5 Smart Ways to Spend Your Year-End Bonus

If you just found out that you’re getting a holiday bonus this year – WOOHOO! Way to go you! Getting a little extra cash this time of year is super exciting and a well-earned reminder of all your hard work. But before you get too far into your plan to fly to Las Vegas and double your loot by playing the slots, may I suggest a few things you could do with your money that might have a higher return?

1. Save it. Present You might find this idea kind of boring. But Future You will thank Present You when your car breaks down 6 months from now and you can use your bonus money to cover the cost of repairs. Emergencies happen. Having money saved for those occasions can help make them less stressful. So consider using some of your bonus to start an emergency savings fund. You’re welcome, Future Kelsey!

future dwight

2. Pay off high interest debt. Also known as, CREDIT CARDS! Use a portion of your bonus to pay off a chunk of your credit card or other high interest debt. This will lower the amount of interest you pay in the future and it will feel good to see that balance on your statement look smaller than it has in months.

3. Invest it. The extra cash could be your chance to start investing in a 401K, IRA, or mutual fund. And also your chance to start dressing like the Monopoly Man. But all kidding aside, investing isn’t just for the wealthy. Talk with a financial advisor and find out what investment options make the most sense for you.

4. “Treat Yo Self.” It’s okay to splurge a little and spend some of your bonus on something special. Bonus money is basically free money, meaning that it’s money you didn’t expect to get. What better opportunity to buy those concert tickets or get that flat screen TV than with cash you didn’t have to take of your monthly budget?

treat-yo-self2

5. Break it up into 12 mini-bonuses. That way you can enjoy your bonus for a year instead just a few weeks. Put your bonus money into savings and then set up an automatic monthly transfer to your checking. An extra $100 or $200 a month could mean a lot throughout your year.

But what happens if you don’t get that big holiday bonus? Hopefully you’ll get your bonus and won’t find out. But if you don’t get one, rather than throwing a pity party GoGirl Finance recommends looking for opportunities to prove your worth. “Don’t look at this as a time to slack off because they aren’t paying you as much as you thought they were.” Instead, try to find concrete ways you can help increase your company’s financial success. Maintaining a positive attitude will make you stand out from the crowd as well as improve your chances of earning that bonus in the future.

5 E-mail Mistakes We’ve All Made at Work

Let me start by confessing that I have made each and every one of the mistakes on this list, probably more than once. I use smiley faces, I forget to spell check, and I have definitely been known to say a lot when a little would have done just fine. But the key is to recognize your e-mail weaknesses and to work to improve them. Studies show that the average working American sends about 35 e-mails a day, which equals plenty of opportunity to mess up, but also plenty of chances to write better e-mails today than you ever have before! Here are some common errors we all make with our written workplace correspondences and tips on how to fix them:

  • Replying All, All the Time – We all think we’re the main office prankster, but sometimes an awesome joke about that mandatory staff meeting on Monday is better kept to yourself. And no, there’s no one in the office who doesn’t wish Phyllis a Happy Birthday, it’s just that your birthday sentiments would have meant just as much if you sent them only to her and didn’t CC 50 other people.  For the most part work e-mails are meant to be about work, so help your coworkers keep their inbox clean by asking yourself, “Do I really need to reply all?” before you hit send.
Is it necessary to reply all with this hilarious meme?

Is it necessary to reply all with this hilarious meme?

  • Expecting an Instant Response – If you just asked someone out on a first date via text and all you’re seeing are those three little dots that mean they’re typing, it’s okay to freak out and need a response RIGHT THIS SECOND! Otherwise, chill out. The recipient will answer you at their convenience. It’s not that they didn’t see your e-mail, it’s that responding to you might not be their top priority at the moment. General rule of thumb: allow 24 hours for a response back to your e-mail. If you need an answer quicker than that, go old school and call the person directly.
  • Sending an E-mail Too Early or to the Wrong Person – This might seem like a mistake that shouldn’t happen too often, but it does. You meant to forward an e-mail from a client to your supervisor but instead you replied to the sender with a thoughtful “WHHAAAAT????!!” message. Whoopsie daisy. One trick you can use to avoid any e-mail misfires is to leave the “To:” Box empty until you’re ready to hit send. But the real key might be to slow down. E-mail makes communicating faster, but it can also make it sloppier. Better to take the extra 10 minutes to compose a well-written e-mail to the right person than to send a half-finished one to the wrong one; people will appreciate your thoughtful reply much more than your 30 second response time.
  • Forgetting Your Audience – Is this an e-mail to your best friend to her private account? Then include all the emojis, swear words, and gifs of One Direction that you want. Is it an e-mail to your boss or a potential client? Then you should probably avoid all three of those things. Electronic communication provides us with a certain distance from the person we’re speaking to, which sometimes means we say things via e-mail we wouldn’t say in person. You want your e-mails to coworkers and clients to present you in a professional manner. Make sure your grammar, tone, and content reflect that.

And last but definitely not least . . .

  • Not Editing Before You Hit Send – U might b the smrtst person EVAH, but if u dnt type like it no1 will no. If it isn’t an AIM conversation with your middle school dream guy, then no one is impressed by your creative T9- style spelling. Take the extra 5 minutes before you hit send to re-read your e-mail. First check for basics like grammar, spelling, and manners (always say please and thank you). Then do a quick check for more subtle mistakes, like not including a greeting (rude!), coming across as angry or sarcastic when you don’t mean to, or saying way too much when a little would have sufficed. Not every e-mail needs to be edited like it’s the next great American novel, but it deserves more thought than that comment you posted on Tumblr. Speaking of grammar, if you are a super cool English Major like me, you might also enjoy this new Weird Al song “Word Crimes” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Gv0H-vPoDc. It’s pretty funny.

