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Simple Savings
05/07/2010
IconFrugal Ethics When Frugal Becomes Just Plain Cheap By Tawra Kellam www.LivingOnaDime.com There are times when it's tempting to lie, steal or break one of the other 10 Commandments to get a good deal but, in living frugally, we all need to stick to being honest. This is not always easy to do, but I want to give some examples that may help you stay honest. Here are some common tactics that some people use that are unethical and sometimes illegal: You need some pens because you are running short so you take a handful from a store that is giving them out. This is stealing. If you take one, that's fine. Unless they tell you to take them all, it is tacky to take a large number of them. They're offering them simply as a courtesy. You buy an item and you use it a few times and then return it because you're done with it. Stealing and lying. You probably won't tell the sales clerk you just needed to use it for a few times and even if you do, that's only OK if it is a rental store. If an item breaks, doesn't work or is not the right color, it is fine to return it. If you just needed it "for a few times" (like a dress for a special occasion) and know you won't use it again, you're stealing if you return it. If you eat a food item with a guarantee on the box and it tastes nasty, return it. That's why they offer a guarantee. If you eat the entire contents of the box first and return the mostly-empty box, it probably wasn't actually nasty. If you try to pass off your 14 year old child as a 12 year old so that you only have to pay for a child's meal, you are lying and teaching your child that lying is good when it benefits you. If you find a "great deal" that you can't live without but you don't have the money in your checking account, don't write a check. Let it be the "one that got away" If you knowingly write a bad check, you are stealing and lying. If you find a "great deal", buy it and then hide it from your husband, you're lying (unless it's his birthday present ;-). If you have to hide it, you know you're doing something wrong. If you charge up your credit cards with frivolous things like shopping and eating out and then declare bankruptcy, you are stealing from the credit card company and from everyone who does business with that company. Bankruptcy is intended to help people who end up financially strapped because of reasons beyond their control, like catastrophic medical expenses or the death of a spouse. It is unethical to declare bankruptcy because you went on a shopping spree, because you bought something you couldn't afford when you bought it or because you decided to change careers and no longer want to pay the student loans for your old career. You signed that piece of paper when you purchased the item saying you would pay them back and you didn't. It's up to you to pay them back any (legal :-) way you can, even if it does mean feeling "deprived" for a time. One more thing about bankruptcy: It is unethical to incur lots of debt "keeping up with the Joneses" and then go bankrupt because the debt is so large. Many people look at others and say to themselves, "Those people are the same age as me. I work hard. I deserve that too." or "our house is too small" or "our car is a real clunker so we need to buy a brand need one to "save" on repair costs ( a huge myth, by the way!). If you can afford these things, by all means, buy them. If you can't afford those things, find a way to make more money or learn to be happy with what you have. Frugal living is about making good financial decisions. There are so many things you can do to spend your money more wisely, so when you think you can get a "good deal", but it requires doing something that hurts someone else, pass it up. Whenever you're in doubt about whether something is ethical, ask yourself if it would be OK with you if the situation were reversed and you were the person potentially coming up short. Be honest. We've all heard "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If you would object to others doing it to you, you better look for a better way to save. Tawra Kellam is the editor of www.LivingOnADime.com . Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconSlow Down and Enjoy the Magic of Summertime By Patti Teel www.pattiteel.com "Summertime, and the living is easy..." Summertime is in full swing. And I don't know about you, but I'm finding it difficult to stick to a schedule and to buckle down and work. Perhaps childhood memories of long summer days spent at the neighborhood swimming pool have forever altered my cell memory-triggering an age-old urge to slow down the pace and enjoy life's simple pleasures. Rather than swimming upstream and fighting the urge to slow down, I've decided to go with the summertime flow. I hope that you and your children decide to do the same and enjoy a magical summer that includes carefree time to explore, dream and play. Soon enough, we'll once again be asking ourselves, "Where did the summer go?" Before fall arrives and back to school activities take precedence, be sure to enjoy the magical days of summer. Unexpected, delightful events are part of the fun and wonder of the summer. But if our children's days are overscheduled, they're likely to miss these unexpected delights-and so will we, as we frenetically drive from one activity to the next. Even though your intentions may be good, avoid being overzealous about providing structured activities for your children. Be sure not to fill all your children's time with lessons, summer camp, team sports, or other organized events By eliminating the summer activities that are not particularly enjoyable or important to your child, you are likely to find the time and space to enjoy the surprises of the day as they arise. Even the smallest events can be exciting to children, and it's a wonderful gift to be able to see the world through their eyes. If you