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Simple Savings
05/07/2010
IconSeven Foolish Mistakes People Make When They Come Into Money By A. B. Jacobs www.onthemoneytrail.com There is something uniquely human about the way many of us mishandle money, particularly when it's received unexpectedly. Whether it's a bequest from a long-forgotten uncle, an unexpected court settlement, or a sweepstakes winning, suddenly coming into a stash of cash can unhinge any of us. Every day the media reports the misery befalling citizens who previously struck it lucky, but then fell on hard times. We chuckle over poor Joe Slidebuck who pocketed a $3.8 million lottery winning just two years ago and is now filing in bankruptcy. We also shed a crocodile tear for Suzy Highstep whose palimony settlement a few years back slipped a cool bundle into her savings account, but whose Jaguar is now being repossessed. Of course, we breathe a collective sigh of relief that the misfortune is not ours, while wondering if we might have fared better under similar circumstances. For various reasons, many persons can't handle a windfall. Let's analyze the mistakes made. 1. An urge to spend. Perhaps the single greatest weakness of mankind-and womankind-is an inability to resist purchasing things. The late English historian C. Northcote Parkinson summed it up in his 1960 masterpiece The Law and the Profits: "Expenditures invariably rise to meet and exceed available income." It's this impulse to spend whatever is available that's the undoing of many otherwise rational individuals. It's not necessarily human nature. Rather, it's a learned reflex that must be unlearned if you hope to remain solvent. If not held in check, spontaneous spending is a recipe for disaster. 2. Voices out of the past. It's amazing how many people you knew that you no longer see-that is until your name appears in the paper as the sole beneficiary in rich old Aunt Emma's will. Within a few days long lost cousin Calvin phones to remind you how much he always admired you, and how his current misfortune can be resolved if you can just see your way clear to assisting him. And don't forget your former classmate Ernie, with whom you stopped exchanging Christmas cards a decade ago. His email extols the close camaraderie you two always shared, adding that the technology IPO his brokerage firm is underwriting is certain to be right up your alley-just like the good old days. If you fail to fend off these moochers and hangers-on, you'll find yourself in deep trouble. 3. Take care with those who are closest. With newfound prosperity, relations with friends and relatives begin to change as you are viewed as something apart. It seems that admiration and envy are opposite sides of the same coin, and you will be the recipient of both emotions. Your advice and assistance will be solicited, and although you may at first welcome the attention as a novelty, you will eventually find it more burdensome than complimentary. The pressures to be placed upon you can become overwhelming. You may soon become convinced that fame and fortune constitute a mixed blessing. If you don't take a step backward, life can become most unpleasant. 4. Loss of Anonymity. Although it may seem that sudden prosperity a cure-all for whatever troubles us, it doesn't work that way. Perhaps the problems of meeting the mortgage and financing the children's schooling may no longer exist, but other problems move in to take their place. You are now a known and recognized commodity in your community and as such, a natural target. You may expect requests for contributions to presumably worthwhile groups. Invitations to attend various functions will be forthcoming. You may even find yourself offered honorary positions or encouraged to become involved in activities for which you have no real interest. The toughest job of all will be to say "no." Unless you learn to diplomatically turn a deaf ear to the entreaties, there'll be no peace. 5. The investment trap. For those without prior investment expertise, coming into money can be an intimidating experience. No one is born with an ability to astutely manage assets. This is a talent that requires knowledge and practice. Perhaps the safest procedure is to refrain from any investment decisions for a full year, while any windfall is parked in non-risk vehicles such as certificates of deposit, government insured savings accounts, and treasury notes. It's during that period of time that you will seek to educate yourself. By selective reading, attendance in legitimate instructional courses, and guidance from those persons you trust, you can hope to gain an understanding of what it means to prudently invest. If you attempt to become involved before you acquire an appreciation of the risks and rewards, you are fair game for the thieves and charlatans who regularly prey upon moneyed novices. 6. Charity is often uncharitable. Not a day goes by that the media fails to interview someone who has come-often blundered-into money. Invariably the declaration is blurted out: "I'm gonna' give leventythousand dollars to the Zilch Foundation 'cause I care about feedin' the leprechauns." Unfortunately, there is not enough money in the world to satisfy the myriad of organizations with outstretched hands. Charitable institutions that are carefully selected and effectively monitored can be an excellent way to share your good fortune in a meaningful way, but simply pouring out dollars in a spastic impulse is no way to accomplish any good. 7. Beware of yourself. I've saved for the last the most potentially insidious mistake of all. A malevolent effect of sudden prosperity can be your relationship with yourself. Despite the personal unpleasantness of impecunity, it imposes no demands on the ego. Affluence is another matter entirely, and the pressures it creates can be formidable. It is fulfilling the mundane requirements needed to meet daily financial obligations that keeps many people in balance. When this necessity is removed, the balance often goes with it. If you then add to that the ability to acquire unneeded possessions, exert unwanted influence on others, and seek unwarranted involvement, the potential for impairment is unlimited. One thing is certain: You must come to terms with yourself or you will surely live to regret it. 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
