I Was Wrong: My 2017 Savings Plan Didn’t Work

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Earlier this year I shared a three-step “foolproof” plan to save money in 2017. Full disclosure – it wasn’t entirely foolproof for me. As embarrassing as that is to admit, I can take some joy in the fact that it worked for a few people who tried it.

While I didn’t save as much as I wanted to, I was able to identify the loopholes in my personal implementation of the plan. Here’s what I learnt:

  1. Make space for the unexpected
    I’ll start with step 1 in my original plan – Setting a Realistic Goal. I used the spreadsheet to budget all my expenses and determine how much I could save this year. However, I now realize that I did not allow space for unforeseen expenses (for example, the pricing of my utilities increased), emergencies, damages/repairs or unexpected travel.My plan was super rigid and, seeing that I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of person, the two didn’t work well together.

Lesson Learnt: Allow enough buffer for life changes. Lifestyle changes — like getting addicted to kickboxing for a workout — certainly impacted my savings.

  1. Savings accounts are good, as long as….
    I created two savings accounts – one with Acorns, an app that automatically withdraws and invests spare change from my expenditures. The other, a savings account with a bank, which was set up for manual transfers. They both worked well for me during the first quarter, but over time I stopped manually transferring money and just allowed the transfers to automatically be deducted from my account.

    Lesson Learnt:
    Automate all savings transfers if you’re a go-with-the-flow kind of person!
  1. Keep the secret sauce a secret!
    The secret sauce to my plan was “NOT” to dip into my savings, and boy did I ignore that rule! Since I had a very rigid plan, I found myself constantly dipping into my savings… almost every month. When I wasn’t doing that, I was blocking all transfers to my savings account so that the money would be available for immediate use. The only upside to all of this was that I wasn’t turning to my credit cards for the extra expenditure and was using the money that I saved.

Lesson Learnt: Forget your passwords, delete those apps, make it difficult to withdraw from your savings… or enroll in the army to cultivate a rigorous level of discipline!

So there it is, everything I’d do differently next time around!

Looking back, I’ve had a great year. I tried a bunch of new things, achieved some personal goals and experienced growth in leaps and bounds. While not everything went as planned, I’m now raring to go back to the drawing board to improve my savings plan for 2018.

How did your year of savings go? Do leave a comment below!

 Creative writer. Part-time engineer. Marketing professional. Swetha has an MBA from the University at Buffalo. She manages Oxigen’s presence online, providing value to NRIs and driving sales along the way. When not working, she’s usually creating things – either craft, writing or food.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

How to Legally Transfer Money to India as a Business & Get Better FX Rates*

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Did you know that certain money transfer services, like Xoom/PayPal, are only for individuals and not businesses where as there are other services, like OFX, which are only for businesses and not individuals? At Oxigen, we give you the best of both worlds and also make sure that your money transfers are 100% legal.

One might say, “But I transfer money from my US bank account to my Indian bank account using a money transfer service for individuals and then make business-related payments from my Indian bank account”. Although you’re not alone – in fact, our market research shows that many NRIs are doing this – we’re pretty sure that this flow of funds is not compliant with law if the money transferred to India is ultimately for business reasons, e.g. paying a software development firm for engineering work or paying a landlord for rent of a commercial property.

One might then say, “But everyone does it, like speeding on the highway. I won’t get caught”. That may be true, however, you could be at risk of penalization in the event that your personal transfers to India are determined to be for business purposes. For example, in the event that you were audited by the IRS after filing your tax return, your transfers to India could be exposed and reported to the Indian government.


“Fair point, but what should I do? Isn’t starting a company a big hassle and expense?”, one may ask. Contrary to popular belief, starting a company in the US is actually quick, easy, and affordable. The government has created a very convenient corporate structure for individuals to have their own one-person companies without requiring a separate tax return, overhead, and professional services: the Limited Liability Corporation or LLC for short. Costs vary by state, but starting an LLC costs less than $1,000 and can be done in a day or two online. https://howtostartanllc.com/ provides a good online guide for starting an LLC, where you can just select your state of residence and it tells you how to proceed accordingly. You can interact directly with your state government’s website to form the LLC or, for a fee, you can use a service like LegalZoom.com or IncFile.com to manage the process for you.

What all can an LLC do for you?

