Xero Accounting: An Alternative to QuickBooks – A Review

When you are common person trying to keep track of your money, sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming. On the other hand, we are so busy with our professionals and personal lives; it is hard to keep a book that manages your cash flow.

Xero Accounting solves the problem for you. It is online software that is an alternative to the QuickBooks. It not only smartly manages your money but keeps you up to date about all changes. This way you have the peace of mind as you know what part of your money went where. Moreover, since it is online, you can have access to it from anywhere and any device.

Benefits of Xero Accounting

Online

The platform can be accessed any time from any place. All you need is an account and you are good to go. Therefore, you never lose track of your money.

Real Time View

Xero Accounting allows you to have a real time view of your money. Your entire cash flow always remains updated so you there is hardly any risk of making a calculation mistake.

Integration

Xero Accounting is capable of working in combination with multiple applications. You name the business app and Xero Accounting can be integrated with it. You have the option to work Xero Accounting in combination with more than 500 business apps.

Features of Xero Accounting

Reconciliation

You can import your latest bank account details to your Xero account. This way you can keep track of your credit card transaction without hassle. You will no longer have to continuously manage receipts and check your balance sheet every month. Moreover, you can also keep track of your PayPal transactions.

More than 500 Tools

You will find more than 500 useful tools within Xero Accounting. Each tool has been designed to increase your convenience. Tools like time tracking, inventory and invoicing are just a few. Those tools will help you when you need to work on your books.

Manage Bills and Expenses

With Xero Accounting, you will never lose the deadline of a payment. It keeps you updated about when you have to pay your bills or any other expense.

Payrolls

If you own a small business, then Xero Accounting will be your ultimate partner. With this online and smart platform, you can easily calculate payrolls for your employees without hassle.

Tracking Inventory

If you are having trouble with inventory tracking for your business, you need to give Xero Accounting a try. You can easily track your sales and purchase using its smart interface.
Managing money has never been this easy. Xero Accounting offers a simple but intelligent platform for accomplishing all of your money related tasks. It is perfect for someone who does not have a deep knowledge of accounting. Xero Accounting is feasible for small business owners as well. When you have a sound knowledge of how your money is coming in and going out, it becomes easier to make relevant decisions to increase profit and savings.

If you’re interested in trying Xero Accounting, check them out here.



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Cuba Q & A

Cuba Q&AThis post contains affiliate links. Feel free to view my disclosure here.

What’s up y’all? Cuba week continues on The Butler Journal. I hoped you enjoyed reading Tuesday’s post about my experience in Cuba. A lot of people were asking me questions about my trip as soon as I got back. I decided to do and question and answer post so that I could put all the answers in one place. If you’re considering going to Cuba, this post is a must read. Let’s get things started with the first question.

Where did you get your airfare?

I booked my flight n Southwest.com

How long did it take for your visa to go through?

If you book your flight with Southwest, they will send you a link where you can order the visa. If you order it 72 hours before your flight, you can pick it up at a will call desk at the airport in Fort Lauderdale or Tampa (It depends on which one you’re Cuba flight is departing from). You can purchase it at the airport, but the process will take much longer. I wouldn’t risk it.

What are the conditions of getting a visa?

On the website, you have to select your reason for going to Cuba. Then, you just enter your name, flight date, flight number and Southwest confirmation number.

Do Cubans like trap music?

I really couldn’t tell. The music in the video was from my phone. During he other parts of the trip, I didn’t hear any trap music.

How was the food? What did you eat and drink?

The food wasn’t all that special. Maybe I didn’t go to the right spots, but a lot of it was bland. I had pasta, seafood, veggies, rice and beans, and a Cuban sandwich. I drank water, rum, beer and whiskey.

Favorite thing that I ate and drank?

The restaurants that I suggest are Biky’s and El Trofeo. I had some great shrimp and pasta at Biky’s. My favorite thing that I drank was their local beer. It’s called Cristal. It’s very popular over there.

What were the prices?

