Without a doubt, autumn is my favorite season of the year. When the calendar flips to September, I know that the greatest show on Earth is about to begin. The spectacle of autumn never fails to take my breath away.
It’s easy in all of the joy and beauty of autumn to ignore another season that arrives at just about the same time. I’m talking about the year’s biggest gift-giving season—the season that makes us hope that if we ignore it hard enough it will go away—which is about the best definition for procrastination that I’ve ever heard. I can promise you it will not work.
Choosing to not think about the gift-giving aspect of Christmas and Hanukkah until later—much later—will not do one thing to make it go away. The longer you wait, the harder, more pressure-filled and infinitely more expensive it will be for you.
Recently I heard from the McBrides who live in Pennsylvania. “We’re a family of five living on a single income. Things are very tight for us. We have no dental insurance and find we cannot afford the luxury of dental care. Is there a dental plan that caters to low income families in our situation? Please answer soon before our teeth fall out.”
Dental insurance is not the answer for the McBride Family’s particular situation and that’s probably a good thing. Paying for dental insurance is a very expensive way to achieve good dental health. The only affordable dental insurance plans out there are those that are part of an employer’s benefit package. These days, even that benefit is becoming as scarce as, well, hen’s teeth.
Dental insurance is designed to cover unexpected occurrences—not the routine preventive maintenance required by a family with young children.
Let me suggest several ways families not covered through employee provided dental insurance can begin to see dental care as absolutely essential and something they can fit into their already strained budgets.
Ignorance may be bliss in some areas of life, but your money is not one of them. You need to know where your money goes and then a strong will and determination to take control of it.
Today I want to show you ten simple changes the typical reader can make to recover more than $500 in this month and every month in the future, too.
CUT OUT NEEDLESS TRIPS. It’s the short spontaneous unplanned trips to run errands that suck the gas tank dry. Cutting out five needless trips a week will reduce your gasoline consumption by five gallons per week ($15) and add up to monthly savings of $60.
DOWNGRADE TO BASIC. Have you noticed your premium cable package creeping toward $100 a month? If you’re not there now, you will be in time. Change your cable package from premium to basic and expect a net per month savings of $60. Or better yet, cut the cord completely.
D.I.Y. LATTES. Instead of handing over $3 every work day for a fancy coffee drink, make your own at home or at your desk. After paying $7 twice a month for a pound of coffee and $3 for a gallon of milk, you’ll realize a net savings of $40.
When did you last look at your kitchen cabinets? Not a passing glance, but an up-close visual study—paying particular attention to the areas around the knobs and handles that get touched thousands of times throughout the weeks and months? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about and what I’m pretty sure Reader Sandy is talking about, too.
Dear Mary: We’re moving into a new house and would like to know what kind of cleaner to use on the wood kitchen cabinets? Thank you. Sandy
Dear Sandy: If you are looking for a commercial product to clean those cabinets, you’ll never beat the effectiveness of real orange oil polish to melt away grease, grime, polish and wax buildup and leaving a fresh scent and beauty in its place. At about $12 for 16 ounces, it’s going to cost a bit to do your entire kitchen, should you decide to go the commercial route.
Or you can make your own cleaner that will be equally effective, for just pennies. That’s what I prefer and I’ll bet you do too.
I have two recipes for your wood cabinets, whether they have a natural finish or they’re painted. The first is great if those cabinets just need some sprucing up to bring back the beauty and shine; the second is more powerful if you’re looking at years of built-up gunk and grime.
Good food, great conversations and loads of laughs—that’s what family dinners are made of.
If busy schedules are making it hard for your family to all land at the same place at the same time, take a “time out” to consider all the benefits of gathering around the dinner table. Family dinners are about more than just sharing a meal.
The fourth Monday in September (this year September 28) has been declared “Family Day — a day to eat dinner with your children,” by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. Join more than 1 million families who have made a pledge to eat dinner together that day.
Trying to get everyone together for a meal, especially every day, can be difficult. But the benefits of eating together make family mealtime a tradition worth pursuing. Simply eat with your children whenever possible, even if it isn’t every day.
I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there’s an old can of car wax hanging out in your garage or basement. Now would be the time to find it, dust it off and hope it’s not all dried out. Car wax is good for so many more things than just waxing a car. Prepare to be amazed.
DE-FOG MIRRORS. There’s nothing like a nice hot shower to steam up bathroom mirrors. Car wax is the secret to make them fog-free. Apply a small amount to the entire mirror, allow it to dry then buff it away with a soft dry cloth.
TUB, SHOWER AND SINK FIXTURES. No matter how water spotted and dull your faucets and fixtures are, car wax will make them look like new—and help them stay that way. Rub a small bit of car wax into all of that metal and allow it to dry for a few minutes. Now just polish it away with a soft dry cloth. The wax will prevent new water spots and keep those fixtures sparkling.
TOOL CARE. Say good-bye forever to rust on garden, garage and auto tools when you apply a coat of car wax to all of the metal parts. Make sure you rub a little wax into the hinges and moving parts to keep them from jamming and sticking.
All around the country, newly-minted high school graduates are heading off to college. They’ll be taking a lot of things with them, but we know that financial literacy is not one of them.
If I could spend just two hours with these awesome students, this is what I would attempt to cram into their heads, then pray that it penetrates their hearts:
A BUDGET IS YOUR FRIEND. That means you 1) have a written plan for how you are going to spend your money 2) you use that written plan like you would a road map, consulting it often and 3) you use a site like Mint.com or a pencil and paper to record how you spend every nickel. SallieMae.com has a monthly budget worksheet to help you estimate your costs and keep expenses under control.
GET A FREE CHECKING ACCOUNT. It’s not easy these days to find free checking accounts with no strings attached—no monthly fee, no minimum balance requirement and no minimum deposit. But many banks such as US Bank, do offer free student accounts that fit this criteria. Explore banking options in the city where you will be attending school or find out if the bank or credit union that your parents already use offers free student accounts and has a branch near the college campus.
Erma Bombeck, the late humorist, summed up family relationships when she spoke of “the ties that bind … and gag!” That just makes me laugh because it is such a colorful word picture. Maybe you’ve thought this from time to time: Family—can’t live with ‘em and can’t live without ‘em!
The same thing could be said about credit cards in these very strange times in which we live. Many people can’t live with them but can’t live without them, either.
Who could have foreseen the time when the very thing that has all of the ability to ruin so many lives (I do know a thing or two about that) is the very thing that we need in this digital age.
The relationship I have with my credit card is appreciation on the one extreme and hatred on the other. I have an “appreci-hate” relationship with it. Yes, I said hate. It is a strong word.