New Years Resolutions for Your Personal Finances

Silvana Comugnero

It is almost time to replace our calendars and that can only mean one thing – time to make some New Years resolutions. Instead of setting the usual goals for weight loss, dedicate some time to thinking about your personal finances. What would you like to change before this time next year?


Use the Sub-prime Mortgage Debacle to your Advantage

If you were one of the ones that signed up with a sub-prime lender to obtain a mortgage, now is your chance to move that home loan to a more traditional financing option and remove some risk from the equation. The slowdown in the housing market has offset the growth in other areas, holding interest rates near an all-time low.

Assuming your credit has improved since taking out the sub-prime or adjustable rate loan you should now be able to refinance your mortgage into a conventional, fixed-rate mortgage at around 6.5%. Even if this is slightly higher than your current interest adjustable interest rate it will benefit you to lock in a low rate and avoid the risk of higher rates in the near future.

Trim Credit Card Fat

The credit crunch taking over Americans’ finances is real and was long overdue. Years of economic expansion combined with a real estate boom led to overconfidence in terms of ones ability to assume higher debt loads. With home values cooling, and credit card rates rising, it pays to consider reducing credit card balances and fast. There are several methods of paying off credit cards, but do what works for you and your family.

Rebalance Retirement Savings

The Federal Reserve’s inclination to keep interest rates higher than some would like has caused a shift in the stock market over the last year. What has a hot investment (real estate, home improvement, homebuilders, and banks) several months ago has gone cold in the wake of negative financial news to close out the year. That means a review of your retirement plan is probably in order.

First, consider changing up your current allocation mix. Shifting future contributions out of high-risk, high-reward sectors such as real estate and into a more conservative, defensive mix of stocks may be a prudent move. When considering a stock of fund for your portfolio think in terms of goods or services everyone needs regardless of the economic conditions. Healthcare, consumer staples, and energy are all relatively good plays in a weakened economy.

Stop Overpaying Uncle Sam

If you are expecting a big tax refund this year consider revising the number of exemptions on your federal and state payroll tax forms. Receiving a large tax refund really means you loaned the government money interest-free for twelve months. Instead, increase the amount in your paycheck every month and use that money to pay down debt and increase savings.

Metal Roofing – Important for Home Improvement


Is it possible to install metal roofing above former tarmac shingles or Fiberglass? This is a very frequent question that we come across periodically.

And the reply is yes it is possible and the advantage is, you end up saving by putting effort in and also overcoming the harassment of shredding off the former roof without any distribution in stuffing our landfills. Other than this there is an advantage that the coating of the previous roof will further protect your house. Metal is the superior selection as it has little weight per square feet and has an exclusive design. The mass of metal roofing is below one pound per square feet. Tarmac Shingle weighs around four pounds per square feet depending on the product manufacture.


If you prefer not to take any risk, then first verify with your neighbouring building department. In certain regions the building officials only support re-roofing above one coating of shingles. Other regions can permit re roofing two coatings of shingles. Often, it is not a problem if you are going above one layer of shingles.

Few Options:

A coating of under pad we have put in will give the support to the top of the unfilled shingles and will help the small pieces of previous shingles from friction in opposition to metal that will cause probable decomposition. The business standard of under pad is considered tar paper, but today many new branded under pads are available those are manufactured to work well with metal roofing. Branded tar paper has the propensity to glue the metal roof. This can be the reason of scratches on tar paper when metal roof increases or shrinks as it is manufactured. The new branded under pads does not cause this problem as they are made far away from the branded tar paper.

We can use foil faced or an E-Foil bubble wrap barrier that reflects filling, and that will protect the existing roof and new metal roof. The barrier we will put will also trim down the cooling cost of the house during the summer season by reflecting heat away from the roof. Healthy barrier feeling will does the best when used with the ribbed panel as it will erect airspace due to corrugation. This airspace will be helpful for ventilation in the house.

This article will be helpful for you to get rid of roofing problems. However, before making a decision for metal roofing, just do the survey, because once metal roofing is done you will not be able to change it.

