Raising a Child on the Cheap

February 4th, 2016 | Posted by admin in Saving & Spending - (0 Comments)

Your children are the loves of your life. Of course they are. They are the best things to happen to you, and you would do anything for them. And honestly, you have no significant complaints about them…but they are expensive. Really expensive. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported in 2014 that one average child from birth to eighteen years of age costs over $245,000. What if you have two? Three?! FOUR?! The cost can be astronomically high. That is why we are recommending these tips and tricks to cut back the spending and still give your little cherubs everything they would like:

Teaching Them Need vs. Want

This is a tip that adults struggle with to this day. Sometimes even more than kids do. That is why it is a lesson to teach them as early as possible so it will be retained in them throughout adulthood. You WANT that Star Wars toy, but you NEED toilet paper, and the budget we have can only pay for one of these items.

Buying Items Secondhand

If your children have never worn it, it’s new to them. That is the mindset to have when you are buying secondhand clothes. It only takes one summer for your kid to shoot up a clothing size so there is no need to spend a lot on clothing. Sadly, your kids grow up too fast. If only we could keep them as children a while longer. You can even ask your friends to take the clothes that their kids no longer can wear. Sharing is caring.

Planning your Meals Ahead of Time

If you hastily make a meal an hour before dinnertime every day of the week, you are wasting time, groceries, money and your patience. If you plan your dinners for the week out when you go grocery shopping, there will be no extra food that eventually gets thrown out, no money ill spent on the thrown out food, and seven days of weekly stress relieved.

Buying In Bulk

Have a particularly large family? Start buying your food and home goods in bulk. It will cut pay on all the overpriced shopping. It would also be beneficial to start shopping for groceries only for yourself.  When you bring your children to come grocery shopping with you, they will try to load up your carriage with expensive, unneeded goods. Going by yourself easily minimizes the chances of carriage overload, and keeps yourself to only buying the necessary groceries needed.

Saving For College NOW

Colleges are not becoming any cheaper. Many are even becoming MORE expensive. Starting to save, or even creating a bond for them now, will make the tuition prices a little less intimidating, school loan payments a little less daunting, and there is a wider amount of school options to apply to.

Get Creative with Their Toys

When your children finish with their box of cereal, don’t just throw the box away! Turn it into a mask. Make it into a puppet, do anything with it! Kids are bursting at the seams with imagination and creativity so do them a favor and let them harness it! It also helps you save money on toys as well…

Keep On Top Of Their Health

Your kids are going to get sick. And they will get sick often. We all get sick of course, but kid germs always seem to be the most prominent germs of all. Hospital bills are already a nightmare as is, the last thing you need is a constant barrage of them. Making sure your kids are consistently in tip top shape will nix the unnecessary trips to the doctors.

Go To Kids Eat For Free Nights

See what restaurants around you have nights where kids eat for free. When there, you and your spouse can split a meal together. If you are one that ends up taking their meal home with them when they go to eat, you may as well split one and save yourself from the unneeded leftovers.

Matinee Movies

Movies can be far too expensive for a large family. The ticket prices are high, the cost of 3D glasses are a pain in the rear, and it costs about three weeks salary to pay for a small popcorn. Going to matinees before 5pm, though, actually make some fun family entertainment reasonable and bearable.

Start Saving For the Next Family Member

If you are planning to ever have a new addition to your family, you better start saving up now. It’s never too early!

For more information on how to raise your kids on a budget, you can read the full Cheapism article.

~Bobby

What You Shouldn’t Buy Secondhand

January 28th, 2016 | Posted by admin in Auto | Smart Spending - (0 Comments)

Going “secondhand shopping” is one of the best and most economical ways of saving your money. This form of thrifty shopping provides you with items you need, or even want, without spending a whole heck of a lot. We strongly recommend starting or continuing secondhand shopping for most items. Then there are the few items you shouldn’t be stingy about. For the sake of your safety and your health, here are the items you should never buy secondhand:

Car Seats

A perfectly beautiful looking car on the exterior could have a dangerous gas leak that you wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. The case is just the same with the car seat. A long used car becomes unsafe with age, and car seats are no exception. There will be inner wear and tears that will not worth the inexpensive price. The older the car seat, the less likely it will still be able to meet modern safety standards as well.

