Greetings!

Enemy of Mine

Don’t be afraid—you can handle this monster. It’s big, ugly, and seemingly hell bent on ruining your hopeful outlook for the future, but you can beat it to death and come out ahead. Come on; let’s get a stronghold on the beast sucking the life out of us all…the economy.

Take Charge

Keep in mind, fail to plan…plan to fail. Design a financial plan that will stretch the income you have and prevent wasteful spending. Start by examining every bill, fee, interest rate, etc. and look for ways to lower them or cut them out altogether. For example, consider refinancing your mortgage, switch to interest free credit cards, make sure your bank is not charging you ridiculous fees, and if you do use a credit card—use one that rewards you with cash back.

Compare costs for any service you use with competitors to save money. This includes services like water filtration services, garbage pickup, landscaping/grounds keeping, snow removal, annual pool openings/maintenance, driveway sealants, pest control, cable, Internet, and telephone services. Also consider taking time to compare your insurance needs with various companies. Auto, home, and life insurance are expensive, so get the most for your money. Some companies offer discounts if you pay for the entire year upfront.

Just Do It

Instead of hiring people to service your lawn, pool, and driveway, plus kill any pesky bugs on your premises…just do it and save money. For example, learn to trim your children’s hair. I’ve always done this and with six kids you can imagine the money I’ve saved over 23 years. Learn how to tile a bathroom, paint a room like a pro, clean carpets, or tackle simple home repair problems by renting or buying “how to” DVD’s. Utilize free classes at home supply-improvement stores and remember to visit your local library. The Internet is also a valuable resource for anyone looking to save money on home remodeling or repairs.

If the idea of cutting hair or tiling a bathroom seems overwhelming, then think about your circle of friends and the skills you all collectively possess. Trade time with each other, teach each other, and make good use of the skills you’ve all been blessed with.

Purchases

Groceries- According to my teens, Coca Cola is a necessity. If the dinner menu includes burgers or pizza, I agree, but any other time, it can be left out of the buggy and the world will not end. If you are living on a tight budget, use coupons if you would purchase those items with or without the coupons, but realize if you are only buying products because of coupons, then you’ve been tempted to spend money on things you would not have had on your grocery list. Too often, money is spent on snacks and sugary drinks, instead of nutritious food. Shop around, look for deals, and be cautious about over buying. No matter what I do, I cannot freeze bread or buns. They always taste awful if frozen for too long, so I never stock up on those items. However, go for it and stock up if napkins, paper towels, garbage bags etc. are on sale.

Meals- Rather than paying $2.25 to $3.00 for a can of soup or chili, make a huge batch. Soup can be used for several dinners, especially if you have soup and sandwiches one night, and then soup and salad another night. Tasty muffins or cornbread can be made cheaply and make dinner more satisfying.

If you do buy dinner as “take-out,” skip the drinks. You’ll get more for your money if you use the drinks you have at home.

Clothes- Great deals can be found online and coupon codes are easy to locate as well. Amazon, eBay, Eastbay, Kohls, Overstock, and Old Navy have amazing deals from time to time. Stock up at the end of a season and you’ll really see big savings.

Vehicles- The beastly economy has made it difficult for many to purchase a new car, so look online and locally at the used cars available in your area. Wheel and deal to the best of your ability and do this by knowing exactly what you’re looking for and what the book value is of said vehicle. Kelley Blue Book can help, plus visit websites like Carfax or AutoCheck to run the VIN numbers of any vehicles that catch your interest. Bear in mind, especially with used vehicles, if a deal sounds too good to be true…it usually is.

Holidays/Birthdays

This is a touchy subject for some people, but 2010 is the year to make major changes in shopping preferences for holidays and birthdays. Be brave and inform your loved ones you are cutting back and you honestly want them to do so as well. Gifts do not have to be expensive to be meaningful.

