Free to post job listings and free to search, Craigslist is often the first stop for any jobseeker. Luckily, there's usually no shortage of options: Craigslist receives more than 1 million new job listings each month.

The question is how to intelligently navigate Craigslist.

Craigslist can be a great way to discover companies, but it's also a free posting board for individuals. Freelancers and private contractors who respond to those ads are most at risk for scams, dangerous meetups, and risky payment plans.

How to protect yourself.
You shoot your résumé and samples to the anonymous Craigslist email URL, and they want to hire you? Hold on, tiger. Don't buy it.

Avoid scams.
Since Craigslist is unregulated and free for all, Craigslist scams run amok. Be smart and follow these tips.

  • Ask questions, and feel out if you're a victim of a scam. If your contact ignores your questions but responds with vague wording and immediate instructions, it's probably a robot programmed for identity theft.
  • Research the employer's name. If your contact claims to run local businesses or be an active community member but doesn't have a shred of online presence or media coverage, get out. Follow your instincts, and never proceed with anything unless you're 100% confident the employer is legit.
  • Watch out for ridiculously high wages, easy labor, telecommuting, and employers who are "currently out of the country" and can't meet or talk on the phone.
  • Above all, don't give out personal information (especially bank account or social security information) or unpublished samples; only include your email and phone number on your résumé. Don't ever send money for training kits or pay for background or credit checks.
  • A good rule of thumb is don't agree to anything or begin a project before you meet.

Arrange a safe meeting.
Follow these safety precautions when meeting a contact from Craigslist.

  • Have a phone conversation prior to meeting. Get a feel for the person's personality, and record your observations. Male or female? Young or old? Make sure the individual you meet matches your phone contact.
  • Tell several people about the meeting: where you'll be and when you plan to be home. Arrange to have someone check in with you.
  • Meet your contact in a public place and bring a friend if possible.
  • If you feel uncomfortable, don't feel pressured to sign anything or complete hiring information.
  • It's never too late to say, "No thanks" and get the heck out of there. Take that coffee to go, and have an exit strategy.
  • Lastly, don't ever get in a car with a stranger. Your mom was right.

Ensure an enforceable payment plan.
Freelancers and private contractors working with individuals have no legal recourse to collect payment for their services without a contract, so make sure to cover your bases.

  • Draft a payment agreement with specific terms and clear project expectations for both parties (including method of payment and deadlines). Have it notarized. After all, this contract is your main source of employee protection as a freelancer or private contractor. Don't compromise.
  • Use secure payment methods like PayPal, and don't accept checks.
  • Agree to collect payments frequently if paid by the hour, and don't complete the next week's work until you receive payment for the previous week (include that in your contract); if you're getting a flat project payment, remember the third-third-third rule: require a third of the payment up front as a deposit of good faith; a third when it's halfway completed; and a third upon completion.
  • Keep records of everything: meetings, contacts, payments, hours, projects, etc.

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There's nothing more stressful than job-hunting. Most of us need steady paychecks to pay our bills, and we panic when we don't know how to make ends meet. But landing a job isn't an easy feat with a high population, qualified work force, and applicant tracking systems. Worse yet, it's usually about who you know that gets you the job, and that means a job search can stretch into a few lean months or years.

Enter staffing agencies, often the jobseeker's last resource. The staffing industry is big business, raking in $122 billion in 2013 with 35,000 offices nationwide, according to the American Staffing Association.

But how do staffing agencies work?
Companies wanting to skip the dirty work of sifting through applicants hire employment agencies to do it for them. Usually the agencies run the background checks, screen applications, hold preliminary interviews, and administer testing. Since job agencies receive payment from successful placements, they try to place the best employees for those positions.

While ads for specific jobs can be posted on Craigslist or job posting sites and direct jobseekers to the staffing agencies, most jobseekers appeal to employment agencies to help find them any job. After you fill out a general application with your job history, references, and availability (usually online), a representative usually contacts you and lets you know if your skills and availability match any current openings. Some smaller agencies conduct an interview right away to screen applicants and make notes in your file, and some will have you complete certain testing if you're skilled in a certain area, like clerical work.

