Better Ways to Save

How I do it, and what I do. I combine online shopping portals and a few other methods. In the process, I earn $1,600 a year. Are you?

How Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover Reshaped My Financial Life

I might not be much of a self-help reader, but this book is a must read!

You STILL Aren't Using Ebates?

E-bates is an amazing money saving website. Read this and you'll find out why.

If you are looking for extra income without any investment, I love (and use) this website for just that.

Bigger, Better Grocery Savings

If you aren't saving $100 a month on your grocery bill, start now!

From $45,000 in Debt to a Cash-Only Life

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Veruca Salt , the infamously spoiled little girl in the wildly popular book (and movie) " Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ," wants everything, and she wants it now . The trouble is, that a simple personification of a superficial and greedy fictional child has become the mantra of far too many folks in America today. As a matter of fact, I have run across more than my fair share of Veruca Salt's over the years, myself included.

The Trouble with Financing
I have seen the nation's secret Veruca rear her ugly head each time I have watched a client buy a house that maxed out their budget -against my advice. I have seen it in the faces of people who purchased cars from me despite the fact that those vehicles came with excessive payments and astronomical interest rates. I have observed the grounds of buying it now, and buying it on credit from computer monitors to speedboats and beyond. And while some people might argue that banks cause all this trouble by offering financing to begin with, I disagree. In my experience, it isn't financing that's the problem, it's your inner Veruca.

My Turning Point
At one point in my life, I was $45,000 in debt, excluding my mortgage. I had financed a car that came with an excessive payment and interest rate, because I wanted it now. I bought expensive items on credit cards -- that I had no business buying in the first place -- because I wanted it all. However, it wasn't until I started looking at the numbers and feeling the stress from my collective debt that I realized how much I was behaving like a spoiled rotten little girl.

I Amortized … Everything
My wakeup call came when I amortized my debt. I looked at how long I was paying for the things I wanted now, but I also looked into the financial crystal ball of days to come an realized how much I was actually paying for those things over time.

How Much?
I was paying over three to four times more than what the item was originally "worth", thanks to my inner, unquenchable Veruca. Things had to change, and change they did. When I lost my job five years ago, there was no money to continue paying those creditors. It was time to freeze my assets and unload my debt.


The Payoff
When I lost my job, there wasn't enough money to pay my Visas, my Mastercards or my American Express bills anymore. I was barely scraping by after taking a pay cut for my new job, and I was making one-third of what I was used to. My only choice was to settle my debts, one by one and negotiate a lower payoff on each. It took some time -- three years, in fact -- but I can finally come to the table and say I am debt free and cash rules. I was able to settle all of my debt for almost one half ($25,000) of what I owed. And while my credit suffered its share of bumps and bruises because of the debt settlements, I know that credit can always be rehabilitated.


Cash is King
In my world nowadays, cash is king. If the cash is not in my bank account and if the "thing" I want is not in my budget, my whatever-it-is isn't getting bought. The simple act of "sleeping on things" and delaying instant gratification has saved me more money in comparison-shopping and avoiding impulse buys than what a million golden geese could lay for me in a lifetime.

Today, I still want it all, but I know "it all" can wait. I put my inner Veruca to bed, and found out that my life was a lot more like a candy store than I ever could have imagined -- golden tickets and all -- because, these days I'm in control of my money, instead of letting my money being in control of me.



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Weighing in on a Fat Tax

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Recently, I watched the HBO documentary film, "The Weight of the Nation". The film talks about the obesity epidemic in the US and our role in turning things around. The catch phrase of the film is that, "In order to win, we have to lose." Indeed we do.

The filmmakers show us that one-third of America is obese, and another one-third of our nation is overweight. This means "healthy" folks seem to be on the decline, and that is a problem. With the increased health care costs and concerns that go along with being unhealthy due to weight gain and obesity, while weighing socialized medicine in the balance, I am more interested in preventative healthcare solutions than I am supportive of "healthcare for all" at this point. Is a fat tax the answer?

