Get Your Household Budget up and Running in 30 Minutes or Less

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By Joanna and Johnny with DailyFinance

Few activities are more hated than standing in line at the DMV — and one of those is budgeting. But how did budgeting get such a bad rap? Well, for one thing, many of us avoid it because it’s seen as a chore that will take up at least half our day, fighting tooth and nail with our inner spending demons (or our spouses). But that, friends, is a fallacy.

Or at least it should be.

It’s time to clear up some misconceptions and get to the heart of what budgeting really is — quickly. We’ll show you how to set up your first budget, or get back on the budgeting horse, in 30 minutes or less. Ladies and gentlemen, start your stopwatches:

Step 1: Understand What a Budget Is (1 minute)

Simply put, budgeting means putting a name to every dollar that goes in and out of your bank account. Usually, a household budget is broken down monthly, as spending needs fluctuate, and regular benchmarks can be tracked and compared. Get it? Got it? Good.

Step 2: Calculate Your Projected Monthly Income (5 minutes)

If you have just one consistent source of income each month, this step will take just a few seconds. If you have multiple sources of income, it might take a few minutes. And if your income varies from month to month, you’ll need to use the figures from previous years or months to estimate what your monthly income will be.

Step 3: Estimate Your Monthly Expenses (20 minutes)

You can be as detailed or general as you’d like to be in calculating your expenses: The important thing is to make sure every expense is accounted for. For instance, you could set down a rough estimate for your overall spending on utilities.

Or you might prefer to break it down by individual bills such as electricity, water, gas and phone.

You may have only a vague idea how much you spend each month on some categories, such as food. So start by taking a guess. Remember: Your first month on a budget is a trial run. If you end up spending more or less than that amount, adjust your target number for the next month. You’ll likely need to reallocate money among categories early on.

Right now you might be thinking, “But I don’t even know what I spend my money on!” That’s OK. If you need help breaking down your spending, take a look at the types of expenses from your most recent bank statements. Here are some common categories to get you started:

  • Mortgage/Rent
  • Utilities
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Entertainment
  • Debt Payments
  • Medical
  • Insurance
  • Clothing
  • Savings
  • Pet(s)

Here are two other categories for couples:

  • Personal (We give each other $25 of “whatever” money each month to spend as we please.)
  • Miscellaneous (There’s always at least a couple of expenses that don’t quite fit in any category.)

The goal here is pretty simple: Spend less than you earn.In order to estimate your savings for the month, add all of your expenses together and subtract that number from your monthly (net) income. The number left is your projected monthly savings.

Step 4: Decide How You’re Going to Keep Track (4 minutes)
Now that you’ve given every dollar a name, figure out how you’re going to hold yourself accountable. Will you keep a spreadsheet? A notebook in your purse? Or will you use a smartphone app? Whatever you choose, it’s important to record every expense as it happens. (I hear you harrumphing in your cubicle. Yes, you with the bag of Funyuns. But recording your expenses is really quite painless if you do it as it happens. It takes a matter of seconds.) We use a phone app, which means we just enter the expense, and the app does all that math stuff for us. Can I afford those expensive chocolates for Valentine’s Day? This month, my budget and my waistline are both saying “No way, Jose.” But that’s not my name, so it’s still up in the air. Still, if I do get those chocolates, I’ll record them in our budget-tracker right afterward.

1, 2, 3, 4: Now, you’re a budgeting pro. And you can do all that and still have half your lunch break to waste as you please. Keeping a budget may take some getting used to, but you’re already on your way to smarter money management.

8 Reasons Parents Argue Over Money — and How to Stop Fighting

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By LearnVest

Are you and your spouse having arguments about money? Learn the most common reasons for money issues in a marriage and how to resolve them.

Getting engaged to my now-husband was one of the most exciting moments of my life, but, early on, that excitement quickly morphed into a knot of stress. When we started to talk about moving in together, we had a conversation about money. The next day I woke up with a queasy feeling.

I was a free spender, and my soon-to-be-husband had always been a saver. I would have to confess that I had credit card debt — and a lot of it. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I finally mustered up the courage to reveal how much I owed. He was flabbergasted, and then furious. I was sheepish and, of course, defensive.

The argument that ensued wasn’t exactly fun, but it was productive. After a lot of talking and negotiating, we came up with a money management plan to meet both our financial and emotional needs. Ten years later, both of us are still on the same page.

Money is the top reason couples fight, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether or not your resolutions have to do with strengthening your relationship, now is a great time to refresh the way you connect. I turned to experts Syble Solomon, financial expert and creator of the interactive tools Money Habitudes, and Taffy Wagner, D.Min., author of Bride and Groom Money Talk FAQ. They shared the top eight situations that couples fight about when it comes to money, and how the two of you can get on the same page — for keeps.

The Smooth Spender vs. the Savvy Saver

1. One of You Is a Spender and the Other Is a Saver

Why you fight: You have very different ideas and values when it comes to money. The spender feels constrained and the saver feels insecure. Couples often see only the negative side of their partners’ financial habits.

How to stop: Learn to recognize your partner’s financial strengths. Take buying a car as an example. While a saver may gravitate toward an inexpensive used car, the spender may want a new, more costly vehicle. To arrive at a compromise you can both live with, you want to combine the saver’s ability to sniff out a good deal with the spender’s ability to commit to a purchase.

The bottom line: Aim to make a better decision as a couple than you would as individuals. Before you make any big purchase, have a heart-to-heart about your needs and expectations, and set an absolute limit for how much money the two of you are willing to spend.

2. You Have a Single-Income Household

Why you fight: The person who earns the money expects to be in control of the spending; the non-earning partner in the relationship believes the decisions should be made jointly. This dynamic creates stress, conflict, and an imbalance of power.

How to stop: This issue really boils down to control, and marriage is a partnership. Using money to control your spouse — even subconsciously — can seriously damage your relationship. Start by broaching the subject at a calm time, not when you’re arguing about money, and explain your feelings. One technique that can help is setting a specific dollar amount for each partner’s discretionary spending, or agreeing that you’ll discuss any purchase over a certain limit before making it.

