Tag Archives: economy

Thoughtful Thursday – Earth Day

It somehow seems appropriate that since it’s Earth Day we talk about all the little things we can do to help improve the world around us. After all, we do hold the world in our hands and it’s our job to safeguard it for our children’s future.

Obviously there is our ability to recycle now and most cities and towns ask citizens to place glass, metal and certain papers into recycle bins for pick-up. But there are lots of other things you can “recycle” as well.

Take old clothes that are still serviceable. Take them to a local Salvation Army or Goodwill location. If they can’t sell them, chances are they will send the clothes to recycling centers.

As for old computers and toner cartridges – a big problem due to the heavy metals in all the parts. If your computer is not all that old, look online for people who are willing to take them as charitable deductions. Just make sure to wipe the hard drive of your data. And as for toner cartridges, most companies, like HP, have options for returning the empty cartridges to them for re-use. Another thing you can try to do is to buy toner that uses soy inks. Another good way to help the environment.

What else can you do? Don’t litter. It amazes me every day to see people dropping papers and other trash on the street in NYC. It makes me wonder if they do the same thing at home. It also makes me wonder what the city would look like if each of the 20 million people who come here every day would drop just one piece of paper.

Smokers – don’t leave your butts and other things on the street. Most of the garbage I see on NYC streets is the remainders of butts, matches, etc. If you’re lucky enough to be at a beach that allows smoking (more and more beaches are prohibiting this), remember that the sand is not your ashtray.

If you are walking in a park or along the beach and see a piece of garbage that you can pick up and throw away appropriately (if it’s safe to pick up, mind you), then please do so. I tell my daughter that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem and that’s especially true of the environment.

Finally, it’s nice to have the money to be a consumer. Being a consumer has almost been ingrained into the American way of life. Lease a car and change it over every few years. Buy the latest and greatest as soon as it’s out. Buy bulk (ugh, I so need to work on this!) at the big box store. I’m sure you guys can think of some other ways in which we are encouraged to consume.

Here’s the thing — we need to learn to consume responsibly. The latest and greatest is nice, but it’s a drain on most people’s incomes and what we junk that is relatively new may end up in a trash heap somewhere unless you can find someone to give it to or take it for their own use (FYI – Freecycle is a great way to do this!). As for buying in bulk, Americans toss out immense amounts of food that is spoiled or expired because we buy more than we can consume in a reasonable period of time.

As for cars — well, we run our American-made autos into the ground. It’s nice not to have car payments after 3 to 5 years rather than continuously paying for leasing. Also, some of those hybrids may contain heavy metals and the price is high. There are many energy efficient internal combustion engines out there at more reasonable prices. Try car-pooling instead to be environmentally conscious.

Funny how helping the environment can also help your wallet as well.

One thing that might not help your wallet — jumping on the band wagon of buying all new “green” products. Why? Well, consuming for one. If you’ve got something relatively new that your junking just to go green, you may wish to reconsider both for the sake of your wallet and the environment. Why else? All those green cleaners are probably great, but sometimes pricey. Baking soda and vinegar can do “green” cleaning for a small portion of the price. So can a lemon wedge and salt or lemon oil and salt (for buffing and scouring. A trick from hubby’s old Italian grandmother!).

Anyway – just some ideas to hopefully get your mind going environmentally on this 40th Earth Day! If you’ve got “green” tips of your own, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on how we can improve and protect our environment.

Thoughtful Thursday – Help for Haiti

It’s shocking to watch the news and see the devastation in Haiti. My thoughts go out to these people and their families in this time of grief and loss. If you have the ability to do so, please help by making a donation at any of a number charities who are accepting donations. And if you have the ability to do so, don’t forget our own needy here in the U.S. I know the economy isn’t good and things are tough, but as I see what’s happening, it’s not hard to realize things could be tougher.

On a happier note, today I’m visiting at Babbling Books and we’ve got a giveaway for you! Drop by for a chance to win a copy of SINS OF THE FLESH and a T-shirt. You can visit Babbling Books by clicking here or using this link: http://kbgbabbles.blogspot.com/

Thoughtful Thursday – The Power of Language

Raul Ramos y SanchezMy friend Raul Ramos y Sanchez (who will be visiting us on August 14th) talked a little about learning his first English word yesterday at Mama Latina Tips.

I remember learning my first English words from television:

Doublemint adds to your fun
Double pleasures all in one
So refreshing, great taste, too
Chew Doublemint, Doublemint, Doublemint gum!

LOL! Had to look up the lyrics to that classic commercial.

Actually, we had the television on constantly. It was how my sister and I started to learn English before I was plopped into kindergarten with barely any understanding of the language (I had only been in America for a short time at that point). There were no ESL classes back then. You learned by immersion which is much the same way most people effectively learn a foreign language today.