What About a Fat Tax?
In Denmark and France, an imposed fat tax on unhealthy foods might be the answer, and it might even be an answer we can take to the bank right here in the USA. A fat tax works similarly to the "sin tax" already implemented on alcohol and tobacco products. The belief is that by making unhealthy foods more expensive, fewer people would buy them, forcing the hoi polloi to eat healthier.

A Side Benefit
Since much of how we look is a direct reflection of what we put in our mouths, imposing a 20 percent fat tax on a $3.00 box of Twinkies could mean fantastic news for our waistlines an our economy.

Instead of recycling the already tired debate about who should be paying more, let's assume that every one person in the US bought a box of Twinkies each year. With 311 million people in the US, buying these delights at $3.00 a box, the total cost of Twinkies comes out to $933 million dollars. The fat tax of 20 percent on that would be $186.6 million in increased revenue to government coffers. And I think you and I both know that no one is going to stop with one box of Twinkies. Theoretically, a fat could make up for hundreds of millions in lost revenue each year between sodas, cookies and cakes. A fat tax could be the answer to the economic woes we face, and no one has to pay more unless they want to.

Would I Pay A Fat Tax?
Since my family eats healthy anyway, I am all for a fat tax. In fact, I think a fat tax would help (not hinder) my grocery budget, by giving me an added incentive to stay away from the Keebler isle and steer clear of that box of donuts. I say tack it on.

What No One is Talking About
Fat tax or no fat tax, what irks me most about this topic is something no one seems to be talking about: how obesity and socialized medicine mix about as well as oil and water.

With the added stress, chronic disease and health problems accompanying obesity, and with childhood obesity already out of control, socializing healthcare and hedging everyone under the same astronomical premium might undermine the good a fat tax would accomplish. Essentially, that psychological safety net could hamper the motivation to eat right and live healthy. After all, why bother eating right, when I spend a little more, do what I want and can get a gastric bypass for "free"?
For me, a fat tax would be a move in the right direction, both to help reeducate the public on how (and what) to eat, but also to help strengthen our national revenue. However, socialized medicine still gets a stiff thumbs down from yours truly, and even more so when weighing the associated costs of that healthcare when obese and overweight Americans hop on the economic scale.

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When Welfare Doesn’t Work

Some might say it's been a terrific decade for Desmond Hatchett -- at least when it comes to his life in the bedroom. However, Hatchett's luck ran out when it came time to ante up his child support payments. This father of 30 (aged newborn to adolescent) can't seem to muster more than $1.49 a month in support of kids, and because of this, he thinks that the taxpayers should foot the bill and that he should get a break.

Social Outrage
After the story broke, I saw nothing short of rage and disgust regarding Desmond Hatchett's fathering choices and the choices of 11 mothers he continued having unprotected sex with. Words like "irresponsible," "disgusting" and even "deadbeat" were thrown around like popcorn in a movie theater. And while I understand the general outrage, and despite the fact I realize welfare programs are to help the poor and needy, I still want to know where personal responsibility kicks in when it comes to people like Hatchett and company.

My Two Cents
When I was 15, I had twins - and yes, I was using birth control. After my family left me in the lurch, I had to rely on assistance from the state in order to get by. However, I didn't rely on that aid for very long.

Perhaps it was my pride, maybe it was my sense of responsibility, but from the moment I became a welfare case, the only thing I wanted to do was get off welfare.

And I Did
I worked two jobs while my husband was in the military, and still made time for my twins and my household duties. And I did it all in the name of not wanting to take hand outs. I was only "on the system" for a year before I kicked my habit.

Poverty Level Living
I hear the heartbreaking cries of folks living at poverty level all the time, and while I can commensurate with them (and even have empathy for these folks) because I have lived there myself for many years, I have to ask where the drive is to get out of poverty level living. I had it. I did it. By the age of 24, I had worked my way up the corporate food chain after having a variety of jobs and quadrupled my income in the process. By age 27, I was making six figures, and all without a college degree.