Internet Presence

For some small business owners, maintaining a web presence is extremely costly. Think about using free blogging sites and affordable website building sites, like Create Personal Websites, as alternatives to paying someone else to maintain your online presence. WordPress and Blogger make space available enabling any business owner to shine. Twitter is also another great marketing tool that can be used for free. Upgrades are available on these free options, but if you are just starting a business…get online, link with other businesses, fill your website with terrific keywords and content, and satisfy your potential customers by enticing them to come back to your website.

This may mean learning basic html, but nowadays, templates are used making it incredibly easy to get online and create impressive blogs and websites. Once again, I must stress if you need to learn about online marketing, but you feel intimidated, check with your family and friends for help. Today’s teens are connected to the Internet and almost instinctively know how to maneuver through the virtual world with ease.

Go Green

Go green, save trees…save money. If your business typically sends out paper correspondences, go green and make the same documents pdf files or accessible online instead. Newsletters, quarterly statements, and/or company magazines can all be web based and they will look stunning, plus save businesses money. Bank online and skip buying stamps too.

Entertainment/Family Time

During these tough times, using local libraries to acquire entertainment resources is a smart choice. Libraries today are nothing like the ones I frequented as a child. Movies, puppets and toy areas, group activities for both adults and children, and use of computers make them a wonderful place to visit. I was shocked when I visited our local library.

NETFLIX– So great to rent movies online and never have to pay late fees! Check it out and see if this online movie rental company can save you money.

College

Remember to take advantage of the lower tuition costs at a local community college. Make sure to investigate which universities will accept your credits as transfer credits. Online classes are wonderful for people who need flexibility in their schedules. Also, if possible, avoid out-of-state tuition. Apply for grants and scholarships in a timely manner, and bear in mind some local organizations offer fantastic scholarships.

If you served in the Peace Corps or the military, check to see if your college offers anything special just for you.

If you have a great money saving tip, please leave a comment.

Thanks for visiting!

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Greetings!

Because You Can

Early Saturday morning, I ventured downstairs believing I was the only one awake, but I was mistaken. To my surprise, I found my nine-year old son sitting at the computer. He looked deep in thought, so I figured he was playing a game.

“Good morning,” I said.  “Are you winning?”

“Uh, no,” Aaron replied.

“Well, I’m sure you will be in no time,” I said encouraging him.

“Mom, I’m not playing a game. I’m writing a story called, The Moon Warriors.”

“Really? Why? Is it for school?”

“Why?” he asked like I had offended him. “Because I can, that’s why. You do it, so I thought I’d do it.”

After wishing him good luck with his story, I realized he had great wisdom for only being nine-years old. Because I can, that’s why…lingered in my head. Aaron was not concerned if he’d ever finish the story, or if any money could be earned from it, nor was he bothered by the fact only a few family members would read the story. He was spending time doing something that mattered to him and that was it in a nutshell.

What if we all learned from his amazing attitude? It’s possible too many of us only do what we have to during our time on earth, instead of what we could do…simply because it brought joy. On top of that, imagine if the way we used spare time helped others?

Thomas Jefferson said, “It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.” I agree with him. I imagine wealth and splendor would be wonderful, but not if I had to trade it for tranquility. I believe the best days are spent making a difference in someone’s life, learning about something new, or taking pause to be thankful for friends and family, plus I still have dreams for the future. Life is a one way journey either spent in a worthwhile manner, or not.

Take a few minutes and evaluate how your time is used. Are there activities, places, and/or people needing your attention? What is it that makes you laugh until your side hurts? Try something new, make your life an adventure, help someone…because you can, that’s why.

Click on the links below to possibly jumpstart your adventure. Maybe you’re a novelist, poet, hobbyist, volunteer, or it could be pottery is your thing. Most importantly, surf the Net and have fun!

Hobbies/Interests

Hobbies

The Craftman

Volunteer Match

Volunteer

WordPress

Pottery

Tips for Writers

Fiction Factor

Happy New Year!

Bye, Bye Blues

Winter blues may be triggering a sense of gloom and doom to hover about these cold, dark days. Less severe than SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), the winter blues can still be bothersome if not tackled head on. Winter blues can rob you of energy, make cravings for unhealthy foods more intense, difficulty waking up in the morning is more noticeable, and a feeling of melancholy seems relentless. The holidays have passed, so now what?

