It’s easy to live life on autopilot. Do you ever feel like you’re going through the motions during the workweek, just trying to make it to Friday? Then, when Friday rolls around, you can hardly remember what happened that week—it’s all one big blur.
Listen, folks. The typical schedule of get up, go to work, come home, watch TV, go to bed, and do it over again the next day is not going to get you where you want to be. I don’t want you to be full of regret in 30 years when you look back and realize you didn’t do anything you were truly passionate about!
In order to avoid living on autopilot and advance in your career, you have to be intentional with your time every day. That sounds like a big undertaking, but there are a few simple actions you can take on a daily basis to set yourself up for success—not just in your career, but in other areas of your life too.
The Top 5 Daily Habits for Personal and Professional Growth
Note: These aren’t shortcuts and will require some discipline, but I promise they will pay off! Whether you want to pursue a new career direction, take your current position to the next level, or simply grow as a person, practice these five things daily and you’ll see real results and opportunities coming your way.
Habit #1: Learn.
This can look different on a day-to-day basis, but the key is to learn something every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s small. Just carve out at least a few minutes to learn more about your craft, yourself and the industry you currently work in (or the one you want to work in).
Here are a few effective ways to learn:
- Readnews articles, books, essays. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as what you’re reading helps you learn more about who you are and what you want to do.
- Listento podcasts, radio and other people who know more than you do.
- WatchTED talks, documentaries and speeches given by people who inspire you or are influential in your field.
- Research the field you’re interested in, especially if you’re looking at making a career change. Find out what kinds of education or training you would need in order to make that transition and what kinds of jobs and salaries are available in your area. Or look for volunteer and internship opportunities with an organization you’re passionate about.
Just think—you could spend 10 minutes scrolling through Instagram on your phone, or you could spend that 10 minutes reading an article that teaches you about the job you want or the field you’re passionate about! You’ll be surprised by how much knowledge you can absorb by making a small, intentional effort every day.
Habit #2: Do.
Find ways to practice what you’ve been learning and hone your craft. Again, this will look different depending on the given day and your career of choice.
Maybe it means writing 200 words every day, even if you absolutely hate what you write (you’ll get better). Maybe it means volunteering with a company that can help build your skills. Maybe it’s as simple as trying a new recipe, working on a website, or redecorating a friend’s living room so you can build your interior design portfolio. Just find small ways to practice.
Habit #3: Connect.
Look for ways to connect with people who are doing what you want to do, or who are already excelling in an area where you want to improve. I’m not talking about speed networking or making superficial connections just so you can reap the benefits. But it’s always important to be mindful about the relationships you’re building and maintaining on a daily basis.
Whether it’s reaching out to an old friend via email, grabbing coffee with someone you want to learn from, talking with an acquaintance who works at a company you’d love to work for, asking a trusted coworker for feedback on a project, or even just spending a few minutes bonding with your current team—real relationships are crucial, no matter what industry you’re in.
Habit #4: Serve.
There’s a great quote from one of my heroes, Zig Ziglar, that says: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” If you serve other people, it eventually comes back to you.
Now, you might be thinking: Ken, that’s shallow! Is it really serving if I’m hoping to get something in return?
Hang on—I’m not saying you should manipulate people into giving you what you want. I’m suggesting that you make serving others a daily practice. In fact, the world’s best leaders are the ones who lead by serving. The way to become successful is not to push and claw your way to the top, but to have an attitude of humility and put others before yourself. Trust me—people will remember that in the future.
Here’s another question to ask yourself: How can I serve the people around me today? Not just your boss and your coworkers, but also your friends, your family, the disgruntled employees at the grocery store—you name it.
This might look like picking up someone’s lunch order, offering to do something outside of your regular job responsibilities, genuinely listening to someone who needs to vent, or putting your phone away when you get home so you can play with your kids. The list of possibilities really is endless.
Habit #5: Reflect.
When you’re making progress in your career, it’s encouraging to record that progress. Take some time at the end of the day to reflect on what you did, even if it feels like you only took one small step forward. Those small steps lead to big victories!
Journaling can be a fun, no-pressure way to reflect on your day and get all of your thoughts and ideas down on paper. Many studies have found that journaling boosts your mental health by helping you cope with anxiety, stress and depression.
Not a journaler? Try writing down just one sentence about your day, keeping track of goals you accomplished, or storing all of your completed to-do lists in one place. And don’t forget about the art of gratitude: Jotting down at least three things you’re grateful for each day can really help you stay motivated and keep everything in perspective.
Are you interested in learning more about the habits and strategies of successful people? Tune into the “How They Got There” series on The Ken Coleman Showpodcast, where I talk with high achievers from all over the country about the steps they took to start living the dream!
15 Cheap Vacation Ideas
Here are 15 cheap vacation ideas that will let you get away without breaking the bank! So, put on The Beach Boys, bust out the shades, and start making your vacation list now.
1. Tour your own city
And this doesn’t mean you “tour” your house projects and work on your yard. We’re talking about getting out there and being a tourist in your own town.
