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5 Ways to support small businesses as they re-enter the market

It will take a while for them to get back on solid financial footing. To do so, it will take a great deal of support from both consumers and financial institutions.

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As the economy slowly re-opens, small businesses can finally welcome back customers and staff under strict safety guidelines. It will take a while for them to get back on solid financial footing. To do so, it will take a great deal of support from both consumers and financial institutions.

Patricia Alexander, Comerica Bank Vice President, Business Banking, makes the impact of small businesses on the economy very clear, calling them “the engine of economy,” generating a big chunk economic activity and warning many of them will not re-open their doors due to financial distress.

While the challenge is tough, consumers can provide some real lifelines to help ensure as many small businesses as possible can stay afloat, revive and thrive.

Here are five ways Alexander says consumers should support small businesses:

1. Quite simply, buy their products and services to provide the cashflow they need to operate.

In Alexander’s words, “To help these businesses, consumers should aggressively patronize them.”

2. Post positive reviews on social media.

“We need to have a sense of urgency. We need to talk them up,” said Alexander. “People need to see if it is safe to go out again.”

3. Be patient with the challenges of re-starting a business and the operational changes needed to follow new safety guidelines.

This is a new normal.

And – while at it – follow in observing the new guidelines/protocols.

4. Take the initiative to seek them out.

“Organizations like the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, and the National Business League are a few resources that can help consumers locate these critical businesses,” Alexander advises.

5. It’s not just enough to occasionally patronize small businesses; constantly support them.

“Consumers need to renew and reaffirm their commitment to small businesses,” said Alexander. That means becoming regular customers or patrons, providing a reliable income for small business operators that will help them rebuild their operations.

Strategies

Save money and score energy savings

Small changes around the workplace now can deliver big energy savings particularly during colder months ahead.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the profits of businesses; and yet expenses may remain the same – e.g. energy consumption – so that companies need to reconsider their approaches until things normalize.

Here, Georgia Power is reminding customers that small changes around the workplace now can deliver big energy savings particularly during colder months ahead.

  • Let the Sun Shine In – Keeping the blinds and shades open during the day is a no-cost way to naturally heat your workplace. Close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
  • Let it Flow – Heating and cooling accounts for as much as 50% of a venue’s typical energy usage during colder seasons. Maximize the efficiency of your units ahead of cold weather by changing the filters once a month, or every three months for pleated filters.
  • Thinking Thermostats – Install a smart programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts the workplace’s temperature settings when you are away from the venue and save in energy costs.
  • Caulk & Strip – Replace cracked or peeling caulk or weather stripping around doors and windows to save up to 10% on energy use
  • It’s Great to Insulate – Keep heat where it belongs with proper insulation in attics and walls to help save energy 24/7.

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Strategies

Financial tips to help prepare for the unexpected

Over the past year, most people have noticed how truly unpredictable life can be. While it’s impossible to predict what the next few months have in store, practicing a few fundamental financial skills can help you prepare for whatever comes next.

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Over the past year, most people have noticed how truly unpredictable life can be. While it’s impossible to predict what the next few months have in store, practicing a few fundamental financial skills can help you prepare for whatever comes next.

“According to a survey by Bank of America, 42% of (people) say their top financial goal over the next three months is to increase their savings,” said April Schneider, head of consumer and small business products at Bank of America. “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of building a safety net. Whether you’re looking to improve your current financial habits or starting from scratch, the most important thing is to make a plan that fits your needs and to stick with it.”

Consider these tips from Schneider:

Track your expenses. Review your expenses, big and small, and separate them into categories like groceries, transportation, utilities and entertainment. Then total the amounts in each category to get a better picture of your monthly expenses. Knowing how much you spend each month is the first step toward finding money to save.