The premise is a good one: Since finding a job is often about who you know, staffing agents serve as representatives who can vouch for you. According to the American Staffing Association, staffing firms placed 11 million employees in 2013, which means they must be doing something right.

An equally great benefit of staffing agencies is 90% of companies provide free training. 51% of human resource managers said they couldn't find qualified candidates for open positions in 2013, so free job training is a valuable service.

What are the cons?
Some staffing agencies can be big, and you can get lost as a number. And trust me: Even a staffing agency can neglect to call you back. Choose smaller agencies, which are better at meeting with you in person and taking an interest in your skill set.

The biggest con, however, is some agencies take a chunk of your paycheck. How? Usually companies pay the agency and the agency handles payroll. To pay the agency for its services, the company pays a percentage on top of your salary to the agency. However, if the agency keeps the employee wage a secret or if it gets the employee to agree to a lower wage, it keeps the difference. Make sure you understand the agency's pay system, and try to work with a firm that doesn't toy with the poor man's dollar.

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What happens when you've found someone you really like, but you're more than a quick commute apart? Dating someone long-distance can be not only frustrating for your relationship, but frustrating financially. In these circumstances, it's important that you budget well and plan ahead. Start with these tips on what to budget for and how to save money with your honey.

Plan your way to romance
The first step is planning. This means budgeting on top of your already small budget, which is annoying, I know. However, long-distance relationships (LDRs) can be totally frustrating when you don’t know when you'll see the other person again. If you set a goal of how many times you'd like to see each other in X amount of time, it will give you an idea of how much you need to save. You don't want to go into debt if you can help it.

Care to compromise?
If you and your significant other (S.O.) only live a few hours away, compromise is always an option. Try meeting each other halfway for lunch or for a weekend. This can be a good way to cut down costs a bit. And it may seem obvious, but take turns visiting each other to give each other's checking accounts a break.

Frugal(ish) flights
If you and your S.O. live farther away, planning meet-ups becomes more difficult and costly. Melanie Figueroa, a graduate student in Portland, Ore., whose boyfriend lives in California, has spent roughly $1,400 on airfare in the past 10 months--not including money spent on dates when they do see each other--but says they can only justify spending the money when it's a holiday or a special occasion. If you're in a similar situation, keep a lookout for cheap flights; use a website such as Skyscanner to help you look at all your options in advance. And don't forget to send letters or care packages in the meantime.

Date deals
Budgeting for a LDR also means planning cheap dates for when you do see each other. Think walks in the park, going for a hike, or attending a free event at your local library or campus. Or, budget (even more) in advance to have the money to do activities you've had your eye on. Keep a running list of things you want to do together or meals you want to cook/eat, so you'll know how much cash you'll need to stash.

Figueroa says this can be tough, since she tries not to spend much money on nights out with friends, but still needs to have a social life, so she tries to find inexpensive or free activities to do with friends. One of her tips is to use Gofobo, a website that helps people find free movie screenings in their area, so she can still go out to movies with friends or her boyfriend.

Try the tech trend
Take advantage of technology. Use programs like Skype to "see" each other or have virtual dates. Snapchat is also a great way to share snapshots of your day with someone, and even silly things like playing a rousing game of Words With Friends on your smartphone throughout the day can make you feel a little closer. Texting is an obvious way to stay connected, but can be expensive depending on your plan. Smart phone users can use Google Hangouts, Google Voice, or Kik to communicate by text, rather than use up precious texts.

Long distance relationships can drain your wallet but if you do it right, it doesn't have to be too extreme. Being frugal won't always help you see your honey when you want, but knowing some of the tips and tricks will make the distance a little more bearable.

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There's a lot of information on the web about preparing for an interview, but I find most of it unhelpful. Here are some real-life, tried and true tips for rocking an interview.