Bottom Line
Do I have sympathy for Hatchett or the 11 mothers in this case? Not a lick of it. He choose to have unprotected sex with 11 women, and those 11 women chose to do the same with him. Now, it's time for all involved to ante up and pay the piper in order to properly care for the 30 young lives they are responsible for, without anyone else footing the bill.

Living and living well are two markedly different things, but the latter is a matter of choice, not a relegation of circumstance. I know this, because I'm living proof - and my proof is living well.

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Real Life Confessions of a Shopaholic

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Growing up I always felt somewhat deprived when it came to things, baubles and trinkets. While other kids ran around in the newest L.A. Gears and sported trendy fashions, I sported leftovers from the church donation closet. I would get used charity gifts for Christmas and remember feeling ever envious about the stylish new things all my friends had over the holidays. I recall how much I wanted those things.

And then I grew up
Being a teenage mother meant that I didn't get a lot of time or money to spend on myself. It wasn't until I landed a job where I was raking in six figures a year that my shopping demons of days gone by reared their ugly heads, turning my frugal habits on their ear.

I Bought Relentlessly
I had an army of credit cards and I was not afraid to use them, regularly. I snatched up whatever items I thought were bargains or deals sometimes without even checking the price tag. I was an impulse buying queen.

Despite the fact that I was raking in the big bucks, I was spending every cent of what I made; trying to suppress that little girl inside me who always felt deprived.
Each time my husband questioned me about how much I spent, I lied. A $70 sweater became a $10 sweater and a $40 spa day became a $20 spa day. He never knew how bad it was because we kept separate accounts; my lies were never exposed.

The Calm Before the Storm
Even though I had pretty baubles and trinkets galore, my credit card bills kept mounting. And like a dutiful shopaholic, I paid the minimum balance on each one every month and kept opening up new ones to feed my habit. I had become a black hole of spending gluttony.
I didn't just stop at buying clothes, make-up and jewelry either. I bought cars, electronics, furniture and just about everything I wanted, whenever I wanted it, and I did it all in the name of instant gratification. And (you guessed it), I lied about every single cent I ever spent to my spouse, including my outrageous $524 a month car payment.

My Turning Point
It was two in the afternoon. I was once again at the mall. This time, at the Clinique make up counter. As the make-up artist did her work, shellacking me from head to toe, I looked in the mirror, and I felt pretty for the first time in a long time. I felt so pretty in fact, that I dropped $724 on Clinque products that day. There was only one problem; it was $724 I couldn't afford to spend. Yet, even though my palms were sweaty and my pulse quickened, I handed over my card to get swiped one last time before the fallout.

The Wake Up Call
Just a few days after my make-up splurge, I lost my job. I went from making $120,000 a year to $30,000 in the span of just a few months. Now, there was no more money in the bank to pay the credit cards, there wasn't enough to cover my want list and I eventually even lost my car to the bank. Finally, after seven years of gross overspending on everything from wristwatches to wall clocks, I realized I had a problem.

Overcoming
My relationship with my spouse suffered tremendously as a result of my overspending and irresponsibility. My relationship with my children suffered too. My out-of-control spending left us almost penniless, and my lying only compounded the problem. I had to come clean and get clean. The floodgates of truth opened, and every lie I told was exposed. I was in horrible debt and spiraled down into a deep depression.

Kicking the Habit
I admit, it was easy to kick the habit when there was no money in the bank and no lines of credit to fall back on. However, I still couldn't do it cold turkey. I learned the hard way, continue overspending and paid numerous overdraft fees as a result. It took me two full years to retrain myself and regulate my spending to get back to frugality, but eventually I kicked my shopping demons to the curb. I made myself think about how much time at work each purchase would cost me, I avoided malls, I avoided sale signs and I avoided credit cards. It wasn't easy, and it took time, but I got there.

Do I still struggle avoiding impulse buys? Absolutely I do. However, I've learned to look away from the sirens song of stuff and use my smart phone to log into my bank balance, instead of haphazardly tossing things in my cart. Those little numbers on-the-go keep me on the straight and narrow, 100 percent of the time.

