Hope this info helps you with your holiday smartphone shopping.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Hope this info helps you with your holiday smartphone shopping.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
1. People like to do things that are easy and don’t like to do things that are hard.
Use this to your advantage by having the healthier foods cut up and available for grab & go snacking. The not-so-healthy foods need to live in more inconvenient places like high shelves or the deep, dark cabinet corners. If you have to get on your hands and knees to dig back into a cupboard for the cookies, you’ll find they become much less appealing.
2. If you want to train a dog, you’ve got to be smarter than the dog. Works with kids too.
If all else fails, you have one undeniable option – your checkbook. Chances are, you or your spouse buy nearly 100% of the food your family eats. Set firm policies for what does and does not come into your house. My husband can buy ice cream, bacon, and big bags of shredded cheese. He’s over 21 and he can do what he wants, but he can’t do it out of our regular grocery budget. If he wants those things, we’ve agreed that he must pay for them with cash out of his pocket. He still gets them sometimes, but we don’t have them nearly as often as we used to.
3. Your stomach is just plain dumb when it comes to serving sizes. Your brain isn’t much smarter. Sorry, but that’s the truth, and my brain isn’t any smarter than yours in this area.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
I think one of the biggest clutter challenges is PAPER. It's like a faucet that never shuts off. Every day when the mailman comes - more paper. Every day when your kids come home from school - more paper. And don't get me started on the newspapers, and the magazines, and the coupons. If you don't get a handle on it, pretty soon your house is going to be buried in it!
OK, I'n going to give you the secret to dealing with the excess paper issue - are you listening carefully? OK, here it is - YOU DON'T NEED NINETY PERCENT OF IT. There, now do you feel better?
|Image courtesy of ScottChan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
After my in-laws passed away, we cleaned out their house and found drawers and drawers full of all this paper - hundreds of utility bills, decades of paystubs, Christmas cards, just tons of useless junk. It was really sad.
Catalogs - definitely don't need them and it's better for your budget if you can get them to not even come into your house. It's just letting unnecessary temptation in your door. Every place that sends you a catalog has a website with everything in that catalog available in a searchable format.
Here's something that might surprise you - I haven't taken a daily newspaper, watched any regular news shows, or listened to any news radio shows in probably 10 years. I've been on a "Magazine Fast" for about a year now. The only one I get any more is a Scouting magazine.
And you know what, I probably haven't missed a single important news story in all that time. I have news alerts that come to my Email for big news stories like nature disasters or stupid politician tricks. Anything else, I catch info on the Internet, hear a blip on the radio, or someone says "hey have you heard...". We get the Sunday-only paper just for the funny papers and coupons and we're good to go. I figure that saves me about 6 inches of excess paper every week. And a lot of negative BS that I don't really want in my life.
The average person has 3.1 magazine subscriptions and they don't actually read them half the time. What's up with that? We get these shiny, pretty magazines and think we're going to make all these yummy recipes, create all these fabulous crafts, make over our home to look like a magazine layout and try all these fabulous diets, but honestly, we probably won't take the time to follow through with it, and those shiny magazines just pile up in stacks all around your house.
So, what's a girl to do? Well, for starters, take a look at your subscriptions and consider doing some pruning back. Then take your accumulation of magazines and make an appointment with yourself to spend just 15 minutes a day getting through all of them. Then tear out the articles or recipes you want to reference for later. It's OK, you've paid for the magazine. Then find somewhere to pass it on to. I always think it is such a waste for just one person to read a magazine and then throw it away.
And then if you want all those fabulous recipes, crafts, and home decor ideas, there are literally hundreds of blogs and Pinterest pins that provide just about anything you could ever imagine complete with full instructions and pictures for FREE. Although if you're reading this on my blog, you probably already know that! And if you want a recipe, you can type in any ingredients you have on hand into any search engine and it will bring up a boatload of free recipes with those ingredients. I've tried a bunch of them and they've been great.
Now, the question is how to deal with the 10% of paper that you actually do need to keep? I think it will be a lot easier once you get rid of the other 90%. Then it's just a matter of setting up a filing system that is easy for you to maintain for those few papers you do want to keep. Here are some tips that work for me:
- For phone lists, sports schedules, coupons (we don't do a lot of them), and other things that I really want to keep track of, I tape them up INSIDE my cupboard doors. It's neater looking than a bulletin board and I don't have to dig through a pile of papers or a drawer to find them.
