Multi-level Marketing Scams: Passive Income Opportunities are Often Too Good to Be True

What are Multi-Level Marketing Scams?

Multi-Level marketing scams often seem like legitimate passive income opportunites. But remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. So how can you distinguish between the two?

A passive income is income received on a regular basis, with little effort required to maintain it. The concept of unearned income is a close relative. Common examples include rent from a property you own, interest from a bank account, or royalties from publishing a book or from licensing a patent. You can sit back and watch the money roll in without exerting any effort. After all, don’t most people dream about having a better work-life balance and being able to make a reasonable amount of money without spending hours upon hours holed up in an office?

Unfortunately, passive income opportunities you come across are really just multi-level marketing scams. They appeal to our desire to have it all. But as you probably already know, most things in life come with a catch. What is particularly sad is that most multi-level marketing scams target the poorest members of our communities – the people who are the most desperate for greater financial stability. Those who can afford to be scammed the least.

Time is Money and Money is Time

Surely you’ve heard the old adage, “Time is money and money is time.” It seems as if everyone is striving to strike a perfect balance between the two. You want to have the time and you want to have the money. Passive income opportunities often play into our “get rich quick” mentalities. However, instead of buying into the desire to have it all and achieve the perceived “ideal balance,” perhaps we should learn how to be content with less.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. When push comes to shove, it’s difficult to go without in our consumer-driver, materialistic society. Simply turning on the TV or surfing the Internet leads to a barrage of advertisements hawking the latest and greatest products. For many people, keeping up with the Joneses is more important than making sure they have money socked away for retirement or emergency situations. For some, being perceived as a wealthy individual who leads a glamorous lifestyle is more important than being a good person with a kind heart.

Avoid Buying into Multi-Level Marketing Scams

No matter how appealing a passive income scheme may be, you will inevitably be stuck spending more time and/or money than originally intended. If you are interested in boosting your bank account, consider getting a job with flexible hours. Not every job requires you to be chained to your desk, so search for an opportunity that gives you the freedom and flexibility you crave.

For example, many companies offer summer hours — allowing employees to take half-days on Fridays during the summer months. The rat race can be downright exhausting, so it’s important to keep your priorities in line without being distracted by the allure of passive income opportunities you might come across. Almost everyone wishes there were more hours in the day and more money in their wallet, but if you make a conscious effort to be content with less, you will have a whole new lease on life.

Don’t be sucked into a multi-level marketing scam. If you’re expected to put up cash up front, or buy a bunch of merchandise, you should be suspicious. If you’re told you’ll make the money back many times over, you should be convinced that you’re dealing with a multi-level marketing scam.

Multi-Level Marketing Scams vs Pyramid Scams

There is very little difference between the two. Multi-Level marketing scams are legal and pyramid scams are not. A multi-level marketing scam is distinguishable because it actually involves the sale of goods and services, whereas a pyramid scam deals only in cash. But whether it’s a multi-level marketing scam or a pyramid scam, or any other opportunity promising you fast cash with no strings attached, watch out – there will be strings.

Compulsive Shopping: Why We Do It, How We Can Stop

The concept of treating yourself to a little shopping spree after a long day (or week) is by no means a foreign one. With ads everywhere screaming at you to buy the latest this, that, and the other, it’s hard to escape the consumerist culture we have found ourselves surrounded by. Just about everyone has succumbed to the desire to peruse the shelves of their favorite stores or the latest deals on their favorite websites in search of a pick-me-up when they’re down.

Though everyone copes with stress differently, it’s hard to deny shopping is a great way to bust your blues when you’re feeling off-kilter. However, being off-kilter is exactly the state of mind you shouldn’t be in when you’re browsing Amazon.com or meandering through Best Buy. More often than not, it’s a state of emotional dissonance that causes you to run up your wrack up shopping bills when really, it’s a completely different area of your life you need to be addressing. In addition to affecting your personal relationships, compulsive shopping can have a number of effects on your finances, especially your credit score.

So what drives people to indulge in compulsive shopping?

Depression

What better way to make yourself feel better than buying a brand-new outfit, or a new laptop, or any number of other purchases. Shopping can provide a temporary high for those who are down in the dumps, however it doesn’t last forever. Like any other high, the effects wear off quickly and can leave you with a debt, a damaged credit score, and things you don’t need cluttering your home.

