Monday, July 12, 2021

MySQL - How to insert record if not exists to avoid data duplication

While coding an application with MySQL as database, you might come into this situation:

You want to insert a new record into a table, if and only if there is no existing record in the table with certain matching fields.

  • The matching field(s) need not has a unique constrain in your table structure design.
  • Your insert statement does not include value definition for the table's autoincremented primary key (the "id"). As usual, you just let the database engine to determine the value of the autoincremented field for you upon successful insert action.
  • You only want to check for duplication in certain field(s). The rest of the fields can be the same or different. Meanings, as long as all those fields you want to check are completely matching, it is considered a duplicated record, regardless the rest of the fields are matching or not.
  • In the event you have found a duplication, you just want to do nothing and skip the insert. This is different from another situation whereby you want to update the existing record with current one.
  • You don't want to mess up with the primary key (the "id") sequence. Meanings, if there is a match, you just abort the insert action without touching the table. The "id" sequence can continue with next insert, without jumping autoincrement number.
and here is an example of the SQL statement, with value fed by PHP variables:

INSERT INTO `payment` (`year`,`month`,`item`,`category`,`type`,`account_no`,`date_due`,`value`,`payment_mode`,`paid_by`,`status`,`owner`,`payer`) SELECT $year,$month,'$item',$category,'$type','$account_no','$date_due',$value,$payment_mode,$payment_option,'$status',$owner,$payer FROM DUAL WHERE NOT EXISTS (SELECT 1 FROM `payment` WHERE `year`=$year AND `month`=$month AND `item`='$item' AND `type`='$type' AND `date_due`='$date_due' LIMIT 1)

The table structure for payment is as below:


In the example above, you match on fields year, month, item, type and date_due in the table payment. Your insert statement will be executed if the select statement return no result, i.e. there is no matching record(s) fulfilling the search criteria.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

My Huawei Scale 3 body analyzer scale

I've purchased the Huawei Scale 3 body analyzer scale at the price of RM99 directly from Huawei Online Store during their recent online promotion. The RRP of this scale is RM149 during normal days.



This scale is operated by 4 AAA size batteries. When used by a single person daily, the batteries can last for about a year. When used by the whole family, they can probably last for about 6 months.


Beside body weight, this scale can also measure body mass based on bioelectrical impedance analysis. It can also measure our heart rate (a.k.a. pulse rate).
 
In order to get accurate measurements, you need to step your feet on top of its 4 ITO electrodes, and wait for the 3 readings showing on its surface by turn respectively.

Before using the scale, you need to pair it with the Huawei Health app in your smartphone, which you can download from either Huawei AppGallery, Google Play Store or iTunes AppStore. It is the same Huawei Health app that connect with Huawei smart watch, smart band, heart rate monitor, and other supported wearable devices by Huawei or Honor.


You need to use Bluetooth to do the initial pairing. The scale should be able to autodetected by the latest version of Huawei Health. After that, you can add in WiFi pairing.

With WiFi pairing, your scale can actually send the measurement data to the cloud, and then sync to your handphone that is connected to the Internet, regardless of the location of your handphone.


You can share your scale with up to 10 smartphones, each installed with Huawei Health respectively.

The scale can be shared with up to 10 users, such as your family members, each will have individual historical records, and the scale is intelligent enough to identify the right person based on past record readings.

In the event 2 or more persons are having similar weight, body mass index (BMI) and body fat rate readings, the app will ask you to identify the right person for the measuring records.

There is also a guest measurement feature to let anyone to use the scale and get the measuring and analysis result with your handphone, without saving the data as historical record. In this way, you can share your scale with your guest visitors too.

The app will need you to provide your correct gender, age (calculated from date of birth) and height information, in order for its Trufit body composition analysis algorithm that is based on big data and A.I. to provide you with more than 10 body indicators.

The indicators available are:
  • Weight
  • BMI
  • Body fat rate
  • Skeletal muscle mass
  • Visceral fat
  • Basal metabolic rate
  • Body water percentage
  • Bone mineral content
  • Protein percentage
  • Fat-free mass
  • Heart rate
Each of the indicators has own analysis and explanation screen to explain what are them in layman terms.

