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familySo you’re going to die. Everyone dies – it’s a fact of life – but are you ready to go at any time? You should be, especially if you have dependents or family members. Careful planning now will allow your family to carry on without you should the worst happen tomorrow or fifty years from now.

A Will

The most important document you should have even before your baby is born is a will. Work with a lawyer if possible to structure the will to include any children you may have in the future and then you won’t have to update the will down the road if you have more kids. Working with a lawyer will also ensure that you have all the right signatures and stamps in the right place. Finally, once you have a will, give copies of it to trusted family members and store it in a place where it is easily accessible should a distraught partner or parent need to find it.

In your will, you can divide your assets any way you’d like, but most importantly, you’ll need to designate who gets custody of your children should both you and your partner die suddenly. If you select your sister, for example, be sure to clear that with your sister ahead of time before you make it official. Not leaving a designated guardian for your children would mean your children may become wards of the state before the state manages to find someone in the family to care for them.

Life Insurance

If you have life insurance through work, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. However, even if you have a life insurance policy through work, you’re probably going to need more. Do the math with your partner. If you were to die tomorrow, how much would your partner need to keep the children in your current lifestyle, home and schools? How much would it cost to send the kids to college someday? How much would it cost to bury you and pay off all outstanding debts so that your children and partner can live without the burdens of your debts? Total that up and don’t be surprised when you discover just how much you need.

Talk to life insurance specialists to get quotes from at least three providers. Then, pick the best quote from a reliable agency and establish a policy for both you and your partner. Fortunately, the price for healthy individuals of child bearing age is very low for term life insurance, making it a popular way to arrange financial protection. This should be done as early in the pregnancy as possible. By arranging insurance you can deliver your baby and know from the start that her financial needs are arranged from day one – even if you haven’t managed to get a diaper on her little bottom properly yet.

Clear Information

In our digital age, we have any number of passwords and online protections in place for various bank accounts and financial information. Make a copy of your bank account information along with a power of attorney for your spouse and the designated guardian for the children. Leave account details for your bank as well. Should you die suddenly, the first few weeks following the tragedy will be the most challenging both financially and emotionally. Having your effects organized and placed in a safe place will make it possible for your spouse to manage the bills and the additional costs associated with a death. Your goals with your financial planning should be to simplify the lives of those you leave behind.

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Living RoomLet’s face it: did I really change so much in the two years it took me to leave college and get my first, truly-living-on-my-own apartment? With a degree in 18th century travel texts and French linguistics, I can assure you my annual income was not that much more than what I was pulling in working 14 hours a week at my school’s dining hall. My interests were still pretty much the same and I think I only made about three new friends, ensuring that my worldview had not suddenly or drastically changed.

And yet my first studio looked…amazing. Compared to my college dorm, it was like walking into the pages of a magazine. And my second apartment looked even better, even though I was still dwelling in less than 500 feet. With every subsequent move, I am learning that it doesn’t matter how cozy (read tiny) the space, nor how frugal the decorator: every living situation can be as inviting as your favorite B&B; without breaking the bank.

What happened?

I learned how to edit.

A semi-hoarder and serious sentimentalist, I have had a hard time figuring out how to effectively dump the trinkets, trash and commemorative t-shirts that are acquired with every club and 5k run I join. In my experience, moving to a new (and small) location is the only way to weed out the unnecessary and keep the meaningful. At the end of my second move, I had given away about half of my wardrobe, donated a third of my possessions and recycled the collection of A+ term papers and book reports that originally seemed like keepsakes. I was left with a tidy closet and décor that I was proud to display – so I do it every time I move.

I started researching what I liked.

Rather than trying to decorate an entire living space the first weekend I move in, I let the boxes and white walls linger until I know kind of space I want to live in. I research great sites like apartmenttherapy.com and theinspiredroom.netand the pages of Crate & Barrel to discover the décor that speaks to me. I never try to recreate a room (impossible and expensive), but I focus on small, striking details I admire: color combinations, furniture formations, little moments. No more buying a rug “just because I need a rug.” I now only buy a rug because I love a rug and have the perfect place to put it.

