Archive for 2013

19 dec

6 Ways to Find a New Primary Care Doctor

RobertCordrayOne of the most important decisions you can make for yourself and your family has to do with choosing the right doctor. As such, it’s not a decision to be made lightly. After all, there’s so much riding on the decision and so many different factors to consider that many people would rather put off the choice for as long as possible. However, many people have absolutely no idea where they should even be looking to find a new doctor. These people may often settle on the first doctor that they find, completely unaware that other options are available. So, in an effort to give these people (and anyone else who might be interested) a better chance at finding a doctor that is perfect for their situations, here are six different ways to find a new doctor beyond wandering into the first office you come across.

1. Ask the people you trust

If your friends, extended family, or other loved-ones that live in your area are satisfied with their doctors, then ask around and see if you can get any good references. You might end up simplifying the entire process if you can get a great referral right off the bat.

2. Check online reviews

If you’re not getting anywhere with the people you know, extend your search outwards to include reviews from people you don’t know. The internet is a great tool when it comes to finding the right doctor, in part because you can use it to find sites that post patient reviews and ratings of doctors. They’re generally easy to use—simply provide your location and what kind of doctor you’re looking for (“primary care doctor in phoenix,” for example), and see what kind of returns you get. Alternately, you can search for reviews on specific doctors and see what previous patients have to say. ZocDoc, Patientfusion and Yelp are good places to look for reviews on your local doctors.

3. Use a hospital referral service

If you want to know where to find a good doctor, you might as well go straight to the source. The hospital is absolutely chock-full of people who know more about medicine than you do, so checking to see if they offer a doctor referral service makes perfect sense. If they do, the hospital will be able to put you in contact with a doctor that is not only well qualified and highly rated, but is also nearby. If your hospital doesn’t offer a doctor referral service, then consider asking the staff for personal recommendations.

4. Request a list of covered doctors from your insurance provider

You’d have to involve your insurance provider in your decision eventually, so you may as well just start with them. Your insurance company will be able to give you a list of which doctors are covered. Once you have a few names, you can do a little research and look for reviews.

5. Ask your current doctor

If you’re going to be moving and need to find a good doctor in a new area, consider asking your current doctor if he or she knows and could recommend anyone. There’s a good chance that your current doctor may have a trusted colleague or friend to which you could be referred. Even if your doctor doesn’t have anyone in mind, he or she might still be willing to do some checking around for you in order to find someone who will meet your needs.

6. Check the phonebook

This probably shouldn’t be the first place you look, but if none of your other attempts at finding the right doctor have panned out, then the phonebook (or its internet-based equivalent) can at least give you another path to follow. Just be sure that you do all of the necessary follow-up research once you find a few promising names. After all, just because a doctor has an advertisement in the yellow pages, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s the right choice. Only use the yellow pages as a starting point, and follow up with a more thorough investigation afterwards.

Finding a doctor can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. With a little effort and lot’s of patience, you’ll be able to locate the right primary care doctor for you and your family. Let’s just hope that you don’t have to move again any time soon…

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Robert Cordray on December 19th, 2013 in Uncategorized | No comments

19 dec

How to Become a Natural Leader

JennaSmithPeople aren’t born leaders – they become them. Like many other life skills, leadership is something you learn; with the right tools and education, anyone can master the four components of true leadership:

  • Effective communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Ethical reasoning
  • Goal setting

If you work on cultivating these four key areas, you will soon find yourself increasing your natural ability to lead and guide others. Whether you hope to use leadership skills to motivate a team at work, or to help mentor young people in a youth group, you will quickly find that improving your leadership abilities helps increase your groups’ results. Being a leader, after all, isn’t about bossing people around or telling them what to do; it’s about working together to get a job done.

Here are a few recommendations to improve your leadership skills:

1. Take a leadership course

There are numerous, highly effective leadership courses available, from the Dale Carnegie leadership course to the leadership development program offered by the Army and Navy Academy. Whether you are a student, a working adult, or a full-time parent, there are leadership courses that fit your schedule and your budget. Look for courses that focus on the four components of effective leadership listed above.

