Less Is More: Make 2013 The Year You Buy Things Differently

While Americans often complain about our jobs getting shipped overseas, the simple fact is that the global marketplace lets us receive goods for an incredibly low price. 

We are paying less than our parents and grandparents did for goods, yet we have more debt and less money.

What happened?

I recently watched the movie King Corn, a documentary in part about the way our crops are grown and our animals are fed.

Regardless of how you feel about genetically modified crops and conventionally grown beef, the documentary was informative about the agricultural policy change in the 1970s.  While the United States used to carefully rotate crops and limit the crops that came to market, all of that changed when Earl Butz became the Secretary of Agriculture in 1971.  He urged all farmers to plant as much corn as they could, and as a result of his policy changes, food prices dropped radically.  Butz said in the movie, “The basis of our affluence is that we spend less on food now. . .We feed ourselves with approximately 16 to 17% of our take home pay.”
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3 Ways to Have a Less Commercialized Holiday Season

Are you feeling like scrooge yet? 

I love the holiday season and all of the festivities, but the commercial aspect of it diminishes my joy.

Having to go out and fight the crowds to buy presents is an activity I enjoy about as much as going to the dentist for a root canal.  The longer I wait to shop, the meaner and angrier people at the mall seem to be.

What’s even worse is that studies show that many recipients don’t even appreciate or value our gifts.

“Despite the fact that people spend a significant amount of time and money on gift-giving, their purchases often are less appreciated than they might hope,” say business school professors Francis Flynn of Stanford University and Francesca Gino of Harvard University in a study published in 2011 (WSJ).

Based on my own personal experience, I can attest that this is true.

Last year my mom was most happy to give me a Mint, which is a vacuum/mop that runs on its own presumably to clean the floors while you are doing other things.  My mom is a clean freak, while we, well, we are not.  She thought this would be the perfect gift.

The problem?
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Thank the Troops This Holiday Season By Giving Back to Them

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There is probably no other holiday season that evokes a desire to be home, surrounded by family and friends more than the end-of-the-year holidays. 

For many American soldiers who are stationed far away, they can only dream about going home.  Not only do they experience a sense of longing for family and friends, but they also miss the creature comforts of home as well as the holiday rituals and celebrations.

American service men and women leave their families to protect and defend our rights, and they risk death doing their jobs.  The holidays are a perfect time to give back and tell the troops how much they are appreciated by doing something kind for them this holiday season.

There are many ways you can do this.

You can choose to simply make a donation, to send a card, or to make a longer term commitment to a troop member.  There are even organizations that let you donate to the needy citizens of the country where the troop member is stationed.

Here are Some Organizations to Consider Donating to and Give Thanks to Our Troops:

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7 Ways to Be Frugal Right Now

Some people are naturally frugal, but others come to frugality because they want to save money for some objective such as saving for their children’s college education or their own retirement.

Others learn to cut corners because they have less money due to job loss or pay raises that never come.

Whatever your situation, if you have decided to become more frugal, here are some steps you can take today to keep more money in your pocket:

Ways to Be Frugal Right Now

1.  Start cooking at home

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4 Steps to Make Sure You Are Financially Protected from the Next Natural Disaster

Millions of people are still reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy. 

The rest of the country is watching with sympathy and helping with relief efforts.  All of us, those directly impacted by Sandy, and those who were not, can learn from this storm and make sure that we are properly protected financially from natural disaster.

People often buy a house and take out a homeowner’s policy at the same time.  Then, they dutifully pay their premium every year.

What they often don’t do is revisit their insurance policy to make sure that they have enough coverage as years go by.  Most people just don’t think much about their insurance–until they need it.

Here are some steps you can take to make sure that you have enough insurance to protect you and your assets in the event of a natural disaster or other home damaging event:

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11 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Winter, Conserve Energy, and Save Money

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The changing of seasons is the perfect time to check your home’s energy efficiency, especially when much of the country will be facing cold temperatures in a few months (except for those lucky few living in warmer climates).

As temperatures cool, now is the time to make some updates to your home to save energy and efficiency and avoid costly repairs.

Here are 11 ways to prepare your home for winter and conserve energy:

Clean the gutters

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Is a Part-Time Job in High School Really the Best Use of Your Teen’s Time?

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Getting a part-time job is often a rite of passage. 

If your parents don’t shower you with money, that part-time job is your ticket to some financial independence.

My first part-time job was when I turned 16.  I worked at a pizza shop until I was let go after I took an approved one week vacation.  Then I moved to the classic teenage job, McDonald’s.  After being scheduled one too many double shifts, I changed jobs to work at my friend’s grandmother’s dry cleaning business (until my friend tried to steal jewelry that a customer left in the pocket, and I decided I didn’t want to work with her anymore).  From there, I moved to the cafeteria at Montgomery Wards.

On and on it went.

By the time I went to college, I had easily worked 10 to 15 different low end jobs.

Many people encourage teens to take jobs to learn responsibility.

However, I was already a responsible teen and working all of these crummy jobs didn’t teach me much.  (There is not much to learn about following McDonald’s rote directions for every task in the restaurant.)

Maybe instead of encouraging our teens to get low end part-time jobs, we should be encouraging them to spend their time differently.

Detriments of Teens Working Part-time

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