The Power of Thanks

It’s been a few years now since one of my staffers, Kim Penrose, was so excited she couldn’t wait to tell me about a book she’d just read. Kim was so moved by the experience, I asked her to write a review. I can’t think of a better day than today, Thanksgiving 2017, to post that review again. That book  has now become a classic, and for good reason. It’s just that inspirational. Thanks, Kim!

Recently, I caught a memorable episode of The View. Deborah Norville, whom I recalled from her stints on TODAY and Inside Edition, was a guest promoting her book, Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You.

I was immediately taken by Norville’s self-assurance and passion for her message.

Norville is no Pollyanna, but rather a woman who has discovered the value of thankfulness and wants everyone to experience the change that can take place when we embrace this philosophy. I was so impressed with the interview I was at the bookstore before the show had even ended to purchase this book.

In Thank You Power, Norville sets out to use her skills as an investigative reporter to determine if there is any scientific value to “seeing the glass half full.” She states her case solidly and uses the first part of the book to lay the groundwork and share reasons why being thankful is good for your health, relationships and work experience.

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Pay with Discounted Gift Cards to Save Even More

This is a Guest Post by Donna Freedman, freelance writer and blogger who really knows how to stretch a buck—and willingly tells all. Donna writes for Money Talks News and blogs about money and midlife at DonnaFreedman.com.

Black Friday ads are already starting to leak. Here’s a way to make this season’s hot deals even hotter: Pay with a discounted gift card.

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Cheap cards are available through resellers such as Cardpool, ABC Gift Cards, Card Cash, Raise and Gift Card Zen. You’ll see discounts of 3 to 30 percent (sometimes more) for cards from your favorite retailers.

The former owners either got gift cards that didn’t fit (think “steakhouse scrip for a vegetarian”) or need the money more than the credit.

Buying a gift card does limit you to a specific retailer. But if you know you’ll be treating your BFF to hair-care goodies from Sephora or buying an Old Navy hoodie for your kid brother, why not make those buying dollars go further?

(Or just give the discounted card outright and let your recipients do their own shopping.)

The simplest way to shop is to go through an aggregator site called Gift Card Granny, which lists the discounts resellers are offering. Note, too, that these sites will buy your own unwanted cards for up to 95% of face value. (Great-Aunt Rose meant well, but you’re really not a Lands End kind of gal.) Read more

New Ways to Monitor your FICO Scores and Credit Reports for Free

This is a guest post by Richard Syrop, which contains exciting new information that will help you even better manage your credit score. Richard is founder of the bill reduction website EffortlessSavings.com. You can take a look at his new book and follow him on Twitter.

There are more options than ever before to help consumers monitor their FICO scores and credit reports. Unfortunately, most of these choices have monthly fees, or hidden costs. Thankfully, a couple of new options have emerged that are truly free and do not require you to sign up for a free trial membership or subscription that may result in sneaky credit card charges.

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Free Monthly FICO Scores. Websites like Credit Karma, Credit.com, Credit Sesame and Quizzle all offer free credit scores to consumers who sign up for their services. 

However, none of these websites provide you with your genuine FICO score. Instead, they let you preview what have become known as “FAKO” scores. These scores are based on your credit history, but are often different from your actual FICO scores by wide margins. Read more

Name Your Poison

This is a guest post by Beth Lee Lundberg, MBA, AFC, Financial Coach, mom to two, and founder of The Yankee Saver. Visit Beth at her website to learn more about her financial coaching services. You can follow Beth on Twitter.

Relationships are funny. Sometimes, something as simple as a name can jump start them forward, or doom them to failure. 

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Take my friend Bean for example. I first met Bean when I was four. We grew up in the same New England neighborhood, a half hour north of Boston. Bean lived two colonials and one cape away from my parent’s house, and could always make me laugh. She has a heart of gold, and today is still one of the staple relationships in my life. In the unlikely event that I were to meet someone else named Bean, I’m sure I would consider them a friend right away, based on all the good things I associate with the name. 

But names work the other way as well. I have another friend, a really sweet person, who will not, no matter what, associate with anyone named Daryl. Why? She had a bad experience with a Daryl once, and that was it. Now, don’t even mention a Daryl to her, she won’t hear anything past the first name. 

When you think about it, we all bring our past experiences into our new relationships, and use them to protect ourselves from bad things, and move closer to good things. We go with what we know, even if all we know is a name. It might seem kind of nuts, but its how we work.