IconToday's Family Man "How to Avoid the Kids' Menu" By Gregory Keer Here's a report I could classify as a "No, duh." After almost nine years of living with at least one child, there is now a study to confirm one of the reasons I have steadily gained weight. The recent research, coming out of the University of Iowa, says that adults who live with children consume more fat than those minus kids. That makes sense, especially when you're eating in a restaurant. How often do we give in to ordering the meals that our kids will eat, which are frequently full of satisfying fat? And how many of us have finished that plate of chicken fingers after eating our own meal? Now that all this is confirmed, how do we keep our hands off that unfinished cheeseburger? Here are a few ways to show willpower and shed a couple of pounds: Order Less Simply order less food for yourself, knowing that you will have leftovers from the kiddies. If you get a burger, have them put the fruit on the side instead of the fries. You'll eat your kids' potatoes, but not in addition to the ones you would've eaten off your own plate. Go Low Fat Help teach good eating habits to your kids by ordering less fattening food for them - and for that matter, yourselves (since we're trying to be good role models). Some restaurants now serve grilled chicken strips and offer vegetables instead of the french fries. With that kind of fare on the tempting plate next to you, you'll be finishing off food with less calories.Have Them Take It Away Once your child loses interest in her meal (wait about five minutes since the last bite) and she's had what you think is enough, call the server over and have him take it away. No greasy temptation, no added calories. Don't even bring the food home. Otherwise, if you're like me, you'll be the one eating the cold leftovers at 11 p.m. Stay Away From the Soda It's not just the stuff you chew that packs on the pounds. It's finishing off the soda or blue-raspberry lemonade in that cute cup. Try going with the milk for your children (low- or non-fat) and, if you must sip some of their beverage, at least it'll be nutritious. When In Doubt, Make It Disgusting Your kids will love this one: Dump pepper, salt, or ketchup all over what's left. I mean, smother it (hopefully, this is not enticing to you). It will be fine to play with food and that should make the tempting morsels too disgusting to consider popping in your mouth. Good luck and feel good about each time you refrain from eating the bad stuff. You'll save calories and teach your kids better eating habits along the way. copy; 2007 Gregory Keer. All rights reserved. Gregory Keer is a syndicated columnist, educator, and on-air expert on fatherhood. His Family Manreg; column appears in publications such as L.A. Parent, Boston Parents' Paper, and Bay Area Parent. In addition to writing for Parenting magazine and the Parents' Choice Foundation, Keer publishes the online fatherhood magazine, www.familymanonline.com . He also contributes to USA Today , the Fox News Channel, Pregnancy , DrLaura.com, and ParentingBookmark.com. Keer is a guest expert on television and radio and advisor to the Cartoon Network. He and his wife are the proud parents of three sons. Keer can be reached at www.familymanonline.com . For details on his parent coaching, go to www.familymanonline.com/section.php?section=consulting . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconSave In Your Sleep! By Jill Cooper www.LivingOnADime.com "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." -Matthew 11:28Sleep, Sleep, Sleep... We hear it all the time-- You must get 8 hours of sleep and 8 glasses of water a day. We pay as much attention to that warning as our children do when we tell them for the umpteenth time "Don't play with that or you will get hurt". But after living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 15 plus years, I have learned the hard way how very important sleep is. It is so important that God devoted 8-10 hours each and every day to sleeping and one whole day a week to resting. Think about it. Is there anything else that He gave so much time to? And since He knew we were like silly little children who refuse to take a nap, He put resting in the 10 commandments hoping that that would really get our attention. There were only 10 things that made it on that all important list and resting was one of them. Sleep is as necessary to life as food and water. Each of us needs to realize how much lack of sleep affects our whole life. Are we too tired to clean the house, fix meals, or do the laundry? Are we so tired that when our children come to us for our help with something, we snap at them or when our spouses want some snuggle time, we look at them like they have grown two heads? Lack of sleep affects children even more than adults and yet many of us let them keep the same late hours as the adults. When I was a young mom I was told that children usually whine and cry for one of two reasons: They are tired or hungry. If you keep them well rested, and make sure they get snacks throughout the day, you will eliminate most of their whining and crying. I have found that to be so true. I had an example of that happen just the other day. My three year old grandson is always so good about going down for his nap. He allows himself to be picked up, passed around for kisses and then laid down without a peep. The other day, however, when he was told it was time for his nap he said "NO! I don't want a nap," and fought all the way to bed. This seemed so out of character for him but then it dawned on me: He always takes his nap at 12:00 but this day, he did some running around with his dad and by the time they were done, it was almost 2:30. He was tired, so there was no reasoning with him. He couldn't think rationally because he was tired. What often happens is that the parent gets angry at the child for throwing a fit, but it was really the parent's fault for not allowing the child to get his proper rest. We adults act the same way when we are tired. We become irritable, impatient, discouraged and depressed. No one can reason with us. We start acting just like that tired child and usually don't realize it. Exhaustion also affects us physically. Your doctor will tell you that people tend to catch more viruses when they are tired and our bodies simply don't work at 100 percent. We start seeing the world through a hazy fog and everything becomes a burden. Have I painted a clear enough picture for you? Does that describe the way you feel most of the time (maybe even right now)? Then you need to get serious about your family's sleeping habits. Here are some tips to help you get your family the sleep it needs: If you are a new mom or a mom with sick children, you may have to let