Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Buying A Car

Any tips on how to buy a car and not get taken?

Buying a car is one of the most stressful things ever, especially for those of us who are very concerned about getting a good deal. For one year I worked as an account executive in a retail automotive advertising agency. You know those screaming car ads on the radio, those were my ads. (Not my proudest career move.) But from working with some of the shadiest and some of the most straight up car dealers, here are my tips:

1-If buying a new car, check with some of the better websites. (www.car.com, www.edmunds.com, www.autobytel.com). What you are looking for? The invoice price. Ideally you want to pay anywhere from $1500 to $2000 above invoice. But be warned there are several ways that dealers can make more off of your sale. This is pretty complex. Additional costs that you should expect to pay: Destination fee, tags, tax and title.

MENTION THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SHOPPING ON LINE, I knew a dealer that would automatically drop the cost because he knew that people that were on the internet were more car price savvy.

2- Newspapers have tons of car ads that have some legitimate good deals. BUT READ ALL OF THE FINE PRINT! If it seems to good to be true...


Read the entire article.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bulk Cooking

This question was submitted on The Frugal Life Forum:

Hello everyone. I was wondering if anyone here does bulk cooking. I don't necessarily do OAMC, but I try to make 2 or 3 batches of what I make for dinner, then freeze the other 1 or 2 meals. I have another baby coming in July and want to stock up my freezer. Just wondering if there's anyone out there to swap tips with!

This forum post has 12 responses as of today. Read them and submit your own.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Slave Or Master To Money

Ask yourself a couple questions - when you go to work, where does your money go? When you get anxious over things in your life, what worries you?

These questions can help you determine if you are a slave to your money or master over it. If the majority of your money works for you, then you are the master. If you are paying off people or items, then you are the slave to your money.

No one wants to be a slave, to pull from the wiki:
A slave can be the following:
· where people are owned by others, and live to serve their owners without pay
· a specific form of submissive
· whose functioning is dependent on that of another piece of equipment
· a relationship between two or more devices or assemblies in which one device, the "master", controls the operation of the other, the "slave"

In all these above definitions, being a slave means you have little or no control over your actions or yourself or at least you have lost control over your own day-to-day endeavors. Your function in life is to provide for the 'Master' in your life. With money being that master, in the form of debt, it is no fun. It doesn't care whether you are ill, lost a job, moved or had a baby. It wants its needs taken care of, NOW!

Read the entire article.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Winterize Your Car

On the outside:

Check Tire Tread – This is one of the few times a penny has great value. Turn the penny head down and stick it between your tire tread. If you can see Lincoln’s head fully, your tires legally need to be replaced. If you have no tire tread to put the penny in, you will be dancing on ice like Oksana Baiul, but not looking as pretty!

Windshield – A decent way to keep the fogging to a minimum on the windows is to clean them with vinegar and water, then dry them off with newspaper. This seems to work for about a month or so for me.

Windshield Wipers – Nothing is as annoying as running the wipers and getting wide streaks while you are trying to drive. Time to replace the blades. However, if you are in a hurry to get to work and don’t have time. Grab some sandpaper, fine grained is best, and run them along the blade on both sides. This should bring the rubber back in shape enough until you can replace them.

Lights – Clean the inside of the headlight case, if you can get to it. Vinegar and water work well. This is also a good time to check if any lights are burned out on the car.

Check the inside of the car tips - Read the entire article.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Six Ways to Raise Emergency Cash

There are times when emergency funds do not adequately cover the emergency life throws at you. In those moments I immediately start scrambling to come up with ways to raise cash in a hurry. But you cannot simply throw caution to the wind, because often times irrational moves now cause painful tax consequences later. Here are a few ways to raise cash in an emergency, without over-taxing your life later on.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Balancing Life

by Donna L. Watkins

Balance is a key to any level of good health. There is balance for diet and sleep and even exercise. The scales of live are a challenge, but we must determine what brings true emotional health to our own lives and how to achieve that state of mind in this world.

