Give Yourself an Extreme Money Makeover

There’s nothing like a job-layoff notice, getting a call from the bank saying you’ve bounced your account to the moon—or in my case back in the ‘80s learning that our home was about to be foreclosed—to tell you that you need an extreme money makeover.

11867031 - stethoscope on money dollar cash currency banknote background using for healthy financial and insurance concept

How to Give Yourself a Money Makeover

What follows is a simple overview of how to get started conducting your own money makeover. These are examples and suggestions that may or may not apply directly to your situation, but can give you what you need to get started.

Before picture

Any makeover worth its salt needs a great before picture. A personal financial snapshot is called a Statement of Net Worth—a realistic estimate of how much money you would have left if you sold all that you own and paid off all that you owe. It’s a picture you need no matter how dire your situation may seem to be.

Your attitude

Face it. The only thing you control absolutely is your attitude—the way you choose to respond to life and all of its challenges. This is a season in your life that has come and will go. It’s not forever. You can handle anything as long as you know it will end. Choose to face your extreme situation with an equally intense response.

Get a plan

Write a simple plan for how you will reach your goalkeeping in mind that a good plan is specific, reasonable, realistic, finite with a way to measure results. Give yourself a date by which you plan to have this makeover complete. Now create stepping stones so you can measure your progress.

Freeze spending

Yes, it’s extreme but so is your makeover. Imposing a spending freeze for the next week or two will give you the jumpstart you need. Then move into a non-essential spending freeze for the foreseeable future.  Read more

Secrets of the Frugal Lifestyle

I’ll admit I used to think frugality was a distasteful lifestyle forced upon the poor. I believed “frugal” was synonymous with never buying new clothes and dumpster diving under cover of night; that it meant cheap and slovenly.

man diving into dumpster

Boy, did I have a lot to learn. And learn I did—and continue to learn—that frugality is the path to building wealth on any income.

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Absolutely the Best Window Cleaning Tips Ever

I have this thing for clean windows. I love them, which means I have an equal but opposite disdain for dirty windows. And when I say clean, I mean the kind of clean that makes windows sparkle like diamonds in the morning sun. Some days I wish that by some miracle, a professional window-washing service would come to my home every week to clean windows—every single one both inside and out.

But I have a two-story house with a lot of windows—to say nothing of the time and money that would require to move everything away from every window to get ready every week!—so right there you know why I can’t and I don’t.

Instead, I depend on these great DIY window cleaning tips I’ve learned over the years—many of them from you, my awesome readers for how to wash windows from the outside, and from the inside, too.

A person standing in front of a window

Tips for how to wash windows

Dry, cloudy day

If you’ve ever tried to clean outdoor windows on a bright sunny day, you already know the problem. Your cleaning solution dries on the glass faster than you can turn around to grab your cleaning cloth. You’ll end up with a horrible streaky, muddy-like mess. Instead, wait for a dry, cloudy day.

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The 7-Day All-Cash Challenge

This morning while waiting for my gas tank to fill up, I put the time to good use. I read all the hazard warnings on the gasoline pump equipment. I couldnt help but think how much better off we might be if there were similar warning signs posted in stores, restaurants, and websites warning of the hazards of plastic.

ATM, debit, and credit cards can be every bit as hazardous to our financial health as fumes and improper handling of gasoline fuel can be to ones physical health.

Girl with blue wallet full of money

Plastic addiction

ATM, debit, and credit cards can be every bit as hazardous to our financial health as fumes and improper handling of gasoline fuel can be to ones physical health.

The vicious cycle of plastic-induced debt begins subtly. Before you know it, youre knee-deep in the accumulation of things, all the while losing something precious called financial freedom.

The cure

There is a cure for the addiction to plastic. Put yourself on a cash diet. Oh, I know that sounds so old-fashioned. It’s so much more convenient to pay with plastic. Some believe carrying cash is simply not safe, an excuse that has put and keeps lots of my dear readers in financial bondage.

The challenge

Heres my challenge: No plastic whatsoever for the next seven days. Of course you shouldnt send cash through the mail if that is the method by which you pay bills. But Im talking about day to day living. Gas in the car, coffee in a shop shop; fast food, restaurant food, diners, drive-thrus, and dives!

Can you do it? Of course you can. I have no doubt whatsoever that in the absence of plastic your life would go on. Your family would not starve and you would become very creative, indeed.

Not convenient?

I know what youre thinking. Thats too inconvenient—and thats the point! If spending money were not so convenient maybe all of us would keep more of it.

Experts tell us based on credible studies and statistics that when we shop and live dependent on electronic payments for everything from groceries to gas to the daily coffee—and on and on and on—we simply spend more. Its the convenience factor. Its mindless to just swipe the plastic for everything without engaging and focusing on the true cost of things. And paying only the minimum monthly payment when the credit card statement is due? We’ve been programmed to believe that’s our right, and an easy way to live way beyond our means.