unexpectedly see a beautiful butterfly, follow it with your child. If you make a wrong turn while driving, see where it takes you. If your son or daughter wants to have a last-minute lemonade stand, go for it. Enjoy the effortless flow of summertime. Each and everyday this summer, leave some time for your children to do whatever they want-even if it appears that they are choosing to do nothing at all. Don't think of it as wasted time. Children are naturally creative and you will be providing them with the necessary time and space to use this natural ability to be resourceful, self-sufficient and independent. At first, when you step back from your full time role as the summertime entertainment director, your children may not know what to do with themselves. This will change as children gradually become more accustomed to relying on their own devices to creatively entertain themselves. Many families find that they do best when they strike a balance between free time and planned activities. For example, you may wish to keep a calendar of scheduled activities such as trips to visit relatives, outings to the zoo, library, museum, or the family vacation. But don't be tempted to over schedule, and make time at the end of each day to relax, talk or read. Take a few quiet moments to reminisce on the simple summertime activities that brought you pleasure when you were a child. Perhaps they can become family traditions that you share with your own children and one day, with your children's children. About the author: Dubbed "The Dream Maker" by People magazine, Patti Teel is a former teacher and the author of The Floppy Sleep Game Book , which gives parents techniques to teach their children a nightly ritual to independently de-stress, relax and fall asleep. Children who know how to quiet themselves and turn inward will be able to relax and fall asleep-even when they are far from home, such as on a family vacation or at summer camp. Visit Patti online to subscribe to her free newsletter - www.pattiteel.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconFive Money Issues Couples Must Never Fight Over By A. B. Jacobs www.onthemoneytrail.com It's normal that spouses harbor different opinions on a variety of subjects. The two maroon shirts I occasionally wear-and love-are regarded by my wife as particularly ugly. As she's kind enough to humor me on this matter, it's only fitting that I don't openly criticize the TV melodrama she chooses to view at 9 o'clock every Thursday night. Although we seldom bicker over things, at times our respective differences, particularly on the matter of money, are clearly stated. And this is as it should be, for income and expenditures are at the heart of any partnership, family as well as business. With that said, it's my belief that there are five basic issues in which both spouses must be in firm accord. These represent the most prevalent omissions and commissions that lead to untold grief for many couples. 1. If I should die before I wake. As a very first consideration, every family provider must arrange financially for his or her survivors in the event of untimely death, meaning the spouse and all minor offspring. A common way to accomplish this is with a life insurance policy. This is where controversy arises, for there exists an industry devoted to selling products that minimize death benefits while maximizing profits for its marketers. Regardless of sales pitches to the contrary, you want an inexpensive and unadorned 20- or 30-year level benefit term policy, of sufficient face value (normally no less than ten times the insured's annual income), from an insurer with an A.M. Best rating of A+ or A++. Once the company is chosen and the face amount of the policy is determined, neither husband nor wife should question the wisdom of the periodic premium outlay. 2. The minimum payment is a road to disaster. No single implement has lead to greater misery for more families than the credit card. Over the past couple of generations it has been promoted in a way to financially destroy the unsophisticated user. It's my belief that a credit card should serve a single purpose: a convenience when neither cash nor check is readily available. Purchases should only be made in a manner that the account balance is paid in full each month before any interest can be charged. Both spouses must conduct their lives by this rule. If either cannot do so, all credit cards should be destroyed with members of the family adjusting their lives accordingly. 3. All hail the horseless carriage. With the exception of hearth and home, the motor vehicle constitutes the typical American's single most important fixation. No other product is more forcefully marketed, and far too many people succumb to its allure, forfeiting a substantial portion of disposable income. I'll put it bluntly: No one should drive a vehicle that is financed or leased. You should acquire your transportation 100% cash on the barrelhead, even if it means you drive a 1984 Toyota Corolla. Each spouse should enthusiastically embrace this concept. At a later date, when your fortune is deservedly secure, you may feel free to sport brand new matching Rolls Royces-but again, devoid of any financing. 4. Education doesn't make you smart-merely educated. Too many dollars that go toward tuition and ancillary expenses are wasted. The educational establishment has convinced the nation that post secondary schooling must appear prestigious and be costly. The result is that untold numbers of college graduates and their parents are in hock big time, some never to emerge from debt. What a waste! I advocate college-on-the-cheap, with the freshman and sophomore years spent at a community college, commuting from home, and the junior and senior years at a reasonably priced local state university. For a bright and diligent student, the education received is as good as four years at Harvard. Both spouses should be in accord on this principle. The finest gift a parent can give an offspring is the assurance that child will never need to support an indigent parent. 