The bottom line: This can be a long-term issue. If one of you breaks the new rules you set, talk about why you did so, and make adjustments. If you still find yourselves at a stalemate, consider enlisting the help of a marriage counselor. An impartial third party can help each of you understand the other’s point of view.

The Perils of Different Priorities

3. You Disagree on Spending Priorities for the Kids

Why you fight: You’re not really arguing over private education versus saving for college, or designer duds versus second-hand shoes. What you’re really fighting about are values.

How to stop: If you don’t talk about the real issues, you’ll keep having the same fight over and over again. A lot of these conflicts arise from the way each spouse was raised. For example, maybe you went to private school and think that will set your kids up for a successful future, while your partner went to public school and thinks that will make your kids more self-sufficient. Either way, just explaining the emotions underlying each of your beliefs will help you find common ground.

The bottom line: Try to reach a compromise. Always start by asking if you’ll have to sacrifice anything to spend the money in question. If the conflict isn’t about the expense, hash out exactly what is behind it and meet halfway. Maybe you send your kids to private school but have them buy their own clothing with allowance money, or send them to public school but pay for extracurricular activities to provide extra enrichment.

4. You Have Debt

Why you fight: Dragging around debt always causes stress, especially if you can’t afford to pay it off — or if you disagree with your partner on whether to save your cash for a rainy day or pay off your outstanding balances.

How to stop: One of the easiest ways to alleviate the situation is to tackle that debt. For which debts to pay down first and how to balance that with savings, see Resources, below. To get aggressive and take care of your debt once and for all, take our free Get Out of Debt Boot Camp (see Resources, below). Either way, schedule a time to sit down, crunch the numbers (how much debt you have, what kind it is, how much savings you have, how much each of you earns), and decide what’s realistic.

The bottom line: You have to talk about your priorities; you might define security as being debt-free, whereas your partner feels safer with a hefty savings account. Once you understand each other, it will be easier to agree on an approach.

The Shame of Secret Spending

5. You Keep Your Bank Accounts Separate — But Maybe Not Equal

Why you fight: Maybe one person takes on more of the fixed expenses, like the mortgage, car payments, and insurance, while the other pays for the variable expenses, such as clothing, food, transportation and household items. Variable expenses can’t be predicted, so one partner can often wind up in the hole.

How to stop: Having separate accounts doesn’t have to be a source of conflict. A good rule of thumb is to divvy up the monthly expenses based on the percentage of income each person contributes to the household. For example, if one partner has an annual salary of $50,000 and the other makes $25,000, the partner who earns $50,000 can contribute twice what his or her spouse does.

The bottom line: It’s a good idea to sit down once a month and talk about what’s being spent and on what, so each person is aware of the entire financial picture.

6. One of You Is a “Secret Spender”

Why you fight: This is sometimes known as financial infidelity? It may be that one of you isn’t used to being accountable for your spending habits, or that you fear the reaction of your partner. But when your secret shopping sprees or piles of debt are discovered, your partner will feel betrayed, and you will be on the hot seat.

How to stop: If you’re already deep into your relationship when this pattern of behavior is revealed, there are several ways to handle it. Create a separate bank account for the spender and give him or her a fixed amount of spending money each month, or, if the situation is dire, enlist the help of a counselor to find out why the shopper feels the need to keep secrets.

The bottom line: The easiest way to avoid this fight is to have an open discussion about your spending habits before you ever merge your finances. If you’re already in the relationship, focus the conversation on the importance of trust.

The Trouble With Paying Bills on Time

7. The Designated Money Manager Doesn’t Pay Bills on Time

Why you fight: Obviously, the person who is failing to meet the financial obligations of the household is putting the family in financial danger (poor credit ratings, expensive late fees, or even foreclosure on a home). On the other hand, that person may feel overwhelmed and resentful at having to bear the financial responsibility.

How to stop: Set a date each month to sit down and sort through all the bills together. Take this time to discuss the overall state of your finances and solve issues as they come up. This way, one person won’t feel like he or she is shouldering all of the burden.

The bottom line: Look for practical ways to lessen the burden on the money manager, like signing up for automatic online bill payments. Or shift the responsibility to the other partner for a few months to see if that works better. The key is not to place blame, but to try to find a solution together.

8. One of You Borrows Money From Family — Without the Other Knowing

Why you fight: Borrowing money from a family member is always fraught with complications, and when in-laws are involved, the stakes are doubled. Those proverbial apron strings become reinforced with steel once you accept a loan. And, sooner or later, your partner is going to notice that you’re making a monthly payment to Mom.

How to stop: This argument comes down to trust. You want to discuss not just the fact that money was lent, but that the decision was made in isolation. Your partner should always be your first stop when it comes to solving financial problems.

The bottom line: If you’re strapped and your parents can or want to lend you some cash, talk to your partner before taking that check to the bank. If he or she objects, talk about what alternative options might be feasible.

http//:www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-229-8746   The Gina Koerner Team

Shoestring Decorating

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By Move, Inc

Sense of adventure, planning are keys to a great look

Good taste is expensive, right? Whether you’re a first-time apartment-renter fresh out of college, newly single, a single parent on a budget or you’re simply not Rockefeller, trying to make your home resemble the pages of House Beautiful can be a sobering experience. Window-shopping often is discouraging, as you realize that walking into a showroom and saying “I’ll take that” is an impossible dream. Being on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to resort to orange crates, cinder blocks and plastic dorm-room cubes, however. Indeed, there are bargains to be found, and here’s where the fun begins. All it takes is a sense of adventure – and a little advance planning.
First, take a look at your living space, whether it’s a cookie-cutter apartment, condominium or a single-family home. What is your favorite part of your home? (Saying that you don’t have a favorite part is not an answer.) Is it a large window that lets in the morning light? A window seat? A garden window? Some built-in shelves? You’ll want to capitalize on this and make it the focal point of that room.
If it’s the shelves, for example, you’ll want to be on the look-out for some interesting objects d’art. And they don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, either. By the same token, if you’ve been hanging on to something that you don’t like simply because you felt you didn’t have any other options due to budgetary constraints, get rid of it if you can. If you can’t, can you hide it? Enhance it? How about selling it and using the money toward what you really want?
Create a dream book

