Dreaming of an Organized Garage

I really like an organized home. When things get all chaotic and messy, I find that my mind kinda’ gets that way, too. But when everything has a place—and everything is in its place—I feel a sense of peace. I can think straight, relax and enjoy.

Some rights reserved: Rubbermaid

Some rights reserved: Rubbermaid Fast Track

I really like an organized garage, too. At least I’ve enjoyed the pictures I’ve seen of garages that function in all the ways that garages are supposed to. Let’s just say I haven’t experienced this first hand.

Faithful readers know that my husband is a woodworker—a master craftsman. He remodels our homes, designs and builds heirloom furniture. This amazing talent does come with unintended consequences. Let’s just say the man does not possess a single iota of organizational talent. I’ll leave it there, although I could offer several pictures examples to illustrate my point.

For 27 years we had a two-car garage, also known as the hubs’ workshop—and for the record, there was no space in this garage for a vehicle of any size.

How to Afford the Big Stuff

You don’t need me to tell you that we’re living in uncertain economic times.

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One day stocks are plummeting and home foreclosures are skyrocketing, the next day things seem to be looking up.

But whether the economy is good or bad, expenses keep rising. There’s the mortgage and the car payments to deal with and all of your other necessary expenses.

But what about the big ticket items? Something like a busted water heater often hits without warning and with the potential to blow a giant hole in your finances.

The secret for handling a big money decision isn’t to grab the credit cards. Instead, you need to anticipate these expenses, divide them into manageable pieces and make them as routine as paying the phone bill. Here’s how it works:

Define the goal. The first and biggest step is to figure out what your next big money decision will be. You may not be aware you have any, but the truth is you have several to choose from. Do you think big medical expenses could arise in the next several months? Is your car beginning to show its age?

16 Totally Awesome Gifts for Teens Under $16

Finding the perfect gift for teen boys and girls is almost impossible. Teenagers like what they like. Funny thing. I’m kinda’ the same way. So what do teens like? Here are sixteen ideas. Before you read on, make sure you have your sense of humor handy.

This Gift Guide for Teens is nothing if not a lot of fun, no matter your age. Oh, and one more thing: At writing, all of these gifts as linked to Amazon, were priced below $16. (Prices can change.)

Teen Gifts #1

1. TEEN COOK. Remember what I said about teens liking what they like? Well, they’ll only eat what they like, too. With Teens Cook, your teen can learn to cook those foods he or she likes to eat. What a concept. With more than 75 recipes for what kids like including breakfast, snacks, sides, dinners and desserts—this is the perfect cookbook to inspire young adults to take interest in their diets by giving them a tasty hobby! $12.50

2. HERE I AM T-SHIRT. I’m thinking of getting this T-shirt for myself, that’s how funny it is. Emblazoned across the wearer’s chest: Here I am! What are your other 2 wishes? This Trendy T comes in 31 colors and 9 sizes. Caution: Reviewers say it runs small, so order accordingly. And while you’re at it, go ahead and get one for yourself. Just make sure a teenager never, ever catches you wearing it. $6.74 – $15.74 (depending on size).

3. HEADPHONES. These over-the-ear stereo headphones are just perfect for teen girls. Look at that pretty lavender and white style. The lightweight design makes for excellent comfort. And they fold up, too. Compatible with any device that uses a 3.5mm output. And for the price, the sound is amazing, too. $11.78

4. DETANGLING BRUSH. Honestly, I was not aware of anything known as the Official Product of the 2014 Kid’s Choice Awards Swag Bag, but this lovely hot pink detangling brush holds that distinction. Just look how sleek and beautiful it is. And tell me, when was the last time you knew of a hairbrush to garner 568 5-star reviews? That speaks to me in a big way. Whether your teen girls has long hair or short this brush will make her very happy. Trust me on that. $15.88

Payday Loans, Rent-to-Own and Other Spooky Tales

Scary stories and fiendish tricks are all part of Halloween fun. But the last thing you expect is for those stories and tricks to be about your friendly lenders, bankers, and credit card companies.

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Payday loans. You’re broke but payday is two weeks away. You write a personal check to the loan shark, uh … Payday Loan Company  for $115 so you can borrow $100. The shark makes you sign a contract and agrees to hold the check until your next payday. In two weeks, the lender deposits the check or you can redeem the check by paying $115 in cash. But you’re as broke then as you were before so for $15 you can extend the loan for another two weeks.

In this example the cost of the initial loan is a $15 finance charge—or 391 percent interest! If you roll over the loan three times, the finance charge climbs to $60 to borrow $100 for six weeks!

