3 Epic Strategies For Tracking Your Personal Spending

In a world where money is essential for survival, it becomes critical to be aware of your finances, both income and output. Where income is usually static and more easily tracked, expenses can be difficult to follow. Here are some ways that people have kept track of their money in the past, as well as some modern strategies.

Check Register

If you’re a bit old fashioned, you may have a very simple way to track your spending already at your disposal. Though checkbooks are fading from financial fashion, they can still come in handy. For those of you not in the habit of using a checkbook, at the front of the book is a register where you can record your transactions. There are categories for check numbers, amount, a description of the purchase and the date. If you’re not using a check, you can record “deb” for debit card, or come up with little codes of your own.

This does require you to write down your purchases as you make them or soon after, but the effort yields the result of having an updated balance of your account at all times.

The Envelope System

Also a bit old fashioned is the envelope system. This is a physical method of budgeting where you make envelopes with categories such as “food”, “gas”, “entertainment”, etc. and place a certain amount of money in each envelope. You can base this amount on what you’ve spent on these items in the past or on what you can feasibly afford to spend. Once you put that money in the envelope that is all you have to spend on items in that category. When the money is gone, it’s gone. You are done spending for the month.

This method takes a lot of discipline. It may take a few months to perfect exactly how much money goes into each envelope and work out some of the other details. The one downside of this is that carrying cash is becoming less common. The envelope system is not that effective if you enjoy the convenience of debit and credit cards.

Online Banking

Finally, a way you can see your every financial action without having to go to the trouble of writing it down. Most banks today have online account access so that you can view your accounts from home. Some even have budgeting tools and ways to categorize your transactions. You can transfer money between accounts, pay bills, and receive paychecks automatically, so gone are the days of late payments.

The danger of online banking lies in convenience. You are likely to take for granted your account security if everything is taken care of for you. Since you can check your account anytime, you may be tempted to put it off. There is no sense of urgency, and therefore no motivation. If you utilize your bank account online, make sure to get into the habit of checking it regularly so that you can make sure there are no mistakes and so you can keep track of how much money you have left. That money you’re saving from paying your bills late is useless if it goes to overdraft fees.

In summary

This is a summary of some of the most commonly accepted budget tracking techniques used up to today. There are many ways that banking and finance have evolved with technology, and a myriad of new products related to personal finance and debt restructuring, so it will be interesting to see how trends change and what the next innovation is.

Featured images:

Phillip Marks spent 25 years working for community newspapers before recently making the transition to digital media. He enjoys the great outdoors and spending time with his wife, children, and grandchildren.

7 Ways to Keep Mosquitoes Away Naturally

Mosquitoes are the enemy of summer fun, and with the spread of west-nile virus they’re more than just annoying anymore. We’ve found 7 great tricks to keep mosquitoes from ruining your summer with itchy bites and scabs.

mosquito

  1. Clear any standing water from your yard or patio area. These are mosquito breeding grounds. Make sure to check under your deck, or even basement window wells.
  2. Citronella is a really great product that keeps mosquitoes at bay, you can burn the candles, citronella oil lamps, or even there are some new products you wear.
  3. There are a lot of plants that put off scents the repel mosquitoes. They include peppermint, lavender, cinnamon, rosemary, marigolds, and catnip.
  4. There are two natural enemies of mosquitoes, bats and dragonflies. Unfortunately the best way to attract dragonflies are with ponds, and ponds are standing water, so the next best thing is to install or build some bat houses in your trees. Bats love to snack on mosquitoes and other pests.
  5. Garlic, like their bloodsucking friends vampires, mosquitoes HATE garlic so consuming garlic, or rubbing it on your skin will repel mosquitoes too.
  6. Vitamin B-1 puts off a chemical smell that also works well to repel mosquitoes, 100mg a day once a day and you should be set.
  7. Last but not least, an decent sized electric fan near your seating area will keep mosquitoes flying away from you and your guests.

Or you can try some natural products such as Murphy’s Mosquito Sticks

 

11 Essentials For Taking Kids To The Beach

kids at the beach

Taking the kids along is supposed to make any trip to the beach even more fun. But kids have special needs that, in all the excitement of planning and packing, get frequently overlooked. That’s especially true when you’re traveling with older teens, older adults or multiple generations. All those competing needs can let the littler tykes down.

So we came up with what we believe are the eleven most important things to remember whenever your planning a trip to the beach with kids – of any age or stripe. Bring these things along, and you’ll come back with happier kids, and a happier you too!