some things go for a season. Just accept it and scale back your activities. I discovered this many years ago when I had an 18 month old and a newborn with colic. My oldest would be up 3-4 times each night and my newborn was up most of the night just crying. If I had two hours of sleep, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. On the rare occasions when they would take a nap at the same time, I made the mistake of trying to get really dumb things done, like iron my children's pajamas and tee shirts, instead of taking a nap. Needless to say, it didn't take long for me to become seriously ill with walking pneumonia, which lasted three months. Learn from my mistakes and take a nap when you can, even if it means hiring a babysitter to watch the kids at home while you sleep. If you think you don't have the money to hire a babysitter you might want to think again. Which is cheaper, a babysitter or doctor bills? Keep your meals as simple as possible If all you can manage for a few months is sandwiches, make sandwiches. The same applies to cleaning the house. Do only the necessary cleaning and upkeep. This is not the time for spring cleaning. Even if you have to let the dusting and vacuuming go for a while, the rest will help you more. Give yourself permission to take a nap or, if you have to, make yourself take a nap. You say you don't have the time, but most people can find serious improvement with even 20 minutes' rest to refresh themselves. Find the time. Make your shower 10 minutes shorter or get rid of one of your non essential activities during the day like shopping, volunteer work, killing time on the computer or talking on the phone. If you work, take an alarm with you to work and take a quick nap in your car. Where there's a will there's a way. Find that 20 minutes some place. Make your children take a nap. Up until first grade, on the days my kids weren't in school, they always took a nap. When they were older and for whatever reason stayed up late the night before, I made them at least lie down and rest the next day. No matter how old they are, children need some daily down time. If they were too old for naps, I would send them to their rooms for 30 minutes each day during the summer to read, color or do some quiet activity. This not only helped them rest, but it separated them from their siblings and me. No matter how much you love each other, living in the same house 24/7, you will get on each others nerves if you never get a break. This gives everyone a break. Have a regular bedtime routine. Whether it is bath time, story time, prayer time or just tucking the kids in with hugs and kisses, have a routine. When you are tucking the children in, give yourself an extra 15-20 minutes to talk to them. That is one of the best times of day to find out about things they have on their minds. Why? Because they are relaxed and they will use every stall tactic known to man to keep from going to bed, even if that means talking to mom and dad. Make sure that they have a regular bed time and stick to it. This is very important! Children have their own built in clocks. When you wake them up and put them to bed at different times every day it causes their biological clocks to go haywire. They need to get at least 10 hours of sleep a night. That means putting them to bed at a decent time. Up until they started high school, my children always went to bed at 8:30. That may seem hard to believe but I didn't have near the problem with attitudes, whining, sulking or outright rebellion that a lot of parents had to deal with. I don't know how many moms over the years came to me tearing their hair out saying "I don't know what is wrong with my child but he won't stop whining or throwing tantrums." I knew exactly what the problem was. Mom had taken them to her Bible study the night before and didn't get home until 10:00. She then dragged the child out of bed at 5:30 in the morning to get ready before they left for school and work. The day before that the child got to sleep in until 11:00. You may think that irregular sleeping hours doesn't affect your child but you might be surprised to find that at least 50 percent of whining and fussing would stop if the kids had regular hours. One thing to keep in mind is that when you start putting children to bed at an earlier than usual time, you will have to start slowly. If the children are used to going to bed at 10:30 or 11:00 at night, don't suddenly make them go to bed at 8:30. Start at 10:00 for a few nights then move it up to 9:30 and so on until you reach the bedtime you want. Don't forget to adjust for daylight savings time or if you will be traveling between time zones. A week or so before the change, start putting the kids to bed 15 minutes earlier or later so the can start adjusting to the new time. Adults need regular bedtime routines, too. As much as possible, try to have a set time that you go to bed each night. An hour or two before you go to bed, try to start unwinding. This is the time to talk over your day with your spouse, read a good book, or sip a hot cup of cocoa. It is also a good time to take a warm bath. Not only will it relax you, but it will be one less thing to do in the morning. If you are a new mom you probably don't need to unwind because you will fall asleep the minute you sit down, so just go to bed while you can. Make your room and your children's rooms as comfortable as possible. Make your bed in the morning. A made bed is so much more inviting then a rumpled mess, where you have to clear off loads of junk before you can crawl into it. Keep a low wattage bedside lamp on your night stand to start letting your body know it's getting close to time for bed. Keep your room at a pleasant temperature. Be sure to check the temperature in your children's rooms too. Sometimes when babies and young children have their bedroom doors shut, their rooms can be different temperatures than the rest of the house. This can then cause them to wake up because they are too hot or cold. This can also be the reason if they are having a hard time getting to sleep. Soft music or a fan that helps to drown out background noises are good for children and adults alike. Since we usually write about getting out of debt, you may wonder how being well rested can help save you money? How often do you go out to eat because you are too tired to fix dinner? When something breaks, do you just go buy a new one because you are too tired to fix it? Do you buy more clothes then you really need because you are too tired to keep up with the laundry? Do you just say "yes" all the time to your children when they ask to buy something because you are too tired to fight with them? Trust me the little monkeys are smart. They know when the enemy is tired and weak and that's usually when they attack! So if you want to win the war you need to get some sleep! Jill Cooper is the co-author of Dining On A Dime Cookbook. For more free tips and recipes visit our web site at www.LivingOnADime.