Thursday, March 29, 2012

Getting A Tax Refund?

From Not Made of Money

You’ve worked hard all year. You’ve paid the legally required percentage of your income to Uncle Sam. When tax time comes, you find that you’re getting a refund. That’s great! But what are you going to do with it?

Few people have trouble finding something to do with their tax refunds. But frequently, that “something” is spending it with reckless abandon. Sure, it feels good to buy some shiny new things. But there are more productive things we could do with that money. Read the entire article....

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"Go Big or Go Home" Destroys Budget

From Enemy of Debt

In the U.S., we like our space and we like big. We drive big cars, we like big houses, and one of our favorite phrases is even “go big or go home.” We are obsessed with size in every way, shape, and form, and it is destroying our budgets. The greatest offenders to our larger than life attitudes include....

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Resisting the Urge to Step Up in House

From Frugal Dad

The other day I was talking with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in a few years. He shared with me that while things were going pretty well, he regretted the decision to buy a new house early last year.

I was puzzled too, because not long ago I remembered them buying a home, which at the time (maybe three or four years ago) was a major step up for them. It was a very nice home, and one that offered the space they needed for their growing family. I just assumed they would be there for years – maybe decades.

Somewhere along the way my friend got a promotion and his wife returned to work. They had some new-found cash flow, and felt some temptation to step up in house again. Rates were nearing an all-time low, and prices had been knocked down a bit in their area (though not quite as bad as in other parts of the country). Read the entire article....

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Paying Cash for Our First Home

From Get Rich Slowly

When my husband and I got married nine years ago, we had an audacious dream of paying cash for our first home. At that time, it was very much a far-off dream — we were just trying to survive the rigors and expenses of law school without going in debt. That alone was a seemingly gigantic feat.

But after three years of law school, my husband did graduate without debt, passed the bar, and we started planning for the future. Since we’d been renting for almost four years, my husband had a good job, and our second baby was on the way, pretty much everyone expected that buying a house would be in our immediate future.

I mean, after all, isn’t buying a house the responsible thing for a young couple to do? Well, maybe — or maybe not. We didn’t have much money in savings, and we weren’t sure how long we would be living in the town we were in, so we chose to go against conventional wisdom and continued renting. Read the entire article....

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Prepared for a Sudden Windfall?

From Enemy Of Debt

Whether it is a tax refund, a lottery win or an inheritance, a sudden increase in funds can be both a blessing and a curse. If you have been in debt but have not taken the time to evaluate your habits, an unexpected increase in your checking account could cause a number of problems.

Surprise, you’ve won! What do you do first?


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Be An Intentional Grocery Shopper

Over the weekend I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things. Since we were set on meats and produce, I found myself wandering the aisles more than usual – seeing what was on sale and checking prices of a few of our favorites.

Before I knew it, my shopping cart was half-full, and I knew my trip to the store to “pick up a couple things” would likely cost much more than the mission name implied. So it goes when shopping without a list.

$38! I spent $38 essentially on junk. Well, it wasn’t all junk, but the very large majority of it was junk. And by junk in this context I mean things that can’t generally be used to make a meal – sodas, chips, a couple dessert items, some frozen items from the “Snack” case, etc. No ingredients, no staples, no meats, no vegetables.

I loaded up the items in my truck and reflected a bit about the grocery trip, wondering how many times I’ve shopped like this in the past and thought nothing of it. I violated nearly every rule in the book of frugal grocery shopping – I didn’t have a list, I had not planned any meals, I was hungry, etc, etc.

I decided from now on I would try to be an “intentional grocery shopper.” That is, I would do a better job of planning before I went to the store. I would seek out only the things I needed to fit my meal plan and nothing more. Read the entire article: How to Become an Intentional Grocery Shopper.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Toxic Treats Killing Dogs

From ABC News

When Kevin and Candace Thaxton's 10-year-old pug Chansey got sick late last year, the couple assumed at first it was simply old age. The small dog started showing symptoms of kidney failure -- drinking water excessively and urinating in the house. By the time the Thaxtons got her to a veterinarian, Chansey's kidneys had shut down and she was in extreme pain. She died two days later. "It was so hard. It was just devastating," Kevin Thaxton told ABC News.

But the Thaxtons would go through the ordeal again just weeks later -- leading them to a new theory behind Chansey's death -- when their new Pekingese-mix puppy Penny exhibited the same symptoms, finally resulting in kidney failure. When Candace Thaxton stumbled on a Food and Drug Administration warning that there'd been an increase in complaints about chicken jerky dog treats made in China, she says she knew immediately what had happened to her beloved dogs. Read the entire article.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Make a Bracelet Out of Credit Cards

What a great way to celebrate cutting up the credit cards to get out of debt!

Work hard to pay off your credit cards and then or even before, tear, cut, spindle, mutilate them as in this instructable that outlines how to make a bracelet out of one or more credit cards. This renders them useless thereby aiding in your resolve to quit charging. Get the steps.

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10 Simple Ways to Feel Rich

From StopBuyingCrap.com

It doesn’t take a brand new sports car, a tropical vacation, or a well furnished house to make you feel “rich.” Here’s ten simple ways to feel rich without extravagant materialistic means ... Read the article.

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Revive Soap and Candles

From The Green Life Blog

Decorative candles tend to burn out before all the wax has been consumed, but those "dead" candles can be heated and re-formed into new creations. Bits of bar soap can also be recycled through a simple process using water and heat.

Techniques vary, but we like National Geographic's instructions for making candles and Planet Green's ideas for reusing soap

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Poop Solves Energy Problems

From Sierra Club Magazine, Jan/Feb. 2012

Since pandas and elephants get the bulk of their nutrients from woody plants, their excrement could provide the key to cheap and effective biofuel. The feces of the two species contain the same gut bacteria that efficiently convert lignocellulose--the woody stuff in plants--to sugars.

