Financial Lessons Learned From Lime Hard Candy

As we’re immersed in life, we’re also immersed in the lessons which life teaches us. We are amazing creatures, capable of making even the most spurious correlations and connections – our ability to synthesize, when compared to other mammals, is top-of-the-line. What better way to talk and teach about finance than to make lime hard candy?

Lemon candies are everywhere. You can find lemonheads, lemon drops, lemon cough drops, lemon this, and lemon that. Lime? Not so much. Limes taste better, they’re more exotic, and they were the perfect candidate for making candies because of this perceived rarity.

Choose Your End Goal

Now, your finances aren’t the same as creating lime candies. After all, if you put the same ingredients into the mix, you can end up with a lot more things than just a pile of moey at the end. YOu can end up with a trip to Jamaica or your house paid off, or countless jubilant people singing your praises because you gave them some cash. You need to choose the end goal that you seek when it comes to your money situation, else you’ll have a giant goop of materials and nothing done.

Have the Right Tools

After deciding that I was making lime candy, I had to get a baking pan, a sauce pan, the candy thermometer, something to stir with, and the other materials together. What I found was that having a wide pot doesn’t work as well as a smaller saucepan because the candy thermometer isn’t totally immersed. I couldn’t get an accurate reading of the temperature.

Different tools work for different people. With making candies, there’s a specific way that has been tried so many times that it’s been crowdsourced to be the best. With finances, there are a number of tools out there. I like having all of my information in front of me – and as such, I’m really starting to get into the use of Manilla. Think of it like supercharged organization software for real folks.

A Little Goes a Long Way

Confectioner’s sugar goes everywhere, if you let it. My shirt is still covered in the white powder, and I somehow get the feeling that I’m going to be covered in it for a long time – even after doing laundry. I’m very happy that it’s not glitter (called ‘craft herpes’ by some), but it’s still pretty pervading. And a little bit goes a LONG way.

We are incredibly resourceful as individuals, and we can find ways to entertain ourselves and not spend a dime. Not only do we have a lot of tools at our disposal, but there’s a lot of awesome imagination flowing here, too. A little bit of cash can go a long log way if you’re thinking about how little you can spend.

Timing is Essential

There is a point where you have to take the mixture off of the stove and pour it onto your baking sheet. Once the candy has been poured, you need to wait about a minute or two before starting to cut the candy into squares. Too early, and you’re using the knife to lift everything up with it – making a goopy mess. Too late, and the candy itself has hardened to the point where you can’t do anything other than break off a piece.

There are several reasons to time out your finances well. One, you need to make sure that you’re getting the maximum for your dollar – some places don’t allow you to carry over a credit. For many, money is hard to get a hold of, so might as well spend it as effectively as possible. That timing can give a little bit of leeway or feel like it’s being wasted. Your choice.

Looks like Crap, Still Tastes Good

No, there are no pictures of this lime candy. It’s not pretty, though. There’s confectioner’s sugar everywhere, candy has the great ability to shatter into a ton of pieces, and those pieces are not wrapped up all nicenice for other people’s consumption. It’s quite rough, but extremely functional as far as candy goes. Actually, I plan on making more of this for later.

The diference between being a dreamer and being a doer is that a doer will put whatever they’re doing out there and then try to make it better later. The dreamer will try to perfect whatever it is before they put it out, running the risk of never getting it out there. You don’t have to have a perfect budgeting plan, you just need to have a plan.

Here’s the recipe for lime candy:

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 tsp essential lime oil
1/2 to 1 cup confectioners sugar (for dusting)

Equipment needed:
Saucepan
Candy thermometer
Baking sheet
Wax paper
Dull knife

Before starting, take your baking sheet, cover it with wax paper, then dust the whole thing with confectioners sugar. Don’t go crazy with the dusting – just enough to cover the whole thing.

The wax paper keeps everything from sticking to the baking sheet. The confectioners sugar keeps your mixture from sticking to the wax paper.

Attach the candy thermometer to the pot, making sure that the bulb doesn’t directly touch the bottom. Turn on the heat and start stirring. Stir until the sugar is dissolved in the water and it starts boiling.

Keep working at it until the temperature reaches 300-310 degrees (hard crack stage). It will take around 10 minutes, and you have to keep an eye on it.

When the temp reaches 300-310, turn off the heat and add the flavoring, giving it a slight stir so it permeates the entire mixture. Pour the mix onto the baking sheet, making sure that it’s evenly spread.

The mix will start cooling immediately. After a minute or two, test to see if you can cut the newly poured mixture without it lifting everything else with it. When you’re able to do that, start cutting the sheet to get the candy into pieces.