How I went from Suzy Homemaker to Career Titan and Successful Business Owner

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For six straight years I was a stay at home mom, and I loved every minute of it. However, once my sprogs were in school, it was time for me to get back into the swing of things and go back to work. But when I tried to get into the workforce, I ran into one snag: how do you get your foot in the door when all you have are home-making skills as experience?

Selling Myself the Right Way
There are two ways to market yourself: the right way and the wrong way. I learned to sell myself the right way, having done it wrong more times than I can count. Like it or not, many employers scoff at a housewife trying to get a job, unless you can market yourself the right way.
I capitalized on my skills, not my job title. I mentioned how I managed budgets, events and planned activities. My resume echoed that of a college graduate; focusing on what I could do, not what I had been doing. I worded it all perfectly on a resume and landed a job as a receptionist for a doctor's office in just a few months after I started looking.

Learn, Grow and Expand
Once I landed my first job, I got in the business of business and learned to capitalize on every opportunity in my wake. I read everything I could get my hands on, I took every bit of training my company offered. I thought (and behaved) like a man, and learned to be assertive and unafraid to speak my mind.

By the ripe age of 27, I was a director of a technology company, and was earning six figures. A few years later, I went on to own my own real estate business, where I continued to perform exceptionally well, and I've never looked back.

I went from homemaker to career titan and business owner in just four short years, and I confess that I learned a lot more from being in the workforce than I ever did watching "Teletubbies" with my kiddos. However, that doesn't mean I look upon my stint as a homemaker with disdain.

I Never Sold My Home Making Short
There is an implicit sense of superiority between various career moms versus homemakers, and (because I've sat in both spots) I can say that some of it is deserved. It was far more complicated for me to handle kids, a man and household when I had a full time job to think about too -- and to do it all without help. However, I still did it, and I am quite happy with how everything turned out.
I was able to spend six fantastic years with my kids, to be home for them when they got home from school and to raise them the way I saw fit. And thanks to the freedom I maintained while in the workforce, I've been able to sustain that life for the past 17-years (I work from home much of the time). Is it possible to have the best of both worlds and to be a well rounded woman and mother? I think so. In fact, I know so. I did it.

If you want to get your feet wet in the workforce, the only thing stopping you is you.
How did you re-enter the workforce after being a stay at home mom?

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Why I Didn't Buy Into the Facebook IPO Hype

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"Buy Facebook," brokers cried. Wall Street experts and talking heads touted the mega million dollar to be the hottest IPO since Google. And people everywhere bought into it by the thousands, save yours truly. I was one of the few who didn't buy into the hype. I had a feeling that Facebook stocks weren't going skyrocket as predicted. I hedged my bets and avoided adding this volatile IPO to my portfolio for three very compelling reasons.

Reason No. 1: GM Pulled Out
On May 15, one of Facebook's largest spenders, General Motors pulled their ad campaign. This set off warning bells in my head. It was a telltale sign of things to come. For me, GM's flight was a clear signal that Facebook wasn't doing so hot in the advertising department. This lead me to dig a little deeper.

Reason No. 2: Advertising Dollars
I began looking at how advertising dollars are spent among other pixelated social giants. I found that Pinterest, a relatively new kid on the social media block, seems to be getting the largest share of the advertising effectiveness pie.

In a recent student conducted by Bottica.com, traffic originating from Pinterest usually netted the vendor a $180 average sale, compared to Facebook users $85 dollar average sale. To add insult to blue and white injury, Pinterest influenced three percent more of transactions than Facebook did during the study. While this doesn't mean Facebook is dead, it's advertising dollars might be on life support sooner, rather than later.

Reason No. 3: Dying Out
While Facebook is by no means a dead technology (not with over 5 billion daily users anyway), the novelty has worn off, and the honeymoon period subsided. Users might not be going anywhere else to spend hours of their time, but it is clear that they are going else where to spend loads of their money. And I don't have to tell you that money does the talking in corporate America.
Unless Zuckerberg and company can pull Facebook out of its advertising slump -- and there are plans to make ads part of your newsfeed now -- it is likely that the tech giant will lose more advertisers, more worth and that Facebook stocks will remain pancaked.