The app can also show you whether your weight, BMI and heart rate are respectively low, normal, slightly high or high.

Under the Body Composition section, it shows you the composition of your weight in kilograms, breakdown by water content, protein, fat, and bone mineral content.

Note that Huawei TruFit function is currently only available for adults between the age of 18 to 65. If you are under 18 or over 65, you can only get 3 results from the scale, which are your weight, BMI and your heart rate.

You can also set a goal in the app to achieve your desired weight. The app will inform you how far is your weight from your goal, and congratulate you once you've achieved your goal.


Saturday, June 26, 2021

My Jumper JPD-500E fingertip pulse oximeter with OLED display

According to a study led by University of Washington at Seattle researchers, a blood oxygen saturation level below 92% and fast, shallow breathing were associated with significantly elevated death rates in a study of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. (Click here to read the original source of the research paper)

Healthcare experts also mentioned that situation of happy hypoxia, or silent pneumonia, or happy hypoxemia, is known to be a complication of COVID-19, whereby the infected patient will have no obvious symptoms such as fever or cough. Measuring the blood oxygen saturation level is a method to reveal sign of COVID-19 infection for patient with such "silent" situation.

Recently, Singapore Temasek Foundation has announced to give one pulse oximeter to every household in Singapore, so that residents can monitor their blood oxygen levels regularly. The device checks the oxygen level in the blood and can help detect early signs of a deterioration in health. (Click here to read the original source of information)

Although my Huawei Watch GT2 is able to measure blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) level, its measuring process takes some time, which is a little bit inconvenient.

During the recent online e-commerce shopping spree, I decided to buy a pulse oximeter with the following reasons:

  • Unlike my Huawei Watch GT2, the pulse oximeter can provide instant reading.
  • It provides "second opinion" reading, so that I can counter-check and confirm the accuracy of the readings from both devices.
  • It can be easily shared among family members.
  • It is very easy to use, fool-proof, and simple for elderly people like my parents to use.
My criteria to choose a genuine medical-grade pulse oximeter:
  • It must be accurate. Although there are many cheap oximeters available in the online stores, I have read article that some of such oximeters come out with reading despite you trick it by putting a pencil into it instead of your finger (which it supposedly should not come out with any reading).
  • At least have a brand, and better be manufactured by a medical equipment manufacturer.
  • Certified as a medical device by CE and/or FDA.
  • With one year manufacturer warranty.
  • Budget below RM100, as I am pretty sure I should be able to get one with that price range.
and I had chosen the Jumper brand JPD-500E fingertip pulse oximeter with OLED display.


This pulse oximeter features an OLED colour screen display with 6 display modes in 4 directions. It is powered by 2 AAA batteries, which come together in the box. It also comes with printed user manual, a pouch, and a hanging stripe.

On its screen, it is able to show:
  • SpO2 reading (range: 35-100, accuracy: ±2%)
  • Pulse Rate (PR, range: 25-250 bpm, accuracy: ±2 bpm)
  • Perfusion Index (PI, a measurement of how "strong" is the pulse)
  • Photoplethysmogram (PPG, showing heart pump cardiac cycles)
  • Pulse bar (showing the strength of pulse)
  • Battery level


The pulse oximeter will start working once your clip your finger into it, and press on its one-and-only button. The readings shown are in real-time. It will switch off by itself after you remove your finger from it.

According to a research paper, if you are a right-handed person, you can get the most accurate value with your right hand middle finger; if you are a left-handed person, then you should use your left hand middle finger instead.



One feature I like about this Jumper JPD-500E pulse oximeter is that it is able to give an alert sound when its reading is detected to be out of normal range. This makes it really fool-proof, as you don't need to understand the readings shown on its screen. As long as it has reading and it doesn't give alert sound, you are quite OK. If it comes out with alert sound, then your reading is not OK, and you should take action on that, for example, to seek medical advice from your doctor.

The Jumper JPD-500E pulse oximeter is IPX 22 rated. It is not so waterproof and should be avoided to get contact with water. Anyhow, it is advisable to clean both your finger and the device with medical alcohol before use, for hygiene purpose, as well as to obtain better accuracy.

