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Tom's Blog

Tips to Avoid Holiday Headaches

December 3, 2012 6:48 pm

Holidays are a time for family, friends, and happy memories. But those joyful moments can be associated with stress – from marathon shopping, preparing for celebrations, and traveling. Stress and other stimuli may trigger or increase your headaches.

The National Headache Foundation recommends the following to avoid those holiday headaches:

Maintain your regular sleep schedule.
Those late night parties can play havoc with anyone's health, and especially impact those with chronic headaches and migraine. Try to go to sleep and awaken at the same time each day. Don't skip on your sleep – make sure you get your regular amount of sleep – 8 hours would be perfect.

Maintain your regular meal schedule.
Too often, we skip or miss meals as we travel from mall to mall, or are cooking/cleaning in preparation for a big celebration. If you can't stop for a regular meal, how about packing nutritious snacks?

Moderation is the key to avoid those "hangover" headaches. If you opt for that festive cocktail, sip your drink slowly. Mixed drinks containing fruit or vegetable choices (think Bloody Mary) may have less negative effects than straight alcohol. For migraine sufferers, red wine is a well-known culprit so a glass of white wine is preferable.

Watch that diet. Offerings at those holiday parties may look delicious but may contain foods that trigger headaches such as ripened cheese, chocolate, and processed meats. Some sensitive individuals should avoid food items containing MSG or low-cal beverages with aspartame. Monitor your caffeine intake and avoid or limit colas, coffee, and tea. The cold weather may encourage stopping for a hot cocoa but think twice before ordering.

Sniff easy. As you sprint through those crowded stores, be aware of odors that may produce a headache. Those perfume scents wafting through the air may trigger a headache, and some unfortunate individuals may be sensitive to the smell of pine boughs and balsam trees. With the introduction of no smoking ordinances, public places may be safer if you are sensitive to tobacco smoke. However, private parties may be a haven for smokers, particularly those enjoying a celebratory cigar. Your best bet is to find an area free of smoke and perfume.

Make “me” time. It would be easy to say avoid stress but that would be a gargantuan task at this time of the year. To help maneuver through the holidays, set aside personal time. If you feel you have had more than adequate "family togetherness," take a walk or just take a break from the festivities. Organize your schedule for shopping, cooking, cleaning, and "me" time.


Word of the Day

December 3, 2012 6:48 pm

Closing costs. Expenses over and above the price of property that must be paid by buyers and sellers before title is transferred. Also known as settlement costs.

Green Holiday Decorating

November 30, 2012 2:36 pm

The holidays are practically upon us. I am ready to help convince you to deck the halls old school with a live tree this year. Choosing a live tree is a relatively eco-friendly choice, so long as you’re conscious about where it goes once the holidays are over.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, nearly all cut holiday trees are grown on tree farms - so their stock is replenished yearly. And those spent trees can be ground into woodchips and used to mulch your garden or prevent erosion at a local watershed.

You can check with your city government or go to and enter your ZIP code to find out where to have your tree recycled.

Interior designer Cheryl Terrace, founder of the eco-friendly firm Vital Design, recently blogged about the huge movement toward showing greater respect for the planet during the holidays.

For example, Terrace says before considering an artificial versus a real tree, consider the significant amount of energy and petroleum-based materials to manufacture. Artificial trees are often manufactured overseas and shipped thousands of miles before they reach our living rooms.

Another ultimately green alternative is to purchase a living tree. Terrace says they can be kept in a pot during the holidays and planted in the garden afterward.

Terrace also pointed out that a growing number of companies are filling a holiday niche by renting live Christmas trees that are returned and replanted after the holidays.

As for those presents under whatever tree you choose, Terrace says wrap them in recycled paper or other eco-friendly gift wrap alternatives.

And string smarter light strings by opting for energy-efficient lights. When they’re made using light-emitting diode bulbs, or LEDs, they also last longer - up to 10,000 hours compared with 5,000 hours for standard incandescent bulbs.

Terrace says you can also choose eco-friendly and socially responsible holiday decorations like tree ornaments handmade from natural materials. Many handmade decorations also come with little or no packaging, reducing that aforementioned holiday trash total.

We'll hang a few more green holidays on you in our next segment.

Beat Debt in a Bad Economy

November 30, 2012 2:36 pm

Debt problems still plague too many Americans as credit card debt continues to remain sharply higher than it was last year, up 5.9 percent over July 2011 levels according to the Federal Reserve. The Fed says that the average household is saddled with $15,587 in credit card debt and faced with unprecedented financial challenges during this extended period of bad economic news.