Picking Stocks
In the spirit of honesty, picking the right stock is always a crapshoot for me. However, I don't rely on my advisor or my broker to tell me what's hot and what to buy, I do my own research ahead of time. I follow that company in the news before I pull the trigger on a stock purchase, and my due diligence on this one just saved me over $200 in lost revenue - when thinking about how much I would have bought.

When I buy stocks, I buy into the brand and not the hype. So far, that method has never steered me wrong.



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Discretionary Dough

Check out this Mint.com info graphic. Where do YOU fit in? We want to know! 


The Eurozone Crisis Freaks Me Out

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If you think the debt crisis in Europe is only relevant to our friends across the pond, think again. The more I learn about the Euro Zone crisis (which is a currency crisis more than a debt crisis) the more I can't help but think we are headed for a dreary, dismal, double dipped recession of the worst kind.

It's Like a Family
Like it or not, our economic future is tied directly to the financial futures of our friends and allies in Europe. When I was explaining it to a friend of mine, I explained that all of our money is lumped into one prominent financial pot. The US has bought European debt just as frequently and regularly as Europe has bought American debt. Essentially, if Europe was our uncle, and our uncle started a business by getting money from all of his friends and relatives, we (the US) would be one of those distant relatives. However, our uncle can't sustain his business, and because of this, his company is about to go under, taking the rest of our investments with it.
 
Debt Isn't a Bad Thing
As a business owner, I can attest to the simple fact that it takes money to make money. Historically, the US has taken on additional debt prior to our largest economic expansions; meaning debt is essential to progress. I get that. However, that isn't the problem. The problem today is that the US and Europe aren't producing enough income to pay off their debts, and the creditors are calling.

Quitting the Euro
If the European Union waves goodbye to the Euro, that would solve all of the problems in Europe, at least in the short term. In truth, it would be more like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound, and it won't fix the problems globally. The backlash of the devalued and ditched currency in the worldwide market would tank American markets and even have extensive fiscal affects in China. What we would get would be something similar to the Lehman Brothers collapse, sans bailout.

Stocks and Unemployment
Wall Street performance is directly tied to unemployment numbers. The less companies are worth on Wall Street the less money those companies have and the likely those companies are to hire or expand. More small businesses will tank, and the unemployment numbers will swell. In fact, we've already seen that in Europe. This is why the European Union and the IMF are working around the clock to find a solution that doesn't include tanking the global market.

So What Do We Do?
Personally, I'm hedging my income and my investments to withstand a particularly depressing and heavy approaching storm. I'm investing in recession-proof franchises, providing me with enough income to squirrel away in savings bonds, accounts and CD's. I'm steering clear of the stock market in many areas, and I'm keeping my ear to the ground about breaking news in Europe so that I can make proactive decisions about my money, as opposed to reactive ones.

As a country, my only hope is that we can cut our overspending and revitalize our manufacturing industries -- the industry on which sound economies are built. However, to achieve a stronger GDP (Gross Domestic Product) now, we'd have to terminate both Social Security and Medicare. I don't see that happening, but we are getting close to a point of no return here in the states, mirroring the problems our allies in Europe face today.

Big government isn't the answer. Big government failed in Europe, and socialized lifestyles are bringing more than one country to its knees; and ours could be next. For now, I'm hedging my money and my bets on another round of gloomy news at the hands of the biggest government our country has ever had.



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Living the Cash Back Life

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If there is one thing I can pride myself on doing well, it's smart spending. And nothing says smart spending (to me) like cash back programs. When I discovered the world of cash back rewards programs, I was hooked. And today I am a big, fat cash back junkie. In fact, I earn over $300 a month in cash back savings on things I need to buy and pay for anyway, and I have four time-tested resources that help me do it.

Perkstreet
My Perkstreet debit card pays me 2 to 5 percent cash back on everything I buy. I preload this debit card each month with enough money to pay my bills, get my gas and purchase my groceries. On any given month, that's about $5,000. Using my Perkstreet card, I make $100 a month, and sometimes more.

