Monday, December 31, 2007

Financial Resolutions

Financial Resolutions by Gary Foreman
Simple steps to a brighter financial future

This is the time of year when many people take stock of themselves and their future. So alongside your plan for a trimmer waistline, we'd like to suggest some financial
resolutions for the new year.

Resolve to save at least $1 each day. It doesn't seem like much, but it does add up faster than you might think. You've probably seen the numbers before. Let's assume that you earned 10% per year on your savings. That's the long-term average for the stock market.

At the end of 10 years, you'll have nearly $5,000. After 20 years, you will have accumulated over $20,900. If you start at age 30 and keep it up until you're 65, your measly $1 a day will have grown to $99,000!

So how will you save $1 a day? How about bringing soda to work instead of hitting the vending machines at break time? Or skip the "supersize" at lunch. If you can't think of something, ask your friends or family for their ideas.

Maybe you'd rather do the whole week at one time. How about staying in for lunch one day a week? Carpool twice a week with a neighbor? You get the idea. Anything that'll help you save $1 a day or $365 a year will work. Certainly there's somewhere in your expenses that can be squeezed that much.

Resolve that your credit card debt will not increase in any month this year. A comic once said that the first key to getting out of a hole is to quit digging. It may not be funny, but it is true.

To keep your card balances from increasing, you'll need to pay off any new charges you make each month and also pay any interest caused by your old balance. For some people that will be tough. They see no connection between using a credit card
and paying it off. They think that paying the minimum each month is a major victory. It isn't.

Keeping this resolution will require you to keep track of your credit card spending and to stop spending when you run out of money.

Roughly one third of all credit card users carry a zero balance. While you might not be able to achieve that goal this year (wouldn't it be nice if you could!), you can manage to keep your financial hole from getting any deeper.

The next resolution will help you achieve the last one. Resolve to consider alternatives before making any purchase of $100 or more. Over the last 30 years, the size of the average home has grown by 50%. And, self-storage locations are a fixture in most towns. The reason for this is simple. We buy too much stuff and then have to store it.

The concept is simple. Before making any major purchase wait a couple of days. Use the time to think about ways you could get the benefit without spending the money.

Do you really need a new fertilizer spreader? Couldn't you borrow one from your next door neighbor? Rent one? Or even buy one used?

Often going to the store and pulling out the plastic is not the best way to achieve your goal. But you'll never know unless you think about alternatives first.

Resolve to have a proper will and estate plan. No one likes to think about their death. But, everyone should legally prepare for it even if you're young, single and don't have any children. If the unexpected happens, someone will need to step in and make decisions about your funeral and take care of closing out checking accounts, IRAs and selling your car and other possessions.

Everyone should have a will. And, many will want to have a "living will" to state their preference on being kept alive using life support equipment. It's wise to also have a plan in place in case you're incapacitated.

These documents aren't as expensive as you might think. And, in most cases, they'll work fine for many years. Take the time this year to put the proper legal papers in place in case something happens. Your loved ones will already be dealing with grief. Don't make them deal with legal complexities, too.

Finally, resolve to learn one new money-saving tip each month this year and put it into practice. There are literally thousands of ways to save money. You really don't have to look very hard or very far to find good ideas. It's simply a matter of making up your mind that saving money is important to you and you're willing to put forth a little effort to accomplish your goal.

Try one new money-saving idea each month. You might just find that you end the year in much better shape than you entered it. Isn't that what resolutions are all about?

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who currently edits The Dollar website and newsletters. You'll find hundreds of articles to stretch your day and your dollar. Visit today!

Take the Next Step:
Decide today to try one new money-saving idea each month in the coming year. Hopefully, next year at this time, you'll look back and find that you're in much better financial shape.

Note from Lucy: I know that the best way to get yourself out of debt is to make a committment to do it. Start small and work your way up as you dicipline yourself to do it. Last year my goal was not to charge anything that I could not pay off at the end of the month. I've kept that goal and plan to do it again this year. They only thing that I charged that I could not pay off immediatelty was my freezer and dishwasher. Home Depot offered a one year no interest/no payment deal. I knew that I could get things payed off during that time period and went with it. By paying it off before the due date I will not have to pay any interest. If I don't pay it off before then, I will have to pay accumulated interest at 21 percent. I WILL have it paid off before the year period. Always read the fine print.

Have a Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

It’s Quiet Now……

The house is quite with the grandkids and TF all snuggled in their beds. Jen, Justin and William are out for a quite night at a local bar…….not exactly what I was expecting but it will have to do……The two Christmas trees are all aglow and a bell choir is playing on TV. The stockings are now hung at the foot of the stairs and I am trying to just get a quite moment before I fall off into lala land.

I wonder what it was like all those years ago when Mary and Joseph where off in a strange land and about to have a baby any minute. They were sent to a stable, the only place available in town at the moment. The famous “star” shown over head. Those familiar with the words of the scriptures knew that something grand was about to happen, the savior of the world was about to be born. Shepard’s noticed the star as they watched their flocks by night, it must have been an awesome sight. Wise men and three kings followed the star till they found the Christ child, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. They brought gifts to the new born king. As we open our gifts this Christmas morning, lets remember what we are celebrating and enjoy the day with our families.

Merry Christmas to one and all, and to all a good night!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What a busy time of year……

Yes, we are all busy with life and the Christmas/holiday season…..I’ve been busy making our traditional gingerbread cookies that we send out in the packages to TF’s family. I have already made four batches and my husband wants me to make two more batches. As well as cookies, I have made peanut clusters, pretzels dipped in white almond bark, and Bonnie’s favorite – fudge. I will probably make some chocolate chip cookies before the season is over. Besides mailing out cookies to TF’s family, we make up about twenty plates of goodies to hand out to neighbors, friends and business acquaintances. When I was younger, I used to make home made wheat bread too. We would give that and a can of beef stew to very special friends.