Regarding its accuracy, I find its SpO2 and Pulse Rate reading quite consistent with my Huawei Watch GT2.

Below is a photo of using both the devices together. You can see that the SpO2 reading is 1% different at that particular moment, as the reading will have a slight change of 1% from time to time during the measuring period. The Pulse Rate readings are both the same at 80 bpm.




Tuesday, June 8, 2021

My Niimbot D11 portable thermal label sticker printer

I had a Brother P-Touch 65 thermal label sticker printer in my household that served for more than 15 years. It was really handy to use. Recently, it had finally reached its end of life.

As its replacement, I have bought the Niimbot D11 portable thermal label sticker printer. If you are looking for a label printer under the price tag of RM100 that is capable of doing a lot of wonders, you can consider this too.


Niimbot D11 operates with internal rechargeable battery. You can recharge its battery with its USB port from wall charger, power bank, laptop USB port, etc.

Compared with most label printers that need 6 AA size battery to power up, this rechargeable type can no doubt save quite a lot of battery money, and also easy to get recharged. However, I think we can no longer expect its lifespan to last for many years without changing its internal battery.

The Niimbot D11 printer can't operate by itself. It needs to work together with the Niimbot mobile app which you can freely download from Google Play Store and Apple App Store. The app pairs with the label printer using Bluetooth connection.

I think this is a very brilliant way to unleash a lot of design possibilities to the printer, by letting us doing the design using the mobile app.

The label printer can be fed with different kinds of label sticker, of different sizes and different pre-printed patterns and designs. The printer is able to auto-detect the type of sticker you put in it. In case it has detected wrongly, you can also manually configure it for the right sticker type with the app.


Niimbot D11 can only print in black colour, but you can buy the pre-printed label base in colourful design, or normal white background, as well as in transparent background. Labels can be purchased from Niimbot e-commerce store, or inside the app (probably for purchase within China only).

Niimbot supports printing text in multilingual, multiple lines, multiple font sizes, different alignment styles. It also comes with many different types of font.


Among the supported languages are English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and others as shown in the diagram above.


However, you need to switch the language preference in the app before you can have access to the various fonts made available to that particular language. This is a limitation that I find quite cumbersome. Hopefully this can be improved in future version of the app.



The label design interface is WYSIWYG type, and entering text is very alike using a word processor.


Beside text, you can also add in graphics and artworks to the label. There are quite a lot of ready made icons in the app too.


In fact, Niimbot D11 supports many types of printing element, including barcode, QR code, table, graphics, etc.


It can even support batch printing from lines of entry in Excel file, and also printing of serial number, current date and time, etc. This could be useful in commercial usage, such as printing of price tag, production batch, etc.

The printing speed of this Niimbot D11 is pretty fast. However, its thermal label stickers are of fixed length with gap in-between 2 stickers in a roll. This will have limitation if you want to print super long text.

All in all, I find this Niimbot D11 portable thermal label sticker printer to be value of money, and it makes label design fun and easy, with many possibilities.



Thursday, June 3, 2021

Online check your latest COVID-19 vaccination appointment status

There are basically 3 ways to check your latest COVID-19 vaccination appointment status:

  • Check inside MySejahtera mobile app, under COVID-19 Vaccination function
  • Check with JKJAV website
  • Make a phone call to toll free number 1800-888-828
Using either one of the above channels, you can check for the vaccination status for yourself, as well as the status for your dependent(s) registered with your phone number.

The checking applied to both the conventional vaccination registration and also the voluntary AstraZeneca vaccine immunization registration in Malaysia.

Certain people found that even though they had successfully secured a slot for AstraZeneca vaccination, the appointment info is not shown inside their MySejahtera mobile app.

If you found yourself or your dependent to be in such situation, you can click here to double-check with JKJAV website, or make a call to 1800-888-828.


You will need to provide the identity no. of yourself or your dependent, and the phone no. that you've used to register your MySejahtera app.

After that, you should be able to see your vaccination appointment status on the next screen.



This information should be in sync with the same piece of information shown in your MySejahtera app. If they are not in sync, you should make a call to 1800-888-828 for clarification.