2. Engage in specific activities to build leadership strengths

There are specific activities that help build each of the four primary leadership strengths. For instance, to build your communication skills, try playing the Mine Field Game:

  • · Blindfold a partner and verbally lead him or her through a “mine field” of small objects
  • · If the partner touches one of the objects, you lose the game
  • · If you communicate well, helping your partner avoid the mines and reach the other side, then you both win!

3. Seek out opportunities to lead

Leadership education means nothing unless it is paired with tangible, real-world opportunities. If you are a student, see if you can lead an initiative in student government or in your residence hall association. If you are in the workforce, ask if you can take a leadership role on a project or on one of your company’s committees. Then, use your leadership skills to unify your team around the pursuit of a common goal – and work together to accomplish that goal.

4. Mentor a young person (or seek out an adult mentor)

The teenager/adult mentor relationship is invaluable for building leadership skills, and both the young person and the adult learn how to be better leaders through the process. When you join a mentor relationship, both the mentor and the pupil are able to bring new perspectives to problem solving and goal setting. The young person learns from the adult’s experience, and the adult learns from the teenagers’ fresh perspectives. Both complete the mentor relationship ready to take these new skills back to their peer teams and become more effective leaders as a result.

5. Stand up for an important cause

One way to quickly become a leader is to stand up for an important cause. Maybe you’re a student who wants to improve school lunch quality, like Martha Payne of Never Seconds. Maybe you want your company to institute a better recycling program. Maybe you want your community to build a new park where children can play. If you find a cause in which you truly believe, you often do the work of building leadership skills without even thinking about it.

It’s easy to become a “natural leader”—all you need is an understanding of what makes a leader, and consistently practicing each of leadership’s four key areas.

Leadership education is key to living a successful life, so explore opportunities to build your leadership skills and then seize real-world opportunities in your life to lead.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on December 19th, 2013 in Career, New Directions | No comments Read related posts in ,

14 dec

5 Misconceptions Regarding Online Holiday Shopping

RobertCordrayWith a lot of people going crazy with their holiday shopping, many of us are stuck looking for the best deals and the hottest items without having to deal with the large crowds, cold weather and congested parking lots. It’s not always easy to find a solution to our holiday shopping problems, either. Most people think that the quickest and easiest solution to their holiday shopping woes is to shop online. While that may be true in many circumstances, it is not always the answer.

It doesn’t matter if you’re using high speed wi-fi or even an SSL proxy to help you or your clients during the holiday shopping season, you still need to fully understand how online shopping works. There are certainly pros to getting your holiday shopping done online, but there are a lot things that people don’t completely understand. Here are five common misconceptions of online holiday shopping.

There Are Still Lines

Even when you do your shopping online, there’s a chance you will still have to wait in a line. Especially if you’re doing your shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday when there are a lot of other online deal hunters, you might have to wait in a line to check out or to enter the site. It’s a lot better than standing out in the cold, hoping to get into a store that may or may not have the product you want, but it’s still going to require a time commitment from you.

The Site Might Not Have Your Product

After waiting in those lines and having thousands of people checkout before you, the product you want might not even be available. Many of the most popular items aren’t sufficiently stocked in stores or on the internet, and lots of holiday shoppers are left scrambling to find a way to get the can’t-miss item of the year. Just because you’re shopping online and can’t see the crowd that is shopping with you, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a crowd there. There are plenty of people online who are looking for the same item as you. Get to the site as soon as deals and discounts are applicable, and hope for the best.

Sizing And Style

This is a problem more with clothes than anything else. While the pictures may look nice, you never know how something is going to fit on you, the color and lighting of the pictures might make it look one way, but when it arrives on your doorstep it looks completely different. This can also be a problem with electronics. It’s probably a better idea to go look at electronics before you actually purchase them. You’ll know the exact size of what you’re buying, plus you’ll have the advantage of looking at and feeling the product before you actually purchase it. While many people understand this factor of online shopping, it’s still considered a common misconception.

Shipping

When you buy something over the internet, it doesn’t just magically show up the next day. It could take over a week to get to you, assuming that the whole shipping process works out perfectly. Your order could be lost and could take longer than you anticipate it to. If you want it to arrive in a timely manner, you’re going to have to pay for it. You might even have to pay for it regardless of when it arrives. The price that the website is showing you is seldom the price that you’ll actually pay.