I gave up double-sided tape for picture frames.

And I replaced mini-blinds with actual curtains, and I invested in a shelving unit instead of plastic Rubbermaid storage drawers. There are plenty of items that can make the transition from college to adulthood, then early-adulthood to later-adulthood (heck, I have a picture hanging in my kitchen that my grandmother gave me for my 12th birthday) but in order to consider them cozy decorations you can’t just tape them to the wall. Tuck that vintage movie poster into a frame and replace the dusty mini-blinds with window hangings. Small effects are cheap to purchase and make a huge difference.

I use white with purpose, not out of convenience.

There is a difference between the white walls and off-white carpet that came with your rental and the ones that you painted and placed there yourself. When I use white now (and gray and tan and any color, really), it’s because I think it is fresh and crisp – not just because it was the cheapest to buy or already there.

I started honing my DIY skills.

They are way cheaper than buying your entire room from a department store and, the better you get, the more proud of the pieces you create you are. What better feeling than, when responding to a compliment on your windowsill of bud vases, you can say, “Thanks! I painted those all myself” instead of the usual shrug and, “Oh…IKEA…”? Start small, start easy and know the arts-and-crafts skills you already have. For me, there is never any free-hand design, and I go from there.

When all else fails, I add some extra lights.

The warmer the glow, the cozier the space. If at all possible, I never turn on the overhead lights unless I am cooking in the kitchen or plucking my eyebrows in the bathroom. For any other location and occasion, floor lamps will do.

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Coin Dropping Into Piggy BankThere is definitely a big difference in being frugal, and being cheap. A good example is the fact that frugal people care about the value of something, and how much they need it, as opposed to a cheap person, who only cares about the cost.

Further, someone frugal will stick to a budget and not buy something cheap if they can’t afford the more quality item, and won’t buy it unless it is absolutely necessary – but someone cheap will buy the cheapest thing available, without concern about quality.

Now that we’ve defined cheap vs. frugal, lets look at some ways to be truly frugal, without making your friends refuse to go out for a meal with you, or your family want to buy things behind your back!

Why be frugal?

People who are frugal can usually afford much more than the cheapskate. Because they spend less than they earn, using the overage to pay off debt, or invest.

Being conscious of money and where it goes is probably what everyone should be practicing because it allows people to retire early, have more of a vibrant life in their golden years, and not get into heavy debt because they’ve thought about what is actually important, and what is not.

Frugal defined:

Frugal people don’t go out and buy a new car, just because they want the newest model, they settle for the most conservative and least expensive used car. They buy smaller houses, for a bargain, but don’t give up quality. They watch their money, but splurge when the occasion calls for a celebration of quality, etc. and most times, because they can afford it.

Steps to being more frugal:

First – thinking about the future, and your financial health is a great start. Going with one car instead of two, because even though it’s convenient, it costs too much more for that second car in return for the little inconvenience of sharing a car with your spouse.

If you live in a huge home, with spare rooms, you’re not being sensible (frugal). We only need enough space for us to be comfortable, and not crowded. Sell that huge home, and buy something that only requires about 30 percent of your monthly income.

Get rid of credit cards:

Everyone knows who benefits with credit cards –the credit card companies. Paying interest is a waste of money, and getting rid of them will eliminate the tendency of impulse buying. If you have to pay cash, it’s a little more difficult to purchase, and hopefully that cash is allocated to other things.

Sticking to budget:

Having a budget can be one of the most financially rewarding things you do. It allows you to keep track of your hard earned cash, as well as steers your ship the right way. If you don’t budget for something, you don’t buy it – period.

Even if you do budget for it, and an unforeseen expense arises, such as a vehicle emergency, or medical emergency, that money goes towards the emergency and not the item you wanted. With a budget you can’t overspend if you stick to it religiously.

