Get started on your financial goals

As the new year approaches, it is easy to say to ourselves, “Next year is going to be different.  I’m going to be thin, rich, and much, much happier.”  Inevitably, next year will be quite similar to this year unless you put your mind to making a big change.   But what if you committed yourself to a small change?  Something that is easy to attain?  What if you made a small change in your finances that would help you reap big rewards down the road?

In this segment, I have compiled a list of finance-related tips for 2017 from a number of websites (all of which are linked).  There are so many tips out there, so I have found the ones that I feel are doable and will actually make a difference for a wide range of people.  I hope this helps get you on track for your financial goals in the coming year!

  1. Make saving automatic – it’s easy to say that you will put aside a portion of each paycheck, but when the time comes around, there are bills to pay and things you want that always seem much more important than saving for later.  But many banks offer an automatic deposit into your savings account.  Speak with a banker to find out what options are available to you, and figure out how much you can actually afford to save.  At the end of the year, you may be surprised at how much you’ve accumulated!
  2. Track your spending – an effective dieting strategy is writing down every bite of food you put into your mouth, and assessing where you are going wrong at the end of the day.  This is the same idea – write down every single penny you spend, then take a look to see where you could save.  You may even opt out of purchasing something unnecessary because you don’t want to put it on paper!  This diary will come in very handy when you are setting your new and improved monthly budget.

    Expenses Costs Track Spending Sticky Notes 3d Illustration

  3. Focus on your debt – no matter which financial strategy you follow, you won’t find one that tells you to get into more debt (unless your financial planner also works for your credit card company).  Debt is bad . And it creates more debt.  And while you may see getting out of it as impossible, take whatever steps necessary to accomplish that goal.  As your debts lessen, so do your monthly expenses.  Which leaves you more money to pay your debts.  Seems simple enough, right?  It isn’t.  But it can be done, so set your mind to it and make a change this year!
  4. Review your insurance coverage –  when you set up your health insurance, you might have been in family planning mode.  Now that you’re out of that phase, you might not need as much coverage.  Check it out and see if you could be saving money each month.
  5. Shop around for deals and discounts – it is certainly easier to buy everything at one place, but if you do your homework you might be able to save quite a bit of money by shopping at multiple locations.  Take advantage of sites like Ebates that offer cash back on purchases, but don’t get married to those sites.  Do the math and figure out which deal is actually best, when you take into consideration shipping, tax and rebates.
  6. Grocery shop online when possible – everyone has the best of intentions when they make a list to take to the store.  If we’re really intent on sticking to it, we make sure to eat first and set a shopping time limit.  But unless you are the most disciplined person in the world, chances are you will run across something you just have to have, or you “forgot” to add to your list.  When you shop online, you can type the items you need into the search bar, find the best deal and add to your cart.  There is little chance of purchasing items you don’t need, as you won’t be passing them at every turn.  Many places offer this now, and will even deliver for free if you spend a certain amount.
  7. Reflect on 2016 – how did things go this year?  Were you able to save money, pay off debts, or overcome obstacles?  Did you spend too much, not save enough or make major financial mistakes?  Looking at what went on last year can help you to make improvements for the year to come.  Correct any mistakes you made, and look to improve upon your successes.

I hope these tips will help you to leap into 2017 on the right foot, confident in yourself and your ability to make changes where needed!  Even a small step in the right direction is an improvement, so don’t be disheartened if you aren’t a millionaire by 2018.  As long as you are doing your best, you’re doing something right!

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Different is not bad

The earth is made up of over seven billion distinct individuals.  Everyone has their own traits; some are positive, which can put them ahead of others, and some are negative, and these flaws ensure that no one is perfect.  No two individuals are the same, and this is how it has been since the dawn of time. So why does it seem difficult for some to accept those who are different?