  1. An LLC provides you with a shield for (almost) all liabilities associated with your business activities. For example, let’s say you sell a mobile app online and one of your users claims to have an injury resulting from your app. If you don’t have an LLC (or other corporate structure), then the user sues you as an individual and your personal assets may be at stake; whereas if you have an LLC then the user would sue the LLC and your personal assets should be protected – there are some things that corporate structures do not protect against such as fraud (more on that, here).
  2. You could make use of money transfer companies that only serve businesses, and, in the case of Oxigen, take advantage of our superior business money transfer rate. Today, for instance, Oxigen’s FX rate for individuals is Rs 63.36/$1 whereas for businesses it’s Rs 65.37/$1, a difference of over 2 Rupees per Dollar!
  3. Lastly, and perhaps even more importantly, with an LLC you should not be at risk of legal problems if you are transferring money to India for business reasons as an individual since it would be the LLC transferring the money, not you as an individual.

I have an LLC and have transferred money to India through Oxigen using the business money transfer service – and it works great!

In short, if you transfer money to India for business reasons, you should be doing it through a corporate structure. If you’re not using a corporate structure, you should consider setting up an LLC to not only protect yourself, but also to take advantage of better rates and services offered only to business clients.

Try us out for FREE: Send your first business money transfer to India on us.

* Please note that this article does not provide any legal, tax, or accounting advice and that the author is not liable for any claims, damages, costs, or other factors resulting from a reader’s review of the article. Please consult an attorney or accountant if you would like advice on the subject matter described in the article.

 

Amir is an accomplished entrepreneur with expertise in international business, IT, and telecom. He received his Master’s from MIT Sloan and has started 4 companies impacting the lives of millions globally. Red Herring featured Amir as one of the “Top 25 [Entrepreneurs] Under 35”. Amir enjoys yoga, kitesurfing, and travel.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Missing Diwali in India? Celebrate NRI Style!

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Diwali is in a few days and I can’t stop thinking about how the festival has evolved over the years. When I was a child, we used to go to our grandma’s house where our extended family would come together and celebrate the festival. The day would start with Ganga Snanam and prayers to God before we could even touch the sweets. I enjoyed watching crackers more than trying one by myself, but I had enough people around me who loved bursting crackers.

After moving to USA, Diwali had become so mundane and… blah. The first few years were tough especially when the Diwali day was nothing more than just another day. I missed my family more during festival times and Skype calls sometimes just made it worse.

After having kids, I realized that there is a reason why we decided to live in this country and, instead of cribbing, why not make the most of what we have? In the past few years, our Diwali celebrations have improved in such a way that my family was impressed when they visited us during one Diwali. Here are some ways NRIs can celebrate and enjoy this important Festival of Lights:

Send Diwali Cards to Friends and Family:

Receiving physical cards from our loved ones is much more exciting than an getting another email. When I was a child (yikes, am feeling really old when I say this J), I used to write greeting cards to my cousins and friends. I’d go to the store, pick the ones I like, write messages in my own handwriting, put a stamp and send it to friends and family.

People still do it for Christmas over here, right? Why not combine both and recreate the tradition for Diwali now?

Take a family portrait, print a Diwali greeting card with a family portrait and send to friends and family. If you have big kids, involve them in the process and make them write messages to their extended families. Post them ahead of time for them to receive it in time – hurry!

Take the Day Off and Celebrate with Close Friends:

Team Oxigen at a Diwali Celebration

For NRIs, friends are more of a family away from family. Not all of us are blessed with close families living nearby. Use this occasion to meetup with your close friends – even if they’re not Indian, why not introduce them? I still remember one special Diwali celebration couple of years back. One time, we all met at our friend’s house, cooked elaborate meals, played all day long and ended the celebration by watching an Indian movie in a theatre. If you have younger kids, it might be difficult to do all of this in one day, but at least meet with your close friends and celebrate in a way that works for you.

Remind them to Send Treats from India:

My family has been sending Diwali bakshanams (foods) from India and it’s something we look forward to every year. Not that we can’t get these things over here, but when we receive gifts from our loved ones from the homeland, it becomes very special. In my case, my whole family lives in India except me. We all miss each other and this package of clothes and bakshanams is something that makes my festival day brighter. Now even my kiddo looks forward to the package from his paati (nana).

Send Gifts to Family in India:

It goes without saying: send gifts to your immediate family to make their festival of lights even brighter. We all get excited and happy when someone thinks about us and sends gifts. Why not make our family happy by sending Diwali gifts to show them how much we still care?

