Looking over the shoulders of a happy couple creating a budget they can live on and love

How to Live on a Budget and Love It

For many years I wouldn’t have anything to do with a budget because I couldn’t stand the idea of anyone—or anything—telling me how to spend my money. And where did that get me? Into one big financial mess.

Looking over the shoulders of a happy couple creating a budget they can live on and love

Every month, when I ran out of money, I would turn to MasterCard and Visa for a bailout. To me, any available credit was the same as income. It was my money to do with as I found necessary. Really bad idea.

What I learned from going through that experience and finding my way back to solvency is that, as much as we may loathe it, a budget is the ticket to financial happiness―not the straitjacket I feared it would be. I’ve come to prefer calling this a “spending plan” rather than a  budget, but honestly, the terms are interchangeable. It’s just a way to pre-spend your income on paper first.

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Young couple in distress and worry for the way things used to be

Getting Back to Normal After a Disaster

Life on earth has never been perfect, but you’d have a hard time convincing some people of that. It’s not that they are ignorant. They have selective memories.

Perhaps you can identify if you long for the way things used to be—before the disaster, when life was predictable; when mortgages were simple, retirement accounts moved in only one direction (up) and students could carry their 100-percent-financed college degrees straight into six-figure jobs.

Young couple in distress and worry for the way things used to be

Now that it appears things are no longer quite so perfect, you’ve put your life on hold. You’re anxiously pacing the floor trying to hold on until the insurance claim pays out, you’re called back to work, real estate sales bounce back, your loan modification comes through or some debt-settlement scheme that returns your life to the “perfect” way it was.

Here are some immediate ways to bring order and calmness back into your family life after the chaos and confusion that follows a disaster.

Reconnect

You can’t get through a crisis alone. Since we all were impacted differently, it is vitally important to talk about the stress and pressures you have experienced with the people closest to you. Reach out to friends and family. It will empower and help both of you.

Accept what you cannot change

As hard as it is for some of us to accept the fact that we cannot control everything, that is the truth. If you’ve lost your home, a loved one, or filed for bankruptcy—as terrible as these events have been for you—you cannot change what has happened.

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Young astonished couple checking a long grocery receipt at supermarket.

23 Ways to Chop Your Grocery Bill

Need a foolproof way to cut your food/grocery expenses by 25% this month? Announce to your family that there will be a complete ban on the consumption of food during the first week of every month. There. That should do it!  Twenty-five percent right off the top.

What?! Don’t think you can pull that off? Me either, but not to worry. Here are some much less painful—and I hope a bit more realistic—ways to chop the high cost of food.

You couple aghast at the cost of their groceries while looking at the receipt

Create a shopping list

Do this at home when you are hungry. You will be more creative and thorough.

Not hungry

You will be compelled to buy everything in sight regardless of what’s on your list. Tip: If you can’t avoid it, head to the bakery a pick up a cookie or grab a protein bar on your way in. That will be enough to silence your hunger and clear your mind.

Leave the kids at home

You will stick to your shopping list with much less frustration and stress if you fly solo.

Avoid convenience or specialty stores

You won’t find many bargains there.

Groceries online

Online grocery shopping is the latest and greatest for many (me!). It keeps me out of the supermarket where, even with a list, I’m an impulsive disaster just waiting to happen. I shop at KingSoopers (part of the Kroger Family of stores) and pay a flat fee of $4.95  per order for its ClickList service. (Read more about that here.) Walmart offers its groceries online program with free same-day pickup is now available at hundreds of Walmart stores nationwide (store locator). Walmart does not charge a pickup fee but has a minimum order requirement of $30.

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pizza-on-homemade-pizza-stone

Use This for That in the Kitchen to Reduce Clutter and Save Money

Over the years I have been uniquely privileged to sit under the personal tutelage of world-famous gourmet cooks the likes of Julia Child, Christopher Kimball, Martin Yan, and Jacques Pepin.

pizza-on-homemade-pizza-stone

Currently, I have standing appointments with Ina Garten, Ree Drummond, Molly Yeh, and Alton Brown. They come to my home and demonstrate every technique imaginable while I sit, front-row-center in front of the television. Or sometimes my coaches show up on my iPad right there on my kitchen counter, where they walk me step-by-step through recipes and techniques.

They’ve taught me the importance of three things: fresh ingredients, the right equipment and a lot of practice. Which brings me to the topic of today’s column: the right equipment. Read more

A home dehumidifier sitting on a wood floor in a utility room

Best Inexpensive Home Dehumidifiers and How to Choose

Humidity, or the lack thereof, is a popular topic this time of year. Where I live in northern Colorado, it’s dry! We have like no humidity. Well, not exactly, but it averages in the low mid-20 percent during the summer and fall months. We have a humidifier in our home, and it runs 24/7 year-round for health and comfort.

Recently, lots of readers have inquired about how to deal with the opposite—high humidity, which can get pretty miserable. A dehumidifier can be a godsend for those who live in high humidity areas to remove excess moisture from indoor air.

older man hot and sweaty heat of summer

What is a dehumidifier?

Think of a dehumidifier as a vacuum that sucks the air from a room, removing the moisture and blowing dry air back into the room again. The condensation drips into a collection tank inside the machine that must be emptied from time to time.

