Category Archives: Money

Rethink Holiday Giving

stresfree               Save Money & Create Quality Time

Oh yes, they are coming fast and we all know that. Christmas decorations are up, the Christmas music is playing, and Thanksgiving hasn’t yet arrived! So goes the retail push.

If we take a step back from this, we’ll realize there are so many ways we can give mindfully during this season that can keep us away from all the frantic stress that is created, Internet shopping included, and therefore make time for what’s truly important to us.

Christmas Past:

What are your favorite memories of holidays gone by? What are you not so fond of?

Some of my favorite memories include spending time with family and friends over some coffee or tea with homemade cookies, baking, making Christmas wreaths and centerpieces from natural materials that we’ve collected which has been a tradition since I was a kid, and the sweater my grandmother always knitted for us that we received on Christmas Eve.

There are two things I have never been fond of. The first is the shopping whirlwind that brings me inside stores with goods strewn everywhere, long lines, and parking that’s not easy to find. This brings out the beastly side of me. I have also never cared for the mounds of Christmas wrap that is left to pick up after all the presents are opened only to be abandoned weeks or months later, not to mention the time spent putting it all together!

Christmas Present:

Gift giving for my family has become more mindful and focused on what is important to us which is spending time with people in our lives and doing some fun things together. We adjusted our giving rituals when I was a stay at home mom which had so many benefits they became our tradition. I was able to make some beautiful quilted Christmas trees skirts and table runners that are still used by those who received them.
Not so long ago I received homemade frozen cookie dough from a neighbor who was out of work. I put it in my freezer and took it out to bake later on during the winter season. This was a nice treat because I didn’t have to put it together.

Maybe you have a talent to create some beautiful gifts!

Supporting local businesses and organizations are important in the gift giving process for us as well. This feels good because there’s a connection behind the gift to the recipient and the locals are benefiting. I love buying homemade relishes, jams, and honey at the farm stands and farmers markets before they close to include in gourmet food baskets. Those who receive these baskets can enjoy the taste of summer during the winter without dyes and toxic preservatives.

Stay out of debt:
When we buy for our two kids they receive one thing that they really want and then we fill their stocking with both fun and practical gifts. This keeps us in check so we’re not overdoing it and heading into debt for one day out of the year.

We have also always established savings accounts for them that grandparents and family members contribute to. We have been able to use these accounts to pay for college tuition thereby avoiding big loans. This is one gift that keeps on giving!

For other members of the family, we always consider where they are in their lives, what is local to them, what their interests are, and go from there. Yes, we do establish reasonable spending limits. If there’s a savings account for nieces and nephews, we contribute to that.

If you have a large family, consider picking names out of a hat and buy for that individual. You will be able to put your money toward something more significant and meaningful and avoid a lot of running around.

Mindful Gift Giving Ideas for Christmas Present & Future :
• Grab some fresh condiments, jellies, and honey at the farms stands before they close to include in baskets.
• Is there something you would like to make for someone?
• Class passes for Yoga, Pilates, and Spin studios for the fitness buff in your house.
• Memberships to local botanical gardens or museums – this keeps on giving year round to the recipient and helps with sustainability of the organization.
• Anyone want to learn photography or how to speak a language? How about a class at a   nearby Adult Learning Center?
• Offer to have extended family over after the holidays for a brunch or game night with snacks.
• For elderly members of the family, make a donation to their charity of choice on their behalf.
• Contribute to a savings account for a young family member.
• For that teacher on the list, buy something for the classroom.

Many of these ideas will save you time and energy from being out in stores and the wrapping frenzy that follows. You will be able to create quality time to connect with family and friends which is the essence of the holidays and so much in need.

Share some memories and gift giving ideas have you created?

Remember that Saturday November 29 is Small Business Saturday!
A great opportunity to support local artists, farmers, business owners, and non-profits

The Piggy Bank Re-Imagined

     Creating Abundance

Piggy Bank

I lose count of the times I’ve heard people say how they really want to save money. And you know I really think that if you start off even with the smallest amount you will get into the habit of saving and feel incented to do more when you begin to see how something small amounts to something bigger pretty quickly.

