How To Earn While Supporting Your Local Business

Earn While Supporting Local Business

I value supporting local businesses. Additionally, I love to “shop small” whether that’s local or during my travels. This value has heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, so many local businesses are in danger of shutdown due to prolonged closures. Therefore, I was excited to learn about The Small Business Bond (SMBX). This is a way that I can earn money while also supporting small, local businesses. It’s right up my alley.

Why Shop Small and Support Local Businesses 

I’ve been a “shop small” person for almost as long as I can remember. My father is a custom woodworker who has always done local business. Local stores have charm, closeness, and unique items that you just can’t find in big box stores. Yes, the big bookstore will always have (or order) the book you want. However, the small bookstore has the best recommendations, the shelf of books by local authors, and staff that know your taste in reading and can recommend the perfect book at the perfect time. Local stores promote community.

One of the things that I loved about San Francisco when I first moved here was the limitations on large chain businesses. Although that’s changed some over the years, San Francisco is still a city vibrant with small local businesses of all kinds. I support them through purchases, social media promotion, and word of mouth. San Francisco shut down earlier and longer than most other cities during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many small businesses have suffered. So, the opportunity to support them in a new way – while also earning money myself – really excites me. That’s what The Small Business Bond (SMBX) is all about.

What Is The Small Business Bond (SMBX)?

The Small Business Bond (SMBX) is a platform to invest in local small businesses. Small businesses borrow money through bonds that you invest in.

If you’re not familiar with bonds, then think of them as loans. However, instead of going to a big bank to get that loan, the small business owner gets it from everyday investors. You, should you choose to try a platform like The Small Business Bond, are one of those everyday investors.

How SMBX Works

The process is relatively simple:

  • Sign up as an investor on the SMBX platform. There’s no charge to create an account.
  • Browse through the available small businesses. Choose which ones you want to invest in. You can start investing with as little as $10.
  • The small business that you support will receive that loan money to help stabilize or grow their businesses.
  • Each month, you’ll receive a payment. The payment includes your monthly principal repayment as well as interest payments. Interest payments vary; they may be as high as 9%.

Here’s a closer look at what the experience of investing in local businesses through SMBX has been like for me so far:

Signing Up as a New SMBX Investor

I went to the website and clicked the “start investing” button. A new window opened up and showcased some of the most recent bonds along with the time remaining for funding and how much has been raised to date. On one hand, this seems like an extra page because I clicked “sign up.” However, the pause to glance over this page and see the businesses getting help right now was inspiring. It reminded me why I was doing this.

Upon clicking signup, a popup window opened. It asked me to choose whether I was investing as an individual or on behalf of an organization. I love that both options are available. I selected “individual.”

The next popup window let me know that there are three steps to investing in the local business through SMBX:

  1. Create a profile.
  2. Establish limits on investments.
  3. Link a bank account or credit card to the profile.

Step One: Create a Profile on SMBX

Easy peasy. So I did those things. I entered a username, email, and password. Next, I gave my legal name, birth date, and address. The site let me know that FINRA requires a U.S. address for all investors on the site.

Step Two: Set Investment Limits

This quick pop-up window asks four questions:

  • Approximate annual income
  • Approximate net worth
  • If you’re an accredited investor (which I am not)
  • Amount invested in crowdfunding in the past year

This established my investment limits. Next, I agreed to the various terms and risks. I received an email that I clicked on to confirm my email address. My account was all set up and ready for investing.

Step Three: Payment

After clicking on my email, I went to a new page of bonds. At the top of the page was a profile option, which I visited to set up my payment. I assume if I hadn’t done so then at some point I would have been prompted to add that.

The entire sign-up process took less than fifteen minutes.

Choosing Local Businesses to Support

On the bonds page, I chose from the available local businesses to support. SMBX is a new platform. Therefore, I only had a handful of options for supporting local businesses. I’m excited for more businesses to join. On the other hand, I’m also excited to be getting in on the ground floor of helping small businesses.

The Financials

When you click on a small business from the bonds page, it opens to that business’s page on the site. Here you see the financials on the right side of the screen. This shows the minimum and maximum amounts to raise, the bond duration, yield, unit par value, and total unit value. For example, clicking on ChildWise, I see that they’re raising between $50,000 and $100,000. The bond duration is 60 months, the yield is 8%, the unit par value is $10 and the total unit value is $12.17. In other words, if I invest in one unit at $10 and get repaid with 8% interest then I’ll receive $12.17.

The Businesses

Although there were only a handful of businesses to choose from, I still wanted to be discerning about where to invest my money. It’s important to me that the companies share my ethics. Therefore, although I appreciate the important financial information, I looked most carefully at “our story”. This, along with supporting documents, shows what the company is all about. It covers how they want to use their money. This is what matters to me.