- I keep a bill basket on my desk. As the bills come in, we just toss them in there, then on payday, I just go through and grab them and pay them with my bank's online bill pay. Even if they aren't due yet, I can set them up for the following payday. Then I toss all the papers in the shred bin at work. I've done this for probably ten years, and I can't think of ONE time, I've ever needed to reference any of those bills. Anything I need, I can pull up from a website in 5 minutes or I can pull up a year's worth of history in my bill pay service.
- Coupons. I will admit it, I'm not a big coupon person, but I do a TON of online shopping and I have a great technique for managing the flood of discount codes and offers that come in after you have bought something online. I have Gmail and I set a filter to force everything to go directly into a Shopping folder. Then if I want to shop at a particular store, I go right to the offers for that store and check out the current specials - super easy!
- Scanners - one thing I haven't tried yet, are these cool new scanners that scan receipts and all sorts of stuff and store them on your computer in a searchable format. That sounds like something really handy. Software like OneNote and Evernote are both terrific tools for this. If you really have a need to keep pay stubs, utility bills, or recipes, you can easily scan them into OneNote or bookmarks the websites where you found them and then search them in your notebooks. Much faster and easier than stacks of magazines.
I hope this helps you with your paper challenges!
Friday, November 22, 2013
After I wrote about all the finance-related topics that were rolling around in my head, I started poking around the Internet for inspiration. And I definitely found it. There are a ton of websites and blogs out there offering some great financial advice on every topic from couponing to retirement accounts.
The best one I've found is called GetRichSlowly.org. I've been reading them for a year or so (I signed up for their daily Email updates). One thing I'm smart enough to figure out is when I need to turn to someone smarter than me. In reading their posts, time after time, I've found myself flagging at least a couple of them a week because they had great ideas I wanted to re-work and share with you on my own blog. They have a number of staff writers who cover posts from a lot of different perspectives and they have some great think-out-of-the-box ideas that I really enjoy. One of the most recent ones I enjoyed was from Barry the Irish Polyglot who told us how to learn a foreign language without spending a cent. It led me to a great free flashcard program called Anki that has helped my son a lot with his Spanish homework.
However, you might want to check it out yourself and if you're smart, you'll sign up for their daily Email list. You might end up just a little richer for it. Here's a link to their "Best of 2011" post. It has a lot of great tips and resources in it. Best of GRS 2011
If you'd like to see a complete list, just click on the Smart Money label at the end of this post.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
I'll wager its been a while since you've felt that way about your teen. Since your eyes have lit up when they walk into a room. Teens can be challenging, to be sure, but underneath, they are still the same people as those cute toddlers we used to adore.
|Photo credit: Stock.xchg by Neon_Eddy|
Your opinion matters. Surprisingly, it probably matters more to them in the long run than anyone else's in the world. I know so many adults who would give anything in the world for a single word of recognition or approval from their parents. Sadly, they probably will never receive it. Is that what you want for your child?
So often we become so hyper-aware of their faults that we overlook the awesome part. Could you imagine if your boss was constantly after you to sit up straight, do your homework, clean your desk, tuck in your shirt, cut your hair, and bring your grades up? That would suck, wouldn't it? (Some of us do have bosses like that, but at least we get paid for it)
On the other hand, what if you had a boss who thought you were just terrific, praised you for your work every day, and recognized all your best qualities? That's the kind of boss you really want to work your heart out for, because that level of appreciation just makes you want to please them just that much more. I know, because I've had both types of bosses and I know which one inspires me to do better work.
Your vision for your teen plays a big role in shaping their life. If you think they are dishonest, or lazy, or aren't very smart, those things are going to be true for them in their lives because they take their cues from you. On the other hand, if you think they are smart, talented, and have a bright future ahead of them, that's going to play a big part in pointing them onto that path.
Imagine the best for them and shape your actions towards helping them achieve that future.
Does that mean you just ignore all their faults? No, of course not. But it's like the old 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of the time appreciating them and only 20% focusing on the negative stuff and see if you don't see a lot more of the awesome stuff!
Monday, November 18, 2013
I was quite successful in teaching my own children to read. My stepson Ryan was in a Montessori school, so he was an early reader from them, but my middle son Matt was reading well by age 5 and my youngest son Blake was reading by age 4.
So I thought I'd share some of the techniques that helped me teach them. These are somewhat unorthodox methods, I'll grant you, but I know of hundreds of children who have learned by these methods and enjoy reading very much.
It's really quite easy to you teach your child to read in a fun and painless way. Surprisingly this will even work with very young children and will help get them interested enough to sit still for a story. All you need to do is to make sure that the print is large enough for them to see the letters very clearly - about an inch to two inches high. Otherwise you can choose any book that you think would appeal to them.