So How About This
Get a jar or vase that you’re not using and make this your “Piggy Bank” or “Jar of Abundance,” or whatever creative name you want to give it. Put a label on it and set it somewhere visible. Now empty some change into it that you have sitting in your wallet. Make it your intention to empty any spare change you have every day into your new piggy bank and watch how quickly it accumulates, even overflows. When it’s full, roll the money and bring it to the bank and deposit it into a savings account. Keep doing this until you have a good chunk of money in the account, then decide how you want to use it. I realize that a savings account at your average bank doesn’t really offer an interest rate that will allow your savings to grow. However, it gets you in the habit of accumulating money for something other than daily use.

I’ve always had a Piggy Bank and still to this day I empty the change from my wallet into it weekly. I can’t believe how quickly it fills up and I’m off to the bank with another deposit. This seems silly at my age to still be doing this but it’s been my tradition to use the Piggy Bank Savings for spending money when I go on trips. As a young child I would break into the Piggy Bank when we went on vacations so I could have my own spending money to buy souvenirs. As an adult I continue this tradition with my family.  We use the Piggy Bank Savings for spending money on meals, activities, and small gifts when we go on trips.

Really, it doesn’t matter what you save it for, it matters that you save. You may want to buy a new outfit, have a spa day, get your car detailed, or maybe just plain old get in the habit of creating some type of savings for yourself. I know someone who accumulated enough from their Piggy Bank savings to start a Roth IRA. Not bad!

Getting used to setting aside money in small amounts at a time for a bigger purpose is very satisfying indeed and empowering because you eliminate the struggle.

Pretty simple isn’t it?  So what are you waiting for?                    
I’m sure you have a jar and some spare change to get started!       

 

A Plan for Sanity & Abundance

The Budget Evolved!

The Budget
As a kid growing up in the 70’s, I remember my parents talking over the “household” budget. Then there were the white envelopes. Do you remember this or something similar? In my house the envelopes would be carefully labeled by household category with money tucked inside for the month and then stowed away in a safe spot for when they were needed.

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Empty Envelopes  & feelings of lack
When the money was all used up, the envelopes were empty. I remember the feeling of lack as a result of this system, particularly the phrase “we can’t afford it,” that would follow. Growing up with this experience has left a negative imprint about the fundamentals of money management, especially budgeting.

The Plan – Creates Sanity
The good news is that we’ve learned from this system and somewhere between then and now  the budget evolved into a plan. The plan has many advantages to money management for individuals, couples, and business owners.

Considers your short and long term goals and dreams and becomes a pathway to  them.
Focuses on your unique spending needs, age, and core values.
Allows you to review, assess, and adjust
Gives visibility to spending behaviors and leaks in spending

The Feeling of Abundance
At the end of a month there are no empty envelopes or feeling of lack, only a vehicle to review and assess how your money was spent. You get to evaluate whether you were able to save and spend in such a way to meet your goals, where and how your money was spent giving visibility to leaks in your spending which take you away from your goals. It shows you which categories you tend to overspend and which categories you might neglect. For example maybe you’re spending too much on eating out and would like to be able to get a massage once or twice a year. The plan and review process will make this visible and then you can adjust your spending in the eating out category so that you can save for that massage.
As you become clear about where your money goes you will be able to make spending choices that support your goals more easily. By continuing the process of comparing your plan to your actual spending you will begin to make better spending  decisions overall, reduce clutter, and feed your dreams.

The plan is a great tool for managing money around goals. It simply brings sanity into the process and gives the feeling of abundance.

Fast, Fresh, Fabulous – A Food Plan That Works !

An Evolved PBJ
An Evolved PBJ

For nights on the run

I love to cook!  It’s creative, therapeutic, and it just brings people together.  The Summer harvest is a great inspiration for putting together simple, healthy, and creative meals without taking up oodles of time.  There’s so much fresh produce to be found between farm stands and farmer’s markets.  Farmer’s Markets have cropped up in cities and along highway rest stops too! This is all such good news because we all know that eating locally grown produce is good for our health and our economy.

In my younger working mom days, my goal was to prepare healthy meals that took under an hour to prepare for the nights we were home.   The challenge was the nights when we were on the run to those dinner hour activities.

