Simple Budgeting

Disclaimer: I’m not a financial adviser. If anything, I hate math and I’m not a rich person. However, I do handle our household finances quite well and think it simply takes common sense to manage your basic household finances. What I’m about to discuss below is geared mainly to students to make some type of sense of their first paychecks so that it’s worth while in the long run.

I know a lot of students get really excited when they first get a job that they end up spending their first check before its even earned. Right now, with the way the economy is, budgeting should be every one’s priority. Below are a few simple steps to help you make sense of it all which I hope would make even Suze Orman proud!

First, to better understand where your money is going, make a list of all your expenses. For example, what are you paying a month for:
– rent/mortgage
– food/groceries
– utilities
– school expenses (books, equipment, student loans)
– phone/Internet
– cable
– credit card payments
– insurance
– medical
transportation (car payment, gas, bus fare, etc)
– savings

If your expenses exceed your monthly income, know that you have a problem. If you have more wants then necessities on your list, you have an even bigger problem. There are ways to decrease or even eliminate some of those excessive wants from your expense list. Ask yourself, do you really watch 500 channels? Must you eat lunch out every single day? Do you seriously have to keep every light in your home on? Does it hurt to make your own coffee at home versus a $6 cup from Starbucks?

Making a few adjustments can go along way. You’d be surprised how much money you could save a year. Just do the math. You can save up to $420 by getting just a basic cable package (if not eliminating cable all together now that many channels are free with the new national digital upgrade). You can save up to $200 a year by making lunch at home at least 3 times a week. You can save up to $250 a year off the electric utility bill by using energy efficient light bulbs and just turning off unnecessary lights. You can save over $360 a year making your own coffee at home before you head out for your day.

Speaking of saving, do you have a rainy day fund? Once you know how much you need a month for your expenses, you should start putting a certain amount in savings a month. Your goal should be to have at the least up to 3 months of expenses saved in a rainy day fund. The more the better but don’t go beyond your means. The point of such funds is to protect you should you hit a financial stumble along the way. Remember, you’re a student with more expenses to come along the way in an unstable economy. The more prepared you are, the more protected you are.

Think about this: San Francisco, where I live, created a rainy day fund about a few years ago. When the state of California issued pink slips to about 500 teachers in San Francisco alone, the rainy day fund helped save about 400 of those jobs. That’s how important such a fund is.

To better budget and manage your personal finances, you need to take a few moments to put everything in perspective and check out a few helpful tools. You can put your expenses list in a spread sheet to include your monthly income, expenses and savings. Many online banking give you the option to download your statements into a spread sheet as well as other tools. There are other tools and websites such as moneyStrands, Wasabe, or Mint.

If you use any other tools or strategies to manage your finances, do share with us by posting a comment below, on our Facebook group or message me on Twitter.

Praises for Fathers

Almost 40 years ago, my late Amuh* Ibrahim did what he could to bring my father from Egypt to America. Amuh Ibrahim had a small business and with my dad being the few of his 8 siblings wanting a better education and work opportunities, it just seemed best fit.

My dad came and worked with Amuh Ibrahim for many years while learning English and taking courses to better his knowledge in almost anything. Life in San Francisco, CA wasn’t the country side of Tukh, Egypt but it was bliss. After standing on his feet, bringing Amuh Abdoun to CA from Egypt and leaving Amuh Ibrahim’s business to take a labor union job, my dad went back to Egypt for a visit. He came back happily married to my mother.

My father struggled to make a better life for his wife and kids. Things change and people grow apart… He was a divorced man but a determined father never the less. Both my parents struggled living apart with 5 children in between. Both being single parents and doing all that they never thought they could for our sake.

My father had these big dreams for himself and when he couldn’t accomplish them, he did whatever he could to pass those dreams on to his children. The higher education he didn’t really finish, the big career job he didn’t have, the love that didn’t last… He wants all that and more for his children. However, his children have tried to make him proud, living out their own dreams that aren’t far from his own. Living apart from my father taught us a great deal of independence and gratitude.

The passing of Amuh Ibrahim last fall reminded us all of that gratitude for family. It was Amuh Ibrahim that took the first step so that two of his younger brothers can follow. As an older sibling, it showed me that what I do can determine what my younger siblings follow. It showed me that we are a piece of our parents hopes, dreams, goals and aspirations.

Today,I think of my cousins as they go through the first Father’s day without Amuh Ibrahim. Everything about them to me is a piece of Amuh Ibrahim. Today and everyday I think of how it makes him an unforgettable man as in my eyes, he lives through them. May he rest in eternal peace as his spirit surround us.

