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Resolve to improve your financial life

Reduce money stress and take control of your finances with these tips for financial success.

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Photo by Joshua Hoehne from Unsplash.com

Counting calories isn’t the only way you can resolve to bring about positive change in your life. If you’re like many people, it may be a good time to start counting your way toward better financial health.

The past year brought financial setbacks to nearly all. In fact, many say the current quality of their financial lives are worse than they hoped. In 2017, topping the list of setbacks were transportation issues (23%), housing repairs or maintenance (20%), and the inability to keep up with debt and falling behind on bill payments (16%). Arguably, COVID-19 worsened everything.

“We continue to see a lot of anxiety about money,” said Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE. “Three-quarters of (people) said something causes them financial stress, and it’s most often not saving enough and debt that are to blame.”

Reduce money stress and take control of your finances with these tips for financial success from the experts at NEFE:

1. Get debt under control.

Take a hard look at what you owe. If there’s a clear warning sign of too much debt, take action. Set a goal to reduce your debt load next year by 5-10%. That might mean reducing impulse shopping. When you face temptation, delay the purchase and give yourself time to consider whether it’s a wise move that fits within your budget.

2. Save now and do so often.

Preparing for unexpected events like medical emergencies can help reduce the financial impact of a life-changing event. Emergency savings can offset unexpected costs and help you get back on solid footing. A good rule of thumb is to have 6-9 months of income set aside. If that feels out of reach, start with a smaller goal, even as little as $500. When it comes to saving, it’s also a smart idea to think long term. Review your long-term savings and ensure they are on target for your retirement plans.

3. Shop for better services.

You may be surprised by how much you can save when you periodically shop for the most competitive rates on your recurring bills. Make a game out of shopping providers to find the best value on your insurance policies, cell phone plan, internet and utilities. Ask your providers about current rates and any promotions available to long-time, loyal customers. Then look at alternative providers to determine where you can trim some spending. Be sure to understand your current offering thoroughly so that you are comparing apples to apples.

4. Understand what’s behind your financial decisions.

If you ever wonder why you feel good about spending money on vacations but avoid saving for retirement, the answer may lie in your unique values and how they influence your financial decision-making.

Consider taking the LifeValues Quiz at smartaboutmoney.org, where you can also find help with setting goals and getting your finances in order.

Budget Better

To take control of your money and your financial life, it’s important to get organized. The most effective tool is a budget. Creating a budget can help you meet personal goals such as buying a house or car, or taking a vacation. It also can help you prepare for emergencies and manage debt.

Income: Start by listing all income sources, including wages, bonuses and tips, as well as non-employer income such as child support, alimony or Social Security. Generally, you’ll want to look at your recurring income, but also include long-range, infrequent income that you anticipate, such as tax refunds.

Expenses: Next, take into account all of your recurring monthly bills. If you have major periodic expenses, such as a six-month auto insurance premium, account for it in monthly increments so you can save up and have the money ready when the payment comes due. Remember to account for the bills you pay (mortgage or rent, utilities, etc.), as well as unspecified items like lawn maintenance and personal hygiene purchases.

Categorize Spending: Some people find it helpful to break expenses into categories, such as housing, transportation, health, personal, entertainment and so on. The key is to capture every point where money is going out so you can get a thorough picture of your ongoing expenditures. It can take a couple months to get a true understanding of what your typical spending looks like.

Savings: An effective budget doesn’t just capture what’s going out; it also reflects what you’re able to keep. If you haven’t already, outline a savings plan that allows for an emergency fund, regular savings, retirement and investments.

Debt: Consistently paying down the accounts you owe with the maximum amount you can afford is the surest way to reduce your debt load. Account for each debt you owe in your budget, and establish a payment plan that shows how much you can allocate to each account each month.

BizListing

Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon taps TikTok Shop to grow business

Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon was founded by Josemartin Casillano during a challenging time, following a significant medical expense. Starting as a side project, Casillano’s commitment and hard work led to the rapid growth of his business.

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As the digital landscape continues to reshape the business landscape, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are finding new avenues for growth and expansion. Among these success stories stands Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon, a local business specializing in snacks crafted from organic white oyster mushrooms.

With the rise of e-commerce platforms like TikTok Shop, this local enterprise has seized the opportunity to enhance its market reach and visibility, positioning itself for sustainable growth in the digital era.

Thriving in Adversity

Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon was founded by Josemartin Casillano during a challenging time, following a significant medical expense. Starting as a side project, Casillano’s commitment and hard work led to the rapid growth of his business. Initially employing a small team, the focus was on efficient mushroom cultivation, production, and sales. The nutritional benefits of oyster mushrooms, including being a source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants, attracted a health-conscious customer base.

Leveraging TikTok for Business Growth

Recognizing the potential of social media, Casillano launched a TikTok Shop to increase the visibility of his products. Dedicated to empowering local micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), TikTok Shop assists businesses in enhancing their visibility and creating growth opportunities in the digital landscape. Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon stands out as one of the success stories from this platform.