Selection

You may see something that you love in a store, but can’t purchase it for whatever reason. You figure that they will have it online, so you go online, search for the product and it’s not there. Oftentimes there is a wider selection online, but that isn’t guaranteed. You might be looking for a product or a color that is in-store only, or that the warehouse has run out of. You may have a larger selection, but that selection doesn’t matter if they don’t have what you want.

Good luck this holiday season, and enjoy your shopping.

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Posted by Robert Cordray on December 14th, 2013 in Technology | No comments

14 dec

Rehab: A Matter of Attitude

RobertCordrayIn the U.S., one in every 12 adults suffers from alcohol dependency. In addition to that, tens of millions of Americans suffer from addictions to illegal drugs, prescription medication, and even over-the-counter chemical substances. Alcohol claims approximately 2.5 million lives every year worldwide, while illegal drug-use results in about 200,000 additional deaths around the planet in the same amount of time.

There’s no way around it—chemical dependency is a very real danger. However, there are steps that addicts can take to try to get their lives back on track. One of those steps involves enrolling in a drug rehabilitation clinic.

Drug rehab clinics provide intensely structured routines, safe and soothing environments, and personal therapy, in the hopes of helping chemically dependant individuals overcome their addictions. But are these centers really the shining beacons of hope that they’re supposed to be, or are they just revolving-door resorts that offer no real results?

It’s a question worth investigating. After all, when one sees drug-addicted celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan ducking into rehab clinics on an almost monthly basis just to keep from having to serve jail time, it tends to tarnish the overall reputation of the establishments themselves.

The answer, however, is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ For one thing, every addict is a unique individual, with unique dependencies and triggers. What works for treating one person may have absolutely no effect on another. With that in mind, it becomes important to recognize that no treatment is 100% effective when dealing with addiction. And the fact is that many who enter rehab come out of it no better off than they were at the beginning. So, what is the deciding factor in whether or not a rehabilitation program will be successful?

Well, those who’ve managed to defeat their chemical addictions will tell you that it all comes down to one hard-to-master point: attitude.

Rehabilitation will only work for those who are serious and determined enough to do their part. Those who enter rehab unwillingly, or who go through the motions but secretly scoff at the procedures, will simply find that their addictions are waiting for them on the outside. At the same time, there are those who enter rehab with a desire to make a real change in their lives, only to get discouraged and give up on the program when things get hard. It is the will to conquer and the determination to reach a difficult goal that makes all the difference in drug rehab. For those who are willing to give it all that they’ve got, drug rehabilitation really does work.

If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, consider one of the country’s fine rehabilitation clinics. Do some online research, read about the personal experiences of others who have fought their dependencies and won. Take control of your life, make a commitment, and kick your habit before it destroys everything you care about. After all, the only thing standing between you and freedom is a choice. Choose to confront your problems head on, and choose to do so with the right attitude. The road may turn out to be difficult, but when you come to the end of it and look back on all that you’ve accomplished, and you gaze forward towards the years of freedom stretching out before you, you’ll be thankful that you chose to walk it. Because, when it comes to overcoming addiction, rehab is the best way to go—as long as you have the right attitude.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.


Posted by Robert Cordray on December 14th, 2013 in Health, New Directions | No comments Read related posts in ,

05 dec

Three Financial Surprises in a Divorce Case

JaredDiamond

Divorce is one of the most significant financial challenges that some people may ever face. Many people anticipate some of the major financial costs involved in a divorce, such as alimony payments and child support payments. There are a number of other economic costs that many times are either underestimated or totally unaccounted for.

James Evans, a divorce attorney in Austin, spends a great deal of his time preparing clients for all the financial impacts of a divorce. “Many people appreciate the short-term hard costs, the ones that show up on your bank statement in the first three or four months,” he says. “But there are some other costs that are lost in the shuffle, probably because divorce is such an emotional and financial shock.” Mr. Evans tries to schedule at least one appointment with every client at which money matters are the sole item on the agenda. “A lot of what I try to do is create awareness, as well as remind my clients to plan ahead,” concludes Austin-based divorce attorney, James Evans.