Today, I think of Amuh Abdoun, a man who’s smile is contagious and presence demands respect. Today and everyday, I think of the only other paternal relative I’ve grown to know as a man of religion, strength and will power.

Today and everyday I praise God Almighty for blessing my siblings and I with our father. For his determination, understanding, patience, charisma and smile, God I praise you. Even with his flaws and sometimes silly habits, I praise God. Without him and my mother, we would not be here today, living on the dreams of a young man from Egypt who wanted to go far and beyond.

God, I praise you for my father, Nagah Abdoun.

with my Baba, October 2007
with my Baba, October 2007

*Amuh (ุนู…ู‡)ย is Arabic for Uncle

A Beautiful Prayer

May you have:
The Wisdom of Luqmaan
The Sabr of Bilaal
The Generosity of Uthmaan
The Beauty of Yusuf
The Riches of Sulaiman
& The character of Muhammad (PBUH)

Allah’s (SWT) mercy and special blessings be on you and your beloved family today and always. Allahuma Enny ala Zikriqa we Shuqriqa wa Husnebadeq

A very powerful Dua’a has been sent to you… please share it with others!! Jazakum Allah kheer!! God bless you!

Interview Do's and PLEASE Don't!

I’ve been getting a lot of questions of what people should do or don’t do during an interview. So here’s an updated list of what I present during my Career Development Trainings. Please note that this isn’t just for during an interview, but what you should do/don’t before and after an interview.

Before an Interview (at least a few days in advance)…
– Research about the company/org and obtain any information about the company/org that will be useful for your interview (example: positive news, sales records, product line, innovation, etc.)
– Prepare any questions you might have about the company/org to ask the interviewer
– Know the duties and the complete description of the position
– Have the interviewer’s name, number and address as well as the interview location and directions
– Practice how you will answer tough questions, talk about yourself and turning on your positive voice
– Prepare interview outfit and make sure it is clean, neat and suitable
– Arrange for a sign language interpreter if necessary
– Prepare and organize your documents in a portfolio


– Assume you know everything about the company/org when 90% of the time you don’t have a clue
– Get intoxicated (especially if you’ll be taking a drug test!)
– Have all your documents in a disarray
– Be afraid, very very afraid
– Leave everything for the last minute

Dressing for an Interview…
– Job specific clothing such as hard hat and clean jeans for a construction job or a two piece suit for an office job
– Dress conservatively as possible within the confines of your personality
– Neutral, semi dark color clothing
– Simple jewelry such as one or two rings, small earrings and a necklace (depending on where you are interviewing, a small nose ring should be ok)

– Wear revealing or skintight clothing, haphazardly
– Wear every piece of jewelry you own
– Use strong perfume, aftershave, deodorant, body spray, etc.
– Wear bright nail polish, lipstick or clothing

Take to the Interview…
– Valid photo ID or Passport
– Social Security Card
– Your prepared and organized portfolio
– Master application/completed company application
– Multiple copies of your targeted resume
– References and letters of recommendation
– Small calendar/appointment book
– Other required certifications or documents such as typing tests, training certificates, etc.
– A bottle of water is fine if securely closed
– Confidence and a positive attitude

– Bring your relatives, friends, children or pets!
– Bring any food or sticky drinks
– Even thing of bringing drugs or alcohol

Interviewing Etiquette includes…
– Arrive at least 15 minutes early
– Make sure your cell phone is off or at least on vibrate or silent
– Shake hands firmly and quickly
– Wait for the interviewer to invite you to have a seat
– Sit attentively, straight up and ready
– Pay attention to the interviewer and listen to everything told and asked
– Pay attention to your poster, body language and nervousness
– Eye contact is very important, look at the interviewer when asking and answering questions
– Look interested, excited and ready
– Use professional language and speak clearly in an appropriate volume and tone
– Show off your confidence and SMILE!

– Be late
– Smoke
– Chew gum
– Have a cell phone on or on loud
– Answer your cell phone
– Slouch in your seat, cross your legs with the bottom of your feet facing the interviewer and hands everywhere
– Touch everything
– Interrupt the interviewer
– Speak in “slang” or use foul language
– Lie about your work or criminal history
– Be apologetic for whatever qualification you may lack
– Move far beyond the topic
– Take what is not given to you
– Talk too little or too much
– Speak in a very low voice or extremely loud
– Talk with your hands over your mouth or look away from the interviewer
– Take care of your hygiene
– Be fake
– Walk out yelling, screaming and raging

After an Interview…
– Send a “thank you” note to the interviewer for their time
– Make a follow up call and converse with the interviewer
– If asked not to call, send a follow up email to the interviewer

– Contact the interviewer on how horrible they were
– Bombard the interviewer with calls and emails on your status

Should you questions, post them in the comments so that I may respond!