Smarty Pig
I am a planner, and planning my monthly expenses is no exception. I deposit money into my Smarty Pig account regularly and establish goals for each month, setting aside enough to cover my living expenses for upcoming months. For example, in the month of May, I assigned $5,000 a month for my July living expenses - June was paid for in April. I earn $4.16 a month in interest for not touching that money -- it's not a lot, but it adds up.

I also set Smarty Pig goals for things like graduations, birthday presents, family outings and the like, and I earn interest while the money sits and waits, and earn extra cash with my Smart Pig cash back card when redeeming those goals. From this resource, I earn an extra $100 a month.

PayPal
As a freelancer, most of my contracts are paid via PayPal. On payday, I transfer money to my Perkstreet card, have an additional allocation direct to my Smart Pig account, but I also leave some "mad money" or rainy day money in my PayPal account because my PayPal MasterCard pays me 1 percent cash back on my purchases. From this resource, I bank an additional $50.

Ebates
Ebates is one of my favorite cash back generators. I log on to popular stores like Drugstore.com, Old Navy, Target and Wal-Mart through their portal and order my family's toiletries, household supplies, and hygiene and make-up items once per month. I also plan my school supply shopping and even holiday shopping from the comfort of my pajamas using this resource, and I make 2 to 15 percent cash back on the total of each of my purchases. And of course, I only opt in for free shipping offers and I pay using my Perkstreet card, increasing my cash back even more.

Last year, I earned $1,500 cash back from Ebates - buying only what I needed to buy and avoided the hazards of impulse spending. This handy dandy resource nets me another $100 a month.
Between the $100 I earn from PerkStreet, the $100 I earn from Smarty Pig, the $50 I net from my Pay Pal account and the $125 a month I get from Ebates, I am banking $375 a month in cash back. And 100 percent of that $4,500 cash back goes to my various savings and investments.

Creative saving often requires creative spending, at least in my book.



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The 5 Easiest Ways to Save on Gas

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With the price of gasoline on what seems to be a never-ending upward climb, I have been forced to come up with some tricks to save at the pump. However, sharing a car with my spouse and with my teenage daughters means that gas savings can be easier said than done. I needed a plan, and some gas saving secrets to help me out.

Have an Errand Day
For me, that day is Friday. Friday is my day to run errands, schedule doctor's appointments and buy groceries for the following week. I plan trips and appointments starting at the furthest point away from my home and work my way back to my house. Avoiding back and forth driving saves me at least half a tank of gas per week.

Planning for "Emergencies"
If someone "forgets" something at the store, I implement the bike or the "pata" (foot) mobile. Even in Texas heat, walking to the local drugstore in the morning or in the evening is feasible for us, and it gives us some extra exercise while saving some money in gas.

Know What's in Your Tank
I look at how many miles to the gallon I'm getting at each fill up. When my miles start slumping, I know it's time for a mileage per gallon boosting additive or time to schedule my car for maintenance. By maintaining my car and checking this little calculation each fill up, I save over $60 a month compared to the days I neglected doing this.

Plan Your Driving…Yes, All of It
It might sound like I'm beating a dead horse (and I am), but the biggest killer for your gas budget is not planning your driving. I plan trips to and from my husband's work, to and from mine, and to and from my twins' place of employment and to their schools. If additional errands or stops need to be made, I plan those also. It might be elementary, but it works for us.

Know Where the Cheap Gas Is
For me, no one sells gas more cheaply than Costco. I plan my fill ups on my errand day, which is also my Costco day. Each time I fill up, I save 11 cents a gallon compared to filling up at a price gouging station somewhere off the interstate.

This summer I'm not letting high gas prices pinch my wallet, and now, you don't have to either.



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6 Job that rounded out my resume...and me too

READ THIS ON YAHOO SHINE!

Recently, a piece on Divine Caroline caught my eye. In it, the author talks about the six jobs that everyone should have by the age of 30 -- if they want a well-rounded resume, that is. Once I finished reading, I found myself nodding in agreement. After all, I had all six of the resume rounding gigs mentioned, and they didn't just round out my resume; they rounded me out as well.