Plan Ahead, Save, & Eat Healthy!
I made sure that there were plenty of healthy foods available that pull together quickly.  The average peanut butter and jelly and grilled cheese sandwich took on quite an evolution.  Heading to some of the fast food joints not only gets expensive but the meals aren’t exactly the healthiest especially considering you’re dropping kids off to play sports, dance, music, or other activity.  A healthier more creative approach to a fast meal was a better alternative for us.

6 tips for Fast, Fresh, & Fabulous on the run meals!
Cut back on those trips to the fast food places, save money, provide healthy meals, and support your local farmers while in season.

Plan.  Look at the week ahead, what nights will you need “fast foods?”
The peanut butter and jelly and grilled cheese sandwich are quick and easy to prepare served with a side of cut up vegetables, or quickly pickled seasonal vegetables, and fresh fruit in season.

Be creative.  Up the ante on the PBJ and try a variety of nut butters in place of peanut butter or experiment with a pepper jelly instead of fruit jelly.

The same is true for the grilled cheese sandwich.  Try combining different cheeses with sliced fruit or a fruit spread like pumpkin butter.  Yum! You’ll be expanding taste pallets.

Stock your kitchen with healthy essentials to create quick  fun meals and snacks.  Here are some ideas:
Butters – sunflower, almond, fruit butters, peanut butter, unsweetened applesauce
Jelly – pepper and fruit
Locally grown honey
Condiments – Salsa, Relish, Pickles, Salad Dressings, Roasted Red Peppers
Oils & Vinegars- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sun or Safflower Oil, Coconut Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar
Canned Beans  – I use Eden organic or Westbrea Naturals,  Refried Beans – Bearito’s
Dried fruits & nuts
Basmati Rice & Pastas
Diced tomatoes & some tomato soup

Make your food list with your weekly meal plan.  Be sure to include stock items.  Add your favorites to this list.   You will enjoy more time with less visits to the grocery store while saving money on the fast food and take out bills.   You’ll feel better too!

Shop at your local farmers market or farm stand for fresh in season vegies, fruit, and other homemade treats such as jelly’s, honey, relish, & pickles.  The good news about buying condiments at the farm stands?   A healthy ingredient list with no high fructose corn syrups, dyes, and other toxic chemicals.   I stock my kitchen with farmer’s market condiments every year before they close.

Prepare ahead what you can with help from your kids.  Take an hour or so on a Sunday to do some prepping.  Try some quick pickled tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers.  These are delicious treats that accompany any meal.  This can be a fun way to connect.  Turn on some music and have some lively conversations.
They’ll become the greatest “Fast, Fresh, Fabulous” chefs ever!

 

 

 

“Stretched Thin?” Leave it to Saran Wrap!

4 Reasons for the “Stretched Thin” MO:

Too much debt: large mortgage, big car payments, large credit card balances, and other loans all at once. This stretches you thin with no room to save despite making a great salary.

Impulsive Spending can continually leak money like a civ from your bank account leaving you to wonder, where did it all go?

No savings to go to for large unanticipated expenses so more debt piles up on credit cards. Remember credit cards are not meant for long term loans but to float money from one month to the next. If you’re unable to pay back what you’re charging in one month the next time you get your bill, then think twice about using the credit card. If you have high balances to begin with, perhaps it’s time to stop using the cards and begin digging yourself out of the hole.

Disconnect –Lack of prioritizing, planning or true awareness of where money is spent.

Leave  the “Stretched Thin” MO in just 10 minutes a day!   Here’s How

Prioritize by defining goals. These will most likely include short term such as preparing for college or buying a home in the near future to saving for retirement and what you want your life to look like in ten years or more. Prioritize your goals in order of their importance.

Plan to spend and save around the goals you’ve set. Take a look at the all the areas of your life including home, car, medical, holidays, and others to determine whether there will be any large expenses to anticipate.

Become aware of where you spend your money. When you do this you’re not just staying connected to where your money is being spent, but you’ll be able to understand if it’s truly oriented toward your priorities and goals. I refer to this as taking control and tending to your wealth.

Email me at donna@pogfrc.com for your 2014 Holiday Planner. Yes it’s only 4 months away!

 

Hopes & Dreams !

We all have them!