Chin up, smile…and breathe easy because these tips will help. Keep in mind to always check with a doctor before changing your diet or exercise routine.

-Relax, a little: Why just a little? Let’s blame the holiday season for a few extra pounds that need to be banished. Exercise will help with the winter blues, especially if you’ve set your mind on a February get-a-way. Yes! Plan a trip somewhere warm and see how it makes you smile. A short term goal, like a reunion, vacation, or a party with friends helps winter days to pass like a breath of fresh air and it will motivate you to stay on track with diet and exercise goals.

-Plan a Party: Who doesn’t need a day with friends or family to enjoy all of the Christmas games and movies that have been received? A party will get you moving, help to clear out holiday clutter, and it will be a short term goal that makes many people smile. However, keep it simple! This is a party where all guests bring something to eat and some kind of entertainment. Card games, movies, music, etc. are all welcome. Then, in a few weeks…one of your friends takes a turn to make winter’s passing more fun.

-Eat healthy: I know! This one is easier said, and written, than done, yet it is vital to beating the winter blues. Foods rich in Vitamin D, which increases serotonin levels, like milk, soy milk and salmon are good choices this winter. In addition, foods containing essential B vitamins will keep you nourished, but if you live in a northern zone, then vitamin supplements may be an option. Speak to your doctor if you feel vitamin supplements will assist with the winter blues. Snack on nuts, eat fruit, and enjoy the delicious varieties of whole grain breads available to round out your diet. Shy away from sugary temptations that will only provide a short-lived gush of energy.

-Lighten up: This is a fun way to ward of winter blahs.  Grab a friend and catch up on things as you both get sunshine in your life by taking a morning walk or a late afternoon walk and do so knowing winter will pass. Knowledge is power, so knowing spring is on its way is comforting. Talk about your goals for 2010, trips to take, and your best memories of the holiday. If the holiday was not so great…never fear, discuss ways to make Christmas 2010 the best one ever.

-Get a new hobby: There is time to kill in the winter, so instead of watching TV, write short stories and poems, try finishing that screenplay you started five years ago, start a blog, or read your top ten favorite books. Watercolors are not expensive…go for it and paint something, wood crafting is…crafty, scrapbooking could keep you sane, or maybe learn how to cook Italian or French recipes.

-Connect with Friends: You are not alone! Too many people feel the doldrums of winter. So, take charge. Life is what you put into it…so put some time into reconnecting with old friends. Hearing that person laugh as you recall an old story will also bring much joy to you.

-eBay: Dive into your closets and organize your treasures to start selling on eBay. You’ll be surprised how much money you can make selling items that are in excellent condition, but are no longer needed by you. This is a tip that could turn your winter blues…green.

-Shop: Is that a bad word to use so shortly after the holiday? I believe not since deals are to be found. Stock up on gifts for upcoming birthdays and anniversaries. Picture frames, movies, music CDs, home accessories, and clothes are on sale. Get some exercise while you shop and walk a few, extra laps around the mall before heading out into the cold.

-Volunteer: This is the best winter blues tip. Once, I was told by a wise woman to always think about others first, and then everything else will fall into place. If you are feeling lost and a bit sad this winter, help someone else through it. Volunteer with the United Way, a local church, a local school, or any of the many organizations that are in dire need of support. The little bit of time you give will cover you in a warmth you’ve never known.

Greetings!

Dashing to the Laptop

Now weeks away, Christmas and Hanukkah may be on the minds of many as the task of gift-giving draws near. Do not fear. No need to drive to any outlet or mall—dash to your laptop instead.

Remember, gift-giving can be as easy as eating pumpkin pie if you take note of these tips and visit the links below.

 -Shop according to your budget. This is vital for good mental health during and after the holiday season. If your budget is tight, relax. Go back to the way things used to be. Bake some goodies for someone or offer your time as a gift; just show you care. That’s what really matters.

-Make a list and check it twice. It’s easy to forget who you’ve shopped for and who is left on your holiday agenda.