You can find great deals on Diwali gifts over here: https://oxigenusa.com/send-diwali-gifts-to-india-2017 and you can use my discount code, “UMASGIFT”, for a 15% discount on Diwali gifts and instant gift cards!

Diwali Decorations:

In our house, decorations start from October. First Diwali, then Thanksgiving and it ends in Christmas. (Last year, our son wanted to keep the Christmas tree till February. That’s another story for another time.) Personally, I am all about DIY creations and Pinterest has lots of ideas on Diwali DIYs. Even if you don’t have time or patience, you can buy some Diwali themes decorations from ETSY. Even just artificial thorans that we find in Indian stores can give a festive touch to your home.

Nearby Diwali Events:

Diwali Celebrations at Times Square, NY

Nowadays, multiple Diwali events are happening in the city where I live. A regionally-specific one, Diwali Mela (search Diwali under Events section in Facebook) and Temple Mela are some examples. Almost all of the time, they end the celebration with fireworks. And these events are always during weekends. The good thing is, this event is for the whole family and no one gets bored by attending a Diwali mela. My personal favorite is watching dance performances, while my husband’s favorite is hitting all the food stalls 🙂

Although these ideas are not equal to celebrating the festival with all our extended family in India, we still can create some special memories with our own family if we plan ahead and try the above ideas. My first kid is 3 years old and is starting to understand festivals and special occasions now. I can’t wait to create some special memories again during this Diwali!

Wishing you all a wonderful Diwali, no matter where you are!

 

 


Uma is a working mom of two little kids, living in New Jersey. She enjoys saving money and writes a lifestyle/personal finance blog called Centsible Indian.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

The Desi Blend

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

To me, one of the biggest perks of being Indian-American is the clothing. I love having a wardrobe that consists of ethnic-wear and western-wear. Let’s be honest. One is never enough, but both combined? Perfection.

While I adore the dresses, footwear, and multi-functional tops I get in the States, I have to admit that my wardrobe would feel empty without all the colors, varieties, and prints that ethnic-wear brings. I’m someone who, no matter the occasion, adds a desi twist to my outfits.

Adding unique pieces to your wardrobe will make picking outfits in the morning more fun and compliments all the more regular (and who doesn’t love compliments?). Say goodbye to your standard gray, black, and blue outfits and hello to outfits that pop! I want to show you guys easy ways you can integrate your favorite desi pieces into your everyday wardrobe!

The first and easiest way to start is with some jewelry. Indian costume jewelry is some of the best-designed and most beautiful jewelry in the world. Even though at first I was hesitant to add such bold pieces to my regular outfits, once I started, I realized that I had nothing to worry about. Jhumkas are eye-catching and it’s easy enough to buy one of each color when you’re in India.

Ornate necklaces already have an “in” because they can be worn as fashion-forward statement necklaces (except you won’t have to buy one from J. Crew for over $100). And of course, I cannot forget about churis. The easiest ones to accessorize with are the metallic gold and silver churis, which go with pretty much everything. You can wear three or four at one time or the whole set if you’re feeling bold. I prefer the whole set.

Kurtis and kurtas are great for those days you want to show off your desi side! Kurtis, of course, look great with jeans rolled up to the ankle and some cute ankle-booties. Kurtas, preferably without a slit, are a perfect pair with leggings and black booties. Kurta with khadi print? Even better. Add a little kajal and you are ready to go!

Last, but not least, are scarves! Indian scarves are one of my wardrobe staples. I cannot live without them. Two or three days out of the week I am wearing a scarf I picked up on one of my summer trips to India. My favorite is one from Chandigarh that I take with me wherever I go. Indian scarves have indisputably the prettiest designs and can be paired with any outfit, whether it is jeans and a t-shirt or a dress. When it is cold eight months out of the year, like it is in New England, scarves are a lifesaver! Pro-tip: Get two to four that you can rotate throughout the cold months. These scarves also tend to look great in photos.

When you’re going out, don’t be afraid to try a bold look! Especially if you are going to be wearing a solid-colored dress, accessories will help pull it all together. Big jhumkas or kundan earrings will draw attention to your face. Ornate necklaces also work, although I would recommend them more for a dinner or formal gathering rather than for going out dancing.