What are yours?   A vacation, a trip to Europe, a new home, an early retirement, a change of career, a move. Maybe you want to start your own business or write a book. Have you taken some time to reflect and write them down?

Did you ever notice that when you put an intention out there, the people and situations begin to fall into place to bring it to fruition?

That’s why I encourage you to find a way to set the intention for your dreams.  It won’t take long because we all have them. Maybe you would rather make a vision board with pictures and sayings that capture where you want to go and what you want to do.

My daughter and I created our vision boards recently and it was so breathtaking to see our dreams right in front of our eyes. Whatever your choice is create it, look at it, and read it out loud daily. Talk about your dreams to your partner or spouse, your children, and supportive friends and family. This will keep you invested in your dreams so you will be empowered  to make decisions that fuel them with time, energy, and money until they become a reality.

As a kid one of my dreams was to own a business, a dream that never went away but always persisted. It was put on a back burner while I was raising children. During these years, I think about the money I spent on stuff that didn’t fuel my dream.

When I look back it seems like I spent my 20’s and 30’s acquiring frivolous stuff that no sooner cluttered my closet, attic, and basement to getting rid of it in my 40’s. The decluttering allowed me to refocus and make a vision and plan for my future desire to have a small business. Creating my vision got me clear on my path and I began to spend less time and money on the frivolous stuff that once cluttered my past.  My plan allowed me to  take action by setting and keeping to the priorities that would bring my dream to fruition.

Even though life had its twists and turns,  I got back on track and kept taking strides toward my dream by learning what I needed to, saving money toward it, and creating a supportive network.   I made plenty of mistakes trying to get here, but as I reflect back on them, I realize that I  learned quite a bit which helped me to establish a strong foundation for myself. Here I am a few years later than my projected time, but for me it’s the perfect time.

I have clients who are now beginning to feel good about the direction their lives are headed toward. They are taking responsibility for their dreams by making a plan, investing time, energy, and money toward their plan, and uncluttering their past. It doesn’t matter where you are in life.  What’s important is that you acknowledge your dreams and make them happen inch by inch!

A wise person once said “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.”

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Know Where Your Money Goes?

Amalfi

Slipping Through My Fingers Like Water

Until recently I used to take $100 a week out of our checking account for various spending incidentals that would come up;  coffee out, lunch out, take out for dinner, and whatever else.   After a few days, I would reach into my wallet and find only $20 left if I was lucky. Where did it all go so quickly?

I began to take a good look at where I was spending all of my hard earned money and the results were less than pleasant. Yes, I was tossing it away on one to many lunches out, coffee and breakfast out, clothes that I didn’t need, and on and on. I realized  that  only about $40 a week was going toward things I really needed. This means I was spending $60 over what was truly necessary. So I multiplied the $60 times 52 weeks and found that I was tossing a whopping $3,120 to meaningless stuff.

And Then A Dream Vacation Became a Reality!

It occurred to me that my husband and I were looking forward to taking a  trip to Italy for an upcoming wedding anniversary. I quickly realized that if I withdrew only the amount of money that was necessary for the week, I could save the remainder. I was able to save for 2 flights to Italy in a year! Tracking and planning helped me see the reality of what was going on and I was able to make a much better decision about how I was  using my money!   Toward our first visit to Italy’s Amalfi Coast; our dream!

Better Planning to Reach Our Goals!

To this day, my husband and I plan for the amount of money we withdraw from our checking account each week and it’s very realistic to what we need for those incidentals where we prefer to spend cash. We  constantly check in with each other to see what’s coming up and just take what we need. It’s very empowering to make wise money choices that align with our goals, no matter how small.  I encourage you to try!

Vacations!

Vacations & Staycations

Summer is on the horizon and so are thoughts of taking time off for some type of vacation.
The thought of taking vacations for some is dual sided. On one hand you know it will feel good to take the time, on the other hand you may think you don’t have the money or it’s just hard to find the right time to break away.

However when we step off the treadmill from the daily grind we restore our reservoir of creativity, rest, and perspective which are very essential to our well being and quality of life. The word is “America runs on Dunkin.” I say America runs on stress.