5. It's never too soon to plan for the future. A most repeated statement of persons in their late 50's and beyond is: "I never thought I'd get here this soon." It's for this reason that a wise couple will plan for their retirement at the earliest age. There must be no question that retirement accounts, whether they be IRAs, 401(k)s, or other private programs, be established, and funded, from the earliest working days. In addition, funding should continue year after year, as though future well being depends upon the assets accumulated-for indeed, it does. It is true, of course, that regular allocation of meaningful sums toward retirement reduces what is available for current luxuries. This is where mutual resolve, together with a healthy dose of discipline, is vital. Above all, neither spouse should undermine the efforts necessary to insure that retirement years will truly be a period of prosperity, free from the financial worries in which the majority of citizens are immersed. I've long contended that the benefits of wealth only intensify with the passing years. Let me sum things up: It's been said, and rightly so, that personal satisfaction and financial contentment is not dependent as much upon the amount of income earned, as the way in which that income is used. It should surprise no one that the marketing of services and products is now the most pervasive industry in the world, employing highly effective methods to create demands for goods of all sorts. The social and psychological pressures brought to bear on prospective customers are more than many persons can resist. If you hope to prosper, it's vital that you avoid the impulse to purchase unwisely. As pleasing as childish illusions may be, they invariably lead to disappointment. Keep this constantly in mind as you conduct your financial affairs. AL JACOBS has been a professional investor for nearly four decades. His business experience ranges from real estate, mortgage, and securities investment to appraisal, civil engineering, and the operation of a private trust company. In addition to managing his investments on a day-to-day basis, he is a featured financial columnist for both online and print publications. He is the author of Nobody's Fool: A Skeptic's Guide to Prosperity. You may subscribe to his financial Newsletter, "On the Money Trail," at no cost or obligation, by visiting www.onthemoneytrail.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
Icon"No Money, No Time"- Sorry Mom, But I Ain't Buyin' It By: Carrie Lauth This week on Work at Home Moms Talk Radio, my friend Kelly McCausey talked about Moms who say they don't have enough money to start a home based business. She went on to explain that she wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth either and had to scrape together $15 from her grocery money to start her online venture. Her diatribe got me thinking. I don't buy the No Money excuse either. I've known women who did whatever it took to get the cash to start their business. Let me give you some examples. One Mom took her little girl's fancy Sunday dresses to a consignment shop and used the cash to buy her Direct Sales kit. You think her daughters are upset with her about that? Nah. Now she takes them with her when she travels around the world. One Mom had a yard sale, and used that $80 to invest in a business. She also gave a flyer that she had printed up on her computer to the people who visited her sale. (They can't run away! Added bonus.) One Mom went around pre-selling the product. She told everyone about how great the stuff was, took orders, and collected the money. She deposited the checks and used that money to buy the product at distributor price. She then turned around and sold the product to those customers at retail. You can quite literally start a business online for around $20. For instance, Dayana will host your website for an entire year for $15. You can buy a domain name for $2.99-$10. You can start with that, and as you begin to earn money, reinvest in your business. You'll need a mailing list manager and a couple of other tools to really succeed, but the point is to start somewhere. In this country, if a person cannot come up with that little cash, they're likely either extremely lazy or totally uncreative. That kind of person isn't a good candidate for a home based entrepreneur anyway so it's just as well. Other ideas:Get a loan from a friend or family member, complete with a written agreement to pay back the money. If you're really hard up and don't have a family member or friend who loves you enough to loan you a few bucks, then you have other problems! You could even approach your sponsor if you're considering joining a Direct Sales company. Tell her you will book 5 parties in your first week and give her all the profits until the money is repaid. If you got that down in writing, told her your plan of attack and are sincere, I can't imagine her saying no! She knows you're a temporarily broke but highly motivated, "out of the box" thinking person who she knows will likely be an awesome addition to her team. Sell some stuff on eBay. You can clean out your closets (or somebody else's!) or go to a thrift store and buy some Baby Gap clothes to sell on eBay for extra cash. CDs, DVDs, and hardcover books also sell well. Do a quick, temporary odd job. I know a Mom who put up a handmade sign at a local health food store: Non Toxic Cleaning Services. She pocketed $150 for a few hours work, and guess what- she used her own natural cleaning product and likely made a customer too. Cancel the cable. Contrary to popular belief, cable television is not a need. Use that $60 a month or more to build a business. That will give you a leg up on the other favorite excuse too... Another excuse I don't buy? The "No Time" Excuse We all have 24 hours in