-Write down everything purchased and keep all receipts in one place. Get gift receipts if possible.

-Consider a person’s age, job, hobbies, and entertainment likes and dislikes as guides to shopping for him/her. Toys have labels noting the appropriate ages for that toy. A person’s job could inspire a desk accessory or wall décor item as a gift. Do you know an artist? Get some top of the line brushes and paint for him or her. Or if you’re not sure of the specific items…organizational items for a person’s hobby are cool too. Movies, books, and the latest in music releases are all terrific sources to start, but keep in mind what genres your recipients prefer. Some people would be horrified to receive a horror movie no matter how much it was praised.

-Keep in mind what guardians/parents will permit as gifts. (This relates to ratings on video games, movies, etc. A six-year old child should not be playing “M” or “mature” rated video games. Be careful! Some covers look innocent. This is also relevant when purchasing music for young people.)

-Compare prices with shopzilla.com, and/or pricegrabber.com, plus go directly to Amazon, eBay, and Overstock to make sure you’re getting a deal. Watch out for shipping charges and remember Overstock has low, everyday shipping. Some websites offer free shipping depending upon how much is spent.

 Click Away for a Perfect Shopping Day

American Museum of Natural History (AMNH): Find educational gifts that are truly beautiful. Check out Deck of Stars which opens up 40 major constellations, plus other stars, galaxies, and mysteries of the night sky with glow-in-the-dark spotter cards. The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking is also a brilliant choice for gift-giving. The AMNH offers up awesome calendars and posters, plus many other gift ideas as well. Just imagine how pleased a teacher would be to receive a gift from the AMNH.

Zazzle.com: Visit this website to buy stunning photography and posters that will surely please your recipients. Zazzle.com offers custom postage stamps that ship in 48 hours and their gift ideas start at $5.00.

SERRV: Handcrafted items like tapestries, wooden bowls, jewelry, baskets, and serving trays…absolutely different from what you’d pick up at the mall. Make a purchase from SERRV and help artisans in developing countries. Read about their mission to eradicate poverty. SERRV is a nonprofit organization.

 Container Store: The deal is sealed tight at the Container Store. Check out various gift ideas including containers for the kitchen, storage, and office. A favorite is the Salad Blaster Bowls.

 Personal Creations: They specialize in gifts personalized with initials and names, which definitely make a gift memorable. They have doormats, wall décor, apparel, jewelry and many other splendid gift ideas.

 eBay: Great website to find gifts, but consider sellers’ ratings and read the reviews posted about him/her. Also take a look at the sellers’ refund policies, shipping costs, and notice if the item in question is new, refurbished, or used.

 Amazon: Shop until your face hits the keyboard! Amazon’s prices are worth checking.

 Overstock: Let your fingers do the walking on the keyboard and try Overstock. Stress free shopping at its best with low shipping costs. Do remember to check if your electronic device is new or refurbished.

 Enjoy the holiday season!

 

 

 

Thankful for Thanksgiving Day

On November 26, 2009 something wonderful happens. Nowadays, it rarely occurs so it makes me particularly cheerful. I get to stay home and spend time with my family. Yes! My husband, six kids, and two dogs, plus any other family members, or friends, will find me at home in a somewhat delirious state of mind as I enjoy my loved ones on Thanksgiving Day.

 It’s widely accepted Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day because the Pilgrims of 1621 got together with the Wampanoag Indians to give thanks for a bountiful fall harvest. A delicious meal, games, and socializing had to mean the world to those people since so many Pilgrims died the first year after they arrived in Plymouth. However, it’s also known by many that even earlier than the Plymouth Pilgrims, European settlers in North America, like British settlers, had a banquet of thanksgiving at Berkeley Plantation, Virginia in 1619. Their feast included a prayer and thanksgiving to God because they had traveled the treacherous Atlantic and survived it. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln selected a day of thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November.

 Now, back to present day where the turkey, sides, and desserts…plus lasagna made for my beautiful gypsy-girl, Rachael, will soon be made. Thanksgiving Day can be stressful, so let’s highlight some ways to make the day easier.