Legal fees

Many people do not realize how quickly legal fees can mount up. Mediation can be an important way to slash both the length of time in the case’s life-cycle and the actual dollar costs: one study found that mediation may reduce time by up to 860 days and the actual bill by up to $9,500.00. Think for a moment about all the things you can do with that much time and that much money.

The cost savings is directly proportional to the mediator’s success rate. When mediating a divorce, try to use an attorney-mediator with experience in family law if at all possible.

Credit score

Although divorce itself is a legal proceeding which has no impact on your credit score, the financial impact of divorce on a credit score can be significant:

  • Many people do not understand that the divorce only transfers legal title of the property in question. Assume that Mike and Jenny bought a house together during the marriage; they are co-borrowers on the note. Jenny may have received legal title to the house, but Mike remains on the note. If Jenny falls behind on the payments, the bank may very well come after Mike for the delinquent amount.
  • Other spouses understand this dynamic all too well, and use it as a weapon against an ex-spouse. If Mike was angry at Jenny for whatever reason, Mike may stop making payments on a joint credit account to ruin Jenny’s credit rating.

Consider re-financing joint debt to remove an ex-spouse’s name from the note, both to avoid future liability for the other person’s missed payments and shield yourself against a vindictive ex-spouse. If refinancing is not an option, remember that you have the right to add an explanation to any negative item on your credit report. Explain that the negative reference is due to a divorce and that you are an innocent victim in the matter.

Asset depreciation

A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow, and some people fail to properly account for this maxim in a divorce property settlement. The tradeoff between spousal support payments and equity in a capital asset is a good example. Rental property that is worth $100,000 today may be worth substantially less in five or ten years, because inflation erodes the equity, so spousal support payments should be high enough to compensate for the difference.

By identifying and reacting to financial realities before they become financial problems, transition to single life can be much easier financially.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jared Diamond on December 5th, 2013 in Uncategorized | No comments

27 nov

4 Unconventional Ways to Break Bad Habits

RobertCordrayWhen does a hobby become a habit? And when does a habit become a bad habit? And when does a bad habit become an addiction? When we try to label things like this, the lines can be difficult to decipher. However, what we do know is that whenever an activity starts to negatively affect your life, take away your agency, and impact everything that you do, it is already a bad habit. And when you have a bad habit, your first task will be to try and kick it. This can be easier said than done however, and kicking a bad habit can be one of the hardest things that a person will face. Here are some unconventional ways to break bad habits.

1. Stay Away

Some things can be seemingly harmless at first, but once they develop can become a real problem. It might seem simple, but the easiest way to stop bad habits is to prevent them. You might think that a one-off casual pill or smoke won’t do anything, but it won’t be long until it is a full-on addiction and all of a sudden you find yourself paying for drug rehab. The same goes for other bad habits; such habits are not good for you even on one occasion, so abstaining from them is always the best policy. Avoid people and situations that can tempt you, or even the environment that makes a bad habit feel comfortable to indulge in.

2. Start a Blog

One effective way to kick a habit is to talk about it publicly, or at least with someone else, as it means that you can be held accountable for your progress. That is why addiction recovery programs encourage people to meet in groups. An unconventional way to do this is to start a blog, or record in your current blog, your goals and experiences. Having to own up to any lapses will be quite effective in helping you to prevent them.

3. Replace it With a Good Habit

Although we said that any habit that takes over your life is a bad habit, there are definitely exceptions to this rule. For example, drugs can be damaging and dangerous to your mental and physical health. If you replace them with a different substance, or activity, perhaps a food, exercise, or knitting/crocheting that will not have such a detrimental effect to your mind and body, it is significantly better. Another good idea is to, every time you have a craving, instead act to help someone—volunteering or donating money to charity are two options.

4. Reward Yourself

Sometimes people with bad habits operate on an axis of self-punishment. If you are doing something that you are not proud of, it can come more naturally to experience guilt when you lapse, rather than elation when you do something right. Try to flip this in your mind by rewarding yourself for good days and not being too hard on yourself on bad days.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Robert Cordray on November 27th, 2013 in Health, New Directions | No comments

27 nov

A Roadmap to Financial Independence

JennaSmithEveryone wants to be financially independent, but the harsh reality is that only a small fraction of the population usually achieves it. While it’s often possible for a single event to devastate your finances, chances are good that there are multiple factors contributing to your lack of financial independence. The good news is that they are within your means to correct and control.

