Sunday, May 31, 2009

Should We Leave Money To Our Kids?

The subject of kids and money is an emotional one for many people. Most of us would do anything for our kids, and often times that means doing things like sacrificing our own financial well-being to secure an education for our children. Others continue to help their adult children, financially, for many years into adulthood rather than contributing to their own retirement.

Helping children while we’re still here is one thing, but what about after we are gone? If we have managed to build wealth throughout our lifetimes, should we pass that wealth along to our children, or is to do so to discourage them from becoming self-starters? There is no right or wrong answer here, as much of it has to do with personal situations such as how you were raised, and how you came into wealth.

I do like Warren Buffet’s quote from a couple years ago, repeated in the USA Today article, Should kids be left fortunes, or be left out? Buffet said about leaving money to kids, “wealthy parents should leave their children with enough money to do anything they want but not so much that they are doomed to do nothing at all. ”Read the entire article.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

10 Secrets To Curbing Your Appetite For Stuff

If I gave you a sheet of paper and asked you to list all the things you really wanted right now, how many could you come up with? Five? Ten? None? Chances are there are quite a few things on your spending radar. Some of the things you need, but most of them you want. It’s OK; you’re human.

We all sort of walk around with an idea of things we like to replace, or upgrade, or add to our lives. If these things add value to our lives then planning for their purchase is not necessarily a bad thing. It is the impulse purchases of stuff that get us into trouble.
Secrets To Curbing Your Appetite For Stuff

1. Unsubscribe to catalogs. A friend of mine in college griped incessantly about being broke. He also subscribed to every catalog under the sun. In any given week I bet he received 10 catalogs on sportswear, hunting and fishing gear, golfing equipment, etc. And then he would salivate over the things he saw in the catalog. Easy fix; cancel the stupid catalogs.

2. Get a TiVo and skip the commercials. When I bought my TiVo a couple years ago I felt a twinge of guilt over the purchase - after all, DVR is still kind of a luxury. But now I’m convinced it has actually saved me time and money. Not only can we motor through a half-hour show in twenty minutes, but we can skip all the commercials, too.

3. Ignore unreal media examples. While on the subject of television, ignore examples in the media of entertainers living lavish lifestyles without putting in an ounce of real work. I’m always amused by soap operas where the main character is depicted as a policeman or detective and lives in a multi-million dollar home. I have family members in law enforcement, and I can tell you that they are grossly underpaid for the work they do, and there is no way they could afford such a lifestyle.

4. Don’t hang out with materialistic people. Friends influence purchasing decisions more than any amount of corporate advertising ever could. For this reason, avoid hanging out with people wrapped up in their clothes, their cars and their expensive homes, or you will start to feel the need to keep up with them. Better to let the “Jones” keep up with themselves. For the other 6 secrets.

Friday, May 29, 2009

How To Test Soil Acidity/Alkalinity without a Test Kit

From - About.com

Find out if your soil is acidic or alkaline without a pricey test kit.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 15 minutes or less

Here's How
1. Scoop some soil into a container. Then, add a half-cup of vinegar. If the soil bubbles or fizzes, it's alkaline.
2. If there's no reaction, scoop a fresh soil sample into a second container. Add a half-cup of water and mix. Then, add a half-cup of baking soda. If the soil bubbles or fizzes the soil is highly acidic.
3. Amend your soil with wood ash or lime, if it's acidic. Amend your soil with sulfur or pine needles, if it's alkaline.

Tips
1. If you want a precise pH measurement, get a soil test kit from your local university extension office or home improvements store.
2. Soil amendment takes time, so make small changes and wait for them to take hold, before making further amendments.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How to Make Things Last Longer

Simple Tricks to Extend the Life of All Your Stuff

Tired of replacing razor blades, printer cartridges and other household essentials at every turn? Here's how to make those must-haves last longer:

Shampoo and Conditioner
Store bottles upside down to prevent the shampoo or conditioner from getting stuck at the bottom of the bottle. When you can't get any more out, add a few capfuls of water, and shake.

Toothpaste
Once you've squeezed out as much toothpaste as you can, cut the tube open with a pair of scissors, and you'll have enough for several more brushings.

Tip: Store the cut tube in a plastic bag between uses to prevent dry out.

Razors
Dry the blades off after each use, and they'll stay sharp longer. Read the entire article.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Real World Class in Bankruptcy

I don't mention it too often but one of the main reasons I started living frugally was because I didn't want to get into another situation where I had to claim bankruptcy.

The process of claiming bankruptcy was eye-opening and frightening.

