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7 Tips for Setting Up Your Christmas Budget

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Tuesday, December 01, 2009 | , , , , , | Comments

There are many ways you can set up a budget for Christmas. The key is to begin early. Since Christmas is only three weeks away, you will probably need to put your Christmas gift list together now.

Here are some tips:

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Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Monday, November 30, 2009 | | Comments

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You should always perform due diligence before buying products or services from anyone via the Internet or offline.

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Get Personal at Christmas and Save Money

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Sunday, November 29, 2009 | , , , , , , | Comments

With the Christmas holidays so close, you may be checking your budget to determine how much you can spend this year. Perhaps this may be the year that personalized gifts may be more appropriate in order for you to save some money.

Over the last several years, personalized Christmas gifts have become the norm rather than the exception. Certainly, this year you may be considering trimming down your list as well as coming up with creative presents you can give to your friends, co-workers, and family members.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Thursday, November 26, 2009 | | Comments

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Shout Out to my Top 10 Entrecard Droppers in October!

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Monday, November 02, 2009 | | Comments

Thank You!

We live to tell God's "Amazing Grace"

Computer Aid

 Online Social Networking

The Ad Master

 Anything Goes W/ Pahn 

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Reevaluate Your Policies to Save Money

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Monday, October 26, 2009 | , , , , | Comments

If you’re like many people nowadays, you are probably on the lookout for ways to put or keep more money in your pocket. It’s strange how that biweekly or monthly paycheck seems to disappear without a trace. Look into your insurance and medical policies, as well as tax deductions for some pennies here and there.

Our extracurricular activities get the blame for hogging all the money, but there are other explanations as well. Depending on the things you like and don’t want to give up without a fight, it could be that the things we need are also taking more money than they should. Let’s look at a few of those things.

Claim more deductions.

  • Who doesn’t want to get a check from Uncle Sam? It’s even better to see that money in your paycheck each pay period throughout the year. Take a look at your refund and your W-2 deductions. Claim another deduction when possible to see more money now. Getting a refund means that the government has the use of your hard-earned cash instead of you throughout the year.
Insurance policies.
  • Take a look at your life insurance policy. What type of policy do you have? Do you have more coverage than you need? It is a good idea to investigate this each year. When the kids go to school or you hit retirement your needs may change. In the meantime, you could actually be saving hundreds of dollars right now.
Bundle policies.
  • Get life, auto and homeowner’s insurance from the same company. If you have separate companies for everything, you are probably spending too much. Some companies offer deals to have the chance to carry more of your business. Not sure if your company will bundle policies together, you’ll never know if you don’t ask.
Health insurance.
  • What are your savings? Many employers offer health plans, but are those plans really meeting your needs? If you are in reasonably good health, you can qualify for an independent policy through providers like Blue Cross/Blue Shield for less money. If you and your spouse have the same insurance plan offered at your jobs, take advantage of that to coordinate benefits and pay next to nothing for medical services.
Car insurance.
  • Financial people recommend that you reevaluate your coverage every three years or so. If you have been an excellent driver with no record of accidents, look for car insurers that reward this type of driving history with low premiums and other perks. Even if you are okay with your car insurer, see if they can offer you better premiums for being a loyal customer.
What policies do you hold? From time to time it is okay to see if you can save money on them. In fact, it is prudent to do so. The extra money you need could be in the pages of one of those policies.

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The Cost of Not Having Health Insurance

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Wednesday, August 19, 2009 | , , | Comments

One of the biggest concerns in our society is health insurance.  On the one hand, it costs so much of our pay to have a health insurance policy in the first place.  On the other hand, millions of people are living day to day without the umbrella of health insurance to cover them and their families.

These people are just like you and me.  They are not necessarily poor or destitute.  People whose jobs are part time may not be offered health insurance as a part of their benefits. 

This means that they must look for an independent policy.  Depending on their age, medical history, and other demographics, their independent policy may be more than they can afford on their salary.  As a consequence, they and their family go uninsured.

With the high price of premiums, it may cost several hundred dollars a month for health insurance for the entire family.  This means less money in the paycheck for living expenses.  Families have to make a determination of what is more important at the time.

Many people use the emergency room at the hospital as a doctor’s office.  When they have a serious health problem, they go there.  A community hospital accepts patients without insurance with their promise to pay the bill.  These bills can be high and payment can drag on for some time.

To combat the costs of uninsured patients, hospitals raise their fees for service to offset the cost.  These increased charges are passed on to patients with insurance.  Depending on what their health insurance company is willing to pay, that could mean a substantial hospital bill after your stay, even with health insurance.