Effective debt management requires a willingness to change the way money is spent, and an openness to utilize the educational and professional resources that are available. Here are the six tips to building a solid financial plan, whether you have excessive credit card debt or are finding it hard to change your spending habits:

1 – Look under the rocks. This is an essential step, particularly for those struggling with credit card debt. Being open to making tough spending cuts, giving up some luxuries, and changing bad financial decision-making processes are essential.
2 – Change your habits. Learning how to get out of debt means being willing to do things differently. Remember the saying, "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you always got." Don't spend and overspend the way you have in the past, change.
3 – Use financial tools. Websites like are stuffed with educational materials and interactive tools like home budgeting calculators and even financial video games where you can learn while you have fun.
4 – Pay on time. It certainly is advice you hear over and over, but it is true. It is certainly in the top five on the list of ways to build a better financial future. Paying late fees and over-limit charges is unnecessary, and unwise. Pay on time.
5 – Do it today. Our counselors hear from consumers every day who say they got into debt by spending too much today and planning (but never following through) on paying in the future. Create a spending plan and follow it.


Four Easy Ways to Avoid Holiday Decorating Overwhelm

November 30, 2012 2:36 pm

The holidays should be about enjoying the beauty of the season while spending time with family and friends. But, with busy schedules and an abundance of decorating choices, it's easy to be overwhelmed during what is supposed to be "the most wonderful time of the year." By taking to heart these four simple tips, you just may find yourself decorating with what you already have AND enjoying the holidays.

1. Inventory all your decorations, laying them out by color and design when getting started. This gives you a visual overview of what you have available to bring the holiday spirit into each area of your home while making it so much easier to pick out and find what you need.

Look at your own inventory of holiday decorations. You may even come across some items you bought on clearance last year. Also, take a good look around your home and yard keeping an eye out for things that could find a place on a holiday mantle, wreath or tree. Re-purposing these items can make your home merry and bright, without making your wallet light!

2. Change is good!
So, outdo yourself each year by re-using your existing decorations in different ways and perhaps in different rooms from year to year.

Plan ahead. Perhaps your mantle had a little extra flair this time last year. Using those same decorations, mix them up to create a centerpiece or wreath focal point instead. This will satisfy your desire for something new and give lift to show-worthy pieces. For example, planters from your front porch that held summer palms now can be brought indoors and decorated with faux flocked holiday trees to flank a fireplace or doorway.

3. Go room to room leaving the least important spaces in your house for last. Such areas are perfect for your decorating leftovers.

Use your best, most cherished holiday pieces in the highest traffic areas of your home. The remaining pieces can still be used to enhance the rooms of your home where you do the least entertaining. Decorative touches in these spaces, even using leftover pieces, adds a festive touch without the stress of a creating a major showpiece for guests.

4. Each year get rid of tired decorations and refresh some of your existing pieces or add new ones.
Refreshing tired decorations can be as easy as rinsing, dusting and untangling! But, it's worth the time and effort. If necessary, you can glue inexpensive new ornaments into a wreath to replace broken pieces or add a color. Add new ribbon to garland to freshen its look. Set yourself a budget for new Christmas accessories each year, and stay within those budget restraints.

Taking a little extra time early in the season to plan, reuse and refresh your holiday decorations will help you create different and distinctive looks. By using things you already have, and making a few quick enhancements, you can save yourself the "overwhelm" of additional time, energy and money leaving you more reason to celebrate the season.


Word of the Day

November 30, 2012 2:36 pm

CC&Rs. This stands for covenants, conditions and restrictions. They are the rules by which a property owner in a condominium agrees to abide.

Q: How Do I Find Government-Repossessed Properties?

November 30, 2012 2:36 pm

A: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) acquires properties from lenders who foreclose on mortgages that it insures. These properties are then available for sale to potential homeowner-occupants and investors only through a licensed real estate broker. HUD will pay the broker's commission up to 6 percent of the sales price.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also acquires properties as a result of foreclosures on VA guaranteed loans. These acquired properties are marketed through a property management services contract with a federal bank that then lists them for sale with local real estate agents.

