Thought For The Day

“I never violate an inner rhythm.  I loathe to force anything...
I have regards for the inner voice.”
Lee Krasner



Manage Your Money Better with these Budgeting Tips

A recent Gallup poll shows that roughly two-thirds of Americans don’t budget.  Worse still, the average American household has credit card debt of $7,697, and half of American households have less than 1 month of income saved for emergencies.  If you recognize yourself in these descriptions, don’t worry--there are ways to improve your money management skills.  Below we offer up our top budgeting tips:

  • Track It.  To create a budget, you need to have some idea of where your money is going.  For 1 month, do your best to write down each time you spend money and what you spent it on.  Not only will this help you calculate a working budget, but it also might provide you with useful information about how you are spending your money.  For instance, you might realize that the $12 a day you spend parking close to your office is $240 a month that you’d rather put toward savings.  The bus might look like a far more attractive option to you once you see your expenditures on paper.
  • Create It.  Once you have an idea of where your money is going, create a budget.  Write down (or use a spreadsheet) broad categories of what you primarily spend your money on like mortgage, food, health care, entertainment, etc.  You may find that this changes on a month-to-month basis (during Christmastime, for example), but it’s a good starting point and can easily be modified in the months to come if your expenses fluctuate.
  • Manage It.  This is where a lot of people struggle—keeping track of the amount of spending that is going toward each category.  Fortunately, there are a number of solutions.  You could try a website like Mint, an app like GoodBudget, or the envelope method.  With the envelope method, you simply take the categories that you created in the budgeting step and create an envelope for each category i.e. one envelope would be for entertainment, one would be for food, etc.  Then, at the beginning of each month, you would fill each envelope up with the money that you designated for that category.  While it sounds old school, a lot of people appreciate the simplicity of this method and have had great success with it.

Object-Oriented Programming: References

Today we're going to explain references—a topic which might not seem like a logical continuation of our object-oriented programming tutorial—but that is actually very important to understand.  References are a data type in the C++ language which have similarities with the pointer type inherited from C.  (You can learn about pointers in one of our articles from the Basics of Programming series: Pointers.)

In C++, a reference is a simple datatype that is less powerful but safer than the pointer type.  A reference, like a pointer, stores the address of an object that is located elsewhere in memorywe say that it is an "address type".

References are declared like this:

type x;
type &referenceToX = x; //reference type
where type is any of the data types we've learned, or an object of some class.

For example:
int x = 0;
int &ref = x; //or int& ref = x -- equivallent notations

x = 5; //ref=5
A reference variable is an alias, meaning it's another name for an already existing variable.  Once a reference is initialized with a variable, either the variable name or the reference name may be used to refer to the variable.


Let's analyze the differences between pointers and references:

  • References cannot be null, and pointers can; every reference refers to some object, although it may or may not be valid.
  • Once a reference is initialized to an object, it cannot be changed to refer to another object. Pointers can be pointed to another object at any time.
  • A reference must be initialized when it is created. Pointers can be initialized at any time.


References are often used in C++, which will be obvious when we start working with operator and method overloading.
Here are two situations in which one would use references:

  • passing parameters by address (instead of by value)
  • using a reference as an lvalue

Sometimes, we want to pass arguments to the function by address.  This happens, for example, when we want our function to modify that exact variable or object, instead of making a local copy of the argument on the stack and modifying that value.  In C++, references are used for this instead of pointers, because they are considered safer since they cannot be null.

Another reason for using references is that they are "l-values": briefly, an lvalue (locator value) represents an object that occupies some identifiable location in memory (i.e. has an address).  This makes it possible to assign a value to the result of a function callprovided that the function's return type was a reference.

Also, references are crucial in writing copy constructors, which will be covered in one of the next articles.


5 Interesting Examples of Growth Hacking

For some startups, traditional marketing may not be what the company needs.  Instead, the organization may do better off by more narrowly focusing on growth.  In fact, it was that notion that caused the term ‘growth hacking’ to be developed.  According to the Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking, the phrase refers to finding “ingenious, technology-based avenues for growth that sometimes push the bounds of what is expected or advised.”

To illustrate the concept further, here are 5 examples of how companies have used growth hacking to achieve success:

  1. Instagram – Instagram made a wise decision by allowing users to post photos to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and other platforms.  This cross-platform sharing helped the company fuel its growth early on.

  2. Hotmail – Almost amazingly, Hotmail grew its subscriber base from zero to 12 million users in just 18 months.  The company did so by placing a link in every outgoing email, encouraging the recipient to sign up for a Hotmail email account.

  3. Airbnb – You might think that a website focusing on short-term rentals would get lost in the crowd with all of the lodging websites available online.  However, Airbnb attracted millions of new users by designing a website that allows Airbnb users to post their ads easily to Craigslist.

  4. Pinterest – Although Pinterest uses a number of growth hacks, the one that you might be most familiar with is the infinite scroll.  When a user tries to scroll to the bottom of the page in Pinterest, the site keeps loading new images so the bottom is never actually reached.  This creates flow, making it more likely that users will spend extra time on the website.

  5. PayPal – Of course you’re familiar with PayPal today, but you may not have been were it not for its successful growth hack.  To get more users, the company teamed up with eBay, inking out a deal where eBay allowed users to pay for goods and services with PayPal.  

Creating a Landing Page that CONVERTS

If you market your business through email, then you’re probably already aware of the importance of landing pages in obtaining conversions.  But do you know how to make a great landing page?  Below we’ve identified some of the top tips you can use to take your landing page from so-so to successful:

  • Create a Short, Attention-Grabbing Headline.  Your headline is one of the most important elements on the page.  For this reason, you want to make sure it is captivating.  To accomplish this objective, aim to write a headline that is interesting, identifies your product or service, and makes people want to learn more.
  • Write Great Copy.  The best copy is direct, written in an informal tone, addresses the audience as “you,” handles any objections that people are likely to have (for example, “this product is too expensive”), and answers the question for readers, “How can this product or service benefit me?”  We also recommend using short paragraphs, subheaders, and bullet points to quickly communicate key ideas.
  • Offer Proof.  Do you have research, studies, or testimonials about why your product is so valuable?  If so, be sure to use them.  These can often sway people who are on the fence about taking advantage of your offer.
  • Use Attractive Images.  Images should be large, relevant, and visually appealing.  This is not the time to go cheap by using free graphics that you stumbled across online. 
  • Create a Persuasive Call-To-Action (CTA).  Your call-to-action is a directive, telling the prospect which action you would like him to perform.  This could include things like signing up for a trial membership, purchasing your product, downloading a free e-book, etc.  When creating your CTA, make sure that it is easily visible (contrasting colors work well), short, and explicit.  Additionally, avoid the tendency to have multiple CTAs on a page—this can actually reduce your conversion rate.