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Get Financially Fit With Good Habits

Personal character is made of habits. Bad ones just seem to happen, while good habits are usually the result of considerable effort.

Some people act as if their habits were issued at birth and are not likely to ever change. There are a select few, however, who know and live by the truth: It is possible to learn good habits and unlearn bad ones, no matter how ingrained or deep-seated. It’s all a matter of choice.

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Some rights reserved by Rennett Stowe

The secret of learning good habits or breaking bad ones is found in conscious repetition—fueled by knowledge, skill, and motivation. One must repeat an action over and over and over again until it becomes a natural response: a habit.

To become more financially responsible, consciously focus and follow these seven habits, repeating them over and over until they become natural responses: Read more

Could You Go a Year Without Spending?

A few years back, Eric and Donna Reed shopped for groceries and household products only once a year. How on earth? I know. That was my reaction, too.

The Reeds got the idea after reading a column in USA Today, wherein the writer confessed to his weakness when it came to buying clothes. So driven to buy new sweaters, slacks or shoes every time he stepped inside a clothing store, publicly he announced he was giving up buying anything for one full year.

Cut Your Spending

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Eric and Donna wondered if they could do the same. Their minds went to the grocery and discount stores, the mall and Amazon.com. And what about restaurants and home improvement stores, they pondered. How would they handle gifts and seasonal items every household needs through the course of a year?

The Reeds, like most of us, don’t simply stop into the store to pick up milk. Or eggs. No, they buy the milk—along with a basket of other stuff, too. It’s expensive to be a frequent-buying consumer. But could they plan ahead well enough to make it through a whole year without spending? They decided to see if they were up to it by trying it for one month. One month with no exceptions. Not even gifts. Could they do it? They bought supplies for the month and then gritted their teeth. Read more

two red shiny Christmas bells tied with greenery and hung from a branch

Do You Hear the Bells?

It was 1859 and Charles Dickens starts his classic A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair …. “ When I read this passage it makes me wonder, was he referring to life in 1859 or looking forward in the future to December 2017?

Christmas bells

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The holiday season started out with all the normal craziness—Black Friday turning into a two-day event and people fighting over televisions. But then December 14 happened and things changed. With the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut so fresh, many are wondering about Christmas. Where, among all this, is our peace on earth and goodwill toward man? This feels like Dickens’ season of darkness, our winter of despair.

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Pâté and Other Yummies for Holiday Fare

I know I run the risk of “grossing out” some of you with one of my favorite recipes. However, I am certain that for every 10 people who turn their noses up at liver (braunschweiger is smoked pork liver sausage), another 10 will be tingling with anticipation. It really is a wonderful thing.

Some rights reserved by Joe Shlabotnik

Now, before I lose half of you right here, let me assure you I’ve included other favorite recipes—both of which are simple to prepare and would be impressive additions to any festive spread of holiday fare! Read more

Dry Cleaning Dilemma

Dear Mary,

My daughter has a letterman’s jacket that has real leather sleeves and a wool body. The regular dry cleaner doesn’t want to clean it because of the leather sleeves and the leather cleaner doesn’t want to clean it because of the wool-blend body. Do you have any suggestions on how I might spot clean it at home? Toni, email

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Dear Toni,

I checked with several manufacturers including LogoSportsware who tell me the leather sleeves in these jackets are typically specially treated to do well with dry-cleaning. I know that in the past I’ve had my son’s jacket cleaned without harm. You might consider asking your best dry cleaner to allow you to sign a release of liability form. Just understand that if something should go wrong, you will not have any recourse. But what do you have now? A dirty jacket. I believe I’d take that risk.  Read more

Don’t Fuss About the X in Xmas

Every year about this time I get a dozen or so, shall we say, “emotionally packed” messages from people wanting to take me to task for referring to Christmas as “Xmas.” I’ve received more than my share of angry messages given the few times I have actually made this reference in print.

Even though my first reaction is to be irritated, I try to respond to each in a calm and collected manner. However, I have decided in the interest of time (I don’t have a lot to spare), to make one collective response in advance, in this column.

Some rights reserved by steve p2008

To quibble about the abbreviation “Xmas” is to me silly, if not ridiculous. It’s a short cut, a quick way to type or write a long word. I abbreviate all the time and if my mind is really racing I even abbreviate abbreviations. It’s not unusual for my mind to race faster than my fingers can keep up.  Read more

The Season of Returns

The sweater didn’t fit right, the color was all wrong and you already have a singing bass on a plaque. For whatever reason, if you need to return a gift you should know a few things first.

According to the National Retail Federation, 62 percent of retailers have ID requirements to make a return. Your information is likely stored on The Retail Equation, a service that tracks how often you bring stuff back and identifies habitual returners.

Some rights reserved by Gene Hunt

The retail exchange has said return fraud and “renting” (buying an item to wear and return) costs the retail industry billions each year. In an effort to stop that practice, they’re tracking you, and all of your returns at their participating stores, in a database.

Return items too frequently, and you may lose your right to bring back your purchases anywhere.  Read more

Readers’ Unpredictable Responses

For anyone wishing to study human nature, my “mailbag” would make an interesting research center. I get tons of email and snail mail, however rather than arriving in a steady flow it comes in waves. I’ve given up trying to predict which columns will prompt responses from my readers.

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Take a column on the inherent dangers associated with debit cards. I wrote about the relatively weak law that regulates them as opposed to the much stronger law that protects users of credit cards. It was, in my humble opinion, empowering information worthy of some measure of positive response. Or at least a few angry challenges from loyal debit-card users. Surprisingly, responses to that column were nearly non-existent.

Another time, I included in a tip column what I found to be clever, albeit not exactly earth-shattering, having to do with lemon water. (“When dining in a restaurant and the waiter brings you water with lemon, give those slices a little squeeze, add a bit of sugar to taste and you’ll have a tasty free lemonade.”) Oh my. Angry emails and letters poured into my computer and office. Read more

Shark Navigator Professional

So Disgusting I’m Embarrassed to Tell

While I am a very busy person and not 100% organized, I do pride myself on cleanliness to the point of having been accused a time or two of being a wee bit compulsive. Which brings me to the matter of vacuum cleaners. I’m freakish if not particular about my vacuum. And I wear them out, regularly.

Declutterin junk out on the street

I just blew out my third Hoover Wind Tunnel, and I mean I wore that thing out down to its last gasp. I carried it in pieces to the trash. I was planning to replace it with the latest and greatest from Hoover … that is, until I heard about the Shark Navigator.

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