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconHow to Teach Kids the Value of Money By A. B. Jacobs www.onthemoneytrail.com/ I'll admit, up front, that the care and feeding of juveniles is not my recognized specialty, though perhaps I can claim pseudo-expertise on the subject-somewhat akin to the late comic Jimmy Durante from his quotation: "I ought to know something about teenagers; I've been one all my life." Nonetheless, money is my field of expertise, and indoctrination into its proper use by youths of all ages is fundamental if they are to mature into financially responsible adults. Apparently the habits developed early in life become indelibly ingrained, and there are few capabilities more important than the wise use of assets. With that said, I'd like to share a few thoughts based upon situations I've witnessed over the years relating to the use and misuse of money. I'll preface my comments with the observation that whatever praise or criticism you may direct at the American public school system, one thing must be acknowledged: The handling of personal finances is not a subject to which much attention is devoted. Whatever the average American knows about monetary matters did not come from the classroom. This is understandable, of course, if only because the typical classroom teacher is equally mystified by the world of money. It's for this reason I'm convinced that a child's indoctrination into financial matters must be rooted at home. On this score, the fundamental guidelines that a parent can convey will be by precept and example. What a developing child witnesses in the behavior of an adult role model will prove far more persuasive than admonitions extolled or lectures delivered. If sound values are not demonstrated, they will not be learned. There's no surer way not to get a lesson across than to operate on the timeless but faulty principle: Do as I say, not as I do! This means that the parent must regularly practice prudence, and in a way to which the child can relate. Consider, as an example, an 8-year-old girl witnessing her mother's selection of cosmetics. Whether the choice of lipstick is the $25 Chanel selection from Macy's, the $6.87 Max Factor brand from Osco Drug, or the 99cent; Wet 'n Wild tube from Target, recognize that the essential ingredients are the same. The difference is packaging, promotion, and mystique, which is what the cosmetics business is all about. An explanation of the options to the child at the time of purchase will not soon be forgotten. The use of plastic is another opportunity to deliver a lesson in rationality. All children should be cautioned in their formative years that a credit card serves a single purpose: a convenience when neither check nor cash is handy. They must understand that when the monthly statement arrives, the cash balance is paid in full before the date that interest is charged. And most importantly, if the lesson is truly to sink in and be believed, the parents must live by this rule. If for any reason credit card use cannot be regulated in this manner, the cards ought to be destroyed and family life fashioned accordingly. There are other habits that wise parents will adopt and make a part of normal family discussions. These include institution of a systematic savings program, refusal to go into debt for an automobile or incur loans for expenses such as vacations, and avoidance of nonsensical purchases such as whole life insurance policies, variable annuities, timeshare projects, and lottery tickets. As to the myriad of financial matters that arise, children deserve to see how sensible decisions are reached as each instance arises. And as they mature to the point where decisions begin to affect them, encourage them to contribute to the discussion. There is another basic precept to which I subscribe. It is that persons will not relate to circumstances in which they're uninvolved. Let me offer an actual case in point. The daughter of an extremely wealthy man in her mid-thirties with three children and husband-albeit an indolent one-proved incapable of monitoring her personal checking account. She wrote checks regularly with no knowledge of the account balance. As they bounced, a bank official phoned her father who periodically made deposits into the account. Over the years he summoned her to his office where he futilely attempted, time and again, to instruct her on how to balance an account. Although a self-made multimillionaire, he never grasped a basic reality: to his daughter, balancing a checkbook seemed an exercise in the abstract. As all checks cleared, why need she pay attention to the balance? The significance seems obvious: If a child is to learn about money, he or she must sense some meaningful connection to it. And what better connection can there be than that accomplishment leads to reward? It's my belief that as soon as practicable, earning money becomes an element in family life. If your 12-year-old son hopes to spend Saturday afternoon at a movie matinee with friends, the source of the admittance might well be the fifteen dollars he earns by washing the family autos or mowing the lawn. Similarly, if your daughter wants to sport the latest fashion in teen-aged footwear, its purchase may come from the bonus she received for her school grades last semester, perhaps $100 for each "A" and $50 for each "B." And above all, whatever payment programs are instituted, responsibility and reward must be fully understood. Let me add a final comment on the matter of your kids' personal earnings. Though it's the parents' responsibility to advise their offspring on sensible spending and saving, they must not dictate how the youths handle their earnings. The decision on how money earned is to be spent-or horded, if that's the choice-is that of the recipient. When mistakes are made, the repercussions are the most valuable part of the learning process. Managing finances is a lifelong challenge, and the sooner experienced, the better. 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
