How to Boost Your Finances in 2023

It’s always a good idea to look at improving your life in one way or another. But a new year does present a handy opportunity to step things up. While there are plenty of matters you can work on improving once January rolls around, there are few things better than giving your finances a boost. If you get this right, it’ll have real, long-lasting benefits, ensuring that you have the financial cushion you need to live a comfortable life. So, what are the most effective ways to give your finances a boost? We’ll take a look at a handful of solutions that should make a noticeable difference.

Ask For —And Get — A Raise

PC: Miguel Á. Padriñán

People seem to think that the amount of money they receive from their employers is set in stone. But it’s not. Your salary has been calculated by human minds, not by a force of nature. The salary they provide to you will largely be in their own interest, not yours. If it’s been a while since you’ve been given a raise, now is the time to ask, especially if you know that you’ve been doing good work recently. Most companies are happy to give them if they’re approached about it in the right way.

Cut Your Costs

Reducing your expenses is often as effective as earning more money. Saving 10% of your money is the same as getting a 10% pay raise. Most people are pretty cavalier spenders. They spend their money without fully thinking about it. While it can be fun to live that way, that approach is typically at odds with having a sound financial landscape. If you’re serious about improving your finances, take a close look at how you’re spending your money, and put an end to any unnecessary expenses. Your bank balance will thank you!

Get a Second Income

Most people think that their salary is their only source of income. But this shouldn’t be the case. It may be your primary source of income, but it shouldn’t be the whole thing. You can seriously bolster your finances by adding new revenue streams. There are plenty of options available to you! You could set up an online store, look at CFD trading, or invest in a property and make money through renting. You’ll find that taking these approaches doesn’t just improve your bank balance but also helps you to feel more secure since you know that you’re not wholly dependent on your salary.

Up Your Savings Schedule

Finally, could you look at increasing the amount of money that you put in your savings account? While there are plenty of ways to secure your financial future, the old, tried and tested method of just saving money is still the best. If you’ve been putting X amount of money into your savings account each month, look at increasing it to Y amount. You could also consider using a round-up app, which will automatically add money to a savings account every time you pay with a card.

Have you got other financial tips for my readers?

Do you have your financial plan for 2023 sorted yet?

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Exploring Goa through its Music: Guide to a Melodious Holiday

To a tourist, Goa is only about beach parties, water sports and affordable tipples. But a true traveller knows how to look beyond. The discerning holidayer will tell you to find Goa’s history in its architecture or cuisine, but few know that the legacy continues in Goan music as well. Avoid the tourist traps and discover the culture and heritage of the smallest state of India through its music. You’ll be surprised to learn that there is a side of Goa apart from Sunburn or EDM! Presenting, a selection of Goan music genres and some recommendations on where to enjoy them:

#1 Fado

A live Fado performance in Goa (Courtesy: Joe)

Fado is a unique musical form that finds its place on UNESCO’s list of intangible heritage items. A fado performance is generally melancholic in its theme. You will find a single female vocalist (the fadista) flanked by a couple of male guitarists during any live performance. At least one of the guitars is a fado guitar. The show is always intended to be intimate and not a crowd puller.

Only a handful of venues in Goa hold fado nights. Keep an eye out for the schedule and try your luck at the following locations:

  • Alfama (Cidade de Goa) at Vainguinim Beach
  • Madragoa in Panaji
  • Casa Portuguesa in Calangute

#2 Folk Music

When you think of music in Goa that dates back to the pre-colonial era, you’ll probably find yourself reminiscing about Konkani songs (mostly made popular with some Hindi lyrics added to the mix by Bollywood). While there are hardly any places that will let you hear the jovial folk tunes of the fisherfolk, you will occasionally find cafés and bars that hold a night of traditional music and dances.

You’ll often get to watch Carnatic and Hindustani Classical performances on the same evening as a Konkani gig. Catch the action live at:

  • Rudy’s Bar and Grill in Chapora
  • Gaia Hostels in Anjuna

#3 Jazz

A saxophonist during a jazz performance (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Jazz fans have plenty to look forward to in Goa as there is both a niche audience for this musical genre and talented artists who do justice to this artform. If you are new to jazz, remember that this form is usually devoid of any singing (and lyrics, per se). The purely instrumental performances focus on the skill of the musicians (and not on the oomph of the lead singer). Be ready to be swept off your feet by the power of the saxophone though!