Melaleuca – A Safer Alternative for Your Home

Melaleuca - A Safer Alternative for Your Home: Eco-Friendly, Non-Poisonous Household Cleaners and Other Healthy Alternatives

When I found out that I had a little baby on the way, I started thinking about all of the things that could happen and began to take steps to make my house a safer place for my little one to discover the world. My husband had used Melaleuca products in the past, and really liked them, so we did some more research, and began using up all of the old poisonous household cleaners, and replacing them with safer herbal alternatives.


Many people know that household cleaners that you find in your grocery store are highly toxic and can harm your children if they ever get a hold of them. People don’t realize the damage that they can cause just from prolonged exposure as a result of daily use. Bleach can produce a harmful chlorine gas if it comes in contact with other cleaners. Dr. Gary Ginsburg, Ph. D, a toxicologist explains that ammonia and bleach are the most hazardous consumer products due to their widespread use. However, parents are encouraged to disinfect surfaces and toys that their babies come into contact with in a bleach solution. Doing the research on the cleaners in your home will help you to decide which ones you feel the need to replace. We chose to replace all of them with non-toxic alternatives, and looked to Melaleuca for help.

Melaleuca products typically contain melaleuca, or tea tree oil, which is a natural antiseptic. It can be used on the body, or in daily cleaning to disinfect. Products can only be purchased from the Melaleuca website, cutting down on the cost to consumers by cutting out the process of distributing and selling through storefronts. Many of their products are concentrated, so a single bottle can be diluted into three or four spray bottles for household use.

My favorite product by far is the Tough and Tender Multi-Purpose Surface Cleaner. This stuff is far more effective than any other cleaner I’ve ever used. I used to love 409 for cleaning my kitchen, but the Tough and Tender is far better. I just spray it on any mess on my kitchen counters, and it wipes right off. I use it to clean that impossible to get off, cooked on mess from the silver trays on my stove top by spraying it on and letting it sit for a few minutes. I also spray it on the kitchen floor and mop up. This product has cut all of the scrubbing and back ache out of cleaning the kitchen. Tough and Tender also makes a great ant killer! We completely eliminated an ant infestation in our house in just a few minutes, and with no poison.

Another great one is the Sol U Mel. This product can be added to many of the other cleaners to give them a boost. My husband cut his foot and bled pretty badly on the carpet. We sprayed the spot with a bit of Sol U Mel and patted it with a towel, and it was completely gone. I was shocked! I add a cap full of Sol U Mel to a few caps of Mela Magic and hot water in my steam cleaner for no fuss carpet cleaning. We also dilute the Sol U Mel in a spray bottle and use it like some folks use air fresheners, to spray our upholstery and the inside of our car. It not only deodorizes, but disinfects at the same time.

Other products that I really like are their bath bars, tooth paste, and shampoo. I feel a lot better about raising my baby in a house that is not only clean, but safe. I never worry when she puts a toy in her mouth, or licks the floor, and we have been healthier since the changeover.

Maqui Berry: Even Healthier Than Acai?


If anyone hasn’t heard of Acai berry, it is a fruit from the Amazon rainforest which is currently being heavily marketed as a miracle weight-loss and health supplements. There are plenty of articles detailing what exactly makes it so healthy, so I will not go into too much detail here, but the most important thing to note is that most experts attribute acai berry’s health benefits to its extremely high concentration of antioxidants. As of late, however, many websites are claiming that a new berry, Maqui, is even healthier than Acai. These websites also happen to be selling Maqui berry, so I decided to do a little research to find out which is actually healthier.


Every website seems to cite the same source for its berry’s antioxidant value, the USDA’s ORAC chart, which measures antioxidant concentration in confusing units. Complicating this, however, is that the USDA itself has not released an official chart on its website since 2007. With no set standard on the matter yet, a definitive answer on which contains more antioxidants is impossible to give, but I will give my unofficial conclusions.

Assuming some health gurus¬†give accurate information, Maqui berry is not healthier than Acai. However, Acai appears to lose its antioxidants more easily after it is not fresh. Acai berries, in freeze-dried berry form, are given an ORAC value of 161,400. Many Acai berry juices and supplements are not in this form, so their ORAC value would be significantly lower, but there I could not find an exact, reliable number. Maqui berry’s ORAC score is given in its juice form, which is what most consumers would find it in. Maqui is given a score of 40,000. That may seem much lower than Acai, but once again that is only if Acai is obtained in a fresh or freeze-dried form.

