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Making the Shift to Living with Cash

Banks and retailers benefited greatly over the past decades by promulgating the cashless lifestyle. They convinced us that it’s much safer to carry plastic and more convenient, too. Cash, they declared, is old-fashioned and clunky. Plastic is hip and cool. Gradually, Americans fell for the pitch and, in turn, got more than we bargained for. Going cashless has turned us into a debt-ridden society.

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But things are changing on the consumer front. Cash is making a comeback.

Some people, like reader Martin B., are moving to cash to avoid credit-card companies, collection agencies and others. Susan J. and her husband wrote that they’ve closed their bank and credit accounts because of past problems with overdraft charges and identity theft.

Still others like Bill and Jan W. are using money orders to pay bills. They cash their paychecks at their company credit union because it doesn’t impose high fees like check-cashing stores.

All of these people have gone to cash to avoid specific problems. But there’s another reason—perhaps even more noble than any other—that individuals are making the shift to a cash lifestyle: To reduce spending and improve savings. 

How to Stop Worrying Forever

Somewhere in my life, I picked up the behavior of worrying. About money, mostly, but I can worry about anything, really.

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I don’t believe I was born worrying, so I must have learned to worry from past experiences and from watching people worry—probably my parents. Actually that’s good news. If you, like me, have struggled with learned worry, that means that we can unlearn this debilitating behavior.

I can’t report that I’ve completely won the battle against worry, but I have turned the corner where worry no longer controls me.  If worry is wreaking havoc on your life, there really is something you can do to put worry in its place.

Worry is useless. It doesn’t do anything. Worry cannot control the future or change the paste. It can’t pay a bill, solve a problem or cure an ill. But it can throw you into emotional paralysis.

Worry weighs heavily on your heart. And it is a very heavy, crushing weight. 

Rebooting My Spirit

To say that I am impressionable would be to put it mildly. And when I say impressionable I mean prone to take on the circumstances and the weight of people, places and things around me. Here’s an example: I watched the movie “Castaway,” and for the next seven nights in a row, dreamt that I was drowning.

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I’m like a giant sponge. I absorb whatever I allow myself to be exposed to. Of course I can’t always control my surroundings and life situations so as to avoid anything negative, but I’ve had a giant wakeup call in the past week or so. I’ve allowed myself to become overly saturated with the cares of the world and the prophets of doom (and gloom). It’s time to reboot my spirit.

Here are the five things I will be doing on a daily basis over the coming 30 days:

1. Turn off the TV. I rarely sit and watch TV. But I am one to have it on in the background, all the time. I’m drawn to news and talk shows and you know what that means―all of the troubles of the world playing over and over again. I am taking a 30-day break from politics and news. 

Paycheck 101: A College Grad’s Guide for How to Manage an Income

There you are, a college graduate with your newly-minted degree in one hand and new job in the other—or confidence that you will have one soon. For years you’ve waited for a real job with a real paycheck so you could get a decent car, apartment and a respectable wardrobe. After all, these are the things you so richly deserve for having nearly starved to death for lo these many years.

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Well, not so fast, Buckaroo. Before you do a thing we need to go over the fundamentals of managing a paycheck―a small detail that may have been overlooked in the courses you took to prepare you for the real world.

When net is gross

You may have figured your annual salary―a number that has you seeing dollar signs. That is your gross salary. Do not fall in love with it. A $35,000 annual salary when reduced by 30 percent for “withholding” for taxes, Social Security, etc., then divided up into 52 weekly paychecks suddenly looks more like $470.

Get Back at Your Creditors

Late fees, punitive interest rates, over-limit fees, loading up your credit report with negative information—it’s enough to make you scream!

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It’s not that your creditors are doing anything illegal. You just didn’t understand the power you gave them when you accepted that credit card (it was buried in the fine print). And now it seems like they’re staying up nights looking for new ways to stick it to you. If you’ve just about had enough, maybe it’s time for you to turn the tables and get back at them.

