Is Debt a Deal-Breaker?


debt deal breaker Image credit: Good Search

You found The One! Perfect in every way. —Except they have debt. Is that a deal breaker for love?

According to Match. com, three out of four single Americans say they are turned off by excessive credit card debt. 46% of the women surveyed said they didn’t care how much their date spent on an evening out. (Match.com) My translation: It’s the quality of the relationship, not the quantity of money spent on a date.

Their in debt; you’re not. Does that mean the relationship is over?

It depends. Maybe your partner will never be as money savvy as you. Does that mean you walk? If they’re not willing to have a budget, clear the stars from your eyes. Their unwillingness to learn about deficits and surplus that will effect them—and you, are a red flag saying that they’re not willing to change at all. If you’re an excellent saver and are hard line, expecting miracles from someone who’s never had a budget, you may want to loosen up a bit on your ideal partner, or their ability to budget to your standards.

Are you both willing to sit down and talk about money, budgets and expectations you have of each other when it comes to money? (If they expect you to manage the household finances, are they willing to stick their budget so you can manage the money?) The money in many military homes is managed by women. Often, one spouse earns money, sends it home, and hopes when they get home the money has been spent/saved wisely.

Dating or married, have a written plan. If it’s not in writing, there’s nothing to go back to as a point of reference. If your relationship doesn’t have a strong foundation of mutual respect, don’t expect fibs and outright lies to bypass your finances. 30% of people admit lying to their partner about money. Ouch! (National Endowment for Financial Education)

If the divorce rate is around 50% why do only 3% of people with a spouse of fiancé have a prenuptial agreement? By talking about money ideals early in a relationship, there may be less push-back of a prenuptial being “unromantic”. Think of a marriage as part business deal, and the prenuptial holding promise of a future of love and commitment.

Is fresh better than flash frozen vegetables?


5 servings

Some people think fresh produce is the only way to get healthy produce. Not true. Sometimes, frozen or canned vegetables hold just as much—or more nutrients than fresh. They can also be lower is cost and easier to prepare. When I was going through chemo, my idea of preparing a meal was opening a can of white or black beans, a can of tomatoes, a can of corn, and adding pre-chopped celery and onion (thank you friends and family), and maybe spices like cumin or basil. When I was real low on energy, I’d ask someone else to open the cans. They loved this simple request! “Is that all you want me to do?” And depending on my energy level, my response was either, “Yes.” or “I’ll starve if you don’t.”

Vegetables retain their nutrients by how they’re processed or prepared. With flash freezing, vegetables hold their nutrients because soon after picking them, they’re boiled, then moved to ice water and drained before being frozen. Fruits are washed, slices and frozen. Canning uses heat treatment to destroy microorganisms that cause spoilage.

Both flash freezing and canning are done within 24 hours of produce being picked. This is known as “minimal processing.” Foods that are highly processed, including fruits and vegetables prepared with a lot of salt, sugar, or fat are known as “highly processed” foods. Examples are vegetables with cheese sauce, or canned fruit pie filling. If you can, add your own cheese to vegetables, and make your own pie filling. Look for frozen fruit without syrup and canned fruit packed in water or its own juice. Buy no-salt added versions of canned vegetables, or drain out the liquid from the regular kind, and rise a few times. Store brand canned or frozen items are often lower in price and same quality as name-brand.

However you get ‘em – Get ‘em! Five servings a day of fruits and vegetables will help keep you healthy and lower the risk of cancer.

Pick a number and save


save more money

image credit: Google

Let’s say at the end of the month you have an extra $267 after expenses and your regular saving. If you spend it all, you may wish you didn’t after the fact. If you save it all, you may feel saving is punishment, and that you never get to have any fun. If you don’t have a regular savings plan, this could get you used to the idea, and hopefully edge you closer to making it part of your life. This is a start, but should not replace the idea of regular savings.

