Tag Archives: money

#ThrowbackThursday Levittown & Mr. Softee

I grew up in Levittown, Long Island, the first planned suburb in America. Some will bad mouth it by saying it was bland, homogenous and sanitized, but to me it was heaven and the American Dream.

My family was able to buy a home and we had good public schools that prepared us for the future. We had friendly neighbors after some initial issues with being Cuban and all in all, things were wonderful.

The community had little village greens with community pools and we were just minutes away from Jones Beach. Summers were spent playing outdoors and going to the pool or beach. Summers were also spent waiting for the visit of Mr. Softee, today’s Throwback Thursday memory. Of course, that just made me remember that the Good Humor man would also visit on another day, but that’s for a future post. LOL!

My family wasn’t well off, after all, we were political refugees who’d been in America for less than nine years when my parents moved us to Levittown. How’d they do that? The old fashioned way: hard work.

But money was tight and it wasn’t unusual that dinner was fried eggs and rice and we ate cream cheese and jelly sandwiches for lunch. If we even ate lunch. I don’t really remember eating breakfast or lunch in the summer. We were too busy playing outside.

Anyway, having enough money for Mr. Softee was a big deal. A BIG DEAL. Back then, you could get an ice cream cone for about 15 cents, but I loved their sundaes, so I’d save up the 15 cents my grandfather would give us and wait until I had the 35 cents for a sundae!

My sister would always get the Brown Cow, an ice cream cone dipped into some kind of magic liquid that produced a hard shell on the cold ice cream. I sometimes opted for the Cherry Cow if I was really impatient.

After we bought our ice creams, we’d sit on the curb and talk as we ate our treats before heading off to play with our friends again.

Those were the good times and it’s nice to remember them on this Throwback Thursday.

Mister Softee Truck 1.JPG
Mister Softee Truck 1” by Rjsswf8Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday Tip – Credit Cards and Credit Scores

Every time you turn around you’re hearing about “your credit score” and what a poor credit score can do to you. Besides making it difficult to get a mortgage if you’re interested in buying a home, it can also raise rates on things like car insurance so it’s important to try and take steps to improve your credit score.

There’s a detailed article on credit scores at today’s Yahoo Finance, but I think we can all appreciate the basics:

  • 1. Pay cash for items.
  • 2. Do not keep a running balance on your credit card.
  • 3. If you have a running balance, pay it on time.
  • 4. Pay your other bills on time as well.

One interesting tidbit from the Yahoo Finance article was that companies calculating your credit score looked at the balance on your card whether or not you paid it off on time in order to calculate your score. Bothersome for me because I use my credit cards as a way to keep track of all my monthly expenses by charging them and also, to earn points through the various reward programs.

As for that running balance, I know that sometimes it’s hard for people to entirely pay off what they’ve charged at the end of the month. In cases of financial hardship where the credit cards are providing the cash to keep a household afloat that’s understandable. But if it’s more a case of want instead of need, think about this for a moment.

Revolving credit card rates range from anywhere to 7% (rare) to the 20something% range (some are even close to 30%). If you had $5,000 in revolving credit, you could be spending a couple of thousand dollars a year just for paying the interest on your credit card. You can do some comparisons of what you would save at MSN Money.

What about those reward programs? They sound so wonderful to begin with and sometimes they can be. Smart Money reviewed some of the more common credit card reward programs You can also click here for the MSN Money round up of rewards.

There’s just one thing to remember when it comes to the rewards: If you’ve got a running balance, the interest rate you’re paying may eat up any kind of reward you’re earning.

Hope this helped you on today’s Tuesday Tip!

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.

Tuesday Tips – Easter Egg Hunts

bunnyAs kids, my mom always held Easter Egg hunts for us. She would fill plastic Easter Eggs with candy, little toys and loose change, hide the eggs all over our yard in Levittown and then set us loose to find them. Sometimes we didn’t and months later, as we were weeding or planting a garden bed, we’d find one of those brightly colored eggs.

My sister and I have kept up this tradition with our kids and even though they are into their teens and early twenties, they still line up to find the eggs hidden in the yard. Of course, at this age the prizes include a bit more money than candy and toys, but it’s still a lot of fun to head out into the yard to hide the eggs and then watch the kids try to find them. Much like it happened when we were kids, months later my sister will find an Easter Egg that someone didn’t track down. We’ve even included the neighborhood kids on some years, some of whom had never done an Easter Egg hunt in their lives!

So if you want to try this tradition out, purchase the plastic easter eggs. They come in all different kinds of sizes and we usually mix up everything from the very small robin’s egg size to the larger nearly ostrich egg size. Candy and change are always good. Sometimes we make one the Super Egg and put in $5. Small toys are good, but make sure they are appropriate for the age of your kids.

Good sources for the candy, eggs and toys: Five Below, Target, Walmart and Oriental Trading (which is online). Actually, if you’re doing anything themed or need funky small gifts, Oriental Trading is a great place to find stuff. We use them all the time for our annual block party so that we have reasonably priced prizes for the assorted contests we have.

So, this Easter, take a moment to explore your inner bunny! Fill up those eggs, hide them out in the yard and watch your kids have a blast trying to find them!