I was following a link from an ezine I get and found an article that made me think about how much our work has to do with the pressure, stress, and health we can attain in this lifetime. I firmly believe that there is no possible way to build health and live in the stressful lifestyles of the American Way.

When my health challenges began in 1986 I was Super Woman. I didn't realize it then, but I thought who I was, was what I accomplished. How much I got done. How much I could check off the To Do List. How many balls I could juggle in a day. I was very frustrated and said that I wanted out - wanted help - wanted a break - wanted some time for me - but it was like an addiction. It never happened. I kept running at top speed until my body said, "NO MORE!" Read the entire article.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Drowning In Debt

From The Word For You Today

Using credit cards to buy things you can't afford can land you in hot water. Paul says put "off everything connected with ... doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy." If you're drowning in debt:

1) Stop charging what you can't pay for and don't need.

You're incurring higher interest rates and adding to your burden. Use a credit card only if you're disciplined enough not to go overboard. Your intentions may be good, but unforeseen circumstances can force you to carry your balance from month to month. And if your spending is totally out of control, perform plastic surgery - cut up your credit cards!

2) Give more.

Every wonder why we're "happier giving than getting" (Acts 20:35), or how come "God [and everybody else] loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7)? It's because giving helps us focus on something besides our own desires and wants. Remember, "You ... become rich by being generous or poor by being greedy" (Prov. 11:24). Giving proves you've conquered greed!

3) Expect disapproval.

Do what Noah did - ignore it and get on with the job at hand! For example, during one woman's second pregnancy her friends criticized her because she refused to register at a baby store for more stuff, even though she already had everything she needed.

Don't expect others to understand your new approach. Choosing how you'll react to criticism is one of life's most important decisions. If you only do things nobody can find fault with, you'll never accomplish much!

Related article:
Conquering Credit Card Madness

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

End Of Car Lease: Now What?

My husband and I have really started getting serious about getting out of debt. About 2 years ago we decided to lease a maxed out Suburban. It is our only vehicle so we justified the $507 payments with that logic. It has been a wonderful car for our family of five. But, we are trying to decide what our best strategy should be now that our lease will be over next April, and we now have 70,000 miles on the vehicle. On top of that, my husband now needs a vehicle because of a job change. The "buyout" at the end of the lease is around $25K. We know we now have upside down equity in the thing. My husband has a small bonus coming and we are trying to decide if we should or could trade it in for a used vehicle with less mileage and pay out the penalties. Or, ride out the lease and pay out the penalty next April and turn the keys over then. Buying the truck/car next April for $25K with probably 100,000 miles on it seems a "bit pricey." We finally have carved out a budget for our family,and we are paying off the bills. However, this is a question we can't seem to get answered. Could you help us? Mary

Mary has discovered one of the secrets of auto leasing. Often the deal looks much better at the beginning than at the end. And, unfortunately for her, the end of this lease could get ugly. And Mary's not alone ...

Read the entire article.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What Do You DO To Save On Utilites?

This question was submitted on The Frugal Life Forum:

I know that there are a lot of ways to save money on utilites. Please include your ideas. I know that will help everyone.

This forum post has 18 responses as of today. Read them and submit your own.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Reducing Technology Bills

1. Assess your needs.

2. Downgrade. (The same applies to your cable bill.)

3. Take advantage of freebies.

4. Avoid bundles.

5. Study your bill.

6. Pay smart.

Read the entire article with details on each method.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Cleansing and Weight Loss

All the holiday treats and overeating takes a toll on our digestive system, immune system and certainly on the liver and intestinal system.

What a great New Year's gift to give yourself ... a body cleanse. Cleansing aids so many areas of the body:

Why Should I Cleanse?

Even weight loss is better accomplished once you open the pathways of elimination so any fat you burn off can be removed:

Sensible Weight Control.

Nature's Sunshine's Clean Start Cleanse is on sale from December 21-31, 2008. Wild Berry and Apple flavors at $42.75 ($3.00 off) or you can Buy 4 and Get 1 Free if you're going to cleanse the entire family or do a series of monthly cleanses.

