Friday, February 25, 2011

Where Am I? And Where Am I Going?

When I run into the same idea over and over again, I begin to get the idea I am supposed to pay attention.  Lately every time I turn around I am hit squarely in the face with "goal setting"!  One of the bloggers I read sets monthly goals instead of yearly resolutions.  So I thought about that for awhile.  Today another blogger I read set a goal to reach 500 Followers this year and has already met it, just two months into the year!  Amazing.  I've seen it lately in the newspaper, heard it on TV, and had it recur to me numerous times.

So, okay, God, I get the message.  I have sooooo many things I love that I can get distracted and not do any of them.  Them I'm out of sorts with myself. But give me a project and I'm good.  So I'm getting on the stick with goal setting.  I particularly like the monthly idea so that's where I'm going. 

By March 1:  I will be careful the rest of the month and have money left over to transfer to savings.

By March 1:  I will joyously paint the dresser in the garage that I rescued from the curb!

By March  3:  I will paint a copy of an old Master for oil painting practice.

Once a month I will sew a "square".  This idea is from fiber artist wilopiooguta's blog,  too. Go check it out! Sew cool!

Blogwise:  I will reach 500 Followers this year.

This is as far as I'm going right now.  I really want to complete these items but just need a deadline.  And husband will be so happy about the garage!

Eric Seidelman has a great article on goal setting.  I've used some of the same ideas making presentations during my working life but it was good to revisit them.  His saying, " "If you don't know where you're going, you'll never get there."  A similar one, "If you don't know where you are, how do you know how to get where you want to be?"

Think about something you've been wanting to do but for some reason you haven't gotten around to it.  Try turning it into a goal...and remember a goal has a date attached.  Otherwise it is just a dream.

(If you Tweet, please Tweet me.  Button at top of post. Thank you. I Tweet whenever I see a button.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Smart Money: Micro Savings

Run catch the Friday Blog Hop From Smart And Trendy!

Guest Blogger

What a treat!!! Today Adrian, of Adrian's Crazy Life, and I are swapping posts.  We are both fascinated with ways women (especially) can save money, make money, grow money, spend money, and pick it off trees!  We both passionately believe that "we women" must know more about money, lots more.  I like all her posts but this one particularly caught my eye because the ideas are so doable.  I hope you will enjoy it and go visit her too!

Sometimes I think the saving habit is one of the hardest habits to develop. But that savings account has saved my butt so many times, I just don't understand how people function without one.

I think the trap people fall into is thinking that they don't have "enough" money to develop a regular savings habit. That's kind of delusional thinking because the emergencies aren't going to stop coming just because you don't have the money on hand to deal with them. So when the car breaks or the water heater floods the basement, you are going to reach for the credit card, borrow from relatives, or heaven forbid, resort to the dreaded payday loan. Those are all strategies that just dig you deeper in the hole.

So, how to deal with that pesky problem with finding the money to fund your savings account. The answer is microsavings - lots of tiny changes to generate extra money to save. Here are some ideas for you:

Illegal Tender: This was my Mom's favorite strategy. She would declare certain denominations of money as "Illegal Tender" - usually quarters, but sometimes just nickles or dimes. Then she would sort the extra change out of her wallet every night and put it in a special jar. It added up a lot faster than you would think and she would usually be able to deposit an extra $30-$50 per month to have savings account. There are some banks that will do this for you automatically now. Every time you use your debit card, it rounds the transaction up to the nearest dollar amount and moves the change off to your savings account - sweet!

Extreme Couponing: It takes extra time and dedication, but you can save a lot of money with coupons. The trick is to figure out how much money you actually saved and bank it. Otherwise, it just slips off into the wild blue yonder and you never seem to benefit from it.

Brown Bagging: If you aren't already doing it, you can save money through brown bagging your lunches, or other types of cutbacks. For instance, meatless Mondays, breakfast for dinner, or cutting back on eating out. Again, the important part is to track your savings and funnel that money into the bank.

Garage Sales/Ebay/Craigslist: If you are not having luck with any of these methods, its time to get more intense. Start digging around your house for stuff you can sell for extra money. I've done this for years and I've made thousands and cleared a lot of unwanted stuff out of my house. In fact, I just made $35 from Amazon just this week. I had a gift I'd bought for my granddaughter, but it hadn't arrived in time for Christmas. Rather than return it, I resold it on their website for more than I paid for it (I'd bought it at the sale price & used a $25 gift card), so I made a tidy profit on it. And I was able to print the postage on my printer and mail it right from my porch!

