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Archive for the ‘Finances’ Category

Take some time out to have some fun with your kids!  Here are some helpful suggestions and ideas!

1. Build an amazing couch cushion fort!

2. Celebrate an eco-friendly Valentine’s day together.

3. Here’s a whole list of fun winter time activities for you to enjoy.

4. Parent Magazine has a large collection of activity ideas for you to pick and choose from.

5. Do you have a tiny chef in your family?  Encourage his/her culinary passion with these baking recipes for kids.

6. Want to play games with your kids and have them learn at the same time?  Check out PBS Kids for a good start.

7. And eHow has an article on how to have more family fun on a small family budget.

What are your favorite ways to have fun with the kids?

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Hey!  Welcome to Home on Tuesday, where every Tuesday I scour the internet to find great tips on design, cleaning, automobiles, organization, and more!  Please note that I will be out of town tomorrow and so Working Wednesday will be postponed until next week.  Please subscribe to Life Lists’ RSS feed so you can be updated each time there is a new post!  Please feel free to leave your comments, even if it is to say hello!  I see you are coming by, so don’t be shy, just say hello! 🙂  See you on Thursday!  Enjoy!

1. Brighten up the dreary days of winter by planting pre-season blooms!  HGTV shows you just the plants to use.

2. Think you can’t decorate because of the economy?  Well, the Budget Decorator begs to differ!  Find unique ideas for decorating, organizing, gardening, and more!  And you can sign up for a free budget decorating newsletter.

3. Cleaning a home thoroughly can be painstakingly exhausting.  So Stepcase Lifehack has provided 150 tips and tricks on cleaning everything from carpets to vinyl records.

4. Extend the life of your electronics with tips from Real Simple.

5. And while you are at it, learn how to extend the life of your mattress, as well, with the help of Eco Salon.

6. The Daily Green and the American Lung Association show you 25 ways to keep the air quality in your home safe.

7. Everyone wants to go greener these days- whether you care about the future of the environment and a balanced ecosystem or just for the sake of cutting costs in the belly of a recession.  EcoHomeResource.com has a plethora of resources to help you achieve a greener living space from your kitchen to your nursery.

8. And, finally, don’t forget to take a look at the Innovative Project of the Week brought to you by Interior Design Magazine.  This week’s project was designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and is for the California Academy of Sciences.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s links!  Leave a comment and let me know which one(s) were most helpful to you.  You could see more of the same in a future Home on Tuesday!

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1. Sometimes more mess can equal less stress.  Learn how to tolerate the natural chaos of your life and feel happier.

2. As you know, I am a big fan of Gretchen’s Happiness Project.  Today I want to direct you to her tips for dealing with criticism so that it is less stressful and more helpful.

3. An article after the early childhood educator in my heart- Scientific American Mind explains the seriousness of play.

4. Stressing about money?  Who isn’t?  The growing field of behavior economics is looking at the ways in which money drives us crazy.

road-to-happy

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1. Give your friends and family a break and don’t tell the same story at every get together.


2. Do 5 minutes of exercise every day. You can do that during a commercial break for American Idol.


3. Every time you buy something new this year, donate something old to charity.


4. Compliment someone every day- maybe they are wearing a color that compliments their eyes, maybe they cooked you a delicious meal, maybe they actually remembered to put their towel back on the rack after their shower, maybe they simply combed their hair today. Let them know you noticed it. 🙂


5. Go paperless. Sign up for online bill paying. You can sign up for automatic draft with your checking account or you can sign up for an e-mail that informs you when it is time. You will be saving the environment and could be saving yourself money by never being late for a payment. Plus, it’s completely free.


6. Save money by doing swaps. Hold a clothing swap with your friends. Someone’s “I’m over that” could be someone else’s “I am so into that”. Sign up for a book swap online. Paperbackswap.com even lets you have 3 free credits when you list 10 books you can swap. All you pay for is postage to send your books.


7. Pencil in one night a week to have a family dinner together. No BlackBerry, no IPods, no friends over, just you and your family. You can cook or have a pizza delivered. The point is to savor your time together. One night out of seven is completely doable.


8. If you have to have a store credit card (ex. from Sears or Kohl’s), then resolve to use the card for the discounts only, not as a credit card. Purchase only what you would if you were paying in cash. Then you can pay off the card in full every time you use it instead of spending a headache of money due to high interest rates.