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Free post-vaccination insurance coverage for COVID-19 by Chubb

Chubb is giving out free insurance, provided to Malaysian citizens age 18-70 years old, without any charge or payment of premium needed, for COVID-19 vaccination.


You might have already received email from AirAsia BIG Rewards regarding this initiative, as AirAsia BIG Rewards is a joint-organizer for this "Complete a Survey,  Get Free 14-Day  Post Vaccination Insurance & Be Rewarded" campaign.

This insurance covers up to 2 times of COVID-19 vaccination within Malaysia, with approved vaccine taken on or before 31 December 2022.

The insurance benefits:

  • In the event of hospital confinement as a result of adverse reaction following immunisation (within 14 consecutive days from your most recent COVID-19 vaccination), a daily income of RM200 (up to a maximum of 14 days) can be claimed.
  • In the event of accidental death as a result of accidental injury within 14 consecutive days after each of your vaccination, an amount of RM5,000 can be claimed.
The coverage shall start upon your successful enrolment with Chubb by submitting an online enrolment form in their website. Note that the protection period is within 14 days right after you have taken your COVID-19 vaccinations.



Sunday, May 16, 2021

How much can you earn with Touch n Go eWallet GO+ account?

By now, you should be aware that there is a daily return earning account called GO+ inside Touch n Go (TNG) eWallet, which maintains a separate balance from the normal eWallet balance.

Unlike the normal TNG eWallet balance which has zero return, this GO+ balance enables you to earn daily return. Your balance will be seamlessly used to invest in money market fund operated by Principal Asset Management Berhad, which is a joint venture between Principal Financial Group and CIMB Group. 

Touch n Go itself is a wholly-owned subsidiary of CIMB Group, while TNG eWallet is a joint venture with Ant Financial.

You need to go through the eKYC procedure to activate the GO+ feature in TNG eWallet. If you haven't done so, and plan to activate it, you can use this referral code "7shwuw" during your GO+ activation.

You can cash in your GO+ account either directly from your bank account using FPX, or from your eWallet balance. You can cash out your GO+ money, also either directly to your bank account or to your eWallet balance. 

There is minimum and maximum daily limit for the 2 types of cash in and cash out, as should in the table below.


Your GO+ account also has a maximum balance limit of RM9,500 only. When you have reached the limit, you can no longer cash in more money to your GO+ account, but the balance inside your account will still earn daily return and continue to be added to your balance.

The daily return rate of your GO+ account is estimated to be within the range of 1.2% p.a. and 2.4% p.a. Most of the current time, it is between 1.4% p.a. and 1.5% p.a.

The return is daily rest, and the cut-off time is 4pm everyday. The daily return will be credited into your GO+ account around 1am in the next day.

So, how much return can you expect in your GO+ account? You can refer to the table below.


If your GO+ balance is below RM200, your daily return will be negligible. Therefore, it is advisable for you to maintain your GO+ balance above RM200 to have some meaningful return.
 
If your account balance is at RM9,500 and the daily return rate is at 2.4% p.a., you will earn about 62.47 sen each day.

Let's multiply the earning return by 30, you can then estimate how much you can roughly earn per month with an average daily return rate as listed in the table below.

The return amount might not be very impressive, but bear in mind that this rate is actually much better than bank savings account.


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

How much of your paycheck should you save, and why?

 

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash


“Save more money!” countless advertisements shout at you. “Put aside part of every paycheck!!” your parents scold. “Save as much as you can, or you’ll regret it later!” your financially savvy friends advise. 

Yeah, saving is important, but the above tips are remarkably unhelpful, aren’t they? You’re always left wondering, “How much of my paycheck should I save?” No one really seems to tell you the answer. 10%? 50%? What’s a good amount that will set you up for the future?

How much of your paycheck you put aside depends on your individual situation. There are no definite savings rules that will guarantee future financial stability, but let's go over a few guidelines that you’d be wise to follow.


How Much of Your Paycheck Should You Save?

So, the big question. When asking what percentage of your paycheck should you save, the general rule of thumb is that you should put aside 20% of each check. More is ideal, but anything is better than nothing if 20% isn’t possible for you. Try to stick to the 50/30/20 rule: 50% of your paycheck is for essential expenses, 30% is discretionary, and the remainder is for savings.