Next, head to your library or book store. If your library has a used magazine sale (many libraries take magazine donations and then sell them for $.10 or $.25, for example), buy yourself a stack of decorating publications. Peruse them, and clip pictures of rooms and design elements that you like. Do you see some paint in a magazine photograph that you like? Clip that, too. Compile everything in one place, whether it’s a photo album or photo box, and write the name of each room on the appropriate clippings. When you’re on the hunt for items for a particular room in your home, bring the clippings with you.
Before you begin purchasing anything, think about your intended purpose for each room in your home. Do you want your home to be a soothing contrast to your stressful job? Muted colors and neutrals will be your best bet. Or do you want to feel energized by your surroundings? Then you might want to consider brighter and bolder colors. Do your tastes lean toward the casual side or the more formal side? That might depend on the surroundings in which you work (for example, if you work in a rigid, ultra-corporate environment, you might wish to keep your home surroundings deliberately more casual), your personality, whether or not you have children and whether or not you entertain frequently.
Slipcovers make an affordable change

If you’re not thrilled with your sofa, and a new one isn’t in your budget, slipcovers are the way to go. Watch out for sales during the summertime and in early January (“New Year’s” sales), when furniture stores are clearing out their inventories to make room for the new styles. That’s precisely the time when you can pick up a slipcover for a discount of 30 percent, 40 percent or more, and completely change the look of your living room. Add a few new pillows, and you’ll be amazed at the difference.
You don’t have to buy a card table and folding chairs for your kitchen.
Instead, put on your walking shoes, and get ready to do some comparison-shopping. Many stores offer inexpensive sets – a table and four kitchen chairs in butcher-block-style, for example, for one price. For an inexpensive route to new furniture, try your local unfinished furniture store. Many such places mass-produce comparatively inexpensive oak and/or pine pieces that can be painted if you wish, and dressed up with your own accessories. Stores such as Target, Wal-Mart, even your local supercenter or warehouse (such as Sam’s Club) carry respectable imitations of the coffee tables, end tables, bar stools, floor lamps, shelves, picture frames and other home-decor items you’ll spot in more expensive retail stores. These are excellent destinations for any shopper on a budget.
New curtains and paint create inexpensive drama

Think about adding some new curtains. Granted, those can be pricey, but they can also be inexpensive. Many balloon-style curtains and simple drapes may be purchased (particularly during periodic sales) for between $10 and $20. The addition of color adds warmth to any room. If you own your home and can paint, there’s a bit of psychology to keep in mind when it comes to color: blue creates serenity, and is intended to refresh and renew. Red increases intensity, gets the heart pumping and the blood pressure rising. Green, a popular choice right now, brings the outdoors indoors. It creates a sense of balance and harmony and can be a calming influence. Yellow and related shades are warm, cheery and inviting. And of course, a nice touch-up of white paint can renew your house dramatically.
Make your own art

For art, the best pieces are the original ones you create yourself. Buy a shadowbox, and insert dried flowers, black-and-white photos, magazine clippings, postcards, anything that holds personal significance. Head to the gift shop of your nearest museum or art gallery for poster-sized reprints and postcards for framing. While framing a piece of art can be extremely expensive, your local craft store holds reasonable facsimiles for a fraction of the cost. Select something simple; after all, the picture is what should be the center of your attention. Mirrors – even inexpensive ones – also are an excellent choice, and they create the illusion of depth.
Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize

Head to your nearest discount accessory store, and pick up accessories that attract attention without blowing your budget. Such pieces include unique photo frames, colored glass (an extremely inexpensive decoration), plate racks, linens, vases and pitchers with silk or other artificial flowers, and candles – including votives, candlesticks and larger varieties placed within glass bowls along with some potpourri. Remember that groupings of accessories are more visually striking than single items. If you have an empty corner, purchase a small table (craft stores sell them cheap, and you can place a fabric cover or skirt on top) or pedestal there, and top it with a plant. Remember that while more traditional styles favor more accessories and in some cases, even clutter, if it’s contemporary you’re aiming for, a more simple, streamlined appearance is best (which may be more realistic if your budget is tight).
No space is too small for dinner guests
If you do plan to entertain, keep in mind that many professional chefs say that there’s no space too small for a dinner party. You can always improvise. The company is indeed more important than the decor. Just make sure you have adequate seating to accommodate your guests, and that they are able to sit within a close distance to one another and talk. It doesn’t matter if your chairs are a hodge-podge of styles. It’s very possible to use what you have and create a warm atmosphere by arranging it in a way that encourages close conversation. A little re-arranging can completely change the feel of a room, lift your spirits and change your tune about those pieces you thought you didn’t like anymore.
Don’t rush any of your purchases. Take your time, and save your money for the items you know you want and can afford. If you have your heart set on a particular piece that’s a bit more than you can afford at the moment, by all means, start a savings account, and wait until the time is right. Scan the newspapers regularly for sales, and head to flea markets in your area. Even when you decide to purchase facsimiles of more expensive looks, you don’t have to sacrifice quality; there’s plenty of competition out there. Be selective, and avoid impulsive buys on cheap knock-offs. Landing the bargain of the century is half the fun. Happy hunting.
http//:www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-229-8746   The Gina Koerner Team

Understanding and Changing Financial Habits can Pave Way to Success

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By Carrie Schwab Pomerantz

If you’re like most people, you probably believe that when it comes to your financial decisions, you carefully weigh the pros and cons to make the right choice. But according to Dan Ariely, professor of behavioral economics at Duke University and author of the new book, “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions,” you might be surprised at what truly affects how you spend your money.