Extra work: There's a ton of ways you can fund your savings account by doing extra work. It doesn't always have to mean a second job, or a heavy-duty commitment like that. You can occasionally babysit or tutor kids, give piano/guitar lessons, do hair, or clean houses, whatever floats your boat. I teach stamp classes twice a month and my husband does odd jobs and lawn mowing for people in the neighborhood.

Direct Sales (party plan businesses): This one comes with a warning. Do NOT get into this if you have a shopping problem. It takes a lot of discipline to make this work properly and not be a liability to your budget. However, if you're smart and disciplined about it, you can make quite a bit of money in these businesses. I have sold Stampin' Up! for seven years and Pampered Chef for one. I don't make a fortune, but it's a nice trickle of extra money, and I get a lot of stuff for free that I would have bought anyway.

The important thing is to get that money into the bank anyway you can and once it's there - forget about it and let it grow.

What are your best ideas for microsavings?

Stop by Adrian's every Thursday for a fresh dose of Smart Money.

Thank you Adrian!

Monday, February 21, 2011

How to Save Money Through Healthy Living


Sometimes, it's hard to believe there are practical ways to save money. However, simply taking care of your body and through healthy living can lead to savings in the long run. It can even lead to savings right now.

Spend Less on Health Care
Whether you're not sick yet or your already ill, you can manage illness through a healthy diet and exercise. You can reduce symptoms of disease and prevent its onset. For instance, losing weight can reduce back pain, reduce some of the stress on your body parts and reduce the effects of arthritis. It can also help manage diabetes by lowering your blood sugar levels naturally . All of these things will save you on doctor's visits and medicines. It can also save you on insurance costs.

Eat Out Less
Eating at home is healthier because most restaurants serve processed foods. Those are harder for your body to break down and rarely contain the nutrients you need. Restaurant meals are also high in sodium and contain at least double the calories of a home-cooked meal. For instance, restaurant salad dressings alone can be 500 calories. When you do go out, ask for the nutrition information.

The cost for a couple to go out is about $25-50, including tip, depending on where you go and what you buy. If you go out often, this really adds up. By cutting the number of times you dine out in half, you can save $50 or more per month. If you're unsure of your culinary skills, this can go towards a cooking class. You can also use it to buy healthier foods.

Give Up Your Vice
Many people have something they must have to get through the day. For many people, this is cigarettes. For some people, it's coffee. For others, it's soda. Whatever it is, this thing that you can't give up isn't doing you any favors. Coffee can be fine, unless it's loaded with sugar. Even if it's not, the caffeine creates a high that can cause a spiral later because it creates a chemical dependency. Soda is also loaded with sugar. Scientific studies have even linked diet soda to diabetes. And everyone knows the dangers of cigarettes.

Plain coffee may only be $1, but most coffee beverages are closer to $5. Likewise, soda may only be $1, but most people have several throughout the day. Cigarettes cost as much as $6 per pack and most smokers don't realize how many they're going through each week. Giving them up or cutting down can save you money daily.

Healthy living does more than improve the quality of your life. It saves money.

Louise Baker is a freelance blogger who usually writes about accredited online colleges for Zen College Life. Her most recent article ranked engineering degrees.

 (Thank you Louise!)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

I just got home from the grocery store after picking up some of my favorite things. Husband and I, both hooked on Extra gum, were fresh out so that was the main item. Now they say the xylitol sweetener is actually good for your teeth and has been called a "dentist's dream". Using xylitol right before bedtime, after brushing and flossing, protects and heals the teeth and gums. Xylitol is a healthy alternative to sugar and does positive things for the body in an opposite way than sugar.

One of xylitol's versatile benefits is its ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause middle ear infections in young children. In two recent studies involving over 1,000 children, xylitol-flavoured chewing gum was found to reduce the incidence of middle ear infections by 40 per cent, significantly decreasing ongoing middle ear complications and the need for antibiotics. I wish I'd known this when my kids were young and ear infections were rampant!

Another exciting benefit from xylitol is its role in reversing bone loss. Scientists speculate that xylitol's bone density enhancing properties are due to its ability to promote the absorption of calcium. Including xylitol in one's diet is an enjoyable way to reap the benefits of greater bone density.

Since we are addicted to gum, we are always looking for it on sale. When we find it on sale, we buy enough to make people do a double-take. Extra is our favorite but rarely goes on sale. Today I got lucky. Several flavors of Trident were on clearance, being discontinued I suppose, so I loaded up!