Frightening because the lawyer I hired to help me through this made it clear that some of my creditors may not want to be included in the bankruptcy and I would have to settle out of court with them, by that time I was worn down with phone calls I really didn't want to deal with them ever again; Eye-opening because of how easy it was, back in 1998, to get all of it wiped out and I owed no one but the lawyer. Of course that is before I truly understood the impact my credit score tanking would have on my future for getting any kind of credit again in the next 10 years.

I knew that I would have to re-establish credit because of the bankruptcy, but someone telling you this and then going through it seem to be world's apart. Through the process of trying to re-establish credit, I came across more rejections or 30% interest rates that it scared me about my future. Read the entire article.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Financial Confession - I Don’t Budget

My wife and I don’t make or follow a budget, at least not formally. We own a copy of Quicken and Microsoft Money and I’ve played around with some of the best personal finance software online but we don’t sit down every week or month, figure out what we’re going to spend, and track it to the penny.

Non Budgeting Strategy

This approach has worked with us for some of the reasons that Mighty Bargain Hunter describes and a few others.

Stable Costs

We have relatively fixed costs; our spending doesn’t fluctuate a lot from month to month. We don’t make a list of all the costs we need to cover each month but we have a pretty good idea how much is coming in and how much we need for expenses. Read the entire article.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Improve Your Credit Score in 5 Simple Steps

Improving your credit score can be simple if you know what steps to follow. If you have poor credit, bad credit, or simply want to improve your credit score, there are specific steps you can take to make it happen. Your credit score is computed mainly using:

* your payment history
* type of credit you have
* length of your credit history
* your outstanding balances
* new credit you’ve established

Each of these items is weighted differently, but tweaking all of them can play a role in increasing your credit score. If you can take these five steps you should see your credit score increase.

1. Make payments on time and pay down your balances.

The biggest contributor to your credit score is your payment history. This means that if you do nothing else, you have to make your payments on time. Find a payment system that works for you and make sure your payments are received on or before the due dates.

It also helps to pay down the balances of your outstanding debt. This doesn’t mean paying off the debt completely. It’s about your ability to manage your debt, so making payments that reduce your outstanding balances also raises your credit score.

2. Leave your credit accounts open.

The longer your relationships with creditors or lenders, the better off your credit score is. Do not fall into the trap of closing unused accounts or completely paying off credit and loan accounts thinking it will increase your credit score. Leave your credit accounts open, if you don’t use them.

The longer your credit relationships are, the higher your credit score. It’s important to note that you also have to have a good relationship–a good payment history–combined with the longevity of your relationship with the creditor. Read the entire article.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

12 Steps to Eco-Friendly Lawn Care This Summer

Summer is just around the corner, and this is the time of year when we really ramp up our lawn activities– watering, fertilizing, mowing, etc. And all of these can have major negative environmental consequences. Did you know that over 50 million Americans mow their lawns each weekend, and that mowing contributes as much as 5% of the country's air pollution? And it's staggering to realize that the average American grassy lawn can use over 20,000 gallons of water each summer! So, a major part of any green home strategy should be to embrace eco-friendly lawn and garden care.

Here are 12 ways you can make sure you have an eco-friendly lawn this summer

1. Collect rain water and use it for your plants. Getting a rain barrel or two for your yard is a simple way to collect and reuse Mother Nature's water. Just put it under your gutter's down spout and you'll be amazed how fast it fills up. Click here for rain barrels.

2. Make sure you're not over-watering. Most of us over-water our lawns. Do you have moss growing on your driveway or sidewalk or in your garden? That's a sign you're watering too much. Read the entire article.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Yard Sale Fever Made Easy

Are you a yard sale shopper? Now you can find your treasures and trinkets a lot easier. Do you look forward to Saturdays so you can scour the yard sales for treasures and antiques? Yard Sale Treasure Map is a new site that helps you find the best Craigslist sales with the graphic interface of Google Maps.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Keeping Your Home Safe From Summer Fires

As the recent fires in Santa Barbara show, we have a long, hot summer of fire danger ahead of us. Many of us who live in areas where wildfires are common are also now facing record drought conditions. We all need to do what we can to protect our homes and communities from the danger of uncontrolled fires. And don’t forget that reducing fire risk is a great way to save water as well. Every little bit helps!

Fortunately there is plenty we can do as homeowners. Here is a great checklist, courtesy of Colorado State University.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Find Highest Interest Rates

From the AARP Bulletin.

Looking to stash your cash in a bank that offers the highest interest rate? At MoneyAisle.com, banks bid against one another to offer the best rate on savings accounts or certificates of deposit. Enter your location and the amount of money you wish to deposit and some nifty websites will point you to the bank offering the best rate. You have to register to follow through on an offer, which carries an expiration time, so you’ll need to think fast.