IconMake Meals in 30 Minutes or Less By Jill Cooper www.LivingOnADime.com I was having dinner at my son's house the other night and my daughter-in-law had fixed "old fashioned" baked potatoes. You know, the kind you make in the oven and not the microwave. Boy, they were good. It seems that so many things taste better slow cooked in the oven. We started talking about how much longer it took to cook them in the oven compared to the microwave. That started me thinking. Yes, it does take longer in actual cooking time but in some ways it is easier. When I bake potatoes in the oven, I get them ready and in the oven an hour before dinner and then just forget about them until dinner is ready. Then, all I have to do is set them on the table and dinner is served. When I microwave them, I tend to start cleaning them and preparing them at the same time that I'm trying to make a salad and heat up the veggies. While I'm doing all of that, I have to remember to keep turning the potatoes and if I am cooking several, I have to put a few in the microwave and when they are done, pull them out and add more, all of this at the same time that I am trying to prepare the rest of the meal. Why is it that, even though we have faster methods of cooking our meals, they seem to have become more frenzied and hurried than years ago? Then it dawned on me -- With the introduction of the microwave and the idea that meals can be prepares in 30 minutes, most people do nothing to prepare or plan their meals until 30 minutes before they are going to eat. So 30 minutes before dinner you find yourself trying to thaw something, cook it, and slap it on the table and at the same time talk and deal with tired, hungry, cranky kids. Let's not forget how exhausted you are at this time of day, too. We need to warm up our ovens and start using them again the way our grandmothers use to do. Here are some tips and ideas that prove that cooking meals in a conventional oven instead of a microwave can be just as quick and easy, not to mention how much more delicious they taste and smell. I think we underestimate the power of coming home and smelling something yummy cooking. We automatically seem to relax, feeling that "all is well with the world". I really think it can change the whole atmosphere of your home for the evening. I am not living in a dream world. You can fix meals the way our grandmothers did. I hear some readers saying, "Our grandmothers weren't ever as busy as we are and so they had time to fix large meals." I can hear our grandmothers chuckling at that statement. My husband's grandmother had to help on the farm from early in the morning until evening. She took care of a large home garden, canned, cleaned house every day, did laundry without a washer or dryer and still provided meals not only for her family, but up to 20 farm hands as well. She had to do it all without a refrigerator, microwave, or a grocery store and the nearest water was a mile away from her house. My mother-in-law would go to work as early as 7 am and work until 9 pm 6 days a week, but she still managed to make three large meals each day. If you're thinking, "That's great if you want to spend all your spare time in the kitchen," consider that they spent less time in the kitchen than we do with less of the conveniences and still managed to have well balanced delicious meals each day. What was their secret? -- They had never heard of 30 minute meals. Even if they had they would probably have laughed and wondered who would spend so much time on a meal? They knew that the key to a quick meal wasn't how fast you could cook, but how organized you were. You can easily have a meal on the table in 15 minutes if you are organized and plan ahead. No, this doesn't mean you have to microwave or fry everything to have a quick meal. Slow cooking something in the oven not only makes things taste better but sometimes is quicker. Our grandmothers' secret to quick meals Keep your meals simple. Be organized. Decide what you are preparing the night or the morning before. Thaw anything you need the night or the morning before. Prepare as much of the meal as you can during the slow time of your day and when you are most refreshed. (This is very important.) Slow cook meats in the oven or in a crock pot. Keep your kitchen clean so you have an uncluttered work area. Here are some ideas on what to prepare. These aren't elaborate gourmet meals. If you are too busy to cook dinner, then you are to busy to make gourmet dinners. Stick with the basics and keep it simple like our grandmothers did. Roast: Place a roast in a crock pot or pan. Peel five potatoes and carrots and drop them in with it and turn on the oven. This takes five minutes. Clean and cut broccoli, celery and cucumbers for a salad -- five minutes. At dinner time, chop lettuce and tomato for the salad, adding the already prepared veggies. Then put the meat and the fixings on a platter -- five more minutes. Voila! Dinner in 15 minutes. Stew: It takes me seven minutes to cube meat*, peel five potatoes, carrots and onions, toss it into a pot and to season it. At dinner time, I put bread or dinner rolls on the table -- one to two minutes and I have dinner in nine minutes. *Ask your butcher to cube or slice all your meat for you. They usually charge nothing or just a few cents per pound. It saves not only time in cutting but in clean up too. Chicken: Toss a chicken in a pan or crock pot -- two minutes. Clean potatoes to put in with chicken or to bake in the oven -- three minutes. At dinner time, warm a veggie -- two minutes. Slice some fruit -- three minutes. Dinner in 10 minutes. Lasagna: Put noodles in a pot to boil -- one minute. Fry hamburger, get out cheese, tomato sauce and the rest of the fixings; mix sauce while noodles boil, 7-8 minutes. Layer everything -- two minutes. Cover and put in the fridge for dinner the next day or that evening. Put the lasagna in the oven to heat while getting out of your work clothes, checking the mail, etc. Set the table and cut a salad -- five minutes. Dinner is served; 15 minutes. Beef stroganoff: Make your beef stroganoff in your crock pot. (If you don't want to use a crock pot, this recipe usually takes very little time just stirring it up in a pan.) Dump everything but sour cream and noodles, into the crock pot -- three minutes and simmer all day on low. Clean carrots, celery sticks and broccoli for a relish dish (five minutes) and put it in the fridge. At dinner time, boil egg noodles (5-7 minutes). While they are boiling, add sour cream to sauce and set the table. Total time: 15 minutes. Chili: Mix everything in a pot the night before. Depending what you put in, it should take 5-10 minutes. Simmer