What Should You Save For?

Another big question is what kinds of things you should save for. “Savings” is pretty vague — the point is to have it in case you need to spend it, but what circumstances would require you to do so?

You should save for all sorts of expenses. Do you want to buy a new car but can’t afford one just yet? You’ll have to put a little bit aside every month until you can. However, it’s important not to drain everything you have, so you’ll need to save up enough that you’ll have a financial cushion left over.

A few other examples of expenses you should save for include:

       Retirement;

       Emergencies;

       Education (for your children or yourself);

       Vacations;

       Transportation;

       A home;

And other financial goals. Some of these expenses allow you to pay monthly, but you’ll need to have enough for a sizable downpayment. It may be in your best interest to have separate savings accounts, so you don’t overspend one or the other. You don’t want to be without your emergency savings because you opted for a more luxurious vacation.


What Kind of Savings Account Should You Use?

An important thing to remember is that not all savings accounts are the same. Most grow your money with interest, but some offer significantly higher rates than others.

For instance, your retirement savings should be in a traditional IRA (Individual Retirement Arrangement), a 401(k), or another kind of retirement account. Other plans exist, such as Roth IRAs and SEP plans (Simplified Employee Pension) that provide tax benefits or entail financial contributions from your employer. You want a retirement savings account that turns your regular contributions into a significantly larger sum that supports you when you stop working later in life.

Traditional savings accounts are what you are probably familiar with already. You can open these easily at any bank or credit union. The interest rates will be low, so don’t expect a small deposit to become much bigger in a few decades (maintenance fees may even cancel out any interest earnings), but they’re still safe places to store your money.

Money market accounts, however, offer higher interest rates, so you can earn more money just by depositing. They also allow you to write a limited number of checks per month and use an ATM card like a checking account. However, these kinds of accounts may charge monthly maintenance fees if you are below a certain balance, and they often require you to make substantial initial deposits.

Check out this link for other kinds of savings accounts.


How Long Will Saving Take?

How long it will take for you to reach specific savings goals depends on the size of your regular deposits (and, therefore, your income) and your annual interest rate. Depositing $200 a month into an account with an APY of .10% will get you to your goals much quicker than $50 a month with a rate of .05%. You can use this calculator to determine how long it will take you to save a certain amount of money based on your current balance and other factors.

Another complication is, well, remembering to save. An easy way is to set your online bank account to deposit part of your paycheck automatically. Another is to use financial apps that send you reminders. Earnin, for example, offers an opportunity called WeWin, where you could win major prizes simply for remembering to save a small amount of money every day.

Saving money can seem more complicated than it should be, and you’re not alone if you feel that way. If you don’t know how much of your paycheck you should save every month, start with whatever you can afford (preferably a minimum of 20%), and open your account as soon as possible if you haven’t already.

 

This article originally appeared on Earnin.

 

Please note, the material collected in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as or construed as advice regarding any specific circumstances. Nor is it an endorsement of any organization or Services.

 


Friday, April 23, 2021

8 expenses to factor into your home budget

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash


Your home budget, also known as your household budget, is the money you set aside that will go toward essential living expenses. It’s critical to budget your finances to only spend what you can afford and reach your savings goals. 

You can guess what kind of things go into a home budget: rent or mortgage, groceries, savings, debt repayment, utilities, etc. However, people sometimes forget to factor the following expenses into their budgets, which catches them by surprise and forces them to reallocate their spending. Keep these costs in mind when figuring out how to budget your monthly paycheck and savings:


Transportation & Parking

You know you’ll need to pay for your vehicle each month if you own or lease one, but what about gas? Parking? If you don’t own a car, then how much does public transportation cost in your area?

According to Student Loan Hero, the United States' median household income was $61,937 in 2018. Households that earned this amount spend an average of $763 per month on transportation, including gasoline and car payments. Public transportation is cheaper, but again, it depends on where you live — you still might spend as much as $160 per month if you exclusively use Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco.


Insurance Premiums

Insurance premiums are a significant hit on your wallet, but they’re necessary to have. Health and car insurance go without saying, but you may owe mortgage insurance if you put less than 20% down when purchasing your home. There’s also life insurance, personal insurance, contributions to social security, and more.