-Make a list of everything you’ll need for the holiday or holiday weekend, especially if company is arriving. Check items off your list as you purchase them…so you don’t end up with twenty cans of pumpkin or 50 sticks of butter. Remember: cool whip, canned milk for pumpkin pie, extra paper products…like napkins and paper towels, containers and/or storage bags to send leftovers home with guests, snacks for before and after the meal, plus extra garbage bags. Also, have some buns available for the next day so sandwiches can be made and that means ketchup, mustard etc. is needed as well.

-Are young children coming to your holiday meal? It would be prudent to have a few baskets of toys or books for them placed away from the kitchen. In addition, you could set up an area for the kids to watch some holiday movies. A friend of mine is setting up a table with washable markers, crayons, and construction paper for the kids to make cards for a few soldiers they know. That’s one of the best ideas I’ve heard.

-It’s important to remember if you have pets or a guest is bringing a pet or two—keep young children and the animals separated unless adults are overseeing things. Pets, who normally love just about anyone, can get scared and possibly nip or bite if they feel threatened. Events like the holidays can be stressful for pets, so be sure to watch young children.

– The day is about caring and sharing, so back to young children…ask a few adults or older children to keep a watchful eye on them while the meal is finished. The kitchen will be busy and any number of accidents could happen if a toddler runs in and accidently bumps in to someone.

-This brings us to the next tip, sad to say it, but do make sure you have a fire extinguisher that works and you know how to use it. An old neighbor of mine got caught up in a conversation and left a skillet on the stove and it did catch on fire, but she had a small fire extinguisher. She added this tip for everyone. It’s a marvelous idea to check your medicine cabinet for first aid supplies. I don’t know about you, but I would be left without Band-Aids on a holiday and that’s when someone would need one.

-Provide healthy snacks before the meal. Veggies and dip, maybe a yogurt dip, or fruit, but nothing too filling because the meal is special.

-If possible, help moms and dads with babies by borrowing a swing or portable crib if you don’t already have these things. Thanksgiving Day is fun, but caring for a baby when you are not at your own house can be trying.

 Happy Thanksgiving Day!

 

Do It in November 

We are what we eat. That’s sad, but true. November is the month to start making healthy lifestyle choices. No way should you wait until January 1, 2010, because you matter too much for time to be wasted. I’ve found the safest way to approach one’s diet, is to be sensible. First, make healthy choices before you go to the grocery store. Do not starve yourself because our bodies are machines and we need fuel, so let’s get the good stuff in us. Eat a balanced diet, watch portions, and get physical. Come on…do it in November.

Start by speaking to your doctor. It’s also important to know how many calories you need to maintain or lose weight, however if you are too thin, then make an adjustment as well. Go to Americanheart.org for examples and to do some research. Then, make a healthy grocery list and you can do this at checkmark.heart.org, which allows you to click healthy choices and print them out. Keep in mind, if your kitchen is filled with processed food items, then most likely, you will cook them. If some fruit, chicken, and vegetables are available, then go for that. Dessert? Try one of the tempting yogurts available. The joy you’ll feel from making a healthy lifestyle choice is amazing. It beats the guilt you’ll feel from a not so great lifestyle choice.

Tips

Park as far from the store or mall as you can; burn calories by staying there and walking an additional 30-40 minutes. If you do walk those extra minutes and burn some calories, do not reward yourself by indulging in an ice cream sundae. Get an ice tea or flavored water and smile. And be careful with your snacks since some pretzels and popcorn are loaded with calories. Read the nutrition labels and notice the servings in that package. You could grab a snack bag and read the calories as 110 per serving assuming the entire bag is the serving…yet 2 or 3 servings could be in that snack bag.

I asked some people what provoked them into making unhealthy lifestyle choices. All too many answered, sleep deprivation and stress. Well since stress is heightened when we don’t take care of ourselves, try as best as you can to stay conscious of that fact. Many of these same individuals said when they wake up in the middle of the night, feeling starved—they indulge in whatever they can find. Once again, make healthy choices available and keep some in plain sight. So, it’s better not to eat during the middle of the night. Try to read or listen to some music, whatever will relax you.