The food and drinks were very affordable. Most meals were under $10 CUC (Cuban currency). The drinks were cheap. The beer was  $1-$2 CUC. The rum and whiskey drinks cost between $2-$4 CUC. Those are not happy hour prices. Those were the regular prices.



What type of visa did you get?

Cuban tourist visa

How long did it take for your to get it?

I ordered the visa on the link that Southwest provided on December 12th. I picked it up at the airport on December 18th.

What documentation did you provide?

I showed them my receipt and my passport at the airport.

Did you have to send in your passport?

No

What happened when you arrived in Cuba?

They took one-half of the visa in customs and told me to hold on to the other part. I’d have to turn that one in on my departure from the country. They stamped my passport. No one said anything once I got back to the states.

What do things cost such as hotels, soda, and a candy bar?

Hotels are pretty expensive over there. A lot of them were charging $300 or more per night when we went. Their most popular soda was called Tukola. It was under $1 CUC in most places. Snacks were under $1 CUC.

How’s the internet? Is working from there an option?

The internet was horrible. There are Wi-Fi locations in Vedado and Old Havana. You have two choices for getting online. The first option is to go to one of the hotels that have it and buy an internet card. We went to the Habana Libre three times to use the internet. It costs $5 CUC per hour. It works but be prepared for that hour to go very fast.  The second option is to purchase an internet card from a shop near some of the Wi-Fi places. It costs $2 or $3 CUC for an hour. The internet connection will probably go in an out though because it doesn’t have the strongest signal. Because of the price and lack of a strong signal, working from Cuba is probably not an option at the current time.

Where did you stay?

I booked an apartment on Airbnb. It was the most affordable option. I was also able to get a $35 discount because it was the first time using them. If you’re interested in using Airbnb and getting $35 off your first stay, click on this link and sign up today. The apartment was big enough for 3-4 people. I had a decent sized living room and kitchen. It also had AC. Some places in Havana don’t have AC.

What kind of camera did you use to take your pics?

I used my phone which is a Motorola G4, and I also used a Go Pro Hero 4.

Do you have any recommendations?

Plan your trip today. You have to do a tour in one of the old school cars. You also have to try some rum and smoke a Cuban cigar. Smoking isn’t my thing, but I was in freaking Cuba. I had to do it.

Do you have any other Cuba questions? Have you ever been there before?

 

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My Trip to Cuba

In December, I had the chance to use my passport for the second time in four months. In August, I went to Costa Rica. This time I went to Havana, Cuba. With the United States and Cuba easing travel regulations, I knew this was the time to visit. I wanted to see Cuba while it still has its original Cuban flavor. Who knows what will happen in a few years? It could become Miami south.

The first thing that I want to tell you is that Americans cannot freely go to Cuba yet. Your trip has to fall in one of these 12 categories:

  • Family Travel
  • Official Government Business
  • Educational Activities
  • Journalistic Activity
  • Professional Research & Professional Meetings
  • Religious Activity
  • Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops and other Competitions
  • Humanitarian Projects
  • Support for the Cuban People
  • Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of Information
  • Activities of Private Foundations or Research of Educational Institutes
  • Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

If your trip doesn’t fall under one of these, you won’t be allowed in the country.

I flew with Southwest Airlines. Once you book your flight, they will send you information on how to obtain your visa. That’s right; you need a visa to get into Cuba. With Southwest, the Visa will cost you $50. I’m not sure how much, the other airlines charge for it. You may be able to get it cheaper if you take the time to look for it. My trip was a little less than a month away at the time the tickets were booked, so getting a visa through Southwest was the best option for me.

My flight itinerary to Havana was pretty simple. We flew from ATL to FLL and then from FLL to Havana.  When we got to Fort Lauderdale, we had to go to the first floor of Terminal 1 to get our Visas. This process was very easy. From there, we took our bags to the special check-in area for Cuba. The flight from Fort Lauderdale was about an hour.

Jose Marti International Airport

This was only my second time flying out the country. Jose Marti International Airport was much different than my home airport (Hartsfield-Jackson). Once we landed, the workers brought the air stairs to the tarmac, and we deplaned soon after. The airport wasn’t busy at all for it being late afternoon on a Sunday.  Getting our bags was easy, but converting currency took two hours. There was only one window open. She took her damn time and also allowed airport workers to cut the line several times. That pissed me off just a little bit.

