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2 steps to making saving easier


2 steps to making saving easier

Published 1/22/15

2 steps to making saving easier By Georgie Miller

It may still be early in the year, but if you're like me, you've already failed at a New Year's resolution (or five). I think one of the reasons so many resolutions fail is because they require that you take an action (or not take action) every single day. Saying I won't buy myself coffee every morning is easy. However, if I have to drive or walk by the coffee shop on a daily basis, it's only a matter of time before my willpower gives out and I'm in line for some caffeinated bliss.

That's why I experience more success by using strategies that fall into the category of "set it and forget it." In other words, if I only have to do something once, then I don't have to worry about a daily inner battle that I'm all too likely to lose. A little bit of effort up front can save me quite a bit later. How do you do that? Here is a simple two-step process for effort-free savings.

Step 1: Determine how much you want to save and work backward

How much do you want to be putting aside every month and why? Once you know that, then all you have to do is to figure out how to keep that money from hitting your checking account where it's likely to be spent.

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This holiday season, say no to store credit cards

Published 12/9/14

This holiday season, say no to store credit cards By Peter Andrew

I'm such a nostalgia junkie. Even now I'm an adult (allegedly), I can't help but overlay the hell that is getting through holiday preparations with precious childhood memories. There were happy songs on the radio. There was no pressure to judge gorgeously gaudy decorations through the prism of taste. Church -- something rarely other than boring to a 6-year-old boy -- suddenly became upbeat and fun.

And, when it came to festive-season department stores, the tables were turned: Instead of Mom dragging me for seeming eternities through endless displays of china, linen, silverware, menswear and -- the ultimate humiliation -- womenswear, I got to drag her to the toy department.

"Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven," Wordsworth might have written about kids and holidays, had he not already used the lines to describe the French Revolution. Come to think of it, in our house, the two could get similarly bloody (at least metaphorically) by Christmas night -- though not for us kids.

Trouble in store

You have to feel sorry for today's 6-year-olds. It must feel as if every time mom comes to pay in a department store they have to settle down to witness a clerk giving her the hard sell on the retailer's plastic. And quite a lot of those moms (and dads and others) are falling for the pitch.

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Building a better brown-bag lunch

Published 12/2/14

Building a better brown-bag lunch By Georgie Miller

If you're anything like me, it's hard enough finding your way to the coffee pot in the morning -- let alone making a plan for a healthy and delicious lunch.

As a result, it's easy to fall into bad habits. Takeout and frozen meals may be fast and convenient, but they aren't necessarily the best choice for your wallet or your waistline. So how can you take the pain out of bringing a healthy and affordable lunch to work?

Here are two brown-bagging strategies that require a minimum of advance planning -- and money.

1. Simmer your way to savings

Every Sunday, I get out my slow cooker and survey my refrigerator and pantry.

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4 affordable US cities with great dining

Published 11/13/14

4 affordable US cities with great dining By Justin Boyle

If you're anything like me, your love of good food and residential elbow room tends to find itself at odds with your need for reasonably priced goods and services. Fortunately for people like us, though, there exist U.S. cities where it's still possible to enjoy a lively and well-fed existence in a comfortable living space while keeping your savings account intact.

Here are four of the best places to do it in 2014, in alphabetical order.

1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

The attraction here might not be immediately obvious, particularly after the city's starring turn as a den of vice and viciousness in "Breaking Bad," but you'll be cheered to know that the real Albuquerque is much friendlier than it seems on TV. This desert metropolis is home to some world-class spas and restaurants (and casino resorts, if that's how you party), and it's growing in prominence as a destination for fine food and libations.

Writers for both Women's Health magazine and the venerated Zagat Survey have listed Albuquerque among their top food cities for 2014. Such cuisine and recreation might threaten dry up your disposable income in most places, but New Mexico ranks among the 10 most affordable states in the U.S. in the mid-2014 cost-of-living index (COLI) released by the Council for Community & Economic Research.

2. Boise, Idaho

The Idaho capital could be a real sleeper hit for lovers of food and frugality, particularly those whose physical constitution can handle the freezing winter temperatures.

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Yes, Obama's credit card was declined -- but yours needn't be

Published 10/30/14

Yes, Obama's credit card was declined -- but yours needn't be By Peter Andrew

President Obama and I are like two peas in a pod. We both have quite a lot of grey hair. Er ... we both live in houses with street addresses that begin with a "1." And, um, we've both in the past had our credit cards wrongly declined. You see? POTUS and I are like brothers from different mothers.

Presidential plastic

Unexpectedly, given his multi-million dollar personal fortune, Mr. Obama's plastic was refused more recently than mine. He was in New York in September, attending the United Nations General Assembly, when he took the First Lady out to dinner. When the check arrived, his card issuer declined the payment.

Presumably after a short conference around the restaurant's payment terminal ("You tell him." "No, YOU tell him." "No way."), some poor sap was sent to inform the President of the United States that he was using dodgy plastic.

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3 money moves to make before a career change

Published 10/17/14  (Modified 11/13/14)

3 money moves to make before a career change By Georgie Miller

One of the measures of a healthy economy is workers' confidence in their ability to leave a job and find other employment. The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks this number, also referred to as "voluntary separation" or the "quits rate." The higher the quits rate, the more people believe that they will be able to find another (possibly better) job quickly.

While the BLS crunches the numbers, they don't analyze them. However, analyses of the most recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere suggest that the labor market is strengthening. Along with that strengthening may come increased confidence that now is the time to make a career move.

If you're considering transitioning to new employment, here are a few strategies to consider before leaving your current position.

1. Pay off debt

Whether it's consumer debt such as credit cards, or other forms of debt such as medical debt or student loans, having a monthly payment hanging over your head may hinder your ability to leave your current job without something else lined up.

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