It’s difficult to calculate how much the average person in the U.S. spends on insurance because people’s situations vary tremendously. You might be lucky and only spend a few hundred dollars a month if you live in an inexpensive state and only need the basics. If you need more, then you could spend well over a thousand. Other factors affect your insurance premiums, too, such as your age, marital status, job, and education level, so combine all kinds of insurance you need to pay for when calculating your monthly household budget.


Out-of-Pocket Costs and Emergencies

Insurance doesn’t cover everything, though. Medical care is notoriously expensive in the U.S., so you should be prepared to pay out-of-pocket costs that exceed the scope of your health plan.

Disasters strike in other ways, too. Hopefully, it’s small — maybe you spilled coffee on your only nice shirt and need to buy a new one for work — but it might be an outright emergency, such as someone robs you or a natural disaster impacts your home. It’s crucial to have emergency money set aside to cover an irregular or unforeseen circumstance.


Pet Care

You budgeted to feed yourself, but what about your pet? These costs might be low if all you need to buy is food every month and a few toys that last you a year, but vet bills can be expensive if your animal friend has health issues. If you prefer to outsource much of your pet care, you should budget much more to account for sitters, boarding, and walks. Of course, pet care expenses depend on the kind of animal you have, so anticipate how much financial TLC your pet will need.


Subscriptions and Memberships

Subscriptions and membership fees on auto-renewal can sneak up on you. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ve planned your budget for the month perfectly, only to be hit with a $15 Netflix bill you forgot to account for. These costs shouldn’t be out-of-sight, out-of-mind, so keep track of streaming services, subscription boxes, or shopping memberships you pay for.


Fees, Fees, and More Fees

Fees are everywhere. They’re like pests you can’t seem to get rid of, but you forget about them when they’re not in the room. Make a list of all the fees you might need to pay throughout the month, including:

       Bank account maintenance fees;

       ATM fees;

       Overdraft fees;

       HOA dues;

       Credit card fees;

       Late fees;

       Monthly service fees.

 

And more. There are ways to avoid or reduce many of these, but don’t buy something you don’t need if a fee will hit you later and you’re living paycheck to paycheck.


Home & Vehicle Maintenance

It’s rare for everything to work as it should, especially if you can’t afford high-quality goods that last longer. Expect to pay for vehicle upkeep, appliances that stop functioning, and fixing potential damage. These costs are related to your emergency funds, but paying for regular maintenance will (hopefully) prevent actual emergencies from happening in the first place.


Different Kinds of Savings

Save as much as you can. Don’t forgo leisure entirely — it’s important to your mental health to have fun, and you deserve to — but besides general savings accounts, remember to save to buy a house, pay for college (or someone else’s education), emergencies, retirement, and more. Your monthly contribution to each may vary, but having substantial savings will set you up for major purchases later in life.

Budgeting is an essential skill. You can use a budget finance app if you need assistance, but remember to factor in every possible expense to avoid tight situations.

 

This article originally appeared on Earnin.

 

Please note, the material collected in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as or construed as advice regarding any specific circumstances. Nor is it an endorsement of any organization or Services.


Monday, April 12, 2021

Repaired scratch on touchscreen HVAC surface with Polywatch scratch remover cream

Having a touchscreen HVAC control panel in your car might look cool, but the touchscreen is vulnerable to accidental scratches too.



One day after a car wash, I found an obstructive scratch on my car's touchscreen HVAC control panel.

How to remove the scratch line and restore the touchscreen surface to be as smooth as before? I found the German-made Polywatch scratch remover cream to be a good solution.

The Polywatch cream looks like toothpaste, and comes in tiny 5 grams volume. But that amount of cream is enough for it to be applied multiple times.


I think it is named as Polywatch because it is originally formulated to polish and remove scratches on watch surface. In fact, it can be used to remove fine line scratches on smooth glass, acrylic and plastic surfaces. It works especially well with plastic surface.

It can magically eliminate tiny scratches and restore the surface to be as smooth as before. However, it might not work too well for deep scratches.

Polywatch works by slightly dissolving and grinding down the target surface to smooth the edges of the scratch and fill the gaps with the dissolved material, therefore restoring it to unscratch condition.