Both of these fruits have fantastic health benefits, so trying both would be optimal. I would advise against buying through trial offers unless it is a trusted company, as thousands of people have been scammed already. Keep your eyes open for reliable updates on the matter, but be grateful either way that foods like this even exist in the first place.

Many Staph Superbug Infections Come from Healthcare Facilities

Staph Superbug Infections

Staph Superbug is also known as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus or MRSA. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, most staph superbug infections are healthcare related. “There were 8,987 observed cases of invasive MRSA reported during the surveillance period. Most MRSA infections were healthcare-associated: 5,250 (58.4%) were community-onset infections, 2,389 (26.6%) were hospital-onset infections.” This would indicate that 7,639 infections out of 8,987 were caused by getting medical care. This is not an acceptable number by anyone’s standards. Health care settings like hospitals and nursing homes are the most common place to contract a staph superbug infection. You may go in for surgery only to find that you are much worse off than before. This deadly bug has an affinity for wounds and once it is in your bloodstream, it will cause organ failure and ultimately death. What is the medical community doing to protect us from the staph superbug? Not much.


According to the Associate for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology report in 2007, estimates that 1.2 million hospital patients are infected with MRSA (staph superbug) each year in the United States alone. An additional 423,000 in the hospital are colonized with MRSA. By colonized, this means it is a latent infection that may crop up at any point. I would think hospital staff and health care workers would be searching for innovative new ways to not infect their patients. If they are, it is not being publicized widely. My personal observation is that there seems to be a certain level of acceptance of the staph superbug in the medical community. If you get it, they will try to treat you. Yet, I do not see much in the way of preventative measures.

Unfortunately, it may take much public outcry and lawsuits before serious preventative action is taken. Many times hospitals can avoid infecting their patients with the staph superbug if they simply follow strict sanitary guidelines and bacterial testing procedures. With 1.7 million people getting infections from health care every year, hospitals are obviously not taking proper precautions. 100,000 United States citizens die every year from infections they obtain directly from going to the hospital each year. These are not people that die from any other cause, but as a direct result from getting an infection at the hospital.

If you are outraged by the needless deaths from the staph superbug, let’s put pressure on the hospitals to do more to prevent its spread. Find out what hospitals infection rate is in your area. As consumers, this will allow us to avoid hospital with high rates. Certain states have already passed a bill requiring that hospitals report their infection rate. If your state isn’t on this list, write to your state officials and request this information to be made public.

10 Tips To Make Your Thanksgiving Day More Healthy


The first thing that must be said is that health is a lifestyle-a habit of health. A person with a healthy lifestyle can afford to “splurge” now and again. On the other hand, an unhealthy lifestyle will be little helped by an isolated day of “healthiness” UNLESS that day is the beginning of a change in habits. So, whether you’re already fit and want to enjoy Thanksgiving without overdoing it or you’re not quite so fit but want a Thanksgiving “resolution,” here are some a few things that I hope might help.


Yea, thanksgiving day we eat turkeys right? But wait, to live a better and more healthy thanksgiving day, we should not care only about the turkeys……

1. Take a morning walk or some other exercise. Most gyms are open Thanksgiving morning.

2. Light on the breakfast- munch on some almonds, berries, oranges or pumpkin bread. Many of those foods are actual “fat fighters.”

3. Go for the vegetables that aren’t smothered in cheese and cream sauces.

4. Easy on the carbohydrates. If you like stuffing or dressing, don’t take any bread or rolls-or one at most. Sweet potatoes are better than mashed potatoes and control insulin levels better than the whites.

5. Go easy on the turkey and skip the gravy (except a little on the turkey)

6. Eat only what you like and can handle. Good mental health also means you don’t have to worry about “hurting someone’s feelings.” If you don’t care for something. Don’t say “I don’t like…” just say “No thanks” and don’t take any.

7. Don’t go for seconds too fast (or at all). Give your body a chance to signal you that it’s full. Go In the meantime sip tea or coffee and talk with your family/friends.