Vacations have taken on a different meaning since our economy changed a number of years ago. Staycations are now fashionable. They simplify the vacation in many ways by taking the pressure off of having to go somewhere for a length of time and spending money on rent, travel, food, etc. There are several ways to approach this so you take the time off you need and feel renewed afterwards without breaking the bank.

Here are some ways to help you reach your vacation/staycation dreams.
Set aside the time on your calendar then make plans for how you would like to spend your time. For example some day trips mixed in with days at home relaxing with a book or a visit to the playground with the kids. Maybe some long weekends work best for your schedule. It’s worth getting the time in however it works best for you.

Brainstorm what you would like to do and where you want to go. We used to have lively family meetings at dinner doing this. Keep the cost at little to nothing and plan day trips such as hiking or a day at the beach with a backpack lunch, drinks, and snacks. Perhaps you can mix it in with a trip to Six Flags.

Research the places you want to go to determine hours, days of admission and costs associated.

Allocate the money aside when you decide what to do and the costs associated so that you avoid spending more than you want or more than you should.

Self-employed? When you’re away, there’s no one to tend to business, I get it. Time off is not the same for you as it is for the traditional employee. It’s important for you to plan for your vacation early in your year so you can set money aside and also prepare for it mentally.  There may be certain times during the year when your business is a bit slower than others which could be the right time for you to escape.

 

 

Credit Card Use & Your Credit Score – Five Things You Need To Be Aware Of

 

Strategies for Managing Credit Card Use

There’s no doubt about it, credit cards certainly come in handy when we’re out shopping and making purchases in excess of the cash that most of us carry in our wallet. It’s also tempting when you walk into a store and make a purchase to be persuaded into opening a credit card to receive 20% off current and future purchases. Here are five tried and true strategies for managing credit card use that directly affects your credit score. Keep these in mind when you’re being served a situation that is too good to refuse, or so you think.

Apply for and open new credit cards only when necessary.  Remember you are responsible for managing and paying the balances on them. Opening several credit cards that you don’t need could actually lower your credit score.
Credit card debt should always be paid off.  Keep the balances low and within your means to pay off each month. High unpaid balances put a credit score at risk.  You will also be taking on the interest payments that go along with the unpaid portion of a balance that gets carried from month to month.  These interest rates are pretty high and it’s best to keep this money in your own back pocket
Set up payment reminders especially if you are using several credit cards. This ensures that the bills get paid on time which will keep your credit score healthy.
Check your credit score at least once a year.  Focus on the accuracy of the information and payment history. If there’s something that looks incorrect this is the time to investigate and correct.
Missed payments? Get back on track by calling the credit card company and making a payment plan. This goes on your credit score but as time passes it will improve.

http://www.myfico.com/crediteducation/whatsinyourscore.aspx

 

5 Tips for creating your Pot of Gold Anytime

5-tips-finanical-stability

1. Pay Yourself First

It doesn’t matter how much.  Each week put a certain amount aside into a savings account when you get paid. We all have to start somewhere and it’s ok to start small.  As your earnings grow so will your savings.  Good habits form early.

2. Pack your own lunch & make your own coffee

Do this before heading off to work.  This saves a bunch and you can put the money you don’t spend here to that Pay Yourself First savings program.  Let coffee and lunch out be an occasional treat!

3. Manage the Plastic

Spend only what you are able to pay off each month.  Interest and finance charges on unpaid balances add up quickly and paying them is like tossing money to the wind.  Avoid having to many of them to minimize the amount you pay in annual fees.

4. Take good care of your health

Unplug and go outside for a nice refreshing walk.  A strange thing to say for financial wellness tips.  I remember my mother always said  ”Health is Wealth.”  She proved right on this one.  Exercise, eating well, a good night’s rest, and managing stress keep you feeling great and able to be productive in your daily life.  It also minimizes your out of pocket costs and sick time.   Good health is priceless!

5. Live a Niche Below

Are you tempted to go top of the line when you’re apartment hunting, house hunting, or car shopping?
Be sure you always have more money coming in than going out each month. This will ensure that you’ll always have some left over to put aside for vacations, home improvements, car repairs, etc. Large unanticipated expenses can sink us into debt we don’t need to take on. Remember as your income grows so will your ability to get to those “top of the line” purchases whatever that means for you.