Anxiety

When your mind is racing, shopping can be a great distraction. It’s a lot easier to peruse the albums on the shelf of your favorite record store, or wander the aisles of TJ Maxx than it is to think about that detail you didn’t give in that interview, that fight you had with your significant other, or that test you have to take. Shopping gives you a sense of control few other things can. However, the effect it has on your budget is real, and can lead to even more anxiety than if you choose a different way to relieve your stress, like exercise, talking to a friend, or meditating.

Boredom

When you’ve got a few extra minutes (or hours) to kill and a computer, phone, or tablet linked to your Groupon account handy, it’s hard to resist doing just a little harmless window-shopping. However, the trouble comes when you see your favorite perfume is on sale, or your favorite burger joint has half-off coupons that can be yours with just a click of your mouse. Before you know it, you’ve spent $15, or $30, or $100 on something you didn’t know existed a few minutes ago. It’s the blessing and the curse of the age we live in. Some websites, though, allow you to disable the 1-click purchasing feature, putting more steps (and more time to think about what you’re buying and why) between you and that thing you don’t actually need.

Insecurity/Loneliness

In the wake of a trauma or other negative event, shopping can provide a way to soothe yourself, boost your mood, and even take revenge against, say, a spouse who has wronged you. The satisfaction that comes with upstaging your family, friends, neighbors, or frienemies with the latest iGadget, shoes, or other must-have item of the week can be awfully tempting when you’re in a bad place. However it’ll leave you in a worse spot financially than when you started, and can drive an even deeper wedge between you and those around you, leading to a greater sense of loneliness.

How Living Small Save You Big Bucks: What’s Behind the Tiny House Movement

Sometimes our lives can feel pre-scripted: Go to school, get a good job, fall in love, have a family, buy a nice home… The American Dream, right?

Sure, once upon a time the American Dream included a nice 3-bedroom house with a yard and picket fence. But then a nasty economic downturn and mortgage crisis careened into our lives. Now that old idea might not be very inspiring – or even possible – any more.

So maybe it’s time to consider a new option, one that is affordable, responsible, and absolutely possible: That’s what’s behind the tiny house movement.

The Tiny House Appeal

The “Tiny House Movement” – also called the “Small House Movement” – describes the interest in compact and efficient homes. Currently, the typical American home is approximately 2600 square feet. In the late 1970s, the average was 1700 sf. Home sizes increase, yet couples having large families are on the decline.

Then there’s the cost of living in a “traditional” home, which isn’t cheap. According to TinyHouseBuild, the average cost of building a typical-sized house is about $250k – and that doesn’t include the cost of the land.

Our housing payments are usually the largest expense we have. A standard rule for lenders is that your payment (including principle, interest, taxes, and insurance) is 28 percent of what we earn.

It used to be that renting was a more affordable housing option. But rates quoted by RentJungle cite apartments 10 miles out of Chicago as about $1926/month. In the city itself, a one-bedroom is just under $1700/month and a two-bedroom comes in at $2100.

And just as often, for those choosing a smaller living space there’s more at stake than money: It is also about being more environmentally aware. Many people interested in this trend of tiny living are also concerned about conservation issues and creating a more eco-friendly way of life.

Who Benefits from Living Smaller

Living smaller is not going to be an attractive option for everyone. Actually, it’s just the opposite: According to a September 2014 article in Huffington Post, only 15 percent of all Americans would “seriously” consider living in a tiny home.

It’s a big adjustment – just consider size alone: The spectrum of small housing can run as modest as 100 square feet (“micro” structures) or to the widely accepted limit of 500 square feet. However, there are many small house devotees and builders that consider a home under 1000 square feet as acceptable for the category.

But there’s no comparison when it comes to the freedom from stuff and the sticker shock one gets just by opening the electric bill every month.

The cost of a tiny home – like a traditional home – will vary. When you factor in materials and labor the prices range from $23,000 to $50,000 according to EarthTechling. This also doesn’t include the cost of land. Yet tiny houses also offer the option to be built on trailers for easy travel.

Add in a few DIY skills and being creative when it comes to finding or repurposing building supplies and your housing costs can be as low as $300 to $500 per month.

Yet even with how much actual money you would save, only a small population would entertain the thought. Here is a breakdown within different age groups:

  • 18 – 34 years old: 19%
  • 35 – 54 years old: 15%
  • 55 and older: 11%

Of course each age group has something specific to gain from a tinier life: Young adults and recent college grads making their way in the workforce can be more selective on the job offer they accept, since they don’t need a higher-paying salary to live well.

Families who have their sites set on future college tuition bills have a better chance to save and survive any additional dips in the economy.

As for the “AARP crowd” living smaller could be a great way to downsize in preparation of becoming an empty nester or as retirement nears.