The American dollar is charged a 10% penalty and 3% exchange rate at the airport. After those charges and a small fee $400 became $345.20. Fifty-five bucks were gone. The good thing was that I was prepared for that to happen. Cuba has two currencies. The first one is the CUC. That’s the currency that all the foreigners will be given. The CUP is the money that the locals use. It’s worth a lot less than the CUC; so much so that they don’t even give it to foreigners. When you’re getting change back from stores or restaurants, pay close attention and make sure that you are getting CUC’s back.

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$1 CUC

Lodging

During my time in Cuba, we stayed at someone’s apartment (Casa particular). It was located in Central Havana near Vedado. The room was booked through Airbnb. The apartment was nice. It was clean, had enough space and it also had air conditioning. I went the Airbnb route because hotel prices were a little high in December. Booking that apartment through Airbnb was a fraction of the price. My trip was from Dec 18th – Dec 22nd. The price of the apartment was $77 total. I had a $35 discount because it was my first time using Airbnb. That’s the way to go. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, I’d suggest you try it. You can get $35 off your first stay by signing up for Airbnb with my link here.

For the most part, the weather was great. The highs were in the 80’s, and the lows were in the high 60’s. It did rain a little bit, but we were able to dodge it for the most part.



Getting Around

Taxis are the way to get around. A taxi from the airport to Central Havana should not cost you more than $30 CUC. Most of our taxi rides around the city were under $10 CUC. The owner of the apartment that we stayed in referred us to a cab driver that she does business with. He took us to and from the airport and to a few other locations.

A lot of the old school cars that you see on TV and online are used as taxis. The cars were nice to see. When you see them every day, you will feel like you’ve been transported back in time.

cuban-taxi

Cuban Taxis

Things to do

Cuba has a lot of stuff to do. Here are a few of the things that I did during my time there.

23rd Street/Calle 23 (La Rampa

Calle 23 was one of the popular streets in Vedado. There were restaurants, shops and people everywhere. The Habana Libre hotel is located at one of the corners of Calle 23. That hotel has Wi-Fi that people can use. It costs five dollars an hour, though. I spent $15 on internet during the trip.

The Malecon

I could see the Malecon outside of the apartment that I stayed in. The Malecon is a large seawall where a lot of the locals go to relax and chill. We were so busy that we didn’t even get a chance to walk over to it.

Take a Tour

Taking a tour in one of the old school cars is a must! The tour that we did cost $40 per person. It was worth the price. Our tour guide spoke English. He took us through five of the districts of Havana which are Central Havana, Old Havana, Vedado, Nuevo Vedado, and Miramar. We also saw a lot of attractions such as the Capital, The Havana Club, China Town, and Revolution Square. Revolution Square was huge. That was where Fidel Castro did a lot of his speeches. We also were able to get some Cuban cigars outside one of the cigar factories.

This is the car that we took our tour in. The man on the left was the tour guide. The man on the right was the driver.

This is the car that we took our tour in. The man on the left was the tour guide. The man on the right was the driver.

Obispo Street

Obispo Street was one of my favorite spots. It was located in Old Havana. If you love the hustle and bustle of the major cities, then Obispo is for you. The street is filled with shops for you to get souvenirs. There are also bars and restaurants on the street. You also may see street performers.

We stopped and grabbed a drink at the Restaurante Floridita. The restaurant was one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite hangout spots. They had live music playing while we were there. The band was getting down.

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Obispo Street

Sloppy Joe’s Bar

Sloppy Joe’s Bar is a historic bar located in Old Havana. The atmosphere was great, and the drinks were good. The bar has a very nostalgic feel to it. There were pictures of celebs and athletes from the early to mid-1900’s plastered all over the walls.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba

The hotel Nacional de Cuba is a luxury hotel located in Vedado. The hotel is very important to Cuban history. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Fidel Castro, and Che Guevara set up their headquarters there. Famous people such as Mickey Mantle and Marlon Brando have stayed there. On the day that we visited, there was a band playing live music in the courtyard. It was incredible drinking a beer and listening to live Cuban music.

