When a University of Michigan survey asked people what they believed would improve their quality of life and make them happy, the answer given most often was, “More money.” 

In the book The Day America Told the Truth, James Patterson and Peter Kim asked, “If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?” The number one response at 64 percent was, “Greater wealth.”

Opening the wallet full of money.More recently, a University of Southern California study found that greater wealth didn’t translate into greater happiness for many of the 1,500 people surveyed annually over three decades. USC economist Richard Easterlin said, “Many people are under the illusion that the more money we make, the happier we’ll be,” but, according to the study, that isn’t true.

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Bents, characteristics, abilities, and tendencies are the conduits through which you can pass your values to your kids. But exactly how do you make the pass? Though your life. The way you live.

Kids learn most effectively through observation and imitation. It’s the witness of our lives, more than anything we say, that is taken in slowly and cumulatively by our children.

Raising Financially Confident Kids Book sitting on a white shelf with basket of bright colored tulips

Children drink in everything around them. They see the way we act with others. They listen to everything we say. They observe the way we handle our money. They hear what we say on the phone and the way we deal with salespeople. Children compare what they see with what they are told and in the case of a clear conflict, they usually go with what they see.

There are many ways to communicate your values to your kids. There are formal lectures, specific talks, books and discussions on what has been read; reprimands, reminders, various kinds of discipline and punishment, and religious education with all of its related activities.

All of these ways of communicating with your kids do count for a great deal, but they cannot come close to your children observing their parents living out their values consistently, specifically, and diligently day in and out. That’s the surest way to pass on to your kids the values and principles they need to guide their lives—values that will take root in their hearts, not simply stick on the outside until they can get away from your authority. Truth be told, values are more often caught than taught.

 

It’s easy to get so hung up on the mundane side of parenting—cooking, cleaning, carpooling, taxi driving—that we forget about the single most important job parents have to do, which is to successfully pass on our values to our children. Read more

Getting our outdoor grill cleaned, polished and ready for summer got me thinking about how much fun it would be to celebrate. After all, the first day of summer comes but once a year, so why not do things up right with an amazing menu and a few good friends to kick off the season!

photo credit: combust

What happened next I can only attribute to a momentary lapse of good judgment. I visited the website of Lobel’s of New York, “the best source for the finest and freshest USDA prime dry-aged steaks, roasts, specialty meats, and gourmet products that money can buy.” Unveiling the mother of all outdoor grills seemed like an event worthy of a few high-quality American Wagyu steaks delivered overnight on a bed of dry ice. I checked the price. Gulp! One 20-oz Porterhouse steak: $159.95—plus overnight shipping.

Just the thought of forking out more than a hundred bucks on a single steak jerked me back to reality with enough force to cause whiplash. Surely there has to be frugal ground somewhere between Lobel’s and what’s left of the buy-one-get-one-free hotdogs sitting in the freezer. Read more

I love it when I open my email to find a question that makes me go, Oh boy, do I know about that feeling! That’s exactly what happened to me—been there, done that!

Today’s first great reader question is a perfect example. Yep, done that and have gone on to get rid of the shrunken items because I didn’t know there was a possible remedy! But now I do, and you’re about to know, too!

Man's sweater shrunken to toddler size.

Photo credit: Northpole.com

Dear Mary: Thank you for your many helpful articles. In a past column, you wrote about how to unshrink a wool sweater. All I can remember is that it involved baby shampoo. Could you print the instructions again? Thanks! Linda

Sure, here it is: Mix a solution of one gallon of lukewarm water and two tablespoons baby shampoo. Soak the garment for about 10 minutes. Now the important part: Don’t rinse! Simply blot out all the excess water with a dry towel and very gently lay it flat on a fresh towel. Reshape slowly and carefully stretch it back to its original size. Dry out of direct sunlight or heat. This tip comes from the Wool Bureau who verifies this technique will work provided the fibers have not become permanently damaged.

Dear Mary: We recently inherited our father’s property after he died and the title has been transferred to us, in our names.  A few months ago we discovered that there is a lien on the property for unpaid taxes. How do we resolve this situation?  Are we obligated to pay the taxes to resolve the lien? Julia Read more

Did you accept the challenge Spring Clean Kitchen Challenge? It’s been six weeks since I wrote about our big kitchen remodel and my determination to follow Cynthia Townley Ewer’s (Cut the Clutter) three rules for organizing an efficient, convenient kitchen. I invited my readers to accept the challenge and many did.