Where the “Tiny’s” Live

This “Tiny-centric” notion has sparked everything from websites (SmallHouseBliss), TV shows (Tiny House Nation), parodies (Portlandia), and numerous online communities (Small House Movement). However, this focus on compact living is not new.

Families throughout Europe and Asia have always been used to smaller living quarters – maybe 300 – 400 square feet. And any large urban area always has an ample supply of studio and convertible apartments.

However, if you’re seriously considering a freestanding, small house lifestyle, you might need to take stock in how to make that happen. Currently, only a few states and/or regions are tiny friendly. The good news is, your options are growing: The most forward-thinking region is the Pacific Northwest. Other options include villages in Sonoma and the Sierra Nevada region in California. In Spur, TX there’s a tiny community and on the East Coast, there’s a village in Flat Rock, NC.

There are even a couple of options to exercise your curiosity when in comes to tiny vacationing: The Caravan Tiny House Hotel in Portland, OR and Rutledge, Missouri’s Dancing Rabbit EcoVillage.

TinyHouseLife cites that 68 percent of tiny homeowners have no mortgage and 65 percent have zero credit card debt. With so many people living from paycheck to paycheck, living smaller and more simply can mean lower taxes, less house burden, and greater self-sufficiency. You won’t need a winning lotto ticket for financial freedom, just a couple of hundred square feet.

This is Why You’re Constantly Broke: A Look at the Major Causes of Financial Crisis

Each time you view your bank statement, your heart sinks a little. “Where does all my money go?!” It’s a valid question. You’re working hard, you’re trying your best to save money whenever you can; but still the same old financial crises can cropping up in your life. So why are you broke all the time?

Here are the major causes of financial crisis for the average adult:

Financial Enemy #1: Spending More Than You Earn

You might scoff at this one. It seems too simple. But spending outside of your means is one of the most common reasons why you’re broke all the time. How does this happen?

Obviously you know how much money you make. And you generally know how much money you spend. But more often than you probably realize, you’re spending almost as much as you earn, if not more than your earnings. It sneaks past you.

It can often start when you receive a bonus, an increase in commissions, a raise, or recently coming out of unemployment or getting a promotion at work… anything like that. You’re excited to finally spend a bit more money than you previously could afford. Then you adjust to that amount of spending, however small. You get accustomed to going out with friends each weekend, or buying that cup of coffee on your way to work each day as a little treat.

It’s always the small stuff that adds up to spending more money than you’re really bringing in. Then, that increased income may decrease again- they make cutbacks at work, you hit a slow season, or you have to pay off your car and it eats away at that increased wage.

Once you factor in necessary expenses like rent or mortgage payments, bills, taxes, gas, groceries, and so on, it’s not uncommon to find that you’ve spend almost the equivalent of what you earned.

Overspending is one of the major causes of financial crisis. Cutting spending is the best way to stop the cycle of perpetual broke-ness and frequent financial crises. The best way to combat accidental overspending and living outside your means is a budget.

Financial Enemy #2: Not Having And/Or Not Sticking to a Serious Budget

Oh, yes. But good budgeting skills are the first (and honestly the most critical) step for getting out of your financial crisis and back to saving and accumulating money. You’ll slowly work off debts and shake away those expensive interest rate fees that come with it, you’ll start to be able to put more money into your savings and retirement funds, and you’ll start to notice the massive decrease in your stress levels.

A personal budget requires time, effort, and a whole lot of willpower. But it’s worth it. You’ll start to see the effects within two weeks. At the end of six months of sticking stricting to a budget, financial possibilities that were never available to you before will begin to open up: maybe you could put a down payment on a home, begin to invest some money, start a college fund for your child, or finally afford to upgrade some things in your life.

Solid money management begins with a budget. You’ll find that spending within your means will make a major difference in your finances, and you can start to dodge these financial crises like a pro.

Financial Enemy #3: Your Money-Eating Vices

We’re not here to pass judgement. We’re just here to lay out the most common causes of being broke and in a financial crisis. And one of the quickest ways to get you to that scary financial state: your vices.

Nobody’s perfect. But the most common causes for major recurring expenses for Americans include:

  • Divorce
  • Gambling
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Dining out
  • Gas for your car
  • Entertainment expenses
  • More expensive junk food

Divorce is a common occurrence. It happens. But it’s also insanely expensive. It’s often more expensive than the wedding! How’s that for irony? Marriage counseling is expensive, but cheaper in the long run. Or consider holding off on tying the knot, or considering a pre-nup arrangement. The cold fact is: love (and divorce) is expensive.