Playas de Este

Playas de Este is the beach. It’s about 25-30 minutes from Central Havana. It’s a hidden gem. Playas de Este was one of the best beaches that I’ve been to in my life. It was beautiful and relaxing. Honestly, I wish I could have spent more time there.

Melia Cohiba Hotel – Habana Cafe

We went there and saw a Cuban show. I really wasn’t interested in going at first, but I am glad I went. This was another highlight of my trip. The Cuban show was great. They performed a lot of songs, and they had great dance routines.

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Habana Cafe

Food

I love trying local cuisine in other cities/countries. I was a little underwhelmed with the Cuban food. A lot of it was very bland. Maybe we didn’t go to the right places. I will say that there were two restaurants that I enjoyed eating at.

Biky’s, which is located in Central Havana and Restaurante El Trofeo, which is located near the Capital, are two restaurants that I’d recommend to people.

Cuba was a great place to visit. I had a great time experiencing Havana and its culture. There things that I didn’t get to do such as go to a baseball game or take pictures on the Malecon. I’ll probably visit Cuba again in a year or two.

Make sure you check out Friday’s article. It’s a Q&A post regarding Cuba. If you’re planning on going to Cuba, it will help you out a lot.

Have you been to Cuba? How was your experience?

This post contains affiliate links. Feel free to view my disclosure here.




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Month in Review: December 2016




month-in-review-december-2016What’s going on people? Today, I have a rare Monday post. Tomorrow starts Cuba week on TBJ. I wanted to get my month in review post in before the Cuba articles. December was a great month for me. I was off work two weeks for Christmas and New Year’s Day. I used one of those weeks to travel. The other week was used to clean up my apartment and to work on my content. I was able to come up with a few ideas for future posts. I am still enjoying blogging. The blog has opened up a few doors for me in the last two years.

If you are interested in starting a blog of your own, make sure that you check out my step by step guide on creating a website with Bluehost. Use my link to get your hosting for as little as $3.45 per month (this low price is only available through my link). It usually costs $7.99 per month. You also get a free domain when you sign up through my link.

Top Posts of the Month

Why I Side Hustle

2016 Year in Review

December 2016 Debt Update

What I Learned Working at Paula Deen’s Businesses

The Top 10 Posts on Saving Money While Traveling

December was my second highest side hustle income month of all time. Over $300 of that income was from affiliate sales. That’s a great start. I plan on growing this income this year.

Earlier, I said that I travel during the first week of my break. I visited Havana, Cuba. The trip was unique. I saw Havana for what it is. I decided to dedicate this week as Cuba Week on the blog. On Tuesday and Friday, I will have Cuba articles post. I’m sure you will enjoy them.

How was your December?

*If you need a fresh financial start in this year, sign up for the New Year New You Financial Summit. Connect with over 20 of the best personal finance minds in the nation. It’s free for the first week. Click here for more details.

This post contains affiliate links. Feel free to view my disclosure here.

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, and Racing Towards Retirement*

Life

How Trading Online Can Be A Great Second Income

trading-online-1Today I have a guest post. 

Making money is a necessity for anyone that wants to live well in society. While most people are working a job to make ends meet, making your money work for you can supplement your income and give you an even better lifestyle. In the long run, as your investments come to fruition, it can even replace your primary income such that you can live off of the return on your investments. This post will guide you into generating a second income by making your money work for you.

Let’s get something straight; trading online will take work. So, if you are not willing to treat the management of your investments as a secondary job, you would be better off managing your money the old-fashioned way: saving one penny at a time. It is dangerous to rely on what others are saying if you do not spend time to do your own research. But, if you are willing to put in some time and effort, then get ready to make money with your money.

Why invest?