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The other day, I completed a questionnaire to obtain my DISC profile. I have done this before for different work requirements, and it always amazes me how these seemingly arbitrary questions somehow give such an accurate portrayal of my personality and work habits.   There are things that I do better than others, things that I need to work on, and flaws that I would love to change, but at the end of the day need to find a way to embrace as they are a result of the way my brain is wired.  For example, I have never been a neat and tidy person, however I very much like and appreciate and neat and tidy environment; it makes for a more productive day with less distractions, and a generally happier demeanor.  So where is the disconnect?  It seems simple enough – I like it tidy, so I should keep it tidy.  But for some reason, it has never been this way.  I do try, but ultimately there are other things that take my attention away and the goal of straightening up always gets put on the back burner.  So when someone with a completely different brain and personality notices this, they might scoff and boil it down to laziness.  But it really is just a different brain make-up.  I’m not going to get into the science of our brains, as interesting as it is, however I would like to offer a few suggestions for those who work with someone with traits different from your own.  It may seem impossible for the two of you to accomplish anything together, but it might not be.

  1. Take the DISC profile – have your office mates take the profile then share your results as a group.  It might be very eye-opening to realize that the person who you thought was snubbing you every morning at the coffee pot is really just extremely introverted and shy.
  2. Remember no one is perfect – you might be tempted to write someone off because of a trait that you view as a flaw; but maybe instead of a flaw, it’s just different from how you operate.  This doesn’t necessarily make it bad.  And even if it is something that could use some work, remember that you are not perfect either.  Try to be more understanding of others and you’ll probably find that your frustration levels will lessen.
  3. Look at the positive – for every bad trait, there is bound to be a good one.  Try and focus on that next time you start to get fed up with a coworker.  Maybe it seems as though they take far too long to accomplish a task; but possibly it takes a little longer because they have been busy lending a helping hand to others.  Or who knows, maybe they are just spending all of their time on elaborate pranks for the amusement of others.  Also a good thing.Jim's pranks on Dwight:
    Whatever differences you may have, if you look hard enough you should be able to find an admirable quality in everyone around you.  Find a way to embrace the differences in others, and remember that different is not bad!  We can learn from those who are different and work to improve ourselves in the process.

Time after time

This time of year, people start thinking a lot about changes they want to make after the clock hits midnight on the 31st.  Typically you will hear vows to lose weight, quit smoking or any number of promises that weren’t fulfilled the year before.  This may sound cynical, but the truth is, you rarely hear of someone setting a useful New Year’s goal that they actually accomplish. (Yes husband, I did say useful.  Vowing to never set the microwave timer to an even :00 or :30 is not actually useful, even though you have technically accomplished this resolution).

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So why do we continue this cycle, year after year?  And why do we feel the need to wait until January first to start working on these major, life-transforming goals?  My brother recently pointed out that really, we should set our New Year’s resolutions on our birthdays, as that is our personal new year.  But again, something as important as quitting smoking or beginning an exercise regimen should not wait until a specific date; those things should be done today, as they could save your life!  So to help out a bit, I’ve compiled a list of helpful guidelines to follow when setting your resolution this year.  I hope it helps, and I wish you the best of luck in completing your mission!

  1. Don’t wait – if you have already decided on a resolution for 2017, why not start today?  If you aren’t willing to do so, then what is going to change in the next 16 days?  I understand that waiting until the first is a symbolic gesture, but as I stated above, many resolutions can greatly affect your life, so get started now!
  2. Set manageable goals – don’t promise to exercise for 2 hours, seven days a week all 52 weeks of 2017.  This is not a reasonable feat; instead, try starting with 3 times a week and increasing as necessary.  If you have a vice you want to quit, going cold turkey on January 1st is not going to work for most people.  Providing mini-goals for yourself might be a better idea.
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  3. Make it meaningful – if your resolution does not hold special meaning for you, chances are you will not stick to it.  Don’t make arbitrary rules for yourself to follow, and don’t choose a resolution that you would be doing either way.  Like, say, resolving to continuing hating a certain premier league football coach that resolution or not, you never would have liked anyway.  Sorry honey.  You’re an easy target.
  4.  Make it quantitative, if possible – vowing to go into work a little earlier is great, but how much earlier?  Technically you could arrive at the office at 7:59 and have accomplished your goal, but that’s not going to make a positive change in your life.
  5. Positivity is ideal – making negative resolutions is not going to start your year off on the right foot.  Saying that you will no longer speak to Sharon in accounting because you don’t like the way she laughs might make your life a little more enjoyable.  But instead, maybe decide that you will try to find something good in everyone at your office; also makes for an enjoyable life and at the same time is a way to better yourself.