Your little vices like buying a Powerball ticket at the gas station once a week or going out for a round of drinks with co-workers might not even come close to being classified as a problematic habit or addiction. It doesn’t have reach unhealthy levels for it to cost you too much money. Alcohol and gambling are expensive, particularly with tax hikes- even if you only do it in moderation. Cutting back on your little personal vices will amount to hundreds of dollars saved by the end of the year.

Getting your latte fix, going out for lunch, and springing for another candy bar from the vending machine are fun ways to treat yourself when you’re having a rough day. But they could also be costing you a lot of money. Bringing your lunch to work, brewing your own coffee at home, and packing cheaper snacks might not be as fun. Because half of the fun of having vices is that they’re occasional indulgences that feel special.

The problem with your vices comes when you partake in them on a fairly consistent schedule. Make room for the unnecessary expenses in your life that make you happy. Of course you should treat your friend to dinner on her birthday. Just make sure you’re aware of every time you spend money on non-essentials, so you can keep on track with your budget.

Cutting down on your vices starts with that budget of yours. If you vow to only order takeout twice a month instead of three times a week, or only buy desert at the restaurant on special occasions, you’ll be rewarded when you stop being so broke. Whatever your personal vice is, corral it ruthlessly on that budget and you’ll notice how much more money you were spending on it than you realized.

Financial Enemy #4: Undervaluing Your Piggy Bank

Remember when you were a kid and you stashed your allowance or paper route money away somewhere in your room? In a jar, in a piggy bank, or under your bed. You lovingly put quarters into your “savings” and lorded over it like Scrooge McDuck. You were careful about what you spent it on, and loved watching that piggy bank get fatter.

Carry that instinct for saving money into your adulthood. It’s hard when you feel like you’re living paycheck to paycheck, but saving money needs to be a priority.

You’ll have less money in your checking account, which can feel scary. But carefully putting small amounts of money into at least one savings account at regular intervals will prevent major financial crises later down the line. Most people don’t have money sitting around in case of emergencies. But what happens if you get into a car accident, and your only means of transportation gets totaled? Or you’re rushed to the hospital and your insurance doesn’t cover the expenses?

And let’s face it- you should already be saving for retirement unless you want to still be working the grind when you’re 70. Saving money seems hard right now. But make it as regular of a habit as paying your phone bill, and it’ll soon become a healthy part of your financial life.

Take a small percentage of each paycheck and deposit it into a savings account. Now don’t touch it- as tempting as it may be. Stick with a percentage instead of a weekly or monthly dollar amount. That way, if you have to take a paycut or have a sudden decrease in income, you won’t be struggling to continue to save money.

Whatever your reason for saving, remind yourself why it’s important:

  • “I’m saving for my kids to go to college free from crippling student debt.”
  • “I’m saving to become a home owner.”
  • “I’m saving so I can take care of my parents when they’re old and will need me to help.”
  • “I’m saving so I can free myself from debt.”
  • “I’m saving so I can afford to buy X, Y, or Z.”
  • “I’m saving so I can retire by the time I’m 50 and go pursue my dream.”

Make saving important to you. Suddenly, putting away that small chunk of your paycheck doesn’t seem so painful. You have a goal, and you’re going to stick to it.

Most of us aren’t taught good saving and money managing habits. It’s not like that’s covered in your required courses in high school- nobody teaches you how to be a financially stable adult… it’s something that you have to get good at on the fly. But luckily, there are tons of free online resources that can help you track your spending, map out a budget, automatically withdraw from your checking account into your savings account, and help you stay financially focused.

Saving money will prevent future financial crises, and you’ll never have to worry about being constantly broke again. As long as you have the budgeting/spending within your means down pat, saving money is an easy next step to take.

Financial Enemy #5: The Stuff You Can’t Fight

It happens. Everyone has some debt; big or small. Everyone struggles to manage their credit card carefully. Everyone has scary, unexpected stuff pop up that can’t be predicted or avoided… no matter how skilled with money you are.

  • Illness or injury
  • The death of a loved one
  • Damage to property
  • Getting laid off at work
  • Having a child
  • Financing a wedding
  • Necessary expenses to juggle
  • Tuition
  • Alimony or child support

Whatever is going on in your life, it probably costs money. And it often costs the most money when you’re the most emotionally vulnerable. It’s awful and unfair, but you have to deal with it.