1) Rules

Don’t leave these behind. Review them before you ever leave your house, and if they need updated based on conditions at the beach make sure you review them with the kids. A good place to start is with rules about going in the water and exploring the beach itself. Touching base regularly and if they’ll be out of your site, then the rules are that much more important. Kids who can swim should no the rules – and especially as regards younger kids who cannot.

2) Sun Screen!

Get even the youngest kids used to applying generous sunscreen, and to understand why.  Do your research too  and understand that just as not all kids are the same, not all sunscreens are the same either.

3) Umbrella! Hats! Big Clothes!

All these methods of shielding yourself – and the kids – will count for a lot later on. That goes double for kids who don’t want a tan, and often don’t realize the sun is even burning them, until it’s too late. But pack a lot of shade into your sun-holiday even if you’re a tanner yourself. Your kids will be a lot more comfortable without the exposure and you’ll suffer a lot less too.

4) Pup Tent!

Along those same lines, it’s not only a total retreat from the glaring sun. A tent on – or just off – the beach is a cool retreat from too much activity for even the stoic young ones. You can pick one up, even if you’ve never dreamed of sleeping in the woods, and the kids and you will be glad for the shelter.

5) Food

A cooler full of fruit, celery and carrots – plus lots of water saves a bundle off of whatever is being hawked up and down the beach. A crunchy head of cabbage makes a nice alternative to salty chips and keeps everyone well hydrated – and likely – a lot less fussy. There ought to be room – or money – for some stuff that’s a little more fun, but a beach can be a long, long day. So pack accordingly.

6) Water

Well, speaking of hydrated, a bunch of water, and cups for the littlest kids can make all the difference. For a whole day at the beach, and depending on your numbers, a separate cooler just for water can be important.

Note: It’s also a good idea to scout out any bathrooms and drinking fountains before you get too far onto any beach!

7) Plastic Bags!

Zip-Loc, trash bags and plenty of miscellaneous bags to keep everything wet isolated, and everything that’s supposed to be dry, dry. A change of little ones’ clothes right on the beach can save a trip to the car or to your house or hotel and save plenty of peace-of-mind, too. Kids are often a lot more conscious of keeping the beach clean too, so encouraging them with a thorough pick up and trash removal is also a good idea.

pails and shovel8) Pails and Shovels

You thought they were just for play, but get your tykes to excavate a little upon arrival. Dig down to the colder sand and stow the cooler there before covering it with white towels or something similar.  By and large, buckets and pails are among the few recommended toys for younger kids though older kids may want a Frisbee, volleyball or something similar.

9) Flotation Devices vs. Swimming Lessons

Boogie boards and a beach ball are fine for older kids, but you don’t want to encourage kids who can’t swim to rely on them. Look closely into the recommended guidelines for PFDs and for teaching kids to swim too.  It’s a far better idea to spend an hour on swimming lessons and teaching the basics, close to shore. Kids will thank you for a lifetime.

10) Baby Powder

Even when the youngest are out of diapers, baby powder is essential for removing sand from feet and frankly, it makes everyone’s hot, overworked feet feel a lot better too. Just sprinkle talcum powder onto sandy feet and rub gently.

11) Dresses and Bathrobes

Obviously boys and girls need one or the other, but either is a lot easier to put on – on the beach – than a wet pair of shorts or pants. Kids are dry, clean and comfortable and you end up with a lot less sand in the car or wherever you’re headed.

Of course, all of the above is easier, and probably comes more naturally on a longer stay at the beach than on a quick trip to the shore. Kids feel a lot less pressure to get everything done in a day, and guess what, grown ups feel better too!

Remember, a lot depends on the ages and dispositions of all your kids, so your best bet might be to discuss all of the above with all the kids your planning on taking to the beach. Listen to their ideas and you’ll likely learn something new.

Featured images:

This article was written by james t., a travel and real estate writer in Mexico City.

 

Save $1378 in 52 Weeks!

Save $1378 in 52 Weeks!

 

How do you save almost $1400 in a year? It’s called the dollar savings plan, and if you’re on a tight budget, or completely incapable of saving like most of us this is a great way to save up for something. The savings plan? You start on week one putting a dollar in a jar, the next week you put two dollars, the third week three dollars, etc. At the end of they 52 weeks you’ll be putting $52 in the jar with a total of $1378.00 That’s right you saved almost $1400. If you’re feeling especially frugal you can do the $5 challenge and save$6890 in a year using the same method but with five dollar bills instead of dollar bills.

How to Interact With the Police

 

We rely on the police to keep us safe and treat us all fairly, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion. This card provides tips for interacting with police and understanding your rights.