Pay early. Nearly 30 percent of a credit card company’s profits are derived from fees—annual fees, late fees and over-limit fees. You’d think they would be pretty satisfied with all that interest you send them each month. But no. They want more. The days when issuers allowed 10 or 15 days for a payment to arrive after a due date before charging a fee are long gone. Now those fees kick in if you’re even five minutes late, and can range from $20 to $39 per occurrence.

Get back at your credit card company by making a decision right now to never pay another dime in late fees. Be quick with your payment. Send it in the preprinted envelope that came with your statement (or pay online). Don’t enclose a note, use a paper clip, decorate with stickers or do anything that will pull it out of the fast track and into manual processing.

Give Yourself an Extreme Money Makeover

There’s nothing like a job-layoff notice, getting a call from the bank saying you’ve bounced your account to the moon—or in my case back in the ‘80s learning that our home was about to be foreclosed—to tell you that you need an extreme money makeover..

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Before picture. Any makeover worth its salt needs a great before picture. A personal financial snapshot is called a Statement of Net Worth—a realistic estimate of how much money you would have left if you sold all that you own and paid off all that you owe. It’s a picture you need no matter how dire your situation may seem to be.

Your attitude. Face it. The only thing you control absolutely is your attitude—the way you choose to respond to life and all of its challenges. This is a season in your life that has come and will go. It’s not forever. You can handle anything as long as you know it will end. Choose to face your extreme situation with an equally intense response.

Get a plan. Write a simple plan for how you will reach your goal keeping in mind that a good plan is specific, reasonable, realistic, finite with a way to measure results. Give yourself a date by which you plan to have this makeover complete. Now create stepping stones so you can measure your progress.

Freeze spending. Yes, it’s extreme but so is your makeover. Imposing a spending freeze for the next week or two will give you the jumpstart you need. Then move into a non-essential spending freeze for the foreseeable future. 

Life Lessons from a Daffodil Garden

I love the story author Jaroldeen Edwards tells (Things I Wish I’d Known Sooner) of the trip she took with her daughter one bleak and rainy day. She wasn’t that thrilled to drive more than two hours to see flowers some woman had planted. But her daughter was insistent. “You’re going to love this, Mom!” Tell me what mom could resist going along with that kind of enthusiasm.

They drove along the Rim of the World Highway, inching their way toward Lake Arrowhead through fog and drizzle in the San Bernardino mountains, north of Los Angeles, Calif.

By now, Jaroldeen was so agitated, she was certain she was being kidnapped by her daughter. Still not convinced this could be worth the trouble, Carolyn parked next to a small stone church and announced they would need to walk along a path, through huge, black-green evergreens and over a thick blanket of old pine needles.

Just as they turned the corner, Jaroldeen stopped dead—literally gasping in amazement. “There before me was a most incredible and glorious sight! So unexpected and unimagined.”

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From the top of the mountain, sloping down several acres across folds and valleys, between the trees and bushes, following the natural flow of the terrain, were rivers of daffodils in radiant bloom. Every color of the spectrum of yellow blazed like a carpet before them.

Cybercrime Alert for Grandparents

There is a very real and terrible scam going on in the U.S. and abroad, in which grandparents are being targeted.

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The scam begins with something most grandparents don’t get enough of—a phone call, email message or a message through Facebook from a grandchild. The scammer, impersonating that grandchild, is frantic and says he’s been hurt in a car accident, or arrested, or gotten in some kind of trouble and needs money fast.

One former scammer told CBS News that he can easily make $10,000 in a single day. He just keeps calling until someone bites. Then he does it again and again.

A typical conversation goes like this:

Hey, Grandma, Hi Grandpa … It’s me Johnny. I’m in a little bit of trouble right now. Yeah, Ashley is good. But I’ve got a problem. If I tell you, just keep it between us. Don’t tell Mom and Dad—they’d freak out and they wouldn’t understand. I’m on vacation, but I got into a little accident, and I was arrested for a DUI. Things got out of control, and I need you to pleeeeeze send me money.