Unexpected expenses happen to everyone. But it can either continue to make your broke and drag you into another state of financial crisis, or you can learn to prepare for these costly inevitabilities.

It’s frustrating and sad, but your employer isn’t going to give you a temporary raise to pay off your medical bills. Your insurance company isn’t going to pay for the storm damage to your roof without your rates going up. Your kid isn’t going to stop growing out of winter coats just because money is tight right now. Your mother warned you that money doesn’t grow on trees and that the world is a tough place. But what can you do about it?

Unavoidable, tough expenses like these are one of the major causes of individual financial crisis and money problems. It’s hard to rebound from these rough patches. So your best defense is a good offense, right? We’ll say it again: budget your money, spend within your means before financial crises like these come up, and have a strong savings account ready for emergencies like these.

It takes time to be financially equipped to handle difficult situations, which you won’t always have. But you’ll work and save hard in order to get your finances back on track in the aftermath, and then you’ll continue to save and budget until you have some emergency reserves built back up. Then you’ll be ready to handle the next financial crisis (hopefully in the very distant future) and you’ll be able to do so without coming up completely broke afterwards.

Again; it’s a process, but it’s a necessary one for you to break the financial crises cycle. You should have a general savings account, but you should also have a retirement fund and an emergency fund. The general savings account can help you save up for whatever. But a retirement fund is 100% necessary for obvious reasons: you aren’t getting any younger. And an emergency fund will be there to handle the (you guessed it) emergencies.

Now, instead of completely derailing all your hard work, you’ll have a stash of money devoted entirely to tackling the unexpected things that life throws at us. You won’t have to tank your savings account or your chance at retiring early.

Building up three separate stores of savings will take much more time. You might feel frustrated at the lack of visible progress when you check your account balances for growth. But it’s vastly better than wondering how you’re going to afford to replace the blue-screened laptop you need for work, and finding yourself in another financial crisis hole.

You can’t prevent unexpected expenses. They happen to everyone. That’s why they’re such a common cause of financial crisis and difficulty. Don’t beat yourself up about it: stuff happens, and next time you’ll be more financially prepared.

Why You’re Bad With Money and How to Fix It

Why You’re Bad With Money, and How to Fix It?

Are you bad with money? You might be even if you don’t want to admit it. When I say, “bad with money,” I mean you’re the type of person who never pays anything on time and often gets charged late fees. You never have any idea how much money you have in your bank account – especially after your bank bombards you with overdraft charges (that is if you have overdraft protection). You have credit card debt that is roughly equivalent to your yearly salary. You have no idea what interest rate your credit cards charge. Your voicemail box is full because you never listen to your messages – you know they’re from creditors looking for money. And you never even open your mail. If that’s you, then you know. You’re bad with money.

Some people don’t want to admit that they’re bad with money — it’s easier to ignore or pretend the problem doesn’t exist. Though your situation may seem hopeless, it’s completely reversible. You can turn it around. You just have to understand why you’re bad with money. After looking at all the reasons people are bad with money, we’ve found that there is definitely a connection between financial and emotional well-being.

You Shop When Upset

The frequent need for retail therapy guarantees spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need. It’s easy to see how this works. You feel down, you go buy something, you feel better. The next time you’re down, you remember how good it felt to buy something the last time, so you go shopping again. Only this time, you need to spend even more money to achieve the same high as the last time. And it continues. “Retail therapy” can turn into a full-blown addiction. Unless you control yourself, you’ll end up on the path to financial ruin.

Obviously, we have to buy things. But at the same time, shopping shouldn’t be a mood booster. Find another outlet, or go broke. Go for a walk or engage in some other physical activity. Research shows that exercise increases our brain’s production of endorphins, which are brain chemicals that help improve our moods.

You can also immerse yourself in a hobby or a home improvement project. Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time, so keeping your mind occupied takes the focus off your problems, and you’re less likely to shop when bored or upset. Just do anything other than go shopping.

You Didn’t Have the Best Financial Role Models

Children and teenagers often imitate the money habits of their parents. So if your mom and dad were bad with money, you might have difficulty managing your money. Maybe your folks relied on credit cards and didn’t pay off their balances every month. Or perhaps they spent every cent they earned and never saved an emergency fund.

It’s easy and convenient to blame bad money habits on our parents. But once you’re an adult and realize your money skills suck, you need to take responsibility and be accountable for your own actions.

There’s plenty of easy-to-understand personal finance information available online, including this site and many others. This includes personal finance blogs and websites that discuss every aspect of managing money from budgeting to buying insurance. And just about every major news program has a segment on managing your money. The information is available, but you have to look for it.