I invested $50 to start. You’re allowed to invest in $10 increments. I chose to invest:

  • $10 in vegan cheese company Jule’s Foods
  • $10 in San Francisco ice cream shop Humphry Slocombe
  • $30 in childhood education business ChildWise

When I entered how much I wanted to invest in any given company, a pop-up window reminded me of the terms I saw on the company’s business page. Upon agreeing, a page pops up reminding me when my companies will fund. At that time, if their funding minimum has been met, my payment will get processed.

Risks and Rewards 

Should all three companies receive funding and successfully return their bond money, my $50 will become $60.69. Each transaction has a 4% transaction fee. So, I’ll only earn a little bit of money. But I’ve also only invested a small amount. I’m testing out the waters, and if it goes well then I’d love to invest more. It could be a great source of passive income. More importantly, either way, I’ve supported local businesses that I believe in, so the money isn’t wasted.

5 Things You Can Stop Paying For That Will Save You Money

Things You Can Stop Paying For

In today’s day and age, there are certain services and items that we can all stop paying for right now. Technology and access to the internet have completely changed the way we communicate and find entertainment. Some of these resources are even free! So, if you need to tighten the purse strings a bit, take a look at how much you spend on the following things each month. Chances are that you could eliminate many of these expenses and save yourself a ton of money.

5 Things You Can Stop Paying For Today

1. Music

Music is one of my greatest passions. I love finding new music, supporting local artists, going to concerts, and organizing my playlists. Although I don’t spend nearly as much for live music these days, I am constantly looking for ways to support my addiction without breaking the bank.

There are a MILLION options to explore new music: Spotify (my personal favorite), Pandora, YouTube, Grooveshark, 8tracks, and Soundcloud just to name a few. By all means, continue to buy albums and support these people. But also remember that when you play their songs to completion on sites like Spotify or Pandora, these artists are receiving money through royalties. You can still support your favorite bands and singers using these convenient apps.

2. Books

Can you remember the last time you physically went into a library? Yes, they still exist. Libraries are amazing and full of amazing resources. One cool trend popping up in Atlanta is roadside libraries. If you have seen them, they look like birdhouses, but they are full of books! You drive up, drop off your books, and pick one to read. It is a great idea and definitely builds a sense of community. If you don’t have these available in your neighborhood, you can create your own. If you don’t want to build a road-side library, that’s fine. You can set up a book exchange in your office, neighborhood, or social circles instead.

If you are more interested in e-books, there are also a ton of free resources online. This list not only directs towards the best sites, but can even help you choose titles tailored to your tastes.

3. Fast Food

This is a convenience for which  you pay a premium. Fast food is usually more expensive than cooking at home, and very rarely healthy. Furthermore, you pay even higher prices if you order through food delivery services. A little foresight and meal planning will help you cut this unnecessary convenience out of your life for good. Do yourself and your wallet a favor and make fast food one of the things you can stop paying for.

4. Cable

cut cable

I was once the type of person who religiously watched my favorite TV shows each week, anxiously waiting for new ones to be released. However, after cutting the cord, I’ve found a million other uses for my time. I can honestly say I’m a much happier person because of it. Instead of going home from work and vegging out on the couch, I do more meaningful tasks such as: cooking, walking my dog, gardening, or catching up with friends. It is so simple and so fulfilling. I do not miss the tube at all. However, I still subscribe to Netflix, I can get my fix of TV if need be. For $8.99 a month, the basic membership gives me access rather than spending $100+ for cable packages.

5. Gym Membership

This has been the hardest for me, but the extra work I’ve put in so far has been worth the savings. Not only do I save on membership fees, but also on the commute time and gas money. I am fortunate to have a gym at my office, but without this I would still be able to stay fit. There are so many resources and free exercise routines available online that you can still get a full workout at home. Simply look up your favorite activity on YouTube. I bet you will find a dozen free channels to get your started. Whether you enjoy yoga, jazzercise or free weight training, there is certain to be something out there for you.

The Budget Breakdown

My savings this year from the changes I’ve made: (January – March)
Cable ($360) – Netflix ($36) savings = $324
Spotify Subscription savings = $30
Books (I was a frequent Amazon book buyer) savings = roughly $50
Fast Food = roughly $40
Gym membership savings = $180

That is over $600 in savings for almost three months. The savings speaks for itself, but I am also living a much more fulfilling and healthier lifestyle. However, it can be a struggle to get started. But, the only way to get a handle on your finances is to tackle the problem head on. First, you need to collect all your financial information and sit down to balance your books. This means calculating your total take-home income after taxes. Then, you need to add up all your monthly expenses and subtract it from your income. Creating a budget does not need to be another tedious task. You may be surprised when you look at your daily expenditures and find even more things you can stop paying for.