If a checking account is more your speed, consider CheckingFinder.com. Plug in your ZIP code to find banks in your area. Some rates may go as high as 6 percent but require a certain amount of activity each month, so be sure to read the fine print.

Monday, May 18, 2009

5 Spices With Health Benefits

These five hot spices can be good for everything from easing arthritis pain to keeping your heart healthy.

Recent studies suggest that when it comes to cuisine, kicking it up a notch can be as good for your health as it is tasty for your palate. Some spices, particularly hot ones, contain phytochemicals that may help ward off cell damage associated with chronic diseases.

Chili Powder

Potential health perk: Relieves achy joints. Research shows that capsaicin, found in chili peppers, has an anti-inflammatory effect, which may help ease arthritic swelling and pain. Hot way to dish it: Sprinkle a few shakes of chili powder and salt on baked French fries.

Cinnamon

Potential health perk: Protects against Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A 2003 study found that about half a teaspoon lowered blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Hot way to dish it: Mix half a teaspoon of cinnamon into your coffee, or jazz up whipped cream with a couple of pinches.

Curry Powder

Potential health perk: Safeguards your brain. The yellow curry pigment curcumin may fight Alzheimer's by thwarting development of the disease's signature amyloid brain plaques, says a study. Hot way to dish it: Whisk 1 1/2 teaspoons mild curry powder into mayonnaise to dress up sandwiches.

Garlic

Potential health perk: Improves your heart's health. Brigham Young University researchers found that garlic consumption can lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels by an average of 10 percent. Hot way to dish it: Add minced garlic and chopped cucumber to plain yogurt for a light dip or salad dressing.

Wasabi

Potential health perk: Prevents ulcers. A 2004 South Korean study suggests Japanese horseradish can kill ulcer-causing Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Plant chemicals may also prevent tooth decay. Hot way to dish it: Mix a smidgen of wasabi paste with mashed avocado for a snappier guacamole.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, May 2005.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Salvage Groceries

From the AARP Bulletin.

If you’re hungry for savings—or just hungry—consider the newest trend in grocery shopping: “salvage” supermarkets that offer discounts of up to 50 percent on items that are overstocks (think TJ Maxx for food), have been discontinued by manufacturers, or are improperly labeled, dented or about to expire.

Worried about the safety of those “damaged” goods? These stores, like other supermarkets, are usually inspected by state officials and must meet the same safety criteria. For a list of salvage grocery stores in your area, visit Anderson's Country Market.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Inner Peace Technique

This one minute method is great for re-centering your thoughts and the moment back to a more balanced place. The Quick Coherence® Technique helps you find a feeling of ease and inner harmony that will be reflected in your heart rhythms.

The heart is a primary generator of rhythm in your body, influencing brain processes that control your nervous system, cognitive function and emotion. More coherent heart rhythms facilitate brain function, allowing you more access to your higher intelligence so you can improve your focus, creativity, intuition and higher-level decision-making.

When you’re in heart-rhythm coherence, you perform at your best – what athletes call being in the zone. You feel confident, positive, focused and calm yet energized.

The easy technique reduces stress in the moment before it escalates, making you calmer and more at ease, while increasing clarity of the situation. Check it out.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Getting Cash Fast

Looking for ways to generate more cash to get you through this recession -- or pad your emergency fund in case you lose your job? The stories on Kiplinger.com offer a multitude of ideas on how to boost your income and lower your spending so you can keep more money in your pocket.

And we're talking about legitimate ways to earn extra cash, not ads or e-mail scams that promise a quick buck -- after you pay a fee. Read entire article.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Make Ink Cartridges Last Longer

Tired of shelling out for printer cartridges? PC World ran printers until they said it was time to change the cartridge and found that some left more than 40 percent of their ink unused.

You've probably had this experience: Your printer tells you it's time to change the cartridge, but you dismiss the message and keep printing. Days or weeks later, you're still using the same cartridge and thinking to yourself that rumors of its death were greatly exaggerated.

Or perhaps your printer simply shuts down when it decides you've gone deep enough into its ink well, refusing to operate until you replace the cartridge, though you suspect there's plenty of ink left.

PC World decided to do some real lab testing on this issue; and the results confirm what you may have suspected: Many manufacturer-branded (OEM) and third-party (aftermarket) vendor cartridges leave a startling amount of ink unused when they read empty. In fact, some inkjet printers force users to replace black ink cartridges when the cartridge is nearly half full, PC World has found. Read the entire article and view video.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Reuse of Grocery Store Jars for Canning

Question:
Is It Safe to Reuse Grocery Store Jars for Canning?
Answer:

Answer:
No. Grocery store jars should not be reused for home canning because they're usually not as thick as home canning jars (making them more likely to shatter or explode when heated), and their necks are often too short to allow for proper sealing.