Plan your outfit accordingly.
1. Wearing neutral colors is okay, but not if you want to stand out.
2. I wore a red, button-up blouse to my last two job interviews and landed both jobs. Red is an appealing color to both genders, which makes it a good color.
3. Red not for you? Wear colors that suit your skin/eyes/hair. This improves your overall appearance, and knowing you look good can make you feel confident.
4. Use minimal makeup and a neutral nail color. It's a job interview, not a night club.
5. Keep your hair out of your face. Avoid other accessories that might cause you to fidget with them, which makes you look nervous and distracted.

Psych yourself up.
6. Research the company beforehand and consider ways that your knowledge and skills can be applied to this particular company/industry. This will be important later.
7. Use the travel time to your interview to do what centers you and/or pumps you up, whether it's singing in your car to your favorite song, listening to calming music, or dancing around.
8. Remind yourself that you know what you’re doing, and you have no reason to be nervous.
9. Compare the interview to something much harder. For example, my personal comparison is, "This is nothing compared to jumping out of a plane attached to someone I just met."

Use nonverbal body language.
10. Never dead-fish anyone. When shaking hands, use a firm, confident grip. (Applies to men and women.)
11. Steepling your fingers together while answering a question makes you appear more confident and shows you feel strongly about what you're saying.
12. Maintain polite eye contact and avoid darting your eyes around the room nervously.
13. Keep your limbs to your sides (such as on arm rests), and keep your torso open. It makes you look like a more open, friendly person.
14. If you are hand-talker, keep your palms up to convey openness. Palms down conveys dominance and should be avoided.

Talk up the company, not yourself.
15. Companies don't care about what you want, they want to know what you can do for them.
16. Now is the time to use your ideas and apply them to the company. Talk about the ideas and build off other ideas that might be brought up.
17. Using real-life examples helps to show your critical thinking skills and proves you know how to apply your skills to real-life situations.
18. Managers are interested in people who will fit in with the rest of the employees. While you should always be yourself, you can still gauge the interviewers to determine which parts of your personality you should make shine, such as your creativity, your work ethic, your humor, etc.

Honesty.
19. Don't lie. Just… don't. Any well-seasoned human will see right through it.

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Renting an apartment or home might be a rite of passage in college, but as the housing market continues to go up and down and homeownership seems impossible for some, renting a home is the way to go. But, just like homeowners, you still can and need to protect your things, and renters insurance shouldn't be one of those items on your to-do list that goes on the back burner.

Renters insurance should be the least of our concerns as college students, but the hard truth is that things happen and we should be prepared. Just like you would save your term papers after every other word in hopes of not losing all that work, just as effortless is insuring your possessions.

Jeni Bowen of Tuscaloosa, Ala. rents a home and leases a building for her business. She says renters insurance is a must-have these days. "I wanted to get renters insurance to eliminate any sort of catastrophic liability," she says. "We did not have to list specific items and were able to get $100,000 (coverage) on the business and $75,000 on our home, at just a fraction of what our lease amounts are. It's really rather inexpensive."

Most larger insurance companies offer renters insurance that protect your stuff from fire, smoke damage, water damage, theft, building collapse, and even plumbing or air conditioning repair. You can even add a policy that provides coverage in the event of identity theft.

As we've seen through the countless Flo/Progressive commercials, some insurance companies offer discounts if you have multi-lines of insurance through them. So, whoever insures your car might offer you a discount for opening a renters insurance line with them as well.

Still think renters insurance isn't for you? Well, think about this. Your hard-partying upstairs neighbor comes home after a night out and either leaves the shower running or the toilet overflows -- only their apartment isn't the only one flooded. You wake up the next morning to find your electronics and clothes have been soaked through and ruined. Without renters insurance, it's up to you to replace all of these items out of your own pocket. Good luck getting any help from the landlord or your neighbor, because, guess what, they're not liable. You could try to take them to court, but simply having renters insurance is a lot easier and cheaper.

Craig Wiggins, an Allstate agency owner in Huntsville, Ala. believes this type of insurance is one of the most overlooked. "Many people who rent underestimate the importance of renters insurance," he says. "Many people think they don't have enough contents to insure, which most of the time is incorrect."