Job #1: A Service Job
Never did I have as much appreciation for the waiter or waitress schlepping food to my table, the barmaid at my local pub or for the dreary-sounding customer service rep on the other end of the phone than I did after I waited tables, tended bar and quelled the concerns of caller number 498. Dealing with people on their worst possible behavior in the service industry taught me to keep my cool under fire, the importance of customer service and that sometimes, people just genuinely suck. From those, I learned to take it on the chin and move on.

Job #2: A Job Where You're Forced to Clean 
Cleaning up after anyone (and I mean anyone) is not something I ever care to do again. Between cleaning dressing rooms full of dirty underwear at Mervyn's over one holiday shopping season and being stuck on bathroom duty at the same gig, I learned one cold, hard truth: most people are disgusting. Not only did this teach me how to be more contentious about my clothing habits at the rack and in the fitting room, but it also helped me develop a specific distaste for dirty public restrooms. I make sure to pick up after myself and make sure my kids do the same. This includes putting my cart in the proper repository in the market parking lot. -- Yeah, you know who you are.
 
Job #3: A Childcare Job
One of my very first jobs was babysitting for what were arguably three of the best kids I ever met. This job helped me learn how to handle money, helped me work on my patience and taught me what it actually takes to get kids to go to sleep at bedtime (a lot).

Job #4: A Job Working for Your Parent
When I was 11, I worked for my dad at his auto repair shop over the summer. I answered phones, handled billing and did everything else having to do with the front of the house. If nothing else, this experience taught me how much work was required to run a successful business, and was one of the reasons I fell in love with the idea of owning my own business someday.

Job #5: Physical Labor
Hauling, moving and flipping things around was never really my "style", but when I was tasked with those three things for the gig I landed at 17, I certainly wasn't going to complain -- let alone say no. I did a lot of back breaking work, and I did it well. The exercise taught me the value of hard work, and probably played a large role in why I enjoy doing work on my house myself instead of hiring someone else to do it.

Job #6: A Job Totally Unrelated to Your Career Goals
I nailed this one task, in spades. I have done everything under the sun, but instead of being unrelated to my career my Ping-Pong job switching action actually wound up helping me in both with my career goals and in my personal life.

My time selling cars gave me an inside track in that business; helping me with every car I've ever bought and sold. My time working for an alarm company gave me insight into the best programs and companies, helping me make recommendations for friends and family and beef up my own security to boot. My years in real estate helped me learn the ropes of investing and real estate math. My time in sales helped me round out the rest of my skill set and work on my charisma and speaking voice.
There's more (in fact, lots more), but I think you get the gist of what I'm saying.

The trick was that even when it came to jobs I despised, I gave 100 percent from bell to bell, from hire to quit; and wound up becoming incredibly well-rounded because of it. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

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The 6 Ways I Recession Proofed My Life

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There is no doubt about it, the U.S. economy remains in a bleak and gloomy state. The unemployment rate looms ever constant at 8.1 percent, and I see more and more people laid off every day. Then, there are the folks I know who are not yet laid off. And I watch as my friends and family live under an economic dark cloud, wondering if a pink slip is forthcoming tomorrow or the next day -- because more layoffs are on the horizon, reaching from Wall Street to Main Street. As a result, I have taken six specific steps to recession proof my entire life.

I got control of my budget
Not having a money blueprint is not just a dumb move; it can destroy you in a recession. I got hold of my cash, made a budget and stuck to that budget like glue.
In my world, budgets are living, breathing entities all their own. Thus, I am always tweaking mine, making cuts where I need to and making my new and improved budgets even better than the blueprint I had the month before. For me, simply have a plan has been a financial hedge of protection that I see many folks going without -- and suffering as a result.

I used more cash
I live a cash-only life, meaning I only buy what I can afford, not what I can afford to finance. From there, I take out certain elements of my budget in cash each month: my entertainment budget and dining out budgets specifically. When the money is gone, I put "fun" on hold in favor of fiscal responsibility.