Other than what is mentioned above, investing your money is essential in keeping your money valuable. Believe it or not, your money is losing value every day. Without getting into the academic study of inflation, most countries target inflation at 2% each year. This means that on average prices go up by 2% each year. So next year, the money in your bank account will only be able to buy 98% of the things you could buy today. It doesn’t seem like much, but in a mere decade, your money today will only be able to buy 81.7% of the things you could buy today. That’s nearly 20% less! Investing is an important method to make sure your money retains its value through time.

Why Online?

In the age of information, almost everything is accessible via the internet. Trading is no different. It is easy to set up accounts with reputable online trading platforms (such as Interactive Brokers, CMC Markets or DeGiro). Different platforms offer different services and rates depending on the volume of trade or the type of assets you are looking to invest in. The advantage of all online platforms are lower rates per trade compared to a personal broker. This means more money for you and less for the middleman. After reviewing a few investment vehicles, you will have a better idea of which platforms fit your needs.


What Can I Invest In?

In general, investing in stocks and bonds are less risky than forex, commodities, or other derivatives. Depending on the time you devote to managing your portfolio and the risk you are willing to take, different investment strategies should be used. However, regardless of portfolio management time, you should always look to diversity your portfolio. This means investing in different assets, so your portfolio will not be largely affected even if one of your stocks is not doing well.

There are different ways to diversify. You can diversify by holding different types of hand-picked assets or by holding funds. Generally, those with more experience and time to spend on research handpick their own assets to maximize their return on investment. But, for those just starting out or for those who do not plan to devote as much time to research, Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) are great options that will naturally diversify your holdings.

ETFs are investment funds traded on the stock exchanges much like stocks. Most ETFs track an index such as the S&P 500. The S&P 500 Index (ticker name: SPY) consists of 500 companies selected by economists that reflect large market capitalisations in the USA. Thus, a fund made up of this index is already diversified. The reasoning behind choosing ETFs is that in the long run the stock market is profitable and you should not have to be concerned with short-term changes. This is reflected in the data as the S&P 500 index has a 7.476% average annual return over the last 20 years.

When investing in funds, the most common recommendation is a split between Local Country Total Stock Market Index Fund, Total International Stock Market Index Fund, and Total Bond Market Index Fund. As you grow to be more knowledgeable about available investments, you can start to diversify your portfolio even further by investing in more complex investment vehicles that can give you a higher return. But with a solid base in the funds mentioned above you are well on your way to not only retain the value of your money, but also to grow your money for a better future.

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2017 Goals

2017-goalsHappy New Year everyone! I hope you had a great 2016 and are ready for an even better 2017. 2016 was a great year for me. I was able to complete 57% of my goals. I only completed 51% of them in 2015. I like seeing numbers trend up. I usually have one of two small goals that I want to finish each month. I will share two of them in this post that I want to complete. Before I do that, let’s review the two goals that I set out to achieve in 2016.

2016 Goals

Goal #1 – $1000 per month online

Goal #2 – Have my Bank of America credit card under $1000 by November 15th.

I accomplished both of them! I had my first $1000 month in August. That was a great moment for me. The hard work paid off. Doing more freelancing and finding more opportunities got me there. I paid off my Bank of America credit card in December. I crushed that goal.

2017 Goals

Goal #1 – Have a successful challenge

Goal #2 – Pay off $20,000 worth of debt

I co-hosted the #1KHustle challenge last year, and I had a great time doing it. Once I work out a few of the kinks, it can be even better this year.

Goal number two is something that I briefly flirted with last year. I even told a few people about it, but I never got serious enough to make it happen. Well, this year I’m serious as hell about it. They say that you’re not doing it right if your goals don’t scare you a little bit. I’m not going to lie; I’m a little scared, but I know that with focus and hard work, I can accomplish it. As of January 3rd, I’m not sure how I’m going to achieve this goal, but I know it will happen.

Did you accomplish your 2016 goals? What is one of your 2017 goals?