Nature's Sunshine has a big sale on many items. If you're ready to get some energy and nutrition into that partying body, check out the
Nature's Sunshine's products on sale now.

Removing Grease Stains

Q. How do you get grease stains from a barbecue off the cement on a patio? Ray

• Sprinkle liberally with kitty litter. Make sure it's clay-based and not one of the newer chemical ones. The clay will soak that grease right up and you just sweep it away. The longer the grease has been on there, the longer you have to leave the kitty litter on. MAK

• We have had very good success at getting oil stains (from our car) off cement with laundry detergent. We use the Windfresh in the 40 lb. buckets from Sam's Club. Dump some of the powdered detergent (dry, you don't need to add water) on the spot and if you have a stiff broom then rub it it. If you see the grease/oil seeping up into the detergent then sweep it up and repeat.

• I don't know if it will work on a patio but I use Lestoil to take grease stains out of clothing and off my vinyl flooring and it works wonderful. Lestoil is sometimes difficult to find but I have found it in the grocery store with the floor cleaning items.

• Pour undiluted Greased Lightning on the greased area. Let set for a few minutes then scrub with a brush. Use water hose to wash out the grease and clean the concrete. David

Get More Cleaning Recipes

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Get The Best Of The Fear Economy

“The only thing we have to fear,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared in 1933, “is fear itself.”

On January 20 many of us will look to President Barack Obama for the sober reassurance that FDR provided three quarters of a century ago. Since September, when bad mortgages toppled some of the biggest players on Wall Street, the U.S. economy has moved with terrifying speed into its worst crisis since 1933.

In a chain reaction, stocks plummeted as investors ran for the safety of cash, while many banks—suddenly short of capital and long on questionable loans—froze lending. More than a few, such as giant Washington Mutual, went bust. Consumer confidence fell to an all-time low by October.

Fear had cast its long, dark shadow over a shell-shocked nation. With home values down 20 percent in two years and investors fleeing the stock market, hope has given way to concern, which erodes confidence, which fosters more fear.

At the root of our fears is debt. During the “Roaring Nineties” and continuing through the better part of this decade, low interest rates spurred lending—and bank profits—even as it produced a triple-headed hydra of defaults on home loans, cars loans, and credit card debt. That this behemoth would one day rise from the deep and overwhelm the system that cultivated it seems obvious in retrospect.

Read the entire article.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Spending Less On Natural Foods

It happens every month: The bank statement arrives and my husband and I cringe at how much we've spent on groceries. Like many health-conscious parents these days, we insist on top-quality, all-natural foods. Can we help that our 1-year-old daughter's favorite snack is organic raspberries—at a whopping $6 a pack?

Apparently we're not alone. According to Nutrition Business Journal, consumers in the United States spent nearly $26.2 billion in 2006 on natural and organic foods. Faced with monthly grocery totals that rival a mortgage payment, I asked a few experts to offer some smart shopping tips so that my family—and yours—can continue to eat healthily without spending a fortune. Read those tips.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Using Leftover Vegetables

Keep a large cool whip (or whatever you have) container in your freezer. As you clean up from each meal, put the bits of veggie, rice or pasta into the container. Mark it 'Soup Fixings,' use it when you are making a stew or soup, there is no need to cook it. I throw it in the top of the stew while it is on it's last simmer, the big icy chunk will melt into it and stretch it a bit. Lisa S Get more ideas in the entire article

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Getting Out Of An Auto Lease

I would like some advice on how to sell, trade-in or otherwise get rid of a car. I have a 2000 Toyota Camry with 53,000 miles on it. The lease is up in 2004. The last car dealer I spoke to told me that I needed to wait for the lease to be up in order to trade down. He said that the difference between what I owe and what it's worth is $10,000 and that my mileage should be okay if I move closer to where I work. Is this person telling me the truth? Is there any other way I can get a lower car payment or get rid of this car before 2004? My goal is to be a stay-at-home mom to my little boy and this car payment is stopping me. - Linda Lexington, KY

Linda has asked a question that I get regularly. How can I get out of a car lease? Anyone who is already leasing or thinking about leasing should consider how they would answer Linda's question.