Mattresses & Pillows

For those unfamiliar with the repellent fact about mattresses, they are impossible to clean completely. No matter how hard you try. Unless you want to sleep on a cushion carrying a stranger’s dead skin and permanently stained with their bodily fluids, not to mention all the potential dust mites and bed bugs, a mattress you always want brand spanking new.

Cushioned Furniture

Not unlike the same problems that mattress have, cushioned, or even upholstered, furniture could look perfectly adequate exteriorly to purchase and yet have more ware in the inside than what was expected. The years and years of pervious sitters could leave the cushion too broken down or dirty for more reuse and there is still the possibility of a bug infestation inside.

Underwear & Socks

These ones go without saying. Any garments that cover a person’s most private areas should stick to that person and that person alone. Both socks and underwear can be bought in bulk at a reasonably cheap price at any local retail company near you. Please. Buy all your underwear new. Please.

Footwear

Not just socks should be bought new. Shoes too. Everybody’s feet are different. Everybody has their own way of walking, and everybody breaks in their shoes differently. No used shoe is going to form to your feet the way a shoe should, so it’s important to your health and comfort to buy your footwear new and impressionable.

Helmets

Let’s move from the feet up to the head. When you are on a bike or motorcycle, do you wear a helmet? If not, then you should. If you do, do you have more than one? You should. Helmets are stable enough to take in the impact of one crash and then never to be used again. They completely useless after one impact. Buying a used helmet comes with the concern that you are spending money for unsafe, unusable junk. Stay safe. Go with a new one.

Hats

Let’s switch from helmets to hats. You don’t know who previously wore that used hat. Did they ever wash their hair? Did they have lice? Ticks? How many sweat stains and hair particles are still lying in that hat? Better just buy a new one!

For more things that you shouldn’t buy second hand, you can read the full Cheapism article.

~Bobby

It’s only January, but it is easy to see that there will be more apps for your smartphone than ever before. July 2015 saw over 1,500,000 apps in the app store, and Apple reported in a recent press release that they have spent over $40 billion on developers. There are now apps for everything. Playing games, watching television, shopping, building, driving, everything. Some are just developed to waste time, but thousands of them are developed to help users whether it be in health or, as it so happens, in finances. 2016 ushers in new and updated apps that can save you hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars. From grocery shopping to massages to exercising, we have listed many of the top apps to download this year that will save you time and, more importantly, money.  Also of note, all apps listed are free:

7 Minute Workout

The gym I go to costs $20 a month. That doesn’t include the yearly maintenance fee or gas used driving from home to the gym and back home again, either. I’ll start saving around $300 a year once I cancel my membership and use this Johnson & Johnson app. The 7 Minute Workout offers over 70 easy and useful workouts that only take…7 minutes…out of your day. There is also an additional 22 offered exercises that you tackle from wherever you are. The app can measure your fitness to recommend programs, and it can track your progress which you can then share with your friends.

*Can be download on Android and iOS

Airbnb

There are not many life pleasures as refreshing, relaxing, and enjoyable as much as traveling. I mean, there are also things like raising a family and whatnot but those ones are a close second. One of the reasons why many people cannot do it or do it infrequently is due to all the expenses traveling entails. A large hurdle being the cost of accommodations. Yet thanks to apps, there is a new, cheaper way to pay for a room. Airbnb is an increasingly popular site that let’s hosts rent out a spare room in their own house or apartment for a lighter price than a $200 a night hotel room. Instead you can look around and spend $70 a night with a possible use of their kitchen. Airbnb is used in over 190 countries.

*Can be downloaded on Android and iOS

Apps Gone Free

Even when an app is only $0.99, if you are a frequent purchaser of apps then things start to get a little pricey. This is why Apps Gone Free is helpful for anyone who wants a complimentary try at usually paid apps. Every day you will receive a list of all 3 star or higher rated apps that developers are offering a free limited time on, ad free. This is a perfect way to get a good sample of all apps and judge to see if they are worth the purchase.