Researchers at Mississippi State University (working with pandas) and at the Dutch technology company DSM (working with elephants) say that such bacteria could be key to producing cellulosic ethanol from biomass like wood chips, switchgrass, and corn stover.  Read the entire article.

50 Ways to Have Free Outdoor Fun

From WiseBread.com

There are lots of ways to have free outdoor fun. "Naturally," being outside can be all about exploring nature — taking a rigorous hike in a national park, for example — but there are loads of things that you can do outside that involve neither hugging trees nor sweating. Read the entire article.

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My Top Tactics for Reducing Online Shopping

From TheSimpleDollar.com

I find it very easy to buy stuff online without adequate thought. I’ll click a few times and suddenly the item I want is on the way.

I particularly struggle with three sites directly connected to three of my biggest hobbies: Amazon (for books), Cool Stuff Inc. (for board games), and Steam (for computer games – and, yes, Steam sales are particularly my weak spot).

Over the years, I’ve had to build up some defenses against these temptations. I’ve tried lots of different things, but I’ve found that only three of them really work and make a difference in my buying habits. Read on ....

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Downsizing Questions

When Becky Tillery and her husband bought a 1,180-square foot house in a historic area of Huntsville, Alabama, many of her friends thought she was crazy: How was she going to cram three kids, two adults and a dog into such a tiny space?

But Tillery knew the 1950s cottage-style ranch would work for her growing family. And she’s not alone in her move to scale back. Houses are getting smaller – the average size of a new single-family home in 2009 was 2,438 square feet, compared with 2,521 in 2007, according to the National Association of Home Builders. And many more people are opting to rent apartments. In a May 2010 National Apartment Association survey, 76 percent of people said they believe renting is a better option than buying in the current market.

But before you sell off your furniture and books and move your family into a loft, there are questions to ask about living smaller, both on a practical and financial level. Read the entire article.

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Perfumes Added to Pet Foods

In one of the various industry periodicals I read, an article stated that a company who specializes in developing palatability for pet food, (yes, there are companies that don't make pet food, just find ways to get pets to eat it!) has now teamed up with a perfume and flavoring company.

They are going to launch a new "Feel Good" program that will allow pet food manufacturers to make products that have perfume applied so that will be more pleasing to pet owners as well as the pets. Apparently, they are going to be able to inject a masking perfume into finished product like roasted chicken, beef and Italian seasoning.
It appears that the intention is to add a pleasing aroma for the benefit of the customer, but has no added nutritional value for the pet.

So obviously, if the customers didn't like the smell of the original product, then they were naturally placing a negative opinion on the product that it might not be good. Or maybe rather, the manufacturer could not (or would not) make a product that naturally smelled fresh, clean and had a favorable aroma.Like the formulas Flint River Ranch has been successfully making for over 18 years!

Another issue is that these aromas are going to be able to last all the way through to the end of the bag. That's a pretty vigorous perfume to last for weeks or more, and I wonder if they are going to be natural or chemical in their origin? I'm betting that to stay that potent it will be chemical in origin. Low quality meat ingredients of limited nutritional value are still limited in nutritional value regardless of any aroma being added. Moldy grain sprayed with perfume is still moldy grain.

Folks, this is just another way that some in the pet food industry continue to misrepresent their products. If they wanted to make a food that always smelled welcoming and fresh; like Flint River Ranch does, they would. They could, but most don't.

There are still companies that will misrepresent, confuse and trick consumers into thinking that what they are feeding to their pets is good and wholesome. Some do it with cute, colorful, fun-shaped kibbles that trick the consumer into thinking that they are feeding real vegetables like carrots, peas, meat bits and such. In reality, it's just another dry kibble that's been dyed a color. Others do it with their impressive graphics and marketing on their bags, full of flashy colors, happy, healthy-looking pets, pictures of supposed fresh, whole meats and vegetables put into the kibbles. It's a misrepresentation and mainly marketing hype just to get people to buy the product.

They only want to move product; not make a positive & permanent positive impact on a pet's health. Now they're going to use these powerful aroma additives to further trick the consumers and make the pets key in on the smell and flavor over producing a quality food!

It's just wrong and again this is another reason why I'm so proud of what Jim started over 18 years ago. We stand by what we do and how we make it and always will. Yes, I know we're a premium-priced food in the marketplace, but our pricing is competitive even with the included shipping.

There is a reason we will not skimp on the quality of the ingredients or our oven-baking process. We stand by the performance that we know our formulas will provide. There's an old adage that you can get by eating fast food all day, every day. But knowing the health impact, why would you want too?

Masking the aroma of the finished product to the consumer is just wrong and this type of practice and the marketing surrounding it continues to frustrate me because there is always a trickle-down effect to those of us who are trying to do this business correctly. Just want to keep you informed.

Jay P. Margedant, President
Flint River Ranch

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A Reality Check for Young Adults

Yes, times are tough, as illustrated by the struggles of many Occupy Wall Street protestors. We're here to help with practical steps that young adults should take to maintain financial security.

One of the many news stories about Occupy Wall Street featured a young woman named Kate, 25, who had come to New York from Maryland hoping to become an actress. Read the entire article.

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What My Father’s Death Taught Me About Estate Planning

From GetRichSlowly.org

My dad died recently. He was a good man and a great father. Just three months after he retired (after spending more than 40 years as a salesman for an oil company), he was diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer. Throughout my life, my father tried to give my brothers and me a good financial education.

But the most unexpected financial lesson my father taught me came after he passed away. I am the executor of his estate. My dad was always a planner, but the things he did to make this processes easier are amazing. I feel compelled to share them with just about everyone I know. Read on ....

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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