While in Goa, you will find a plethora of venues to relax with some soothing jazz music in the evenings:

  • Firefly on Benaulim Beach
  • Soro – The Village Pub in Assagao
  • The Patio at Pizza Delizia in Arpora
  • Café Jazz in Candolim
  • The Rice Mill in Morjim
  • For The Record – Vinyl Bar in Panaji
  • Ciaran’s on Palolem Beach
  • Trevor Jazz Café in Vagator
  • Cantare in Saligao
  • Hideaway Café and Bar in Vagator
  • Jazz & Grills in Calangute

#4 Goa Trance

Goa Trance at a music festival

A spin-off of the western EDM (Electronic Dance Music), Goan trance is synonymous with psytrance (psychedelic trance). In fact, Goa is the birthplace of Goa Psy Trance – a subgenre that effectively captures the quintessential Goan style of partying. Expect a lot of synthetic music created by the DJs, with remixed beats and layered melodies on loop, coupled with some Arabic tunes. Trance parties are generally held away from the neighbourhoods and in areas well known for their party vibes. Along with the music, there is a significant amount of visual effects and dynamic light art on display at the clubs, which in themselves add to the mood of the night-long parties in Goa.

Several clubs and venues in Goa are known for their trance nights:

  • HillTop in Vagator
  • Showbar in Sinquerim
  • Shiva Valley in Anjuna
  • Club 9Bar in Vagator
  • Leopard Valley in Agonda
  • UV Bar in Anjuna

#5 Reggae

A reggae performance at the Goa Sunsplash (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Longing for something similar to jazz but with some lyrics to go with the music? Reggae is a genre you will love! Not so melancholic like your regular Blues, reggae can make you both think and groove at the same time. The lead singer aside, you’ll have a whole band of drummers, electric guitarists and bassists at any reggae concert. The popularity of reggae in Goa has also resulted in the Sunsplash Festival which is dedicated solely to this genre of music.

You’ll easily find places to listen to some live reggae music in the state:

  • Cohiba Bar & Kitchen in Candolim
  • Ciaran’s on Palolem Beach
  • Guru Bar in Anjuna
  • Reggae Haven in Cavelossim
  • Riva Beach Resort in Pernem

Other Genres in the Goan Music Space

Goans (and holidayers) are known to enjoy a range of musical genres. While the choices look similar to one another at times, the subtle differences between every two artforms go to show how discerning today’s audience is. Keep an eye out for R&B (rhythm and blues), hip-hop, blues, epic trance technopop, nitzhonot, psychedelic rock and even sufi music.

The music culture in Goa has grown so much and so rapidly that there’s no telling when a new sub-genre will pop up on the scene. Thanks to the ever-growing influence of travellers from all over the world, this tiny state has made a big impact on the country’s live music arena. You only have to visit Goa and spend hours at different music venues to discover how the musical landscape is changing here.

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What You Need to Know About Shipping Internationally

When you spend a lot of time travelling overseas, there are going to be many occasions that you’re likely to miss when it comes to your friends and family. It can feel a little isolating knowing that things are going on without you being able to be there, particularly if you find yourself somewhere for longer than you intended, due to the pandemic. However, postal services mean that you can still be a small part of somebody’s day by sending them a gift from wherever you are. Unlike local delivery, which is reasonably straightforward, international delivery can add some very specific complications. Here are some of the things you need to know about shipping internationally.

What is different about International Shipping?

Your gifts can reach people when you can't
Your gifts can reach people when you can’t (PC: Gabby K)

Overseas shipping requires a lot more thought than local shipping. The biggest example would be having to consider the price of postage depending on the location, secondary only to learning about what can and can’t be legally sent to various locations. If you send specific items that don’t comply with the local customs regulations, they will very likely be held up at customs. If you’re sending a gift to somebody, the last thing they’re going to want is to pay a customs charge for something that was sent to them. However, this shouldn’t put you off shipping items to friends and family overseas. Shipping internationally doesn’t need to be challenging. Nevertheless, plan ahead and make sure you’re up to date on the basics to make this beneficial service cost-effective to your business.

