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.

Got a Problem? Grab the WD-40

It’s not new. The blue and yellow can is about as familiar as anything I remember from my childhood. Banished to a shelf in the garage, I assumed WD-40® was an automotive thing. Boy, was I wrong! This stuff is amazing. And cheap.

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My recommendation is to let the product do its work then remove it. Some say that a build-up of WD-40 can cause its own sticky mess over time. So here’s the deal: Use it then remove it.

WD-40 is a petroleum-based product (so is Vaseline). WD-40 comes in a tiny 3-oz aerosol can, larger 16-oz. or by the gallon, which you can pour into your own spray bottle. While the aerosol propellant is flammable, the product itself is harmless to humans, according to the manufacturer.

WD-40 gets things unstuck and a lot more. I know. I go through it like it’s water.  But don’t worry. It’s cheap. I bought an 8-ounce can for $1.71 at Home Depot.

IF IT’S MELTED …

Have you ever opened the dryer to find a red crayon has ruined the entire load? The folks at Crayola offer this remedy for fresh heat-set crayon stains. 

The Secret of Financially Mature People

Over the years I’ve noticed something. People who live comfortably do not do so because they are particularly wealthy. It’s because they are disciplined. They possess financial maturity. They live according to principles and rules that they impose upon themselves. I have a feeling that Jane, today’s first tipster, is one of those people. Quietly disciplined, financially mature.

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LUXURY TAX. Whenever I spend money on a “want” (as opposed to a need), I tax myself with a self-imposed rule that I must deposit 10 percent of the total into my savings account immediately following the purchase. Jane

SUPER CLEANER. I mix rubbing alcohol and water 50/50 in a spray bottle. I clean virtually everything you can think of with this mixture. It leaves no streaks and it kills germs. I usually pay less than $1 for a bottle of store brand rubbing alcohol and it usually makes two bottles of cleaner. Cheap on the pocketbook and safer for the environment. Samantha

MUSTY DRAWERS. To sweeten old drawers I have always used a mixture of chlorine bleach and water. If badly stained, I use the bleach full strength. I have never known it to harm the wood. I do the same with unfinished, stained and dirty frames. After bleaching they can be varnished or painted. Ellen

COUPON POUCHES. I use those plastic zipper pouches that kids use for pens and pencils to organize my coupons and rebates. They have a clear front and three holes punched in the side. I have several for different categories of coupons or rebates and place them in a small three-ring binder. You can either color-code them or use a label maker to label the front of each pouch. Place an additional pouch in the back of your binder to hold receipts, rebate forms and UPCs for easy storage. I also keep a supply of small white envelopes, postage stamps, index cards and pens for easy rebate-filling while I’m waiting places. The binder can also be used to keep track of clothing sizes of family members, shopping lists, to-do lists, etc. Make it something you’ll never leave home without Jennifer

Preventive Maintenance is Cheap Insurance

It was a Sunday night, the house felt cold. The only way for the Doloski family to keep their Illinois house warm and cozy in December is to have a working furnace. One look at the thermostat told them that clearly, theirs was not.

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Within minutes of arriving, the service technician diagnosed the problem. They  needed a new igniter. At least, they concluded, the problem was one they could not have resolved themselves.

Then the technician opened the side panel of the furnace. Filthy. Neglected. The technician said the igniter failed because the furnace filter hadn’t been cleaned. What would have taken five minutes to vacuum, cost hundreds in “after hours” fees, parts and labor. They knew the furnace filter needed to be vacuumed and they do at the start of every winter, if not more often. But this year they simply forgot.

The Doloski’s are not alone when it comes to forgetting about routine maintenance issues. Take automobiles, for example. A National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) survey showed that while 48 percent of its certified technicians always tell customers about the importance of routine vehicle maintenance, only 2 percent routinely follow that advice.

If you own a home, a car or simply a human body, the words routine maintenance should be part of your vocabulary. Safety and good health are, of course, the most important reasons to keep what we’ve got in good working order. But the financial benefits are significant, too.

What They Don’t Tell You About HEL

Thinking of dipping into your home’s equity? There are a few things you should know.

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There was a time, and not so long ago, that borrowing against a home’s equity was tough to do. Following the crash of 2008, it was generally considered a risk no prudent homeowner should consider.

Not anymore.  According to the Federal Reserve, 2013 saw a big turnaround in home equity borrowing. Americans borrowed a record-breaking $701 billion in home equity loans, curiously referred to as HEL in the industry.

Lenders, in an amazing shift from what’s good for homeowners to what will boost their profits, love to advise homeowners to pay off their high-rate credit card debts with low-rate HELs. There are, however, a few things they don’t tell you.

1. Equity is a concept not a savings account. Equity, the difference between what you owe on your home and the amount you could sell it for now, is just a number. It is a theory, it is not cash in a savings account. The only way you can benefit from the equity and still live in it is to pledge the equity as collateral for a new loan. You are promising to give the cash to a lender if and when you sell. In the meantime you agree to make mostly-interest payments. And that plunges you into debt.

2. You’ll have a false sense of well-being. Transferring debt to a HEL can bring a kind of false sense of relief. Writing out big checks to credit0card companies from the loan proceeds feels righteous, like you are repaying debt—that you have achieved $0 balances on your unsecured debt. But that’s not exactly true. You are only moving your debt around. You can breathe again. And the old feelings of entitlement surface. You begin using the credit cards again. Before you know it the cards are maxed out again. But now you have the HEL, too.