Another plus with having renters insurance is that you can also cover individuals, not just your things. So you can have all of your bases covered should someone fall down your stairs and break an arm or leg… and coverage won't cost you and an arm and a leg. "Renters insurance is very inexpensive and can be a life changer for someone who, many times, does not have a lot of savings to fall back on," Wiggins adds.

Renters insurance will you give you that peace of mind, so you can just worry about the tough semester you're having, finding a great job, or the project at work. You might even impress mom and dad (and your spouse) with your responsibility.

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You may be able to save on car insurance in 15 minutes, or even in seven minutes, if you are willing to change insurance companies. What if you like the service you currently receive but just want to pay less? There always seems to be an excuse every renewal period why your premium went up a few dollars more a month. For the frugal-minded, like myself, I think about how those few dollars would be better left in my favorite high-yielding savings account. There are ways you can combat those renewal increases without changing your current coverage.

Get a quote online.
Pretend you are a new customer and get an online quote at your current carrier's website. Compare the quote with your renewal rate. I filled out their questionnaire and received a quote reference number with a lower rate. With that reference number, I called my carrier and asked why the quote is significant lower than my renewal rate. If your carrier doesn't have the disclaimer "only for new customers" associated with the online quote, they must give you that lower rate.

Telecommute? Less liability means more money in your pocket.
If you drive your car less than average, you should get a break on your rate. For example, I work remotely one day a week. Since my yearly mileage decreased, my carrier decreased my rate.

Check your discounts every renewal period.
Don't assume your car insurance company has applied all discounts to your account. It is your responsibility to ensure all applicable discounts are applied. Every renewal period, give your insurance carrier a list of all your memberships. Both my alumni association and professional organization provides discounts with my carrier. I make sure if I can only have one discount, they apply the largest one out of the two.

Clean record? Show me the money!
Every car insurance company has a good driver discount. Every year of no claims, you should be rewarded. Make sure they apply that discount every renewal period.

Use one carrier for all your insurance needs.
You need insurance for your car and house or apartment. Why not bundle? I get a discount just by having multiple items covered by the same company. They want your business, so negotiate a great rate for all your insurance needs.

Cash talks! Pay upfront and save in the long run.
If you had cash to buy a car, you can negotiate a much better deal than sticker price. Car insurance is the same. When you pay monthly, you are paying a service charge to process each payment. Save that money and pay yearly or every six months.

I save hundreds of dollars every renewal period. A great company will want to keep you. If none of these methods work for your car insurance carrier, it may be time to save hundreds on your car insurance by switching.

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It may seem counterintuitive, but you can save money on your wedding by having a destination event. My fiancé and I learned this when we chose to have our wedding in Maui in September. How? These five steps can help you keep the budget lower than a hometown celebration:

  • Pare down the guest list. This is easier to do at an out-of-town wedding, because you can explain to others that you want an intimate celebration with just close family and friends. With a traditional wedding, you may feel obligated to invite acquaintances you see often, co-workers, distant relatives, parents' friends, and significant others of guests. With a hometown wedding, 20% of invited guests won't be able to make it, according to Martha Stewart Weddings, but The Knot Guide to Destination Weddings says that for a destination event that number surges to 50%.
  • Focus on the big picture. A perk of destination weddings can be a picturesque setting. Let the backdrop be the decor. No one will remember the place cards when you have waves crashing on a beach or the splendor of a canyon behind you during the ceremony. Also, Hawaii beach weddings often don't have a venue fee other than the cost of a permit, which is generally less than $50. Many national parks allow weddings for the cost of a permit as well. In our case, we initially chose a beach wedding but ultimately decided to use a private lawn overlooking the ocean, which cost us just $325, including the rental of white chairs.
  • Get a package. Research coordinators at your destination who can offer packages containing the necessary vendors for a price within your budget. We selected a collection priced at $2,295 before tax, which covers the officiate, a coordinator the day of the wedding, two toasting flutes, a musician for the ceremony, photography and 30 prints, videography, marriage license appointment setup, a bouquet, leis for the bride and groom, a boutonniere, in-room hair and makeup, limo transportation for two hours, a keepsake wedding certificate, and a written copy of our vows. Our package allowed us to take items off the package if not necessary, such as we did with the limo (which reduced our cost by $175). The great thing about packages like this is that a coordinator will direct the vendors on the day of your wedding, so you don't have to worry. Had we chosen to have the wedding at home, we would have had to shop for each vendor separately and without the coordinator's discounts.
  • Have a dinner-only reception. Make reservations at a nice local restaurant, rather than reserve a venue. Eateries often have private dining areas that can accommodate wedding parties. Our wedding dinner venue has three semi-private and private areas and had several menus to choose from. We'd considered having the wedding at Heritage Square in Phoenix. The site rental fee alone would have cost $3,500. That's in addition to catering costs and rentals. Our dinner will cost much less, at about $1,000 including the cost of the cake for less than 20 people.
  • Travel in the off-season and ask for group rates on lodging, airfare, and car rentals. Our wedding is in September, the tourism off-season in Maui, so hotel rates when we booked were much lower. One of our hotels was $195, compared to more than $270 in the regular season. This trip will also be our honeymoon, so there are no extra costs for travel.