On top of that, I had put together an order of herbs and spices that took some time to work up. We usually do this right before Thanksgiving but this year we didn’t have enough ordered to get our discount, which covers the shipping. Penny and I decided to beat the bushes and rummage up a few more orders so that we could hit our goal of $ 500.00. When the second date came and the flurry of orders came in we had just under $700.00, who would have guessed? The order came in a week ago and it took me a whole morning to sort and package everything. I had packages lining two walls in the dining room. Most of them are gone but I should be able to deliver the last of them tonight at our church Christmas party.

Woah!!! The party starts in about an hour and a half from now. I signed up to bring a cranberry/pineapple jello salad for the dinner and I made that this morning. I will also take some non perishable food items and candy jars for our yearly food drive. We will have a nice Christmas dinner, a special program and a visit from Santa. I invited my daughter to come and bring the kids so that they can see Santa and sit on his lap….Last year they loved seeing Santa.

Next week I plan to finish my shopping, wrap gifts and make two pair of pajamas for my granddaughter for Christmas. I am sure there will be plenty of other things to do in between, but that is the goal.

On a different note: Bonnie came back from Florida disappointed that the space shuttle did NOT lift off. She realllllly wanted to see it happen, but the fuel sensors on the external fuel tanks had a different idea. She came home just in time to take her finals and then sleep for a full day. Tomorrow she will head out to do some “independent” contractor work for the company she worked for before she started back to school. She will be working for four weeks and get home just in time to start her next semester of school. The money she makes will pay for that semesters tuition and books. On a sad note, she will be spending Christmas on the road……..Oh Well!!! Actually, we are grateful that she was able to get the work.

Have a great week everyone……..

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mary Did You Know

TF posted A Reason For The Season over on his blog earlier today along with a link to a beautiful version of Mary Did You Know. While listening to several other versions of Mary Did You Know, we found one featuring the original lyrist and original music composer together in a performance. Take a few minutes to get out your hankies and enjoy this modern day Christmas Classic. Here are Mark Lowery and Buddy Greene.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Best Way to Prepare Garlic

Garlic lovers rejoice. Here's some good news for your heart and your breath.

Lightly cooking garlic to help soften the smell won't rob it of those heart-protective compounds known as thiosulfinates. So you can cut back on the mints and start feeling better about baking, boiling, or sauteing it. Just don't microwave it. Wondering why?

Get a Crush on Garlic
When researchers set out to see how various preparation methods affected garlic's ability to break up clusters of artery-clogging platelets in the bloodstream, they tried boiling, baking, and microwaving both crushed and uncrushed garlic cloves. Lightly cooked crushed garlic aced the test -- as long as it wasn't cooked in the microwave. This cooking method sapped the garlic of all its good-for-you attributes. No matter how you serve it up, always crush garlic first. Crushing the cloves is what releases the beneficial thiosulfinates in the first place.

Sweet Garlic Dishes
Share this great garlic news with folks at your next holiday gathering, and let them sample its heart-healthy powers by bringing some Garlic and White Bean Dip. Also, try this Garlic Lover's Rub on your favorite meat or veggie.

Read this article for pointers on how to prepare produce so it packs the most powerful nutritional punch.
RealAge Benefit: Training your taste buds to love foods that thwart aging can make your RealAge at least 3 years younger. TRY IT!

Roasted garlic is delicious and it's super easy to bake. Experiment with this Tuscan Jumbo Garlic Baker, which looks and cooks great. Each clove emerges mellow and nutty, ready to add to mashed potatoes or spread on crusty whole-wheat bread. RealAge Editor's Holiday Gift Pick!

I got this information from a RealAge newsletter that comes to my email box. I found it very interesting, especially since I love eating recipes with garlic. Garlic is such a healthy food to eat and it is wonderful in killing germs and bacteria. I gave my husband garlic capsules after he came home from the hospital to help him kill off any bacteria he picked up after taking so many antibiotics. Click on the recipes above and also the article on how to prepare produce so it packs the most powerful nutritional punch. I found it very interesting.

What’s Lucy been doing lately? I’ve been busy working on our annual herb and spice order. Once a year our church group goes together to order herbs and spices. This year we are a little later than usual in ordering but it is done and the spices were shipped today and should be here by next Friday. Take a look at this website to see what we can order?

Tomorrow I will be ordering nuts, seeds and dry fruits and here is there website. If you get an order of 20 pounds or more, you get free shipping. Walnuts, almonds and pecans are cheaper at Sam’s Club, but everything else is reasonably priced. If you are interested you could get together with a couple of friends and easily put together a 20 pound order and get your free shipping. I was recommended this site by a very good friend of mine who has ordered from them before and says that their products are very good.

Thanksgiving is over and Christmas will be here before you know it. Today I made my ginger bread dough for my annual cookie baking. TF’s family loves this special recipe. If you are interested in the recipe, take a look here. I need to get to work on the P.J.s that I will be making for my granddaughter for Christmas. I haven’t done much sewing in the last couple of years but I just had to do this for my little princess. Our ladies group at church is working on doing a service project for our local assistance ministries. We are doing a food drive and making candy jars. I am working on a flyer, that I can put out in our neighborhood, to gather non perishable food and Christmas candy. This is going to be a very busy Christmas season for me and I look forward to it.

On a special note: My daughter Bonnie is going to Florida this Wednesday to watch the Space shuttle launch. An opening came up between classes and her finals that will allow her to go. She will be able to stay at her grandmothers while she is there. Bonnie has been wanting to go watch an actual flight for a long time and this will probably be her only opportunity for a while. I know she will have a great time. Keep your fingers crossed that the flight doesn’t get cancelled……