Explore local art galleries, historical sites, that new restaurant you’ve been meaning to check out, or even half-price museum days. You can truly be as thrifty as you want with this one.
2. Go camping
Okay, so you can go the traditional “let’s sleep outside” route, or you can rent a cabin. Get out there and enjoy the great outdoors!
If you want the whole RV/camper experience but don’t actually want to drive the thing, Airbnb has you covered for as little as $39 a night.(1) Their hosts offer decked-out campers that stay put while you’re cozy and indoors. The youths call this “glamping”—you know, experiencing the great outdoors without dealing with that whole outdoors part.
3. Go to the less popular beach
Certain beaches are going to be more popular and pricier than others (looking at you, Key West and Laguna Beach). But if you know where to look, you can save a pretty penny and still watch the tide roll in.
Coastline beaches are going to be more expensive than beaches along the Gulf. Sure, the water might look a little different, but when you’re coming from a landlocked area, a beach is a beach. Staying in a two-bedroom beach condo in Miami could cost you upwards of $100 more per night in comparison to the same type of lodging in Galveston, Texas. Plus, the Gulf beaches will have less expensive hotels, food and activities too.
4. Book travel packages using warehouse stores
We promise this isn’t as weird as it sounds. Club stores, like Costco, actually offer pretty good deals on vacation packages. If you’re planning a more elaborate vacation, you might want to consider what they have to offer.
For example, one Costco deal we found includes five days of accommodations for two adults at the Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas, Walt Disney World tickets, and car rental for about $1,900.(2) But if you paid for your hotel stay, Disney passes, and car rental separately, it would set you back about $2,200. That’s a savings of over $300 just by being smart about who you book with.
We know travel packages like this change pretty quickly, so you might not find this exact deal. The point is: If you’re on the lookout for a bargain, you should be able to find one if you know where to look!
5. Stay with friends or family
It’s not glamorous—and some people might not even consider it a true vacation—but staying with friends or family is an easy cheap vacation idea. Plus, you’ll get to spend time with the people you love!
More than likely, you won’t have to pay for lodging or some meals. That means you’ll only have to foot the bill to get to your destination. This should drastically cut back on your travel costs.
But make sure you’re a great guest while you’re staying there. Don’t be a mooch! Pay for groceries or cook some meals to show your gratitude. Maybe even treat your loved ones to dinner or dessert while you’re in town! You want to score an invite back, don’t you?
6. Travel during the off-season
Everyone loves taking a vacation in the summer, but pushing it out just a few more months could save you a bundle. Traveling during fall break (or any time after Labor Day weekend) can be a great cheap vacation idea.
Remember, though: Peak-season and off-season will change depending on where you’re planning to go. A good rule of thumb is to avoid traveling during the summer months, winter break, and holidays. Do your research before you book!
7. Go away on a weekend trip
If you need to get away, leaving town for the weekend can be just what the doctor ordered. Is it as restful as a 10-day trip? Well, no. But it’s not nearly as expensive. Budget for a quick weekend getaway, and you might be pleasantly surprised at how affordable it can be.
8. Take a vacation on a weekday
All right, this is the exact opposite of the last idea, but hear us out. Most of the time, booking a hotel or Airbnb for the weekend is pricier than staying there during the week. So, if you can afford to use some vacation time at work, try booking a quick, midweek vacation.
9. Visit a national park
The greatest thing about nature is that it’s usually pretty much free to enjoy. Oh, and it’s beautiful—added bonus! Don’t sweat it if you don’t live anywhere near Yosemite or the Grand Canyon. Did you know there are actually 61 national parks across the United States? Find one near you and go explore! Just know the parks might have a small entrance fee to pay per vehicle or person.
10. Stay at a bed-and-breakfast nearby
Sure, some B&Bs are known for being over the top and out of a budgeter’s price range. But many bed-and-breakfasts can actually be budget friendly if they roll meals and activities into the price of a nightly stay.
A bed-and-breakfast in Nashville generally runs around $100 to $275 per night.(3)But considering you’ll get homemade breakfast at the very least (hence the name) and other meals throughout your stay, it’s really not a bad deal.
A lot of B&Bs even throw in extras, like coffee and cookies or wine and cheese, in the lobby area. Depending on your location, some bed-and-breakfasts offer kayaks, bikes or canoes for you to take for a spin for free.
11. Get insider tips
Okay, let’s say you already know you’re going to go big and plan a vacation to Disney World, but you still want to be smart and do Disney on a budget. You need to make collecting all the insider tips your part-time job. Scour the internet, ask friends and family, and do your research across the board to learn all the things you need to know before booking the trip.
Just because it’s “the most magical place on Earth” doesn’t mean you can’t do it on the cheap!
12. Explore your own region
On the flip side, taking a vacation doesn’t mean you have to go to Disneyland . . . or Paris . . . or take a Caribbean cruise. If you want cheap vacation ideas, look no further than your own region.
Decide to go somewhere that’s maybe just one or two hours away from home. You’ll be out of town while (hopefully) avoiding the sticker shock of busy vacation areas. And you’ll save money by not dealing with flights or long drives!