*Can be downloaded on iOS

BestParking

For all those who cannot stand to drive places only to be surprised and frustrated by absurd parking costs, worry no more! You can now compare hourly, monthly, and daily parking rates nationwide with the BestParking app. What’s even better is that many of the largest parking operators in the U.S. have become partners with BestParking and now even offer you coupons, guaranteed rates, and parking reservations.

*Can be downloaded on Android, iOS, and BlackBerry

Expensify

Trust me here. Keeping track of your expenses is not a fun time. What Expensify does is make compiling expenses quick and simple. There is a SmartScan button featured in the app so all that needs to be done is to take a picture of the receipt and all details of the purchase are automatically added to your report. The app even lets you add specific time of purchase, mileage, and allocate costs.

*Can be downloaded on Android, iOS, Windows, and BlackBerry

GasBuddy

Sometimes it’s really gear grinding to fill up your tank at the first gas station you see only to find a gas station two miles down the road at a significantly lower cost. Thanks to GasBuddy, you can find either the cheapest gas closest to you, or the station with the lowest gas price in a given location. The app isn’t dry of fun activities either. Participating in daily challenges or activities such as reporting correct gas prices you see, and you have the opportunity to win $100 in free gas.

*Can be downloaded on Android, iOS, Windows, and BlackBerry

Venmo

Ever find owing people money to be a huge pain? Keeping track, scrounging up the money, and then holding onto it until whenever you will see them next. Luckily for you, paying back your friends and relatives has never been easier. As long as you have a U.S. phone number or email, all you have to do is link your bank account or debit card to Venmo and you can pay people back instantly. Now fighting about the check after a meal is a thing of the past. Align also has their own version of this app called Pay People. Visit our eService page to learn more about Pay People.

*Can be downloaded on Android and iOS

For more of the best apps to save you money in 2016, you can read the full Go Banking Rates article.

~Bobby

Just one more hour out with friends. Just one more episode of your favorite TV show. Maybe that book is just so captivating, you cannot put it down. Maybe you just aren’t tired. Or perhaps you are really tired but just don’t want to go to bed. There are many reasons why you’re finally dozing off when the birds start chirping, but none of them are an excuse enough for the poor health it can cause you. There are several, some even severe, health problems that can arise the later you go to bed. These problems not only will affect your health, but they will affect your performance at work, and they will affect your financial decisions. Here are problems that coincide with the up-all-nighters:

Weight Gain

Studies have shown a simple fact. The later you stay up, the likelier it is to consume more calories. The more calories consumed by late night eating, the more weight you will gain. Going to bed at 2am and waking up at 8am leaves room for a midnight snack before bed and then a tiredness that will leave you less health conscious throughout the next day. Going to bed at 10pm to wake up at 8am saw more positive results. Of course they are happier with more sleep, but also the opportunity for late night eating got abolished. It has been recorded that late night sleep consume nearly 250 extra calories day, eat twice as much fast food, and eat half as many fruits and vegetables. Neurology professor Phyllis Zee states that human circadian rhythms in sleep are linked to the Earth’s rotation so once the sun goes down, your body wants to be sleeping. If it’s not then your appetite will change.

Muscle Loss

A problem more common in men, a lack of sleep leads to unhealthy lifestyle choices such as heavier alcohol consumption, more smoking, and larger amounts of late night eating which causes a more inactive lifestyle. When men have an inactive lifestyle, they are at a higher risk of developing conditions such as sarcopenia, where muscle mass gradually degenerates.

Affects Diabetes

If you suffer from Type 2 Diabetes, then going to bed earlier should be considered less of a suggestion and more of a necessity. A study was shown in 2013 that participants who had Type 2 Diabetes that were staying up late, sleeping in, and having hearty meals in between had poorer control of their blood sugar levels. Those who kept a healthy sleep schedule were far healthier and more in control of their condition.

Danger to Pregnancy

If you are a pregnant woman, then you are in charge of two lives that should be taken care of properly. Studies have shown that having darkness during the night is critical to the development of the fetus. If there is light in the room during the night, the mother’s melatonin is suppressed which would deprive the child of the hormone which is needed to regulate their biological clock.

For more reasons why staying up late is bad for your health, you can read the full Money Talks News article.