What about work-wear?  Don’t be afraid to add an eye-catching scarf to your outfit, especially in a more casual work environment. It pairs great with a sweater or even a button-up if styled correctly. If you work somewhere more formal, a neutral-colored kurti under a blazer with work trousers is definitely appropriate. You can still add some costume jewelry, but aim on the smaller side!

Have fun accessorizing with your desi pieces!

Thanks to Priya, Divya and Pustika for contributing their images. If you would like to add your unique desi blend to this blog, email happiness@oxigenusa.com.

 

 

Star social media marketer, avid traveler and DIY enthusiast, Aishani holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the Boston University and interned for Oxigen in 2015.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Game of Happiness

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Game of Happiness

You must have already heard of Game of Thrones – the famous fantasy drama television series from HBO written by George R.R. Martin, where several royal families fight for the Iron Throne and control of Westeros.

So you must be wondering, “What is this Game of Happiness?” Ok, let me tell you. It’s an interactive game themed on the Game of Thrones, especially designed for GoT fans.

Now, your next question might be, “That’s nice, but why should I care?” Well, it has a lot to offer people who transfer money to India! As you complete each quest, you’ll earn Reward Points that you can use for discounts on your transfers to India. And when you become the Lord of a new House, you’ll increase your Reward Points multiplier which is applied to all of your transfers.

“Well, well that sounds fun, but what the heck does this have to do with Game of Thrones?”, you may inquire. Ah! my dear friend there are four houses (so far) in this game based on houses in GoT: House Stark has become House Spark with the words “Rewards are Coming”; House Lannister has become House Laughter with the words “We Always Pay Our Debts”; House Tully has become House Jolly with the words “Family, Duty, Honor” (ultimately, it’s your duty and honor to Send Happiness to your family in India); House Targaryen has become House Champion with the words “Growing Happiness”. Master all of the houses and you can become the king/queen of the Seven Kingdoms of Happiness (or, well, just four in our case – we are still small, na J).

“Ok, please stop building this suspense and just tell me how to play this lovely game?”, you say. Well, that’s again a nice question! You’ll begin at the lower ranks of House Spark and, if you’re ambitious, you can level up to become the Lord of House Champion. We will be adding more houses soon based on your feedback. One more thing, you will have to register to play, which you can do in a few clicks from here.

“Got it, now how did you come up with this crazy game?!” Well, on one fine day when I was walking near my grand and exquisite farmhouse in Shimla in the lap of the Himalayas, this chord of my mind struck and I suddenly realized Game of Happiness! Ah, you believed it? Haha, I was just kidding! It took us a lot more than just a walk to deliver this lovely game to you. Actually, my colleague Swetha from marketing wanted to create a more engaging customer journey. She told me how Dropbox is incentivizing its users for finishing small tasks. I brainstormed on that idea and realized that an incentive-based task program could be packaged as an interactive game. I also wanted to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone, and that’s when I put two and two together and came up with a GoT-inspired game, since I know many of you love GoT.

Hope you will enjoy playing this lovely game, and to hear your feedback on it so we can make it even better and expand upon it. Please send me any thoughts you have after playing (ankur@oxigenusa.com)  and Happy Gaming!!

 

Ankur has a Master’s Degree in Marketing & Finance from IIT Roorkee. He has over 4 years of work experience building world-class products at Oxigen and TCS, and works closely with the CEO to help translate the vision into products. In his free time, Ankur loves to play tennis, pool, and keep an eye on Oxigen’s competitors.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Sending Gifts to India

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn


As an employee of Oxigen, I regularly promote our services. Lately I’ve been talking a lot about our instant gift cards because they’ve transformed the way I send gifts (and money) to India. Apart from opening me up to a whole new universe of gifting options, Oxigen made it possible for me to be more spontaneous and personal with my gifts.

Just yesterday, my dad told me about his upcoming trip to Mumbai. He was evaluating different accommodation options based on distance, comfort, and price. I jumped in (online) to help him with his search. Almost instinctively I’d decided to transfer some money to his account to ensure that he doesn’t compromise on convenience or comfort. Before I knew it, several involuntary thoughts plagued my mind – when and how much money would I send? Would it reach him in time to make the reservation? What if the prices increased by the time the money reached him? Would he agree to use the money for the hotel reservation or would he redirect it to my savings account (typical dad!)?

