Years ago I learned a lesson I won’t have to learn again. It was that poignant. It was during a time when mortgage interest rates took a nosedive and we benefited by refinancing our high-rate mortgage.

The transaction closed in late August with the first payment due in October. Rather than take a month off from making a mortgage payment we made an unscheduled payment in September to reduce the principal balance right off the bat. We sent a letter with the payment and wrote “Principal Prepayment” on the check.

A few weeks later we got a statement showing that the payment had been credited to the October payment, not to pay down the principal as instructed. The confused customer service rep was kind but hardly apologetic when she explained that someone must have assumed that we really wanted to “pay ahead” rather than “pay down.” It took a little persistence to convince her to the contrary.

Applying that payment to the principal balance was good for us because every penny of that unscheduled payment went to reduce the balance—no interest was due until October. That was profitable for us, but not for the lender.

By reducing the principal at the beginning of the loan, we would go on to save more than $4,000 in interest and cut three months off the term, which we did and oh what a happy day that was!

On the other hand, applying it to the October payment would have put almost the entire amount into the lender’s pocket in the form of interest.  Read more

I can recall vividly—and count on one hand—the migraine headaches I’ve had in my life, all of them before age ten. Once I turned double digits, I outgrew them. Until about two years ago.

With no warning at all, there I was back to my 8-year-old self, flat on my back with a raging migraine. Why then, after all these years?

In reading up on the latest findings on what might cause my migraine headaches, I discovered the importance of magnesium to overall health.

Turns out that an estimated 68 percent of the U.S. population suffer from magnesium deficiency causing all kinds of health issues—one of them being migraine headaches. One study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine concludes that all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. 

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I learned that common, ordinary Epsom salts is one of the richest sources of magnesium.  Studies like this one offer scientific evidence that magnesium can be absorbed through the skin—by soaking in it. In a nice warm bath! Just make sure the bath water is not too hot, otherwise your skin will eliminate rather than absorb.

You can be sure that Epsom salts soaks are now part of my routine to boost my magnesium and hopefully continue to avoid migraines in the future.

In the nearly two years since I wrote about my recurring migraine experience, I’ve been working Epsom salt baths into my regular routine and I have not had even the hint of another migraine.

Epsom salts, also known as hydrated magnesium sulfate (not to be confused with table salt, which is sodium chloride and NOT even close to the same thing) is plentiful, inexpensive, and available at drugstores, supermarkets, and online. And it has dozens of other practical uses and health benefits, too!

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It’s been a few years now since my husband and I began talking about relocating to another state. At first, it was only a dream but soon idle chatter turned to serious talk. That developed into a list of “must-haves”—things a new location would have to offer for us to even consider making the leap.

At the top of the list? Weather. Having lived in Southern California for most of our lives, we knew it would be impossible to beat the weather we’d come to love and pretty much taken for granted. Finding the next-best weather was at the top of our must-haves.

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Second on the list: Costco. You think I’m kidding? They don’t call me the Queen of Costco for nothing.

I believe that anyone—a household of one or a big family—can stretch the money by shopping at a discount warehouse club like Costco. But only if you are willing to stick to a very strict list of rules, some of which may be unique to your particular situation.

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Got debt? I could be wrong, but if you’re revolving a big credit card balance I’m guessing at least some of it is holiday-related.

Sadly, holiday debt can hang on long after the gifts are forgotten.

 

Young couple worried need help in stress at home debt bills bank papers expenses and payments feeling desperate in bad financial situation

So what’s the problem here? Procrastination. When it comes to Christmas, the longer you wait, the more you’ll spend and the more you spend the more likely you are to look to credit for the funds.

Everyone procrastinates a little, but some of us procrastinate about everything. Why do we do that? Internal conflict.

We feel overwhelmed

We put a lot of holiday pressure on ourselves. But then add to that the expectations of others and it can be overwhelming—even paralyzing. So we do nothing until it’s so late our only choice is to spend whatever it takes to squeak by.

We overestimate our time

From where we sit now, Christmas seems far away. We tell ourselves we have plenty of time—more than enough.

We overestimate our abilities

Procrastinators have an unrealistic sense of time. If we believe we can finish the task in say three hours, we put it off until only three hours remain. That leaves no margin, no room for error—no allowance for the law of life that says things rarely go as planned.

We have to do it perfectly

Experts tell us at the root of procrastination is perfectionism. Because we feel we have to do everything perfectly we do nothing rather than run the risk of failing.