~Bobby

Online Shopping Resolutions

January 7th, 2016 | Posted by admin in Smart Spending - (0 Comments)

Online shopping isn’t just a new trend to get your clothes, gadgets, knickknacks, and even produce. It has reinvented the way businesses are run. Businesses exclusively online make millions. Established retailors do some of their strongest business online. Mom and pop shops and local niche businesses can make a fortune on sites like Amazon and Ebay. A full time employee can put their creative chops to use on their off hours and create a side business on Etsy. With all of these companies selling all these worthwhile goods at just the short distance between your fingers and the keyboard, it can be easy to over indulge and overspend. Let’s all just come to terms that we have had at least one time when we may have broken the bank with a night of browsing online. That is why we have for you a list of online shopping resolutions for the New Year to keep you from spending as little as possible:

Promo Codes

Before you do any online shopping, you first need to search through any and all promo codes. Without a promo code, you have far slighter a chance of getting a worthwhile deal. “No promo no go.” This is the motto to live by this year, and it will help you from spending excessively. If you get a promo code for items or company you like, then you are getting great items at a reasonable price! It’s an all-around win! Where can you get promo codes? Sign up for your favorite brands’ email letters and you can find promo codes there from time to time. Check the home page for discounts and advertisements that contain a promo code. You can also find promo codes at popular sits such as Brad’s Deals, DealNews, and FatWallet.

Read Details

Ever go on a site, see a picture of a beautiful, prodigious item, immediately order it, and have it come to you in the mail the size of a thumb nail? It’s not uncommon. Two years ago I ordered a music box as Christmas gift on Etsy from Italy, and when it arrived I had to squint my eyes to see it. The same thing happened with a relative last year. They ordered two journals and when she got them from the mail she was shocked to see that the journals were comically small.  A little over the size of a stone in a necklace. If you’re paying money for an item, you need to start reading the Item Details to make sure you are getting exactly what you pay for.

Check Return Policies

There’s no need to keep an item if it doesn’t work or you ended up not needing it. You spent money, so your item should be in prime condition unless the seller states otherwise. Before buying an item, research into what the return policy is. If the item you want to purchase is non-returnable, you are putting your money more at risk. What if the item doesn’t work or isn’t up to snuff? These are questions to ask yourself before proceeding to checkout.

Discounts

Discounts, discounts, discounts. Along with “promo codes” this is the most important word in the world of online shopping. Like promo codes, you can find discounts through retailors’ emails, newspapers, magazines, their site, their live chats, or their social media pages. There are plenty of ways and plenty of discounts to go around.

For more resolutions to make when online shopping, you can read the full Credit.com article.

~Bobby

The holidays are over! Yippee! Of course, we love the holidays and spending time with the family, but after all the gift buying, cooking, and hosting, we will try to not let the door hit grandma too hard on the way out. Now after a week of well needed and deserved rest, it is time to celebrate the New Year. That means champagne, friends and resolutions. Do you have a resolution this year? We have a suggestion. Despite all of the gift cards, cash, and other presents received this year, it probably didn’t add up to the total cost the holidays usually bring. That makes saving throughout the whole year excruciatingly important. For the New Year, we challenge you to be more frugal. How, you ask? Here are some of the easiest and most successful ways to be more frugal and will end up saving you quite a bit of money:

Putting Away For Retirement

It doesn’t matter if you are a sixteen year old working as a cashier in Market Basket or a long time worker in their early sixties. It is never too early or too late to start saving for retirement. The way to start is with baby steps. Try starting with putting $10 away with every paycheck. It is such a small portion that soon after you start you won’t even miss it. By the end of the year you will have almost saved up $500. The next year you can start putting $15 away with every paycheck then $20 the year after. Even a $5 contribution to your retirement with every paycheck will add up to quite a few comfortable years down the road.

Completely Paying All Bills

Never, ever, ever, ever, EVER miss a month of paying the full amount of your bills. Trying to get by only paying a little of the debt every month while having the next month’s debt staked on top of that will keep you in a rut for far longer than just swallowing down the whole amount of all the bills and paying it off. Having the balance be zero by the end of each month will not only be great for your credit, but don’t you want to spend more year out of debt than in it? Try using your credit and debit cards for only important situations. That will filter out the unnecessary costs.