In no time I was speaking and reading English and eventually I learned Italian, some French and because all the Romance languages have their roots in Latin (which I took in high school), I realized I was able to read Portuguese as well.

Being able to speak and/or read all those languages has really been a blessing. Whenever a project came up at work that required someone who was bilingual, I was the one handed the assignment which means that I’ve been able to visit over a dozen countries for an assortment of projects and conferences.

Learning other languages opens up new worlds and not just because you can visit somewhere else. When you take the time to learn even a few words, it opens doors of communication. If you learn a little more, you’ll also come to know more about other cultures.

For those who don’t speak English, learning it is important because it is the lingua franca of the business world. Get ten people together in any country and chances are, a large number of them (if not all) will speak English.

For those who only speak English, learning another language gives you new opportunities for growth. Many companies are global now and need people who can communicate with those in other countries. Even though these people may speak English, conversing with them in their own language makes them feel more comfortable and establishes an immediate bond. With another language under your belt you are that much more marketable in today’s economy.

Do you speak another language? Did your parents or grandparents?

Want to visit some more with Raul? Check him out on one of these other stops on his virtual blog tour:

WEEK ONE
August 3: “Musings” by Nilki Benitez http://Nilkibenitez.blogspot.com
August 4: “Chasing Heroes” http://chasingheroes.com
August 5: “Mama Latina” http://www.mamalatinatips.com
August 6: “Efrain’s Corner” by Efrain Ortiz, Jr. http://efrainortizjr.blogspot.com
August 7: “Writing to Insanity” by Icess Fernandez http://www.locacrazywriter.blogspot.com

WEEK TWO
The AMERICA LIBRE “Virtual Book Tour” continues…
August 10: “Sofrito for Your Soul” by George Torres http://www.blogcatalog.com/blog/sofrito-for-your-soul
August 11: “Author Terri Molina” http://terrimolina.com
August 12: “Latino Books Examiner Mayra Calvani” http://www.examiner.com/x-6309-Latino-Books-Examiner
August 13: “Unloaded” by Ricardo Lori http://www.un-loaded.com
August 14: “Author Caridad Piñeiro” http://www.caridad.com

WEEK THREE
The AMERICA LIBRE “Virtual Book Tour” continues…
August 17: “Author Julia Amante” http://juliaamante.blogspot.com
August 18: “Author Charlie Vazquez” http://charlievazquez.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tip – Garage Sales

garagaThey say one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and those words were never more true when it comes to garage sales.

I love garage sales, especially those town-wide ones where you can hit dozens in one day. We’ve been spending some time at the beach which means new requirements in our lives. Beach-style bikes. A rollie thing to carry all the chairs and cooler down to the beach.

Luckily, we were able to hit two neighborhood-wide garage sales and within two weeks, we had our rollie thing for $10 and a pair of bikes for $11. Of course, the bikes needed a little work and that cost a little bit more money, but when we were done, we had new comfortable bikes for less than $50.

In today’s economy, saving those few dollars is a big thing. Of course, you should be careful of what you buy at garage sales. For example, baby carriers and other safety items, even if only a few years old, may no longer comply with current safety regulations.

Garage sales are also a good way to encourage your kids to get rid of unwanted stuff. We started having our daughter do a sale every six months. She totally handled all the sales, which was a good way of learning to deal with money and meeting people (with parents hovering nearby of course). She kept a part of the sales money, a part of it went to a charity and any leftover items which were still in good shape went to a local church thrift store to help them raise money.

How can you know when there’s garage sales or advertise one of your own? Believe it or not, there’s a bunch of sites on the ‘Net to help you! Here are links to some of the sites:

Also check out your local newspapers for ads for the sales.

Of course, besides saving money, who doesn’t imagine buying that dusty old painting or unusual book that will turn out to be worth quite a lot of money. I love watching Antiques Roadshow and hearing someone say they bought it at a yard sale for a dollar and it’s worth several thousand!

So, take a break from your busy lives and find a yard sale, stroll around and enjoy the sights of a new town (or even your own town) and maybe find something useful in someone else’s junk!

Tuesday Tip – Reducing Fear and Stress

stressI know it’s tough out there for so many. We’re worried about the economy, our jobs, health, the world in general. There’s craziness going on in the Middle East and North Korea.

But stress is a killer and can take a toll on you mentally and physically. Today we’re lucky to have with us Dr. Debra Holland who is going to offer us today’s Tuesday Tip on how to reduce fear and stress during the recession.

Thanks Debra for dropping by to offer us this information!