You’re Trying to Keep Up With the Joneses

You might also have money problems if you’re trying to keep up with your friends. It can be challenging if you earn less than your peer and can’t enjoy the same lifestyle. They might shop frequently, dine out three or four times a week, or take several vacations a year. In an attempt to keep up, you might go into debt or spend money you don’t have.

It’s important to realize that many people living the so-called “good life” are nothing but frauds. Sure, it appears like they have it all together — and some do. However, a large percentage of people finance their lifestyles and they’re up to their eyeballs in debt. You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, and the same people you’re trying to keep up with might receive daily calls from creditors.

Don’t fall for the trap of thinking you need what others have. The truth is, less is more — the less you spend, the more cash you’ll have in the bank.

This attitude that you should “fake it ’til you make it” can only lead to undermining your long-term financial goals. If you feel that your self-worth depends on how others perceive your financial status, it might be time to re-evaluate your priorities. We tend to evaluate others based on their personal qualities — their kindness, sense of humor, ability to listen. We should evaluate our selves on the same basis.

You Don’t Earn Enough Money

If you don’t earn enough to keep pace with the cost-of-living, you might pay bills late, get hit with late payments and deal with credit score damage. And when your credit score decreases, everything becomes more expensive from buying a car to getting a credit card.

Lowering your expenses is an obvious way to live within your means. This frees up cash you can use for paying off debt or increasing your savings. But if you lower your expenses and still can’t get ahead, it’s time to look for a side hustle or other ways to make money.

There are many reasons people do not earn as much money as they should. It’s easy to get trapped in a dead-end job. If you’re comfortable and don’t want the stress of a job search, you might put it off even if you’ve long out-grown your current position. Change is never easy.

Also, we often undervalue the work we do and, without an accurate assessment of our value, we cannot effectively negotiate a salary.

In today’s competitive marketplace and ever-changing industries, it is essential that we all adapt and learn new skills, sometimes new professions, in order to remain competitive. But often we so closely identify with our professions that we can’t even fathom changing. The good news is that it is easier today than ever before to learn new skills especially with the availability of free online training courses.

In closing here, I’m going to subvert Tolstoy’s principle on unhappy families: Everyone who is good with money is alike, but everyone who is bad with money is bad in his or her own way. Nonetheless, it almost always comes down to whether you’re happy with yourself regardless of your financial status. If you’re not, it won’t be easy to ever gain control over your financial life.

Expand Your Mind for Free With MIT’s OpenCourseware

Expand Your Mind for Free With MIT’s OpenCourseware

“The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.” -Dick K.P. Yue, Professor, MIT School of Engineering

Faith in humanity restored. America has finally joined the best universities of the world in the push to make higher education accessible to everyone: for free. Should education be free? Our vote is a resounding “yes”! MIT’s OpenCourseware agrees.

Other countries are offering their citizens free tuition for colleges, and free school available to anyone online. This online web learning has allowed poor, uneducated people living in rural areas the opportunity to receive a free education that could help them provide for themselves. Technology, agriculture, sciences, history, and any field of study is now available to learn online, and finally not just in countries with free education laws.

MIT is one of the most respected institutes of higher education in the world, and has developed their OpenCourseware system to pass on their wealth of knowledge to anyone, anywhere. Why not take advantage of it?

You Can Take Advantage of Free Higher Education and Study with the Best Universities of the World Online

You can study from MIT online with their OpenCourseware, and expand your mind for free. Their mission? “Through [OpenCourseware], educators improve courses and curricula, making their schools more effective; students find additional resources to help them succeed; and independent learners enrich their lives and use the content to tackle some of our world’s most difficult challenges, including sustainable development, climate change, and cancer eradication.”

There you have it, new MIT students. Go learn something new and change the world! When free higher education is available online for everyone, the world only stands to benefit from new innovators. Who knows… you could be the next of MIT’s OpenCourseware students to go on to do something amazing. At the very least, you’ll be expanding your mind for free without paying a dime in tuition. For people who’ve never had the chance to go to college due to the expense, the time, or the distance, this is a free and easy way to try something new and learn from the best.

Not everyone can attend MIT. But now everyone can attend their classes online… for free. Currently, their OpenCourseware includes over 2,260 of MIT’s courses. Turns out you can get a college-level education online and never have to worry about the student debt that’s crippling today’s college and graduate students. Education hack unlocked.