Every paycheck, pick a round number and put that into savings. Let’s say you decide to put $200 of the $267 as additional savings this month. The $67 is to spend any way you decide. Next month, you may have $302 left over. You may decide to save $100, and spend the left over $202. Remember, the $100 is in addition to your regular savings—it’s “extra” so don’t beat yourself up for having fun with the rest.

I have several savings accounts. One for a car, one for travel, etc. When I have “extra” money, I may chose one of these accounts, or my financial freedom account—which eventually ends up in an IRA as the amount grows.

The key is to save first, spend second.

How to Visualize


visualize-square image credit: Good Search

If you want something, you’ve got to experience it in your mind’s eye before you can have it. It’s not, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” It’s “I’ll see it when I believe it!” Visualization is different than daydreaming. Daydreaming is just out there. In a daydream, you imagine without structure. You might even talk to a flying squirrel in your daydream. With visualizing, you’ll want structure. It’s not pondering what could happen, but what you want to happen. If you want a better job, say working in nature, you visualize yourself happily doing the job, wearing the uniform, and if you “see” a flying squirrel in your mind’s eye, it’s part of the job’s joy, not a random thought, or concern of the squirrel being a pest to plants and eroding the hillside.

Let’s say you want to pass your driver’s test, or get a promotion at work. Whatever you want, decide on it first. Then, lower your shoulders, and unwind from any anticipation or pressure to get what you want. Next, make sure you have five minutes uninterrupted to visualize what you want as if you’ve just gotten it. See yourself being acknowledged with words and actions, “You passed your driver’s test. Congratulations!” See people at work smiling, congratulation cards and e-mails, and things on your desk being packed up to move to the big office down the hall. Hear your friends and family say things like, “Good for you!” “Well done!” Feel the hugs, hand shakes or high fives. Take in the atmosphere. What does it feel like? Your body should feel the excitement of your accomplishment. It’s just happened! Jump! Shout! Feel the glory!

The feeling part of visualization is called seeding. Your thoughts create feelings, and your feelings create a corresponding vibration (high or low) in your body. All thought creates form, the form it takes depends on the vibration connected with it.

There are two types of visualization. One is having a precise idea of what you want before you begin visualizing it. With this type of visualization, you know what you want, and repeat that same vision every day. The other type of visualization is to just let positive thoughts of the outcome of your desire flow.

Keys to visualization: 

  • Keep it positive.
  • Keep it about the end result—as if you’ve just achieved it!
  • Visualize at least once a day for five minutes. It’s better to visualize 5 minutes 1x/day than 1 hour 1x/week.

You point the direction with your personal budget


arrowrightpngkey-benefits-from-three-budget-stages-30357 image credit: Good Search

Some people avoid having a budget out of fear it will rule them. No! YOU have far more control by having a budget, than without one. YOU direct how much, when, and where to allocate the money. Just put aside money and point your mind and actions in the direction you desire.

I’ve been called The Budget Queen for years. I recently learned that Margaret King of Philadelphia, PA reins as Queen Budget with a net worth of $850,000.

It began when she was a graduate student. Her budgeting formula? maximize money for investing. She lived within her means. Her life necessities (needs, not wants—things like utilities, food, housing) fit into 57% of her income. She set aside 10% for travel, and 3% to gift family and friends. That’s a total of 70%. The other 30% was for savings, investments, and paying down the principle on her mortgage.

Ten years ago, King paid off her home loan. Each month, her minimum payment was 15% more than what she owed. Once that money was freed up, she put that 15% into investments.

Don’t get caught up on her net worth. Don’t play the “yeah, but—” game. She did it! Awesome!

So can you! You can take budgeting seriously. You can save money. If you really don’t have extra money, don’t start with a goal of paying down 15% over your debt. If you say you don’t have the money, but are spending it elsewhere, then it’s time to look in the mirror and do some soul searching. The only way to manage something is to track it. By watching your spending, you’ll know where it’s going and that means you’ll know how much you have to spend or save.