We say we work better under pressure

Waiting until the last minute can provide quite an adrenalin rush. Procrastinators believe they cannot operate without that creative surge and so they sit back and wait for it to kick in.

The secret to overcoming procrastination is figuring out what’s behind the fear. Start by identifying the situations that have left you paralyzed by procrastination in the past.

As it relates to Christmas specifically, ask yourself: What price have I paid in past years for waiting until the last minute? Do I really want to pay that price again next year?

If the answer to the last question is yes, forget that I even brought it up. You don’t need to be thinking about the holidays yet.

If on the other hand, you are not willing to go into debt this year, here are simple steps to stop procrastinating.

Get started

Once you are in motion it’s easier to keep going.

Write it down

Reduce your plans to paper. Seeing things in black and white eliminates the unknown, which cause a lot of fear.

Work with the time you have

Make a simple timeline, and then break the project down into small, manageable parts. Even five minutes is enough time to get something done when you have a plan.

Set a series of small deadlines

As an example, give yourself a date one week from today to have your gift list written. Share your deadline with someone who will nudge you toward accountability.

Find the simpler way

Now, while you are still months away from experiencing the powerful emotions of the season, determine ways you can reasonably scale back and simplify.

Be opportunistic

Whether it’s picking up shells along the shore to adorn a picture frame or finding a bargain collectible at a tag sale during your fall travels, take full advantage of the opportunities.

Be realistic

Set reasonable limits both in time and money, and then stick to them.

For once, time is on your side. Here we are in January with eleven-twelfths of 2019 still ahead. Take a deep breath then determine that you’ll make the most of it!

Need help?

Feeling hopeless, buried under debt? I can’t promise to fix your situation, but I am available to listen. Write to me. I may be able to point you in the right direction to find the help you need—help that could turn your life around. No cost, no obligation and must of all, no judging.

I’ve been where you are, I know that lost feeling of hopelessness. By the grace of God, I am not where I was and grateful I’m not yet where I yet will be.

Have you caught an episode of Marie Kondo’s new binge-worthy Netflix series, Tidying Up? It debuted on Jan. 1, and I’m kinda’ obsessed.

My husband and I have a huge task ahead as he’s getting ready to finish our basement. Right now? It looks more like a horribly organized storage unit coming soon to an episode of Hoarders than the beautiful new living space I see on his plans.

vintage rummage junk pile storage area mess.

No this is not my basement; it could be but mine is not nearly this organized!

Getting organized is like dieting. Everyone knows how to do it. The problem is getting around to it and then maintaining the results.

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For years (and years), I lived under a dark cloud of worry that I would end up financially destitute—a bag lady, all alone living under a bridge.

A study conducted by Harris Interactive for Allianz Insurance Group reveals that I’m not the only one. In fact, most of us have felt that way, not because we’re broke, but because we don’t have confidence when it comes to managing our money. That makes us timid, worried and financially insecure.

 

We don’t have to accept financial insecurity as some kind of life sentence. And that constant and gnawing fear of becoming destitute? Forget it! We can do something about this.

Financial confidence is a choice. It’s a matter of changing bad habits and choosing to learn simple financial principles. Then by consciously applying them over and over again, those principles will become automatic responses—financial habits.

Happy senior woman with laptop experiencing best money year ever

Are you ready to make 2019 your best money year ever? Here are four simple things you can do starting today to improve your financial confidence—and take control of your money.

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Even if you aren’t one, chances are pretty good you know someone who is a bona fide coffee snob. That’s because unmitigated devotion to coffee has reached epic proportions in the past few years.

For these folks, nothing says “I care” more than a gift that affirms said snobbery and love for truly great coffee. I can pretty much guarantee that any one of these coffee-related gifts will rack up some major love and respect in return. 

 

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With Amazon Prime on our side, there’s still time to get those last-minute gifts before Christmas.

(Hint: You can start your 30-day free trial today, reap all the benefits and cancel once the trial is over. Easy and ethical.)

By way of full disclosure, I will admit to being a home roaster, which does earn me a certain level of coffee snobbery. I purchase green coffee beans directly from the La Minita Plantation in Costa Rica and roast those beans one pound at a time.

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When Gordon Gekko, the main antagonist in the 1987 film, Wall Street declared in no uncertain terms that “Greed is good!” people flocked to the theaters. And cheered.

Please don’t base your belief system on a movie line that might have been memorable and entertaining, but is dead wrong.

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Greed is like a cancer that when left untreated can destroy individuals, families, businesses, governments, and economies. Greed makes financially ignorant people putty in the hands of the consumer credit industry. Read more