No More Impulse Buying

Speaking of unnecessary costs, there is no cost more unnecessary than impulse buying. While the temporary fix of getting a new piece of clothing or furniture or book or movie or candy bar can make all the difference or an otherwise stressful, uneventful day, your financial future is a little less bright with each unneeded purchase. So, next time you’re waiting in line with the item in one hand, and your excitedly shaking, sweaty fist of cash in the other, you should relax and evaluate the item you’re buying. Are you buying it for want or need? Is it because you are stressed or in a bad mood? Would you have purchased it tomorrow?

Only Shop with Frugal People

We all have the one friend who can blow through a paycheck hours after receiving it. Heck, you could even BE that friend. The one who doesn’t mind paying for extra rounds of drinks, drops money on events on a whim, or buys a pricier item than the equal, more reasonable counterpart. While they can be great friends, their more outlandish spending has a better chance than of rubbing off on you than if you hang out with your more financially conservative and money suave friends. You could even pick up some tips!

Start an Emergency Fund

This is an important fund in case of…emergencies. Pretty self-explanatory. Financial experts suggest that you should always have at least $1,000 saved in a “Rainy Day” fund at all times. If you do not have one, this is where your $10 a week for retirement should go towards first. This money, if spent, should go towards something along the lines of a medical expense or a car repair. Not tickets for Cancun. Although that would more fun.

For more resolutions to make on New Year’s to getting your finances back on track, you can read the full Cheapism article.

~Bobby

Last Minute Holiday Shopping Ideas

December 24th, 2015 | Posted by admin in Holiday - (0 Comments)

In a matter of days, hours even, all holidays come to an end, stores close up shop, and you are stuck empty handed with no gifts to give. You’ve just entered a procrastinator’s worst nightmare. After days, then weeks, then months of putting off holiday shopping for your family, you may now have to face them with only your presence to give. While that is probably worth enough to get you through the next couple of days, you might want to have a gift card or two just in case. That way you’ll be invited to the holiday parties next year. Even with time being excruciatingly short, there are still plenty of meaningful, thoughtful, and inexpensive gifts that you can purchase for the ones you love most:

Gift Cards

Like we already stated, gift cards are never a bad choice. The reason why the National Retail Federation reports that gift cards have been at the top of holiday wish lists for nine years straight is because people LOVE gift cards. Just make sure that it is a gift card that would be used by them. Your eighty year old grandmother is not going to be running out to Home Depot in three days to spend her $50 gift card. If you’d really like to get your money’s worth, look for stores, like Best Buy and Target, that offer free gift cards when you purchase a product. Some restaurants offer free second gift cards with the purchase of the first. Once you get the gift card though, just check to see if there is an expiration date on it. These gift cards tend to act like coupons more than gift cards.

Toys

If you are shopping for a child, take a gander at the toys that are still left on the shelf. There could be some really great, creative toys that haven’t been picked up because they do not have the Star Wars or Frozen brand names attached to them. A tip for next year’s shopping season, experts report that December 16th is the best day to shop for toys. Stores like Target, Toys ‘R Us, and Walmart need to boost sales in the middle of December so that is when you will be able to find the most coupons.

Food

Food gifts can be a tasty treat or nasty nightmare to your recipient. First you have to make sure the food is fresh. Judging that if you purchase a food gift, you will be getting the food in the next couple days, you will be picking it up as fresh as a daisy, so that will not be a large concern for you. We recommend shopping at stores such as Costco or Sam’s Club. These stores are known for solid savings and have prepared food baskets ranging from $20 to $100. The other option is getting your own food from a local grocer and making your own basket. Either way, the gift will be delectable.

Clothes

One of the most popular items for women and children are clothing. In case you ever miss Free Shipping Day on December 18th in which over 900 major clothing retailers will eliminate shipping cost for the day, the best day to shop for clothing items is the Saturday before Christmas, recently named Super Saturday. On Super Saturday you might be able to find some pretty stunning clothes for up to 50% off. Now with December almost over, you can also be sure to find reasonable deals around store wherever you go.

For more tips for the procrastinating holiday gift buyer, you can read the full US News & World Report article.