Run your knife down, then across, making little squares. Keep doing it until you’re not able to separate the pieces anymore. After it’s cooled slightly, you’ve got candy! Awesome, awesome lime candy.

A Very Brief Introduction to Forex Trading

If you do a quick search for forex trading on Google and poke through the pages, you’ll likely be overwhelmed by the huge amount of information and jargon you’ll find. Yet, it’s one the most basic and important markets in all of investing. In fact, the forex market, or foreign exchange market, is the world’s largest investment market. I’m going to give you an extremely brief overview of what it is, why it’s important, and a little about the theory behind it.

What is forex trading?

Think of a stock market, where you’re trading shares of ownership in a company that are worth a certain amount. The forex market is similar, but instead of trading shares of ownership, you’re trading in “lots” of a particular currency. If you’ve ever traveled outside of your country, you know that in some countries your money is worth more in the local currency, and in others it’s less. The market that controls those currency fluctuations is the forex market.

For many years, this market was confined to very large banks. A standard lot is 100,000 units of a currency! But as technology progressed and more market options became available to consumers, these lots were chopped into smaller units to allow anyone to enter the forex market. Generally, you only need 1000 units of your chosen currency plus any broker fees to play in this market. Lots of currency are traded on a bid/ask system much like stocks are, but there are many variations on this.

Why is it important?

Large banks around the world have to exchange foreign currencies all the time as people and commerce occurs between different countries. Similar to how a stock market can show how much more valuable a company is compared to another one, the forex market shows which countries the market thinks have stronger economies. You may have heard that the dollar is “strong” in a financial report. This means that it is rated at a higher price on the forex market, and thus you can buy more foreign currency using dollars.

One of the most important things to know about the forex market is that it isn’t regulated by governments. In a sense, it’s like a meta-system that governments, corporations, banks, and individual investors all agree to play within. Nearly 4/5ths of all trading activity on the forex market is done by speculators who want to participate in the most liquid market available, and one in which margins of 200:1 are quite common! The reason that a broker is willing to offer this much margin is that the forex market plays with the entire money supply of every economy on Earth that chooses to exchange its currency with other countries. There’s no central forex trading floor like there is with a stock exchange. Instead, it’s a huge web of transactions, and that’s one of many reasons why it’s so difficult to understand.

How do prices fluctuate?

There are many different reasons why the price difference between two currencies can fluctuate. It can be simple supply and demand, or it can be a response to geopolitical circumstances. The price of a currency fluctuates on things like a country’s credit rating, unemployment report, GDP numbers, the cost or availability of a resource, and many other factors that a savvy forex trader will need to study deeply before investing a lot of money in this market. More than any other market, the forex trade requires you to be aware of the entire global economy. This is generally why forex traders will stick with only trading one pair of currencies until they master those fluctuations, then move to another one. Though every currency on Earth can be traded, there are generally only 18 pairs of currencies that are heavily traded for this reason.

Because the market is so large, it is possible to make huge returns and losses on the tiniest shifts, especially if you start playing with margin, without affecting the larger market. A myriad amount of systems exist to take advantage of these shifts, and only careful research will help you find the ones that work for your level of risk. Without a solid set of Forex trading strategies, deep market research, and strong discipline, your initial investment and then some can disappear in a flash. Still, if you have a strong stomach for risk and a deep urge to master some of the most arcane economic factors out there, you too might be able to make a billion dollars in one trade.

Celebrities In Trouble With Taxes

Many people look at celebrities and their seemingly endless bank accounts and often think that if they had their money, all their problems would be solved. However, when it comes to owing Uncle Sam that does not always appear to be the case. Countless celebrities over the years have found themselves in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service and owing millions of dollars in unpaid personal income taxes. There are quite a few prominent members of the rich and famous who have recently found their own names on this list and are in need of some serious debt help.

Pamela Anderson

A recent report claimed that Pamela Anderson, former Baywatch star and Playmate, owes the Californian government more than half a million dollars in back taxes on her personal income.

Joe Francis

Francis became famous for his Girls Gone Wild videos, but now he is making headlines for another reason. Francis owes almost $800,000 in back taxes. California tax authorities officially filed a lien against his assets in June of 2011.

Lionel Ritchie

Lionel Ritchie who has an estimated net worth of over $200 million dollars is on the IRS’s bad side by currently owing over one million dollars in taxes on his personal income. Ritchie has recently been served a lien which allows the government to seize enough assets to cover his delinquent bill.

Halsey M. Minor

Minor and his wife, Shannon, are at the top of the California tax delinquent list owing the state of California more than ten million dollars. Minor was a high-tech pioneer back in the 90s and founded the popular website CNET. A new California law took effect on January 1st, 2012 requiring the top 500 largest tax delinquencies to be listed twice a year.