I recently had an interesting conversation with Ariely, trying to better understand the common behavioral traps that may sabotage our long-term best interests. We can all most likely relate to the fact that it’s much easier to spend money when we use a credit card rather than cold, hard cash. Or let’s say you’re shopping and see a pair of shoes you like (but don’t really need) for $200. Then you find a similar pair for $75. By comparison, the $75 shoes seem like a bargain; therefore, you buy them and congratulate yourself for saving money.

So what’s the solution? According to Ariely, all is not lost. With a little introspection and some planning, we can forge a smarter path, often by looking no further than our habits — the myriad of small choices we make every day without even really thinking about them. Of course, habits can be good or bad, but they’re powerful forces that can affect every aspect of our lives — from the trivial to the profound. The key is to get the habits to work in our favor.

Here are some practical ideas to help you get started:

EXAMINE YOUR VALUES

This may seem obvious, but a good place to start is by asking yourself whether you are spending your money while keeping with your values. If you enjoy adventure and the most exciting place you’ve traveled in the last two years is the supermarket, then you may need to reevaluate how you’re spending your money. If you feel being financially secure and debt-free are important, yet every month you charge another $2,500 of nonessential items to your credit cards, that’s also a disconnect. Without the perspective that your priorities provide, money is likely to slip through your fingers like water through a sieve, getting you no closer to your ultimate goals.

BE CREATIVE ABOUT CUTTING BACK

When you’re in the habit of spending, one of the hardest elements is deciding what you can cut in order to save. To help make it easier, Ariely recommends that we experiment a bit. Instead of arbitrarily saying you won’t go out to dinner anymore, try it for a month or only go out once a week. How does that feel? The next month try another cutback, such as changing your cable TV service from gold to silver. Which extras (dinner out or gold cable) make you happier?

You might also attempt creating a long-term plan; come up with 10 ways to reduce spending over the course of a year. Try five of them and see which one you can continue pursuing. Keep experimenting until you find the cutback — the one you can turn into a good savings habit. A word to the wise: Don’t get frustrated if one idea doesn’t pan out. You know the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed … ?”

TARGET YOUR GOALS

Saving is a lot easier if you have a specific goal, one that is concrete and evokes an emotion. Retirement is, of course, an important long-term objective, but it is hard to save for because the concept of retirement remains abstract in most people’s minds.

Does saving an extra $100,000 mean a golf membership or elaborate vacations? Make it real. As you imagine that cabin in the mountains, you’ll be more likely to set aside the money.

Attempt setting up some shorter-term goals: a vacation, a fund for health-care emergencies or your kids’ education. If you know what you’re receiving as well as what you’re giving up, you’ll be more motivated to keep saving. You could even open multiple accounts, each for a specific savings goal, and make it a custom to deposit a set amount every month in each account.

THINK ACTIVELY ABOUT SPENDING

Most of us observe our spending after the fact; however, to really change our spending habits, we have to think ahead. For instance:

— Create a budget up front and stick with it. You might want to take a cue from the ’50s housewives who had envelopes with a specific monthly amount of money for items like groceries, clothing and entertainment. That way, when the money for the month is gone, you’ll be forced to consider how it was spent. If there’s some remaining, you’ll know where you can save.

— Make spending comparisons. Is your money better used on a home improvement or a special trip? Make the comparison not so much about the money, but about the result you could obtain with the same amount of currency. Another good comparison is time versus money. Think about what you make per hour. Is the possible expense really worth the amount of time it would take you to earn the money?

— Put the brakes on your credit card. It’s not only easier to spend more with a credit card, but if you’re carrying a balance, every purchase is costing you even more in interest and possible late fees.

— Set up a support system. Don’t be afraid to talk about your money concerns. Share your ideas and find out what other people are doing to establish good habits. You might even consider a “buddy system” with a friend in which you review your mutual expenditures at the end of the month as well as help each other find creative ways to cut spending.

PUT YOURSELF ON AUTOMATIC

Many times there is separation between what we know we should do and how we actually behave. To bridge the gap and reinforce our good routines, make managing finances more automatic.

Review your own situation:

— Your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan? It’s one of the best retirement savings habits you can develop.

— Direct deposit from your paycheck or checking account into your savings account? There’s really no easier way to keep saving.

— Online transfers between banks? If you don’t have to write a check or make a special trip, you’re more likely to move the money from your checking to your savings or brokerage account.

— Automatic bill pay? Your bills will be paid on time and you’ll avoid late fees.

— An automatic investment plan? Although it does not protect against loss in declining markets, this can help keep your savings growing and takes advantage of dollar-cost averaging.

These types of services are easy to set up online; many banks and brokerages offer them at no cost.

KNOW YOURSELF AND YOUR DANGER ZONES

Bottom line? When it comes to making and breaking habits, we’re often our own worst enemies. The first step is to take a good look at yourself. What’s your worst financial habit? I have a friend who confesses that her financial future would be sturdier if she could only stay out of high-end department stores.

Start at a weakness. You don’t need to fix everything at once. But once you begin, you may find that one good savings practice leads to another: one step at a time.

http//:www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-229-8746  The Gina Koerner Team

 

The science of new year’s resolutions: Why 88% fail and how to make them work

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By Leo Widrich

Wanting to change yourself and better yourself is a beautiful and inspiring thing I believe. And it turns out that’s also how most other people think: 50% of all Americans for example set themselves a new year’s resolution .

That’s pretty amazing! What’s not so great is that according to the researcher Richard Wiseman 88% of all those set resolutions from half of America and probably lots of other people in the world fail. That’s 156 million failed resolutions and disappointed minds each and every year.

 

The sheer numbers of this really made me think. I wanted to understand better why we are so bad at keeping our newly set out resolutions and what we can do to actually make them stick.

Here is the actual science behind setting a new year’s resolution and more science on how you can actually change yourself for the better:

Your brain can’t handle new year’s resolutions – here is why

 

What we need to stick to our new year’s resolutions is willpower. Your brain cells that operate willpower are located in the prefrontal cortex, which is the area right behind your forehead.