Another thing to keep in mind is we are humans…not perfect and making healthy lifestyle choices is not always going to happen. Accept sometimes things won’t go as planned. If you have a bad day, let it go and the very next day get back on track. Stay positive! Don’t allow a bad day turn into a bad week…or month.

If exercise for the sake of exercise is difficult for you, then clean, organize, go sightseeing, do yard work, but use the beautiful body you have. Also use your precious mind; educate yourself about the basic food groups, calorie intake, and the marvelous benefits that will come your way from getting healthy.

A Side of Lasagna

Does the thought of a juicy, golden-brown turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, homemade stuffing…that’s crispy around the edges, cranberry salad, warm dinner rolls, and of course, pumpkin pie with a huge spoon of whipped cream on it sound mouth-watering? Yes, it sure does. Thanksgiving Day is special.

Preparing for the upcoming holiday is no easy task, yet I believe my family thinks this wondrous meal magically appears on Thanksgiving Day.

My daughter is coming from Boston to celebrate with us. We were discussing the meal. “Hey,” I said, “anything sound especially good to you? Are you looking forward to the mashed potatoes, or the stuffing more? I can’t wait to have turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy.”

“Um, well…turkey is good, but could we have a side of lasagna?” Rachael added, “Pepperoni rolls would be welcome as well.”

“Lasagna? You want that on Thanksgiving?” I asked trying to not sound surprised…but I was. We continued to discuss the holiday and how much fun it will be to have the family together.

A few days later, I asked my other daughter, Brenna, what she was looking forward to on Thanksgiving Day.

“Oh…hanging out with everyone. I’m happy Rachael is coming home. We all miss her,” said Brenna. “And you know, we haven’t had lasagna in a long time, mom,” she added.

“What! Are you kidding me?” I mean, seriously…my kids don’t want the traditional Thanksgiving meal? “I thought you liked turkey and mashed potatoes,” I mumbled heading out the door.

Well, it was confirmed the next day. Brenna spoke to Ryan. Ryan mentioned lasagna to Brandon, who in turn informed Jordan, that a side of lasagna would be a real treat for the holiday.

However, things are never that simple at my house. I asked my third grader, “So what do you want to eat on Thanksgiving Day?”

Aaron replied, “Ah, I guess turkey, stuffing, some corn would be good, pumpkin pie…you know the usual.”

Needless to say, my family will be helping to prepare the juicy, golden-brown turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, homemade stuffing…that’s crispy around the edges, cranberry salad, warm dinner rolls, pumpkin pie with a huge spoon of whipped cream on it and that side of lasagna Rachael is craving. Lasagna is tasty, but it’s the memories attached to eating the saucy dish that are most desirable. Italian food is on the menu frequently at my house. Rachael reminded me—giving thanks for family and friends as the spirit of Thanksgiving touches us all ensures a bountiful harvest of joy.

Greetings!

Veterans Day: November 11th, 2009

This week, Veterans Day is the topic of interest. Veterans Day, which used to be called Armistice Day, became a legal U.S. holiday to honor the end of World War I and it is officially recorded as November 11, 1918. Legislation passed in 1938 stating November 11th was “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day.” (military.com)

In 1954, veterans service organizations urged the 83rd Congress to amend the holiday due to our participation in World War II and the Korean War. As a result, the Act of 1938 was changed and the word Armistice was replaced with Veterans. Veterans Day honors all American veterans in wartime or in times of peace.

Teachers/Guardians/Parents: Check out this link for a Teachers Resource Guide. While teachers may find this helpful to celebrate Veterans Day, any adult could utilize it to enhance a child’s understanding of Veterans Day.

Celebrate Veterans Day

  • Send a card, or email to veterans you know.
  • Check out websites like Treat Any Soldier or Soldiers’ Angels
  • Call a veteran you know and ask him/her questions about the military
  • Put your life on hold for a short speck of time to be grateful for our brave veterans

(Military.com. 9 Nov 2009. http://www.military.com/veteransday/History.htm)