Another favorite is dark chocolate. Nobody here is a chocoholic but it's nice to have a little every now and's good for you! How amazing. Chocolate--good for you. The chocolate needs to be dark, 60% cocoa or even higher. Got lucky on that too and found some chunky dark chocolate for .99. Don't trust myself to stock up on that item.

So the grocery trip was successful. I'm all set for awhile. My sweet tooth is all soothed! "I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad." Favorite Things from Sound Of Music.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Should We Abolish The IRS?

It's taaaaaaaaaax time!  Well, actually, we have a couple more months to get our returns in the mail but we can't ignore it much longer.  My sister works at HR Block so she keeps the nagging going...."Don't wait until the last minute."  It helps.

We always seem to wait until April 15 to finalize our taxes.   My very first love, all through high school was born on April 15, so it was a red letter day for me for a long time and I'm not likely to forget the date even now.  There were years, long time ago, when we would actually carefully pick up our sleeping children, lay them  in the back seat with pillows and blankets, and drive the taxes to the post office at midnight!  Amazing!  Yes, it was before the days of car seats and seat belts laws.

Today we are almost finished and ready to "submit".   No more driving to the post office or even mailing those thickly stuffed envelopes.  With Turbo Tax, it's all automated and I love using it!  If you haven't used it, you might want to give it a try unless your taxes are extremely complicated.  They prompt you on every scenario, check all your work, make suggestions, and are very reasonable.  All your figures from last year are right there too.  I totally enjoy the program and look forward to using it every year.

It turns out to be another way to reflect back over the previous year.  You can quickly see where your time and atention went.  How did my "giving" stack up?  Do I feel good about to whom and how much I gave?  What church, if any, did I support this year?  How was our medical situation?  What does our savings portfolio look like?  I just love that stuff!

Do you love tax season or just want to stick your head in the sand and hand it to someone else?  Remember, keeping the brain engaged and learning new things is important for everyone.  This is one way to do it.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Good For The Heart

Isn't it nice when we like what research proves to be true?  We like it that chocolate and a glass of wine are good things for our health.  We like that Extra gum and Trident sweetened with Xylitol are good for our teeth.  We like that having a pet to love and care for...and love us good for us.

And we love that having friends is a very healthy thing to do.  Laughing together, sharing secrets, playing, praying and generally having a "go to" group when you need them is good for the heart!

So here's to our friends this Valentine's Day.  If you have a friend you've lost touch with, this might be the perfect day to be in touch.  

Friends are like balloons;

Once you let them go, you might not get them

back. Sometimes we get so busy with our own

lives and problems that we may not even notice

that we've let them fly away. Sometimes we are so

caught up in who's right and who's wrong that we

forget what's right and wrong.. Sometimes we just

don't realize what real friendship means until it

is too late. I don't want to let that happen so

I'm going to tie you to my heart so I never lose

you.  (Source Unknown)

PS:  For everyone who sends a free Valentine from Macy's Facebook page, Macy's will contribute $1 to Women's Heart Health.  If you are a FB user, this is easy!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

So Far, So Good

Breakfast:   Oatmeal with cinnamon and blueberries + coffee

Lunch:     Salmon and baby lima beans + tea

Snack 1:    Orange and grapes

Snack 2:     Weight Watcher sweet and green tea

It's almost 4:30.    So far, so good.

This is my typical start to my daily eating pattern.  A wonderful breakfast such as this followed by a tasty and healthy lunch.  This is no struggle at all.  I am not tempted to have a burger and fries or ice cream.  Around 6:00 PM I'll have a healthy dinner too.

Then all hell breaks loose things begin to fall apart.  I can't understand it so I don't know how I'll explain it.  It's just that my "bad self" wakes up around 8:00 PM and is ready for action.  Snack action!  The snacking gets away from me.  There is no such thing as two cookies or 1/2 cup of ice cream.  Not possible for me to eat 12 almonds like the experts recommend.  No!  I am more likely to have a Diet Coke with two handfuls of nuts, ten cookies,  too many crackers,  way too many grapes. 

If anybody has any insight on my dilemma, I'd love you to share. Does this happen to you too?  Anybody have a solution that works?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Do Budgets Make You Bonkers?

Do you budget?  I must admit I don't...but I would if I really needed to.  We all have our strengths and managing money is one of mine.  Stretching it, growing it, spending it, saving it, giving it....all comes natural to me and the discipline I need in this area is there.  Believe me I have my areas of weakness but handling money is not one of them.