Join Other Students, Self-Learners, and Educators

You can read their stories here: http://ocw.mit.edu/about/ocw-stories/

With online students hailing from every country around the globe, everyone and their mother can get a top-shelf-quality MIT education from their smartphones. Educators are using MIT’s OpenCourseware as a tool to enhance their teaching, and kids in high school are getting a jump start by studying up for free online. Whatever your goal is, MIT’s OpenCourseware can help you get there with their wealth of free online web education material.

To check out their most-visited online courses, you can see a list here: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/most-visited-courses/

When higher education is just a click away, why not expand your mind in your spare time for free? MIT’s OpenCourseware is a great way to start studying with the best universities in the world, without leaving home.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Investment Games

Learn Trading and Have Fun These Seven Fantasy Investing Sites

Most of us aren’t on top of all the investment news or scouring financial websites on a daily basis. We just want to get better at learning the investing basics and manage our money a little better. Now, there’s a more fun way to practice your hand at trading and investing… without actually putting your money on the line. Whether you’re a veteran stock market shark or just wading in the investment kiddie pool with the rest of us, these seven fantasy investing sites and finance apps will sharpen your financial skills while having some fun:

1. Wall Street Survivor

Join a fantasy finance league and start trading virtually. You can read up on real investment news and personal finance articles, and they have a wealth of helpful videos uploaded daily that will help you master the investing basics before you jump in to the stocks game. Take quizzes as you learn, rack up badges and virtual cash, and share your fantasy financial earnings to your friends online.

2. Smart Stocks

Congratulations, you’re a millionaire. Smart Stocks hands you $1 million in virtual cash, and you can invest it as you see fit. Watch it grow, as every five minutes your portfolio percentages are scored against other players, so you can see how you rank. You can even create a group financial league and play with friends, compete against each other or against other groups. Get an office pool going and see how your trading skills stack up.

3. Market Watch

Market Watch lets you make up businesses to trade, which can be really fun. You can play publicly against others or in a group league, or privately if you just want to get some practice on the financial website. This game lets you customize your portfolio and stock trading options for a more unique, fantasy experience.

4. Piggybank Fantasy Stock Exchange

A great financial website for kids to learn investing basics in a super-cute way. It’s supported by the London Stock Exchange, and financially savvy kids will have the opportunity to win badges and prizes for their sparkling stock portfolios. It’s simple enough to teach the basics of investment, but can become advanced enough that it’s a fun challenge.

5. Investopedia Stock Simulator

Investopedia isn’t just the go-to website to learn more about lending. It also has a pretty intense stock simulator. Their investment game is for more experienced financial players looking to get a more realistic education and plan out what they should actually invest in using this financial fishtank. Not kid- or beginner-friendly, but a great resource for the more advanced stock market players.

6. UpDown

Just the UpDown app community and talk shop with other virtual investors online. Compare stats, watch trades, and track your progress over time. They have all the updates on global financial news, and articles to help you hone your investment skills.

7. Stock Wars

Compete with other “market” players on this realistic finance app to make the most money with your fantasy investments. Build up a stock portfolio, watch growing companies, and compete globally with other players. They haven’t released an Android version yet, but Apple users can play the app.

Fantasy Stock Trading… the New Fantasy Football For Savvy Investors

Let your next door neighbor waste his time on his fantasy football league. You can play any of these seven fantasy stock trading games on their (surprisingly fun) financial websites and succeed both virtually and in your IRL finances thanks to the stock market skills you can learn online for free. Happy trading!

Newest Deals August 23rd

Newest Deals August 23

The end of August means the last few days of summer, and retailers are cashing in on the last of their summer stock by offering some great deals for August’s last weeks. Here are the newest deals for August 23.

Outdoor Furniture

As the season comes to an end, a lot of the newest deals for August 23 are going to be in the form of outdoor furniture sales. Look to big box stores and stores that have to stock seasonally, such as Target or Crate and Barrel. Hardware stores like Home Depot will have some outdoor furniture they’re looking to ditch, too. Stores that specialize in outdoor equipment and online retailers aren’t going to have as good of savings – you won’t see reductions there until September or October.

Back to School Savings

Back to school sales won’t be the newest deals for August 23; those things have been going for a couple of months now. Unlike in June and July, though, kids are actually going back to school now, which means this is the last push for retailers to get something out of these deals. Since it’s the end of a pretty major sale season, you might not find the perfect backpack to match your kid’s ever-evolving style, but you can load up on supplies for the office and home at even greater discounts that you would have found when the sale started.

