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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

10 ways to help during bad economy

When economy is down, most people stops giving to many worthy charities. Often people will help with food, money and time during Christmas time, but come January and most of us are busy with our lives and our new year resolutions.

As there are more people and charities that need help during this down economy right now, how can we help, when we ourselves are strapped with money woes ourselves? There are a few ways, let's explore.

1. Give your unused items to homeless shelter, or pet shelter. They are always looking for blankets, stuffed toys, coats and other clothing items. There are low income pregnancy organizations can take your unwanted maternity clothes, baby clothes and baby items. A few organization may take your business clothes, for getting low-income people ready for new job interviews. Many charities take car donations too.

2. Give your time, many places can use volunteers to help out, specially shelters, temples, churches, or local community centers. Many places you can help out with answering phone such as PBS or crisis hot line center for abuse and suicide.

3. Bring hot cooked meals to community centers, senior citizens, your neighbours who might be sick or just had a baby, or homeless person near by your area.

4. Give unused toys to hospital, or community preschool for low-income family.

5. Help not only your close friends, family, but also strangers, animals, birds and insects. Compassion for all lives. For example, put up bird seeds for you local area birds and water bath near by for them.

6. Trust family and friends when they ask for small loan. Give amount you can afford as a gift and tell them it is not a loan. Many times good relations goes bad when loan comes into a picture.

7. Give blood donation to someone who needs it.

8. Volunteer in your local library, local free tax helper, deliver meals or groceries to people who can not drive themselves. Volunteer to watch your family or friends, kids sometimes giving much needed break to their parents.

9. Did you know you can donate unused miles, credit card points to worthy causes? Find out and pick the one you choose.

10. Little help goes long ways too. For example, pay some one's parking meter, when they run out of the time, pick up trash and put in trash bin, help someone while waiting in line at post office, doctors offices and other long lines. Smile and say hello to strangers.

I am sure there many other creative ways to help others without big money. Would you like to add other suggestions? How do you help during bad times?

Photo Source: Art Box Images RF

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Learning from 4 years old

She was very tired, and had not slept well since pregnancy and now with infant who was teething, and busy preschooler, 8 hours sleep was far fetched dream, if she ever found any time to dream that is. Her back was hurting, eyes were red from lack of sleep.She had not been out in days and not seen much social life lately, other than doctor and hospital visits. She felt unattractive, under appreciated by her 24-7 job that only paid in smiles and hugs.

All she wanted to do was sit in passenger side seat without kids attached to her, while her husband drove with family to get much needed groceries. She hoped that her 4 year old will keep busy with crayons and 5 month would fall asleep, and she can rest, have an adult conversation with her husband or just look outside or catch a small snooze.Instead of her hopes of infant falling asleep, he started to scream in car seat in middle of the drive to store.

She closed her eyes, wishing it to be calm next minute. When 20 seconds passed, which seemed like an eternity, with screaming infant, she sighed and reluctantly decided to go back in seat, sitting in middle seat on ground between her infant and preschooler, not the best comfortable position to entertain a child in driving car. Yet she knew she must.

She tried to calm her infant with various toys and silly faces song routine. That was a scene to be seen :-) However, her efforts met with persistent cries as infant wanted to be lifted in mommy's arms. It was tough, and not possible without stopping the car, maybe feed him and then start to drive again. However, she thought, that would delay things further, with shopping, going home and cooking and feeding kids, cleaning, doing dishes and much more time wastage than she had energy for.

But stop they must, so they did in nearby small parking lot. She lifted her infant in backseat and started to feed him, but infant was already simulated and crying and fussing continued which seemed like forever. Then it happened, something snapped inside her and she broke down, her mind was clouded with doubts and she started crying. She thought, why other infants seemed so content and sleeping through the night and do not cry, what is wrong with her infant? Why is he like that? It must be because way she parents her child. Tiredness has caused her to think more negative on situation, which she knew she might not have, if she was rested. As she fed her infant crying her tears over flowing over her cheeks to her infant cheeks.

She told her husband, she can not do this longer as she was not good mother, wife or even friend, she seemed to be failing at many things. Her husband tried to say something intelligent but it just made her more sad and depressed. Everyone sat in car in silenced and tense. Infant now satisfied with mommy, fell asleep in her arms. she felt more worse seeing his dried tears on his cheeks despite now him sleeping in peace.

Till her 4 years old spoke, "mommy don't cry, Do you know, you are bestest mommy in whole tide world. Baby is small and he can not talk so he cries when he wants something. Don't cry mommy. When he will be old like me, he will not cry, he will talk and be good boy like me. It will get better, you see." (Not type-error, actual words)

Listening this her sadness started to go away, and only tears were flowing now was tear of happiness, as she was so proud of her small preschooler, who was wise beyond his age. She hugged him and told "you are right, things will get better with time and your brother may turned out to be good kid just like you. Mommy loves you".

After awhile, as they drove to grocery store in peace, with infant sleeping safely in car seat, she knew, she may get bad moments and days in future, but she will get through those moments with loving kid, family around her, slowly and one step at the time.