King’s budget formula is basically the standard 70-10-10-10. Living on 70% of your net. Investing 10% to long term savings. Investing 10% to short term savings. And 10% for fun. This is where I encourage charity, and pull funds for fun from the short term savings. If someone’s in debt, they can use this last 10% for paying debt down. How you break it up doesn’t matter at all. What’s important is that you begin.

Every once in a while, I grab an envelop and for a month I keep track of all my receipts. If I spend money and forget a receipt, I write down the cost and what it was for on the envelop, or piece of paper and put that piece of paper in the envelop. At the end of the month I take a look at where my money’s going. I also check in with myself at a “real” level. Were there a bunch of things I could really do without? It’s not to punish, it’s to cross check desires and actions. If you say you want to save more money, or have more money—but you spend on immediate gratification, it’s not a match. Something has to give.

I am steeped in New Thought (law of attraction, act as if, affirmations, etc.) You cannot pray for money (or anything) and do nothing to draw it to you. Prayer or meditation may be part of that action, but at some point there will be a message for you to “treat and move your feet.” This is a metaphysical saying meaning, pray (sometimes called prayer treatment) and take action. Action begets action. Not action begets wishful thinking.

You can do it! Be the Budget Queen. Be the King within. As within, so without. It’s all about cause and effect. As our beliefs change, so do our experiences.

How to Live the Life You Want


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Image Credit: Good Search  (from movie, what the bleep do we know)

A woman is on a cruise, and sees a man she finds very attractive. He notices her looking at him and starts up a conversation with her. She tells him, “You look like my first husband.” He asks, “How many times have you been married?” She responds, “None so far.”

It’s possible to create wonderful experiences, but it takes held intention. We often just give up, or give in to negative talk or thoughts that are unconscious. Here are some tips for how to get started on the life you want to create.

Remove the Negative:

Worry = torment one’s self (dictionary definition)

  1. Go without TV, news paper, or any negative stories or opinion (even if it means you are not answering your phone with the weekly gloom update call from family, or friend.) Cut off the flow for 14 days, then be conscious when watching/reading/taking.
  2. If you listen to music, listen to that of higher consciousness. If the words are crude, or the song is from hurt or anger, that’s not higher consciousness.
  3. Avoid negative people for 14 days. Say to yourself: “I’m only receptive to receiving the positive energy of life.” Be part of the positive energy, too. What goes out, comes back.

Bring in the Positive:

  1. Get around the right people at least once a week- dinner, class, pals.
  2. Mental image a life without worry. What does it look like? See yourself with friends, laughing, having plenty of extra money, joy, love…
  3. Write the vision down, read it, read positive books, refresh your mindset with movies like The Secret, and What The Bleep Do We Know.

What is dollar-cost averaging?


investing 401 kimage credit: Good Search

What is dollar-cost averaging? Are you someone who wants to invest money, but doesn’t make a move until you’re “too late”—so, you don’t invest at all? If so, then maybe dollar-cost averaging is for you. It’s one option to get you saving.

Let’s say you have $5,000 available for investing. You could either invest it all one time and let it be, or, you could ease into the market over time in equal installments at regular intervals (every month, or every quarter.) The index price may move from $100 to $75 to $55 to $75 to $100. Let’s say you buy at $1,000 installments. You’ll buy more shares when the price is low, and fewer shares when the price is higher. You’ll have an average-cost per share $81. If you put the entire $5,000 in at one time, your average-cost per share is $100.

History favors putting in a lump sum of money because over the (very) long haul, markets have gone up.

However, with dollar-cost averaging, which is basically what you’re doing if you have a 401(k), or other employer sponsored retirement plan, if you put some of the money in at the wrong time, you’re bound to put some of the money in at the right time. If you put a lump sum in at the wrong time—it’s gone. With dollar-cost averaging, you’re buying stocks when they’re low. That goes against everything our emotions tell us to do. Buy more when prices are low, and buy less when prices go up. The advice, “Buy low, sell high” is fine until we’re sitting in the driver seat.

