Author Archives: Daniel Packer

Funniest Tax Return Ever?

I was going through some of my starred emails in Gmail, trying to clear out the old and irrelevant ones, and the last one in my list was from my brother. A few years ago, he filed his taxes and got a funny looking picture that I wanted to share with you.

He was working as a research assistant while pursuing his Ph.D in Computer Science while his wife was a medical student. On tax forms, there are only so many spaces for job descriptions, so when it printed his form, it only displayed the first 12 characters:

(click for large image)

I still think it’s hilarious (it describes them perfectly) and will be keeping this one for awhile.

Summer Backpacking on the Cheap

Backpacking provides the perfect opportunity to learn about new places around the world, while also learning something new about yourself. You’ll encounter people and cultures entirely new to you and be able to see the breaktaking sites that many people don’t ever get to see during a lifetime. If you’re ready to chase your wanderlust and satisfy your need for adventure, take a summer backpacking trip abroad. While it may sound expensive, with a little forethought and planning, your backpacking excursion can cost as little as a couple months of rent.

Summer Backpacking on the Cheap

Here are three ways to explore the world on the cheap, backpack in tow, this summer:

Pick a Budget-Friendly Location

When you’re planning your backpacking trip, you have to consider the cost of gear, flights, lodging, tours or guides and other unexpected expenses along the way. An average two-month backpacking trip through Europe can add up to about $6,500, according to Active Backpacker. Remember, this cost will be different for everyone. How much you spend is entirely up to you. If you’re looking for an affordable and memorable trip consider a destination that’s both beautiful and affordable.

Nepal is one of the most popular places to go hiking in the world. It’s home to eight of the world’s largest peaks, and home to the Himalayas, and it’s also one of the cheapest backpacking destinations. Mountain trekkers can survive on about $25 a day in urban areas and Indie Traveler notes that it’s even cheaper in the remote areas. Additional affordable backpacking destinations include Nicaragua, Bolivia, Argentina, Cambodia and Thailand.

Get Your Tech In-Check

Cross-country backpacking trips call for a mobile plan with international coverage. Don’t worry about finding an Internet cafe to send emails and post photos to Facebook and don’t pay for calling cards to talk to your family and friends back home.

T-Mobile offers the Simple Choice Plan, an international plan that includes unlimited talk and text plus data on the Data Strong Network throughout more than 120 countries. There’s no overages and no annual service contracts. T-Mobile is also the only U.S.-based carrier that offers free in-flight texting, so you can get caught up with what’s happening back home and share your experiences with your Twitter followers on your next flight.

Plus, with a smartphone like the HTC One, you can take stunning images of the places you visit on your trip without investing in expensive and bulky camera equipment.

Rent & Borrow

Your tab for backpacking gear will add up quick. Your pack, boots and clothing can cost $1,000 easily. You can occasionally find deals on Amazon, or check out REI’s semi-annual garage sales to pick up cheap gear.

However, renting and borrowing some outdoor items can work, too. Ask your friends if they would be willing to let you borrow some of their own backpacking items like a camp stove, tent or sleeping pad. Outdoors Geek rents out all types of gear from snowshoes and sleeping bags to GPS devices and bear-proof canisters. And, the Colorado-based rental shop offers nationwide shipping.

Some items, like clothing, boots and your backpack, are more personal, and will only fit you, so you’ll have to buy them.

Starting Your Own Business? Don’t Make These Mistakes!

At this blog, we are big on people starting their own businesses. There are some important reasons:

  • The net worth of business owners is 2 ½ times that of non-business owners
  • The median income is $70K/year for people who identify as a small business owner in the U.S.

While the doomsday statistics you see on the internet about 80% of small businesses failing are incorrect, there are real risks. Statistics show:

  • 33% of businesses fail within 2 years
  • 33% of businesses make it 10 years

You definitely want to be in the second group.

Common Errors

If you learn from others’ mistakes, it increases your chances of success. We researched some common blunders of new businesses.

Poor Financial Management – The stereotype of a small business owner stuffing receipts in a shoebox has some truth. Companies that fail to invoice correctly, keep accurate records, and / or pay taxes quickly find themselves in trouble. Start by finding a good accountant to help you with the financials so you can focus on growing your business.

Non-Existent Legal Advice – You need to sit down with a lawyer when you start a business. A lawyer counsels you on issues such as:

  • Incorporating to shield your assets
  • Protecting your trade secrets
  • Developing strong written agreements (i.e. contracts)

Sitting down with a lawyer initially can help you avoid problems later.

Hiring Bad Employees – A lousy employee impacts a small business. Do not hire someone because just because a family member or someone else asks you. You are running a business, not a charitable endeavor. Always:

  • Check references and legal status
  • Communicate your expectations clearly
  • Recognize the results of excellent employees
  • Make sure you absolutely need this person

Lack of Customer Service – Good customer service makes or breaks a small business. When you do not have a huge marketing budget, you depend on old-fashioned “word-of-mouth” (and Facebook likes). Strong service means you:

  • Address complaints immediately
  • Return inquiries by the close of business

Bad Pricing – Related to poor financial management is the issue of bad pricing. You can take steps to eliminate this problem.

  • Create a business plan so you know what it takes to make a profit
  • Find out what competitors in your market charge

You do not have to be the cheapest provider, but you must price your product or service so that people see value.

Not Living below Your Means – New businesses sometimes take a year or two to make a profit. Three ways to minimize expenses are:

  • Work out of a home office (there are often tax benefits)
  • Limit borrowing (which limits interest costs)
  • Hold off on hiring until you absolutely need new employees

Remember, do not live like a successful business owner until you are a small business owner.

Wanting you to be Successful

Owning a small business allows you to introduce new or improved products and services to the marketplace. It sounds trite, but our economy really needs new firms.

We want our readers to be successful. We want you to start the companies that last. Keep these tips in mind so you improve your odds of success.