Linda needs to recognize that a car lease is fundamentally different from buying a car and making payments. When you buy a car you own it and have agreed to pay a certain amount for it. You can sell the car. Typically you can pay your loan off early.

When you lease a car you've agreed to keep it and make payments for a certain period of time. You do not own it. So you can't sell or trade it.

A typical new car depreciates approximately ...

Read the entire article.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wood Burning Stoves

This question was submitted on The Frugal Life Forum:

My Husband and I are going to be buying a place very soon. I live in the outskirts of Danial Boone National Forest so I have plenty of trees. Heating here is either done by coal, wood burning, electic or propane. Anyway my question is we want to have a wood burner and wondered if anyone can really say it cuts the costs on heating. I also want Propane for night time use but don't want to depend on propane because of the cost. Is a stove really worth the cost in this case. After all winter is right around the corner!!!!

This forum post has 9 responses as of today. Read them and submit your own.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Win A Money Makeover

Has the rocky economy dealt a blow to your finances? Are you suddenly having trouble saving for retirement, providing for a parent or a child, paying medical expenses, or simply making ends meet? Whatever your financial challenge, we’d like to give you a hand—and you may help others as a result.

AARP The Magazine is teaming with the Garrett Planning Network to provide a free financial review and plan to six households in 2009. Enter to win.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Carpool For Climate And Budget

Share rides to work, school, worship, and more to cut pollution and build community.

When Anne Benson took a colleague’s suggestion and joined a long-standing daily carpool from Shirlington, VA, to downtown Washington, DC, she wasn’t looking for romance. She was just hoping to share gas costs with three other colleagues, to take advantage of Virginia’s faster “HOV” highway lanes for cars with more than one passenger, and to benefit from her employer’s reserved parking spaces for carpoolers.

Three years later, after Anne and her three carpool-mates, including Andrew Miller, had shared many conversations on the afternoon drives home, carpooling turned out to have another perk: Anne and Andrew fell in love. Read the entire article.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Can Money Make You Happy?

People believe that material wealth will make them happy, and that more will make them happier. The problem with this belief is that it's just right enough to convince us it's completely right.

Studies of the relationship between well-being—or happiness—and income are remarkably clear. If you take someone in dire poverty and provide them with enough income to move into the middle class, you make them extremely happy in a lot of important ways. You relieve them of the pain of hunger and concern about the welfare of their children, for example.

On the other hand, if you take someone from the middle class and move them into the stratospheric rich, you do almost nothing for their happiness. Read the entire article.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What We Do

by Donna L. Watkins

There was a time I went to bed at night after a long list of chores accomplished in the day, not to recount all that I had done .... but to ponder all that I didn't get done. Almost exhausted with my 18-hour super shift at super speed, I still expected more of myself.

"No rest for the weary" I could hear my Daddy saying. He worked hard to provide for the family in steel factories, driving coal trucks, part time jobs on the side when I was younger. I guess I grew up thinking that life was tough and I had to hit the trail at full speed to get it all done.

Funny how we grab a few words here and there from childhood and run with them. My Daddy's entire life did not portray hussel and bussle. He worked hard, but he came home and relaxed. On Sundays we played games, took walks and drives in the country. He taught me how to ride a bicycle and later how to drive a car. His job got easier while I was a teenager when he got a job managing a huge apartment development with a number of perks.

By the time I was 18 I was ready for two jobs and lots of activities to fill in the rest of the hours and that lifestyle pace continued into my marriage and parenting. During those years I now remember my Daddy often saying, "You better slow down or you're gonna make yourself sick."

Like the white rabbit in "Alice in Wonderland" there seemed to be no slowing down. Until ..... my body demanded it with illness.

