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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How to Control Your Emotions When Shopping

When I was a teenager, I went back-to-school shopping with my best friend and got suckered into buying more clothing than I needed or had money for. 

The saleswoman was smooth and knew all of the right things to tell a 16 year old girl who was nervous about going back to school and looking just right.  That saleslady upsold me on everything—I even bought the matching socks and earrings at her suggestion.

An hour later, embarrassed and a bit angry, I returned everything.

I bought my clothes with my own money from my part-time job, and I simply didn’t have the money to buy that much.

My experience was not unique, but unfortunately, many people now don’t return the items or better yet, stop themselves from buying them in the first place.

We don’t think of shopping as walking through an emotional minefield, but many times that is just what the experience is like.

One of the best ways to combat this minefield is to take your emotions out of shopping, which is easier said than done.  However, knowing why your emotions come into play when shopping can help you better control them.

How to Control Your Emotions When Shopping

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Paying for a Good Education in the Beginning or the End?

When I was in graduate school, I met a man who was Puerto Rican and spoke Spanish. 

His wife was Korean and spoke Korean.  When they had a daughter, they made the conscious decision to only speak English to her so that she wouldn’t be confused by the languages.

I still look at that situation and mourn the tremendous opportunity to learn three languages that this child missed.

Imagine the job opportunities for a trilingual speaker who speaks Spanish, Korean and English!

My husband is Japanese, and while I speak a bit of Japanese, I am by no means conversational.  (Just ask my husband’s mother; I still panic when she calls because I only know a few conversational phrases.)

We determined when we married that we wanted to raise our children to be bilingual; however, that is difficult when mom doesn’t speak the language and dad is at work 10 hours of the day.

We decided to pay tuition to send our children to a private Montessori Japanese language school.  We resolved to invest money in our children’s education upfront, fully aware that the money we spend now is money we won’t have available when they go to college.

Why Invest in Education Upfront?

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