Gadgets to Keep You Powered Up

It’s hard to imagine how we’d live our lives without all of the electronic devices we’ve come to depend on. I’m talking about everything from mobile phones to portable computers, tablets, MP3 players, GPS trackers and eReaders, too. And it’s not just an adult thing. My 5-year old grandson has his own bevy of things that need to be powered including his LeapFrog LeapPad and LeapFrog LeapBand (amazing learning devices, by the way).

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The challenge is more than staying powered while on the run. The trick is to keep electronic devices fully charged and ready to go. The more people in the household, the greater the challenge and greater potential for a big fat mess.

The best way to make sure you’re always powered up and ready to go it to make charging convenient. Not necessarily expensive, but well-thought out.

Today I thought I’d give you a quick tour of the charging tools I depend on and wouldn’t be without.

Like Fourth Grade All Over Again

I’m not sure why I loved fourth grade so much. Maybe it was because my teacher was extra pretty and her name was Mrs. Hunt (who could’ve guessed?). Or that I sat behind Rick Collier voted by all the girls to be the cutest in the entire universe.

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For sure it had something to do with “My Weekly Reader,” our very own kid-size newspaper that showed up on our desks after recess every Friday. I have to hand it to the genius who came up with that idea. We had no idea we were learning important current events and other stuff that would stay with us for a lifetime. Like Roy G. Biv. I swear I’ll never forget that guy.

No Friday in the fourth grade was complete without a few fun facts, not unlike the following that I learned only recently about credit cards:

1. The very first credit card was introduced in 1946, named “Charge-It.” The catch was that a user had to have an account at the Flatbush National Bank of New York and purchases could be made only locally. Technically, it was a charge card, because the bill had to be paid in full at the end of each month.

2. The reason credit cards expire is because the magnetic strip gets a lot of abuse and needs to be replaced. A magnetic strip is good for only about 3 to 4 years of swiping. 

Steps to Follow if You’re Out of a Job

These days it’s practically inevitable that you or someone you know will face a period of unemployment. Here are six practical tips every unemployed person should keep in mind while searching for a new job:

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Don’t take it personally. Losing a job can cause shame, humiliation, and embarrassment. You may feel depressed and lose your confidence. Yes, it’s a very stressful time, but don’t take it personally. Thousands and thousands of people have lost their jobs in this economy. Don’t hibernate, and be good to yourself. If you need it, seek emotional counseling. Let your friends and family be there for you. Remember, time heals everything. This too will pass.

Collect your benefits. You may have unemployment benefits, a lump-sum payout from your ex-employer, a severance package and options regarding health insurance.

Unemployment compensation protects workers against job loss by providing temporary income support to people who become unemployed through no fault of their own. Find out exactly what you qualify for and the limitations and rules regarding each benefit.

The U.S. Department of Labor website has a handy list of all unemployment offices in each state. Standing in line at the unemployment office is a thing of the past. States now allow you to apply online or over the telephone. Generally it takes two to three weeks from the time you file your claim to receive your first benefit check, so do not 

When Life Happens

Dear Mary: I’m in a quandary. I can’t see the forest for the trees. By some coincidence, my washing machine died this month after my having babied it for 18 months. Within a week, my dishwasher, refrigerator, and screen door all announced they were on their last legs.

On top of that, a pipe burst and water leaked for weeks underneath my yard till we got a $670 water bill. A plumber ripped up the yard and fixed the leak ($450), and the Dept of Water and Power gave me a bill for $220 (a usual water bill is $45). Two days ago in the rain storm, my car wouldn’t start. Turns out water got into the hybrid battery which may cost $5000 to replace. Property taxes are due next week.

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I have paid off one credit card, am existing on the other, and my Contingency Fund is nowhere near able to handle the cumulative disaster that has become my life. I managed to pay the property taxes, but I’m not sure how to prioritize or what to do next. It’s so overwhelming, I feel paralyzed.

