family, the key is finding a few meals with basic ingredients you can keep in stock at all times. If your family actually enjoys the meal, that’s icing on the cake.

Here are a few of the benefits you’ll get when you create an emergency food fund:

  • You can work late and still have dinner on the table. Even if you’re working late, you can usually find 15 minutes to whip up a semi-healthy meal. And when you have the ingredients on hand already, you’ll have trouble coming up with excuses not to.
  • You can buy more time in between grocery store visits. If you’re a busy parent like me, getting to the store can be an ordeal in itself. With an emergency food fund, you can save time and stretch your grocery budget out further by spacing out your trips.
  • You’ll never eat cereal for dinner again. Most of us have had that “terrible mom or dad moment” where your kids are eating cereal or yogurt for dinner and you just don’t care. With an emergency food fund on hand, you can avoid the guilt and whip up a real meal instead.
  • When you do dine out, you might enjoy it more. When you’re no longer dining out in desperation, you might find you enjoy it more. At least, that’s what happened in my home. Now that we only dine out a few times a month, it has become a special treat.
  • You will save money. The best part about having an emergency food fund is the savings you’ll accrue over time. When you’re no longer rushing out to a restaurant a few times each week, you’ll spend a lot less on food over time. And if you keep your emergency fund meals on the inexpensive side, you can garner even more savings.

The Bottom Line

If sticking to a grocery spending plan hasn’t been easy for you in the past, an emergency food fund might be exactly what you need. By keeping some cheap and easy meals on-hand, you’ll set yourself up for both success and savings.

If you’re ready to get started, you first step should be creating a list of quick meals your family will actually eat. Once you take that step, you can figure out which meals include ingredients with the longest shelf life. From there, it should be fairly easy to decide which meals should make up your “emergency food fund.” After that, the rest is up to you.


Do you have an emergency food fund? Which meals do you make when you’re running short on time?

The post The Emergency Food Fund: Why Every Family Should Keep Three Cheap Meals On Hand appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

How to Watch Football This Season Without Paying for Cable

By Chris Brantner

If you’re a football fan, you’re feeling happy because the drought is over. NFL Preseason is wrapping up, which means the real action is set to begin. Meanwhile, college football is already taking off.

Unfortunately for many fans, football comes at a price. After all, you have to buy cable to watch games and coverage broadcast on ESPN, NFL Network, SEC Network… you know, all those channels where you get your football fix. And with the average cable bill sitting at around a hundred bucks a month, it’s safe to say most football fanatics are paying hundreds of dollars throughout the season.

Now, you’ve probably heard that you can cut the cord to cable TV and save hundreds (or sometimes even thousands) of dollars a year. But does that apply to football fans? Can you really get the football you want without a cable contract?

Sure. But admittedly, the more options that become available, the more confusing it seems. So let’s break down your options when it comes to watching football without cable.

The Good Ol’ Antenna

Sure it seems old-fashioned, but a TV antenna is a cord cutter’s best friend. Assuming you’re in a decent location near a major metro area (you can check here), digital bunny ears will allow you to receive FOX, NBC, CBS, ABC, and more — all live in HD.

If you’re a die-hard fan of your home NFL team, an HD antenna is all you need to watch all the games. Every single one of your home team’s games will be broadcast on a local affiliate, including Monday Night Football and Thursday Night football.

An antenna can also come in handy for college football, depending on what conference you follow. ABC, FOX, and CBS all broadcast games from various conferences throughout the season on Saturdays. However, if you’re a big-time college football fan, you’ll need ESPN for the most coverage, which isn’t available with an antenna.

PlayStation Vue

Don’t let the name fool you—this isn’t just for PlayStation owners. Vue is a live streaming service that lets you stream cable channels online without actually having cable. Channels like ESPN, Fox Sports 1, and even local stations in some markets make Vue a great service for NFL and college football fans alike. The best part? You can get it for as little as $29.99 a month in some locations without a contract. You can try it free here.

Sling TV

Sling TV is similar to Vue, except the channel bundles are skinnier and a bit cheaper. You get live-stream programming from popular cable channels like ESPN, with no contract.

The Orange bundle, which includes ESPN and ESPN 2, runs $20 a month, while the $25-a-month Sling Blue package will get you additional sports channels, including the NFL Network. College fans can even add on the “Sports Extra” pack for must-have channels like the SEC Network.

Like PlayStation Vue, Sling is also available with a seven-day free trial. My advice? Try both of them separately using the free trials, then decide which one you like best and cancel the other.


Social media site Twitter is trying to dig itself out of a hole, and football fans are the ones who will benefit. A few months ago, the NFL agreed to allow Twitter to live stream 10 Thursday Night Football games this year for free. All you have to do is go to Twitter and watch. You don’t even have to sign up for an account (unless you want to tweet out your trash talk). Here’s a list of NFL games you can stream on Twitter.

Twitter will also be helpful for some college football fans after their deal with Campus Insiders. This partnership will allow Twitter to stream games from the Mountain West Conference, Patriot League, and West Coast Conference.

Don’t want to watch on your laptop or mobile device? Rumor has it there will be a new Apple TV app to watch through Twitter.

Verizon Mobile

If you’re a Verizon Wireless customer and don’t mind watching the game on your mobile device, I’ve got good news for you. Just download the NFL Mobile app and you get live local and national games for free. No catch. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get the stream on your TV.

NFL Sunday Ticket Streaming

Are you a college student? Or maybe you live in an apartment or condo that won’t allow you to have a satellite dish? If so, you’re probably eligible to get a standalone streaming version of DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket.

If you’re a student, you can sign up for just $24.99 per month. But if not, your starting price will be $49.99 per month, which isn’t exactly cheap. However, you only have to pay during football season, so it’s still a cheaper option than a pricey two-year cable or satellite contract.

NFL Game Pass

If you’re an NFL fan who DVRs games because you don’t have time to watch them live, then NFL Game Pass is your ticket. At a price of $99 for the whole season, Game Pass lets you watch every single regular season game in its entirety, as well as in condensed form.

The catch? You can’t watch until it’s over.

I know, it seems silly, but I guess those live streaming rights are worth too much to give away for less than a hundred bucks a year! However, if you live outside the United States, Game Pass does offer live streams of all games — at double the price. So if you’re not in the U.S., you’re in luck.

There you have it. I told you it was a bit… convoluted. But the bottom line is, you have options. And for many football fans, these options can help you save big — because kissing cable TV goodbye doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to football, too.

Chris Brantner is founder of CutCableToday, where he helps people cut the cord and find the programming they want… like football! Follow him on Twitter (@CutCableToday) for more cord-cutting tips.

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The post How to Watch Football This Season Without Paying for Cable appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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