During the strongest markets, dollar-cost averaging came up short with 19.2 percent less wealth than lump-sum investing. During average or weak markets, dollar-cost averaging will cost you 3.6 percent of your holdings. However, the strategy of dollar-cost averaging may help you sleep at night rather than fearing you’ve dumped $5000 into a black hole. It minimizes regret.

Check Your Credit Report


check credit report Image Credit: Good Search

Unless you’ve had reoccurring issues with your credit file, it better serves you to avoid credit monitoring services, which can cost $180 a year. Even though many of  these services are owned by the credit bureaus themselves, they’ll do the same thing you do (for free) —discover the error on your record after it’s there. For free, you can get the same info monitoring services get. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com. You are entitled one free report from each of the three bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you’re applying for credit, a loan, or competing for a job soon, get all three reports now so you can look them over to ensure the information is correct. Otherwise, spread out the three yearly reports, requesting one report every three months: Maybe in January you request one from TransUnion. In May you request one from Equifax and in September, Experian.

Review the on-time payments listed on accounts you know you have. Check for addresses listed as yours, and spelling of your name as well as variations of your name. Most importantly, check for records of debt that aren’t yours, and for inquires for loans you haven’t applied for. This could be a sign of identity theft, or a legitimate mistake, perhaps a mix-up with similar Social Security numbers. Either way, according to Money magazine and SmartCredit.com, this issue is the most difficult to get fixed.

If it’s your issue, call the bureau with the incorrect information immediately. Ask them to put fraud alert on your file. Also, go to Consumer.ftc.gov.

If you find an error on your credit report, let the appropriate bureau know. You can do this online, or by mail. If you have documentation, mail may be best. Make copies, highlight the relevant, correct information, and briefly and clearly explain (type if your writing isn’t really easy to read) what the error and correction are. Make sure you have copies of what you’re sending before you send it certified mail, requesting a return receipt.

Again, check your three credit reports regularly. AnnualCreditReport.com is the official site and is free. If you want your credit score, go to MyFico.com. There is a fee for the score. It’s good once in a while to check in on your score. It’s about $20.

Ground Rules for Vacationing with Friends


splitting cost on vacation image credit: Good Search

Taking a vacation with friends can be fun—or not. Time together is all fun and games until squabbles over costs come into the vacation and memories. It’t hard for some people to talk about money, but it’s often harder to repair friendship over money issues that arise while traveling.

Before you go:

Discuss where you’ll go, who is going, and when. If you want to go to Italy in the Summer, and they want to go to  Ireland in the Fall, make sure no one feels “You always get your way.” If there’s a since of that from the start, suggest another trip, another time, but let it be known you’re going to Italy in the Summer—and you’re going to have a wonderful time!

If everyone decides to move forward from there, begin to put your plans in writing. Everyone going on the trip can get together and share ideas of what their ideal vacation looks like. Are you a four-star hotel type? Or do you like hosteling? If you earn points from hotel stays, and your friend earns them with a different hotel, what do you do? What if you have different frequent flyer airlines? These are the things that need to come up early in the planning stage. Maybe you’re both okay with not earning miles, and grabbing the least expensive flight, but if one of the two of you has enough miles for a trip on an expensive airline, you may not be traveling together.

What’s your vacation budget? Know it before you leave home and stick to it. Talk this stuff through with your friend. If you’re with someone who wants to experience high end restaurants but you plan to buy food from the local grocery shop, eat from food stands, or patronize the local mom and pop restaurant— You’ll want to have that discussion before the trip. Maybe you agree to one expensive night on the town. Get an idea of that means. I had an experience in Lapland, Sweden. A puny scoop of ice cream, a tiny piece of brie cheese, and a small vodka came to $75.00. Are you both on the same budget? Even if you are, it may not impact you the same. Maybe you say to your friend, “If you want to go to that restaurant, are you willing to without me, even if that means going alone?” Or have some days and evenings where you each do your own thing.