Using Polywatch is pretty easy. Just clean the target surface, make it dry and dust free, apply some Polywatch cream on the scratch, and polish it with a piece of microfibre cloth or cotton wool.

If you are facing similar problem of having obstructive scratches on glass, acrylic or plastic surfaces, you might give Polywatch a try.


Monday, April 5, 2021

How to stay calm when dealing with financial stress

 

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Have your money problems become so dire that you find yourself searching “I need financial help immediately?” We get it. You’re in a tight spot, and you’re panicking. Hearing that you're not alone doesn’t really help, and you aren’t sure what to do while you’re not thinking clearly.

Take a breath. Financial stress can be overwhelming, but you have more resources and options than you know. However, we need to get you in the right mental space first. Let’s go over some ways to keep yourself calm so you can tackle your financial problems with a clear mind.

Identify the Problems and Make a Plan

One of the reasons why money problems can seem so daunting is the mystery of them. Of course, besides the obvious answer that you don’t make enough money to pay your bills, financial difficulty can have other sources. It might be your spending habits, a past mistake, a misunderstanding of the financial system, or something else. Those you can address right away.

Look over your financial statements and try to identify where the problem lies. Are you spending too much on unnecessary items? Does your paycheck come in too late? If the former is the case, then make a budget that ensures you can pay off your debts before spending anything on excess leisure items. If it’s the latter, then you have more control over when you receive your income than you may know: apps like Earnin allow you to access up to $500 of your paycheck per pay period, giving you time to pay your bills before incurring late fees.

Improve Your Financial Literacy

Next, make an effort to educate yourself about financial topics. Books about personal finance are a great place to start, such as Personal Finance for Dummies, along with blogs about related subjects. Take advantage of free or inexpensive financial literacy courses online or from your local community college. The more you know about the financial system, the more prepared you will be, and the less scary your money problems will seem.

Talk to a Professional

Consult with a credit or debt expert for practical advice regarding your situation. A professional can help you perform the steps mentioned above and guide you through the remainder of the process, including making a concrete debt management plan. Having someone in your corner will bring you peace of mind.

Besides a financial expert, another kind of professional you should talk to is a therapist. Regular conversations with this kind of expert will help you navigate the emotional aspects of financial stress. If your habits are partly responsible for your situation, then hopefully, a therapist can help you change those, too. You can find free and low-cost therapy resources here.

Avoid Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

People struggling with financial difficulty sometimes resort to bad habits to deal with stress. Unhealthy coping mechanisms will only exacerbate your situation in more ways than one. Avoid the temptation to spend even more money (this is not the time for retail therapy), eat excessively, drink alcohol, or abuse other substances. Call SAMHSA’s free national helpline at 1-800-622-HELP (4357) if you feel that you are about to engage in harmful or addictive behavior.

Practice Mindfulness Exercises

Instead, practice mindfulness exercises to cope with stress in a healthier way. You can replace bad habits with good ones or start practicing mindfulness immediately to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms to begin with.

Breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and other activities can help you center yourself and stay grounded. They don’t alleviate your money problems, but you can use them to change your perspective and attitude toward your situation. Other stress-relieving activities include going for a walk, spending time in nature, creating artwork, hugging someone, playing with pets, and learning how to talk about yourself in a more positive light. Dwelling on your stress isn’t productive, so put your energy into something wholesome if you are unable to relax.

Keep Track of Your Progress

Keep track of your progress as you take steps toward addressing your financial problems. Not only is doing so necessary for the process itself (you should keep a careful record of the money you spend and the debt you pay off) but celebrating small goals is beneficial for your mental health. Take pride in your little victories. Keeping track of your progress puts your entire financial situation in perspective, motivates you to push forward, and makes your circumstances seem less bleak.

Remember: financial difficulty is not a moral failing. The money system is complicated and underserves the under-educated and a vast majority of people. Take advantage of the resources available to you and believe that you have what it takes to turn your situation around.


This article originally appeared on Earnin.

 

Please note, the material collected in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as or construed as advice regarding any specific circumstances. Nor is it an endorsement of any organization or Services.