Take the challenge

Are you ready to take the challenge? Great. Find a safe place for your plastic and just get it out of reach. Hand it over to a trusted friend or relative. Or freeze all of it in a big block of ice. Nothing will be harmed, your cards will be safe so no worries there.

As you are able to pry yourself from plastic you will experience a new sense of well-being and freedom. Its called living within your means, paying as you go, spending only what you have, delayed gratification.

Feeling of freedom

Theres something remarkable about living with cash. Suddenly, youre really paying for things—not creating a promise to pay when the bill arrives.

You are touching and feeling the sensation of that thing known as money. Youll intuitively start paying attention to how much that fast-food lunch costs because youll be handing over currency, not merely swiping plastic while you enjoy the music or exchange pleasantries with the guy in line behind you.

As you cruise the supermarket, the actual prices of things will begin to capture your attention. Youll compare the prices and notice which items are on sale. Youll keep checking your pocket to make sure you have enough to pay as your cart fills up.

Plastic blinders

Plastic has a way of shielding us from what things really cost. That might feel good at the time, but its like living in a fantasy world. Paying with cash clears away all the fog and keeps it real.

Just 7 days

So here’s the deal: Just seven days, one week starting tomorrow morning. That gives you time to get the cash you need to get through one with no plastic purchases at all. Are you with me?

Let’s go!

You Need an Emergency Fund (How to Get Started!)

Emergencies are a fact of life. When faced with an unexpected event—from a broken bone to a job layoff—it’s good to be prepared. Nothing new there, I’m sure. We know what we should do. It’s actually doing it that eludes so many.

An emergency fund, what we call our Contingency Fund, is a stash of money set aside for protection during the financial storms life throws our way—events that can be stressful and costly.

Meet Mitch and Jenn

Several years ago, Mitch and Jenn had a string of bad luck. Mitch broke his leg in a skiing accident, Jenn’s car broke down requiring major repairs and their home’s aged roof decided to fail right in the middle of a major winter storm.

The timing for all of this wasn’t ideal—four weeks before Christmas. The financial and emotional toll of these events continues to be huge, but nothing like it might have been if they hadn’t been diligently building their Contingency Fund, more commonly known as an emergency fund.

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6 Reasons You Need To Add Vinegar in Laundry

Using inexpensive distilled white vinegar in the laundry is smart because it will whiten, brighten, reduce odor, and soften clothes without harsh chemicals.

Fluffy white towels on table with shutter doors

Vinegar is safe to use in both standard and high-efficiency washers because it is very mildly acidic.

When buying vinegar to use in the laundry, choose distilled white vinegar with 5% acidity. It contains no natural plant dyes that can stain clothes.

It’s cheapgallon white vinegar

Plain distilled white 5% vinegar runs around 2.5 cents per oz. in the typical supermarket when purchased by the gallon.

Name brand liquid fabric softeners come in at about 8 cents per oz.—nearly three times the cost. As an alternative to liquid softener, dryer sheets are a cheaper way to ruin your clothes and linens, on average about 4 cents per sheet.

It softens

Plain white distilled vinegar with 5% acidity is a natural fabric softener. The acid helps remove detergent and soil that is left clinging to fabric fibers, which is what allows clothes and linens to come out feeling soft and clean.

Commercial softeners work just the opposite. They are designed to coat fibers, leaving behind their scented residue, which can build up over time rendering those items non-absorbent, dingy gray, and anything but soft.

A half-cup of white vinegar when added to the final rinse (pour it into the washer reservoir marked for laundry softener), on the other hand, will soften fabrics and leave no residue at all. A light scent can be added, if you want, with a few drops of lavender oil. However, once dry your laundry will not smell like vinegar.

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It is safe to use

Distilled white vinegar is safe to use in both standard and high-efficiency washers. At 5% acidity, it is 95% water, which makes it mildly acidic.

Once added to the washer, food-grade vinegar becomes even more diluted onced mixed with gallons of rinse water in the typical machine.

Vinegar in the laundry is not only safe in septic tanks, it is beneficial to that type of system, and to the environment as well.

It whitens, brightens

The acetic acid in distilled white vinegar will not harm washable fabrics because it is so mild, while at the same time strong enough to dissolve the alkalis left by soap and detergent.

Adding one-half cup of vinegar to the final rinse will result in brighter, clearer colors. Add the distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser or add the vinegar manually at the beginning of the rinse cycle if your washer gives you that option.

It reduces odor

Wet towels left sitting in a hamper or forgotten in the washer can produce a sour, moldy smell. To get rid of that problem and to get those towels smelling nice and fresh, do this:

Fill the washer with hot water, add two cups of distilled white vinegar and run a complete wash cycle with no detergent. Run a second complete cycle with detergent added.

This works well for minor situations and small loads. For more serious situations, you’ll want to use this more aggressive treatment.

It releases lint, pet hair

One-half cup of white distilled vinegar in the rinse cycle will help prevent lint and pet hair from clinging to clothes. The vinegar will help the fabric fibers relax and “release” the hair. For the same reason, it helps get rid of the excessive lint if you accidentally washed something dark with something that produces lint, like towels.