Without health insurance, people cannot get the help that they need when they are feeling poorly.  Conditions worsen until they must go to the hospital.  Now, the cost is more than it might have been if the person had had the means to visit the doctor.

Children make up a good percentage of the uninsured.  When their parents can’t afford health insurance, they go uncovered as well.  Over-the-counter medications substitute for regular check-ups at the doctor’s office.  Childhood vaccinations are important for the future health of a child.  Children that don’t receive them are at risk for various diseases that the vaccines would prevent.  

Another health concern is pregnancy.  Those who have no insurance and can’t afford prenatal care are more likely to develop problems during their pregnancy, either with the mother or with the child.  Pregnancy may seem like an event that takes care of itself, but all sorts of things can happen during those nine months.  Being under a doctor’s care brings peace of mind and immediate help if something is wrong.

What is the high cost of not having health insurance?  It is increased illness, higher premiums and hospital charges, not to mention deaths.  This is a serious issue for which a resolution couldn’t come a moment too soon.

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Making the 4th of July Festive on a Tight Budget

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Saturday, June 27, 2009 | , , , , | Comments

There are so many things you can do and food you can make that doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but will make your 4th of July sparkle as if you spent a fortune! Below are some decorating ideas, food ideas and other inexpensive things you can do!

Decorating Ideas

Red, white and blue decorations and patriotic decorations come out before Memorial Day, so you should be able to find an abundance at your local dollar store.

Homemade 4th of July decorations are easy to make and you probably have some or most of the supplies you’ll need already on hand.

Here are some inexpensive things you can make using items you have on hand:

Craft Stick Flags

Paint 5 sticks red and 4 white (per number of flags you want to make). Let dry. Glue the painted sticks together in an alternating pattern by gluing them to one craft stick on the right side and two broken craft sticks in the middle and on the left side. Cut a small square of blue construction paper and color white stars using a white gel pen. When the glue has set, turn the flag over. Glue on the square of blue construction paper and glue another craft stick to the long craft stick on the back. Let the glue set.

Stars on a String

Cut out large stars using red, white and blue construction paper. Decorate as desired. Fold over one tip of each star and staple or glue to desired length of red or blue string. You can use these to decorate your base camp!

Festive, Yet Inexpensive Ideas for Food

Chicken: You can usually buy chicken on sale really cheap. So, before the 4th is upon us, be checking your local store’s weekly sales paper for chicken on sale, then stock up. You can make great bbq chicken on the grill.

Corn on the Cob: Summertime is the best time to get inexpensive corn on the cob. You can grill it in their husks right along with the BBQ chicken!

Watermelon: Watermelon is one of the least expensive foods for the amount you get. You can make watermelon salads, fruit bowls and other yummy side dishes that will fill your family and guests up!

Other things you can do inexpensively to celebrate our nation’s independence are:

• Have a backyard party and have everyone bring a dish to pass.
• Add sparklers to your burgers when serving them.
• Don’t pass up invites to friends or family who are having backyard parties and take a dish to pass.
• Don’t feel like you have to go all out with decorations. Simply using red, white and blue paper plates, cups and napkins will give your home a patriotic feel.
• Use a vase you already have and fill it with flags from the dollar store. Give one to guests as they arrive too.

Celebrating the 4th of July shouldn’t cost a fortune, especially in a recession! Using simple tips like the ones above will help you stick to your budget AND enjoy a festive Independence Day!

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Ten Tips to Create, Prioritize and Manage a Budget

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Monday, June 01, 2009 | , , , , , | Comments

Mention the word budget,” and people’s eyes tend to glaze over. Budgeting isn’t the most exciting activity in the world, and on the surface it is extremely limiting. We don’t like it when other people try to tell us how to spend our money, and even setting parameters of our own may seem too much.

What many of us do not realize is that a budget is the ticket to financial freedom. It restricts what we spend each month, but in the long run it allows us to get more out of our money. Instead of frittering funds away on things we could comfortably do without, we can save up for emergencies as well as things we enjoy.

Here are ten tips for creating a budget, setting priorities and keeping tabs on spending.

1. Be realistic.
All too often, we create the perfect budget on paper, only to completely blow it in practice. This is frequently because we are not realistic about our expenses. It may help to save all receipts for a month before you start on your budget. That way you can evaluate how much you’re really spending and avoid budgeting too little for any given item.

2. Remember the little things.
Eating out every day instead of packing your lunch might not seem like a big deal, but it can really add up. The same is true for many of the habits we have. Cutting back where practical can save you more money than you might think.