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2016 Year in Review





2016-year-in-review1What can I say about 2016? Besides Prince passing in April 2016 has been great. I didn’t actually know Prince, but he was my mother’s favorite artist. I can remember her jamming his music a lot when I was a kid. As I got older, I started enjoying his music myself. It sucks that we lost a great artist at a pretty young age. It also sucks that for one of the few times in my life, I won’t be able to do something that I said I was going to do. I told my Mom that I was going to take her to see him in concert one day. I had the chance to do so in April, but I chose not to because I didn’t want to get into more credit card debt. I figured that I’d be able to take her to see him anytime. Who knew that he’d pass a couple of short weeks later? When that happened my views drastically changed on some things. If you want to do something, especially see your favorite artist in concert, do it. Be a responsible adult some other time. A lot of older artists are passing on. See them in performance while you still can.

Other than that 2016, has been a year to remember. It was the third best year of my life coming after 2008 and 2013. So many things happened this year. I also learned about myself and pushed my comfort zone even more.

Debt

My debt went down from $69,919.18 to $66,495.50 this year. It decreased by only $3423.68. I’m glad that I got my debt lower, but I’m pissed that I’m under $60K. Looking back over my notes from this year, I see a few reasons why my debt didn’t go down more. A lot of money that I put towards my Nelnet student loans went directly towards interest. I also didn’t start making real payments on it until August. Before then I was only putting $20-$40 on it each month because it was deferred. That didn’t really help much. Next year, I’m going to see about raising my minimum payments

I also had to slow down on extra payments on some of my debt when I had to get new tires earlier this year. It took a month and a half to put that money back into my emergency fund. My side hustle income wasn’t that much at the beginning of the year, so I didn’t have that much to apply to my debt.

Now that those things are over, I have big plans for the debt in 2017. I will save that for my 2017 goals post that will go live next week.

Used my Passport (2x)

I finally used my passport this year! After having it for FIVE years, it’s not collecting dust anymore. It only took me 32 years to leave the country, but I finally did it, twice. My best friend had a beautiful wedding in Costa Rica. I also went to Havana, Cuba. Getting that first stamp was a great feeling. I can say that I’m hooked. I have another international trip tentatively planned for next year.

Eliminated two Debts

I finally paid off my Wells Fargo student loan this year. It felt great to receive that payoff letter in the mail. I also paid off my Bank of America credit card. Check out my December Debt update for more information.

Networked with More Bloggers

I attended Fincon for the second time, and it continues to open more doors for me. It’s great having a community of people that will assist you and support you. Crystal from Sophisticated Spender and I started the #1KHustle Side Income Challenge in October. I had a lot of fun doing it. I’m probably going to do it again next year. I also want to give a shout out to my mastermind members Chonce, Tai, and Taylor. They help to keep a brother focused.

Freelancing is Continuing to Pay Off

I’ve been freelancing for over a year now, and it’s become my biggest side hustle. I would have never guessed that I’d be freelancing. I’m continuing to get better at it, and I’m acquiring more clients. I went from only making extra money with eBay to now having multiple streams of income. It’s truly amazing. None of this would have happened if I would never have started my site. If you are on the fence about starting a blog or a website, do it. Check out my step by step guide here.

Other Side Hustles

I made some moves with a few of my other side hustles too this year. I had campaigns tip with Teespring. Tipping means that enough people ordered the shirt for it to go into production. I feel like I am on the right track with this hustle. Some designs are hit or miss, but it doesn’t cost me anything to post them on that site. I have big goals for Teespring in 2017.

I also started making money with affiliate marketing. This type of income can be a game changer. There are so many unique opportunities out there. I plan on learning more about affiliate marketing and implementing more strategies next year.

2016 was only just the beginning. I learned a lot through trial and error. I can honestly say that I’m probably the most focused that I’ve been in my life. I think that is due to me finding my groove and knowing what works for me. There was a time when I was signing up for almost every free e-course or affiliate. I was getting too many e-mails and couldn’t figure things out. I was spreading myself thin by trying to do everything. It ruined my focus. Now, I don’t try to do everything anymore. I still sign up for things, but only if I know that it will work for me or and my readers. If you need to eliminate some things in the next year to be a success, do it. There is no time to waste.

How did 2016 go for you?




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