Step 1 – Assessment

Before you can know how to get to your destination you need to know where you are. The first thing you need to do is take stock of your finances and see exactly where you stand. In order to get an accurate picture of your assets and liabilities, you should account for all of your income and debts. Most people remember their larger debts like mortgage and car payments but many forget to account for student loans, personal loans, and membership fees. Don’t forget your assets, including savings, home equity, and retirement accounts. Here is a good list of debt management calculators from Bankrate.com/calculators.

During this step you should also assess your credit. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies once every 12 months. If there are inaccuracies on your credit report you need to get them corrected. I found out more about correcting credit report errors at https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/credit-education/fix-credit/.

Step 2 – Plan

Once you know where you stand the next thing you need to do is determine your desired end goal. You need to figure out how much you will need to maintain your lifestyle in retirement. There are many helpful calculators available online that can help, including one from AARP.

Now that you have your starting line and your finish line, you can begin to connect the dots between the two. Here is where you develop your monthly budget. Be realistic in your expectations and strive to live within your means. Focus on paying your necessary living expenses, putting money away for retirement, and paying down your debts first. Anything left over can be used for vacations, buying a new car, starting a business, or whatever else you might want.

You should also establish an emergency fund. Unforeseen events can have catastrophic consequences to your financial stability. An emergency fund provides you with the means to deal with those events with minimal financial consequences. You won’t have to incur additional debt. You won’t have to reduce your retirement savings. You will already have the money you need.

Now you can make adjustments and fine tune your budget. You may need to reduce spending or increase income in order to reach your goals. In either case you can identify the specific need and make the necessary adjustments to stay on track.

Step 3 – Monitor and Maintain

This is the step that never ends. None of what you have done up to this point will matter if you don’t remain vigilant and stick to your plan. Life changes, and when it does you need to change with it. Whether it’s a new job, new home, or new family member, you will need to constantly stay on top of your current situation and make adjustments to ensure that you are still on track to meet your end goal.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on November 27th, 2013 in Finances, Personal Stories | No comments

27 nov

7 Ways to Protect Your Identity

RobertCordrayThere was a time when the worst thing that a criminal could steal from you was your property. They might get a hold of your wallet, or maybe make off with your car, or even break into your home and ransack the place, but at the end of the day, you’d be able to take inventory of your losses and move on with your life.

However, in the last few decades a different type of theft has really begun to manifest itself. Where once criminals were content to steal possessions, they now set their sights much higher; criminals of today steal entire identities. Identity theft has become such a problem that a recent report issued by Javelin Research estimates that nearly 6% of all adults in the United States are affected by it every year in some way and things are only getting worse. Thankfully, there are ways to protect yourself against those groups and individuals who would misuse use your personal information. Here are seven ways to secure your data against identity theft.

1. Be smart with your mail

Although much of the world now runs on the internet, the U.S. Postal Service is still widely utilized. Unfortunately, it can also be easily compromised—especially when dealing with your home mailbox. Be sure to empty your mailbox every day, preferably soon after it is delivered so that passing criminals can’t steal personal information (such as are contained in credit and bank statements). When mailing sensitive data or checks, do so from the local post office.

2. Never give out information to anyone who contacts you

One way that criminals steal identities is by contacting prospective victims and claiming to be a legitimate business/organization. For instance, they may claim to be your bank, and request that you give them your social security number so that that can “verify your identity.” Never give out any information to any person who contacts you. Instead, if you believe that the issue is legitimate, contact the organization yourself and verify that they were the ones who called you (and if they were, let them know how irresponsible it is to for them to do so; most legitimate groups would never call a person and request sensitive information). Be especially wary of emails and always hone your online threat intelligence; many cybercriminals have designed messages that mimic the look and feel of legitimate communications, even going so far as to redirect to official looking (but fake) websites.