throughout the next day. Soup: Do the same as with the chili. These are just general example of ways to fix meals easily and quickly. It isn't really a matter of time as much as it is a matter of being organized and getting things done before you are too exhausted to think. If you have meats thawed and the ingredients on hand, most things can be tossed together in about the same time as it takes to order and wait to get your food at a fast food place.Also, remember when you have your oven going to try to cook more than one thing in it. For example, if you are going to be baking a casserole, bake a pan of brownies, muffins or baked apples at the same time. Jill Cooper raised two teenagers alone on $500 a month income after becoming disabled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She is the co-author of Dinging On A Dime Cookbook. To read more of Jill's articles and for free tips and recipes visit www.LivingOnADime.com Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconTo Roast or Not to Roast! By Tawra Kellam www.LivingOnADime.com Peter Piper Picked a Profoundly Plump Pumpkin -- Now What does he do with it? Every fall I get many questions about what to do with pumpkins. Many people find curious fascination in imagining what it would be like to grow these versatile little gems, as if growing something that produces a large fruit is somehow more respectable than growing, say, a serrano pepper. Many people eventually venture into pumpkin experimentation. Some succeed and many fail. Much like a dog that chases a car, many people never give thought to what they would do if they actually succeeded in successfully raising a patch of these fall favorites. Whether you have found yourself with more pumpkins than you know what to do with or you are one of the people who had to buy pumpkins and duct tape them to the vine, these tips for roasting and using pumpkins are sure to help you make the most out of them (no matter how you acquired them)! How to Roast a Pumpkin You can only do this with a freshly carved pumpkin! Do not use on a pumpkin that has beencarved and sitting out for several days. To bake a fresh 6 to 7 pound pumpkin, halve the pumpkin crosswise and scoop out the seeds and strings. Place halves, hollow side down, in a large baking pan covered with aluminum foil and add a little water. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 1 frac12; to 2 hours or until fork-tender. Remove. When cool, scrape pulp from shells and puree, a little at time, in food processor or blender. Mix with a little salt. To freeze pumpkin puree. Put 1-2 cups in freezer bags along with spices and use in pies. To use pumpkin puree for recipes: Line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth or a flour sack dish towel and let the pumpkin sit to drain out the extra moisture BEFORE cooking with it. Pumpkin is very moist, so in order for your recipe to come out correctly, you MUST strain it. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Boil seeds in water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Sprinkle with salt or seasoned salt. Place a thin layer on a cookie sheet. Bake at 250 . Stir after 30 minutes. Bake frac12;-1 hour more or until crunchy. *Squash seeds may also be used. Pumpkin Smoothies frac12; cup pumpkin 3/4 cup milk or vanilla yogurt frac14; tsp. cinnamon 1/8 tsp. nutmeg 2 tsp. brown sugar 4 ice cubes whipped cream (optional) sprinkles (optional) Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into 2-3 glasses. Serve with a small amount of whipped cream on top. You may also add orange sprinkles if you like. Serves 2-3. Pumpkin Pancakes 2 cups flour 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed 1 Tbsp. baking powder 1 frac14; tsp. pumpkin pie spice 1 tsp. salt frac12; cup nuts, chopped (optional) frac12; cup pumpkin 1 large egg 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil 1 cups milk Combine ingredients. Stir just until moistened; batter may be lumpy. Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat; brush lightly with vegetable oil. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle; cook until bubbles begin to burst. Turn and continue cooking 1 to 2 minutes. Serve with Pumpkin Maple Sauce and nuts. Pumpkin Maple Sauce 1 cup maple syrup frac14; tsp. ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice 1 frac14; cups pumpkin Mix together until well blended. In 5 years, Tawra Kellam and her husband paid off $20,000 personal debt on an average income of $22,000 per year. Tawra is the author of the frugal cookbook Dining On A Dime. Dining On A Dime has over 1200 recipes and tips to help you eat better and spend less. For more free tips and recipes visit her web site at www.LivingOnADime.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconAre "THEY" Ruining Your Finances? by Jill Cooper www.LivingOnADime.com They say that it is impossible for a family to live on one income. They say you need a bigger house for the tax deduction. They say schools need to budget for palm pilots for students, even though they can't afford to pay the teachers. They say that you need a compact car because we're going to run out of gas. They say you need a big SUV so you'll be safe on the road. They say you need to be a vegetarian or you'll die. They say you should eat a lot of meat so you'll lose weight or you'll die. Over the centuries human beings have been compared to sheep over and over again. I never cease to be amazed at how true that is. If one sheep decides to head down a road that goes right over a cliff, they all follow. Even in history when people march and demand the right to be individuals they still always seem to dress and act alike. Remember the "flower children" of the 60's? Even with their "free to be me" attitude, they were horrified if a man walked in with a suit and tie, since it was different from what they would wear. If children are doing drugs, drinking or just wearing strange outfits, they justify it because "everyone is doing it". So often, the parents' response is "If everyone jumps off a cliff that doesn't mean you should do it, too." Is that the story we tell them with our actions? Kids are very shrewd and have no tolerance for hypocrisy. We hurt our families and ourselves if we blindly follow the crowd. " They " (I still haven't figured out who " they " are but I don't think I like " them " or " their " ideas.) have set a standard of living that we must live by-- no matter what the cost. "They" say you can't live on one income, so many moms who strongly feel that it is best for their families if they stay