a day. Some people are able to do amazing things with their gift of time. Remember the Mom who sold the dresses at the consignment shop? She had 7 kids. 7 home schooled kids. She built her business one person at a time, just by inviting them over to her house for a cup of tea while her kids played around her. If anyone had "no time", it was her. But she took the time. Now she enjoys a residual income that allows her to go on cruises and spoil the grandkids. People have time to watch their favorite TV shows every day or every week, but they don't have time to exercise? To quote Homey the Clown, "I don't think so." If you have kids, why not work out a babysitting co-op with another working Mom? You could watch her kids for a few hours two or three days a week and she could do the same for you. During that time you could focus on building your business. If you're very careful with how your spend your time, a few hours 3 days a week could be enough to start and build a profitable business! As you begin to earn a profit, you should then commit to reinvesting in tools that will save you time and automate different tasks. You could also outsource some of the easier activities, or the things you don't enjoy so much, to someone else so you can focus on the things you're good at that really earn you money. When you have a home based business, you get good at making the most of your time around the house. You become more efficient with household tasks, and you ask for help and delegate more too. Those things save you time. I know what I've said here may step on some toes, but I speak truth. Stop making excuses. Get creative and figure out how to solve these problems so you can move forward with your goals. Now go get 'em! Carrie Lauth is a work at home Mom of 4 and is excited about helping other Moms succeed online. Sign up for her free newsletter and get a free report on how you can earn money from your own online magazine: www.Business-Moms-Expo.com Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconWhat's for Dinner? Quick Healthy One-Pot Meals By Elizabeth Yarnell www.GloriousOnePotMeals.com One-pot meals can be the solution to quick and easy cooking when no one really has the time to cook. While one-pot meals come in various forms, they all have the common concept of putting a variety of ingredients into a single vessel and cooking them all together. There's no fretting about getting the timing right so that your broccoli is perfectly steamed at the same time as the pot roast comes out of the oven medium-rare and the rice is ready to fluff, which is a boon for all those who aren't wizards at culinary planning. And, perhaps best of all, rather than a sink full of dirty pots and pans to scrub after dinner, there is only one pot to clean. One-pot meals include everything from light stir-fries to hearty skillet meals to heavy casseroles made with cans condensed cream-of soup. Typically each forkful contains a little of each ingredient in the meal, whether it's in a slab form or bite-sized pieces. Crock-pot cooking, where all the ingredients are placed in a crock-pot along with some liquid and then simmered at a very low heat for 6-8 hours until everything has disintegrated into a stew, is another popular method of creating of one-pot meals. The only downside to each of these methods is that they are usually not a complete and balanced meal in and of themselves. Since the definition of a complete, healthy meal includes protein, carbohydrates and vegetables, stir-fries are typically served with rice, skillet meals with pasta, casseroles with a salad, and crock-pot stews with bread. Infuse it To have a truly complete and balanced one-pot meal consider "infusion" cooking. Infused one-pot meals are made by layering whole foods into a closed container- either a foil or parchment pouch or a cast iron Dutch oven-and then baking the container in the oven at a very high heat for under an hour. These dinners can contain everything needed for a full and balanced one-pot meal without having to prepare rice or a salad separately. Low in fat and high in nutrition, almost any ingredients can be added to an infused one-pot meal to meet personal dietary preferences. Infused one-pot meals prepared in a Dutch oven can even accept frozen elements without any change in cooking time or flavor. For the answer to the age-old question of "What's for dinner?" consider an infused one-pot meal for a healthy, quick and easy way to feed your busy family. Here is a great recipe to get you started! California Chicken Servings: 2 Ingredientsfrac12; cup cous cous, dry 2-3 pieces chicken frac12; tsp. salt frac14; tsp. lemon pepper 1 avocado, firm-ripe 2 tomatoes, cored, wedges frac12; green bell pepper, seeded, cut in wedges frac12; cup olives, small, ripe, pitted, sliced frac12; onion, chopped 1 tsp. celery salt 1/3 tsp. basil, dried 1/3 tsp. marjoram, dried 1 Tbsp. dry sherry 1 Tbsp. lemon juice Instructions Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray the inside of a 2-quart cast iron Dutch oven and the lid with olive oil. Pour dry couscous into pot. Add 1/2 cup water and evenly distribute grains across bottom. Arrange the chicken atop the couscous. Season lightly with salt and lemon pepper. Add layers of green peppers, tomatoes and olives. Again, season lightly with salt and lemon pepper. Halve, pit and peel the avocado. Then, layer it in slices or cubes on top of everything. In a small bowl, combine the onion, celery salt, basil, marjoram, sherry, and lemon juice and pour into pot over everything. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Tips Be certain that your oven temperature is accurate and your oven is fully pre-heated before putting the pot inside it. An oven thermometer can help ensure your oven is on target. For light and fluffy couscous, fluff it with a fork when serving and let sit for a few minutes before eating. About the author: Elizabeth Yarnell is the author of Glorious One-Pot Meals: A new quick healthy approach to Dutch oven cooking , a guide to preparing infused one-pot meals. Visit Elizabeth online at www.GloriousOnePotMeals.com . The Glorious One-Pot Meal cooking method is unique and holds US patent 6,846,504. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconWhite Beans For The Family Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers www.FreshBaby.com At the market: Beans are available dried or canned. We like canned beans because they are easy to use. Both organic and low-sodium varieties are available. Canned beans are already cooked. Storage: Use canned beans within a year of their purchase. Preparation: Drain and rinse canned beans for at least one full minute. Soups and Stews: Add a cup of nutrition to your favorite soups or stews by adding 1 can (15 oz.) of white beans, drained and rinsed, to your recipe. Sloppy Joes and chili: Next time you're making Sloppy Joes or chili, try a new twist, instead of using all meat, go half and half - 1/2 meat and 1/2 white beans. It will enhance the flavor and the nutrition too. Greek bean salad: Combine 1 can (15 oz) of white beans, drained and rinsed, with 1 cup of diced cucumber, 1 cup of chopped seeded tomatoes, 1/3 cup dice red onion, 1/4 cup diced black olives, and 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 Tbsp red wind vinegar, pour over salad and toss gently. Better than Hummus Dip Ingredients: 1 can (15 oz)white beans, drained and rinsed 2 Tbsp mayonnaise 1 Tbsp capers 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil 1 Tbsp chopped green onions 1 garlic clove, minced 1 Tbsp lemon juice Salt and pepper, to taste Directions: Combine all ingredients in a food processor/blender and process until smooth. Serve in bowl with veggie cruditeacute;s (carrots, green beans, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, cauliflower). About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby, creators or products such as homemade baby food kits, baby food cookbooks, baby food and breast milk storage trays, breastfeeding reminders, and child development diaries.Visit them online at www.FreshBaby.com and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter to get monthly ideas, tips and activities for developing your family's healthy eating habits! Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconFive Frivolous Items that Are Really Worth It By A. B. Jacobs www.onthemoneytrail.com For the past several years I've written articles extolling the virtues of thrift, outlining programs for sensible spending, and presenting guidelines for sound investment. Perhaps, then, you'll understand why I found myself taken aback recently by an e-mail that said: "You talk a lot in your content about the smart and practical things to do with money. However, when people do come into money, they are going to 'blow' some of it. So would you share some ideas on which items are smarter choices when it comes to frivolous spending or admittedly unnecessary luxury things that just make people feel good?" I'll confess that I drew a momentary blank. Quoting from William Jennings Bryan's testimony in the 1925 Scopes evolution trial, "I don't think about things I don't think about." Well, I've since thought about it; perhaps the five extravagances I've listed below are justifiable. But first a disclaimer: The thought of "blowing" money-any money-doesn't sit well with me. However, I suppose I can tolerate seeing up to ten percent of a windfall spent frivolously, though even that causes me to cringe a bit. You may now read on. 1. You've just received an unexpected tax refund of $6,500 and want to celebrate your good fortune , even though it was your own money before you overpaid the IRS. How one-tenth, or $650 might be enjoyably spent? Why not take a weekend vacation as my wife and I did recently? We chose Palm Desert, an easy drive from our home. Two night's accommodation at Residence Inn by Marriott at $215 per night, dining at our favorite restaurants, an afternoon spent at Palm Desert Tennis Club, and an evening stroll through the shops along El Paseo after dinner, left us still in possession of a portion of that pre-allocated $650. We returned home relaxed and refreshed. There are certainly worse ways to spend your dollars. 2. Aunt Hilda just passed on at the ripe age of ninety-three, leaving you-her favorite grandniece-$15,000. After carefully stashing $13,500 of it into your money market account, you might choose to indulge yourself with the rest. So where can you spend $1,500 to good advantage? Why not get rid of that old 27" television set you've stared at for the past fourteen years and begin viewing your favorite shows in somewhat grander style? A visit to Best Buy Stores reveals that you can purchase a 32-inch Panasonic LCD HDTV with HDMI Interface and Built-in Stereo Speakers for $1,330. Added tax, delivery, and installation charges still place the set in your home at less than the target figure. And with any luck, you'll continue to enjoy your acquisition for fourteen more years. 3. Though it seems like antiquity, common stock in Berkshire Hathaway 'A' once commanded three hundred dollars per share, and the five shares you had the good fortune to acquire just sold for a cool $400,000. After setting aside enough to pay state and federal capital gains taxes, you're still $300,000 ahead. Perhaps you deserve a treat, and why not the toy you've always wanted: a classic or vintage automobile that will reveal your devotion to the motoring world of yesteryear? One of the more popular vehicles fitting this bill is the Model A Ford, built between 1928 and 1932. Whether you select a nicely conditioned '28 Roadster convertible with rumble seat for $22,900 or a fully restored '31 Tudor sedan at $21,000, you'll garner attention as you cruise your neighborhood streets. Add to that a membership in one of the Model A clubs across the country and you'll meet fellow-enthusiasts with whom you can share your fervor. As an alternative for those of you who are understandably concerned over the maintenance demands of an aged auto, here's further thought. There are now firms that manufactures factory replicas using all modern mechanical parts, but which appear to be originals. They are easily repairable and attractively priced. A '30 Phaeton convertible sedan replica can be purchased for $15,500. 