3. Keep your info off of social networks

Many people seem to think that just because their Facebook page (or Twitter, or whichever popular social media site they prefer) is populated by ‘friends,’ it’s okay to share sensitive information. But how well do you really know the people who have access to your page? Besides, more people can view your social media info than you probably are aware of. Play it safe, and keep any specific information about yourself (date of birth, mother’s maiden name, information relating to family members, etc.) off of your page. Additionally, be sure to set any privacy setting to the highest possible level of security. Just remember: if you don’t want the world to see it, don’t post it.

4. Keep an eye on your credit

Credit card information is one of the easiest—and most profitable—targets for identity criminals. And while some card thieves may set off red flags with the bank by making multiple large purchases in a short amount of time, the more clever one are careful to remain under the radar by slowly racking up charges over the space of several months. Be sure that you always check your credit card statements regularly, and are able to account for each and every charge made. Also, make note of any statements that don’t arrive on time, as stolen statements can provide criminals with valuable account numbers.

5. Be stingy with your data

Many businesses today like to gather as much personal information about their customers as possible. They use this information for special offers, buyer’s clubs, and directed advertising, which is generally harmless in and of itself. However, should any of that information be stolen from the company (as sometimes happens), it is often the customers who face the negative consequences. When possible, refuse to give out specific personal information to salespeople or businesses. If you absolutely must provide your data, be sure to review the privacy policy. Inform the business that you don’t want your information given out (or sold) to anyone else.

6. Keep your computer protection up to date

You might be shocked to learn just how much personal information can be extracted from a personal computer. Be sure to keep you virus software active and up-to-date, and exercise caution when surfing the web. When dealing with online sites, be sure that they have been verified as safe to visit. Many organizations will also use tools such as packet capture data to ensure the safety of their customers and visitors.

7. Only use strong and unique passwords

It may be annoying to have to remember several different passwords, but that doesn’t mean that you should put all of your eggs into one basket. Make sure that you have unique passwords for every account so that if one gets hacked, you’ll be able to limit the amount of damage done. Also, never use simple-to-guess passwords. Instead, make your passwords an unintelligible mix of letters, numbers, and any other acceptable symbols. For the password hint questions that some companies require you to supply, don’t choose anything that can be easily guessed or publicaly researched. You might even consider misspelling your hint answer, so that even if a hacker guesses it correctly, he won’t be able to access your accounts.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Robert Cordray on November 27th, 2013 in Technology | No comments

19 nov

Working from Home and Saving Money

JennaSmithWhen you make the big switch to freelancing or working from home, you gain a lot. You are able to work at your own comfort and speed, without the worry of a supervisor coming to check on you. You are able to wear pajamas if you want, and work from your bed or your couch.

On the other hand, you often have to adjust to living on a reduced income. A freelancing career takes a while to ramp up, and even if you are earning as much as you made at your old job, you’re often paying more in taxes. Since self-employed people are required to pay both the individual and the employer’s portion of Social Security and other taxes, even if you’re making the same amount of money each month, less of that money goes into your pocket. Still more of your income has to go towards funding the business itself — the web hosting, for example, that helps clients find your work.

All of this means that you have to learn how to live on less. Don’t worry — we’re not suggesting you give up your new freelance career and go back to your old job! Instead, here are the steps you need to take in the next 30 days to get your finances on track.

Start eating at home

If your old job meant grabbing a Chipotle burrito or Corner Bakery sandwich every day for lunch, it’s time to swap out that habit for a more economical one. Eating out every day costs far more than eating at home, even for “meal deals” like McDonald’s Dollar Menu. As Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar proves, it is cheaper to buy ground beef and make your own hamburgers than it is to buy the same amount of hamburgers even at $1 each!

That means you have to start planning and shopping. Buying pre-packaged sandwiches from the grocery store isn’t saving money. Slicing your own cheese for sandwiches is. Look for meals you can make while you work, such as slow cooker stews or hearty casseroles. The more money you save on food, the more money you’ll have to support your new business.

Cut back on your overhead

If it’s a monthly payment and you don’t need it, it’s time to let it go. That means no more magazine subscriptions, and no more gym memberships. (Yes, staying healthy is important, so find activities you can do for free, such as running, or joining a Meetup.com sports league.)