Friday, August 14, 2009

7 ways your clutter is costing you

Having clutter around not only cost us our money but also our piece of mind and happiness with it. Your house might be filled with piles of books and magazines you mean to read it, the smaller size clothes in your closet when you get back to your college weight, every toys that kids got from family and friends, many bills are just a few of example of clutter that most of us go through in our lives. Kitchen, bathrooms and office are worst places in a house for clutter to pile up easily. Instead of you owning the stuff, your stuff ends up owning/controlling you. Here are few ways, clutter cost us more than we bargained for;

1. You misplace bills to pay or check to deposit in your huge piles of paper. By the time, you find anything, bill is past due and check is no longer cash-able (after 90 days). You have just lost money and added interest or fees on bills too.

2. You buy item, only to realize months later, that you had that same item in your storage pile somewhere in the house. It was hard to find and hence forgotten. Sometimes, you may buy same items a few times over the years, not remembering, costing you more money.

3. You panic when someone called for unannounced to visit, as it will be overwhelming to clean up clutter in such a short time. Either you are embarrassed when company comes or choose to do less social inviting on purpose, either way you are losing social life with friends and family because of your clutter.

4. You do not want to come home as cluttered and messy home does not make you feel better. So you tend to eat out more often and do more outside shopping to make yourself feel good, adding clutter to your already cluttered house.

5. You may think it is wise to put all extra storage in storage place, leaving your house cleaner. However, you may pay $50 a month for your junk and your house slowly begins to be cluttered again.

6. You may lose your valuable time finding things in the house. You may search every morning your car keys under the stuff pile, or you may find that food in your fridge has gone bad, wasting food and money both. Your self esteem may take hit.

7. You are not living your true potential life, due to all clutter. You are waiting for some miracle to make it all better, clutter robs you from happiness. A happiness you get when your sink is empty and kitchen is clean and your bills are paid on time. You will get so much joy once work is done and you can truly relax and enjoy your home.

Is clutter costing you in some ways? In future we will look at a few ways to get started on path to simplifying and de-cluttering.

Photo source: Comstock: Gettyimage


Monday, August 10, 2009

8 items to spend money on;

There is a frugal in me wants to save money as much possible when purchasing an item. However, with time I have learned that spending money on a few quality items that get used everyday is often is worth it. As we will use those items for years to come, thus saving money in long term.

Here is my list of items that I would not mind spending money on;

1. Good cooking set
Cooking at home everyday will not only save you money, but you can make variety of food in healthier way too. Having a good cooking set that includes 2 skillets, a saucepan, a stockpot with lid will be good enough for most cooks. There are very reasonably priced anodized set available in most stores and if used properly, can last you years saving you money.

2. Education/Knowledge
Knowledge is very important for all of us. Education is knowledge. It does not need to be from private school or ivy league college but from any good, above average school or college will do. Even those who make it rich without degree on paper, have keen sense of learning and yearning of knowledge. Sometimes spending money and time learning things that you are interested in, will give your career and self worth a huge boost.

3. Health/Medicine
First step should be prevention from any health issues. However, if you still get sick, getting proper care and medicine is important and usually not time to save money on. Yes, I am all for getting generic drugs and home remedies but, here I am talking about getting care by medical staff, if you are in accident, need surgery or have complicated health issues. I believe health is greatest wealth, as if you are healthy, you can earn more later on.

4. Good sharp Knife
This is another kitchen tool that is very helpful if you have sharp and easy grip knife, cutting becomes so easy and fun. I generally use 3 knives for most of my cutting vegetables and fruits. I have been one small paring knife, all purpose chef's knife and serrated knife to cut bread loaves and tomatoes. Once you have a good knife and learn techniques on how to use it properly, cutting becomes easier and faster.

5. Tools
Even if you are not a Do-it-yourself type, having some fix-it tools helps you out in house and car maintenance. Everyday situations such as putting up framed pictures, curtains will be done with simple home tools. For DIY-ers, getting good tools that can be reused again and again can save lot of money on tool replacement cost or labor cost done by professionals. If you are going to be in a house, invest in some good enough tool set, you will be glad you did.

6. Organic/Natural Food/groceries
I am vegetarian and partial vegan (occasionally eating cheese and yogurt). In addition to getting organic fruits and vegetables, we try to get vegan clothes, shoes, shampoo, medicines etc too. Sometimes it is tough to find a right choice and often time is bit expensive, but for us it is worth it.

7. Good comfortable and right fit shoes
If you love to walk, getting a comfortable shoes is a must. Getting a right size and fit also helps.It is a good for normal day to day walk and also for jogging, small hiking and exercise.

8. Comfortable couch/sofa chair
Having at least one comfortable couch or sofa chair is house is must for me. Somewhere to curl up and read a book or take a small nap. Having a good quality chair that does not sink in when you sit yet soft and cushiony is a small bliss when I am tired and need a quick pick me up.

For which items you think spending more money is worth it?