3. Lower your bills when possible.
A good place to start is with your cable bill. Do you really need all of those movie channels? What about your cell phone bill? Would a less expensive plan meet your needs? Knocking a few dollars a month off of your bills could leave you with hundreds of extra dollars each year.

4. Get the whole family involved.
A budget affects the entire household, so everyone should have a say. You may have to make changes that everyone doesn’t agree with, but they will be more likely to accept them if you listen to all input. Family members may also have ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.

5. Give everyone an allowance, not just the kids. Setting reasonable limits for discretionary spending will help prevent your budget from being derailed.

6. Make sure the necessities always come first.
Budgeting for entertainment and other wants is important, but if push comes to shove, food, water, clothing and shelter are the most important things. Budget for these and the things that enable you to work (such as transportation) first.

7. Include savings in your budget.
Saving up some money for emergencies is crucial for every individual and family. Try coming up with an amount to save each month and include it in the budget before any non-necessities.

8. Keep track of all expenditures.
Save receipts or write down every expense so you can compare your actual spending to your budget. If you spend less money than budgeted, consider allocating more to savings. If you spend more money than you planned, you need to either watch your spending more closely or make adjustments to your budget.

9. Avoid using credit cards irresponsibly. Buying on credit will result in less spending of money in the short run, but you will have to pay it back with interest unless the balance is paid in full each month.

10. If you get extra money, use it wisely.
Consider putting it directly into savings or using it to pay down debt. Spending it on something you want might feel good, but that doesn’t help your overall financial picture.

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How to Create a Family Budget

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Tuesday, May 26, 2009 | , , | Comments

For singles, creating a personal budget is relatively easy. They tend to have a good handle on how much money they have coming in, and when tracking expenses, they only have their own to think about.

But creating a family budget is a whole new ball game.
Most families have multiple sources of income. And when there are multiple spenders, that makes things much more confusing. This is one of the main reasons that families lack a formal budget. But having a budget and sticking to it can greatly improve a family's financial outlook.

Making a family budget may be tricky, but it can be done. Here's how.

1. Take inventory of all income.
If a certain source of income fluctuates from month to month, use the lowest amount or average it out.

2. Keep track of all expenses for a month or so. Keep all of your receipts, and ask all family members to turn theirs in to you each day.

3. Add up your monthly expenses. Be sure to include bills, debt payments, groceries, and everyday expenses such as lunch money and transportation costs.

4. Get the family together and discuss ways you can trim the budget. Getting input from other family members will help you determine which expenses are necessary and which ones could be cut down or eliminated. Maybe you or your spouse could start taking lunch to work instead of eating out, or maybe the kids can drop an extracurricular activity.

5. In addition to individual expenses, discuss how you can cut down on the electric bill, groceries and other necessary family expenses. Consider such things as carpooling or taking public transportation, buying more generic foods and adjusting the thermostat.

6. Estimate how much you can save on regular expenses, and cut the completely unnecessary items out of the budget. Then re-figure it and see where you stand.

7. If you end up with a surplus, allocate a portion of it to savings. If you're in the red, go back and rework the budget until you have more income than expenses.

Being Realistic

One reason that family budgets often fail is because they're just not realistic. It's great to cut down on expenses, but sometimes we tend to go too far. For example, cutting entertainment out of the budget completely might look good on paper, but we all need a little diversion every now and then.
Instead of cutting such things out of the budget completely, consider finding ways to lower the cost.

Going back to the entertainment example, maybe you've been going to dinner and a movie as a family twice a month. But eating in and renting a new release would be much cheaper, and you would still get to spend quality time together.

Individual expenses can also be tricky. This can be resolved by allocating a certain amount for each family member to spend each week. If someone spends his entire amount before the week is up, reevaluate his expenses and adjust if necessary.

Creating a family budget can help keep spending under control, leaving more money to pay down debts and save for future goals. But in order to succeed, close monitoring is essential. Your efforts will be rewarded, however, with less financial stress and more money in the long run.

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How to Stay Motivated While Getting Out of Debt

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Friday, March 13, 2009 | , , , | Comments

Living Debt Free presents this motivational movie to help you stay motivated when trying to get out of debt

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9 Simple Ways to Save Money on Your Groceries

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Thursday, February 19, 2009 | , , , , | Comments

It never fails, we budget for our groceries, but the bill always ends up being more. We underestimate, run out of things faster than expected and overall, everything is becoming just too darned expensive!

To make things a little bit easier, here are 9 simple ways you can start saving money on your groceries.