The good news is that canning jars are fairly inexpensive and can be reused for years and years.

A Word of Caution:
Don't be fooled by grocery store jars that come inscribed with the word "Mason." It's usually there to give the product a "down home" feel, and should not be considered an indicator of the jar's quality.

More Frugal Tips at Frugal Living About.com.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Parenting Research

Research Surprises Scientists With Bible's Answer
From Creation Moments

Ephesians 6:1
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Parents today are under a lot of pressure to be more "permissive" and less "authoritative" in raising their children. Research has now shown the results of this progressive thinking.

In a study of 124 youngsters conducted over a twelve-year period, researchers studied parenting styles and the effect of each style on the development of young people. Researchers divided the parenting styles they saw into categories ranging from parents who didn't seem to care to those who were extremely demanding and restrictive while offering their children little emotional support.

They found that parents who consistently set down clear standards of conduct and clearly defined limits, while offering close emotional support, produce teenagers who fared better in academic tests, are emotionally more stable, and are much less likely to be involved with alcohol or drugs than any other group.

The so-called "democratic" parenting style, they noted, produced far more heavy drug users than parents who set limits. They also noted that restrictive parents who offer little emotional support for their children tend to produce teens who, while not heavily involved with drugs, are less happy with life and fall below average on academic tests.

Researchers concluded that the limit-setting, rule-enforcing parents who offer strong emotional support to their children are the most successful parents. And this is exactly the style of parenting Scripture teaches us.

Monday, May 11, 2009

18 Secrets To A Successful Yard Sale

Growing up, my mom was the queen of yard sales. We used to joke that if I didn't want something included in a yard sale I should lock it away in my closet. Looking back, she was setting a great example in the hopes I wouldn't grow up to be a pack rat.

Admittedly, I have accumulated my share of our household junk, and I am trying to inspire members of our household to get rid of theirs. Yard sales are also a great way to generate some quick cash to get that emergency fund in place, or to contribute to your debt snowball. Here are a few yard sale tips our family has implemented over the years to have a successful yard sale. Scheduling

1. Schedule yard sales around the first of the month. Most people who are paid monthly, or bi-monthly, receive a paycheck around the 1st of the month (or the end of the previous month). For this reason, we try to schedule yard sales on the first Saturday of the month.

2. Check the 10-day forecast. Nothing ruins a good yard sale faster than rain. Keep an eye on the 10-day forecast before submitting your advertisements and selecting a date. There are no guarantees, but significant weather patterns (fronts, tropical systems, etc.) are fairly predictable within a couple days.

3. Plan on starting early. Most hard-core yard sale scavengers will start looking around 7:00am (some as early as 6:00am).

4. Consider a ... Read the entire article

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Five Strategies To Make Space Around Your Home More Productive

Earlier this year my wife and I decided to stay put in our current home. Now we are in the "how can we make this work" mode where you walk room to room with the realization that you will be here for a while, and the chances of building or buying a new home with all your needs will sit on the back burner for a while. Here are a few ideas for making the existing space around our home more productive. We've already implemented a couple of these items, and the remaining ones are on our to-do list. Ways To Make Spaces Around Your Home More Productive

Convert spare bedrooms, garages or back porches to a home gym. Our neighbors recently closed in a garage and added some gym-quality exercise equipment. They now have a full squat rack, Smith machine, an elliptical machine, bike and treadmill. To say I was a little jealous would be a major understatement. I've always wished I could lift weights at home, mostly because I don't care for the social setting at most gyms. While I don't think I'll be able to close in the garage, I could put a weight bench with a bench press rack on the back porch. I could also add a small set of dumbbells, a used exercise bike (for rainy days), and a heavy bag.

Create a home office with just a feet of empty ...

Read the entire article

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Not Getting Energy Savings Expected?

Washington, DC, April 2009

Perhaps you've replaced a couple of old, inefficient appliances with more energy-efficient models, yet your energy bills are about the same. Or you have insulated, weather-stripped and sealed your home, but your energy bills are not as low as you expected after these energy efficiency improvements. What's the problem?