Nicholas Cage

Cage has had problems with paying his personal income taxes for years. He recently paid over six million towards his delinquency, but still reportedly owes another seven million. To help pay off his massive tax debt, Cage has put up some of his properties for sale, although none have sold yet. In 2010, he claimed he owed more than fourteen million in back taxes and while his six million dollar payment helped, he still has the balance to contend with before he can start breathing easier.

Lindsey Lohan

Lohan is often in the news with family problems, but her latest issue is with Uncle Sam. Lohan recently had the I.R.S. file a lien against her in an attempt to collect back taxes from 2009 and 2010. While her $140,203.30 seems small in comparison to other celebrity’s back tax delinquencies, her recent financial and legal troubles may make it difficult for her to pay it as a lump sum. A Lohan representative stated that Lohan is working with the IRS to come to an acceptable payment arrangement.

Celebrities are not the only ones who find themselves in need of debt help in order to pay back taxes owed to the tax authorities. If you owe money to the IRS and cannot afford to pay it, one of the best things to do is get a loan, either a direct loan from a bank or a consolidated loan, this allows you to repay the amount due all at once and avoid the stiff penalties and fees levied by the IRS. Visit secureloanconsolidation.com for more information on consolidated loans.

Photo courtesy of Donkey Hotey on Flickr, and is used with permission from the Creative Commons License

About the Author

Ms. Bekiroglu is a published author, freelance writer and editorial consultant for secureloanconsolidation.com. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida, she faced the mounting obstacle of paying over $24,000 back in student loan debt. Determined to eliminate the debt, she became knowledgeable about money management. She seeks to educate others with tips on managing student loans and other kinds of debt, as well as in general personal finance and money saving tips.

3 Things You Should Know About Offset Mortgages

An offset mortgage attempts to combine various funds against the total debt of your mortgage; therefore, you pay less on your mortgage debt. You can add savings, checking and other types of accounts into your mortgage account, so you are paying less interest. Offset mortgages came to the UK in 2000, and they keep increasing in popularity. If you are considering this type of mortgage, there are three things that you should know. You can read some more tips like these on Mortgages.co.uk, one of the leading authorities on the subject.

1. They Have Tax Advantages

If your savings account accumulates interest, you would be required to pay interest on it. However, with offset mortgages, you do not receive any interest on your savings account, so you are not required to pay the income tax. In addition, the deposit account is not taxed, so the more money that you have in your deposit account, the more you will benefit from a tax break. If you have a high income tax rate, offset mortgages can be very beneficial when tax time rolls around. If you pay less money in taxes, you will have more money to keep for yourself.

2. Make Sure You Have Enough Cash Saved

If you do not have an adequate amount of money saved, offset mortgages will not be beneficial for you. Because offset mortgages have high interest rates, you need to keep a close eye on your savings balance because you could lose any unearned interest. You will not earn any interest if you owe more on your mortgage than you have in your offset savings account. If you have at least 5 percent of your mortgage balance in savings, an offset mortgage could be beneficial for you. After your mortgage is paid, you will still have your savings as an emergency fund, so you could have more money when you retire.

3. The Savings Account is Still Liquid

You still have access to your savings account. Therefore, you can withdraw money whenever you wish and there is no penalty. You do need to keep in mind that if you take out money, your mortgage payments will increase.

If you think that an offset mortgage might be right for you, research your options and search for a lender. You could possibly obtain a lower interest rate, a lower monthly payment and you could withdraw the money at will; therefore, it could save you money. You will pay off your mortgage quicker, so you will be debt free.

This post is a guest post from Gen Tupas.
Photo attribution goes to Nikcname on Flickr – it us used under the Creative Commons License.

Writing Advice for Non-Native English Writers

I recently got a comment on my post about Why I Left Textbroker asking for tips on making money online through writing. I have literally made thousands of dollars through writing on Textbroker and other platforms (I’ve recently discovered the joys of Elance, as you know) and, rather than making a short and simple answer, I decided to write a post. Here is some writing advice for the non-native English writer.

First of all, I’m firmly in favor of everyone getting a shot at writing and following their passion for writing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a non-native English speaker or not – I believe that there’s a place for everyone, and that the need for content is such that everyone can be employed. Good search engine optimization and avoidance of Pandalization drives many content seekers to places like The Content Authority, iWriter, Textbroker, and other content mills.

At these content mills, writers can ‘cut their teeth’ on learning the business of writing for profit. There are literally thousands of articles available for individuals to learn the ins and outs of SEO, article directory submission, and more. There are plenty of non-native English speakers which work on those sites, as well as on Elance, Guru, and Odesk. And they’re making reasonable money for their location.