Note: Some state laws may vary. Separate rules apply at checkpoints and when entering the U.S. (including at airports).

Are you deaf or hard of hearing? Go to aclu.org/deafrights for an American Sign Language video on knowing your rights when you’re stopped by the police, starring Marlee Matlin.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE STOPPED BY POLICE, IMMIGRATION AGENTS OR THE FBI(Download»)

YOUR RIGHTS
– You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.
– You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.
– If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.
– You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.
– Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.
YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES
– Do stay calm and be polite.
– Do not interfere with or obstruct the police.
– Do not lie or give false documents.
– Do prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested.
– Do remember the details of the encounter.
– Do file a written complaint or call your local ACLU if you feel your rights have been violated.

If You Are

 

IF YOU ARE STOPPED FOR QUESTIONING
Stay calm. Don’t run. Don’t argue, resist or obstruct the police, even if you are innocent or police are violating your rights. Keep your hands where police can see them.
Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why.
You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud. In some states, you must give your name if asked to identify yourself.
You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may “pat down” your clothing if they suspect a weapon. You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search. If you do consent, it can affect you later in court.

IF YOU ARE STOPPED IN YOUR CAR
Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel.
Upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.
If an officer or immigration agent asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. But if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent.
Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.

IF YOU ARE QUESTIONED ABOUT YOUR IMMIGRATION STATUS
You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents or any other officials. You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country. (Separate rules apply at international borders and airports, and for individuals on certain nonimmigrant visas, including tourists and business travelers.)
If you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you. If you are over 18, carry your immigration documents with you at all times. If you do not have immigration papers, say you want to remain silent.
Do not lie about your citizenship status or provide fake documents.

IF THE POLICE OR IMMIGRATION AGENTS COME TO YOUR HOME
If the police or immigration agents come to your home, you do not have to let them in unless they have certain kinds of warrants.
Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can inspect it. A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search the areas and for the items listed. An arrest warrant allows police to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they believe the person is inside. A warrant of removal/deportation (ICE warrant) does not allow officers to enter a home without consent.
Even if officers have a warrant, you have the right to remain silent. If you choose to speak to the officers, step outside and close the door.

IF YOU ARE CONTACTED BY THE FBI
If an FBI agent comes to your home or workplace, you do not have to answer any questions. Tell the agent you want to speak to a lawyer first.
If you are asked to meet with FBI agents for an interview, you have the right to say you do not want to be interviewed. If you agree to an interview,have a lawyer present. You do not have to answer any questions you feel uncomfortable answering, and can say that you will only answer questions on a specific topic.

IF YOU ARE ARRESTED
Do not resist arrest, even if you believe the arrest is unfair.
Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don’t give any explanations or excuses. If you can’t pay for a lawyer, you have the right to a free one. Don’t say anything, sign anything or make any decisions without a lawyer.
You have the right to make a local phone call. The police cannot listen if you call a lawyer.
Prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested. Memorize the phone numbers of your family and your lawyer. Make emergency plans if you have children or take medication.
Special considerations for non-citizens:
– Ask your lawyer about the effect of a criminal conviction or plea on your immigration status.
– Don’t discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer.
– While you are in jail, an immigration agent may visit you. Do not answer questions or sign anything before talking to a lawyer.
– Read all papers fully. If you do not understand or cannot read the papers, tell the officer you need an interpreter.

IF YOU ARE TAKEN INTO IMMIGRATION (OR “ICE”) CUSTODY
You have the right to a lawyer, but the government does not have to provide one for you. If you do not have a lawyer, ask for a list of free or low-cost legal services.
You have the right to contact your consulate or have an officer inform the consulate of your arrest.
Tell the ICE agent you wish to remain silent. Do not discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer.
Do not sign anything, such as a voluntary departure or stipulated removal, without talking to a lawyer. If you sign, you may be giving up your opportunity to try to stay in the U.S.
Remember your immigration number (“A” number) and give it to your family. It will help family members locate you.
Keep a copy of your immigration documents with someone you trust.

IF YOU FEEL YOUR RIGHTS HAVE BEEN VIOLATED
Remember: police misconduct cannot be challenged on the street.Don’t physically resist officers or threaten to file a complaint.
Write down everything you remember, including officers’ badge and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, and any other details. Get contact information for witnesses. If you are injured, take photographs of your injuries (but seek medical attention first).
File a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. In most cases, you can file a complaint anonymously if you wish.
Call your local ACLU or visit www.aclu.org/profiling.