home get jobs outside the house because " they " say "you can't make it." Never mind that the extra expense of child care, work clothes and (for many) "guilt offerings" purchased for their kids often exceed the extra income. " They " say that's the way it's supposed to be. How many dads have become only figures the kids wave good-bye to in the morning before heading off to two jobs because " they " say that is the world in which we live. Too many people who do this find that later in life their marriages are suffering, their kids are rebellious and resentful of their absence and the employer for whom they've invested all their time "providing" for the family lays them off. "They" say you have to pay to send your children to college so they can become a success and make a lot of money. When did " they " come up with the idea that going to college makes a person successful? How many parents have accrued $40,000 in debt for their son or daughter's degree, only to find the student working in a field that has nothing to do with his degree? Certainly, a college education can be a useful tool, but it is one that is wasted if the student doesn't need it or fails to use it. I find that the most successful human beings are those whose parents spent time with them and had the time to teach them values, self confidence, self reliance and love. You can always lose your stuff, but you can't lose your values or the knowledge that your parents love you. Stop basing your financial decisions on what " they " think you should be doing. Financial worries are the biggest cause of stress for Americans, leading to all sorts of physical and emotional problems. These worries are almost always avoidable, but many choose the worries over the common sense. The point of this story is not that you should never spend any money on anything. The point is that it is important that you decide whether or not spending your time or money some particular way is a good idea for your family. Keep in mind that when " they " tell you you should do something, " they " are often trying to sell you something you don't really need. Whenever you find yourself reflecting on your life and you realize you are doing something because " they " expect you to do it, tell " them " to butt out of your life, decide yourself what is really best for you and your family and do it! Jill Cooper is a frugal living experts and the co-editor of www.LivingOnADime.com . As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconHow to Invest When Your Money Supply is Short By A. B. Jacobs A recent request from a newsletter subscriber was short and to the point: "Would you please give us some suggestions on how to invest when you don't have much money?" This sounded like a challenge I'd enjoy tackling. But as I wrestled with it, I realized the question involved far too many variables. Among them: How old is the individual? How little money is available to invest? What assets are currently held? I sensed that nothing less than a massive treatise could do justice to the subject. So I've narrow it down to something manageable, with the question becoming: I am single, 35 years old, possess few assets, and set aside $250 in surplus funds each month. How can I sensibly invest? Before I suggest how these funds might best be utilized, I'll risk irritating 95 percent of investment advisors by suggesting how they should not be invested. These monies should not go into the customarily recommended mutual funds, whether they be managed, index, balanced, sector, exchange traded, hedge, or any combination thereof. To the further displeasure of insurance company representatives, none of the cash should find its way into annuities of any sort. And lastly, the prospect of dabbling in precious metals, such as gold or silver, dare not even be contemplated. The reason I avoid conventionally promoted investments is because they are subject to market vagaries. The appropriate goal for this individual will be a measure of assured financial security upon retirement age. With only modest funds available, all of which must perform productively, there is no room for uncertainty. With the parameters established, the logical question becomes: What can $250 monthly be invested in that will predictably generate a sufficient return to guarantee financial self-sufficiency for a person in thirty years? I'll offer what some persons may regard as an unconventional reply. The assets should be placed into sound interest-bearing vehicles such as certificates of deposit, treasury notes, or corporate bonds. Though such a strategy may seem unglamorous, value can grow remarkably over a long period, with thirty years being sufficient time for favorable maturity. The secret ingredient is compound interest, which is as close to magic as you'll ever experience. To give you an appreciation of the potential, consider how $250 monthly will grow if it can be invested at a reasonably obtainable 71/2 percent return, compounded semi-annually, over 30 years. At the end of that time, it will become $341,500. What occurs, simply, is that when paid, the interest earns interest, which in turn earns more interest, which in turn . . . I think you get the picture. This multiplying effect resembles a geometric progression-a sequence in which the ratio of a term to its predecessor is always the same. Perhaps it passed over your head when first exposed to the principle in high school math, but as a get-rich-steadily device it is a winner. Although the investment technique I've just described is valid, there nonetheless is a fly in the ointment, for we've ignored an important element. The numbers I've calculated do not take into consideration income taxes. As all interest generated will be taxed at the top of the taxpayer's marginal bracket, a portion will be unavailable to benefit from the compounding effect. We must contemplate what this will mean in dollars available at retirement. We'll presume this individual receives enough salary and other revenue to fall into a combined state-federal tax bracket of about 33 1/3%. In a state like mine-California-it doesn't take much income to get there pretty quickly. Losing that one-third translates to lowering the 7frac12;% annual rate of return to 5%. The effect on the size of the retirement stockpile after thirty years is disheartening. Instead of the $341,500 we previously anticipated, there will only be $214,700 in the pot. That $126,800 reduction can mean the difference between a comfortable retirement, as opposed to just scraping by. Before we throw in the towel, let's