“Selling Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon has become easier because of TikTok Shop. Customers can now see our product. It doesn’t require a large capital, and you don’t need much technical knowledge to join TikTok Shop,” said Casillano.

Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon experienced a significant transformation after partnering with TikTok Shop. Leveraging the platform’s dynamic features, including content creation tools and shoppable content options, the business saw an unprecedented increase in visibility and consumer engagement. Consequently, the growing business boosted its sales by 50-60% through TikTok Shop.

Empowering Filipinos with income opportunities

The rise in Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon sales created new opportunities for many individuals. Starting with an initial team of three, the company has expanded to employ 19 people and now relies on 35 mushroom growers to meet the growing demand for its product.

“TikTok Shop helps small business owners like me through their programs like Buy Local, Shop Local. By providing vouchers and discounts, it further boosts the sales of small business owners and also helps local employees and farmers,” Casillano shared.

Launched in November 2023, TikTok Shop’s “Buy Local, Shop Local” campaign aims to enhance the visibility of local vendors and promote community pride and economic solidarity among consumers.

Reflecting on his business journey, Casillano acknowledges the collaborative efforts with TikTok Shop, citing its alignment with his goals to promote business and support local growers. Together, they contribute to positive change, fostering growth in agriculture and socio-economic empowerment.

Looking ahead, Casillano sees potential in continuing the partnership with TikTok Shop, recognizing its role in fostering growth for Filipino enterprises.

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BizListing

How Linya-Linya and Common Room’s financial missteps’ turned into business successes

Retail shop owners Jim Bacarro of Linya-linya and sisters Roma and Maan Agsalud of Common Room shared in RCBC Boz Sessions that they had to learn it the hard way.

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For many successful entrepreneurs, financial missteps are part and parcel of the job—at first. And retail shop owners Jim Bacarro of Linya-linya and sisters Roma and Maan Agsalud of Common Room shared in RCBC Boz Sessions that they had to learn it the hard way.

RCBC Boz Sessions is a video series featuring Filipino entrepreneurs who share their own journey, tips and insights on starting and growing their own businesses.

Linya Linya’s Jim Bacarro said their company experienced “a rollercoaster of hilarious financial missteps” before it became the renowned and popular apparel and lifestyle brand that it is today. In this episode which premiered on April 3, he shared on Facebook how their funniest financial mistakes became the company’s foundational strategies, entitled Nadapa, Natuto, Kumita.

‘Those epic fails were also the foundational parts of who we are as a company today,” Bacarro shared.

Kids in a candy store

The Linya Linya founder cited issues with cash flow and business capital as “bloopers” that eventually became “incredible lessons.”

Bacarro admitted that they were like “kids in a candy store with our cash” during their beginning years. “Sales meant celebration, right? Wrong! We pulled out cash without thinking twice. And guess what? When it was time to pay suppliers, our wallets were singing crickets.”

He added Linya Linya started their operations “undercapitalized,” diving into projects with their “pockets half-empty.”

“The result? We got smothered by interest payments and were left scrambling for funds.” Bacarro explained, adding that they were also prone to making unplanned and unnecessary big purchases that “led to us scrimping on our actual products—the T-shirts!”

Mixing business with personal

Sisters Roma Agsalud-Agsunod and Maan Agsalud of the arts and craft store Common Room also admitted committing basic mistakes during their first few years in business.

In their YouTube video “Three Mistakes When Scaling Up Your Business,”  Agsunod and Agsalud shared the lapses they committed that prevented them from leveling up sooner.

The Common Room sisters said they did not know anything about the basics of business when they started. “Sa sobrang wala kaming alam sa negosyo, akala naming kumita na kami basta maibalik lang ang rental fee namin,” they said.

Their lack of business know-how made them commit other mistakes, such as mixing personal finances with their business earnings, and making decisions based on feelings instead of hard financial data.

“When Common Room was just starting, kami ang breadwinners ng family namin, so lahat ng earnings naming napupunta sa panggastos ng pamilya. Hindi namin alam na dapat paghiwalayin ang personal bank account sa business bank account. Pag hindi niyo sila pinaghiwalay, mabagal ang growth ng business,” they shared.

They also said: “Ang solution to not knowing the basics of business is to do simple self-studying. Kahit pinaka-basic concepts lang, pwede mo na matutunan sa YouTube videos. Manood lang kayo ng ilang videos at malaking advantage na agad yan.”

“Nakaka-stress ang mistake na yan. Kaya ikaw, study your data before you make any big decision,” the sisters added.

Don’t be afraid to try new tools

Bacarro believes that a financial misstep can translate to business success if one recognizes the mistake immediately, and turn it into an opportunity for growth and innovation. “Through these mishaps, we learned the hard way that managing a business isn’t just about making sales; it’s about smart financial planning,” he said.