I continued my search for a few minutes until – BOOM – it struck me that Oxigen has MakeMyTrip (MYT) gift cards! I realized I could send one instantly via email without having to worry about time or what the money would be used for. Old habits like transferring money die hard, but in this case an instant gift card was better than money!

It took me about 3 minutes to log into my Oxigen account and send him an MYT gift card that he could use right away. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Oxigen’s instant gift cards service for you!

On a related note, we recently requested the Centsible Indian to try out Oxigen’s instant gift cards service and write about it. Read about her experience here: https://goo.gl/1N7B7W. If you’ve already sent a gift card, we welcome any feedback you might have for us. Please comment below.

 

 Creative writer. Part-time engineer. Marketing professional. Swetha has an MBA from the University at Buffalo. She manages Oxigen’s presence online, providing value to NRIs and driving sales along the way. When not working, she’s usually creating things – either craft, writing or food.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

H-1Bs in the New Administration: Fact v. Fiction

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Here we are, mid-April already, and business immigration attorneys all over the United States are breathing a sigh of relief that another H-1B cap season has come and gone. Meanwhile, for the hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals who are the potential beneficiaries of the congressionally-mandated 85,000 total available H-1B visas, the wait has just begun.

Given the amount of media attention the H-1B program has received as of late, it is important for foreign nationals, especially those on H-1Bs or waiting for H-1Bs, to stay informed and separate factual information from the fictional rumors and speculation that seem to be circulating. To learn more about the government’s recent announcements regarding the H-1B program and how it may affect you, read on!

Despite some of the recent negative press regarding the H-1B visa program, U.S. employers are still filing in huge numbers for this sought-after immigration benefit. In fact, on April 7, 2017, just four short days after the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) began accepting H-1B filings, USCIS announced that it had reached the 85,000 H-1B visa cap for fiscal year 2018. To-date it is unclear if there will again be a lottery this year, or if USCIS stopped accepting filings once the available visa numbers were reached. However, it is likely that USCIS will clarify this point within the next few weeks.

The H-1B visa program has been thrust into the spotlight due to the current administration’s hardline stance on immigration and the overall political climate in the United States. The media has taken a renewed interest in the program and the H-1B has become a hotly contested issue in the nationwide debate on immigration. Is the H-1B visa program taking jobs from American workers? Is there widespread fraud and abuse of the H-1B visa program like some suggest? These are all valid questions posed by politicians and the media and as such, there is an overwhelming amount of information currently circulating regarding potential changes to the H-1B visa program — some of it true and a lot of it false.

The current administration seems to have realized its limits and as far as the H-1B program goes, and, instead of focusing on creating new law, the administration seems to be targeting existing regulations and utilizing the laws already in place in order to more strictly construe and enforce the H-1B visa program. This is evidenced by the string of recently released alerts, memos, and policy guidance from USCIS.

Below is a timeline of factual updates to the H-1B visa program since the new administration took office that offers some insight into how the current administration is addressing changes to the program.

  1. Fact: H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act is Introduced to Congress

There have been multiple bills introduced into Congress regarding reforms to the H-1B visa program but the most well-known is the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act introduced by Senators Grassly and Durban on January 20, 2017. The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act includes some changes to the H-1B program but these changed mainly effect H-1B dependent employers (those who employ large numbers of H-1B employees). Additionally, the Act suggests giving preference to foreign students already studying in the U.S. in an effort to retain high-level education and talent that would ultimately benefit the U.S. economy. For more information on the proposed Bill or to read the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act in its entirety please use the link below.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/180

  1. Fact: Temporary Suspension of Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions

On March 3, 2017, USCIS announced that it would temporarily be suspending premium processing for all H-1B petitions effective April 3, 2017, including H-1B Cap cases. The suspension is meant to reduce the overall H-1B processing times, allow USCIS to process long-pending petitions, and to prioritize the adjudication of H-1B extensions of status that are nearing the 240-day mark. USCIS did not offer a specific date for when the suspension may be lifted but instead said it may remain in place for up to six months.

This is not the first time USCIS has temporarily suspended premium processing service and it is not anything out of the ordinary.

3. Fact: Computer Programmer Positions for H-1Bs to be Scrutinized

On March 31, 2017 USCIS issued a Policy Memorandum specifically rescinding a 16-year-old Memo that provided guidance on H-1B computer related positions, specifically the occupation of Computer Programmer.