Monday, March 22, 2021

7 of the most practical ways to save money

 

Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

 

Are you trying to be better about saving money? You’ve heard the same advice, time and time again: spend less. But the question now is, how? “Spend less” is vague, and you have expenses to pay that you can’t just eliminate, as much as you’d like to. Here are seven practical ways to save money, and not all of them entail making sacrifices:


Save in Small Increments

Perhaps you struggle with saving money because you always forget or don’t know how much to put aside. When your paycheck comes in, do you immediately put a certain percentage in a different account that you don’t touch regularly, or do you let it all sit in one account, waiting to be spent? 

Start by saving small increments. $2 to $5 will add up over time if you do it frequently enough. Instead of logging into your online banking account every time you want to add a few dollars into your savings, you can use third-party apps that make small transactions easy. For example, you can use Earnin’s Tip Yourself feature to save a small amount of cash, and assign tipping yourself to a positive behavior (such as working out), so you remember to do it often.


Snowball Your Debt

A significant part of your money-saving plan should be paying off debt. Identifying where to start eliminating debt can be just as tricky as figuring out how to save more money, so experts suggest employing the “snowball” technique. As a snowball rolls down a hill, it grows larger as it accumulates snow and momentum. You can apply the same concept to your debt and begin with the smallest amounts.

It sounds counterintuitive, but by paying off your $500 credit card debt before tackling your $5,000 loan, you glean a sense of satisfaction and practice better financial habits. If you pay off $500 of your loan, you still have two debts and two interest rates. Knock one out of the way by starting with the smaller debt and build enough momentum to pay off the other.


Audit Your Expenses — Then Trim Them

Conduct a thorough audit of your expenses to see where your problems lie (besides not earning enough money, of course). What are the payments you cannot avoid, and what are the costs you could do without or somehow reduce? We’re not suggesting you cut out leisure entirely — recreational activities and entertainment are important to everyone’s mental health — but if you’re spending money on something you don’t use or that doesn’t bring you happiness, put that money toward your savings instead.


Cancel Monthly Subscriptions

While subscriptions are convenient because you don’t have to think about paying the bill each month, they can be a sneaky expense that drains your account for no reason. If you watch a Netflix show in June and August, why pay $15 for July? Don’t be afraid to cancel subscriptions, even if you know you’ll resume using the service in the future. 

Be wary of year-long subscriptions, too. Don’t bother paying the fee for Amazon Prime if you’re only going to order something a few times per year.


Forsake Brand-Name Goods

The appeal of brand names is enticing, but it’s often manufactured. Generic goods can be just as high-quality as brand-name varieties. Omitting the price difference from your monthly expenses can result in significant savings. If a designer's shirt costs $100 but is hardly better than another of the same style that costs $20, go with the latter and don’t pay for novelty.

However, some brands do use higher-quality materials and put more effort into their products. It’s good to invest in longevity, so you aren’t buying the same product over and over again, so research what companies you buy from and whether the extra cost is worth it.


Call and Negotiate With Your Providers

It might not have crossed your mind to call your various creditors and providers (such as your credit issuer, mortgage lender, health insurance provider, internet provider, etc.) and ask them if they are willing to reduce your bill or interest rates. Why not? What they charge you isn’t fixed, and it never hurts to ask. The worst thing they can do is say no, so pick up the phone (you may have to call around to find the right person) and negotiate lower interest rates and fees. Hopefully, they want to keep you as a customer enough to grant your request.


Convert Money to Time

Saving more and spending less requires thinking about money differently. When you see an item you want to buy but aren’t sure whether you can afford it or not, try thinking about the price in how long it would take to earn that money back. For example, if you make $17 an hour and want to purchase a new coat that costs $65, that’s almost four hours' worth in wages. Changing your perspective will help you align your spending habits with your budget more effectively.

Your financial health will be in a much better place if you know how to save more money. You may have to make some lifestyle changes, but there are other practical ways to reduce your expenses and pocket what you earn.

 

This article originally appeared on Earnin.

 

Please note, the material collected in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as or construed as advice regarding any specific circumstances. Nor is it an endorsement of any organization or Services.


Hint: Click on the "Older Posts" link to continue reading, or click here for a listing of all my past 3 months articles.