Alliance to Save Energy
President Kateri Callahan advises consumers, "Before jumping to unwarranted conclusions and assuming there's no payoff from energy efficiency improvements, ask yourself four questions to explore other possible causes first”:

1. Could it be the dreaded "Snackwell effect?" Could you and your family possibly be guilty of what is becoming known as the "Snackwell effect" or "Snackwell syndrome?" Just as dieters gorge on low-calorie/low-fat cookies in the erroneous belief that the calories “don’t count” and they won't gain weight, some people who buy energy-efficient appliances, lighting, or electronics may sabotage their efforts to save energy and money by using them more. No wonder that the Snackwell effect related to both diet and energy use is a growing topic on twitter and blogs.

2. Have you added new products that use electricity and increase your overall energy use? What changes have you made? Perhaps you've added a few more electrical products like big screen TVs that don't carry the ENERGY STAR certification label, the symbol of energy efficiency. Or perhaps you are simply plugging in more products than you did before.

3. Have your energy service providers increased rates in your area? If so, you could be paying even more had you not increased your home’s energy efficiency.

4. Are you staying at home more in this turbulent economy? Instead of being away at work a good portion of the day, are you doing more telecommuting? Or, rather than going out to eat or for entertainment, are you staying closer to home? Maybe using your TV and TiVo more? Being at home for more hours each day can increase your energy bills.

Callahan advises consumers to take a hard look at any changes in their energy usage patterns and behaviors when assessing their energy bills, so they can nip any problems in the bud and reap the benefits of their energy-efficiency improvements. She also recommends the article Tips to Lower Your Energy Bills.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Why You Shop

Living below your means is about being aware of what you spend your money on as well as why you spend your money.

You may constantly run to the fast food joint, and this adds up to 2-300 a month you spend on fast food. You want to cut back but you don’t know why you can’t. Consider some of these reasons for why YOU spend money and see if you can find a way to plug the leak and save. Read the entire article.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Reasons NOT To Go To Yard Sales

Not everyone buys new all the time, some buy used cars, get hand-me-downs, or recycle furniture from their parents. Garage sales are really not that different, you are just acquiring items in a new way and you would want to look at it as such. Unfortunately, people see themselves as exempt from going to garage sales and have used some of the following reasons to stay away.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lower Interest Credit Card Scam

Police say they have received several complaints about a possible credit card scam in the Grand valley.

Police say residents are getting unsolicited phone calls from people who claim to represent credit card companies, and offering to lower their interest rates.

Police believe these calls may be attempts to steal personnel information from victims. Police offer the following tips.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Traditional or Roth IRA?

Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA, which should you open? This is a common question that comes up with many people looking to open an individual retirement account (IRA). I’ll try to make this as concise as possible, and let you decide for yourself which IRA is best for you. Read the entire article.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dandelion Recipes

Dandelions are considered a nuisance by many, but to those in the know, they're a welcome source of free food. They're loaded in vitamins and anti-oxidants, and can be eaten from blossom to root. Now that's hard to beat!

Ready to give dandelions a try? Here are some great recipes: ... Check out the recipes

Want to take it in capsules for medicinal purposes?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Kitchen Herb Garden

If you love using herbs as much as I do, you will probably agree that fresh-picked herbs always taste better than store-bought ones.

If you have available yard or garden space, you can plant a kitchen herb garden. Herbs are easy to grow, don't need a lot of space, thrive in just about any type of soil, and many are cold hardy. An ideal location would be a few steps from your kitchen, but any spot that gets about six hours of sun a day is good. By planting herbs that are most often used in cooking, you can pick what you need all summer.

Herbs commonly grow two different ways, annual and perennial. Annual plants last one growing season and die when the temperature hits freezing. Examples include basil, dill, cilantro, parsley, chamomile, chervil, sweet marjoram and summer savory.

On the other hand - Perennial plants produce new stems year after year. (It doesn't hurt to mulch in the fall for reassurance.) Examples include thyme, mint, chives, sage, tarragon, lemon balm, lavender, hyssop and lovage.

For the beginner gardener I would recommend starting with plants. This is because many commonly loved herbs are hard to start from seed. Finding and choosing your plants is easy and fun. Herb plants can be found at farmer's markets, nurseries and many roadside stands. Controlling the quantity of the plants is harder and between you and your wallet. A basic kitchen garden contains enough different herbs to ... Read the entire article

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cooking For Less

Great Depression Cooking with Clara is the popular online cooking show. In each episode Clara prepares recipes that her mother made during the Great Depression. Clara shares her stories and wisdom from the Depression as she shows you how to make simple, inexpensive and delicious meals. Visit now.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Second Chance Frying Pans

Frugal Gardener Tip of the Month from Backyard Living Magazine.

When my frying pans get old, I reuse them as saucers for my flowerpots. With the handle, it’s so convenient to move flowers to other areas of the yard. – Nancy Bettini, Los Altos, California
"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