Below is a great infographic on your rights from Online-Paralegal-Programs.com.

know-your-rights

The Magic of Compound Interest

Compound Interest Explained

We all want more money, especially when you start thinking about retirement. But where does it come from, how does it grow and how does compound interest work exactly? G.E. Miller at 20somethingfinance.com explains why it’s so important to start saving early.

Over the last 30 years the annual rate of return on investments hovers right around 8%, 10 dollars now will be worth 100 dollars later. G.E. explains the money you save now will give 500% buying power when you’ll need it the most, when you stop producing income from a career. Finance Author Burton Malkiel of the book A Random Walk Down Wall Street, explains compound interest with one of the best examples I could find.

William, starts saving $4,000 a year when he is 20 and stops after 20 years, after having saved $80,000. His brother, James, starts saving $4,000 at 40, and does so for 25 years, for a total of $100,000 saved.They earn 6% on their savings.

At age 65, William will have $850,136 in his account, while James will have only $219,242. Despite having saved less, William’s nest egg will be almost four times greater because of compounding

You might not have $4,000 a year to save when you’re 20, but every dollar saved now will make a huge difference when it comes time to retire, or whatever your dreams are.

Greasy Hands? Wash Your Hands with Head & Shoulders

Head & Shoulders

One of the things I have always hated about working on my car, or other grease filled contraptions isn’t getting my hands dirty per say, but them being greasy and stained after I did clean them.  Something I realized as an engine mechanic in the Air Force was I would get home after work and my hands would still be stained from the days activities. After my shower I noticed my hands were clean and the grease stains were gone. I realized the shampoo I was using probably was cutting the grease (that’s what most shampoo’s are made for anyways).

So that next week I did some tests, compared to cleaning my hands with the normal grease monkey’s hand cleaner Gojo, and the next day cleaning my hands with Head & Shoulders. The Gojo did a decent job, but the Head & Shoulders got my hands clean and with a little extra scrubbing even got the stains out from my fingernails.

Try it the next time you’re out in the garage and don’t want your hands stained in the office on Monday.

 

 

 

 

Cheap Video Lighting

As someone who considers himself an amateur videographer good lighting is my bane. Natural lighting is too difficult to control or get just right, and most indoor lighting offers unwanted color. Watch the video for some great cheap video lighting tips. You’ll need a head to the local hardware store for a clamp light and light bulb. While you’re out in the world, hit the grocery store for some rubber bands and wax paper. By the time you’re done you’ll have a decent white light illuminating your next project.

Don’t Get Stuck With the Worst Room in a Hotel

Get a Good Room at the Hotel

It’s travel season and everyone always wants to avoid getting the room with no AC or in the basement next to the boiler. I love getting a good room with a view, or a nice upgrade to a better suite. If you follow these simple tips from The Points Guy you should be able to avoid in the basement.

Its a 50/50 toss up between bookings taken by 3rd party reservations systems like Expedia, or it could just be assigned at random using the hotel’s auto-assign program each morning. It also depends on the agent who checks you in. Sometimes they try to get rid of bad rooms first, while others (like me) try to use up good rooms first.

Instead of using an online system, try calling the hotel directly. Once nice thing that all these travel websites have done is forced hotels to post their best rates online, and you can use that to leverage a good price when calling direct.

I would try to call in the morning of the arrival date and ask for your preferred bed configuration, and to be assigned a quiet room away from elevators and any mechanical rooms. Non-adjoining rooms can also be quieter, as there’s less soundproofing between the doors that connect adjacent rooms. Once the front desk agrees to assign you the room you want, request that they place a “do not move” note in your reservation. That way, only a manager can move you from that room.

Another tip is to simply join the hotel’s loyalty program in advance. Even though you will have no points, stay credit, or elite status, just joining the program indicates that you are a potential repeat customer, and the front desk staff will be less likely to assign you an inferior room.

Joining the hotel loyalty program, calling the hotel directly instead of a website like expedia, and ask for a corner room, or non-adjoining room in a quiet part of the hotel, and ask to have a “do not move” note put on your reservation.

All Natural Ant Killer

Natural Ant Killer

Everyone hates ants, and when they invade your house they’re a real pain to get rid of. No one wants to put poison down around their house, or even outside where pets and kids can get into it. Corn meal is cheap, but not everyone has it in their pantry. What you can do to create your own is grind up a cup or so of popcorn kernels in your blender, place a pile few piles around the ant trails, come back in a few days and your ant problem will be gone. Cornmeal is probably of the best natural ant killers I have ever found.