Living on a Budget? Here Are Some Smart Ways to Save 39

Living on a Budget? Here Are Some Smart Ways to Save

This is a guest post by Sarah Williams.

If you are like most people, you are trying to save money to take that expensive vacation, buy a new car or even purchase your first home without giving up anything.

Below are some easy ways for you to save some cash while still enjoying that dinner out.

1. Banks and credit cards.

Find an account that pays you for banking with them. It may be reward points, money put back into your account for purchases or simply just free checking and ATM usage.

This free money can then be put into a savings account for a large purchase.

2. Bring your coffee and lunch to work.

If you purchase a cup of coffee on your way to work, you are wasting gas while you wait in line and are also spending over $120 for your cup of joe.

Instead, fill a thermos before you head out of the door and you save time and money.

The same is true for your lunch. Instead of buying a sandwich or a salad, bring your own and use the extra time for a walk around the block or reading a book.

3. Shop with a list.

Grocers know that you spend more when you don’t have a shopping list, so before venturing out into that world of grocery shopping, make up a menu and buy the items on your list.

Grocers also know that you will probably buy what you see at eye level, so check out the top and bottoms of the racks for the lower price items.

4. Recycle.

Some companies pay you for recycling their products. Plastic bottle and soda cans can be redeemed at your local food stores. Toner cartridge recycling is also an option for a discount on your next order. Some office supply stores will also recycle your ink cartridges.

5. Clean your closets.

Clean out seldom used or out-dated clothes. Instead of donating them, have a yard sale or put them in a consignment shop.

You will make more money on designer clothes than you would in taking a tax deduction. Stash that money into a separate account for that new outfit that you have been dying to buy.

6. Borrow books and DVDs.

Instead of buying the latest book that you want to read or the latest DVD of the movie, try borrowing them from your local library. With the cost of a new book costing being around $15.00 and a movie costs around $20.00, borrowing them just by signing up at the library seems appropriate.

The same goes for video games. Some libraries rent them or a second-hand gaming shop will have games that others have outgrown.

7. Heating.

Why should you be heating your home when you are not even there? It’s a waste of energy and money.

If you spend some money on a programmable thermostat, then you can program a cooler temperature when no one is home and then it will turn on before you get home. The same can be done for your air conditioner.

8. Gifts.

Everyone wants to give great gifts for birthdays or Christmas. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on the latest, you might want to make some of those presents. Knit a scarf or hat set, an afghan or a framed picture might be just the right gift for a parent or grandparent.

Saving money makes people very nervous. They feel that they have to do without something that they enjoy. By saving a small amount whenever possible, you can reach your goal without giving anything up. Empty the change from your pocket into a jar every night.

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The Five Elements of Flawless Customer Experience 11

The Five Elements of Flawless Customer Experience

Providing a flawless customer experience is the ultimate goal for any business.

There’s a lot that goes into creating a customer experience that keeps your clients coming back for more. In fact, there’s so much involved that it can almost seem overwhelming.

However, providing a flawless customer experience becomes much easier when you approach the task through these five distinct elements:

Time
Understanding
Ownership of Emotions
The Unexpected
Follow-Through

Time

When it comes to your customers’ satisfaction, time is essential. Think of how a great experience at a new restaurant quickly sours if you’re left waiting for your food to arrive. Think of how your excitement over a great department store sale turns into frustration as you stand in line for what seems like hours.

Time is your most valuable resource and it is up to you to make sure you’re using your customers’ time wisely.

This is why restaurants have comfortable waiting areas with drinks and appetizers, or why airports have lounges with restaurants, shops, and even bars.

If your customers are being forced to wait for a service, make them feel as if their time spent is not wasted. The more positive drivers you offer customers, the less likely they are to grow dissatisfied with their experience.

Think of how you can implement this in your own business. Are there places where you can help fill customers’ time? Are there places where technology can be used to cut down on the time it takes to complete a task? Remember, it’s the customers’ time that should be valued, not your own.

Understanding

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You must understand what your customers want, when they want it, and how.

While this may seem daunting, getting a better understanding of your customers doesn’t take millions of dollars, complex data analytics, and a degree in psychology. Instead, all it takes is a simple look. Watch their process, engage with them, ask them questions, and listen to them.  

How are customers interacting with your product? What’s the first thing they do when they enter your store? What’s the last thing they do before they leave? How long are they spending in each department? Do you notice anything that hampers their experience?

Take a look at your competitors. How are your potential customers interacting with them? What does this business offer that you don’t or vice versa? What is your, as Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen says, “job to be done?” What are your customers hiring your product or service to accomplish? Understand why your users are turning to your products.

Ownership of Emotions

Many companies have already taken hold of their customers’ emotions, though cynically. Subliminal advertising is a key example. However, the ownership of emotions does not have to be cynical. When used correctly, it can be the “holy grail” for companies.

Owning emotions begins with the aforementioned ability to understand. When you truly understand a customer’s choices and then act to make the experience better, you’re building a relationship of trust. That trust is the foundation of emotional ownership.

One way to build this trust is to reduce the “emotional” noise that surrounds your customers. Let them know that, even on their worst day, your business or product is there for them and that it will be a constant in their lives.

Think of restaurants and the long wait times you have to endure when they’re busy. Think of how angry—or “hangry”—you feel as you stand around, waiting for your table, and listening to your stomach growl. However, think of how some restaurants are able to reduce that emotional noise by serving you finger foods and drinks as you wait.

Also, seek to understand what emotionally motivates your customers.

Why should they be motivated to visit your store or use your product? To feel confident? Free? Unique? Secure? Successful? Research shows that all human beings are motivated by one of those factors.

The Unexpected

Experiences become stronger and more memorable when they’re accompanied by an element of surprise. Surprise can be addictive, which will only keep your customers coming back for more.

Think about mailing your customers or clients small packages with gifts and swag. Everyone loves to get mail and everyone loves free stuff, especially when it’s least expected.

A surprise doesn’t have to be a huge flash mob (though it could be!). Hand out snacks at your store. Is it a cold day? Give your customers hot chocolate or warm punch. Is it a client’s birthday? Send a card! Even a small note of thanks for a customer’s business is a nice little surprise.

The most important thing to remember: simply be sincere and don’t become predictable. Chocolates on hotel pillows were once a great surprise for guests. However, now that their wow-factor has faded, hotels are continuously trying to get back to the “unexpected.”

Follow-Through

You’ve made promises and established goals. The only thing that’s left is to follow through on them. This starts with creating your mission statement, one that you, your employees, and your customers can commit to it. This will define your customer experience.

Your mission statement must promise to impact yourself/your business, the community, or the world. It may commit to impacting one, or all three. However, whatever it promises, you must follow through on. Your customers’ trust, and thus their experience, depends on it.

More about these five elements can be discovered in Unforgettable: Designing Customer Experiences that Stick, to be published in 2018.

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Kyle H. David has made a career in technology and entrepreneurship for nearly 20 years. In 2001, he formed The Kyle David Group, now KDG. Over the past 16 years, KDG has grown at a rapid pace, attracting clients ranging from the United States Senate to major financial institutions, international nonprofits, and Division I universities.