Learn What You Can & Cannot Send Internationally

What goes on behind the scenes when you transport via ship (PC: Julius Silver)

You cannot ship everything to every country for the same price. For example, if you’re sending gifts from the USA to family in the UK, the items will have to travel thousands of miles to reach the correct destination. There will also be some legal requirements for things that can’t be sent internationally. For example, some food items and weapons are illegal to transport. Each country comes with its own laws, and this will include different customs laws around what is and what is not accepted through the post. If these are not complied with, the products will get held up at customs. In the UK, products such as pesticides, matches and foreign lottery tickets cannot be legally shipped. Other products like fragrances and aerosols cannot be shipped abroad. So this is worth considering when it comes to choosing which gifts to send.

The Costs of International Shipping

It is not always possible to put a price on the worth of a gift.
It is not always possible to put a price on the worth of a gift. (PC: monicore)

In addition to the location, other factors of shipping costs should be considered. These are:

  • The size and weight of the package
  • How it is being sent (class, courier, recorded delivery, etc.)
  • How it needs to be packaged (e.g. polystyrene for delicate products v/s envelopes for clothing)

When shipping abroad, it’s always best to shop around for accurate quotes to get the best deals. There are other factors to think about too such as taxes and customs clearance fees. Using mail fulfilment services can help you avoid complications by going with a brand you can trust.

Have you ever shipped anything internationally?

Do you enjoy receiving packages from abroad?

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Photo Editing Hacks to Scale Your Influence as a Property Reviewer, Realtor or Travel Blogger

It is often the case that a place you have seen with the naked eye doesn’t quite appear that way in a photograph. If you are in the business of reviewing properties, dealing with real estate or even travel blogging, you will know the importance of editing pictures before they go live on your website or social media pages. It is a commonly known fact that pictures attract more eyeballs than written content. If you are new to photo editing or find it overwhelming to do anything beyond simple edits, this article is for you! Grow your credibility as a realtor, travel influencer or property reviewer with these simple yet effective methods.

Master the Art of Composing Pictures

Residency Lake Resort in Mulshi
Residency Lake Resort in Mulshi (after the edits)

Photo editing begins much before you actually sit with an editing app. You must begin with a view in your head before you click any photo because cropping cannot always give you what you’d like. Don’t be like those photographers who take hundreds of shots of the same scene without even knowing what they want. Photo composition begins with a vision. Aim to align together all the important elements that you want to capture in a shot. Even if you are not familiar with the ‘golden ratios’ and the ‘rule of the thirds’ when it comes to composing a picture, you will be able to tell the difference between something that looks well put together and a shot that is random or without a purpose.

Don’t Shy Away from Retouching

Upper Deck Resort in Lonavala (after the edits)
Upper Deck Resort in Lonavala (after the edits)

Retouchers are some of the most sought after people after photographers when it comes to professional shoots. Basic photo editing can only get you so far. If you wish to highlight some elements of a property while downplaying some others, you will either have to invest in a good retouching specialist or learn the ropes yourself. It is a misconception that retouching is only for fashion magazines to make models look younger and slimmer. Even dated buildings can look like swanky mansions when you play the retouching card right.

Pay Attention to the Lighting

It is for photo editing novices to make everything look bright. Sometimes, dimming the light sets the mood and hits the right notes with your clients when you are aiming for closed deals or more juice from your affiliate links. Move on from daylight setups and experiment with twilight or artificial light sources such as candles. If you are lucky to have enough natural light, take your pictures then. But remember that ambient lighting appears much better than sun-scorched walls. Sometimes, even a well-composed night shot will do the trick.

Use a Professional Photo Editing Service

A professionally retouched photo by Phixer

Photo editing is no joke, and you will come around to this conclusion only once you get your hands dirty. If you struggle with the concepts of aestheticism and would rather concentrate on your primary work (of writing about, critiquing or selling properties), leave the job of photo retouching to the experts. Sign up with Phixer – the #1 real estate photo editing company in the USA. With a TAT of just 12 hours, their team of 800+ professional photo editors help you transform the exteriors and interiors of any type of property. Apart from simple photo enhancement and retouching, Phixer lets you add or remove objects from the scene through virtual staging and renovation. Sign up with them to get 3 free real estate photo or video editing projects!