9. Spend one minute every day cleaning or organizing something in your home. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish for only 60 seconds of your time. It takes longer than that to read this list.


10. Tell those whom you love that you love them. Time is short and we never know what tomorrow will or won’t bring. If something happened to you, would they know for sure how you felt about them?

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1. Be sure your tires are inflated to the correct pressure. Your owner’s manual will tell you how much air you should have in each tire.

2. If you get a discount for using a store card, use it. If you get a discount for a credit card, use it only if you plan to pay off the balance when it’s due. Your savings on gasoline might be lost if you have to pay interest.

3. Keep your highway speed to around 55mph. Faster speeds can consume more gasoline.

4. Don’t accelerate up and down while driving. Try to keep a constant pressure on the gas pedal. (my note- this includes hills!)

5. Plan your trips. If you have to drive very far to the market, make sure you purchase everything you might need for several days.

6. Have your automobile checked by a reputable mechanic to be sure it is tuned up and running it’s best.

7. When possible, walk instead of driving. It’s healthier and will save gasoline. (my note- or ride a bicycle.)

8. Carpool whenever possible.

9. Keep your car clean and waxed. Dirt and grime can cause a small decrease in gas mileage. (my note- also try not to haul around things in your trunk or back seat that you don’t need in there.  I’m as guilty of this as anyone, but the added weight uses more gasoline.)

10. Watch for things that can obstruct the air flow on your automobile. Things such as the car top carriers can reduce gas mileage.

11. Use cruise control if you car is equipped with it.

12. Let the kids ride the school bus instead of driving them to and from school.

13. Never let your car run while you dash into the store, post office, etc.

14. Use your air conditioner instead of opening the windows while driving at high speeds.

It’s hard enough to save money for retirement without having to spend unnecessarily on the necessities of life. Almost everyone has a car and relies on gasoline or some type of fuel so it makes sense to try to economize whenever possible. We should really try to save on fuel even if it weren’t so expensive.

Wondering what prices are at some of the stations across the country? fueleconomy.gov is a handy web site that will answer your questions.

This was originally posted at About.com.

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by: Frederic Premji of I Need Motivation

As I was reading Thomas’ great post 6 Simple Tricks On How To Save Money, I started thinking about one of the biggest expenses that we have in our daily life nowadays: the cell phone. This cool & useful device can really cost us a fortune if we are not careful! There are ways to make sure that you do not over spend with your cell phone and I wanted to point them out for you, so that you can put more money back into your pockets:

1. Respect your rate plan
One of the ways that cell phone companies make a bundle of cash is on the fact that most people do not respect their plans. Most people use their phones more than their allocated time and end up paying big time for it. If your plan doesn’t give you a lot of daytime minutes, take the habit of avoiding using your phone during the day. Also, check at what time your evening plan starts at. You may have unlimited evenings but it may start at 6, 7, or 8pm. A call that you make at 6:58pm and talk until 7:15pm, you will pay for the full call if your plan for the evening starts at 7pm. Just calculate how long you can use your phone on a daily basis without being charged extra and discipline yourself to not use it more than that.

2. Text messages
These have become quite popular in the recent years, and it can be very addictive. Make sure that you either have a text message plan option or avoid the practice altogether. Again, if you have a plan for it, calculate how many per day you are allowed to send without being charged more, and stick to that limit. Ideally, you should avoid them as much as possible. I used to get my business alerts on my cell phone, and although at first I found it pretty neat, I eventually got sick of it. I would start hearing the beep even when it didn’t ring, as I was getting just a crazy number of messages, 24/7. I felt like I was always “connected”, and this takes its toll. Sometimes, it’s nice to not be reachable! Most text message option plans are in the range of $10 a month….use that extra $120 a year for something more beneficial & less annoying ;)

3. Do not surf the web on your phone
Cell phone companies have unraveled a brand new money pit with this one. With the advancement of technology and the possibilities of surfing the web on your phone as if you were on a computer, this practice is growing very much. Of course, every time you surf on your phone, you are being billed for it. They charge you by kilobyte (kb) and if you know anything about web pages, you know that a single page can be 20-100 kb. At $0.05 per kb, which is the average companies charge, you are looking at paying at least $1 per page you view. If you do absolutely need to surf the web on your phone, get a flat rate unlimited surfing plan, but again, this will increase your monthly expense again. My view is that if you already pay for internet access at home, you don’t need to pay even more for it. Avoid such an unnecessary expense.