Budget Homeware

Back to school season also brings along the off to college season, when freshmen are piling up shopping carts full of inexpensive home necessities to get them started on dorm décor. You won’t find your 1,000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets getting marked down this time of year, but you will find plenty of deals on lower-grade cotton and jersey sheets for twin beds, along with affordable dish sets, storage containers, wall art, and even small appliances. Great for if you’re looking to redecorate a kid’s room, do some selective replacing of older goods around the house, or even get that mini-fridge for the office.

Hotels

Since more people are wrapping up their vacations now than starting them, hotels offer amazing end of summer pricing as some of the newest deals for August 23. Online booking sites such as Orbitz and Hotels.com report savings anywhere between 15% to 50% off this time of year, and many offer coupons on top of that to drop prices even lower. Just don’t expect airfare to come down with them; that won’t come around until the January/February low season.

Grills

Labor day is right around the corner, and retailers get a two-in-one combo of needing to push out the last of the summer items and having a holiday sale. That means ultra-low prices on grills and grilling accessories from in-store retailers such as Lowes, Sears, Home Depot, Target, and Wal-Mart. Just be sure to get yours before Labor Day actually hits.

So get those last bits of summer savings in now with the newest deals for August 23.

Newest Deals June 30th

Newest Deals June 30

June gets us deep into summer, and that means some of the best deals under the sun, if you know what to look for. Start your summer spending off right by tracking down the best deals for June 30, 2014.

Tools and Hardware

It’s past father’s day, and while summer is great time to DIY, a lot people provision that out for the spring. Look for early bird savings on tools today, since local hardware stores are going to try to edge out the July specials from larger chains like Home Depot and Lowes.

Swimsuits

It’s deep into swim season now, and retailers are starting to clear out their summer selections to get things ready for the coming fall lines. Swimsuits are prime summer wear, and stores generally hope that you bought the one you want before the season started. Since they need the shelf space now, swimwear is going to be highly discounted. Just remember that because it’s the end of the season, you won’t have the widest selection.

Dishes and Cookware

Warmer weather brings with it the start of wedding season and retailers know that cookware and dishware will be making the rounds on registries across the country. They encourage a bit of up-spending on these big ticket items by dropping the prices, the idea being that you’ll be willing to spend a bit more if it’s clear you’re getting a better deal. Take advantage and treat yourself to some new cookware while it’s still on sale, since these will start drying up as soon as July rolls around.

Women’s Lingerie and Intimate Wear

The Victoria’s Secret Semi-Annual Sale is a ubiquitous June event, and we’re in our last day of it. This widely popular sale doesn’t just mean discounts at one retailer, though. Big brands from Target to Macys all step up their game in June to compete, and on the last day of the month, it’s not hard to find deep discounts on women’s undergarments as retailers clear out the last of the sale items.

Laptop Computers

It may be summer, but retailers are already looking forward to the back-to-school season, and cashing in on college kids outfitting their dorms and desks. The end of June is when you’ll start to see back to school sales popping up online and in store, with low and mid model laptops getting big discounts.

Last Minute Cruise Deals

In the Atlantic, June marks the beginning of Hurricane season. Couple that with the tropical heat and many people opt for more moderate vacations, leaving the cruise industry with cabins to sell. Last minute cruise deals are abundant in June and July, and give you the chance to take a dream vacation for a fraction of the price, if you’re ok taking a small chance with the weather (remember that peak season won’t hit until later in the summer).

So there you have it. You can soak up the sun and the savings with June’s best deals today, and get a whole new bundle of savings when July rolls around tomorrow.

Four Tools to Help You Make the Most of eBay

eBay can be an exciting place to buy merchandise; and it can also offer a great way to make a few dollars by selling off goods that you no longer need.

Over time, eBay has developed a rich set of features that help its customers buy and sell goods. However, a number of third party tools have popped up that can help you make the most of eBay. These tools include:

  • PicClick – an online tool that allows users to browse eBay and Amazon visually. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this tool provides an interesting way of navigating both services.
  • STUFF ALERT – Looking for something specific on eBay, but can’t find it? Stuff Alert provides an online monitoring service that alerts you via email or SMS if an item matching your search criteria pops up.
  • Auction Bloopers – Listings with misspelled keywords typically don’t receive the same amount of traffic or attention as their properly spelled brethren. You can use this tool to ferret out auction listings that you might otherwise miss.
  • Prospector – If you’ve ever watched an eBay auction closely, you’ve probably noticed that most bids occur close to the very end of the auction. Typically called ‘sniping’, this tactic can enable users to nail auctions at great prices. Prospector automates this process; and also can help you search and find auction items.