What's Your Objective?

In every resume I’ve critiqued at least in the last month, I noticed one thing in common: everyone of them had a nice lengthy objective. I have a lengthy problem with that… here’s why.

What’s an objective? An objective is basically one’s intentions towards something, a goal to accomplish. With that understanding, it is very important that you do relay to your potential employer what your intentions and goals are in your career and in working with that company.

So why do I have a problem with it being in your resume? Well on your resume, you are listing your education, qualifications, work history and skills. An objective is written out in a good 3-5 sentence paragraph. That’s why it should not be on your resume! So where does it go?

On your cover letter!

Your cover letter is a personalized letter to the hiring personnel that introduces your resume. In your cover letter, you are to discuss what makes you best for the position in question, what your objectives are and how you can be reached after they review your resume. It’s simply an opening statement, a good 3-5 sentence paragraph about your objectives and qualifications. Then a closer with your contact information. Very simple, very basic.

Why don’t you want to go on about your great achievements or expanded skills? You need to leave something for the interview. You list your skills and any relevant achievements and awards but your cover letter gets them to read your resume. Your resume, gets them to set up an interview with you.

So, what’s your objective?

Master Application

Almost every job has an application to be filled out. You’ve been out filling out as many applications as you can during this difficult economic time. You simply can’t risk not answering a question incorrectly or missing an employer in your employment history. What do you do to make this process a little easier?

For many years, I’ve been training individuals on filling applications. A lot of information can be simply forgotten when you are sitting there filling out applications all with different (and many times confusing) questions. Especially when you have to fill out a paper one on the spot before an interview or in order to be considered. I recommend anyone and everyone to have a master application.

What’s a master application? Simply put, a master application is an application that helps you fill out all the other applications. It’s an application that includes the most asked questions on employment applications. The following are a few tips on filling out your application. Make sure to note these tips in your master application so that you don’t forget!

– Social Security Number: DO NOT write your Social Security Number on any paper application. Instead write, “available upon hire.” You never know how many people are handling your paper application to have such important information on there. If you’re filling out an online application, that’s fine as they are secured and are only handled by authorized personal.

– Conviction: If you have been convicted of a felony, BE HONEST about it! Check “yes” and where it asks you to explain write, “will discuss during interview.” Having a conviction doesn’t disqualify you from being hired*, having lied can. As a college student a few years ago when I was working part-time at a retail store, one of my co-workers was getting promoted to being head of sales. He was making the most commission out of his department and everyone was excited for him because he deserved that promotion. The next thing we know, he was terminated. When I finally saw him about a week later, he said it was because he lied on his application. He didn’t want to put he was convicted a few years ago for something so small and lose a promotion over it. It turns out, they learned of his conviction when they conducted their background check for his promotion. Later that week, I tried to talk to the manager on his behalf. The manager simply said that it wasn’t because of his conviction, it was because they just can’t trust him to be honest to customers if he wasn’t honest on his application.

– Employment History, Reason for Leaving: If you have been fired, please DO NOT put, “fired because boss was a stupid jerk!” Instead put something along the lines of, “involuntary termination” or “will discuss during interview.” You should before anything, check with your previous employer and try to figure out what they are telling other employers calling for work verification. During the interview of course, you will stay positive and honest. You will NOT get all defensive on why you were fired. It’s ok if you got fired, it’s what you learned from it that counts!

– Age: Applications should NOT be asking you of your age, just if you are over 16 or 18 and can legally work. Most cities and states have varying laws of how old you have to be as a minor to legally work. Many states allow 14 year old students to work no more then 15 hours a week while others require that you be 16 years of age to work no more then 20 hours a week. If you are in those age ranges, you need to contact your school counselor or dean on obtaining the necessary documentation to work. Companies that do hire minors have to include such a question in their application so that they are complying with the state and local law. Make sure you have approval from your school before applying to any job!

– Gender, Race, Etc.: Almost all applications now have it be optional if you want to answer these question to help the company make sure it is being fair and diverse in it’s workforce. I personally do not recommend anyone to fill any of these out so that not to give any chances of any discrimination what so ever.