Thursday, August 6, 2009

8 items to save money on

There are certain items in life we like to spend our good hard earned money and feel good about money well spent. While, there are a few items, I rather save my money on, as they do not need to be the best available choice in my life. For everyone, this maybe different as it is based on personal choice and priorities. Here is my list of 8 items and my reasons for not spending extra pennies on;

1. Play/everyday clothes
Now, that I am SAHM (Stay at Home Mom) and not a corporate employee, my cloth style is to wear loose and comfortable clothes. I am not talking about formal/business attire here, I am talking about day to day clothes, one that you wear at home or causual outing such as grocery shopping, walking your dog type. Most of my everyday wear clothes are simple, fair quality clothes that will mix and match with other clothes in my small but functional wardrobe.

2. Kid's clothes and shoes
Infant and small kids tend to grow out of their size in short time, it would be waste to spend $30 on a cute outfit that will be worn maybe once before it is outgrown. My 5 month has already grown out of his 6 months clothes. Until kid has learned to walk, spending money on cute and for show-off sandals or shoes is waste of money. One pair of shoes is okay, for special function, wedding etc, but it does not need to be very expensive ones. Save your money and buy basic and functional clothing and shoes items.

3. Special Kid furniture
As soon as marketer put "Kid" or "children" name with of any wooden furniture, price gets doubled. For example, a child dresser would be twice as expensive as regular dresser, instead just buy the horizontal regular dresser as a kid's dresser and color it as you or your child like it and change knobs to kid friendly theme and save your self money and headache, as you will not be tensed when you preschooler paints all over your cheap dresser.

Also, save some money on diaper changing table as once your infant starts to rollover and move, table becomes dangerous place for wiggling infant and changing on floor is better and cheaper option. For some purchase of crib is worth it and others it is not. Find out what works for you before you buy that $300 crib.

4. Brand name Shampoo
I used to believe brand name shampoo will make my hair shiny and wavy like those in commercials. It did not. However,I was able to get similar result for generic store brand shampoo at a much lower cost. In addition, putting little coconut and olive oil on my hair did my hair much more good than those expensive shampoo and hair nourishment products did.

5. Bottle water
Unless you are getting muddy, cloudy and weird tasting water, bottle water is useless stuff to spend your hard earned cash on. Did you know, most of bottled water is actually tap water, only purified? Why spend money when you can get same benefit by buying small filter for home use.

6. Designer Paper plate/cups etc.
There are so many types of brand name design paper products now available for your party, some are as expensive as non disposable products. I would suggest to save your money and also environment by using re-usable plates, cups. If you must use paper plates, generics are as good as most pricier name brands.

7. Big house
When buying a house, most people are told to buy biggest house they can afford. These types of advice makes most of us buy far bigger house than we need or can afford. For 2 people with out kids do not generally need 5 bedroom house with 3 car garage, smaller house will do much better in most situation. We do not need bigger houses, we need less consumer stuff in the house and our house will be large enough for most of us. Less is more sometimes.

8. Big car SUV/Hummer
Same argument as above #7, why buy big car, gas guzzler that costs a lot? Small car gives a better mileage, easy to drive, park and cheaper priced. If you must buy large vehicle due to large family, there are other options such as smaller fuel efficient minivan instead of big SUV or hummer cars.

Did you like the article? Which items you save money on?

Next we will look at items we should more money on, huh? Stay tune for it.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Health and Wealth

What are similarities between health and wealth? Except, all of us want it, and worry about it when we lose it. I suppose, they also could be used in a rhyming poem :-). However, there is much in common between health and wealth than it meets the eye. How so? Let's explore.

For example, for wealth, we must earn more than we spend and for health, we must burn more calories than we eat. However, most of us are failing to do either and are suffering because of widely available cheap consumer goods and cheap unhealthy food, we tend to overspend and overeat. A lose-lose scenario for sure.

In addition to, if we have health problems, medicines, doctor's visits, hospital bills can cause drainage of our money in big way. Medical bills are number one reason , people in USA file for bankruptcies. And if we have lot of debts so collection agency and creditors are calling day and night causes us to lose a sleep, not only that but also, it can causes other health problems such as headaches, insomnia, indigestion and depression etc,.

In order to be free, we need to pay off debt, we will need to make a serious plan and follow through each steps. Paying minimum on card will not get us out of debt fast enough, we have to pay every extra pennies towards debt to be free of burden. Similarly, if we are planning to lose extra few (or a lot) of pounds, we will need a healthy eating and exercising plan. Starting small is good, however each extra steps will speed up the the final result. As every extra penny towards debt has same effect as walking extra steps to lose weight.

We can not really enjoy one without other. For example, a wealthy person who is very sick, can not make his/her disease go away, no matter how much money he/she willing to spend for it. However, A poor but healthy person has a possibility of being happy though. That is why, I will choose health over wealth anytime. As philosopher Virgil has said "Greatest wealth is health". But sure does not hurt for us to have both, and that should be the our goal.

How to you stay healthy and wealthy? What works for you?


Photo source: Comstock, Getty Image