I had no mercy on myself and rarely on others. What drives driven people to their own ruin? Is there one major root cause? I speculate that we each have some hidden message that keeps us wound tightly. I've certainly remembered messages from my past, but we ultimately make the choice at who we are going to be. Read the entire article.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kids 'n Honey: A Natural Mix

Raw honey is not only tasty, but it's extremely nutritious. Incorporating it into your daily diet is an excellent step to take towards maintaining general good health. Dr. D.C. Jarvis says "I am saddened when people tell me that they don't eat honey because costs more than white sugar. In the long run, you must pay either the grocer or the druggist." Honey can be substituted for white sugar very easily, even in baking, and the health benefits for everyone but especially for children are worth every penny. Here are some simple suggestions for getting some honey into your kids!

Baked Honey Apples
Core 4 apples, peel a ring of skin away from around the middle of each apple. In the center of each, place 1 Tbsp. chopped nuts and drizzle with honey. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Glazed Bananas
Peel and slice lengthwise 2 bananas. Place flat side down on a greased cookie sheet. Brush with warmed honey, bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Read the entire article

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Finding the Best Auto Financing

We normally buy used cars and trucks but we decided to buy a new truck from a dealer. What advice would you give us to deal with the new car dealers. Sheryl

Sheryl's question really has two parts. Naturally, she'll want to get the best price from the dealer. We looked at that last time. But, unless she's paying cash for the car, finding the best auto loan could reduce the cost of the car by up to 5%.
So how can Sheryl find the best financing? Let's examine some strategies and pitfalls.

Before she even shops for a loan it's wise to get a copy of her credit report. If there are errors on the report, cleaning them up before applying for a loan will save money. Remember, the interest rate you pay will be directly related to your credit history.

Once Sheryl has reviewed her credit report, it's time to shop for a loan. The local credit union or bank is likely to have a better financing offer than the dealership. So she'll start looking for a loan before she ever sets foot in a dealership.

There's another reason to shop for a loan before shopping for a car. The signed deal to buy the car isn't really complete. It probably includes a "subject to financing" clause. That means that you haven't really bought the car until you arrange financing.

So you could be sitting in the dealership dreaming of that new cruiser. Then the dealer discovers ...

Read the entire article.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday Gift Exchange

This question was submitted on The Frugal Life Forum:

With the holiday season creeping up on us, does anyone have a unique holiday gift exchange idea. Something unique, not too costly and fun.......

There is a good mixture of males and females (couples), but none of us have a money tree growing in the back yard. I've thought about a 'white elephant' gift exchange where everybody gets a 'slightly used' gift from a thrift store, flea market or garage sale.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks for your help.

This forum post has 7 responses as of today. Read them and submit your own.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Netflix A Bargain or Not

Is Netflix truly a bargain or does it force you to watch more movies than you'd want because you're overcome with "Netflix guilt?"

The charge against Netflix is simple — that, for most people, unless you are watching large numbers of movies each month, it is simply not worth the monthly rental fee. Even if you watched every movie as soon as you received it, you can not hope to get much more than four movies a month. The best case scenario, then, brings about a per-movie cost of around $2.25.

Get the scoop in this Student Scrooge post.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Legumes Reduce Grocery Budget

Eating healthy can be part of an alternative treatment against illnesses.

Legumes are a staple food all over the world and are one of the best sources of soluble fiber. Plus, they're low in fat and high in good quality protein -- a great health-saving combination. Beans can be gassy, of course, but there are ways around that. So don't let their "explosive" nature scare you away from some of the best nutrition around.

The soluble fiber in beans helps lower levels of damaging LDL cholesterol in the blood, thus lowering heart-disease risk. And by slowing down carbohydrate absorption, soluble bean fiber fends off unwanted peaks and valleys in blood glucose levels -- especially valuable to people with diabetes. Beans also provide substantial insoluble fiber, which can keep constipation and other digestive woes away.

Legumes are also rich in folic acid, copper, iron, and magnesium -- four nutrients many of us could use more of in our diets. In addition, dried beans and peas are generally good sources of iron, which is especially helpful for people who don't eat meat. Read the entire article.