The March 31, 2017 Memorandum is effective immediately and provides USCIS Officers with new guidance regarding the adjudication of H-1B petitions for Computer Programmers and more specifically, states that the occupation of Computer Programmers should not generally be considered a specialty occupation for purpose of an H-1B.

It is important to note that more complex or senior-level Computer Programmers may still qualify as a specialty occupation for H-1B purposes, however, the burden is on the employer to provide evidence that the particular role qualifies as a specialty occupation pursuant to 8 CFR § 214.2(h)(4)(ii).

The occupation of Computer Programmer has long received scrutiny from USCIS so this new Policy Memorandum is simply clarifying USCIS’s current view on the occupation. For more information, please see the link below.

https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/nativedocuments/PM-6002-0142-H-1BComputerRelatedPositionsRecission.pdf

  1. Fact: USCIS Announces Further Measures to Detect H-1B Fraud and Abuse

On April 3, 2017 USCIS released a news alert titled, “Putting American Workers First: USICS Announces Further Measures to Detect H-1B Visa Fraud and Abuse.” This news alert simply states that USCIS will be utilizing the regulations already in place to take a more targeted approach to detect H-1B visa fraud and abuse. Moving forward, USCIS will focus resources on H-1B employers whose basic business information cannot be validated through available data; H-1B dependent employers; and H-1B employers petitioning for workers who will be placed off-site at another company or organization’s location.

USCIS also announced that they would be making additional site visits to employers who fall into any of the above mentioned categories and will continue to make random unannounced site visits nationwide, as they always have (emphasis added).

The facts above summarize the only official actions regarding the H-1B visa program. Anything else is rumor or speculation at this point. Yes, the H-1B visa program has come under political and media scrutiny since the new administration has taken office and this frightens people. However, there are well-established laws and policy in place and any substantial changes to the H-1B visa program will take time. Simply put, just because a Bill is introduced to Congress does not mean it is going to become law. And as we have seen with some of the recent Executive Orders, simply because the President signs it, does not mean the United States Judicial System will allow it to be enforced.

Further, as evidenced by the facts above, the current administration seems focused on using the laws already in place to enhance scrutiny and increase the resources used to investigate fraud or abuse of the H-1B visa program, which is a good thing. If employers taking advantage of the program are eliminated, this will open more doors for employers looking to play by the rules.

These are certainly interesting times for foreign nationals in the United States on an H-1B or other non-immigrant visa. Never before has a non-immigrant visa program been thrust into the political and media spotlight quite like this and because of this newfound interest by the masses, it is important that the immigration community stays informed and shares only reputable information.

Any new policy changes, guidance, or executive orders will be announced and made public as they happen and it is extremely important to verify the source of your information before relying it. Government websites or the American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”) website are reputable places to research information and stay informed. Message boards, foreign news, and immigration forums are not the best places to look for information and often provide visitors with misleading or false information.

Should you have a particular concern about your case, it is always advisable to contact an experienced immigration attorney.

 

Boston Immigration Lawyer Chiara St. Pierre has worked with business clients all over the world including large multi-national companies and individual entrepreneurs looking to expand their business into the United States. She specializes in employment-based immigration and has over seven years of experience with both immigrant and non-immigrant visas. Attorney St. Pierre currently practices with Trupti N. Patel & Associates where she manages business
integration for corporate clients.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

7 Ways to Save Money on Grocery Shopping

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

If you want to reduce your spending and hit your savings goal, focus on the top spending categories where the majority of your money goes. One of the top expenses is food, especially groceries. According to a consumer expenditure report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we spend an average of 12.5% of our income on food – that includes both grocery spending and eating out. In our household, a good chunk of our money goes to groceries. So, even a $10/month saved in that category gives $120 per year.

There is no need to resort to a rice-and-beans only diet to save money, but small actions here and there without too much effort can save you a handful of dollars. Notice the word small, here?

Below are some of the strategies that worked for me:

Never go shopping on an empty stomach:
Fill up your tummy before you step out to shop if you don’t want to fill up your cart with extra stuff that will likely go to waste. This is the mantra to use to avoid impulse buys when grocery shopping. Always carry a snack in your car or bag. If you think you’ll get hungry while (or after) shopping, you’ll know that you can reach into your bag and munch away.

Pause before the checkout line:
Before joining the checkout line, glance at your cart to check if you bought anything unnecessary that can be removed. For example, during my last grocery shopping I realized that I had added some dips and chips that I didn’t really need. A quick look before checking out was all I needed to remove unnecessary things from my cart.