4. You expected it never to happen. Amidst somewhat mixed feelings, you are now a retiree. Included among the mixed blessings are two benefits: a final retirement bonus of $25,000 and the prospect of free time that you've never before experienced. What better way might you begin those leisure years than with an ocean voyage? A multitude of fine luxury cruises are available at surprisingly reasonable prices. During seven days in an ocean view cabin on Holland America Lines' MS Oosterdam , at only $659 per person double occupancy, you'll depart and return San Diego, visiting the Mexican ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. If the Caribbean Sea is more to your liking, Celebrity Cruises' Century out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with similar accommodations, offers a 7-day excursion to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Costa Maya, at $650. A somewhat more exotic 7-day cruise aboard Peter Hughes two-masted sailing vessel, Komodo Dancer , out of Bali, visits several South Sea Islands. Its ocean-view cabin prices begin at $1,605. Depending on the time and prudently-disposal money available to you, there is virtually nowhere on earth that is not accessible. 5. My final suggestion for cash disposal may not qualify as frivolous , but it can prove personally satisfying. Your local high schools and community colleges regularly recognize exemplary students with commendations, often accompanied by monetary awards. The funds normally come from citizens in the community, where each donor designates the academic discipline to be recognized. Presentations are customarily made at formal school awards ceremonies, and offer incalculable encouragement to awardees. Amounts to recipients can be large or small. I've seen donor grants as modest as $50 as well as multiple scholarships exceeding $50,000. So, if you regard education as important, and desire to spur students to greater achievement, simply contact the school of your choice and let them know of your willingness to participate. AL JACOBS has been a professional investor for nearly four decades. His business experience ranges from real estate, mortgage, and securities investment to appraisal, civil engineering, and the operation of a private trust company. In addition to managing his investments on a day-to-day basis, he is a featured financial columnist for both online and print publications. He is the author of Nobody's Fool: A Skeptic's Guide to Prosperity . You may subscribe to his financial Newsletter, "On the Money Trail," at no cost or obligation, by visiting www.onthemoneytrail.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconEverything You Need To Know About "Podcasting" Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "I'm in the process of launching an Internet based business. I'm looking for some inexpensive ways to promote my business to tech-savvy customers, and I've been hearing some buzz lately about 'podcasting'. Forgive me, but when I think of iPods I think of teenagers listening to Eminem, and they're not my market. How does 'podcasting' work, and how would it benefit my business?" While "podcasting" obviously takes its name from Apple's popular iPodreg; line of products, it isn't limited at all to iPodreg; listeners, and can indeed be an exciting and creative new way for you to promote your business. But first, a quick definition: a "podcast" is a pre-recorded audio program that is posted to a Website and made available for download so people can listen to them on personal computers or mobile devices (including, yes, iPodreg; products). According to Oren Shachal, a podcast producer for software maker Intuit Corp., what distinguishes a "podcast" from other types of audio product on the Internet is that a "podcaster" can solicit subscriptions from listeners, so that when new "podcasts" are released they can automatically be delivered, or "fed", to a subscriber's computer or mobile device. Usually, the podcast features an audio "show" with new episodes that are fed to your computer either sporadically or at planned intervals, such as daily or weekly. Just like the old radio serials of the 1930's and 1940's, this encourages listeners to subscribe so they can find out "what happens next". Shachal explains that podcasts are to audio what TIVO is to video: "you can automatically receive the programming you want, and listen to it whenever and whereever you want". As long as you listen to podcasts only on your computer (as Shachal indicates the vast majority of podcast subscribers do), you don't need any special software other than the audio player that you already have on our computer (such as Windows Media Player or RealPlayer). But if you want to subscribe to a podcast "feed", you will need to install "podcatcher" software on your computer. The most popular "podcatcher" software is iTunesreg;, available as a free download from www.apple.com/itunes/download . Should you be getting into "podcasting" as a way to promote your business? Shachal says that podcasting is an innovative way to promote your business. "Podcasting goes a big step further than printed text on a Web page," Shachal says, explaining that "if someone's actually talking to you, you have to listen. You can't ignore or skim over it, so it's a far better call to action, and much more personal because you're listening to another human being's voice." Intuit Corp. offers a number of free podcasts offering advice for entrepreneurs - go to www.quickbooksgroup.com and click on the "podcast" link. So