This is particularly true when it comes to our relationship with money. Money has a lot of emotion around it, and sometimes just the sound of “money” words can conjure up all kinds of bad feelings. Take the word “budget”, for example. For lots of people, this word is one big, huge, Daryl. I know, I used to feel this way too. “Stick to your budget” may as well have been, “Take a sip of strychnine” or “Bite this poison apple.” My reaction would be the same. I just could not relate to the word in a good way.

The thing is, this negative association creates a major problem. Without a budget, we will fail at managing our money. But we can’t fail! We need to manage our money well! We need it to support ourselves now and when we are too old to work. We need it to protect ourselves and the people we love! We just can’t afford to have the Daryl reaction to our finances. 

So, what do we do?

We change the name! That’s right, no more calling the key to our financial success a “budget”. Let’s make it real, something we can relate to, and something we will welcome into our lives. Let’s give that sucker the name it needs to get the job done.

This worked really well for me and my family. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the strong and mighty protector of my own personal economy: Welcome THOR! Thor is a giant Viking Warrior who is leading his people across rough terrains and enemy waters. Thor will bring us safely into the land of financial freedom, for he is strong, and has won many battles (like the one over at DSW last week…). We follow him because he is good, he is right, he is a powerful hero. He is also wicked scary, so we tend to do what he says.

Sound nuts? Might be, but it works. Here’s a recent example:

“Mom, can I get a new lacrosse stick?” asks my 12-year-old son, who knows he does not need another lacrosse stick.

“Hmmm,” I say. “Let me check with Thor.”

The energy in the room changes, the Viking Warrior is being summoned.

“OK,” says the brave sixth-grader.

I look down at the spreadsheet on my laptop as my son waits silently.

I scroll to Thor’s line marked “Kid’s Activities”, see $17 left for the pay period and then translate my findings:

“Thor says ‘NOOOOO, ARRRGH!’ ”

“Fine,” says the boy. He walks away. End of conversation.

Nobody messes with Thor!

For you, maybe Thor is actually Dr. Spock or Flloyd, The Mayor, Frank Sinatra or Diana Prince (remember Wonder Woman at her day job?). It doesn’t matter what name you give it, as long as that name satisfies the emotional connection you need to have with your budget in order for it to be a working part of your life and get you where you need to be with your money.

So go ahead, name your poison! What name will it be?

Question: Do you have a question for Beth? Use the comments below where  she’ll respond. 

Stop Getting Scammed and Ripped Off!

This is a guest post by Bob Sullivan, an award-winning investigative journalist, author of the Red Tape Chronicles, two NYT bestsellers and founding member of MSNBC.com. You can visit him at his website, take a look at his new book Getting Unstuck and follow him on Twitter.

I have spent 20 years interviewing thousands of people who’ve fallen for scams and ripoffs. I’ve interviewed hundreds of criminals, too, not to mention pseudo-criminals who work at corporations that survive almost entirely on their ability to fool people. I’m frequently asked: what makes people fall for scams? What makes someone a good “mark”? 

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While I worked at NBC, I was always reluctant to give clear opinions on such things. Now that I’m an independent journalist, I feel more free to speak out. I have plenty of strong opinions on this one. 

But before I tell you what’s wrong with the tired old saw, “If it seems too good to be true, it is,” let me get this out of the way: I hate people who blame the victim. 

Yes, consumers can be dumb, foolish, and even greedy. None of these things should ever be construed as permission to steal from them. These are the kinds of excuses you hear from criminals and corporations all the time, and I hate them. It’s always clear who the bad guy is: The guy who walks away with the money. The test is easy: Any time you take someone’s money and that person is confused about why, you are wrong. Give the money back. Read more

3 Steps to Slash Your Internet and Pay-TV Rates

This is a guest post by Richard Syrop. He is founder of the bill reduction website EffortlessSavings.com. You can take a look at his new book and follow him on Twitter.

If you are one of the millions of consumers paying for TV and Internet service from a major telecom provider, you may be able to reduce your rates by up to 30 percent. Below are three simple steps that should help you save money without making any changes to your existing service. These suggestions are most effective if you are not in a service contract, or when you use them shortly before your contract expires.

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Step 1: Compare Rates from Other Companies

Regardless of where you live, there should be at least three companies in your local area that offer Internet and Pay-TV service. These companies may include Comcast, Time Warner, Dish and or DirecTV. 

Take a few minutes to review each of their promotional offers and write down the best you find that is comparable to your current service package. Read more