13. Book in advance
One of the best cheap vacation ideas is booking your trip far in advance. We’re not saying you have to plan it years out, but your chances of getting good prices are a lot higher when you don’t wait until the month before you want to go.
Online travel hubs, like Groupon and Expedia, pride themselves in offering great, last-minute vacation deals. And if you’re just trying to find a last-minute hotel in a pinch, look into Hotel Tonight.
14. Book a rental car with your debit card
Trying to book a rental car with your debit card used to be a huge pain. Sure, some places would let you do it, but they basically wanted you to submit to a background check, leave your first-born child as collateral, and pat your head while rubbing your belly. In other words, there were a lot of hoops to jump through.
Now, Dollar Car Rental makes renting a car with a debit card super easy. No hoops, no making you feel like a second-class citizen—just pick up your car and hit the road. And how does it save you money? Simple. It’s not being charged to a credit card and collecting interest months after your vacation ended—that’s how.
15. Take a staycation
Take those vacation days and get ready to stay at home! There are plenty of ways to be creative (and thrifty) without losing the fun factor. Plan out which nights of the week you want to take your family out to eat or explore downtown. And don’t forget to meal plan for the nights you’ll eat at home too. Try sprucing up your backyard and tossing some burgers on the grill!
How to Save for Your Cheap Vacation
We hate to break it to you, but the money for your cheap vacation isn’t just going to magically appear in your bank account. This is why having a budget is such a big deal!
Once you figure out when you want to go on vacation, budget out what looks like a reasonable amount of money to save for your family. The amount you’re able to put aside will impact where you go and how long you can stay. You may need to sell things and make temporary lifestyle sacrifices. But don’t worry! There are plenty of ways you can save up cash quickly.
We’re all for you having a dream vacation, but don’t go into debt for it! When you save up, pay in cash, and try these tips, you’ll be able to enjoy your vacation without having to worry about bills following you home.
So, don’t go on a vacation without a budget—you’ll feel the burn long after summer ends if you do. Instead, create your budget with our free budgeting app, EveryDollar! Then, get out there and enjoy your paid for vacation!
People in the real estate business absolutely love their jargon. If you’re new to the home-buying process, you’re going to hear a bunch of stuff that will make you wonder if English is your native language. There’s stuff like bump and bumpable and estoppel certificate. And what in the world is earnest money?
Well, that one is kinda easy, so let’s get into it.
So what exactly is earnest money?
Earnest money is just money you put down as a good-faith gesture that you’re serious about buying a house. Typically, it’s 1-5% of the purchase price. While you wait to close on your house, the money is deposited into an escrow account with the seller’s broker, title company or escrow company.
Do you know that old cliché about storytelling? It’s better to show than tell. Earnest money is you showing the seller you mean business when it comes to buying their house. It gives them peace of mind to go forward into the next steps of the transaction. It proves you’re sincere—or earnest—about this purchase.
How much earnest money do I need?
The short answer is that you need 1–5% of the price that you and the seller agreed upon. The longer answer begins with: “It depends.”
Because it really does depend on a number of factors—mostly related to where you are. In some markets, you’ll need a fixed amount—like $1,000 or $5,000. In other communities, the focus is on the percentage. In really hot real estate markets like Silicon Valley, it’s not uncommon to see six-figure earnest money deposits.
That’s a lot of money! It’s important to have a real estate pro like one of our real estate Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) in your corner to help you play by the rules in your area.
Do I get it back?
So what happens to your earnest money?
Just to be clear, earnest money is not your down payment. Your down payment is completely separate and should be 10–20% of the purchase price with a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage.
However, if everything goes the way it’s supposed to, the earnest money will get folded into your closing costs. But you’ll need to be careful and read your contract because there are several ways you could lose your earnest money deposit. Make sure your agent builds these contingencies into your contract so you can get back your earnest money.
- The home doesn’t get appraised at the offer amount. Maybe you make a $200,000 offer on a home that turns out to be worth only $150,000.
- The home doesn’t pass inspection. The home could have significant structural damage or need a new roof and you may not be able to come to an agreement with the seller to make the repairs.
- You can’t get financing. Things happen. Your lender could change ownership or you might encounter another hiccup in the finance process.
Sidenote: If you’ve been working the Baby Steps and have no debt (and therefore no credit score), a traditional lender may tell you to take a hike. In that case, talk to our friends at Churchill Mortgage. They’re experts at navigating the mortgage lending process and will truly put your first.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the deadlines in the contract. There will usually be a hard date for closing, and your real estate agent can really help you here. If it looks like it may take longer to arrange your financing than you originally thought, you may be able to renegotiate the date to keep things moving smoothly and save that earnest money deposit.
But keep in mind that there may come a time when you just want to walk away. Something unexpected —like an accident, a divorce or a dream that causes you to rethink your entire life—could happen. In these cases, you need to be prepared to walk away without the money.
Work With a Real Estate Agent
Get your ducks in a row! The best way to navigate the home-buying process is with the guidance of a trusted professional.