4. Is your phone a business expense?
If you have a small business or you are an entrepreneur, you absolutely need to make your cell phone a company expense. You will be able to have the expense tax deductible and you will avoid paying taxes on it. For example, here in Canada, we have about 15% tax, so on a $50 monthly cell phone bill, that’s $7.50 a month, or $90 a year that you can put back in your pockets. Plus, imagine the savings you can make when you buy a new handset! You can save another $75-100 easily in taxes, plus you can consider your handset an asset. All in all, you can greatly save by having a cell phone as a company expense.

5. Ask and you shall receive
What surprises me a lot is that most people do not consider simply calling up their cell phone company and demanding a better price! Trust me, if you haven’t done so, try it today. You see, cell phone companies have tremendous competition and they do not want to lose their clients. After the points I have mentioned so far about how they make money off you, can you blame them? ;) Seriously, call them up, and say that you want to close your service. What they will do is transfer you to the “customer retention center”. Of course, they won’t say it explicitly like that, but that’s what it is. There, they will offer you plans that they do not advertise, but don’t be afraid to negotiate and get the deal that you feel you should be paying. Use your loyalty as leverage, believe me, they do not want to lose you. Every time I feel like I pay too much for my cell phone, I do this. You wouldn’t believe the deal I have right now. I have most options for free, I don’t pay network access fees, and I even once got a new handset. Try it out, you will be happy you did!

6. Avoid contracts
How many people do you know off the top of your head that has complained about being stuck in a contract with a cell phone company? See my point. When you are binded with a contract, you have just destroyed your leverage with the company. As you saw in my point above, leverage can get you big savings. Plus, what happens if you really do want to switch company for an even better plan elsewhere? You won’t be able to if you are stuck with a contract. So try to avoid them as much as possible. Do not fall prey to their tactics of offering you discounts or a new handset. Two to three years is a lifetime when it comes to technology, so you do not want to be stuck for that length of time.

7. Get a handset yourself
Following from my point above, cell phone companies will try to lure you into a long term contract by offering you a brand new handset completely free. To you, it may look like you are getting a $600 new phone, but that’s not the case! First, the handset prices at your cell phone company are grossly exaggerated. Shop around online, and you will see that the handset is not as expensive as advertised with your cell phone provider. Plus, consider the fact that they get the handsets for a mere fraction of what they claim they are worth, and you will understand that for them, it’s just a ruse to get you locked into a contract for a few years. They know competition is fierce in their industry, so that is why they want to take away your freedom to go elsewhere. I suggest you get your handset via a friend or check online, such as on Ebay, and you will be guaranteed to save money plus avoid to be under a lengthy contract.

8. Assess your actual need
If you only need a cell phone for emergency purposes, it would be more convenient for you to get a “pay as you go” plan, where you just recharge funds on your own. This is a great way to manage how much you actually spend on your cell phone. As well, assess if you really need to have caller ID. Do you care to know who is calling you? Same with voicemail. If you rarely get voicemail messages, there is no point in keeping that option. The service provider will try to pile the options onto you by offering you a bundle discount, but if you barely use any of them or realize the lack of necessity for them, put that extra $10 a month it would cost you to better use!

9. Avoid cell phone use when traveling
Let’s be honest, roaming charges and international fees for cell phone usage are ridiculously high. Text messages are twice as expensive, and any minutes that you use your phone, you are pretty much double-billed as you pay for the charges for the local provider where you are vacationing, plus the fees your actual provider charges you. For example, last year on a trip to Mexico, I used my cell phone freely without thinking about it. I came back and found myself with an extra $40 on my bill. So try to avoid using your phone overseas. Personally, I like to stay away from all such technologies when I am on vacation. If you travel just a few times per year, you can save yourself another $100 a year. It is more economical to use a pay phone than it is to use your cell phone when you are in another country. If it’s to communicate back home, I would suggest paying a few dollars for a quick internet session and send emails instead of using the phone.

As you can see, by simply applying yourself a little bit, you can literally save a few hundred dollars per year in regards to your cell phone use. Sure, it’s a cool little gadget, but at the end of the day, your cell phone will not put food on your table and pay your rising gas expenses! Prioritize & manage your cell phone necessities and make it a habit to not spend more than you should. You’ll be happy you did at the end of the year ;).