8. Wait until later for dessert. If you must have a sweet right after a meal, find a piece of candy or something but wait until later to go for those sampler platter of pies and cakes.

9. After dinner don’t immediately plunge onto the couch to watch football or movies. Take another walk, play outside with the kids, do some boxing on Wii or some other activity. A little exercise right after eating is a good thing.

10. Laugh a lot: laughter is “the best medicine.”

You’ve heard it before; the key to health is “all things in moderation.” I personally don’t accept that we must stuff ourselves on Thanksgiving. If you want to begin a habit of health, there’s no better day to test your resolve than Thanksgiving Day.

Making Healthy Food Faster for Your Family


Resorting to fast food due to busy schedules? Prefer to make it yourself, but don’t have the time? Kids protesting the lack of variety? When your kids get sick of fast food, you know it’s time to learn to make healthy food faster. Believe it or not, the healthiest foods are also some of the fastest to make. They’re called fruits and vegetables. Here’s what I mean, plus some other ideas for fast healthy food your family will love.


Quick made food does not mean it is unhealthy, just in an opposite way, maybe the more quick food you spend time on, more healthy it is. Read the below tips.

Fruits and veggies are nature’s fast food

You don’t have to cook them. They’re ready to eat. At least most of them are. Why spend an hour making peach cobbler when kids can just eat the peach? It’s healthier and takes less time. Of course, a peach isn’t a complete meal. That’s why your meal should contain a variety of fruits and vegetables, along with a protein food like nuts, cheese or yogurt.

Use time to your advantage

So you don’t have time to make homemade food after work. That’s OK. Make it when you do have time. Serve it later. When my kids were young, I used Sunday to make family favorites like veggie chili and spaghetti. I’d freeze them, then heat them up after school and work for a fast healthy meal.

Bonus tips:

*Freezing food in individual servings lets family members choose their own meals.

*Adding a side salad is a quick, easy nutritional boost.

Cook slowly so your family can eat healthy quickly

Almost everyone owns a crock pot they never use. Why let it get dusty when you can use it to make fast, easy nutritional meals for the whole family? Just toss in a few ingredients and let it simmer all day. When you get home, there’s no worry about what to make. It’s already done. Now even Mom can relax after work and school.

Bonus tips:

*Healthy soup is no fuss in a crock pot. Instead of greasy meat base, use beans or tomatoes as broth.

*Almost anything can be made in a crock pot. Experiment with your favorite recipes.

Do it restaurant style

Take some tips from restaurants. They know busy just as well as the average Mom. Do your prep in advance. Cut up veggies, fruits, cheeses and more ahead of time so you can cook faster. Keep basic, versatile items like eggs, milk, etc. well stocked. Running to the store last minute takes time. Make your own quick dry spice mixes for soups and such.

Bonus tips:

*No time for prep? Cut up healthy foods while watching a movie with the family.

*Buy long lasting healthy dried beans and brown rice in bulk to save both time and money.

Making Your Financial Future a Priority when Choosing a College

While education is certainly important, and has the potential to increase a person’s life time earnings, the choice one makes has consequences. It can greatly increase the potential for revenue enhancement or create crushing debt, it may take years to emerge from.

There are some several factors one needs to consider in making the decision of where to go to college. The first one involves what are you interested in going to college to study and which schools offer programs that lead to employment in those fields. Employment is often ignored in the college decision process. I realize many young people are uncertain when they start off to school about what they want to do when they get out of college, but when making a choice that could ultimately result in great debt or a sound financial future, having future employment options are important.

From there, of course, an individual must be able to gain acceptance to the educational institution of his or her choice. However, here is where the financial trap emerges. For many the honor of being accepted to a program at a prestigious institution is not matched by what the program offers in future earnings potential. For some very fortunate individuals, who can personally finance their education, regardless of cost, this is not an issue. For others, who through personal merit and financial aide, have won complete scholarships to the college of their choice, the question also, does not arise. The money question is a real issue for those who have dreams of a prestigious university education but require loans, do to a gap in personal finances and awarded financial aid and scholarships. Then the question of future employment does become a real and substantial one.

It is a tough conversation to have with parents and children about the realities of turning down a chance at a prestigious higher education. However, it is one that more children and parents need to talk honestly and openly about. There are those who argue that making the right connections and getting to participate in certain training and programs offered at certain colleges offer them something they can’t get at a less expensive college. The reality check has to be do the expense incurred to attend this college trade off in employment opportunities that will clear your debt? Would you have similar opportunities if you attended another college that would allow you to graduate with no or significantly less, debt? People often believe that attendance at the more expensive school is justified because of the higher quality education, without ever considering they are often competing in job markets where their college might give them an advantage over a competitor but perhaps not a salary increase. Will you be able to pay your debts off on what you will be making at graduation? Many students have unrealistic goals of what an expensive college education translates to in terms of opportunities and income. When considering going deeply into debt, it is important to have some research date in your field to know why attending this school is going to vastly increase your income, so you can overcome the debt you will be carrying upon graduation. It is easier to convince students when they can see what the payments are going to look like. Programs that have local local bankers or other volunteers go into high schools to demonstrate what college loans look like on graduation based on how much you owe, and the interest at which you borrow are a real gift to students and parents, alike. It is an eye opener to to be forced to look at the choice they are making.

I’m a firm believer and supporter of college education. Having paid my own way through college, I continue to make a point of teaching my younger relatives the ropes regarding the college financial aide system, searching for scholarships, and how to maximize your savings while at college. However, I also encourage them to be realistic about goals and outcomes. There is nothing to stop you from attending the more expensive learning institution for graduate studies. Waiting until you are in a better financial position, or if possible you can get your employer to pay for it, stills offers you the chance to have that college listed on your resume, but you will not be paying for it in twenty years. As an undergraduate your goal truly should be to finish a degree, in a course of study ,that you can afford. The deeper in debt you are at graduation, the fewer options you have.

Personal Finance: 10 Concerns to Have About Retirement


Somewhere around 50 or so most people start to get serious about retirement thinking. While this is way to too late to begin the process to make it easy, it is still better than doing nothing. Regardless of when you start to consider your retirement years, the worries are about the same. The only difference is the amount of time remaining to prepare. Working through these 10 retirement concerns will give you an idea of where you stand in your preparation.

Finance retirement

How quickly do you need to save?

Age matters when it comes to retirement planning. Having 40 years to prepare is better than having 10. To reach $1,000,000 at retirement requires an investment of $100 per month for 38 years at 12%. If you increase it to $200 per month, you can reach $2,352, 954.50 in 40 years. At the same interest rate, it will require a $4,400 per month investment to accumulate $1,000,000 in 10 years. If the interest rate is cut in half, you can reach the $1,000,000 plateau in 40 years with a $500 per month investment. Any way you slice it, starting early is the way to go.

How much income will you need to maintain your lifestyle?

While retirement can lower your cost of living, it does not always. Adjustments in lifestyle often suck up any savings realized from not having to go to work every day. Becoming a de facto child care provider can be expensive. Extra travel requires cash. You will need to decide how much of a lifestyle reduction that will be acceptable to conserve cash. If you hope to improve your style of living in retirement, it may actually cost you more to be retired than to work.

How often do you dip into your retirement savings?

The road to retirement can be bumpy. People often need to use a portion of their savings to cover emergencies. If this requires you to dip into your retirement savings, it will slow your rate of current and future growth. Too many withdrawals for living expenses may result in little to nothing left for retirement. If you find yourself constantly depleting retirement accounts, you need to rework your retirement plan into something that can be maintained.

How is your health?

For many people, health issues escalate in retirement. If you already have sizable medical expenses, you will need to address this in your retirement planning. Unfortunately, retirement age and unexpected health problems can arrive simultaneously. Keep good health insurance. After age 60, you should at least consider buying long-term-care insurance.

Do you have significant debt?

Debt is the big dog on the block when it comes to retirement worries and concerns. There are government programs and benevolent ministries to help impoverished seniors. None of these programs are designed to help you pay off debt. Money used to service debt is lost to you until the debt is retired. If you have to choose between intense saving and intense debt payoff, choose paying off the debt.

How long will you need your retirement accounts to last?

Early retirement sounds nice, but it means that you have to fund those additional years. Often company funded retirement plans and Social Security benefits have age qualifications built in before they can be tapped for income. Early retirement is frequently funded by personal investments or some type of dividend or royalty income. If being retired longer means drawing from your savings for more years, you need may need to beef up the amounts needed to fund retirement.

What will the cost of living be where you plan to retire?

Your cost of living will not automatically change at the moment of retirement unless you intend to relocate. Doing some research about living expenses in the area where you will live is important. If you plan to change residences in the same area, it may impact your costs up or down depending on where you choose to live. Living out of the country can influence your expenses due to exchange rates and the scarcity of commodities that you may prefer to have.

Will you have a network of support?

Retirement works best when you have friends and family to support you if needed. This support may be in the form of help with repairs and chores or emotional support. Transportation can be a big problem as you advance in age and lose your ability to drive. A retirement plan that includes building a support network as well as an income source is vital for a long and happy retirement. A support network of active friends can also keep you active and stave off issues of loneliness and depression.

Can you maintain an emergency cash reserve?

The idea retirement situation is that you have more income than living expenses. This will allow you to save something each month to cover emergencies and inflation. Once you lose your ability to maintain and emergency fund, retirement will lose a lot of its luster. This is the situation that sends many seniors back into the workforce 5 or 10 years after retirement. Others are tethered to some type of job for the remainder of their life.

Have a plan in case retirement comes before it is expected.

Heart attacks, accidents, and other unexpected crises can influence when you retire. Having to retire 5, 10, or 15 years before you planned is not a big concern until it strikes you. Part of your thinking about retirement should include a contingency plan for an unplanned early retirement. You cannot plan for every possibility, but you can have a general plan in place to fall back to if this hits your life. This might require some extreme financial decisions like bankruptcy to conserve whatever assets that you can to help you cope with your current circumstances.

Naturally Rid Your Home of Fleas in 5 Minutes a Day


There you are, petting your dear little furry friend when it happens. You spot a little black vermin crawling amongst the fur. In an instant, you know you have fleas.

These pests can go from one to hundreds rapidly if left to their own devices, leaving pets suffering and pet owners feeling helpless. In many areas, even prescription flea products won’t do the trick as fleas are slowly breeding immunity towards the harsh chemicals.


There are several tips floating around about how to rid your home of these pesky creatures but a lot of the techniques take time and energy that many of us just don’t have. So how do we go from helpless and hopeless to conquerors of our own home?

With this one simple technique, less than five minutes a day is all it will take to have a flea-free house.

What you will need:

  • A flea comb
  • Liquid dish soap (any type will do)
  • Paper towel
  • A willing pet

Fill a bowl with water and add a small squirt of liquid dish soap. Sit with your pet and run the flea comb through its fur. After each brush through, rinse the comb off in the soap. If necessary use your fingers to pull any fleas off the comb, making sure the fleas are fully submerged in the soapy water. Dry the comb with a paper towel and run it through your pet’s fur again. Repeat this process for about five minutes or until you cannot find any more adult fleas.

You will need to comb your pet daily for at least three months in order for this method to work. It may sound overwhelming at first, but on top of being productive, it can become a wonderful bonding time for you and your pet.

By simply destroying the adult fleas daily, they will be unable to lay more eggs, leaving your home flea free. If you want to increase the effectiveness of this routine, you can also vacuum your carpet daily or every other day to limit the number of eggs in your home.

After three months, you can slow on daily flea combing as the flea eggs will have hatched and the adult fleas won’t have lived long enough to reproduce anymore. At this time, be sure to keep a watchful eye for a couple of weeks just to make sure your pet is 100% flea free. If you see no signs of itching or flea dander, then you can take pride in knowing you brought comfort and relief to your pet without spending a ton of money or dousing your pet with harsh chemicals.


  • Fleas love to hang out at the base of the tail and under the belly. Be sure to comb these areas thoroughly.
  • Do not use only water to submerge the fleas as they can jump free without the sticky residue of the dish soap.
  • Some people recommend regularly spraying your pet’s fur with white or apple cider vinegar to prevent more fleas from hopping onto your pet. Be sure to avoid their face when using this method.