~Bobby

Ever feel that when you’re lying awake in the middle of the night that if you put the amount of cash you owe to debts that it would actually be able to cave in your roof? Maybe it hasn’t been to THAT extreme, but you are far from the only person worrying about debt. In fact, a Pew Survey of American Family Finances reports that 8 out of 10 Americans have some amount of debt. What’s the average amount you ask? $68,000. Takes a little weight off your shoulders, doesn’t it. Debt can even be a blessing in disguise. It can help build wealth and a credit score which comes in real handy when doing big life events such as buying your first home. That being said, when the debts are high-rate consumer debts and they are piling on so quickly and heavily that you need to take action fast to start paying them off, you can use these strategies to get your head above financial water:

Making Some Extra Cash

Have a little extra time to make quick cash?  There are a multitude of ways making cash on the side to pay off debts. If you’re creative then you can start making items and selling them on sites like Etsy. If you were a collector of something but have grown tired of it, start selling them on sites like Amazon or Ebay. If you have an extra room not used for much, then you can start renting it out on sites like Craigslist or Airbnb. Start a dog walking business on weekends. Shovel or plow neighbors’ driveways this winter. Join a sleep lab. Participate in test groups. Check out small jobs on Field Agent. The possibilities are endless!

Making Priorities

If you are looking to really put a dent in your debts and see instant results then prioritizing is key. Always, always, always pay the highest interest rate debts first which tends to be your credit card. Then if you have a car loan, you should pay that next. The car will continue to decrease in its value, so it doesn’t make sense to pay more interest. Then student loans would be next, and then finally your mortgage. Now, this is far from the only order to pay your debts. The most important thing is that you attack your debts as quickly and successfully as possible so years down the road you are using all of your saved up money on them.

Directly Paying Debts

Just come into some money? It could be from a promotion, a bonus, an inheritance, or just some holiday gifts. Have the money go right from your possession to the appropriate collectors. You didn’t have the money for too long, so there wasn’t enough time to miss it. Even when behind, always keep actively paying as much as you can. A little payment is another step forward to paying off all your debts.

Negotiating

Debt is a serious business, so it could be a great help to you to consult lenders to discuss your options. See what plans there are for repayment, to have rates lowered, or if there is a way to get your debt reduced. It is a discussion that could help you significantly if your situation with debt is being too much of a burden, so it is one worth having at least once.

For more strategies to get out of debt, you can read the full Go Banking Rates article.

~Bobby

Cheapest Ways to Have Fun Indoors

December 10th, 2015 | Posted by admin in Saving & Spending - (0 Comments)

While us local folk in New England have been lucky with a snowless winter thus far, our good fortune may come to an end sooner rather than later. The cold air will swoop in, the flakes will rush down, and the doors will be locked for days with you trapped inside. Once dived away from the outside world, your days may start to look pretty monotonous. That is why it is healthy to have some indoor activities at the ready to prevent you from going completely stir crazy. And as the frequent readers of our blog have come to realize, that our options will cost you very little. So, here are the fun and inexpensive way to maintain your sanity during the upcoming winter months:

Cook a Meal

Here is an activity that can show off your resourceful and creative talents. You might have lucked out and gone grocery shopping before the storm hit. If not, you now have the opportunity to impress your family with an impeccable meal created only by a little of this and a sprinkle of that. Even throw the kitchen sink in there. It will be the big (and delicious) commotion of the household at the storm rages on.

Lean a Talent

While lounging on the couch with your potato chip stained pajamas on, you may as well try something new. There is quite some time. Does a family member play an instrument? Ask them if they could give you lessons. They’re looking for something to do to. Knitter in the family? Grab some yarn and string and join in their fun. Never made a meal before? Cook up some tasty pasta. Even something as little as juggling will make the time fly by, and you’ll be proud of yourself for your new skill.

Play a Game

Whether it be Monopoly, Go Fish, or just an average deck of cards, there’s a strong chance there is at least ONE game the whole family can enjoy. The game could give the family thirty minutes of amusement or three hours. If you are all playing Monopoly or Risk, then you have about three days of entertainment. A game provides just good, harmless family fun, and provides a bonding experience that families need more of.