Rarely buy new:

If you need another car, a cell phone, a computer or anything else that is an actual necessity, never buy new, ever. You can find such bargains on places such as Craigslist, Freecycle, EBay or other auction sites. A friend bought her 12 year old a top of the line iPod, for ½ price because it was used, and refurbished. The kid didn’t care and was so excited to have the music gadget that it brought joy, without really hurting the pocketbook.

Frugal people never buy new – it is a waste of money.

Eat out almost never:

Some of the biggest unforeseen expenses in our lives are the ‘eating out’ expense. It seems as if it is a necessity, so we write it off as such, but it can be an expense that ranges into the thousands in a years time.

Restaurants are not cheap, so when you want to eat, fix something at home. The food you buy at a grocery store will cost pennies to the dollar of restaurant food, and when you cook at home you can freeze leftovers for another day, saving even more.

Lose the vanity:

Everyone wants to look their best, of course, but buying the latest outfits, shoes and accessories gets pretty pricey. Buy a few things that allow you to exchange outfits, such as a few nice pair of slacks or jeans, a few nice shirts – some for summer, some for winter and a couple pairs of shoes.

There is no reason to have more than a few pair of shoes, or more clothing than will fit into a dresser drawer.

Sell on EBay or Craigslist:

All of the items you acquired before becoming frugal can benefit you if you put them up for sale. That will not only give you less space requirements, it will earn you a little cash for that retirement savings, or nest egg.

Go through the items you no longer wear, and either modernize, alter or get rid of them.

Stop shopping at malls and department stores:

This is the single most important thing in becoming frugal. Shopping, even window-shopping at the top stores can create some pretty big impulse buying mistakes. You see something you just have to have and out go the logic and common sense.

Try going to a ‘discount store’, and find items of interest there, or buy only on sale at stores that are less trendy and expensive.

I think you get the general idea, but there are so many other suggestions, such as walking, hiking and jogging instead of joining a gym. Going to free concerts, art shows and things that don’t cost a lot of money. Staying home more than going out… reading, having friends over, etc.

When you live consciously, you live frugally.

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For most of us, exotic trips, luxury items, and even weekend getaways are a thing of the past. But this doesn’t mean you can’t live a rich, full life. All it takes is some creativity and a shift in attitude.

I have a good friend who was laid off for 18 months. During this time, his family had two choices: shut down and be miserable, or embrace an attitude of contented frugalness. My friends opted to focus on family activities and lifelong learning opportunities, maintaining a positive outlook in spite of their financial challenges.

Five years later, they’ve maintained this approach to life, even though their financial situation has dramatically improved. They’ve found that they are more contented and closer as a family than before. Their lives are less cluttered with material possessions and “stuff,” which frees them to focus on what’s really important. They’ve learned that thriftiness is a satisfying way of life. As S.W. Strauss said, “Thrift is not an affair of the pocket, but of character.”

Here are a few of the ideas they’ve incorporated into their family routines:

 