I have multiple streams of income
I do not just advocate working smarter and not harder, I walk the walk. I invested my savings in two recession proof businesses, used my personal income from those to save up, and am now investing in even more companies. I also worked on several dot com startups, and I can currently say that I am thriving, even in the wake of our national economic woes. In a recession, entrepreneurship can mean the difference between living and living well.

I monetize my life
There is no area of my life I overlook when it comes to making cash. I leverage cash back rewards cards to pay my bills. I pay that card off with a cash back debit card. I also leverage cash back for my every day, monthly purchases. I buy my cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items and beauty products via a cash back shopping portal, earning me even more money back on top of my cash back rewards cards. For me, recession proofing is just as much about smart saving as it is smart spending.

I save more
I put my savings on autopilot. I automatically deduct 20 percent from my biweekly checks and put that directly toward my savings and retirement. For me, out of sight means out of mind and makes me less inclined to spend my hard earned resources on frivolous buys.

I spend less ... a lot less
Before I spend a dime, I consider how much work it will take me to pay the equivalent for that blouse, bauble or trinket. In most cases, this gives me the resolve required to avoid impulse buying, keeping me forever on the financial straight and narrow.



More from this contributor:
The 5 Easiest Ways to Save on Gas
Living the Cash Back Life
From $45,000 in Debt to a Cash-Only Life

3 Easy Tricks I Used to Become a Better Saver



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Most people will say that smart savings (or saving money at all) is all about self-discipline. If you want to save, you should "just do it." However, from my experience, I have found that most people are dead wrong in that regard. Throughout my travels, having seen thousands of different budgets while helping struggling home owners find their way back from the brink of financial disaster, I have learned that a savings plan that works for one person doesn't work for another, and sometimes self-discipline alone isn't enough to make spenders into savers. For spenders who are struggling to find that path to enlightenment, I have learned the three tricks to saving more and saving better -- and none of them has one iota of grit or self-discipline required, not really.

Trick No. 1: Quit looking at your paycheck
The first mistake most people make is living paycheck to paycheck. They create a budget based on how much they earn, and (despite their best intentions) they end up spending all of that money before their next payday. (I can personally attest to this, because I was guilty of it.)
Today, I tell my clients to do what I did: put their savings on autopilot. Automatically deduct 10 to 20 percent of your net income off the top and put it in an automatic draft to your savings on payday -- you can do this on most direct deposit forms these days, or via a direct allocation from your bank. This way, the money you need to save is out of sight, out of mind.
Then, draft a new budget based on the lesser amount. It does require making cuts to your budget to be sure, but it is the first step in becoming a better saver.

Trick No. 2: Quit swiping your card
For chronic spenders, debit and credit cards can lull you into a false sense of security. A day at the mall can easily blow a budget when all you see is $7 here, $12 there and $20 somewhere else. What you do not see are those entertainment and "fun" expenses adding up to an amount that will make your careful planning crumble in its wake.
Instead of swiping, I get my leisure and "fun money" out in cash each payday. This way, when the money is gone, my mind automatically registers that I am done spending until my next payday. It is that simple. What I don't spend, I save. Savings has become my reward, which leads me to my third and final trade secret of savings.

Trick No. 3: Retrain your brain
You have a relationship with money, and since money does not show emotion, the dysfunction you have with yours comes directly from you. Some people equate money with happiness, affluence with success and spending with feeling good. In order to become a better saver, I had to retrain my brain (and I tell my clients to do the same thing).

Money is just money. It is a means to an end, a resource, just like bread in your breadbox. By taking the emotion out of money, you take the emotion out of spending it.

Most people (me included) build bad money habits based on our self-imposed bad relationships with it. In order to get out of those dastardly money habits, I had to retrain my mind and put physical limits (cash) and accountability (budgets) on my spending in order to make a clear path to becoming a saver. Because, for me, the bottom line was that I was a much happier person when I didn't have to worry about my dollars and cents. And, chances are, you will be too.

More from this Contributor:
The 5 Easiest Ways to Save on Gas
Living the Cash Back Life
From $45,000 in Debt to a Cash-Only Life

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