For Agsunod and Agsalud, accepting the mistakes allowed them to make the necessary fixes and changes. “So, to all aspiring entrepreneurs out there, embrace your mishaps, learn from them, and maybe get a little help,” they said. Bacarro advised being in the know when it comes to new tools and technology for business owners as these could significantly make their lives easier. “Don’t be afraid to try new tools to help grow your business,” he said.

And so these bosses were all delighted to have found out about RCBC’s Boz app – something they wished they had when they were just starting out.

RCBC Boz is one of the bank’s newest apps specially designed for beginning entrepreneurs. It is a mobile banking platform that allows users to manage their RCBC business accounts separately from their personal accounts, to have an overall financial view of their business performance. It also has functions that allow users to pay suppliers, create and send invoices, and set financial goals. The mobile app has a Report feature that can provide entrepreneurs with weekly, monthly, and yearly financial reports—giving them access to instant and accurate business financial data.

“Entrepreneurship is fun. Having friends who can laugh and cry with you along the way makes it even better. What’s best though is a friend who can laugh, cry, and actually help you with stuff you’re not so knowledgeable on. An app like RCBC Boz is that friend,” he added. 

Download RCBC Boz app now and tune in to RCBC Boz sessions for more practical tips and insights on managing your own business.    

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Strategies

Marketing people, pay attention: Scent sells, and the right picture titillates both eyes and nose

There is a less expensive route to the olfactory senses – one where people’s imaginations almost do the marketer’s work. It is no surprise that attractive images of flowers or fruit with pleasant smells will attract customers if they are relevant to the product.

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Scented products with relevant images on their packaging and branding, such as flowers or fruit, are more attractive to potential customers and score better in produce evaluations, new research confirms.

And such images, the researchers conclude, are particularly effective if manufacturers and marketers choose pictures that are more likely to stimulate a stronger sense of the imagined smell – for example, cut rather than whole lemons. This, they say, suggests that as well as seducing our eyes, the images are stimulating our sense of smell.

The study, published online in the International Journal of Research in Marketing, could provide manufacturers and marketers with a cost-effective way of promoting the ever expanding range of scented products. As well as the obvious, such as perfumes, candles and air fresheners, products such as bottled water and greeting cards are now sometimes infused with scent.

The whiff of failure

Despite rising recognition of the power of scent, the paper says, much product branding does not include an image evoking an appealing smell. Alternatively, other marketers and their clients even choose images that actually reduce consumer appeal. Examples include objects whose unpleasant odours the product is designed to disguise, such as old trainers or ash trays. The new study confirms the negative impact of such images.

It also revealed that only 27% of the 957 scented laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners on sale in America included in the study carried a picture of the object whose scent was recreated in the product.

The researchers then measured the customer ratings for the 532 products where consumers had provided feedback using 1-5 stars on the retailers’ website. Products branded with a relevant image of the source of the scent scored significantly better, with an average rating of 4.66 out of 5 stars, compared to 4.46 stars for products without a picture of scent on the package.

In an online study, 200 participants were asked to choose between two fruit-scented handwash products with and without pictures of the relevant fruit on packaging/advertising. As expected, the presence of an image was more important in determining consumer choice than whether the handwash was scented with clementines or pears.

A rose by any other name…

Similarly, when considering products described as having a floral scent, images of yellow roses scored better with participants than sunflowers, almost certainly because the latter does not have a strong smell.

The paper also concludes that marketers can boost the olfactory impact by adding a second ‘cue’ to packaging and branding material, such as showing cut lemons rather than whole lemons.

Co-author Zachary Estes, Professor of Marketing at Bayes Business School (formerly Cass), City, University of London, said: “Marketers and their clients have sought for some time to infuse packaging and even print advertisements with appropriate pleasant fragrances. There is strong evidence that appealing scents can boost sales in shops. However, for individual products that process is costly and not always particularly practical. It also has limited impact – research suggests that just 11 per cent of customers sniff fragranced magazine ads, for example.

“Our study suggests there is a less expensive route to the olfactory senses – one where people’s imaginations almost do the marketer’s work. It is no surprise that attractive images of flowers or fruit with pleasant smells will attract customers if they are relevant to the product. However, that impact can be magnified by using specific images that intensify stimulation the olfactory senses as well.”

Co-author Varun Sharma, Assistant Teaching Professor at Carnegie Mellon University (Qatar), said: “With this large market comes a growing demand to advertise and package these scented products effectively. Our work suggests that scent has far more pervasive and powerful marketing potential than previously thought.

“It’s reasonable to assume that even when packaging or advertisements carry a scent-related picture, it is initially chosen for visual appeal. Marketers and their clients need to understand the wider power of such images. Unless marketers fully understand why such pictures are effective and that their impact is multisensory, they may make costly mistakes.”

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