  • Take day trips to explore your area instead of an expensive vacation. Visit the mountains or beach, go for a hike, or watch the leaves change. An outing like this will cost you nothing more than the cost of gas and maybe a picnic lunch. One of my family’s favorite outings is a sunrise hot air balloon launch at a local state park. We arrive early on Saturday mornings, with donuts and a mug of hot cocoa, to watch the balloons take off as the sun emerges from behind the mountains. Beautiful!
  • Invest in a membership to your family’s favorite museum or zoo, or alternate memberships, trying something different each year. Memberships are typically under $100, and are a great value for a family looking for fun activities on a budget.
  • Buy inexpensive kits or make games and toys. Christmas was very tight for my friends during their period of unemployment, but they refused to be discouraged. Instead, they found instructions online for marshmallow guns made from PVC pipe. They made the marshmallow guns for under $5, and had a great time having a marshmallow fight Christmas morning.
  • Learn something new. I’ve always believed that if you can read, you can learn anything. Take an inexpensive class, or borrow books from the library. In my neighborhood, a group of women started offering classes to teach each other various subjects. I’ve learned to knit, bake bread and can produce, while socializing with good friends.
  • Splurge on something that offers real value to your family. For our anniversary, I bought my husband a fire pit table and chairs set. We’ve spent hours around that table, laughing and talking as a family. The investment was worth every penny! Another year, I found used bikes at an auction. We love riding those bikes together as a family.
  • Work as a family to meet goals. Another friend of mine wanted to take her family to Disney Land. Disney was offering free passes in exchange for service. My friend thought this was a great opportunity to teach her children the value of service, while enjoying a family vacation. The family scheduled several service projects to meet the criteria for the free passes. They also put a jar in the kitchen for loose change as a way to save money for the trip. It took them a whole year to save enough money, but the trip meant so much more because they had all worked hard to make it happen.
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Jar of MoneyMoms may have always said that those well-timed stitches were all about saving extra work – but proverbs aside, they could also save you money too. Not every change that you make to improve your finances has an immediate payback – some will take weeks, months or longer to earn their keep. But that’s not a reason to shirk a little forethought in your quest to save money. After all it is the long-term savings that build up, and make the biggest difference to your bottom line. So let’s run through seven top tips that will leave you richer the longer you wait.

Insulate the house:

Heat is energy, and energy is money. So when your house is cooling, your money is flying out of the window. Stop that from happening with lagging of hot water tanks and pipes, caulking of your window frames and extra insulation up in the attic. This will seal in the heat nicely so you’ll be able to keep the thermostat down lower. And it’ll be nice to know that your dollars are being kept indoors whilst keeping you warm.

Take the pedal from the metal:

The cost of gas is unlikely to be heading anywhere close to cheap for the foreseeable future. So make those dollars in the tank last longer by taking it easy on the pedal. The less you accelerate, the more gently you break, and the lower your speed, the better – both for your wallet and the planet.

Plant a seed:

Food hasn’t always come from the grocery aisle. If you have some free space that is open to the sun, then you can grow some of your own food from seeds. It’ll take some tender loving care, and a few months waiting – but the more salads, herbs and vegetables you can grow yourself, the less you’ll be spending on the weekly food bill.

Fix the leak:

What leak, you say? It doesn’t matter- whether it’s a leaky faucet or an oil drip from your car, it’ll cost you more the longer it’s left. Take time to find the cause, and see if you can’t fix it yourself for a little expense. If it needs the attention of an expert, ask neighbors, friends and families first. A favor owed is a future favor gained.

Go for energy stars:

When you find that your appliance, whether TV, computer or washing machine is really beyond repair, you’ll need to go shopping for a replacement. But rather than putting the looks or brand-name at the top of the list of features, look for EnergyStars. These are marks that indicate your new appliance is energy efficient as certified by the EPA. Remember energy is money, and when your home is stacked with EnergyStar rated products, it can only shrink that utility bill.

Accelerate your debt draw-down:

Debts are a money drain- they suck wealth out of the household budget. So avoid debt where possible. But once you’re stuck in it , you really need to get out as with all due haste. The quicker you pay off debts, the less interest you’ll be paying on the loan – and the sooner you can start saving again. So try and pay back more than the minimum, so that you can cut loose that burden faster.

Saving money:

This is the holy grail of long term stitch-saving, and money-saving too. If you can cut expenditure, across all other fronts, by as much as possible, you’ll hopefully have money to put aside. Place it in purchasing CDs (Certificates of Deposit) and it’ll earn a dividend interest. The longer you save, the more it builds up, and the more interest you earn. Success breeds success, as your mom might say.

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Planning ahead each week before buying your newspapers…couponing_2

I hope that everyone had a fantastic holiday season. I have to admit, that I did not do a lot of coupon shopping the past few weeks. We got ready for Christmas, traveled to see both my and my husband’s families, and spent some time relaxing when we could! Now we’re home and ready to get back into our school, work, and coupon routines.