These legal loan sharks (there are more than 10,000 payday loan outlets in business in the U.S., with thousands more on the Internet) are in the business of bleeding people for as much money as possible and then forcing them into bankruptcy.

Rent-to-own. It sounds like a great idea. You can’t afford new furniture and you don’t want to go into debt, so you decide to rent. You go to a local rent-to-own store and discover that after 78 weekly rental payments, you’ll own it—paid in full. Yes, it sounds great, but don’t believe it. Renting to own is a creepy way to throw your money away.

Pay with Discounted Gift Cards to Save Even More

This is a Guest Post by Donna Freedman, freelance writer and blogger who really knows how to stretch a buck—and willingly tells all. Donna writes for Money Talks News and blogs about money and midlife at DonnaFreedman.com.

Black Friday ads are already starting to leak. Here’s a way to make this season’s hot deals even hotter: Pay with a discounted gift card.

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Cheap cards are available through resellers such as Cardpool, ABC Gift Cards, Card Cash, Raise and Gift Card Zen. You’ll see discounts of 3 to 30 percent (sometimes more) for cards from your favorite retailers.

The former owners either got gift cards that didn’t fit (think “steakhouse scrip for a vegetarian”) or need the money more than the credit.

Buying a gift card does limit you to a specific retailer. But if you know you’ll be treating your BFF to hair-care goodies from Sephora or buying an Old Navy hoodie for your kid brother, why not make those buying dollars go further?

(Or just give the discounted card outright and let your recipients do their own shopping.)

The simplest way to shop is to go through an aggregator site called Gift Card Granny, which lists the discounts resellers are offering. Note, too, that these sites will buy your own unwanted cards for up to 95% of face value. (Great-Aunt Rose meant well, but you’re really not a Lands End kind of gal.)

Know Your Cleaning Products

Two women, different locations, same accident. Both women using an ordinary commercial toilet bowl cleaner, were not satisfied with the way it was removing stains. Each added household chlorine bleach and stirred with a brush.

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One died quickly, the other spent a long time in the hospital.

Here’s the problem: Whenever chlorine bleach comes into contact with acid or an acid-producing substance like toilet bowl cleaner or vinegar, there is a sudden release of chlorine gas. This is not a good thing. A similar result occurs when chlorine bleach is mixed with ammonia, lye or other alkaline substances. Chlorine gas is lethal.

Now that I have your attention let me assure you: If you stay clear of chlorine bleach, you have nothing to fear by making your own cleaning products. Why should you even consider doing that? The cost, for starters. You know that blue window cleaner sitting on your counter? You paid about 30 cents an ounce for it and it’s 95 percent water. Your own products will cost only pennies to make and will not contain toxic chemicals that could be harmful to your family and the environment.

Family Countdown to Christmas

If you’re a little put off by the mention of Christmas this early in the year, hear me out. I’ve got a great idea for how you can really enjoy season, bless your children and start a new family tradition all at the same time. I guarantee that the kids in your life are going to love you for it, too. But it requires some amount of preparation. That’s the reason it may appear that I’m rushing things a bit.

Photo credit: 2littlehooligans.com

Photo credit: 2littlehooligans.com

Step 1. Between now and Dec. 1, collect 24 different books that are in keeping with your family’s holiday values and beliefs. You can find books at thrift stores, library sales, book stores and online. 

Step 2. Wrap each book as a beautiful gift. Place all 24 gifts, marked only with a number between 1 and 24, in a large basket or festively-decorated box. Keep all of the wrapped gifts hidden until Dec. 1.

Step 3. Each night before bed allow the children to select and open one of these “gifts” that corresponds with the date on the calendar, then read it together. Repeat each night through Christmas Eve.

Step 4. Put the books away in a secret place and you’ll be ready to go again next year—and every year—starting with Step 2.

Gratitude: The Antidote for Greed

Gratitude is more than pausing once a year to offer up thanks. It’s more than a snappy word that rhymes with “attitude.” I am told that of all the human emotions, gratitude is the most powerful.

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So powerful is gratitude, it can obliterate fear, hopelessness and doubt. Gratitude can heal a broken heart, slow the aging process and restore broken relationships. Gratitude creates hope and hope brings joy. It is in joy, not fear, that we can find strength.

Greed is the enemy. Never in this history of our country has so much meant so little to so many. The easy availability of credit has allowed us to live beyond our means. It has encouraged greed to creep into every area of our lives. Some call this affliction Affluenza—an unhappy condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.

The more we have, the more we want. The more we want, the more it takes to feel satisfied. The more credit we accept the farther we slide into debt.