 

That particular area of the brain is also responsible for staying focused, handling short-term memory and solving abstract tasks for example.

Now, when you set a new year’s resolution, an enormous amount of willpower is required. It’s an amount that your brain simply can’t handle. To put more scientifically, this is what’s happening inside your prefrontal cortex, best described through a Stanford experiment by Prof. Baba Shiv:

 

A group of undergraduate students were divided into 2 groups. One group was given a two-digit number to remember. The other was given a seven-digit number to remember. Then, after a short walk through the hall, they were offered the choice between two snacks: a slice of chocolate cake or a bowl of fruit. What’s most surprising: The students with 7-digit numbers to remember were twice as likely to pick the slice of chocolate compared to the students with the 2-digits.

 

The reasoning of why this happens? According to Prof. Shiv, it’s very obvious:

 

“Those extra numbers took up valuable space in the brain—they were a “cognitive load”—making it that much harder to resist a decadent dessert.”

 

So your pre-frontal cortex that handles willpower is like a muscle, that needs to be trained, as Tony Schwartz always mentions . If you decide to train that muscle at the start of the new year with a resolution to quit smoking, start going to the gym, or lose lots of weight, that’s the equivalent of a 300 pound barbell you want to lift without any previous training.

 

It’s no surprise that your brain can’t do the heavy lifting.

 

Resolutions vs. Habits – why vague aspirations don’t work with us humans

 

“What a mistake – the whole idea around New Year’s resolutions. People aren’t picking specific behaviors, they’re picking abstractions,” says BJ Fogg from Stanford University.

 

The problem is clear, any abstract goal you have, that is not tied to a specific behavior is near impossible for your brain to focus on. Making it “instinctual”, which is the crucial aspect, that will help you achieve any new habit, is missing in 90% of all new year’s resolutions, which makes them so likely to fail.

Instead, the key is to make any goal a habit first. And most importantly, make it a tiny one. Here is a list of examples of how this translates to some of the 4 most common new year’s resolutions:

 

  • Resolution: Quit smoking vs. Habit: Only stop smoking that 1 cigarette you have every morning after breakfast
  • Resolution: Eat healthy food vs. Habit: Start substituting that 1 daily morning pastry for a banana
  • Resolution: Lose Weight vs. Habit: Every evening after work, go for a 2-3 minute run or walk around the block.
  • Resolution: Manage stress vs. Habit: Meditate for 2-3 minutes every morning after you wake up.

 

By immediately breaking down each resolution and seeing what the smallest habit could be, your chances of succeeding will be 50% higher than if you leave it vague. There is nothing more, you make it so stupidly easy and simple for yourself to create that habit, that there is almost no way you can fail with it.

 

Ok, but now enough of why the dark and gloomy reasons of new year’s resolutions don’t work. What can we really do to make them work?

 

4 most important parts to make your new year’s resolution stick

So if you’ve set yourself a few big new changes, here are the most important things to consider to actually change your behavior for a better you:

 

1. Pick only one resolution 

 

As Stanford’s Prof. Shiv explained with her “cognitive overload” experiment, sticking to more than 1 new year’s resolution is near impossible for your brain to handle. Instead, analyze everything you’ve thought about to change and pick the one thing that’s most important for you.

 

Then, let go of everything else, otherwise you’ll be picking the chocolate cake for every situation, instead of the choice that you set out to make.

 

2. Take baby steps – make it a tiny habit

 

Now that you’ve picked one resolution, make sure to break down as far as you can, to the simplest task possible. If your resolution is “going to the gym”, turn it into the tiniest habit possible that you can perform in under 60 seconds.

 

BJ Fogg from Stanford created a great application exactly for this, called TinyHabits. It’s an awesome way to get started with any new year’s resolution you have in mind:

3. Hold yourself accountable for what you want to change: Tell others or write it down

 

In a study from 2007 performed by researcher Evans, they found a striking correlation between increased social support and lowering blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol. What does that have to do with new year’s resolutions?

 

Well, it has proven as striking evidence that the people around you can have a significant impact on your behavior. So if you tell some of your friends and family about the new tiny habit you’ve created, you are much more likely to stick to it.

 

Another hint here is that writing it down not only makes you more likely to succeed with your new habit and on top of that, increases your overall happiness.

 

4. Focus on the carrot not the stick – positive feedback and rewards increase your chance of success

 

A powerful study from the University of Chicago outlines how clearly positive feedback on any of your new habits will increase the likelihood of your success with your new habits and resolutions.

 

Hand in hand with this goes the fact that rewarding yourself for advances with your habits with things that make you feel great are a sure fire way to increase your success rate according to Richard Wiseman’s 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute.

 

So treating yourself to an unhealthy snack after a few days of successful diet habits changes is more than appropriate if you really want to make it through the other end.

 

Eric Barker also has a terrific list of more things you can do to make sure your new resolutions will end well.

 

Quick last fact: Strong Willpower is not a character trait 

 

One very comforting and important last fact is that having strong willpower is not something we’re born with as opposed to popular opinion.

“Research suggests that willpower itself is inherently limited, and that our January promises fail in large part because the brain wasn’t built for success.”

So just like your bicep has to be trained in order to grow stronger, so has the prefrontal cortex in your brain. The key is to make sure not to start lifting too heavy, as then we’re bound to drop everything on the floor with our new year’s resolutions.

http//:www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-229-8746   The Gina Koerner Team

 

 

Predictions For 2014 In Real Estate

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by Real Estate Today

When we first launched Real Estate Today nearly four years ago, the housing market was very different. Tough times, all around.

Many American homeowners suddenly found their jobs were gone. Others found the payments on their adjustable rate mortgages were going way up. And as we all know, many of those Americans lost their homes. But even those homeowners who hung on to their houses found their equity was quickly being eaten away by dropping home values.

Yes, tough times.

And the fact is that downturn caused some voices across the country to question the value of home ownership. Some said that the nation’s housing markets would never, ever be the same again and we’d be better off as a nation of renters, instead of home owners.