Many people find that a dehumidifier works together with the air conditioning system to keep the rooms in a home comfortable even on the hottest days with super high humidity. Others rely on a dehumidifier in place of an air conditioner.

Dehumidifiers come in a variety of sizes, typically rated according to how many square feet they can dehumidify and how many pints of water they can produce in a day. Most home dehumidifiers are controlled by thermostats and humidity sensors so you can make the room as hot and dry as you wish.

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Grilled sweet corn on the cob hot slathered with butter and saal

4 Absolutely Brilliant Ways to Cook Corn on the Cob

There’s just nothing that screams late summer like sweet corn when it’s fresh, hot, and slathered with butter and salt. Today, I want to share with you four brilliantly delicious ways to cook corn on the cob that are sure to thrill and delight you, your family, and guests, too.

Corn on the cob is a summer staple that should be part of every summer celebration and backyard cookout because not only is fresh corn cheap when it’s in season, it’s quick and easy to prepare, too! But first, let’s talk about how to start with the best ears of corn.

Ways to cook corn on the cob

How to choose

There you are in front of a pile of freshly-picked, in-the-husks, sweet corn. You want to select ears with these characteristics:

  • Bright green husks that are tightly wrapped and mostly intact.
  • The stem area where it was cut from the stalk should be sticky and moist. If this is really dry, it’s old corn.
  • Check the tassels. They, too, should be slightly sticky, moist, and silky.
  • Peel back a small area of the husk to check for wormholes and brown spots. Avoid.

4 ways to prepare

There must be as many ways to prepare fresh corn on the cob as there are people who love to eat it. Here are my favorites:

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Wedding flowers

Don’t Go Broke for the Wedding Gift

Wedding season remains in full bloom and while tying the knot is getting more expensive for the bride and groom, attending a wedding is becoming costlier, too. Some surveys reveal the average guest will spend $673 this year to attend a single wedding—including but not limited to travel, accommodations and attire.

Wedding flowers and gift

How much to spend for a gift?

I’m not here to tell you what to spend on a gift (check these figures if you want a general idea), but I can offer you a sigh of relief with this: Experts agree you can forget the antiquated notion that you must spend an amount equal to the cost-per-plate at the reception. A wedding is not a fundraiser. You are not obligated to pony up with a gift that reimburses the cost of your attendance.

Instead, you should come up with a dollar amount that makes sense for you. Never spend more than you can afford on a wedding gift. Going into debt to buy a gift is never a good idea, even if you’re sure you can pay it off next month. If money is tight, adjust your gift budget accordingly.

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stopwatch set at 15 minutes

Simple 15-Minute Projects to Slash Your Utility Bills

Here’s some good news: At least 120 utility companies have lowered electric, gas, or water rates due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which cut the corporate rate from 35% to 21%. Utility companies are passing on the tax savings in the form of lower rates for customers.

I hope your utility companies are among that 120 and by now have let you know that your rates have gone down, or that they will be very soon. But don’t assume there’s nothing else you can do to stop spending so much of your hard-earned money on utility bills!

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So exactly how can you lower your utility bills? Check out these six projects each of which can be completed in 15-minutes or less, requiring no advanced skills or special equipment. Soon you’ll be keeping more of your hard-earned money in your pocket—not your utility providers’.

Ready? … Set … Go!

Hot water-saving showerhead

If you multi-task while waiting for your shower to warm up—making the bed or pot of coffee—the hot water could have been running for minutes, wasting water and adding unnecessary dollars to your utility bills.

The Ladybug Showerhead adapter saves the hot water. Ladybug is so smart, it senses the moment the water is warm and stops the flow to a tiny trickle. When you’re ready, just flip a switch to restart the normal flow.

This adapter saves $75 in hot water costs plus 2,700 gallons of water each year, based on a family of three showering daily and saving one minute of hot water per shower.

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Organized closet with ClosetMaid Kit

How to Organize a Closet in 5 Easy Steps

What’s behind your closet door? Orderly rows of shoes, stacks of folded t-shirts, and hanging clothes arranged by color and season? Or do you have a situation that could be declared a national disaster?

Woman buried under clothes, shoes, bags in unorganized closet

If the latter, you might ask the President for federal disaster relief funds or you could just get organized.

Knowing you would feel guilty taking funds from disaster victims, here are simple steps to find calm in all that chaos. By the way, these same principles for organizing a clothes closet apply to linen or utility closets, too.

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Happy family with suitcases in the airport

With Airline Miles You Need to Do This So They Don’t Expire

If you willingly pay an annual fee for a credit card that earns air miles (most reward cards do come with a hefty price), you might want to re-think that decision. The problem is airlines are changing the rules to shorten the time before miles expire. So sneaky! But for now, you need to protect those precious miles you’ve accumulated.

Happy family with suitcases in the airport

Sneaky notification

It looked like junk mail but for some reason, I opened the envelope from United Airlines. Turns out it wasn’t junk, but I have a sneaky suspicion whoever designed this mailer hoped I’d toss it in the shredder.

Inside the envelope was notification that my 38,000 MileagePlus miles would expire on New Year’s Eve if I didn’t activate my account by adding more miles to it before the stroke of midnight. Quite frankly, in the hustle and bustle of the season, booking a flight just so I could log a few more miles wasn’t exactly on my Christmas list.

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