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REDUCING FEAR AND STRESS DURING THE RECESSION
By Debra Holland, Ph.D
www.drdebraholland.com

Financial stress is affecting many Americans. Either they are suffering due to the recession, or they are afraid about their financial future, or both.

This stress is causing sleep disturbances, greater use of alcohol and drugs, compromised immune systems, impatience, irritability, a greater sense of vulnerability, and insecurity. These symptoms strain marital and family relations, cause interpersonal difficulties between colleagues, and lead to health problems.

It’s difficult not to feel stressed, when, by many reports, the economic news seems to be worsening. Each day, newspapers have at least one negative article about the recession, companies struggling or going out of business, charities being underfunded, or personal stories of hardship.

You probably know family members or friends who are out of work. Maybe you even know someone who lost a business or home. Perhaps you worry about the financial health of the company where you work or the business you own. Maybe you worry that furloughs, layoffs, or pay cuts are in your future.

In the last nine months, I have provided counseling services for numerous companies laying off employees. In talking to the individuals who were let go, I’ve seen a significant difference between those who sensed the layoffs coming and took steps to put their finances in order and those who ignored warning signs and
continued to spend their money as they pleased.

Regardless of what’s happening in the economy—something no individual has much control over—those people who took personal control of their finances felt a greater sense of security and experienced less financial fear and stress.

In order to help yourself and your loved ones weather this recession, it’s important to take care of yourself in both internal and external ways. The following are tips to help you keep your stress under control:

EXTERNAL
Reduce your spending, pay off your debts, and save money. I know this is obvious advice, and most people are already making attempts to do this.

Previously experts advised having three to six months of accessible savings. (Your investments don’t count.) Now most financial experts are stressing six months to a year of accessible savings. As your
savings grow, so will your sense of security.

Update your résumé. It’s always good to have an updated résumé on hand, even if your job is secure, and you plan to remain at the same company for years.

Aim for updating your résumé every six months. You never know when an opportunity will cross your path; so it’s good to be prepared. Also, working on your résumé reminds you what you’ve accomplished and exposes any gaps in your knowledge base or skills you need to address.

Learn new skills and cross train. The more you know, the more valuable you’ll be to your current company. Plus, if you want or need to look for a new job, you can choose from a wider variety of positions.

Take on new or innovative projects at work. This may be difficult if your plate is already full. However, if you can manage to fit a project (or a piece of a project) into your schedule, you’ll show management you’re a great team player. Plus, you’ll add to your skill set and your résumé.

Look for creative ways to have fun and connect with family and friends. A tighter budget doesn’t mean giving up fun. I hear from many people how they are rediscovering simple pleasures such as board games, bike rides, and going to the park with their kids. Adults are enjoying a game of cards or bocce ball with the neighbors, where all contribute to the potluck. Some people have told me they don’t want to return to a life of conspicuous consumption, even when the economy improves.

Use setbacks, such as layoffs, to reevaluate your life. Stop and consider your goals and dreams. Are you in an occupation that fulfills you? Your layoff could be a blessing in disguise. Maybe this is the time to go back to school, either part- or full-time. Or maybe you want to start your own small business, or switch careers. Try taking a class and see what happens. If you don’t have the time to physically attend college, consider an online class.

Focus on living a healthy lifestyle. Exercise is an important antidote to the physical and emotional effects of stress. Don’t let your stress cause you to veg out on the couch with junk food. If you are already physically fit, keep up your workout routines. Don’t use economics as an excuse to let your health go. You don’t need a club membership to stay fit. Remember, sit-ups and jumping jacks are free.

If you aren’t already exercising, start taking walks. Being outdoors, absorbing sunshine (vitamin D), fresh air, and nature will help far more than sitting around the house. (If you want to start a more strenuous routine, first consult your doctor.)

For the most part, avoid junk food and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and lean protein. For snacks stock up on food you can grab–protein bars and drinks, nuts, string cheese, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, small pieces of dark chocolate, baby carrots, and apple slices.

Make sure you take good vitamin and mineral supplements. Vitamin B is especially helpful for stress. Add Omega 3 oils such as salmon oil to your diet. Omega 3 oils offer many benefits, including helping to keep the brain healthy and smooth out mood swings.

INTERNAL
No matter how your life is spiraling out of control, you still can focus on what you can control–your thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Don’t get caught up in everyone else’s fear. Fear is contagious. It’s easy to absorb the stress and concerns of others, especially if you see it on television, read it online and in newspapers and magazines,
and hear stories of others’ misfortunes.

If something concerns you, plan for how you’ll deal with it, instead of building fear fantasies. Although it’s important to plan wisely for the future, projecting fears about what may happen will only produce stress. Studies show that 94% of what we worry about doesn’t happen.