It’s time for a confession and an update.

Confession: My beautiful new kitchen is finished but it is not yet an organized and efficient kitchen.

Related: Spring Clean Kitchen Challenge

Do you recall Cynthia’s first step in creating an organized kitchen? She says we must harden our hearts and dare to dump everything that is not absolutely necessary and useful. I thought this would be easy. It’s not. There have been days I have felt like giving up and just throwing everything back in the way it was. I’ve been doing a lot of praying.

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There are lots of ways to stay cool when the temps of summer soar—most of them holdovers from our childhoods.

older man hot and sweaty heat of summer

However, running through the sprinklers, dumping a bucket of water on your head, or drenching your t-shirt in cold water before putting it on do not offer particularly appropriate options especially if you are, for example, at work. Or any number of other hot situations—indoors or out.

Check out these super fun, cheap ways you can keep cool even when it’s really hot!

Fan that plugs into your mobile phone

PHONE FAN. This tiny-but-mighty Phone Fan plugs into your phone—iPhone, iPad or Android Smartphone/Tablet. Yes, it’s adorable. But more than that, it works! And it’s quiet enough to use anywhere you get that need for air. Don’t worry about it draining your battery because this little gem works on precious little power. Pack of 3 Phone Fans: About $12.

 

Cooling neck towel used as a scarf will keep you cool for hours.

COOLING NECK TOWEL. Think back to Fifth Grade Science Class. Evaporating water plus moving air equals cold. That’s the principle at play with this fabulous Chill-Its Cooling Towel. Wet this towel thoroughly and it will give cooling relief for up to 4 hours, depending on the relative humidity. Simply re-wet to start again. Drape it around your neck, shoulders, and head for drip-free cooling relief as temperatures rise. The secret here is the absorbent and hyper-evaporative PVA material that holds more water, making Chill-Its the most effective cooling towel on the market. Comes in a variety of colors. About $7. Read more

It’s no secret that more and more people—especially seniors on fixed incomes—are sinking deeper into credit-card debt. Why is this? I don’t think it’s because we’ve had so many emergencies (the reason to have credit cards, right?). It’s because we don’t want to feel poor.

older-woman-empty-wallet-feeling-poor

At this point, I should define this term, “feeling poor.” It’s not easy, but it’s real. And I’ll bet you’ve felt it from time to time no matter your season of life.

It’s a sad, sorry feeling of inferiority. It’s that feeling you get when faced with an invitation to join all of your rich friends for a chi-chi lunch and you’ve got $8.43 to your name. It’s that feeling you get when you hear your friends are all taking a Caribbean cruise and you can barely scrape together gas money to visit your grandchildren. 

The worst response when feeling poor is to do the very thing that should prove you’re not: spend money. Sure, that might make the feeling go away for a time. But as soon as you realize you’ve just plunged yourself deeper into debt and made your situation worse, you’ll feel even poorer. It’s a vicious cycle that comes to no good end.

I have a better idea. Stop feeling poor in the first place. Here are three surprising steps to follow.

older-woman-washing-car-on-driveway

COMMIT TO A CLEAN CAR

No matter how old, how scratched, how new, how leased or how ugly, if you keep your car sparkling clean inside and out, you won’t feel poor.

Related: Car Dealer Spills the Beans on Treating Leather Interiors

Remove every coffee cup, every paper and every item other than the emergency equipment in the trunk every time you leave the car. Wash it weekly. Make sure the windows are always spotless, the tires scrubbed and the chrome shiny. Do this and you’ll feel like a million bucks.  Read more

Imagine paying outrageous amounts of interest to a greedy finance company and loving every minute of it. Or how about making off-the-record, back-alley deals with a loan shark so you can skip all the credit checks and paperwork?

a smiling cartoon shark dressed in business suit as pawn shop owner

Impossible? Not if that loan shark is you. You’ll be borrowing from yourself, making payments to yourself and collecting high rates of interest—all from you, for you.

The original idea of the credit union was to get the little person out of the clutches of the big money institutions. Credit unions are still a good idea! But even credit unions have their limits and standards when it comes to qualifying for personal loans. Being your own lender simplifies even the credit union strategy to just one person—you. And when you’re wearing the loan officer hat, dealing with you the borrower, both the lending and repayment benefit only you. What a deal!

So, how does it work?  Read more