When you sit down to read your story, determine ahead of time several words you want your child to "read". Names of characters or other words that are repeated frequently in the story work best. It doesn't matter if it is a short word or a long one, in fact a longer word is easier to recognize because it is a more unique pattern. I started with Peter from Peter and the Wolf and gradually moved on to the other names. Then we did Peter Pan and they were able to recognize the name from the first book.
The first time you come to the designated word in the story, point to it and say the word clearly. Then each time you come to that word, simply pause, point to the word and look at your child expectantly. You may have to prompt them a couple of times, but they'll catch on very quickly and they'll learn to recognize "their" words. At the end of the story, praise them and give them a big hug, then put the book away.
The next day, they will likely BEG to read the same book. Let them read the same words and add two or three new ones. By the time they get tired of the book, they will have learned at least 8 to 10 new words and will be able to recognize them in other books as well. Don't repeat a book more than 3 times and don't "test" them. Just believe that they know it and they will demonstrate it to you in time.
Kids learn shockingly fast and will be happiest with fresh material every 2 or 3 days. Keep this up and before you know it, your child will be reading confidently and easily.
Here is another trick I used to get my middle son into reading. When he was 7 or 8, Matt could read quite well, but he wasn't particularly interested in books. So I went to the library one day and picked out a few books I thought he would enjoy (I think they were R.L. Stein's Goosebumps books). Then I casually dumped them next to him in the backseat of the car and said the magic words "Don't touch those, they're your brother's". Problem solved! He nearly ripped the covers off them, he read them so fast!
I think he ended up reading nearly every Goosebumps book the library had on the shelves and by the time he hit High School, his scores were in the top 3 to 5 percent in the nation on his reading comprehension. Blake has been reading at a college level since about 7th grade.
I have great respect for teachers and I know that they do their best, but with overcrowded classrooms and ridiculous mandates from the Government, there is a certain percentage of kids in every class who just don't "catch on" to the whole reading thing. I wasn't about to leave anything to chance. And, at least in our case it seems to have worked out pretty well.
If you want more information on this method, there is a book you can find at any library or bookstore, in virtually any language or country in the world. It's called Teach Your Baby to Read by Glenn and Janet Doman. They are based at the Philadelphia Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential - IAHP.org and there are many resources and materials available there.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
|Image courtesy of StockPhotos / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
And don't forget my famous credit card time-out tip. I have two credit cards right now sitting in time out and one of them is my Dress Barn card. I can't help it, those clothes are so darn cute! But not cute enough that I am willing to pay their 24.99% interest! So my card is languishing in a drawer until I learn to behave myself!
Note: If you are in a position where your minimum payments are absolutely ALL you can manage, then it's time for a last-ditch effort to get yourself back on a solid footing again. First of all, definitely do the credit card time out tip. Unless you need your credit cards to provide basic food and shelter-type needs, in the drawer they go. Then look for ways you can cut back on your spending, or increase your income (part-time job, Ebay seller, pet setting, babysitting, anything will do) to be able to pay even a little bit extra on those minimums until you can get them down to something you can handle. Don't let those nasty credit card people have control over your finances.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
I read an interesting statistic today - 18 to 25 year olds spend up to 49% more than other age groups on dining out. Doesn't say if that's fast food, fine dining, or drinks, but if I had my guess, I'd say 90% fast food with a smattering of fine dining.
|Image courtesy of [KEK064] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
This was from an article someone Tweeted about buying habits across the 50 states and I just thought this particular tidbit was just SO fascinating. This is the first generation that has grown up in the Happy Meal lifestyle and this is demonstrating how much they have taken this lesson to heart. And don't worry, I'm lumping my three kids right in there too!
I find this kind of disturbing on a couple of levels. One is the money aspect. It doesn't say what proportion of their income they are spending, but it sounds like a pretty significant chunk of change. You probably aren't in this age bracket - I'm certainly not, but think about what you've spent just this week on food other than grocery store items.
Did you get a latte or other fancy drink in the mornings? Grab a pizza or some burgers for dinner on your way to sports practice or whatever? Have a few lunches in the office cafeteria, or lunch out with some friends? Maybe you and your husband have a Friday night date night at a nice restaurant? Even snow cones or ice cream for the kiddos? What about all those sodas or expensive bottled waters? It adds up fast. And if these kids are spending even MORE than we do what do you think their total for the week would be? $100??? $150??? More??
And what are they getting for all that money? Well, nothing really. Not to be crude, but they are spending large amounts of their income on something that is here today and gone tomorrow (in a manner of speaking).