Here are some tactics to boost your writing skills and get the better jobs.

Interaction

Interact with native English speakers and study their mannerisms and patterns of speaking. One great place to do this is at My Language Exchange, where speakers of your language and speakers of English are paired together to work on teaching each other their native tongue. If you are in more urban areas of your country, it’s highly likely that you come in contact with native English speakers. Choose those with whom you feel comfortable, and ask them to help you practice. Another place which is extremely exciting is Duolingo – it’s in beta right now, but it’s going to be a boon for everyone.

Read fiction

Read fiction written by native English speaking authors. By reading this fiction, you will see some of the dialogue which happens between the characters, and get to understand the nuances of the English language. You see, you’re at a disadvantage, just like every person who is learning another language – you might have the basic mechanics of the language down, but nuance takes longer to learn because it comes from cultural indoctrination. Reading English fiction offers a glimpse of this nuance-filled writing in its natural habitat.

Read non-fiction

Look at some of the copywriting books which are available. There are tons of them out there, though I admit a partiality toward Robert Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook. For stylistic issues, turn to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. You can get a good round base of the mechanics of English, subject/verb agreement, and more. The first thing to strive for in the English writing world is the mechanics — then work toward the art and the passion which comes from learning a new language.

Translation

Find an article written in your native tongue that truly strikes home for you. Translate that article into English, and then show it to a native English speaker to see if they were able to get the passion and beauty of the original article through your words. If you don’t have someone available who will read and critique your English writing, I’ll be more than happy to read it over and tell you where the writing could be better.

Persistence

Keep writing. And writing. And more writing. And then when you’re done writing, write some more. Keep submitting that writing to the content mills and see if they will give you a true critique of your work, rather than telling you that you didn’t put a comma here or there. The only way that you’re going to get better, and the only way that you’re going to be taken seriously and make real money within the English article writing world is if you write. If you’re merely after a few bucks, that’s one thing, but if you want to make a real serious go at it, you have to keep writing.

Non-native English speakers have several advantages and disadvantages when it comes to competing against English speaking writers. Because of the cost of living, you can afford to charge content seekers less, but usually your work doesn’t compare in quality to the native English speaking writing. Push yourself into becoming better at English, study mannerisms, and get the technical work down cold. When you advance to the next level, it will be extremely rewarding.

Photo is courtesy of Zoetnet on Flickr, and is used with permission through the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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How to Save Money the Easy Way

With the economy still struggling and many people still in very difficult financial situations, everybody is looking for how to save money. Unfortunately, many people don’t quite know where to start, as it is very difficult for most of us to prioritize costs and know where to spend, where to save, and where to invest. The good news is that these problems do not arise due to any shortage of opportunity – people who carefully plan and keep their eyes open can find endless opportunities to save in their daily lives. Here are some excellent money-saving tips which will help you keep more money in the bank.

Ignore brand names

This tip can apply to everything from buying new clothes, new appliances, or groceries. Those store brand products are usually just as good as the ‘name’ brands, and often sell at a fraction of the price.

Minimize Your Transportation, Minimize Gas Costs

While the best money saving tip would be to leave the car behind and choose public transportation, this is obviously not a choice which can be made in most areas. When possible, try to use your bike or even your feet. Instead of making the special trip to the gym, take a walk around the neighborhood. Remember, you are trying to save money overall, and every little bit that you don’t spend, you can save for later.

Cut Back on Bad Habits

Bad habits are expensive, and you are spending large amounts of money to sustain those habits. The average price of a 2 liter bottle is $1.50. The average price of a pack of cigarettes is $5. The cost for good alcohol is enormous. Minimizing, or even cutting out altogether, these bad habits will both save money and reduce the instance of the bad habit.

Get Stable Investments

The stock market is a roller coaster. The real estate market is in shambles. Give some thought to investing in gold, a more appropriate and stable safe haven for your money.

Sell Your Stuff

Many people have attics, basements, and storage units that are positively crammed with goods that are just collecting dust. Have a good garage sale, look toward one of the selling sites, or simply sell some of this to friends. You’d be absolutely amazed with the amount of money that you can earn, and you’re clearing the way to a more minimalist, frugal household. If you clear out your storage unit to the point where you don’t have to have it anymore, that’s an additional savings per month.

Keep your eye out for coupons and deals

There is nothing so tasty as a meal which is bought with a coupon. There is nothing which reads better than a book bought at a significant amount off of the list price. Keeping those deals in mind is easier than ever these days – there are sites, apps, the tried and true local papers, and more which have the frugal person in mind. Before you purchase something at retail, think about the deals which you can get on those products.

Photo is courtesy of Epsos.de and is used with permission under the Creative Commons Attribution license.