Make a plan and set a budget. Categorize your expenses into wants versus needs. Groceries, rent and mortgage payments are examples of needs while streaming services are a want. Compare your expenses against your total household income to figure out if you have money left over to save or if you can find money to save by reducing your spending on nonessentials. For example, keep an eye out for phantom charges – or reoccurring payments – you may no longer need and redirect that money into savings.

“If you’re already saving, that’s great,” Schneider said. “Review your behaviors and see if there’s room for improvement. It’s also not too late if you haven’t begun saving – everyone has to start somewhere.”

Also keep in mind your budget is meant to adapt with your circumstances, so make sure you’re updating your budget as your life changes.

Make savings automatic. Saving can fit seamlessly into your everyday life when you set up automatic transfers from a checking to a savings account. Saving automatically helps prepare you for the future without adding to your to-do list. You can start small by automatically transferring a few dollars each week.

Build an emergency fund. Take a look at your current expenses versus total income to identify any extra wiggle room where you can save. Next put your emergency savings in a separate, but accessible, account to avoid temptation and accidental overspending.

“When building an emergency fund, I recommend saving enough money to cover 3-6 months of expenses,” Schneider said. “Contributing to an emergency fund keeps saving a priority and ensures you have financial flexibility should the unexpected occur.”

Use spending tools for savvy savings. Being a better saver means becoming a smarter spender. While looking for deals and price shopping can be helpful, there are times when it’s better to spend a little more for quality. For example, buying a more costly refrigerator may pay off in the long run compared to buying a cheaper option that could break down after a few months.

Another way to be a smarter spender is by earning rewards on your everyday purchases. Whether you’ve seen your costs shift from in-person to delivery services, using a card that adapts and rewards your spending can be a valuable asset.

While you may not know what the future holds, planning and actively taking steps can help you feel more secure and prepared for whatever it brings.

Find more tips at bettermoneyhabits.com.

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Strategies

5 Ways to save big on everyday essentials

People are concerned about the economic impact the pandemic will have on their lives. These economic concerns are leading shoppers to seek out more ways to save. With the convenience and flexibility online shopping provides, many customers are turning to e-retailers to find those must-have items.

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With many people spending more time at home, they are also using more common household items such as cleaning supplies, pantry items and snacks, among other things.

According to a Harris Poll survey, people are concerned about the economic impact the pandemic will have on their lives. These economic concerns are leading shoppers to seek out more ways to save. With the convenience and flexibility online shopping provides, many customers are turning to e-retailers to find those must-have items.

To help busy and budget-conscious shoppers, Woot!, the Amazon-owned daily deals site, launched a grocery and household category to offer deals on everyday essentials.

Consider these five ways shoppers can save time and money when making household purchases.

1. Compare prices.

One benefit of shopping online versus in-store is you can look across different brands to compare prices in real time. By seeing available brands and pricing in one place, you can save more and make the best purchase choices for your household.  

2. Take advantage of deals.

When you shop in a store, you’re confined to the deals and selection the store is offering at the time of your trip. When you shop online, you aren’t limited to the store’s offerings, often allowing you to score better deals and browse a larger selection.

3. Save time exploring virtual aisles.

Shopping at a store can be time consuming. Consider virtual grocery and household shopping, and unlike in-person aisles, virtual aisles hide categories when selection is unavailable so you won’t waste your time and can be confident items you’re looking at are available at a discount.

4. Customize your shopping experience. 

The flexibility and convenience of shopping online can save you time. Since you aren’t shopping in-store, you don’t have to worry about store hours and locations, giving you the flexibility to shop at all hours and from any location, as long as you have Wi-Fi and access to a computer or mobile device. With the ability to shop around your schedule, you can gain precious time to spend with the people you love, doing the things you love.

5. Benefit from membership perks.

Another perk of online shopping is being able to leverage membership benefits to save more. Some retailers offer member-based programs or partner to offer members of certain programs discounts.

Between the vast selection, price options and convenience of shopping from home, there are many ways shoppers can save big on time and money as they shop for everyday essentials and household must-haves. 

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