how do you go about creating a Podcast? Shachal says there are four basic steps. First, to record a podcast on your computer, you will need a USB microphone and special "podcast studio" software to help you record and edit your podcasts. For Apple Macintosh computers, the software is called Garagebandreg; and is part of the iLifereg; software package ( www.apple.com/ilife ). You can purchase iLife from Apple's Website for $79, but if you bought a Macintosh recently, it may already be installed on your computer so check that first. The most popular podcast studio software for Windows computers is Audacityreg;, available as a free download from http://audacity.sourceforge.net . Second, record your podcast carefully. Try to keep your podcast around 12 minutes, Shachal advises, adding that you should speak clearly and prepare your "script" in advance to keep the editing time as short as possible. And whatever you do, learn to soften your consonants, because a lot of your listeners are using earphones. If you "pop your P's" it's a lot more irritating than when somebody does it on radio. Third, once your podcast is recorded, you have to "post" it to a Website. If you have a Website of your own, you might be tempted to post it there, but Shachal advises you first call your Web hosting service and find out the fees. Podcasts use up a lot of bandwidth, Shachal explains, and most Web hosting services charge serious money for the extra bandwidth you will use if hundreds of people are downloading your podcast feeds. Instead, Shachal advises you use a Website that specializes in hosting podcasts, such as www.libsyn.com : "these services charge based on how much data you store, not for how much traffic goes back and forth, and you are likely to save significant money". Fourth, once your podcast is posted on the Web, you need to list it in one of the popular podcast directories, such as www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts and http://podcasts.yahoo.com . Right now, these directories will list your podcasts for free, because your podcasts are not taking up space on their Websites. Explains Shachal, "listeners download or subscribe to your podcasts through iTunes, and iTunes grabs the podcast from your Website. Listeners think they're getting the podcast from Apple, but they're really not." Shachal warns that, at least today, you won't get rich doing podcasts: typically, podcasters do not charge for subscriptions. "That's because most podcasters today are enthusiasts about one subject or another, and are just looking for the exposure," says Shachal. But Shachal adds that if you have a podcast with compelling content that's attracting lots of subscriptions on iTunes, you might be contacted by a company offering to buy advertising on your podcasts. My advice? Don't sell cheap. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com ) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. His latest book is 'Small Business Survival Guide' (Adams Media, $12.95). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2006 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconToddler Treat: Snappy Pea and Pineapple Salad By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers Kids love sugar snap peas for the same reason adults do - they're crunchy, sweet and fun to eat! This is a delicious salad that's sure to be a hit at the dinner table or in the lunchbox. To bring out the incredible green color of the sugar snap peas, blanch them first. Blanching is simple cooking technique that adds eye-popping visual appeal to your veggies. Ingredients: 8 ounces fresh sugar snap peas frac12; cup fresh pineapple, diced Dressing: frac12; tsp sesame oil 1 tsp brown sugar frac14; cup vegetable oil 2 teaspoons store-bought teriyaki sauce 1 tablespoon rice vinegar Directions: To blanch sugar snap peas: Place them in pan of boiling water for 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, move them to a bowl of cold water and ice. Drain the peas when they are completely cold. Make the dressing by whisking the sesame oil, brown sugar, vegetable oil, teriyaki sauce, and rice vinegar together. Combine the peas and pineapple in a salad bowl. Just before serving, toss with the dressing. Variation: Add frac12; cup cubed firm tofu or cooked chicken for a great lunch or light dinner. About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby, creators of products such as homemade baby food kits, baby food cookbooks, baby food and breast milk storage trays, breastfeeding reminders, and child development diaries. Visit them online at www.FreshBaby.com and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter to get monthly ideas, tips and activities for developing your family's healthy eating habits! Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconSecondhand Not Second-Rate Are you saving your hard-earned money by shopping at thrift stores?Why pay retail when you can purchase many items secondhand for the fraction of the cost? No one knows it's previously owned, unless you're like I am and many others that LOVE bragging how we got an item for a steal! It's a definite way to ease your budget and environmentally friendly too. Shopping secondhand is like a treasure hunt. It takes time to learn how to bargain shop, but you can become a money-saving thrift store shopper by planning ahead and being prepared. Know What You Want or Need You may not find items you're interested in during your first visit, so keep a wishlist of items handy in a notebook. Know your size and the sizes of family and friends. Consider color and style preferences too. Go through your closet and home to have a good idea of items you'd like to add to your wardrobe and decor. Write down household dimensions in your notebook. It's not fun to find what appears to be the perfect items, but you're not sure if they'll fit. Bring a tape measurer just in case too. Don't just impulsively buy just because it's cheap