It’s so surreal that all of this has happened in such a short period of time. I have one dollar and some change in my purse. Do you have some advice for me? I need some structure and a light at the end of the tunnel. I still have a young teenager at home I need to provide for. Thanks in advance for your wisdom. Amy

You Really Need a Good Night’s Sleep

What would you pay for a good night’s sleep? I just read about a soccer club in England that spent £150,000 on special mattresses and pillows for the 80 luxury bedrooms at the club’s £200 million soccer training base where players sleep the night before home matches.

The rooms even have wallpaper with a special sleep-inducing pattern. I think it’s pretty safe to say these people think good sleep is important!

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So how are your sleeping conditions? Getting a good night’s sleep, we’re learning, is not only a lovely thing, it’s mandatory for good health and a productive life.

Even if your mattress is lumpy, bumpy and in the fast lane to saggy, there are a few things you can do it get it back to comfy with a minimal investment. The best part? This could buy a few more years, giving you the time you need to save up for a new bed.

Your Very Own Hedge Fund

Last May when gas prices were at their highest in Los Angeles, I paid $4.26 a gallon—$102 to fill my Chevy Silverado.

Paying For Gas

As I write, at just $2.29 a gallon, the cost for a full tank of regular grade gasoline for my truck has plummeted by half to $55.

Regardless where you live, it’s likely that you’re experiencing and enjoying the same thing—cheap gas. You’re saving a ton off the peak prices of last summer.

It’s so easy to ignore it though and let that “saved” money stay in your checking account, where it will inevitably be spent on something useless. Or just evaporate unnoticed the way money in a checking account has a way of doing.

Get Your Kids on the Road to Financial Independence

Have teens? Are they always hitting you up for money? The next time they come sweetly beseeching you for cash, place this book, The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens: 8 Steps to Having More Money Than Your Parents Ever Dreamed Of, in their hands. These financially savvy authors, creators of the award winning site Fool.com, came up with this hip, funny and right-on book. Unlike their other great reads, though, this one is geared to teens.

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The Brothers Gardner give teens the wherewithal to make some serious money by the age of 21. There are numerous testimonials by teens who have followed the Fools’ advice and have built up impressive portfolios! These are not rich kids dipping into daddy’s till, either. For the most part, they are high school kids working part-time. The difference between them and their peers who work and never seem to have a dime is that these kids are investing in the stock market, not blowing all their hard-earned cash on the latest Jay-Z CD or trendy footwear.

The authors do a great job of getting teens excited about saving money. That alone is worth the price of the book. Starting off by helping them set goals, they explain the glories of compounded interest. Your teen is reminded that by setting goals he can achieve his dreams. No goal is too large or too small; whether it’s to retire at age 40, pay for college, buy a car or a cool stereo, this book will convince your teen that he can realize his dreams.

After firing up your child’s enthusiasm, the authors explain the virtues of working. They offer some fine ideas for your child to brainstorm when it comes to getting a job. They encourage teens to tap into their areas of interest and look for ways to create a job from that (see Chapter 2).

The Hot New Trend for 2015

I wouldn’t call it a radical new idea, although a recent issue of a popular women’s magazine did say that living below your means (LBYM), is the hot new trend.

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It is a simple concept—spend less than you earn. Still, LBYM is seen by many as a life sentence, not the lifesaver that it is. It can take a crisis like unemployment or a sudden illness to reveal to some people just how far in over their heads they really are. That’s when a lifesaver can look mighty good.

LBYM means living the best life you can on what you earn. It means learning how to manage your income so well that you can live your life for half the price.

A household is just like a business. You earn revenue and you have expenses. If you spend more than you bring in you will eventually take on debt. A business that continually takes on debt will eventually fail. Same in a household.

In a business you make spending decisions based on the effect they will have on the business; you decide how to reinvest your profits to improve your net worth. It is a healthy company that ends the year not just breaking even, but with money in the bank. Same at home. This is LBYM.

MAKE A COMMITMENT.  It’s a good time to make some decisions about the future, it being the New Year and all. A commitment to LBYM should not be taken lightly. It’s a big deal, particularly if you, like most people these days, have come to see credit as a required extension of your income.