But as we’ve said on today’s show that was then and this is now. Things are much better in today’s market. Home prices are inching up. Sales are rebounding. And while foreclosure is still a problem, it’s much less of a problem than it was in early 2009. There’s a lot of positive news about housing all over the United States.

And you might have noticed the voices questioning homeownership? They’re pretty quiet these days. All it took is a return to ‘normal.’ And right now, we’re pretty close to a normal, healthy real estate market.

A market that appears to be stronger and more sustainable than it was a few years ago and one that will get even stronger over time.

So as we wrap up our look back over two hundred episodes of Real Estate Today, we want leave you with a big look forward as well.

And here’s the question: by the time we broadcast our 300th episode towards the end of 2014 where will the nation’s housing markets be then?

Let’s review what some housing economists are forecasting, and how it might affect you.

First, home prices …

We’ve made notable gains this year. And some economists are predicting prices to really take off by 2014, welcome news if you’re a home owner!

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® predicts the time this year ends, prices of existing homes will have risen 6 percent. Next year, prices are expected to rise an additional 5 percent or so and then another 5 percent in 2014.

For some home owners who saw their values drop the last few years, that may just be the boost you need to see solid equity once again in your home.

OK, so home prices are on the rise how about sales? That’s important if you plan to sell in the next two years. Will you be able to?

By 2014, home sales are expected to grow by about 14 percent. That’s significant.

Demand is increasing as many believe that housing finally “hit bottom” this year and is on its way up.

How about mortgage rates?

Mortgage rates are at record-breaking lows. 30 year fixed-rate mortgages are in the three and a half percent range for the most qualified buyers. That’s quite a difference from 2009 when they averaged about 5 percent.

These low rates won’t stick around forever. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is forecasting 30 year rates to climb to 4.6 percent, within a couple of years.

So that’s one prediction that’s not so great. But, we never expected the ultra-low rates would stick around forever.

Another prediction involves short sales and foreclosures. Millions of people lost their homes over the last few years. In fact, in 2009, distressed properties accounted for nearly half of all home sales! But, that’s changing for the better.

The NAR projects that distressed sales will fall to about 25 percent of the market-share of sales this year. And by 2014, they’re expected to fall to about 8 percent. That will bode well for everyone in the housing market.

If all these predictions hold true, the next few years should be looking good, for most areas in the nation’s real estate markets.

And we couldn’t be happier to say that. Things are better now, than they were and they’re expected to get even better with every passing year. And that’s a story we’ll be following closely, right here on Real Estate Today.

So finally, let’s leave with a few last words about us.

As you know, Real Estate Today is presented by The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. And we’re committed to bringing you the best possible real estate strategies, information and news every week.

We want to show the younger people how to get in the game. And we want to show the more experienced people techniques, tactics and opportunities that you might not know about.

And for all our listeners, we want you to know that the best way to approach any transaction is with a REALTOR® by your side. They’ll bring along the best in-depth market knowledge for the neighborhood where you want to buy, sell, and put down roots.

http//:www.StLouisByGina.com   636-229-8746   The Gina Koerner Team

Activities for Children With the Winter Blues

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By Molly Thompson, Demand Media

Dr. Seuss’ beloved Cat in the Hat was a master at doing all sorts of activities and questionable tricks indoors to entertain the kids on a miserable winter day when it was “too cold to play.” You don’t have to go to those extremes, but you can banish your kids’ winter blues with crafts, games or acting out imaginary scenarios. Set up a puzzle on the dining room table and work together to complete it. Drape a couple sheets over a card table and some chairs to make a tent for indoor camping, or have a sleepover and let your youngsters stay up late to watch family movies together. From cooking to crafts, the possibilities are endless to keep the kids happy on a cold day indoors.

Games

Gather up card or board games the kids haven’t played in awhile and have a family game night, or let them invite a few friends over for an afternoon of games. If basic board games are too staid for your youngsters, throw in a game like Twister that lets them get physically involved and silly at the same time. Set up mini-competitions to keep things interesting — offer token prizes for the winners — such as best two out of three in a checkers games or highest score in rummy.

Vacation at Home

Put your kids’ imaginations to work and help them create a beach getaway indoors. Spread out beach towels or blankets on the floor, play island music or beach songs, and make some hot dogs and lemonade. Let kids put on their bathing suits and sun glasses, and maybe even a bit of sunscreen to evoke the smells and feelings of summer. Change a tall floor lamp into “the sun” by covering the lampshade with yellow cellophane or replacing the regular light bulb with a yellow one. Play with beach balls and hula hoops and make seashell-themed crafts to top off your beach vacation.

Get Crafty

Lift your kids’ winter blues by doing crafts or decorating activities. Create a touch of spring by making brightly colored flowers, butterflies and caterpillars from craft foam and pipe cleaners. Give each child a plain terra cotta pot and some paints to make a one-of-a-kind planter for their foam and pipe cleaner flowers. Use the time to add new decor touches to the kids’ rooms: Give each a plain wooden picture frame to decorate with markers, paints, stickers or by gluing on faux gems, shells or buttons. Help them put a favorite drawing or picture in their frames and hang their masterpieces.

Cooking Classes

Turn the kitchen into a mock classroom and teach the kids how to make cookies or a favorite dinner recipe. Help them pick out which recipe to try and gather the necessary ingredients. Let the older kids do the measuring and pouring while the younger children have fun — and get a little messy — doing the mixing. Make several different dishes, if time — and your patience — permits. When the food is cooking, let the kids make miniature menus, listing the items they’ve prepared, and put them by each family member’s place at the dinner table. Enjoy the results of their efforts at a satisfying family lunch or dinner.

http://www.StLouisByGina.com   636-229-8746   The Gina Koerner Team

January home-maintenance checklist

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By Marilyn Lewis

The dead of winter is the time for the greatest vigilance in your home-maintenance routine. The most important job this month is to head off damage to your home from water and dampness from a number of sources:

Groundwater and rain seeping into your home.