Bill the needs and wants separately:
Differentiate between milk (need) and that delicious box of brownies (big want!) This makes a huge difference. I’m not kidding. There is nothing wrong with buying something we enjoy as long as we know how much money is spent on them vs things we actually need. You can also set a budget for the amount you can afford to spend on wants. Until I tried this idea, 32% of our spending went on splurges.

Reduce the number of times you shop:
The more you visit a grocery store, the more you will spend. With proper planning, you can reduce the number of grocery visits to once a week. For example, I visit the Indian store once in 2-3 weeks and a generic grocery store once a week.

Perishable vs non-perishable:
Have you tried limiting non-perishable shopping to once a month? You buy all the non-perishables you need for that month during the first week of the month itself. Then you hit the grocery store only for perishable items such as vegetables, milk, etc. during the rest of the month.

This reduces the time spent in the grocery store and you’ll only need to plan your major grocery shopping once a month.

Amazon Prime Pantry is a great option if you try this approach.

Mobile app couponing:
Have you checked if your grocery store has a mobile app? If they do, be sure to download it and sign up for digital coupons.  When coupons become available, all you should have to do is add them to your account and use them while checking out. Remember to tell the cashier about the coupons if they don’t ask you in advance.

Cashback apps:
Last but not least, take advantage of cashback apps to earn some cash back for your recent purchases. These are free apps that pay you money for everyday purchases. When you’re back from a shopping trip, simply check if any of your purchased items are eligible for cashback, scan the item along with the receipt and you’re good to go. It takes me hardly 5 minutes to do it. Some of the cashback apps I use are IBOTTA (Use this link or my referral code “gjheew” to earn $10), Checkout 51, and BerryCart.

Hope this helps!

 

Uma is a working mom of two little kids, living in New Jersey. She enjoys saving money and writes a lifestyle/personal finance blog called Centsible Indian.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Love Oxigen

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

What do you hold close to your heart? Your car? New shoes? Maybe, your new phone? Or, is it one of those memories – like the time you spent playing badminton with your dad, or those family dinners that made you feel unconditionally loved? I think we tend to hold experiences that make us feel special close to our heart more than material things.

But sometimes life takes over and you end up being so far away from the people that make you feel special. Every once in a while, a picture, book or movie reminds you, and you yearn to re-capture that feeling again. You may be able to experience it by reconnecting with loved ones, but if you live outside of India, that can be a feat. Although you miss them so much, and – guess what – they miss you too, it can sometimes be hard to express that. Oxigen USA was born out of the very need for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to stay connected and keep the happiness flowing with family and friends in India.

When you use Oxigen, you’re not just sending money for your family’s needs, you’re ultimately watching out for them and making them feel cared for. You’re paying some of their monthly bills to save them that hassle, and maybe sending them some extra cash too. You’re surprising them with movie tickets on their birthday, or just sending them some flowers to remind them that you’re thinking of them. Through Oxigen you are staying actively involved in their lives and making them feel important, which is why our trademark is Send Happiness®.

We love to hear about times when Oxigen plays a role in creating experiences that people end up holding close to their heart. For instance, when Barathi from Texas sent a surprise Diwali gift to her nephews in Coimbatore, we were thrilled to hear that they responded with the photos below saying,“Thank you Oxigen and Bharathi Aunty for making my Diwali Special”.

This is exactly the kind of unforgettable, close-to-your-heart experience that we strive to catalyze at Oxigen.

We invite you to explore all the ways that you can use Oxigen to create heartfelt experiences that you and your loved ones will cherish, and that will prevent you from drifting apart despite the distance that separates you.

Feeling inspired to reach out right now? Here’s a discount code that you can use for 5% off any payment or gift transaction!

{2HEARTS}*

* Limited to one use per person, limited time offer.

 

Amir is an accomplished entrepreneur with expertise in international business, IT, and telecom. He received his Master’s from MIT Sloan and has started 4 companies impacting the lives of millions globally. Red Herring featured Amir as one of the “Top 25 [Entrepreneurs] Under 35”. Amir enjoys yoga, kitesurfing, and travel.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Let’s Actually Save Money in 2017

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

2017 Savings

If you’re anything like me, you’ve always struggled with saving money! Ask me why I haven’t been able to save, and I can reel off 10 good reasons that will probably make you regret asking me. Because, oh, have I learnt to justify my expenses, starting from “I need this” to “I work so hard, I deserve this”. Well, something about that changed and I’ve decided to make this year different, I’ve decided to save money! It’s my challenge for 2017.