Beans are an important dietary choice for vegetarians since they contain a great amount of protein. When combined with a grain, they offer complete protein (containing all amino acids) in a more digestible form than meat and dairy products. Read more about vegetarian protein sources.

Beans can really stretch a food budget a very long way, even if you're paying the higher price for canned beans. Phil Lempert at MSNBC.com discusses buying dry beans vs. canned.

"Nearly every bean that is sold in dried form is sold pre-cooked in cans including garbanzo, red kidney, Great Northern white or black beans, pinto, and navy beans. Also available in cans are whole, and both French and Italian cut green beans that are not available in dried form, but also come fresh or frozen. Organic, low sodium and low fat varieties are also available.

Although dried beans are a very inexpensive source of protein, it’s hard to argue with the additional expense of buying precooked beans in cans. With the convenience of saving time soaking, cooking, and seasoning beans, all you need to do is open a can and use them in salads, or heat them up in other dishes.

So, while you could get four cups of cooked beans from a package of dried beans for under 60 cents, and you get only one cup for 90 cents to $1.50 for canned beans, it’s still such a modest investment that convenience here makes sense."


Here's a warm healthy recipe from Delicious Living for one of your cold winter evenings.

Lentil, Mushroom, and Spinach Stew
Serves 6

Lentil Tip:

Grayish-green French lentils stay firm when cooked; red lentils cook quickly but can lose their texture; and brown (often with a greenish cast and simply labeled “lentils”) soften but retain texture when cooked.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, cut in large dice
2 medium carrots, cut in large dice
1 medium celery stalk, cut in large dice
1½ cups sliced cremini or portobello mushrooms
1 cup flat brown lentils, rinsed
7-8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
4 cups (packed) baby spinach leaves
Sherry or sherry vinegar (optional)

1. In a medium soup pot, heat olive oil and sauté onion, carrots, celery, and mushrooms until onions are just tender, 3-5 minutes. Stir in lentils. Add 7 cups broth, bay leaf, rosemary, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook on medium, covered, for about 20 minutes, until lentils are tender.
2. Remove bay leaf. Purée half of the mixture and return to pot. If desired, add remaining 1 cup stock to reach desired consistency. Stir in baby spinach leaves and cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Top each serving with a spoonful of sherry or sherry vinegar, if desired.

PER SERVING: 180 cal, 14% fat cal, 3g fat, 0g sat fat, 0mg chol, 10g protein, 30g carb, 11g fiber, 348mg sodium

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Why You Need An Estate Plan

Why do you need an estate plan? If you were to keel over dead right now, how would your assets get allocated? Who would take care of your kids? Where would the dog go? Who would inherit all the money you stashed away for the retirement you’ll never enjoy?

An estate plan is about much more than just having a life insurance policy, although that is certainly an important facet of any person’s total financial health. It’s also about more than just drawing up a will and keeping it in a safe place.

So what is a good estate plan?.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cut Television Expenses

Watching TV is a favorite past time of many people in the US, the problem is your television bill can get expensive quickly if you’re not careful about managing your TV costs. Here are some tips to help you save money on TV.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Are School Lunches A Good Value

From MSN Money.

Brooke at Dollar Frugal recently ate lunch at her child's school, and she was grossed out by what was on her tray.

She described it in her post "School lunch disgust -- is it worth it?" "The hamburger was not good quality (pieces that I could not chew -- gristle? bone?), the fruit was drowned in syrup, the green beans drowned in butter and pepper (?) and the home fries were cold."

If you can afford to pack a brown-bag lunch for your kids, is that a better value -- and better nutrition -- than the $2 hot lunch at school?

Brooke had thought she was saving money and time by ponying up $2 a day for her child's lunch. Now she's packing food every day in a new lunchbox.

How do you decide which course is best?

Know what your child is eating. The KidsHealth Web site says some schools are upgrading the nutritional value of lunch, but still offer plenty of unhealthy choices. "For instance, a kid might decide to buy a hot dog, day after day." Sample the lunch at school. Also, if your school participates, you can find the menu at SchoolMenu.com. If you're not pleased, contact school board members.