Leaky pipes inside the walls.

Pipes bursting from freezing and thawing.

Take a tour
After a winter storm, get outside as soon as you can. Walk around the house, checking for damage from wind and broken tree limbs. Use binoculars if you can’t see your entire roof. Scan for loose or missing shingles.

Give special attention to vulnerable pipes — indoors and out — that are exposed to the cold, including hose bibs, pipes in outside walls, garden sprinkler lines, swimming pool pipes and pipes in unheated attics, basements and garages. A frozen pipe needs only a one-eighth-inch crack to leak as much as 250 gallons a day.

Take these steps to safeguard against damage from frozen and bursting pipes:

  1. If practical, insulate any pipes exposed to the cold. Ask hardware-store personnel for the best materials for the job.
  2. Seal any leaks that are letting cold air in, especially around dryer vents and pipes and where electrical wiring enters the house.
  3. Search for uninsulated water supply lines in the attic, garage, basement and crawl spaces and in bathroom and kitchen cabinets adjacent to outside walls. During a cold spell, open cupboard doors in the kitchen and bathroom so the home’s heat can reach them. (Reminder: Put harmful household cleaners out of the reach of children.) Keep doors shut tight in the garage and outside closets and cupboards during freezing weather.
  4. When temperatures drop below zero, open both hot and cold faucets a trickle to relieve pressure in the pipes.
  5. Locate your home’s water shut-off valve; learn how to turn off the water quickly in case a pipe bursts.
  6. If you’ll be gone in freezing weather, even overnight, ask a friend or neighbor to check on your house for broken or leaking pipes. Show him or her how to shut off the water.
  7. Keep temperatures inside the house at 55 degrees Fahrenheit or above, night and day, even when you’re gone.
  8. Promise yourself that when the weather improves you will add to the installation in the basement or crawl space and attic.

Leak prevention

  • Install small, battery-powered individual leak alarms, also called flood alarms, under the refrigerator, kitchen and bathroom drain pipes, dishwasher and laundry appliances and behind toilets. Cost: around $10-$15 each.
  • Check to make sure your sump pump is operating properly. If it has a battery backup, unplug the pump from the wall and test it.

Look for pests seeking shelter
Cold weather drives mice and insects into the walls of your home. Even unheated parts of the house invite these pests. Insects need only a crack to enter, and mice can get in through a dime-sized hole. Houseflies, particularly, pose a health risk because they can transmit disease.

  • Seal any cracks where pests enter.
  • Empty compost and garbage frequently.
  • Keep food covered and put away; keep counters clean.
  • Fix leaky pipes quickly.
  • Pour boiling water down bathroom and kitchen drains monthly, preventing the buildup of bacteria-laden sludge; scrub removable drain covers weekly.
  • Check basement, attic, crawl spaces and the back of cupboards and cabinets for mice droppings or holes. If you find evidence, install traps immediately or call a pest-control service.
  • Pick up and dispose of outdoor pet waste promptly; turn compost piles frequently.

Make an inventory

While you are putting away holiday gifts, seize the opportunity to make a quick home inventory.

An inventory is a record of your home’s features, conditions, furnishings and valuable possessions. If your home is damaged or destroyed by fire, flood, mudslide or other disaster, you can use the inventory to substantiate your insurance claim to get the maximum replacement value for what was lost.

Your inventory doesn’t have to be fancy. You can get started and add to it later. Supplement your record with photos or video. The Insurance Information Institute has free software for making a room-by-room home inventory.

Tips:

  • Save receipts for valuable home purchases and for work you have done to upgrade the interior or exterior of your home.
  • Keep a copy of your inventory in a bank safe-deposit box or on a hosted server online, so you can get it even if your computer is destroyed.

Also …
Here are a few more winter tasks:

  1. Check the labels on the switches in your electrical circuit-breaker panel and make new labels if necessary.
  2. Check your furnace filter monthly in the winter to see if it needs replacing.
  3. Use a vacuum-cleaner tool or a long-handled brush to clean under and behind the refrigerator, including the coils.
  4. Clean lint from under laundry appliances, especially the dryer, carefully work the cleaning tool down into the lint filter; outdoors, clean the dryer vent outlet, reaching as far as possible into the pipe.
  5. Gather product documents and warranties into a folder. Go through the contents and discard outdated materials.
  6. Walk around inside the house with a screwdriver, pencil and paper. Tighten any loose knobs and attachments and list repairs to tackle later.
  7. Examine the ducts of your forced-air furnace and seal any leaks with duct tape.

http/:www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-299-8746   The Gina Koerner Team

How to Stop Emotional Eating and Spending

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By Michele Lerner

Stress can drive people to do self-destructive things … such as using “retail therapy” as a distraction or grabbing some Ben & Jerry’s to lift the mood. Whether your emotions drive you to overeat or overspend, there are strategies to eliminate the connection between your feelings and behavior you know is bad for your wallet or your waistline.

It’s all about learning self-discipline, say Ellie Kay and Danna Demetre, co-authors of “Lean Body Fat Wallet.”Doing so transforms your mind-set to the point where your internal motivation to do the right thing becomes natural.

Getting to that point — the point where you “realize that you don’t need to eat or spend money to feel good about yourself” — begins with thinking about why you overeat or overspend, Kay says. “For example, I’ve worked with military families that have a high level of debt. Some of them spend too much money just to comfort themselves when a family member is deployed.”

Breaking that habit — snipping the connection between your emotions and your bad habits — is the goal of the strategy that Kay and Demetre developed.

The 3D Strategy

The 3 D’s are: determine, distract and delay.

Kay describes the 3 Ds in action: “If you go to the mall and just buy the shoes your son needs, you start out determined not to buy anything you don’t need,” she says “Then you see some amazing Jimmy Choo shoes in the window that are on sale, but you know they’re not in your budget.So you distract yourself by going to the other store and buying your son’s shoes. Then you delay by promising yourself that you’ll come back in a week or two if you can find money in your budget to buy those shoes. Chances are you won’t be back.”