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Gardening does not have to be an expensive hobby.  You can garden on a tight budget, all you need is time and effort.  Here are 10 tips for gardening frugally from Katie on pennywise.

1. Go organic. Organic is the best way to go and believe it or not, it is cheaper to go organic than it is to use various chemicals and fertilizers. Use organic methods of pest control such as broken egg shells to deter slugs. Use organic compost which these days is no more expensive than ordinary compost. Soak used tea leaves and use the water and leaves for your plants. Look out for more organic and cheaper ways to keep those greens healthy and flowering!

2. You don’t need expensive pots. Container and tub gardens are not only a great way for children to start experimenting with gardening but also for space saving and for gardening on a budget. Old Pain barrels any tub shaped container really can work as a pot. Try gardening with creative containers. Try wheelbarrows, tool boxes, wagons and other things you have lying around your home. Drill holes in your container and add pebbles or stones before adding any soil to insure good drainage.

3. Start from seeds. Though it may sound like more work…seeds are a lot cheaper than buying saplings and small plants. One packet of tomato seeds is often equivalent to the price of one tomato start yet you get the potential of at least 30-40 plants in each packet. While it may take longer and require advance planning, starting the majority of your plants from seed can mean big savings. Plus its very rewarding to watch a plant grow from a seed right before your eyes. When planting seeds to grown on to seedlings, don’t fork out (excuse the pun!) loads of money for plant pots, use yogurt pots, toilet rolls and cut up kitchen rolls. You can also use butter tubs, fromage frais pots, mousse pots and more. Just make sure they are all thoroughly clean.

4. Shop end-of-season sales. It’s easy to remember to do this when shopping for clothes and other household items, but I forget the same goes for plants. You can get a great deal on outdoor plants and trees shopping at the end of the season. Even annuals that are almost out of season are a good buy. They won’t bloom again until next year, but for the savings you’re getting it’s worth it to plant them now and wait until next year to enjoy them. You can also get a great deal on fruit trees at the end of the season. Don’t forget to check out the sidewalks of grocery stores and neighborhood markets. They mark down the prices of plants significantly at the end of the season.

5. Don’t be fooled by cheap gardening tools. Don’t be fooled that cheap tools are a bargain, some times these can be a false economy as they are not strong enough and can break easily. Why not try borrowing some or even purchasing some good strong second hand tools. You can even try using empty butter tubs as a hand held shovel and spade. Use a rolling pin as a dibber, the possibilities are endless. But purchasing cheap tools that are of poor quality will cost you in the long run. You do not have to have all of the new garden tools. Your ancestors made do with little more than a hoe and a horse and plow.

6. Divide and transplant. It doesn’t take long for plants to start to take over your flower beds. Some herbs and daisies seem to creep inches through the flower bed each week. Instead of letting plants like these take over the flower bed, transplant them to another part of the yard or in another pot. Flowers like daisies are easy to dig out in big clumps and move around wherever you want them. In several years time, the investment of a few dozen flowers or flower bulbs can multiply into many times the amount you recently purchased.

7. Grow useful vegetables.  It’s easy to get carried away in vegetable gardens and get all caught up in having a little of this, and a little of that, often spending more than you intended to and growing vegetables that cost next to nothing at the grocery store when they’re in season. For example, green peppers in season you can get for 4 or more for $1. That’s why they maybe not worth it for you to grow them. Tomatoes, on the other hand, are definitely worth the effort and will save you some money in the summer.

8. Share, give, and receive. It’s fun to trade plants with friends and family. It’s easy to landscape your yard this way. Iris bulbs from one friend, grape vines from another, it adds up fast! From people looking to get the excess plants out of their yard. After your yard has had a few years to get established, you will be able to share also. This is the best way to plant your yard with no expense at all.

9. Use effective kitchen ingredients that control pests. You can use vinegar as an herbicide. Household vinegar or any other concentrations of acetic acid is very effective in killing weeds. Using vinegar as a weed killer is an organic, environmentally safe way to control the unwanted weeds in the garden premises. It is cost effective also. Wipe the leaves of your plant using a soft cloth with some lukewarm soapy water to keep away fungus and pests. Other ingredients in your kitchen that work well to prevent fungus and keep away insects and pests are lemon, mint oil, garlic and jalapeño peppers.

10. Sow more than you need. While planting seeds, sow more than you need. This was when you have extra seedlings you can either exchange them with friends for a a different plant or even sell them and make a few bucks.

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