Coupon inserts schedule and weekly previews

With the New Year comes, the new coupon insert schedule for the year. I like the site www.couponinsertspreview.com. Right now there’s the tentative schedule for the year, and you can also see a preview of what to expect in next week’s paper. I like to check this site out at the end of each week to see what might be in my Sunday paper. I get one Chicago Tribune delivered to my home each week, but if I can tell that this might be a “good week” for coupon inserts, I’ll run out Sunday morning and get another paper. You’ll find similar schedules on some of your other favorite blogs, but so far this is the one I like the best.

Bargain Buys

It’s time to get out there are start stocking up on your favorites again. This week at Walgreens, they have Dean’s milk on sale for $1.99. I haven’t seen milk priced this low in a long time. (I’ve heard you can freeze milk, has anyone tried this before?) Walgreens also has deals on Triaminic, Sundown vitamins, Herbal Essence products, Dawn dish soap, General Mills cereal, and 4 x 6 prints are just 9 cents when you buy at least 100. There are quite a few good deals at Target this week too. Gift card promotions on Lean Cuisine and Fiber One bars. Also good deals on Flintstone vitamins and All detergent. CVS has a lot of great deals this week, too. I wish the closest one to me wasn’t 35 minutes away! They are offering a Free $10 CVS Cash card when you buy $30 in CVS brand or specially marked products. Also look for deals on Nivea lipcare and lotion, Osteo Bi Flex, Colgate toothbrushes, Old Spice Body Wash, and Dawn dish soap

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I am a goal-setting girl although not by nature. New Year’s resolutions used to leave me feeling like a failure because I took the “set it and forget it” approach.NewYearsResolut

I hated every milestone that rolled around, reminding me of what I committed to do, but never followed through on. And as someone who probably has ADHD, or at least a woman with a stressed out mommy brain that’s trying to hold too much information, there were a lot of things I could beat myself up about.

But I’ve learned, through some heavy personal development, and transformational teaching how to set goals that stick and get accomplished.

As a result, I’ve actually come to love new beginnings regardless of what time of the year in which they fall: back to school, start of summer, new year’s day, they’re all wonderful in my book, and I use them as mile-markers to chart the progress of my success.

Step 1: Celebrate Your Wins & Victories

You’re amazing, but you probably don’t set aside time to recognize that! Take some time to make a list of what you accomplished in the past year that you’re really proud of. See how many things you can come up with, no matter how large or small they are! I don’t care if it’s paying off a massive balance on a charge card or getting your closet organized. You need to start the goal setting process loving yourself and feeling proud!

Step 2: If You Could Change Anything What Would it Be?

Make a list of the things you want to do, learn, change, or eliminate from the following categories in your life:

  • Financial
  • Professional/Business
  • Education
  • Skills
  • Home
  • Relationships
  • Health
  • Spiritual

Circle the top item on each of the lists that would be the most meaningful for you to accomplish in the next year. You may find that many of the things relate to other goals in a different category which may help you to focus on which goals to work on this year.

Step 3: Move from Compliant to Committed

We all hate to be told what to do, which is why I think many resolutions fail. We do what we think we should do without being 100% committed to doing it.

Compliant is doing something because your boss, doctor, or external source of some kind tells you to do it. Committed is an internal drive or self motivation to make it happen.

To help get committed to your goals, answer the following questions:

  • Why is the goal important to you? What are the reasons this goal matters to you?
  • What will it mean to you to accomplish it? How will you feel? How will it change your life?
  • What will it mean to you if you don’t accomplish your goal? How will you feel? What will you have to give up if you don’t accomplish it?

 

Step 4: Poop Happens When You’re Taking Action

I had a sign hanging on my son’s nursery wall that said “Poop Happens.” It was a great reminder when “Mama said there’d be days like this!” that I’d get through them. Those kind of days are going to happen along the way toward reaching your goals too, so plan for them!

What are some of the challenges you will face in accomplishing your goal? How are you going to get through them? Who or what can help you overcome them?