Tips for Raising Financially Literate Kids

November 30, 2012 2:36 pm

• Take your child to open bank accounts, both checking and savings. She needs to understand how banks operate.
• Make it clear that the savings account is sacred. It’s for real emergencies—not impulse buys. (Teach him to avoid making decisions like, “I want that new skateboard and I have money in my savings account, so I’m going to go withdraw it.”)
• Get your child a credit card and teach her how to use it. Enforce strict boundaries on how to make the card an asset rather than a liability. Too many parents assume all debt is “bad” while, in reality, businesses depend on it to operate.
• Attend a county commission or school board meeting and bring your child along.
• Help him set up his own budget and stick to it.
• Find ways to pay her for being valuable to you and your employment.
• If your kids mow lawns or babysit or provide some other service, teach them that they must run their business like any self-employed person. Hold discussions on supply and demand, how to find customers, how to set prices, and how to add value so they are branded as the best in their niche.
• Show your child how deductions work when you invest.
• Invest in some small penny stocks that won’t cost him huge if he loses but will teach him the ropes before he has to make big retirement investment decisions.
• Teach kids healthy attitudes toward money. It is not scarce; nor is it “the root of all evil.” Money is inherently connected to how much and how well you meet the needs of others. The more you share your time, talents, and expertise, the more abundantly money flows into your life.


Fresh Start: Innovative Organizational Tips

November 30, 2012 2:36 pm

BPT— Whether you're celebrating a new job, new house or new member of your family, fresh starts and major life events herald a time to rejoice. While you're feeling good about a positive change in your life, it's also a great time to get organized so you can focus on what's to come instead of worrying about where to find this or where to put that.

A large-scale reorganization of your home, office or life can seem like a tall order, but if you do it right, it can save you a lot of trouble down the line. And whether you're moving or doing some rearranging, it makes sense to take the opportunity to pre-organize to ensure a smooth transition.

One of the biggest organizing mistakes you can make is putting things away only to forget where you put them the next time you need them. Labeling as you go can help avoid future stress and messes that could lead you to reorganize everything all over again.

Here are a few labeling and organizing tips that will help you keep everything in order and avoid headaches down the line:

* Use expiration dates: If you're installing a new smoke alarm, place a label on it so you know when it's time to change the batteries. After you've cleaned and reorganized your refrigerator, make a habit of labeling leftovers to remind you when something's about to expire and help simplify things the next time you clean the fridge.
* If you're moving: One of the easiest ways to make sure boxes end up in the right place is to label them clearly with the proper destination. This is helpful whether you're hiring movers or doing it yourself. If you know the boxes will immediately go into storage, don't forget to label them and, if need be, keep a simple spreadsheet that tells where each box ended up so you know where to look for it.
* Seasonal shifts: Do you find yourself in a tizzy every time the weather takes a turn, tearing apart your closet or wherever you thought you put your hat and gloves? Dedicate a storage area for seasonal clothes and decorations, and place them in labeled containers to ease any stress caused by the shifting seasons.
* For new babies: Preparing for a new arrival is a joyous - yet busy - occasion. Labeling where you keep the clothes, diapers, bibs and other necessities can help sleep-deprived parents or visiting caretakers locate everything baby needs without having to dig through drawers and cabinets. If you use day care services, you can also label bottles and personal items to make things easy on your day care provider to avoid mix-ups.
* Eliminate cord confusion: When you peer behind your entertainment center and find a mass of cords, it can be a bit of a guessing game if you need to pick out the right one to move or disconnect. Save yourself some trouble and label each cord so you don't have to face this dilemma each time something needs to be unplugged.

Source: visit

Tips for Choosing a Health Insurance Plan

November 30, 2012 2:36 pm

Family Features—Over half of all Americans will need to make choices about their health insurance by 2014, and already, millions are making decisions about their Medicare drug or Medicare Advantage plans. But many people struggle with choosing the right plans for personal health care insurance, family plans, or deciding on behalf of a loved one.

Studies by Consumers Union have found that many people are overwhelmed with the number of health plan options there are, and they often don’t know where to begin. Many looking for health insurance also:

Dread shopping for health insurance.
Will take short cuts in order to just “get through” the process.
Are confused by jargon.

These difficulties can mean that too many people overpay for their health insurance and still don’t get the plan that’s best for them. In fact, many seniors are spending more than $500 extra per year on medication coverage because of the drug plan they selected. A major reason why Americans struggle with these choices is that they don’t have complete and easy-to-understand information about all the health plan choices available to them.

Know Your Options
Reliable information about health insurance options—what they cost and what they cover—is more critical than ever. So many people turn to online sites to help them compare different choices.

Existing health insurance decision tools often steer consumers only toward health plans that have paid to be listed. The basis for their evaluations is biased because they only represent some insurers. They also often require the user to share personally identifiable information.

Understand Plan Details
You need to understand the differences between the various plan features so you can make a fully informed decision. Before you make a final decision, be sure you are clear on what those benefits are.

Check the “Summary of Benefits and Coverage” forms for each plan you’re considering.

If you have any questions, speak directly with your plan’s representative and make sure you get a clear understanding of how the plan will work for you.

Your health care coverage is too important to ignore. Doing some homework now can save you time and money, and help you take better care of your loved ones in the future.


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