Once you have an idea of what the trip looks like, put it in writing. Include (researched) estimates of costs, timelines and budgets. If you can, either each pay for your airfare separately, and each send in half of the accommodations on your own—or try to have only a few bills and split all of them in half. (I don’t like to do this at restaurants, because my bill is usually much lower than others’.) If you’re eating meals at the beach house rental, equally pitch in for food, or totally do it separately. If they drink wine and you don’t, that’s not on your bill. If you insist on drinking soy milk and they can get by with less expensive cow’s milk, it sounds like a menu review may be needed before you get too far.

It’s really important to know your travel partner is saving for the vacation. If you save money and book your trip, and they don’t save, and decide they have to back out, you may find yourself in hot water (and I don’t mean at a spa in Hawaii.) I’ve had this happen to me twice. Once, there was a double occupancy requirement. My friend who hadn’t saved and backed out did pay the difference for me to go alone. Nothing was going to stop me from my trip.

Traveling together is a lesson in budgeting, communication, compromise and friendship. Go! Have fun!

Teachable Money Moments with Your Child


teachable momentsImage credit: Good Search

Chances are, you weren’t taught about money. If that’s the case, hopefully you’re changing that pattern with your kids. No matter how old they are—even if they are at college, or raising kids of their own, it’s not too late to teach them. This of course, comes only if they’re willing to hear you out. There are ways to take advantage of teachable moments. If they’re not willing to listen, back off—but then don’t give in to kiddie tantrums or phone calls for money. I recently read that baby-boomers are far worse off than their parents when it comes to knowing how to save money. Their parents may not have had as much, but they knew how to save—and did. Begin now to teach your kids and your grandkids easy ways that add up.

One teachable moment can be offering choices. “The two things you want are out of your budget. You can get this toy for $1 today, or save and get that toy for $5 another day. For older kids, you can give them an allotted amount for clothing and tell them “This if what I’ll put toward your shoes. If you want the more expensive ones, you need to make up the difference.” If you send your teen to the grocery store for an errand, give them guidance. Send them off with a coupon for what you want, give a price range, “Get bananas if they’re less than .50 lb”, or give them directions to buy what’s on sale, “If bananas are more than .50 lb, see what’s on sale. Check the prices on strawberries.” If they have a cell phone, you can always ask them to call you from the store if they have questions. If retired husbands can do this, so can kids. For the child who moves back home and still spends money. Have them pay rent to you for the purpose of you putting the money in a special account to be given to them when they’re back on their feet, and have enough money put aside to move out.

You get more bees with honey. Praise your kids for things done right. If you can, do this in front of someone else. This includes good behavior and wise money choices. A phrase like “You’ll be so proud of  Joey for how well he handled his $1.00 at the store today” is a better reinforcement than, “You’ll never guess who behaved at the store today!” Make sure your praise is genuine and not sarcasm, or a left-handed compliment.

Eat before you go shopping. I remember as a kid and into my teens going shopping with my mom. If it was around lunchtime, we’d always eat at home before heading out. Two reasons: To save money. To keep blood sugars and therefore emotions in tact. As I got older, I’d insist I wasn’t hungry, and that I’d be fine. We’d pull into a parking lot and sure enough, I was hungry! I wasn’t interested in eating out, I just had a high metabolism, and if I hadn’t recently eaten, hunger pangs and crankiness set in. Like magic, my mom would pull a cut apple or some other form of portable sustenance from her purse. As an adult, I know I can go from not hungry to head-spinning hunger. If I’m headed out the door, I’ll bring food with me. A banana, a cut apple, some crackers, cuties or a sandwich for mid-trip. If you tire of a cranky child, try staying a jump ahead, offer a snack at home or in the car on the way to your errands.

Everyone will be better off.