consider whether there's some way of fixing things , for much of success in life is analyzing our options and carefully selecting from among the choices available. Luckily, just such an opportunity presents itself, thanks to a tax provision that first became available in 1998. It is the Roth IRA, a type of retirement account, available to certain taxpayers, from which all income is forever tax-free. By opening a self-directed Roth IRA account with a brokerage firm-preferably a discount one with minimal fees-all investments are held as IRA assets with the interest income accruing to the account free of taxes. Withdrawals in any amount, with neither tax nor penalty, are allowed from the account when the taxpayer reaches the age of 591/2. By taking advantage of this type of account, we fully restore our 7frac12;% annual return, subject only to a modest administrative charge. There is a final factor we must consider in this analysis-that of increased cost of living. Just what buying power will $341,500 actually command in thirty years? It's my belief that there's a correlation between inflation and interest rates. Most likely the dollar's decline will reflect the bond interest obtainable. Other economies usually perform this way; a hefty interest rate compensated for the 68 percent per year average decline in the Russian ruble during the period 1992 through 1999. Thus if thirty years of inflation results in a dollar with greatly diminished purchasing power, the obtainable interest rates, together with the corresponding multiplier effect, should greatly increase the total number of dollars. In short, there will likely be a trade-off. 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 . More >>

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05/07/2010
IconSave Up To 50% On Your Grocery Bill! By Jill Cooper www.LivingOnADime.com I have discovered the secret of saving money feeding babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Well, I can't take the credit for it. My mom taught it to me many years ago but I didn't put it into practice until the first financial crisis we had when my husband was laid off. What I have been practicing now for many years has now become one of the new buzz phrases -- "portion control". Usually when we think of portion control it is in connection with dieters and not young children or saving money. Most American parents serve themselves and their children huge portions of food. Their families eat only part of it, and then they discard the rest. Next time you scrape those half eaten plates of food into the trash, think about this: 30% to 50% of the food and drinks we buy, whether we eat at home or out, get thrown away. If you don't believe it's true, observe your own family this week. How many half full bowls of soggy cereal do you throw away? What about half empty glasses of juice, milk or pop? It is easy to forget that children under the age of four have only about a quarter of an adult's body weight. Often, we feed them adult portions and when we do give them smaller portions, each portion is usually only reduced to about half an adult portion. Do you use that large serving spoon and dump a full spoon of food on your child's plate? Say you give yourself two spoons of green beans and your child one-- That means that you have given yourself about 24 green beans and your child 12 when in reality, that child needs only about six. When deciding how much food to give your kids, start small and work your way up. Remember, if they eat what is on their plates you can always give them more. Use the same method for drinks. Even a small sippy cup should only be filled half full. This not only reduces the amount that you throw away, but also reduces the losses from spills. Another great way to save a lot of money is to give children more water. In addition to serving children overly large portions, failing to give them enough water leads to obesity. At this point, many parents point out that young children need lots of milk and juice. That is true to a degree, but consider this: The USDA recommends 12 oz of milk per day for children under 4. That is equal to two sippy cups. Don't forget that kids get milk from other sources too, including milk with their cereal and cheese. We think the more juice and milk they get the better, but once kids have had as much as they need nutritionally, the rest just adds calories. If you are ready to cut the waste from your food budget, here are a few more tips to save money and make your life easier: Cut the crust off your child's sandwich before you give it to him. I have tried for years to get my children and grandchildren to eat the crust and have discovered that it is like trying to climb Mount Everest. It can be done, but I'm not sure if it is worth all the work and headache. So give in and cut off the crust. Throw it in a bag and use it for bread crumbs or croutons. Then the kids will eat their entire sandwiches instead of just that hole in the middle and you won't waste the sandwich filling that would have been tossed with the crust. . Cut kids' sandwiches into small squares or triangles. Their hands are smaller then ours. Imagine always manhandling sandwiches that are two to three times normal size and you can relate to kids with full adult-sized sandwiches. This goes for all their food. Cut anything they have to hold in their hands into manageable sized pieces. Spills always happen, but they can be minimized. Try placing a paper doily at the top of your child's plate or someplace where you know a cup won't be likely to spill. Then teach the child that the cup belongs on the doily. Start giving your little ones only half of items like candy bars, gum, and popsicles. When you go out to eat, split a hamburger or order of fries between two younger children. You can even ask for an extra cup and split milk shakes and drinks. Control snacks. Don't just let the kids graze all day on candy and chips. Give children healthier things to fill them up, like popcorn or a piece of fruit at specific time intervals. Feed toddlers and preschoolers your leftovers. They usually don't balk at them like older children do. All those two tablespoon leftovers that are hardly worth saving are usually just the right amount for younger children. Jill Cooper is the editor of www.LivingOnADime.com . As a single mother of two, Jill started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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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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