1. Go with a List:

Yes, I know it's a pretty obvious suggestion, but it's amazing how effective it can be. You purchase only what you need and avoid all the other yummy distractions of the grocery store.

2. Meal Planning:

Planning your meals in advance makes it easier to get your list together and ensure you buy only exactly what you need. You can get help with your meal planning at Dine Without Whine AND they actually put your grocery list together for you too.

3. Eat Before You Go:

Another classic tip. If you're hungry, you'll want to buy (and instantly eat) everything! Have a meal or good snack before you go to avoid impulse purchases.

4. Stock Up on Staple Items When They're On Sale:

If you see ketchup or your family's favorite sauce on sale, stock up. Or if it's a certain type of soup or frozen vegetable your family eats all the time, buy a bunch of it. As long as it doesn't spoil and you have space to store it, you will save money in the long run. The nice thing about this is if you continue to stock up on a variety of items, you'll have a nice pantry full of food at any given time.

5. Cook from Scratch More Often:

Yeah, yeah, it sounds easier said than done, but it doesn't have to be too complicated. It's no secret that pre-packaged items and convenience foods come at a premium price. They save you time in preparation, but they eat up your budget and let's face it, time IS money. Plus, if you're using Tip #2 and planning your meals, cooking from scratch more often is a whole lot easier.

6. Comparison Shop Before You Leave Home:

No, I'm definitely not suggesting you go from store-to-store looking for the best deal. That takes too much time. Check the flyers that come to your door and see who is offering the best deals on what you actually need. If you don't have any flyers at your door, visit the store website as they generally post flyers online.

7. Use Coupons Sparingly:

Sure, coupons offer a great deal, but most coupons you'll find are for items you don't really need or use. Resist the urge to think, "Wow, that's a good deal" and search for coupons based on items you need to purchase instead.

8. Keep the Little Ones At Home:

If you have young children that want everything that they see, it's easy to get into the trap of buying items you don't need, treats that aren't healthy and become victim to other grocery store distractions. Keep the kids at home with Daddy (it's a good bonding opportunity) or a relative. You can even swap grocery store shopping times with your neighbor. Not only will you save money, but you'll save your sanity too!

9. Make Quick Stops for Fresh Ingredients:

This may not be easy if you're on a tight schedule, but if you can work it in, it can save you a bundle. One of the biggest culprits in grocery budgets gone bad is spoiled food. If your fruits, veggies and other perishable items are always going bad, consider shopping for them more frequently, but in smaller quantities and restrain yourself from buying items you don't need. If you have any teen-aged kids, this would be a great chore for them too.

There you go, 9 ways to save on groceries. But in order to make these tips work, you really need to have a plan in place. You need to know what your family needs and what you'll be eating. To make your meal planning a whole lot easier, sign up for you 1 ¢ no-risk trial at Dine Without Whine. You and your grocery budget will be glad you did.

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January's Top 10 Entrecard Droppers

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Saturday, January 31, 2009 | , | Comments

Today is the "First Official Entrecard Top Dropper Day".

In honor of that, here is some link love for my Top 10 Entrecard Droppers for January.

Thank you all for visiting and dropping your Entrecard!

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The Secret to Finally Paying Debt Quickly

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Monday, January 19, 2009 | , , , , | Comments

If you've struggled with debt for any amount of time, you know how it can feel like you're in a big black hole, you just can't seem to dig yourself out of. Balances never seem to go down and you need to keep tapping into credit cards just to make ends meet.

There is plenty of debt advice out there and you may have tried things like debt consolidation, making large payments to your debts to try to pay them faster and other methods that just don't seem to work. Things just keep getting more and more difficult to manage.

But it really doesn't have to be that way...

If you've been able to keep up with your minimum monthly payments until now, there is a solution for you. And it's remarkably simple if you follow the appropriate steps laid out for you.

I'm talking about the "Pay Debt Quickly Kit" that shows you how to:

- Pay debt off faster without having to make any large payments.

- Get what you want from your creditors to pay off your debt faster and even improve your credit score.

- Make drastic changes in the way you think about and handle money without feeling like you're deprived in any way.

The kit includes everything you need to get to debt-free faster. From software that helps you quickly and easily calculate your precise debt-free dates to strategies to take control of your finances and even work with your creditors so that you benefit, instead of them - this kit has what you need to eliminate your debt.

Learn more & get debt-free at: Pay Debt Quickly

Everything is available for instant download and you don't have to wait for anything to come in the mail. That means you can start sleeping better and stop worrying about your debt, starting

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