Watch a Movie

Have Netflix? Hulu? Amazon Video? Crackle? DVDs? Cable television? On Demand? A Laptop? There are plenty of ways to watch a movie nowadays. Maybe even too many, but that is a problem for another day. You have time to kill being cooped up in your house. Whichever source you use to watch a movie with your loved ones, take a lot at your cinematic options, everyone write down a movie of their choice, and pick the movie from a hat. Please note this may prevent a little fighting, but you’re still doing an activity together.

Contact a Friend

You tired of playing games and watching movies? What ever happened to your good friends from back in college? Or high school, if you’d like to think back even farther. There must be some people from either that you were such good friends but cause of time, you two drifted apart. Give them a call! Or text. Or message on social media. They would love to hear from you again. If they are also stuck in a snowstorm, then they have a lot of time to talk as well!

Listen to Music

There is a great way to escape your snowed captivity. Well, mentally escape. The way to escape is lying down and listening to the sweet aural sensation of music. Places like YouTube, Pandora, and Spotify can give you hours of escapism as you plug in your favorite genre of music and pretend you are lying out on the beach and taking in the sun. Another option are podcasts. These spoken word shows can make the time fly by because whatever topics interest you, there is a podcast for. You can listen to podcasts that teach you history, discuss politics, ask trivia questions, teach you a language, tell crime stories, review movies, talk about cooking, ANYTHING. If you have iTunes, just browse the endless categories.

Plan a Vacation

It’s never too early to plan a vacation. Never! Do you have a few weeks over next summer? Start discussing with your spouse where a good destination would be. Start researching rates for hotels, and prices for plane tickets there. That way, you’ll be ahead of the game by the time summer comes around. The earlier booked, the cheaper your vacation will be.

Warm Up with a Bath

It’s going to be cold for a few months. Freezing, even. Warm up with a calm relaxing bath that you felt your busy life would never have the luxury of having again. Try not to get too comfortable and fall asleep, though!

For more ways to have fun while stuck in the house, you can read the full US News & World Report.

~Bobby

Can you hear the Salvation Army bells ringing just outside your door? In a month full of kindness, and gratefulness, and care, hundreds of charities are hoping that you will pull out an extra few dollars this year. And if you have the extra cash, by all means, donate! These are organizations that stand for really terrific causes and they all deserve donations, and fortunately there are millions of generous people who donate to them. It is reported that the average American household will donate $3,000 a year to charities. Alas, we are not made of money so it is not possible to donate to every charity and still be financially sound. That is why donating to a charity needs a little strategy behind it. So, now that you’re ready to join the donation movement, here are the perfect tips to become a smart charity donator:

Make Sure the Charity Is Real

If you could help the world by changing one thing what would it be? Is it finding the cure for cancer? Have a grandparent suffer from Alzheimer’s and are inspired to support Alzheimer’s research? Once you find out what you want to donate to, go on either Charity Navigator, GuideStar or Give.org to check which charities of that cause are really non-profit. While it is terrible to think that there are charities created just to rip off the well intentioned donors, it doesn’t make it any less true. It is important for your own finances, and to the recipients of your charitable work to do your research.

Stick to Only One Charity

Once you donate to one charity, you are probably feeling great enough to start donating to five, ten, one hundred more charities. This isn’t a smart move in the long run. Charity Navigator reports that after handling and processing costs, they only get a small portion of your donation, so if you are feeling like donating more, donate to the same one again.

Don’t Be Stingy

It take more than your money to make a charity successful. Maybe you are a talented PR person. Maybe you are great speaker on a phone line. Give your chosen charity a call and ask them if they would like to use your professional services. Not only will you be donating money to a great cause, but you will now be hands on in making a difference. That’s the best euphoria there is.

Donate Directly

Lastly, do not ever donate to a charity that contacts you. Like with any potential scam, hang up and contact the organization directly. Always be the solicitor. Scammers go to town during the holiday season. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette reported that in 2013, only 35% of proceeds from third parties actually went to charities. Remember if it is a name of a charity you’d like to donate to, hang up, do your research, and then if legitimate call back.

For more insight on donating to the right charity in the right way, you can read the full Money Talks News article: http://www.moneytalksnews.com/6-tips-donate-charity-the-smart-way/.

~Bobby