Once you’ve formulated an action plan for possible problems, let go of your fears and stop thinking about them. Tell yourself that you will deal with your concern if and when it occurs. Until then, focus on other things in your life.

Pay attention to your intuition. Intuition is different from logic, emotions, or your fear fantasies. Whether it’s a still small voice or a “gut” feeling, your intuition is an important guide. The problem is that most people don’t stop to listen to their intuition, much less follow it.

During layoffs, I’ve met with people who were upset because they ignored their intuition, perhaps because someone else told them it wouldn’t happen, or if it did, they wouldn’t be affected. At the same company, I’ve also met people who told me that they’d had a sense layoffs would happen, and they’d be let go. These people had taken care of themselves financially, updated their resume, and perhaps already gone on a few job interviews. The news of the layoff was almost a relief because they’d known it was coming and could now get on with the next stage of their lives.

Recite positive affirmations. Affirmations are statements, usually starting with “I,” that encourage you to think along positive lines. The more positive your attitude, the more you think and act in ways
that will make your affirmation come true.

The more enthusiasm you put into your affirmation, the better. I like to say affirmations while walking or running on the treadmill. The cadence seems to enhance the good feeling I receive from them. My favorite affirmation for abundance is: “I have financial success… being of great service…in an easy, relaxed way.”

Take deep breaths. Taking deep breaths is one of the easiest things you can do to immediately de-stress. By breathing deeply, you relax instead of tense your body. Plus, the extra oxygen helps your brain find ways to handle what is stressing you.

Focus on what’s really important in life. The blessings in our lives come from much more than our material possessions. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have (or fear you won’t have in the future) stay aware of what you do have, (for example, the love of family and friends, civil and religious freedom, and your health.)

Be of service. Look for opportunities to give to others. Being of service may be a small act, such as offering the person behind you your place in the grocery line, or something big, like investing a
large amount of your time through volunteering.

Reaching out to others, especially those less fortunate, will keep you aware of the blessings in your life. No matter how big your problems, there’s always someone with larger troubles to put yours in perspective. Helping others also makes you feel good about yourself, an important antidote to stress.

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. SPECT imaging research has shown how feeling and expressing gratitude lights up your brain in a positive way. Feeling and expressing gratitude gives an immediate lift to your spirits—a great way to combat stress and fear. Take the time to appreciate both the big and little things in your life. If you are spiritual, give thanks to God for your blessings.

Whether you are experiencing financial difficulties or just feeling concerned about how the economy will affect you, taking external and internal steps to calm your stress will help keep you mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy.

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To receive a free download of Dr. Debra’s booklet, 58 Tips For Getting What You Want From a Difficult Conversation, go to her website: www.drdebraholland.com and sign up for her newsletter.

Thoughtful Thursday – Parking and the Economy

parkI’m usually at the train station between 5:40 and 5:50 so I can catch a train to work. Ungodly hours, I know, but even at that hour, there would only be a few spots left to park.

Not so anymore. In the past few months, I and the rest of my fellow train pals have noticed an ever-increasing number of empty spots. In addition, the one train which was always packed now regularly has empty seats.

What should I think about that? There’s always a drop-off in early June as schools have let out and students and teachers take the summer off. But it’s not early June and this trend has been growing for some time.

My train pals are saying that it’s on account of layoffs and sadly I don’t think that they are mistaken. With many New York businesses feeling the impact of the financial sector meltdown, retail store closings and the economy lagging, I suspect that there are people who are either being furloughed or laid off.

Have you noticed any such signs in your neighborhood?

Thoughtful Thursday – The Economy

moneyI’m not normally one to dream much less remember them, but lately I have been dreaming. Or maybe it’s better to say I’ve been having worries at night and like many people, those worries revolve around money.

The market is up, although some are calling it a “dead cat bounce.” (Wonder where they got that term). In other words, the slight up phase might not last.

The Fed is printing lots of money to buy bonds. Hmm. . . . If I could print more money for my bills . . .

Anyway, there was one article the other day about how people are cutting back to save by eliminating things like house cleaning services, taking shirts to the laundry and eating out less. Estimated savings for this one family – $10,000 in a year.

A big savings. Playing devil’s advocate here – it’s also not stimulating the economy since now there’s someone with less work cleaning, laundering and cooking/serving food.

Still, I totally understand the reaction to not spend. I’ve cut back by brown bagging it everyday for lunch, finding ways of using up stuff in the pantry before buying new things, shopping at the outlets, big box stores and using coupons (well I always did those last two anyway!).

Have you changed your spending habits lately? Are there any tips you can offer for saving during these worrisome times?