I personally enjoy challenges –  coming up with game plans, setting goals, milestones and the entire process of overcoming a hurdle to achieve something. So naturally, I have a plan for my savings and I want to share it with you. Not because it is rocket science, but because it’s the exact opposite of that. It’s the bare bones, the nuts and bolts of savings, and there’s no way we can go wrong with this!

There are three steps to this simple plan:
Step 1: Set a realistic goal
Step 2: Befriend a savings account
Step 3: The Secret Sauce!

Step 1: Set a realistic goal

This comes down to having realistic expectations and setting achievable goals.

(i) Calculate all of your fixed living expenses. Add to the list below to create your own:
– Rent or mortgage and associated costs (e.g. condo fees)
– Phone
– Utilities
– Internet
– EMIs (loan payments)
– Groceries
– Insurance premiums (medical, home, etc.)
– Home maintenance: paper towels, dish washing liquid, etc.
– Basic personal care – shampoo, conditioner, etc.
– Commuting and/or vehicle costs: fuel, maintenance, etc.

Feeling inspired? Download this spreadsheet to get started on your savings plan right away!

(ii) Calculate your disposable income.
Income – Living Expenses (i)

(iii) Calculate your discretionary expenses. No room for excuses here, you need to be brutally honest with yourself.  Some examples of discretionary expenses:
Dinner at a restaurant
– Going to an IMAX movie
– Buying another pair of high heels
– Going on a Caribbean cruise

Ask yourself two questions to help add or remove items from this list. One: are you making the most of this expense (think of gym/TV channel subscriptions)? Two, is this essential to you feeling good about life? If you can honestly answer yes to both questions, add the expense to this list and set a limit for spending on it. Take steps to axe expenses that aren’t serving you in any way, like a barely used gym subscription or premium cable TV channels that you don’t watch.

(iv) Calculate your savings goal
[Disposable Income (ii) – Discretionary Expenses (iii)] multiplied by 12

There are other ways you can go about setting a savings goal – like aiming to save a percentage of your salary, or aiming to save enough for you to survive for x months without a job. This bare bones way is how I chose to go about it because it just comes down to how much you earn and how much you spend every month. It really boils down to how much you are willing to reduce your discretionary expenses to enable you to save the money you’ve earned. If you can achieve a 10% savings of your income, you’re doing well according to norms. Don’t forget to download this spreadsheet to make Step 1 simple!

Step 2: Befriend a savings account

I’m just getting started and I like everything to be simple, so I chose a zero minimum savings account with Synchrony Bank. The process was a breeze and turns out they also offer a comparatively great interest rate. Unexpected win for me there! Here’s a website that compares interest rates at some US banks.

If you have plans to return to India in the next few years, you may also wish to consider transferring the money you want to save to your Indian bank account, perhaps an NRI account, which tends to yield much higher interest rates than US banks. Please be aware though that there are some currency and inflation risks associated with this approach.

Step 3: The Secret Sauce!

Now, here’s what makes this plan work – discipline. You have to take steps to enforce those savings… against yourself! Here are some tips to help with that:
(i) Set up automatic transfers so that your monthly savings goal amount is directed to your savings account at the beginning of month, or as applicable. Don’t wait till the end of the month to see if you have anything left to save. Train yourself to stick to the budgets you set for yourself.
(ii) Do not carry the ATM cards for your savings accounts. Simply forget about the account after you’ve set up the automatic transfers. Out of sight, out of mind!
(ii) Do not dip into your savings unless it is critical.

Follow steps 1 through 3 and just like that, by the end of the year, you will reach your savings goal! I’m excited for us to have a spectacular year and to feel good about how we are managing our money!

Want to add more to your savings? Jump right into this 52-week savings challenge!

If you’ve been successful at saving money in the past, I invite you to comment on the post below with what has worked for you. Also, look out for our upcoming posts on how to make the most of your disposable income with smart online shopping tips!

 Creative writer. Part-time engineer. Marketing professional. Swetha has an MBA from the University at Buffalo. She manages Oxigen’s presence online, providing value to NRIs and driving sales along the way. When not working, she’s usually creating things – either craft, writing or food.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn