• Since "Manage Debt" and "Save Money" are two consistently popular New Year's Resolutions according to the USA government, I wanted to share how my family goes about making our financial goals for the year.

    1. First, we sit down and evaluate how the prior year went financially. Although early 2010 threw about $10,000 in unexpected costs our way in the first couple of months, we were able to pay off everything - primarily by me increasing my income through camp and paid social media work. Yes!

    2. Next, we try to plan for the things that we know that we want and/or need in the new year.
    There are a few things that we have budgeted ahead of time in addition to our normal monthly expenses (bills, tithes, etc.) for 2011:

    -Family travel: I am going to a Disney Social Media Moms conference in March. The great thing about this conference is that while I learn, my family can enjoy The Parks. With the conference cost, air travel for the four of us, etc., we knew that we had to put aside a

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  • As a single mom with a single income to raise two daughters, money is always on my mind. While I pride myself on paying bills on time, it still felt like all I was doing was playing catch-up. This past year, I got fed up enough to make some changes, and finally feel like I'm making progress.

    • Divide and conquer the bills. Since I get paid weekly, I divide most of my monthly bills by the number of paychecks it will take to pay them. Usually, it takes 3 or 4. For example: my electric bill is usually $99, so for three weeks, I subtract $33 from my checkbook balance.
    • Budget, revise, budget, revise... I tried many methods of budgeting until finally, I took an Excel spreadsheet template and completely redid it to make it my own. I have both a weekly and monthly budget with columns for "projected" and "actual." It's easy to get discouraged by the differences unless you use the information to revise as necessary. As time went on, some budget items went away completely, and others
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  • Words have always been my thing. That's why I appreciate a really well-written novel, a wonderfully scripted movie, and the artfully presented witty one-liners. Most of all though, that is why as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a writer.

    I have tried my hand at various mediums within the field, but admittedly seem to have found my niche in blogging. And now that I get paid to do it, I really can call myself a writer. Yay! I am a writer. It's just the beginning and I have a long way to go.

    The funny thing is that I seem to have been encouraging my kids in similar ways through the years. I remember when they were younger and it was just the three of us much of the time. We'd spend hours in the library every week picking out books. We'd spend hours every night lounging around the living room, or my bedroom, reading together. Those were some of our happiest moments, now my happiest memories.

    And so they seem to have developed as much of an appreciation for books and writing as

    Read More »from User Post: Because the apple doesn't fall far from the tree
  • User Post: The Bag Lady

    I'm a bag lady. I am the one, the obnoxious one who doesn't take plastic bags from any store, ever. I'm proudest in 2010 to be able to say that I've been bagless for one year and two days.

    It started as a problem: My kids were learning all kinds of ways to help the environment at school and would call me out, "That's recycling mom!," or "Oh, that is mal for the mundo, mama." Dude, a guilt trip from two first graders is hard core. But the issue was that I'd never really been into understanding how to be green. Since Ed Begley, Jr. never came knocking on my door to compost my banana peels and fill my car with rancid vegetable oil, I sort of have missed the boat on how to start being environmentally aware. I was not green, not even that lightest hue of Silver Sage green they sell at Restoration Hardware.

    I tried to be a quick study - composting is not for me. Say 'maggot' and I say run-like-a-motha and call Orkin. I tried turning down the hot water heater in our house but I

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  • I'd love to say I'm one of those moms who doesn't let her kids watch TV. But I'm not one of those moms who lies about it either. It's true, my kids have watched Merry Madagascar many (many) times since we taped it on Thanksgiving Eve. They can't seem to get enough of it. And while there are a few tidbits they've picked up that I'm not especially proud of, there's one line that my older son loves that really captures the spirit of the season.

    When King Julian, the selfish scrooge of the show, decides to try giving to someone else, he says, "It makes me feel all warm and tingly inside. Like pinworms!"

    I've never experienced pinworms (and frankly I hope that's something I'll be able to claim for the rest of my life), but that warm and tingly feeling has been overflowing this month, thanks to Yahoo!'s Ripples of Kindness program and the Yahoo! Mother Board's involvement.

    The assignment? Make someone's day. The hope? That the person (or people) you do something unexpected for

    Read More »from The Must-Have Gift of the Holiday Season: Kindness
  • Yahoo! recently released a list of their Top Searched Questions in 2010. They are:

    1. How to tie a tie
    2. How to lose weight
    3. How to kiss
    4. How to write a resume
    5. What's the world's only immortal animal
    6. Which city has the best tap water
    7. Which natural disaster shortened earth's days
    8. What is love
    9. What causes lightning
    10. How to boil an egg

    Some of these make perfect sense. For instance, I wish more men would search for 'How to tie a tie' and maybe they wouldn't show up at formal events looking like they just got in a bar fight. Also, it would finally put an end to bolo ties, thank God. But then there's 'What's the world's only immortal animal.' What does this mean? Who was searching for this? I'm not sure I want to know the answer.

    And of course, 'What is love' which is totally understandable. Everyone's looking for love on the internet. I'm wondering if Yahoo! returned "Baby don't hurt me," as the answer,

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  • I was crazy, going to the mall on a Saturday in December with 2 kids.... to make returns. We ran into a problem. We got hungry. So we ventured to the food court. The very busy foodcourt. I made it "simple", ordering food for all 3 of us at the pizza place. Balancing all 3 slices, plus two drinks, on a tray, and 3 shopping bags. Middle attempted to push the stroller, but as he nearly hit 3 people, I grabbed the stroller and, attempting patience, asked him to just walk with me. An older man approached me.

    "Can I help you with that?" he asked.

    "No, thanks. We'll be..." I replied while looking out at the packed food court and no open tables or chairs. I sighed. "Actually. Yes. I would really appreciate that." I handed him my tray. "Except," I continued, "I don't think there are any tables and I'm not going to ask you to wait. You know what? Maybe we'll just find a place and stand."

    "NO!" shouted Middle. "I won't stand!"

    "That's okay," the man said. "I'll help you." As we weaved through

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  • The Good Will Stalker

    Combustible generosity

    It's a single act of kindness that can change the course of events. It's our ability to be empathetic that separates us from other creatures. But when you are challenged with the duty of deliberately doing acts of kindness for random strangers, you are put in the position of a good will stalker. This holiday season, Yahoo! launched its "How Good Grows" campaign to inspire millions of people in the global Yahoo! community to change the world together through random acts of kindness. The goal: to create a ripple of generosity that combusts this holiday season along the lines of the butterfly effect. For such a simple and genuine quest I felt a daunting sense of awe. How does one select one person over another to help or is it more about the element of bestowing a kind surprise? I was conflicted about how to tackle this 'giving' project and I was stunned to think that a global company would have the vision to do something that didn't point directly to its

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  • We try our best in our family to be kind to people throughout the year and make regular contributions to charities we believe in. If we have money or time to give, we usually have no problem figuring out how to use it. And we're a family that's all about the importance of everyday kindness -- saying 'please' and 'thank you' whenever the situation calls for it.

    So I was surprised at myself when the Yahoo! How Good Grows/Ripple of Kindness program offered to provide $100 for us to give away over the holiday season. The directive? Use it to help spread small acts of kindness in the hope that a 'pay it forward' ripple effect would be created, spreading increasing small acts of kindness to see how far it could go.

    Initially, I was at a loss with how to spread that holiday kindness. There are so many people deserving of a little something extra -- some people need an extra hand, yet others could use a little extra appreciation for all the things they do for others throughout the year. I

    Read More »from Who Knew Spending $100 Would Be So Hard?

  • Given that it's the holiday season, I wanted to find a way to pay it forward. It's something that I don't do nearly enough of plus, though my daughter is only 3, it's important to me to start teaching her compassion at a young age. Yahoo! gave me the opportunity to get started, via their Ripples of Kindness Campaign. Can one good deed inspire others and create a ripple of kindness? Based on my experience, I would argue that the answer is yes. Though based on the age of my daughter, I would have done at least one thing differently.

    I decided that Promises 2 Kids, a cause recently brought to my attention, was the perfect place to start. They offer a broad array of services to help San Diego's kids in need, including the Polinsky Children's Center, the County's only emergency shelter for abused and neglected kids. They provide protection, shelter and support for nearly 3000 kids each year. Have you ever thought about where kids go after being yanked out of domestic violence and similar

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