Happy E-mail Writing!

6 Job Interview Tips You Might Not Know About

In the last month or so I swear I have read articles with job interview tips in at least 4 different magazines. At first I couldn’t figure out why this theme was emerging and then I remembered . . . graduation is almost here! Whether you’re graduating from high school or college, you are most likely on the prowl for employment. Or maybe you have a job but you’re looking to take on your next career challenge. Whatever the situation, ’tis the season for interviewing! There are some key interview tips that I think we’re all familiar with, like updating your resume or doing research on the company you’re interviewing with. But here are a few tips I’ve picked up that are often overlooked:

1. Have Confident Body Language.

As the great philosophers Jesse McCartney and Timbaland once said, “I don’t speak Spanish, Japanese, or French, but the way that body talkin’ definitely make sense.” All jokes aside, social psychology research actually does support the idea that nonverbal cues have a strong influence on how others feel about us. Body language can even change how you feel about yourself. So use your body to portray confidence, enthusiasm, authenticity, and comfort in an interview. Sit up straight; don’t cross your legs or arms; keep your body open and inviting. If you sit or stand all slouchy and crumpled, you’ll seem unsure of yourself which in turn will make your interviewer unsure of you. If you’re fidgety or jumpy, you might as well be wearing a neon sign that says, “I’m nervous!” If you have a minute, check out this TED Talk by Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy so you can learn how to use body language to “fake it til you become it.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are

2. Dress Appropriately.

An article in the April issue of Real Simple Magazine encourages job applicants to “leave the stilettos at home” when going for an interview. “The people I don’t hire are often wrongly dressed for the interview. Usually overdressed: too much makeup and jewelry or impractical shoes,” says contributor Barbara Corcoran. You want to look put-together and professional, but you also want to look ready to do a full day’s work. You’re not Elle Woods, so don’t go all Business Barbie on everyone. Dress just one notch above what you think the average attire for your desired position is.

Guess what Business Barbie's latest job is? Computer Engineer.

Even Barbie knows to dress for the job she wants – here she is as a Computer Engineer!

3. Arrive 15 minutes early.

My swim coach always told us that if we weren’t 15 minutes early, then we were late. To this day I have a crippling fear of being late as a result of this policy. Even though I know my boss at the credit union will not make me do wall sits if I run a couple minutes late for work, I still get all panicky and worried about tardiness. Until I joined the work force, I never realized what a valuable skill punctuality is; showing up on time shows an employer that you are reliable and that you value their time. Don’t show up too early to an interview though (like 30 minutes or an hour) because that will just seem weird.

4. You should maybe like watch your words.

I am a big culprit of saying the word “like” too much. I use it both as a place holder while I catch my train of thought and as a way to make what I’m saying come across less forceful or aggressive (as in, “You should like probably take brush your teeth more because your breath is kind of like a little gross.”) The same swim coach who taught me to be early to everything also told me that I would be unemployable because I am unable to finish a sentence without saying “like” at least once. And he was right. I find that if I force myself to slow down, I don’t need this word crutch as much; eliminating qualifiers such as  “like, just, actually, kinda, or sorta” makes my speech reflect the eloquent, well-educated young woman I truly am. Identify any bad speaking habits you have and work to eradicate them before your interview. You don’t want your speech to be overly deliberate, but you also don’t want to sound like an 80’s Valley Girl . . . ugh! Gag me with a spoon!

Moon Zappa was like the original Valley Girl. Unless you are her, don't say "like"

Moon Zappa was like the original Valley Girl.

5. Be constructive, not critical, of your old job.

No matter how much your old job sucked, don’t complain about it during an interview. Instead, give an example of a lesson you learned from a difficult or frustrating situation at work. Did you have a annoying coworker who was a pain to deal with? Instead of hating on them, explain how working with them helped you hone your people skills. Didn’t feel challenged in your past position? Instead of saying the job was boring, tell the interviewer about how it taught you the value of hard work or how it was a wake-up call that you might need to re-think your long-term career goals. You don’t need to be overly fake or gloss over things, but an interviewer would much rather hear you put a positive spin on a problem than listen to you whine about why a job didn’t work out. Be honest about your decisions but also diplomatic.

6. Keep the “what ifs” to yourself . . . for now.

I was recently skimming through a Glamour magazine and I was horrified to read the subtitle “Don’t Ever Say You’re Pregnant” in an article about interview dos and don’ts. Upon further inspection I discovered that what the author was not a pregnant-woman-hater, but rather was trying to say that some personal issues are best kept unsaid during an interview. Being pregnant does not have any influence on your job skills or qualifications as an applicant. Same goes for any other possible personal issue or complication. Bringing up personal issues to an employer who hasn’t even hired you yet will just make you seem like a worrier, an over-sharer, or worst case scenario, a problematic employee. The appropriate time to mention any concerns is once a company makes you an offer; these types of issues can easily be ironed out in a contract negotiation.

If you’re out their job hunting, I hope these tips help! Leave a comment if you have your own interview tips to share.