That's money that could be used for a car payment, a down payment on a house, investing in a business, or saving for retirement or a college education for your grandchildren. I joke with my husband that we could have put one (or two) of our kids through college just for what he has spend on soda pop. And it's totally true. If you figure he has three sodas a day at a buck or two apiece times 365 days times 25 years. It ends up being between forty and fifty thousand dollars!
And that's just the soda. Figure in all the pizza, chicken, tacos, and burgers we eat in a year, not to mention the rare times we go out for a nice meal. Shoot, it usually costs me $40-$50 just to take everyone out to Denny's for pancakes and double that for a nice dinner. There's probably a house or two in there after all these years.
And of course, you are paying for all that eating in another way too. With your health. We've all heard all the statistics - heard Dr. Oz spouting forth on Oprah about childhood obesity, diabetes rates, and all the damage we are doing to our bodies with all this excessive amounts of unhealthy food we eat. We're literally digging our graves with our teeth!
So, what's a Mom to do about it? Well, it's probably a little too late if you've got kids in the 18 to 25 age range like I do. They're pretty well set in their habits at this point. But if you've got younger kids, now might be a good time to start talking to them about this.
But talk isn't enough, is it? You've got to set the example and consistently teach them how to feed themselves and their families without falling into this trap. It would be an interesting challenge to see how long you could go without buying ANY outside food or drink at all. One day? Three days? A week? A month?
It would be kind of fun if you put the money into a jar, so you could see how much you had saved over that time. I'd like that part. Brown bagging it to work, not so much.
I think I could probably do one day, if I planned ahead or even three days if I really got serious about it, but a week? A week would be a challenge for me, and a month, I think would be almost impossible to do. I've never really tried it though, unless I was really seriously dieting and then that was just me, not the whole family.
Give it a try. I'd be interested to see what your results are.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
|What? Who me? Wasn't me...|
|Awww, I love a cozy human to sleep on|
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Warranties are an interesting topic. They can either be the best money you've ever spent, or the biggest waste ever. To me, that means it's worth a very close look. I know some people automatically get the warranty on any large purchase, but in a lot of cases, it isn't a very good deal.
|Image courtesy of [Joomphong] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
Most brick and mortar stores put a huge markup on their warranties knowing that a large percentage of purchasers won't ever need them. It's sort of like health clubs - they bank on probably 75-80% of their subscribers working out a few times and then dropping out. If everyone who had a membership showed up on any particular day, they probably wouldn't even fit into the building. The conservative estimate is that only about $20 of every $100 spent on a warranty goes towards repair costs. The other $80 is going straight into the store's pocket. That's not the kind of charity I like to support - how 'bout you?
So, the first question you need to ask is does a warranty make sense for this item? The first question you want to ask is how likely is this item going to be to break down? In my experience, large appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, and dishwashers very rarely break down. I have literally had the same fridge for 21 years and I've never had a moment's trouble with it. On the other hand, my iPhone 4 ended up in the washing machine within 6 weeks (sigh). More on that in a minute...
Another question to ask is how expensive would a repair be? I do always purchase a car warranty, even though I know it's a rip-off because certain car repairs can be so expensive. However, I didn't bother with a warranty on my son's Kindle. It was an $80 product and they wanted $30 for the warranty. When the prices are that close, the warranty doesn't make sense. At that point, if anything happened, you would just suck it up and put that $30 towards a new one.
If you do decide that a warranty is a good idea, is the store version your only choice? Nope! Like any other profitable item, there are multiple companies that sell them. You just have to do your homework and make sure it is a reputable company. I found SquareTrade back when I was an Ebay seller. They specialize in warranties on various large and small items from all major retailers. For instance, the Verizon warranty for my iPhone 4 would have been $199 a year plus $99 per replacement and I think they didn't cover water damage. The same warranty through Square Trade was $65 a year and just $50 per replacement.
When mine had it's little bath, SquareTrade not only had my replacement in my hands in 48 hours, but they even sent me a 16 gig instead of an 8 gig, I think just because they were out of stock on 8 gigs. I had a similar experience with them when the hard drive crashed on my computer. I took it to a local repair shop and kept the receipt and they reimbursed me within a day or so.
On the other hand, you have my in-laws. I think they were "warranty junkies" and they made sure they got their money out of them! I remember half a dozen times when they had their washer or dishwasher being worked on and it was all paid for with the warranty. The reason that worked for them was because they were diligent about keeping all the receipts and paperwork (these were in pre-computer days).
If you do go the warranty route, keeping good records is very important. You need to know exactly when your warranties stop and start, how to renew them every year, and what types of repairs are covered. That can save you a bunch of nice, juicy money!