Hopefully these tips will help you find a resolution that will make your 2017 great!

If your resolution is to spend less time at work, check out what these guys have to offer!

 

 

Homemade for the holidays

As a child, I used to really, REALLY look forward to opening gifts on Christmas morning.  I love surprises, so I was never one to search for gifts ahead of time.  I truly enjoyed guessing what was in those beautiful boxes!  Walking down the stairs on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought and then spending an embarrassingly long time opening gifts from family – who could ask for anything better?  However, as a grown-up and parent, things have begun to change.  I now look forward to others opening the gifts I picked out for them more than anything else.  This year I have spent an added amount of time and love on a number of gifts, as I am making quite a few of them on my own!  I won’t get into details in case one of my family members is reading, but I have truly had such a wonderful time putting together these gifts that are straight from the heart.  Another added bonus to the homemade variety is the money it saves!  Now, admittedly, I am not making macaroni frames so I have had to spend a little.  But when I divide through the number of gifts I will be able to create, it is a very small amount of money per person, yet the gifts are going to mean so much more.  I hope.

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In case this is something that interests you, I have compiled a list of ideas for homemade gifts that will not make people put on a fake smile and look around for a non-existent receipt.  I hope it can be of some use to you this year!

  1. Drink kits – whether it is a hot cocoa kit for the kids, or a hot toddy kit for mom and dad, providing someone with all of the ingredients for a yummy winter drink is a great idea and something they will certainly use on those snowy nights ahead!  Yes, people probably have hot cocoa powder on hand, but do they also have marshmallows, crumbled peppermint and chocolate stirrer sticks in their pantry?  Probably not.  Other kits that are fun are ice cream sundae kits, cookie making kits, and even beer bread kits!  (My mom and I did this one year, just put the bread ingredients in a plastic bag, wrap it in burlap and attach a tag that says “just add beer!”)
  2. Ornaments – granted, these are a once a year gift and one they probably won’t get much use out of this year, but if they are made well enough, they will last for years to come.  This year, I spray painted small wooden shapes purchased at Michael’s, drilled holes in the top, mod podged pictures on the front and tied a ribbon!  So easy, and so durable!
  3. Coasters – I did these a couple of years ago and they were a big hit.  I purchased tiles from Lowe’s, but just found them online from my new favorite store Menard’s for only $.14!, and again mod podged pictures onto the front.  I also added felt pieces to the back to prevent scratching and now my family has adorable pictures of my children to place their drink glasses on!
  4. Spa gifts – depending on how natural and how homemade you want these to be, this could take a little more planning to purchase the required items.  But everyone uses lotion and shaving cream and lip balm, so wouldn’t it be great if you could provide them with a homemade version that actually works, and does not include all of those unnatural ingredients?  Amazon has everything you need to make a yummy smelling spa treat for the special people in your life.
  5. *Hats and scarves – this time of year, we are reminded that we can never have too many scarves, hats and mittens.  And if we can happen to find a pair of mittens that match, bonus!  What if we had the whole hat, mitten and scarf set still intact?  Oh right, that’s impossible.  So a matching set will always be a much appreciated gift, and they will think of you and feel thankful every time they put them on.
    *disclaimer: only choose this option if you are actually skilled at knitting or crocheting, and also only if you promise to use solid, neutral colors.  We don’t want to make people feel like the dog in the picture up above!

These are just a few ideas, but they all include a spoonful of love and that’s all anyone really wants this time of year!  Good luck, and please let me know how it goes in the comments!

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