For many, many people it is though.  I thought I would share some budgeting know-how from Dave Ramsey for those who need it.  If you don't have enough money to go around, it is daunting not to know how and where to spend what you have.  So here is his approach for people really committed to getting out of debt.

1.  Spend on food first. If you are trying to get out of debt, that doesn't include eating out.  It includes rice and beans....healthy and cheap food you make at home.
2.  Next pay your utilities. Keep the lights, heat, and water on.
3.  Now pay your rent or mortgage.  Don’t fall behind on your mortgage.
4.  Transportation costs (gas, car payment, insurance). You've got to be able to get to work.
5.  Clothing. The clothing budget —  when you’re trying to pay down debt — should only be for the essentials.
6.  Health care costs, insurance.
7.  Discretionary income is money that is left after these necessities.  Use it to pay the minimum on every credit card.  Whatever is left over, pay ALL OF IT toward the one credit card with the smallest balance.
8.  Do this every month.  Once that card is paid off you'll have all that money to put toward your next smallest balance until it is paid off.

Each month has its own budget because there are different requirements every month.  On the first day of each month, sit down and write down all money coming in that month and all known expenses that month.  Remember to save up $1000 in an Emergency Fund before you attack your debt.  That money is available so you don't have to charge even more for unexpected expenses.

When I have a goal such as this, I have to make it a game...a project that I can totally get behind.  I know it is no game, but if I'm not completely committed to whatever I'm doing, it won't happen.  So a halfway approach to this won't work.

Good luck with your efforts.  More to come.

Coming soon: The hands-on system he teaches to make this work.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's Your Money, Or You Wish It Were

"Honeeeeeeey", have you seen this month's Visa bill?  It's through the roof! I can't believe you charged that new set of golf clubs!", she said through gritted teeth and a fake smile.

"I got an amazing deal on them.  It was worth it.  I couldn't turn it down.  And you charged the sofa so you don't have any room to talk!", he said smugly.

"But we needed a new sofa.  You didn't need a new set of clubs!", she said.

"Oh stop it!  Let's just go out to dinner and relax.", he said.

And so it goes.  We've all been there.  Well most of us have at some point.  It's one of those things we learn by experience. When your "money-out" is more than your "money-in", the real learning starts.  If that's part of your family tree, you can be the ones to change it... for your kids and for yourself.

I stumbled upon Dave Ramsey's drive-time radio show on my way home from work a few years ago and I grew to love him and his philosophy.  His Financial Peace University is quite popular and readily available in most communities and online.

Dave Ramsey has a plan that will work.  Through a series of baby steps he gives you direction and hope.  It won't work overnight but it will work. You will become debt free and financially secure.

The first step is to save $1000 for emergencies.  Put it in a savings account.  Next...

Get all your credit cards out on the table and arrange them from smallest to largest.  Don't consider anything but how much you owe.  Not the interest rate, just how much you owe.  Each month pay the minimum required on all cards.  In addition, throw every penny you can possibly scrape up at the card with the lowest balance.  Do that every month.
Once it's paid off, and you celebrate with a rice and beans candlelight dinner at home, continue doing the same thing.  One big difference.  Take whatever you've been paying on the card you paid off, and ADD THAT AMOUNT to the next lowest balance until that card is paid off.  Do you feel the momentum building as you get rid of first one card, then another?  He calls this 'debt snowballing', paying the minimum on all cards and attacking the lowest balance with all your might.  Continue as long as it takes until all credit cards are paid off. 

If you are married, obviously, this won't work until you and your spouse are in agreement to strive together to be debt free.  The left hand must know what the right is doing.

If you like setting and reaching short term goals, this is right up your alley.  If not, you can still learn.  Just think how freeing it will be when you actually get to keep your paycheck instead of sending it all to those who hold you in financial bondage. 

More Dave "how-tos" to come.  Stay tuned.  Bring your friends.  Tweet me.  This could help  someone you know.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Do You WANT To Have A Heart Attack Or What?

President Obama has stopped smoking!!!  He began smoking as a teenager and has struggled to give up the habit for a long time.  It was announced today that he, along with several key White House aides, is smoke free.  Supposedly he hasn't had a cigarette in a year. 

Way to go Mr. President!  Everyone knows that's a hard task and yet everyday people smoke that last cigarette and become 'smoke free'.  Reports are he used Nicorette gum to help with the cravings.

This is a giant step in improving his own heart and lung health.  It is also a powerful example for all who may still be smoking. 