The process of thinking through the challenges will naturally get you to thinking about the actions you’ll be taking toward your goal. Write these actions things down and schedule the time to complete them into your calendar.

Step 5: Buddy System

We all know that people reach goals faster and more frequently when they’re working toward them with a friend so find a buddy who can help hold you accountable.

The more people you tell about your goal the more people will be asking you, excited to hear about your progress and keeping you motivated and on track!

Caution: Some people won’t be supportive in your goal. Often it’s the people with whom we’re the closest, our families. They’ve seen you fail before and are often quick to point out when you make a mistake. They’ll put you into compliant mode faster that a cookie will bring back your carb cravings. Don’t listen to them.

Instead, find a support group of people to cheer you on. If you don’t know anyone, look for Facebook groups, meet up groups, mastermind groups or join online challenges.

I decided a couple of years ago to start a blog to plot my progress and share my experiences…it was the best accountability I could have asked for because I built my own supportive community!

Step 6: Rewards

Are you motivated by gains or loss? If you’re motivated by rewards, set some mile markers along the way to your goal that you can celebrate with your friends and reward yourself for your hard work.

If your motivated by loss you might want to make a bet with someone that if you don’t reach your goal you’ll do something you really don’t want to do.

Stickk.com is a website that will help hold you accountable to your goals if you need it by allowing you to set the stakes of your goal with your hard earned money.

Step 7: Track Progress not Perfection

This was HUGE for me when I finally realized that the way to achieving my goals wasn’t about perfection, but instead it was about progress. I’ve never reached a goal exactly how I planed it. There are always detours along the way, but I’ve learned to track my progress and stay focused on moving forward.

Fall off the wagon? Get back on. Make a mistake? Try again. The only way to truly fail at your goal is to quit, so as long as you honestly keep trying, you’ll be making progress.

Set up a reminder on your calendar to look at your goals daily and review your action plans weekly. Keep track of your “done list” and any milestones you’ve reached along the way to your goal so you can see the progress you’ve made.

Ready, Set, Let’s GO!

Okay, are you ready? Share your resolutions in the comments below if you would like some accountability! I’ll be excited to help cheer you on along the way!

Happy New Year!

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The holidays may be over, but the giveaways are not thanks to our hard working sales team and fantastic merchants.

We’re starting off the new year with the perfect prize for everyone heading back to school or back to work after winter break!

Newegg is giving away a DELL Inspiron 15R Notebook Valued at $749.99!

DELL Inspiron 15R (i15RN-7296DBK) Notebook Intel Core i5 2410M(2.30GHz) 15.6″ 4GB Memory DDR3 640GB HDD 5400rpm 8X Dual Layer DVD+/-RW Drive Intel HD Graphics 3000 delllaptop

Prize also includes a switch lid for the laptop!

Newegg’s website contains all the specs and details.

To Enter the Newegg Dell Laptop Giveaway

There are two ways to enter the Newegg Giveaway but please be aware that only ONE entry will be counted, even if you enter in both places.

Option 1:

    •  Head over to our

Facebook page

    • . This offer is exclusive to our FatWallet friends and members, so if you don’t already like our page, please click the like button to view the giveaway form. Enter your information into the form on the Giveaway tab to enter.

Option 2:

    1. Sign up or Sign in to FatWallet.
    2. Visit the Newegg website and then reply to this forum topic (not this blog post) telling us what your dream prize from Newegg would be!
    3. As always there is no purchase necessary to enter, but if you feel like shopping while you’re there you can enjoy 3% cash back!

 

Eligibility:

You must enter between: January 2, 11:30 a.m. CST, and January 6, 11:30 a.m. CST. Limit one entry per eligible individual.

Additional entries will not improve your odds of winning. One lucky winner will be chosen randomly to receive Dell Notebook from Newegg. Please read the Official Rules of this giveaway.

The winner’s of our giveaways will be posted on the forum thread after they’ve verified their information and accepted their prize!

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