Take Videos Where Photos Can’t Do Justice

Room interiors are better shown through videos
Room interiors are better shown through videos

If you still haven’t jumped on the video bandwagon, perhaps you should do it now. Viewers and buyers trust videos more than still images when making their final decision of a booking or a purchase. Even as a facilitator, you will be able to show your property more comprehensively when you do a video tour. If you are shy to upload those amateur videos, trust Phixer’s professional video editing service to make them look like 4K Hollywood-style movies. Now, do more with your photos and videos – enhance how you and your brand are perceived!

Do you use any photo editor to transform your clicks?

Wish to share any other photo editing hack?

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3 Essential Items for Travelling Around America

A successful trip is often reliant on the items you include in your backpack. I personally prefer to pack at least a day in advance so I have sufficient time to get in all the essential things I might need on my journey. There are numerous horror stories of people who suffer awkward moments while travelling due to the lack of simple yet basic stuff.

Crater Lake in Oregon National Park, USA
Crater Lake in Oregon National Park, USA

Depending on the region you plan on visiting, certain items will come in handy during your trip. Always remember that the same packing checklist may not work for every weather or locale. You must revisit the list and tweak it for each new outing that you plan. Here are the three most essential items for travelling around America:

#1 Clothing

Weather patterns around the USA tend to reach both hot and cold extremes depending on the prevailing season. If you have a detailed itinerary of the locations you’ll most likely visit, checking the weather forecast to know the climate patterns will help you choose appropriate clothing. For example, if you plan on going up North where it is usually cold, carrying a light top and some cute shorts will make no sense. Instead, choose a variety of clothes suitable for different occasions. When in the right clothing, you are more comfortable, and travel is more enjoyable. Maximize on your packing space through the following hacks:

Use Packing Cubes

Cubes ensure you pack minimally and pick only the essential items for the trip. It is anyway wiser to travel light. They come in a variety of sizes, so you are free to select ones that best match your needs. If some clothes don’t fit, consider leaving them out.

Roll the Clothes

Whether you are using packing cubes or just a plain old suitcase, rolling your clothes leaves enough room for extra items. Another reason why rolling is better than folding your stuff – they do not wrinkle. That means, no fretting over creased clothes and no need to carry an iron box.

Don the Bulky Clothes

Some clothes often take up large spaces in your bag. That is why wearing such clothes, especially when they are in line with the weather of the destination, allows for more room. Heading out to ski? Wear the jacket and scarf instead of stuffing those into your overpacked bag.

#2 Accessories

Holidays are all about feeling good and looking even better. Accessories complement our style and hence, bring out the best look. An accessory can be footwear, jewellery, a handbag or a belt. When crossing different states in the USA, you notice a change in fashion trends. Thus, what is suitable in New York may be old in Miami. Be a step ahead of the fashion fad by incorporating different sets of accessories for each look. For example, you can pick a frame from to match your shoes or clothes. Tips for accessorizing include opting for a signature accessory or choosing one with a striking colour or pattern. Remember, the best accessories back up your style and do not dominate the entire look.

#3 Toiletries

Toiletries refer to items that are essential for your comfort and survival during a trip. Items like sunscreen, shampoo, soap, and insect repellent are valid examples. Although small, the components prove valuable when touring regions with diverse climatic conditions. For example, in hot, humid areas, sunscreen helps protect your skin. While most toiletries are prone to leakage and can be tricky to handle while on a trip, you should always ensure you have the essentials. At the very least, pack your toiletries inside a plastic bag to prevent spillage.

Final Thoughts

Travelling is therapeutic. However, the experience can turn sour once you realize you’re missing essential items and can’t easily access them. Have a checklist for the items you intend on carrying to avoid forgetting some. Essential items like clothing, accessories and toiletries should make it to the top of your list.

Do you keep a checklist before packing for a trip?

What item do you never miss to pack for a holiday?

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