Should you pick gold as your alternative currency?

Gold Bar on WhiteThere are a lot of alternative currencies right now. Sustainable Personal Finance has mentioned a couple of ones in the past including the Canadian Tire Money and the Salt Spring Island’s local currency. Using alterative currency helps boost your purchasing power especially when your country’s official currency is weak. While purchasing alternative currencies that are specific to a certain nation is good, it’s better if you have something that most countries around the world consider as legal tender.

Gold’s remains as the most popular alternative currency because it’s finite, can be accepted as payment in most countries, and is backed by real value. Bitcoin, the newer alt currency, was the hype several years ago but lost most of its shine because of one thing: it isn’t backed by anything. Bitcoin is just computer generated and once it loses its demand over the years, it can’t be melted and used for other things unlike the precious yellow metal. Gold, apart from being a currency, can be used in making medicine, aerospace components, and electronics.

What’s great about gold is that it can be purchased in many forms. If you can’t afford a bar, you can always buy coins that differ in content. Some have 1/4, 1/2, and sometimes 1/10 gold content to accommodate investors on a budget. Although jewelries don’t cost as much as gold in the form of bars or coins, they can still make neat investments that you can liquidate in case of an emergency. If you don’t want to store gold in your own home, you can always open an account in your bank and let them keep your gold reserves.

Investing in gold for the short term is good but the yellow metal’s true purpose lie in the long term. Most people invest in it, forget about it, and just remember it in case markets go bad. In other words, investors don’t sell gold even if its prices reach all-time lows and only liquidate it in case of an emergency.

Germany is the best example when it comes to investing in gold for the long run. Thanks to its vast precious metal reserves, it was able to keep its stability during the great inflation in 1970s. Today, the precious yellow metal costs around $1,200 an ounce and if Germany decides to sell all of its gold, it would be able to support its own economy for years without the help of any other country.

Remember, holding an alternative currency can help in times of emergency. If you’re going to invest in one, make sure to pick something that is accepted in many countries.

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Cost effective POS Systems for your Small Business

In the summer of 2005, a friend of mine opened a small coffee shop in Thailand that was supposed to cater to expats living and working there.  The place was cozy and the coffee was great. The only problem was he didn’t factor in a POS system. What a major oversight! His rationale on why he skipped the POS system was that he was going to be managing the store daily anyway, so he and the staff can tally all the receipts and sales after each business day.

After just several weeks of operations, his stress levels over sales, missing inventory and employee issues was threatening to undo him. He spoke and understood very little Thai, so the language barrier only added to the chaotic situation. He was slowly unraveling, and the cozy little coffee shop with better coffee than Starbuck’s was about to go belly up.

Order Restored for Free (almost)

He finally realized the place was lacking order, and order could only be accomplished by installing a POS system. The problem now was he didn’t have the means to get one. He was so close to folding and couldn’t afford a brand new POS system. His staff was whittled down to two plus himself. So, he asked around and finally did his research on cost effective POS systems and found one called Cash Register that was virtually for free, with the only caveat being there would be no tech support and you had to learn how to operate it yourself. No hand holding and no configuration support.

Back against the wall, he pored over the manual and got in touch with another friend who was a tech genius and they looked for used hardware to run the program, which was DOS based but could run on any Windows PC. How much did this set him back? Next to nothing, because the software was free and the hardware ran on an old PC, which he already had. He only bought a used cash box, a credit card reader and a used printer. But the total lingering cost was he almost lost everything because he thought everything could be done manually with just a calculator, a cash register and a spreadsheet.

The case for Cost Effective POS systems

Today, many tech companies are realizing the need for a POS system for small business, and smaller, indie software firms are making POS systems that have a smaller footprint when compared to the big and bulky “legacy” POS systems available only from the big boys Micros, IBM, Oracle and NCR. These small, lightweight and mobile systems are easily configurable and are more affordable than their bigger counterparts.

The newer systems are cross-platform and can run on virtually any touch screen tablet. Some companies even have their own tablet with a forked version of Android that runs their POS software. These mobile POS terminals can process orders and swipe credit cards. Businesses can operate more efficiently and reduce or eliminate backlogs because everything happens in real time. For example, an employee would take an order tableside, the order is then wirelessly sent to the kitchen and the kitchen staff can prep it ASAP. The info is tallied and is also sent to the cashier’s terminal, who can then prepare the bill. Fast and easy.

A lot of small business owners today are smart enough to realize that when it comes to POS systems, size doesn’t matter anymore; its flexibility and functionality that win the battle at the end of the day. If they want to generate a report, all they need to do is go online and log on. Everything is synced into the cloud and is secure from fire, theft or tampering.

Back to the Cozy little coffee shop

A week after the free POS system was up and running, my friend got his mojo back. The place was finally running on all cylinders and sales were improving day by day. He could finally relax a little bit because he didn’t have to deal with inventory and personnel issues that much. The free system, when configured properly, works as well as any paid POS system he could’ve bought. He was finally running the business, and the business wasn’t running him.