though. If you won't use, don't buy it. Thrift store shopping can be addictive. Keep in mind that you may find continuous great deals on clothes as an example, but do you need another five sweaters just because they're cheap? Be flexible and think creatively. Don't forget to consider possible gifts or things that can be recycled into something else. You may come across a skirt and not initially want it, but maybe the fabric could be utilized to create something wonderful or with minor alterations it could become a personal favorite. Before You Head Out Dress comfortably and practical. You may want to try clothing on or be rummaging through merchandise near the floor or in boxes. Eat something before you leave home. There are times the cash out lines are a long wait. It's possible you could be out shopping a couple of hours too. Be sure to have enough extra cash with you in case there are unexpected surprise items you find while shopping. Many thrift stores only accept cash. It would be very disappointing if you came across a super deal and didn't bring enough money. It's important to have a good idea of what items cost when brand new before you go. A little golden rule to keep in mind is that you shouldn't pay more than half the retail cost of the item when new. Try to go shopping by yourself. This is ideal because you won't have competition, a crying child, or an antsy spouse. I know some people think the experience is best shared with others, but when you both spot the perfect bargain or others are rushing you-well don't say I didn't warn you. Scope Out The Shops Thrift stores are all diverse. Some stores have higher prices, emphasize clothing or household goods, or may have more toys. Get to know which store locations have the best types of certain merchandise.Know the price ranges for the particular items you're looking for at each shop. You can add a pricebook section to your thrift store notebook. Merchandise always changes and it changes rapidly. An item that is there one day, most likely won't be there the next. You can talk to the owners/managers and inform them of items you are looking for. You can request that they contact you when particular items arrive. Not every thrift store will do this, but there's no harm in asking. My local thrift store manager called me and let me know when an oak dining set was brought into the store. Take Your Time Don't skim racks. Go through them slowly. Browse the entire store.It's an adventure to experience. Some items may be overlooked or be misplaced elsewhere in the store. It takes time to get accustomed to the displays at thrift stores. Items aren't always displayed by color and size or as neatly as in retail stores. Your initial reaction upon just peeking around, may have you thinking there's nothing but dirty junk. There's definitely more than junk there! Remember what you may think is trash is another man's treasure. Be Selective Don't forget to inspect closely and plug in electrical items to be certain they work. Look over the items for torn seams, missing buttons or pieces, chips, tears, etc. If an item has a couple of different ways it can be used, you will not be wasting your money. As an example, you may find a great basket and are trying to decide if it's worth buying. Can you think of alternative ways it can be used in the near future? Look for dept store tags. Many thrift store items are brand new with tags. Look at the tags to verify sizes too. Try items on to be certain they fit since items are sold "as is" and many thrift stores don't allow returns. Doublecheck for safety! Here's a handy safety checklist. http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/thrift/thrftck.html Best Times to Shop Many thrift stores have regularly scheduled discount days. Many shops do color coded tag discount days, seasonal discounts, or discount by department. Shop regularly or get acquainted with the employees to be alerted about sales. If you're too shy to do that, you can try tracking the sales in your thrift store notebook and see if there is a schedule. My local thrift store has color coded tag discount days and then offers additional discounts during holidays. Thrift store donations are at their peak in December. Many people are donating items, so they can write off on their taxes. There are also heavy donations made by individuals and corporations when the seasons change or it's near the holidays. Spring and Summer is also a good time to shop because many people donate their leftover garage sale items. Try and drop in frequently and early morning to get the best results. There's never a bad time to shop at a thrift store! Pay It Forward Donate items you no longer want to your local thrift store and encourage others to do the same. Many of these donations help support programs in your community. You can contact your local thrift store for their donation policies. These donations are tax-deductible.Here's some information on determining the fair market value of your donated items. http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p561.pdf Now you're better prepared with some basics to begin the hunt. The possibilities are endless. You can shop for yourself, friends, family, or even to resell at places like ebay.com. Yes. You can even MAKE money shopping at thrift stores. Thrift store shopping is a simple abundance with bragging rights. It's fun and guilt-free too. If you aren't convinced by all the benefits of thrift store shopping, that's ok. There's more for the rest of us treasure hunters. It just doesn't always make "cents" to shop retail. Sara Noel is a freelance writer and the Editor/Publisher of http://www.FrugalVillage.com and http://www.HomesteadGarden.com Visit both these sites for information on getting back to basics through frugality, gardening, lost arts, simplicity, and natural family living. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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