While a destination wedding isn't cheap, a hometown wedding would have cost us a lot more. Consider whether your situation will allow a more intimate, hassle-free celebration for less. It can be worth it to create vacation memories with the ones you love most.

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Business Insider estimated at the end of 2013 one in every five people in the world owned a smartphone and one in every 17 owned a tablet. With that kind of technology so widely available, it seems like there's an app for everyone and everything. Managing your personal finances from your smartphone or tablet couldn't be easier with the help of an abundance of budgeting bill-paying apps out there – and most of them are free. But are they all they're cracked up to be? Let's look at some facts, and then you can decide for yourself.

Apps are sunny because:

  • They're convenient. Your accounts are available 24/7, right at your fingertips, and easily accessible if you go out of town.
  • There are apps that will alert you about paying bills on time. BillMinder (available for iOS at $1.99 and Android at $2.99) will send you push notifications. Some apps like Check (free for iOS and Android) will even help you set up automatic payments.
  • Apps can help you with budgeting. Level Money helps track cash flow and is available for free for iOS and Android.
  • You don't have to make a phone call or be physically present every time you want to transfer money between accounts.
  • It's easier to see a general overview of your accounts and make sure everything looks okay, and it's easier than ever to spot fraudulent activity. A general overview of your accounts is also handy to get a feel for where you're spending the most money.
  • It can be easy to see if you've been paid, a check has cleared, or money has deposited into your account.
  • With less people balancing a physical checkbook these days, it's easy to forget when and what you've spent your money on. Fortunately, there's even a check register app called Balance My Checkbook, which you can download free for iOS.
  • Many personal financing apps can be used to locate ATMs.

But they're not always lemon drops and roses:

  • There's a chance an app you really want to try isn't available for your device. Since most apps come from tiny startups, it's a struggle (both monetarily and physically) to make the same app for multiple platforms. If an app was originally developed for iOS but is also available for Android, its Android counterpart most likely won't have all the same features because Android apps are harder to develop.
  • If you're in an area without cell phone service or a wireless connection, there's a good chance you won't be able to access your accounts, which makes the app kind of useless.
  • Most finance-managing apps will log you out after 10 minutes of inactivity, which can be either helpful or frustrating, depending on if you're still using the app.
  • Trust and security can be a concern – especially about using secure network locations or finding fraudulent activity on your accounts. Mobile devices don't really have the same levels of traditional security that computers do, such as encryption and firewalls.
  • People have a tendency to not log out of apps or have an app save their username and password, and if their device is lost or stolen, it could be problematic down the line. Even if your app logs you out after 10 minutes, a lot can happen in such a short amount of time.
  • New apps can be buggy and often take some time to fix, so it's important to take into consideration the customer feedback of an app before downloading it. If it doesn't have a high rating, it's probably not worth the download.

It seems like the pros outweigh the cons, but ultimately, each person is different in what they want in personal finance management. Get out there and test out a few to see if one or more will help you out.