There’s one place where you probably shouldn’t cut back: your entertainment/internet/cable package. You definitely need internet for work, and you don’t want to skimp on your download and upload speed. Instead of cutting back on cable and internet, look for deals on a combination package. As the bloggers at MoneyNing note, a good Verizon FiOS double play promotion code can get you significant cost savings as well as a bonus $300 Visa gift card. That’s money in the bank!

Figure out how much money you need to earn every day

When you’re a freelancer, it’s easy to get into a procrastination habit. With no fears of a boss coming after you, sometimes that little break stretches into a lost afternoon. Solve this problem by figuring out how much money you need to earn to make your monthly financial goals. Then, every day, make sure you do at least as much work as would earn a day’s amount of money. If you have a project that is supposed to earn you a week’s worth of income, for example, make sure you complete at least 20% of that project every day, Monday through Friday.

If you implement these three steps over the next 30 days, you’ll be well on your way to a successful “work at home” career. Then you can devote your time to growing your new business.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on November 19th, 2013 in Career, Finances, House and Home, Personal Stories | No comments

19 nov

5 Ways to Protect Your Home from Bad Santas This Holiday Season

RobertCordrayThe Holidays are a time during which people around the world welcome the idea of having an overweight stranger crawl out of their fireplace and poke around their livingrooms. However, Santa Claus isn’t the only person who wants to get into your home this December. As families get ready to celebrate peace on earth and goodwill towards men, Grinches start coming up with their own Christmas wish lists. The holiday months are a time in which burglaries across the nation skyrocket. It’s not too hard to understand why: After all, people are making expensive purchases, leaving them in a predetermined spot, and then going on vacation to visit family and leaving the house empty behind them. But don’t worry; there are a number of precautions you can take to help keep the bad-santas of the world out of your home, and you won’t even have to booby-trap the chimney. Here’s how:

1. Keep Santa’s helpers outside

These days, it’s not uncommon during the holidays to have a steady stream of delivery trucks pulling up to the house to drop off packages. However, not all delivery people are as trustworthy—or even as legitimate—as they’d have you believe. If you invite one of them into your home, you’re giving them an opportunity to easily case your property for later invasion, or perhaps simply rob it right there. Never let a stranger into your home, no matter how friendly they look or how cold the weather may be. If you need to sign for something, do it outside, and don’t be afraid to contact the delivery company to make sure that a delivery is scheduled for your house.

2. Keep it quiet

If you’ve made any large purchases for the holidays, try to keep quiet about them. Unload expensive items in your garage instead of out front, and don’t leave packaging materials outside where any passer-by could happen upon them. The world doesn’t need to know about your upcoming vacation, so keep any mention of it off of your social media sites, and don’t talk about it in public where prying ears can eavesdrop. Some criminals actually pay people like hairdressers, bank tellers, and cab drivers to inform them when they hear that someone is planning on leaving town.

3. Keep up appearances

If you are planning on leaving home for the holidays, do what you can to make it look as though the house is still occupied. Don’t simply leave lights on inside—a lamp shining for 24 hours straight is actually a great way to inform criminals that you aren’t home. Instead, buy a timer and set it to turn on lights or the television at believable times throughout the day. Also, speak with a trusted neighbor, and have them collect your mail/newspapers for you while you’re gone. Alternately, you could contact your post office and news carrier and have them suspend service until you get back.

4. Close the curtains

It’s natural during the Christmas season to want to throw upon the blinds and let your home’s light shine out like a beacon. Well, get it under control, because if you can see outside, then prowlers can see inside. Open curtains allow criminals to get a good idea of what valuables may be inside the home and whether they should risk breaking in. So, keep those curtains closed.

5. Invest in an automated home security system

Digital home security systems might be the number-one way to protect your home from invasion during the holidays (or at any time of the year). With security cameras, motion detectors, glass-break sensors, etc., any criminal who gets to the house is going to have more to worry about than finding out where you stash your egg-nog. Of course, that’s assuming that they attempt a break-in anyway; just having a home security warning sign in your yard is usually enough to convince them to do their holiday “shopping” elsewhere.

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Posted by Robert Cordray on November 19th, 2013 in House and Home, Technology | No comments