Demetre suggests starting with a 10-minute delay before eating anything or buying anything, just to exercise your discipline. During that 10 minutes, ask yourself, “Why do I want this?” “If it’s immediate gratification, you may have buyer’s remorse,” Demetre says. “Whatever you’re about to do, think about your quality of life, your health, or maybe your retirement and the impact your action will have on it.”

Wallet Wake-Up Calls

The “waiting period” approach is a popular strategy for building discipline.

Linda Rudnick-Smith, a credit counselor with ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions in Syracuse, N.Y., also recommends waiting before making any purchase to make sure you really need it. But the waiting period she recommends is 24 hours.

“Leave the credit cards at home, so when you want to spontaneously buy something you have to go back home to get them,” Rudnick-Smith says. She even recommends a more extreme measure: “Try freezing the credit cards in ice, so you have to chip away or melt it to get at them.”

Regular reminders about the ramifications of overspending are another strategy to help people stay on track.

Sherry Tetreault, a credit counselor with ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions in Clarksville, Tenn., says she worked with a client who went shopping when she got depressed, and often became so caught up in her retail therapy that she spent way beyond her means.

“During our conversation we determined that her children were the most important things in her life and that as a single parent she would do anything to take care of them,” says Tetreault. “She said she never wanted to see them dealing with the financial struggles she was dealing with. I suggested that she buy a key ring that had a picture holder on it and place a picture of her children in it. That way every time she pulled out her keys to go shopping, she would see their picture and it would remind her that she had to stick with her goals and priorities. Later, during a follow-up with the client, she said this really worked for her as it gave her an immediate wake-up call.”

Tetreault says the same strategy worked with a woman who was terrified that she would lose her husband if he found out about how much debt she had accrued from her shopping addiction. She advised the woman to remove all credit cards from her wallet and put them in a safe place with his photo on top.

“I also suggested that she place his picture in her wallet,” says Tetreault. “This way, every time she started to use a credit card or even open her wallet to pay with cash, she would see his picture.”

The Communal Approach

Strategies that work in weight-loss can be adopted for those trying to trim their spending, too.

The most successful weight-loss programs, such as Weight Watchers, exercise a community approach for accountability, says Kay.

“You can set up your own club with friends or coworkers about whatever you’re struggling with, whether it’s losing weight or getting rid of credit card debt,” says Kay. “If you’re not comfortable sharing your financial situation with a group, then you either share just a small part of it that you feel safe sharing or you can make yourself accountable to one friend.”

A debt-management plan is another way to incorporate accountability — and built-in restrictions — into your routine. One reason clients are successful in repaying debt and getting a “fresh start” through a debt management plan is that the accounts they enroll in the program are closed, says Thomas Nitzsche, a former credit counselor and senior media relations coordinator for ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions in St. Louis.

“Clients are instructed that opening new lines of credit during repayment could result in some creditors dropping them from the program and increasing their interest rates and payments,” says Nitzsche. “Clients are only allowed one credit card in good standing and with a manageable balance to be left out of the program.”

Make the Wealth-Health Connection

Whether you struggle with overspending or overeating, it’s important to create balance in your life.

Guy Penn, principal and founder of G.M. Penn Wealth Management in St. Louis, says the most important investment you’ll ever make in your life has nothing to do with money.

“Invest in your own well-being,” says Penn. “Eat well, make time for meaningful leisure, cultivate your relationships, and eliminate stressors. A sizable investment portfolio means very little if you’re sacrificing your own health to achieve it.”

http://www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-229-8746   The Gina Koerner Team

7 Fun and Cheap Winter Dates

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By Kristin Koch

DON’T LET POST-HOLIDAY BILLS AND BONE-CHILLING TEMPS TURN DATE NIGHT INTO A BORE. TRY ONE OF THESE WALLET- AND WEATHER-FRIENDLY IDEAS THIS WEEKEND!

1. Fire it up
If you’re going to stay in on Saturday night, do it right. Open a bottle of wine, and whip up a warm, hearty meal together. Need some ideas? Check out our collections of recipes for just about everything, including plenty of comfort food.

2. Act like kids
Get your blood pumping by squishing together on a sled designed for someone half your size and zooming down a hill. Bonus points if you can manage to crash into your neighbor’s snowman.

3. Ice dance 
Remember the good old days of gliding around the rink, holding hands with your crush? No? Well, then it’s time to experience it! Head to your local skating rink (and do your best not to fall). Some relationship experts say that fun is one of the best aphrodisiacs (not to mention that rubbing each other’s sore butts afterward could be kinda hot).

4. Catch a show
For a nice break from the old dinner-and-a-movie winter standby, head to the theater to check out a play. If you live in a major city, you can look for discounted tickets at LastMinute.com or TheaterMania.com. If you don’t mind taking your chances and waiting a bit, many theaters sell seriously reduced tickets for empty seats on the day of the show. Or, forget Broadway (or the overpriced equivalent) altogether and support your local community theater. You might be surprised by how good it actually is.

5. Make over movie night
Make a standard movie night a little more interesting by adding a theme to the mix: favorite movie couple, favorite movie that’s so bad it’s good, scariest flicks ever made…you get the idea. Each of you picks your top contender, and then you can flip for whose flick goes first. Bonus: You might learn something new (good or bad!) about your partner.

6. Go for the gold 
A little competition can be a big turn-on. The good news is you don’t even have to leave your warm and cozy home: Hook up the Wii (or PlayStation) and challenge your partner to a game of Rock Band, Grand Slam Tennis or Flight Control. Grab a controller and go at it. (Hey, we’re talking about the game here — dirty mind!) Loser has to warm up the car in the morning — for a week!

7. Get nostalgic
Learn a bit more about each other by playing the songs you loved throughout your life. Take turns sharing stories about what memories they bring up — like the eighth grade dance or your first concert. You’ll learn more about each other and revisit some favorite (or perhaps some “What was I thinking?”) tunes.

http://www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   #636-229-8746   The Gina Koerner Team

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