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How to Use Home Appliances Efficiently

How to Use Home Appliances Efficiently

Modern homes come fully equipped with the latest appliances and technology to make our lives more convenient. These devices can save you valuable time normally spent doing household chores. However, if you do not use your home appliances efficiently, you could be costing yourself more in the long run. Although convenient, many of these large appliances consume large amounts of electricity. Here are some tips to help you cut your energy expenses by ensuring you use your home appliances efficiently and adopting environmentally responsible practices at home.

Washer and Dryer Energy Efficiency

Your laundry room is the perfect place to start evaluating your appliances’ energy consumption. Since your washer uses both water and electricity, it is doubly important to use this home appliance efficiently. A few minor adjustments could have a major impact.

Washing Machine

First off, make sure you fill your washing machine to capacity. Since it uses the same amount of energy, you can maximize efficiency with full loads. If you do not have enough to fill the drum, then reduce the settings to the appropriate size so you use less water and fewer kilowatts. Furthermore, consumer reports estimate that washing your clothes in cold water actually saves you about $60 each year. In addition to eliminating the electricity required to heat the water, but it also keeps your colors more vibrant.

Dryer

Although your washing machine requires a lot of energy to run, your dryer is one of the worst culprits of wasted wattage. I have been line drying my clothes for years now for several reasons. Not only is it free, but it is also environmentally friendly. When the weather does not cooperate, I use a drying rack or hang them up. On rainy days, you can use a fan to speed up drying time.

However, if this is not an option for you, there are things you can do to ensure that your dryer is running at its optimum performance settings. First, be sure to run the spin cycle before putting your laundry in the dryer. Also, clean the lint trap between loads so your appliance does not have to work harder than necessary. Additionally, adjusting the heat from the high to the medium setting can actually cut your energy usage in half. You can also take advantage of the residual heat by doing several loads one after another. The dryer is already hot, so it will need less energy to heat up for the next load.

Another way to further save on electricity is through smart sorting practices. Avoid overloading your dryer. Otherwise it will take longer to complete the load. When laundering bulky items, throw in a dryer ball to separate them to help them dry faster. The less time your dryer has to operate, the more money you save.

Refrigerator Efficiency

Like your washing machine and dishwasher, your refrigerator has the same energy consumption no matter how much is in it. So, it makes sense to maximize it by keeping your fridge well stocked. Another way to cut your energy costs is to check that your refrigerator and freezer are set to the recommended temperatures. If they are too cold, it greatly increases their kilowatt consumption.

Manufacturer settings recommend keeping your fridge between 35 and 38 degrees, and your freezer between 0 and 5 degrees. Studies show that lowering the temperature by 10 degrees below these levels can increase energy consumption by 25 percent. Since it runs 24/7 this is one example of how you can use home appliances more efficiently to save on your monthly bills.

Appliances for Cooking

Your oven is another major contributor to high energy bills. To reduce your electric bill, you can turn to other kitchen appliances that require less electricity. Cooking in the microwave reduces energy consumption by 30 to 80% depending on the model. You can also find recipes for your slow cooker, crock pot, or toaster oven. Since they are smaller, they are more efficient than your oven.

However, there are things you can do to make sure not to waste energy when you have to use your oven. For example, cover your pots and pans with a lid when cooking on the stove top. If you cook without a lid, it requires about 60% more energy. Another way to maximize your oven’s energy output is to cook several meals at the same time. Since it is already preheated, it requires less electricity to heat up for each meal. Just like your dryer, you can take advantage of the residual heat to cut your energy costs.

Home Appliance Standby Settings

One way many people waste energy without realizing is by not unplugging appliances and other electronic devices. Even when appliances are switched off, many of them go into standby mode. Though they are not active, they are ready to be instantly reactivated with the touch of a button. Using standby mode still draws power when they are not in use.

Most frequently used electronics like TVs, computers, and gaming consoles usually have standby options. So, it is best to unplug them when you are not using them. Also, don’t leave chargers plugged in once you have finished using them. If you have a difficult time remembering to do this, you can consolidate your electronics and appliances into a single power strip. It is easier to remember and more convenient since you are able to switch off several appliance at once. With the flip of a switch, you are can use several home appliances more efficiently at the same time.

Regular Maintenance of Home Appliances

This last piece of advice may be the most important. Regular maintenance of your home appliances ensure that they are performing at their optimal efficiency. Be sure to clean the coils inside the fridge, empty lint traps, clean dryer hoses, and remove calcium buildup from spray arm inside the dishwasher.  Failing to clean them could lead to costly repairs over time.

If you decide to go one step further, you can invest in upgrading your outdated appliances with ones that are more energy efficient. This does not mean you need to go out and buy brand new appliances though. It could be something as simple as replacing old light bulbs with energy efficient ones. Although, if it is time to upgrade your larger home appliances, shop around for ones that are Energy Star certified.

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