Once you have been smoke free for 5 years, your lungs are much healthier but not as perfect as someone who has never smoked.  Going from a smoker to a non-smoker will strengthen your heart and improve breathing capacity.  Heck, it will also drastically lower your insurance premiums.

If you are working on your heart health, this is the number one step to take.  Your heart will thank you.  So will everyone you love.

(picture from 10-14-2009)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

5 Signs Of A Heart Attack In Women

Did you ever watch Sanford and Son?  I remember it from years ago...a family comedy that would often show James, the Dad, clutching his chest saying, "This is the big one, Martha",  feigning a heart attack.  It was the ultimate guilt trip to get his own way.

Many of us think that's what a heart attack is like...and it is sometimes.  A crushing pain in the chest would certainly have you calling 911.  For women, the signs of a heart attack can be different from a man. (We are not little men.)  I don't think we expect them at all so we can easily be caught off guard.

According to Web MD, here are the "official" signs of heart attacks in women:
1.  Unusual fatigue.
2.  Shortness of breath.
3.  Weakness
4.  Pain in the breast, upper abdomen, or back
5.  Nausea 

A few months ago I was awakened in the night with a constant pain in the center of my chest.  In a couple of minutes it was gone.  I told my husband, jokingly, the next day to watch me and if I started acting weird to call 911.  In a couple of weeks I was painting, oil painting not painting a wall.  Just calmly sitting and painting.  I felt that pain again for 2-3 minutes.  This time it really got my attention and I went straight to the doctor.  Long story short he sent me to a cardiologist and I had a complete workup.  All was well.  I'm not sorry I went.  I'm glad I got a good report on everything and he even gave me permission to go bungy jumping! (not going)

Watch yourself.  You are precious.  You wouldn't let a loved one ignore it or wait it out.  Take care of yourself the same way.  It is a good feeling to know that all is well with your well as your soul.

And a little laughter is always a good thing...
A middle aged woman had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. While on the operating table she had a near death experience. Seeing God she asked "Is my time up?" God answered, "No, you have another 40 years, 2 months and 8 days to live."
Upon recovery, the woman decided to stay in the hospital and have a facelift, liposuction, and a tummy tuck. She even had someone come in and change her hair color. Since she had so much more time to live, she figured she might as well make the most of it.
After her last operation, she was released from the hospital. While crossing the street on her way home, she was hit by a car and died immediately.
Arriving in front of God, she demanded, "I thought you said I had another 40 years, why didn't you pull me from out of the path of the car?"
God replied, "I didn't recognize you."

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Bloody Red Truth

Are you wearing red today?  I will be after a get out of my PJs!  You bet I will!

We watch our men's heart health. We watch our women's breasts, but not so much our hearts. And that must change.

Today is Natonal Wear Red Day to promote awareness of heart disease.  Often you will see a "red dress" as a logo. 

Today more women DIE of heart disease than men,... even more than from breast cancer.  Mainly that is because traditionally we associate heart attacks with men. 
Tonight watch the Barbara Walters Special on heart disease.  Don't miss this up-to-the-minute report.
Including Bill Clinton, David Letterman, Robin Williams, Charlie Rose, Regis Philman
and other heart surgery survivors.
10:00PM  Eastern and Pacific
9:00 PM Central

Come back for the next few days and read the latest preventative steps we can all take.....our lovely men and our beautiful women.

This post is in honor of my Aunt Marion who had a lot of heart stuff going on and died of it.  See, I don't even know if it was a heart attack or something else.  We all need to know more!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Turning Pennies Into Dollars

I've been following a piece of Suze Orman's advice for the last 3 or 4 weeks.  Although I love paying with correct change, I'd begun to notice how often "old ladies" (like me...sorry but it's true) hold up the line in the grocery store digging around in their purse for exact change.  I realize I probably do that too without meaning to delay everyone else.

That had started to eat at me a little.

Then I heard Suze Orman. I'm sure you know her.  Right?  She has her own call-in TV show, "Can You Afford It?" The author of numerous books she is also a frequent guest on current talk shows.

Suze says "Don't pay with correct change."  She says, instead, to pay only with paper money, put the change in your pocket, and take it to the bank once a month.  Well, today was my day to "take it to the bank".  My husband puts his change in the jar too so I had a nice, heavy load of coins. The bank has a free coin machine counter so you don't even have to roll them!  I walked away with $65.61.  I was delighted.  That's enough to inspire me.....and I won't hold up the line anymore either!

Even though I continue to use my debit card most of the time, this tactic has been a great success!  How do you handle your cash purchases?