How to Plan for Financial Hardships

1. Figure out wants vs. needs.  Determine what you really need to spend your money on (i.e. electricity bill, water bill, food, etc.) versus what you can live without (new clothes or car).  To find out where your money is going chart your spending by writing down every single thing you spend money on for one month.

2. Save AND pay down debt.  After you’ve charted your spending’s you’ll probably find that something is costing you more then you realized.  An example of this overspending might be your daily morning lattes and/or eating out.  If this is the case, find ways to minimize that spending by packing your lunches and/or making your own morning coffee.  Put the money you’ve saved toward paying off credit card debt and/or saving for your emergency fund.

3. Decide where to put the money.  Once you have an emergency fund, the next step is to decide where to stash it.  Savings accounts or money markets are perfect for this.  They don’t make tons on interest, but that’s not the goal for an emergency fund.  You want your emergency fund separate from your regular savings or checking so you don’t spend it.  It’s a small barrier to make you think a little harder about whether you really need to transfer funds to your checking account.

4. Have an emergency fund.  Emergency funds are for people in all stages of life, but they might be most important for those about to reach retirement.  If you lose your job or suffer a crippling financial loss close to retirement, an emergency fund can prevent you from making two difficult decisions:

– First – tapping into retirement savings may (and probably does) have a massive penalty for withdrawing money early.

– Second – filing for Social Security benefits earlier may give you lower benefit amounts than you had anticipated.

Remember, emergency funds are for everyone, after all very few people have such huge cash flow that they can make it through a new engine for their car, a job that ends without warning or a flooded basement.  With an emergency fund, you’ll have a safety net for the unexpected.

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Is there any Advantage to Setting the Thermostat to On Instead of Auto?

Is there any advantage to letting the air conditioner of heat pump fan run all the time (the “on” setting on the thermostat” instead of periodically (the “auto” or “automatic” setting on the thermostat)?

 

If you live in a very humid climate you may not want to run the fan continuously because this reduces dehumidification, otherwise, there are some potential advantages.

Continuously circulating the air keeps the temperature more even throughout the house be alleviating temperature stratification.  It keeps air circulating through the comfort system’s air filter, which–depending on filter type and efficiency–can keep the home cleaner and the air fresher to breathe.  When the fan is operating continuously, the compressor continues to periodically cycle on and off automatically to cool and dehumidify your home just as it does on the “auto” setting.

Paula Deen’s Corn Salad

My cousin brought this dish to our 4th of July family gathering.  It was so good and I couldn’t stop eating it so, of course, I had to ask for the recipe.  This is now my go to recipe for summer potlucks.  Super easy and delicious and always gets lots of compliments and people asking for the recipe.

Paula Deen's corn salad

Picture and recipe from food.com.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 (15 ounce) cans whole kernel corn, drained or you can use 2 cups of frozen corn like I did
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 (10 1/2 ounce) bag coarsely crushed Fritos Chili Cheese corn chips

Directions:

Mix first 5 ingredients and chill. Stir in corn chips just before serving.

NOTE: It’s not nearly as good the next day, because the chips get soggy.

Six Ways to Protect your Personal Information

As long as you’re not living under a rock, you already know that identity theft is becoming a common occurrence.  In fact, I just read a family members Facebook post stating that someone hacked their credit card and had a shopping spree.  The responses that followed were hacker horror stories as well.  One of the worst responses said they had a debit card that got hacked and the hackers took $1000 from their account.  Luckily in all of these cases the credit(/debit) card companies refunded the fraudulent purchases, but that doesn’t always happen.  Now, more than ever it’s important to take steps to protect yourself from identity theft.  If you don’t think it can happen to you read this article where Russian hackers stole 1.2 billion user names and passwords.  I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to do everything in my power to keep them from hacking me.  Here are the six ways you can better protect your personal information.

1. Set and change passwords. – We know it’s cumbersome, but create a different and unique password for all financial and personal accounts and change your passwords several times a year.  The FTC recommends creating a hard-to-crack password by using the first letter of each word in a special phrase.  For example, “I want to travel the world” > Iw2ttw.  For stronger passwords exchange numbers for letters or words, such as 2 for to.  Also, never share your password with someone else.

2. Check accounts regularly.  Monitor your bank and credit card account activity and statements.  At least once a year review your credit card report for accounts that may have been opened in your name.

3. Protect your social security number.  This means don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse, because it could be stolen.  Many people think it’s a requirement, but did you know you don’t have to give your Social Security number to everyone who asks?  When someone asks for your Social Security number, all you have to do is ask why they need it, if they are required to have it, and whether they can verify your identity another way.

4. Don’t click on that link.  Scam emails asking for bank, credit card, or other financial information have been happening for years.  These emails may provide a seemingly legitimate link or ask for a simple reply to phish for information.  Never provide click on links you’re not sure of or provide sensitive information by email.

5. Don’t let apps and websites store your information.  Skip allowing online retailers, banks, and other financial related apps to store your credit card information for easy checkout.  Take the extra time ensure your information is safe.   You can also check to make sure any site with which you conduct a financial transaction has security in place to protect your information.  This can be done by looking at the web address (URL) – it should begin with https://(the “s” indicates security), not just http://.

6. Be wary of free Wi-Fi.  Numerous coffee shops and restaurants now offer free Internet access.  This may seem like a bonus, but it can actually be dangerous unless the business offers a password-protected system.  User names and passwords saved on your computer, tablet or smart phone can be more easily hacked by computer-savvy thieves when using Wi-Fi systems without password protection.