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I'd always dreamed of driving an SUV, a sleek, black 4x4 with runners and navigation. I saved my down payment, and I trekked down to the local dealership. I knew I could afford the payments for a newer model, and I knew what kind of interest rate I'd be eligible for, because my credit score was pretty good. What I failed to calculate was my insurance payment. At the time, I had no idea that the make, model, year, and even the color of the vehicle I chose could effect my insurance payments.

I made it to the dealership, and the SUV I thought I could afford was a little more than I wanted to pay. They had an older model that I could afford, but I thought I'd take a look at a sedan as well. I was between a 2009 sedan and a 2006 SUV. I chose the sedan. Though happy with my choice, I wasn't very happy when I found out I would have lowered my insurance payment with the SUV. I figured the sedan would be less because it was a newer vehicle, had better safety features and, well, it was a car instead of an SUV. I tried multiple insurance agencies and ended up with the same result. For the same coverage, I would have paid about $78 monthly for the SUV, but instead, I was paying $113 for the sedan. Now let's say I was looking at the same vehicles, but this time, the same year. In this case, I'd pay more for the SUV – an increase of about $60 per month.

This is not the only factor that affects the amount you shell out for insurance, however. Most of the time, it's advantageous to save up six months' worth of payments. Insurance companies will give you a monthly quote, and a "paid in full" quote. If you pay in full, you'll nearly always save some money. For example for that sedan of mine, I was quoted $88.66 per month for six months. If I chose the "pay in full option," my total cost would have been $453.82, a savings of $83.01. Other factors (while potentially uncontrollable depending on where you are in life when you buy that car) like marital status and occupation can affect your insurance premiums as well.

When shopping for a car, don't forget to do your research on the insurance. If you want to stick with a budget, it's best to get quotes from multiple companies, and consider factors like make and model before choosing a vehicle. That hybrid might start looking better and better.

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If you live in a place where public transportation is virtually non-existent, you probably either own a car or are looking into buying one pronto. But if you're a city dweller, you may want to think twice before jumping into car ownership – especially when you have the option to rent.

Sure, owning a vehicle can be tempting. When you own a car, you don't have to worry about reserving one in advance, and you can pick up and go as you please. But if you're dealing with limited funds (and really, who isn't these days?), renting may be the smarter choice.

Vehicle usage. Do you drive to work or take public transportation? Do you need access to a car on a weekly basis? Or is your need for a car limited to big shopping trips and occasional weekend excursions? Some costs associated with vehicle ownership – like insurance and monthly or yearly parking fees – are a given, even if you don’t use your car very often. If you don't drive on a consistent basis, renting might make more sense.

Vehicle storage. In big cities, parking can be a hassle, and the cost of a monthly parking garage can easily top the $300-mark depending where you live. By renting a car as needed, you'll avoid the parking wars and headache.

Finances. Do you have the money for a down payment? Can you swing a monthly payment? And don't forget the cost of car insurance and maintenance. Sure, daily car rental rates might seem expensive at first glance, but consider the aggregate cost of owning versus renting when you're not using that car all the time.

Suppose you typically need a car one day per month. Zipcar, the world's leading car sharing network, charges $79 a day for a vehicle in major U.S. cities, and that includes gas, insurance, and 180 miles of usage. Membership involves a meager $25 application fee and can cost as little as $6 per month. If you rent a car once a month over the course of a year, you'll spend just over $1,000 all-in. Need a car twice a month, or 24 times a year? With Zipcar, you can swing it for just under $2,000.

Now let's assume you opt to buy a car instead of renting. In a major city, you can easily pay $2,000 or more in yearly insurance costs alone. Then there’s routine maintenance. According to 2010 data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly cost of maintenance and repairs was close to $800. Even if you cut that in half to account for decreased usage, you’re still looking at $400 annually. Oh yeah – and then there's that whole matter of a car payment, which can be anywhere from $250 to $500 a month depending on the type of vehicle you buy, the amount you put down, and your financing terms.

The bottom line: If you have access to public transportation and don't need a car for everyday use, renting is likely the most cost-effective option. Before you buy, think about the logistics of vehicle ownership and crunch some numbers. You may be surprised by how much more convenient and affordable it is to rent.

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