Make a healthy lunch if your school's options are contributing to the national childhood obesity problem. If you're sending your kid to school every day with bologna and a big glop of mayonnaise on white bread, you're not helping. (KidsHealth suggests healthier alternatives.)

If your income has taken a big hit recently, check into the National School Lunch Program, which provides free and reduced-cost lunches based on family income guidelines. But make sure you talk to your child about how to pick healthy foods in the cafeteria.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

13 Ways To Save Money And Go Green

We all read about ways that an individual can help the environment; buying carbon offsets, purchasing a hybrid car, driving less, recycling cans and bottles, etc.. But there are many more ways that little changes in your every day life can affect the big picture if more of us started doing them. I am going to attempt to list a few of them here, and I hope you will leave comments with your tips and ideas for everyone to learn from. Here are the ways I think that small changes can make a big difference.

1. Replace the light bulbs in your house with compact fluorescent light bulbs. Yes, they cost more than regular bulbs, but they use way less electricity (saving you money on your utility bill) and they last around 10 years. Good for the environment and good on the wallet in the long term.

2. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store when you go shopping. This should be a no-brainer, but I still see people walking ... Read the entire article.

Holiday Decorating Within Your Budget

From "Not Made Of Money"

Getting my home dressed up for the holidays is one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. I love to see all of the sparkle and shine of the decorations as I pull out the decorations that have spent the past year packed away. It’s like seeing old friends again.

If you don’t, however, already have a collection of ornaments and holiday décor items waiting to be put to use in your home, you may feel like you can’t afford to really give your house the glamour treatment. Don’t worry, though. There are tons of ways to dress your home up for the holidays while watching your pennies. Read the entire article.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Free Classes At Yale

Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.

Open Yale Courses reflects the values of a liberal arts education. Yale's philosophy of teaching and learning begins with the aim of training a broadly based, highly disciplined intellect without specifying in advance how that intellect will be used. This approach goes beyond the acquisition of facts and concepts to cultivate skills and habits of rigorous, independent thought: the ability to analyze, to ask the next question, and to begin the search for an answer.

All lectures were recorded in the Yale College classroom and are available in video, audio, and text transcript format. Registration is not required and no course credit is available. View what's currently available.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cut Your Holiday Gift Cost

One interesting – albeit non-scientific – way to gauge someone's comfort level with the state of the economy is to ask how much they plan to spend on holiday gifts. In good times, people tend to spend more generously; during rough periods, they scale back.

Those trends were borne out in a recent consumer survey conducted by Visa Inc., which found that shoppers plan to spend an average of $934 on gifts this holiday season, down about 11 percent from last year’s $1,051 average. That jibes with bleak industry forecasts for the upcoming shopping season.

If you're among those looking for ways to manage your holiday spending while still finding meaningful gifts for your loved ones, read on:

First, consider your overall finances. Before spending a dime on gifts, step back and calculate how much you can afford as a portion of your overall budget. Consider questions such as:

  • Are your savings sufficient to cover expenses for a few months if you or your spouse should get laid off or have unexpected medical expenses?
  • Would you be able to pay off all gifts within a couple of months?
  • Are you already struggling to pay your monthly bills?
  • Would you need to suspend retirement savings contributions in order to buy gifts?

If you answered "no" to either of the first two questions or "yes" to the others, this probably isn't a good year for extravagant spending.

Make a list. Once you decide how much you can comfortably afford to spend on gifts overall, list all the people you need to shop for, including a few gift alternatives – and their costs – for each person. I call these 'micro budgets.' Remember, if you overspend on one present ...

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"Simplicity of living, if deliberately chosen, implies a compassionate approach to life. It means that we are choosing to live our daily lives with some degree of conscious appreciation of the condition of the rest of the world." Duane Elgin

"Do what is good with your own hands, so that you might earn something to give to the needy." Ephesians 4:28