10 Numbers That Will Revolutionize Your Budget

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By Dave Ramsey

We’re here to talk numbers. Wait! Come back!

These aren’t chalkboard-squeaking, SAT-sweating, pencil-breaking numbers. These are fun numbers. You know the ones that show themselves on bills and bank accounts, the ones that make you wealthy. These are the numbers of the budget.

For 20 years, Dave’s class Financial Peace University (FPU) has taught families how to win with money by laying a solid foundation, which is—you guessed it—a budget! The 10 numbers below prove that even the most free-spirited among us can benefit from a little focus on the numbers each month.

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1 – One piece of paper is all you need to make a budget. Forget the fancy spreadsheets and scientific calculators—you just need space to write everything out. Of course, if you’re a nerd and it makes you feel better, go ahead and fire up Excel or print one of Dave’s budget forms to get as detailed as you’d like.

$8,000 – Families who learn to budget in FPU report an average turnaround of $8,000 in the first 90 days. This represents $5,300 reduction in debt and $2,700 saved. Think about where you were at just three months ago. Wouldn’t it feel nice to be $8,000 ahead today?

56% – We talk about budgeting all the time, so it might sound like it’s what all the cool kids are doing. It’s not. In fact, 56% of Americans admit they don’t budget. Many of them don’t even know what they spend each month on housing, food and entertainment. Don’t be like these folks. Be weird!

0 – A zero-based budget is the key to winning with money. Give every dollar a name, on paper, on purpose before the month begins. This means your income minus your expenses should equal zero. Take control of your money by telling it what to do!

15% — Studies show people spend 15% more money when they pay with a card instead of cash. Identify budget categories where you tend to overspend. Then make a cash withdrawal for those areas and place the money in the envelope. When it’s gone, it’s gone!

3 – A kid’s budget is broken into three areas: give, save and spend. Budgeting helps kids understand the value of work and how to use their own money to make purchases and bless others. It also teaches kids to be content—a refreshing quality in today’s youth.

20 billion – The turnaround tracker is at 20 billion and counting. More than 2.5 million families have taken FPU since it launched in 1994. The tracker is a real-time calculation of the estimated turnaround that occurs each time another family signs up for FPU. While you’ve been reading this, another family likely paid off their car loan and saved $1,000!

18% – Families who use the zero-based budget save 18% more money than people who don’t. This means they’ll build an up emergency fund and pay off debt more quickly simply because they’re applying the wisdom of giving every dollar a name. If you’re smart, you do what works.

4 – The first time you budget, it’s going to hurt. The next month, you’ll still be confused. By the third month, your needs—and the ability to meet those needs— will finally start to make sense. By month four, you’ll feel like an old pro. What once took hours will eventually take just twenty minutes and might—just might—be a little fun.

312 – Dave and Sharon Ramsey filed for bankruptcy in September 1988. As a result, they made big changes to how they handled their money. Dave and Sharon began budgeting immediately and the budgeting continues today. They’ve completed 312 budgets so far. Yes , Dave and Sharon still complete a budget each month—and that means you should too.

Budgeting really is the secret to winning with money.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

1st Annual St. Louis World’s Fair Heritage Festival and Games

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DATE: Friday, September 12, 2014 until Sunday, September 14, 2014

VENUE: Forest Park

CATEGORY: Annual Events

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Experience this unique celebration of St. Louis history, present, and future as the magical energy of the 1904 World’s Fair is rekindled. This all “Green” free event will take you on a journey from 1904 historic exhibits, educational displays and reenactments, to live musical performances of current national and local recording artists, to a look into future technologies and innovations of regional national businesses. 4:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. (12); 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 pm.. (13); 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (14) http://www.stlworldsfare.com

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

A Busy Parent’s Primer to Conquering Clutter and Selling Your Home

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By Dawn Kirkland

Life with kids is hectic on a normal day. There’s oatmeal in your hair, a soccer jersey on the fan and crayon on the wall—and you haven’t even finished your first cup of coffee. To top it off, you just stepped on your umpteenth Lego of the morning (ouch!).

In the midst of it all, you have a home to sell. It’s you versus the clutter, and right now, the clutter is winning. You’re beginning to wonder if it’s possible to get it sold without selling the kids first.

We’ve got good news: You can keep your kids and your sanity! Go from chaos to calm with these simple steps.

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Send ‘Em Packing

The mountains of stuff, that is! It’s time to bust through the mess and make some decisions so your knickknacks don’t crowd buyers out. Feeling overwhelmed? Simply shift your mindset.

“Act like you’re going to move!” Dawn suggests. “Sit down on your sofa and make a list. Take it one job, one closet, one room at a time. Set a specific goal every day.”

It’s okay if the goal is small as long as it’s attainable. For instance, tell yourself you won’t go to bed until you’ve cleaned out one shelf of the linen closet. If you knock out two shelves—or the whole closet—before the day is done, more power to you!

Of course, sorting through a stack of towels can seem easy-breezy compared to Mount Mini-Me. But don’t let it intimidate you. Dawn offers a few painless pointers for conquering kid clutter:

—Ask Junior to pick a handful of favorite toys and books to keep in his room. (Reassure him the others won’t be gone forever!)

—Store extras in clear plastic bins in the garage or attic. Rotate toys out every few weeks.

—Place a basket in the living room so containing toys in a hurry is a piece of cake.

Engage Your Kids

Want to know a surefire way to make your job easier? Dawn says get the kids involved! It’s a great opportunity to teach them the value of hard work, and kids love contributing something important to the family.

Don’t know where to start? Try these kid-tested ideas on for size:

—Dangle a carrot. Promise your kids a surprise for being happy helpers. You don’t have to spend a lot to make it special. A day at the park with you is worth more than money can buy!

—Say thanks. If your kids do a great job, recognize their efforts with a handwritten thank-you note. This small gesture can build big motivation.

—Run drills. Assign each kid a job and practice getting your home show-ready. Up the fun by breaking into teams and racing to beat each other’s times.

—Show them the money. Give your kids the opportunity to earn bonus bucks by taking on extra jobs to help keep your home in peak condition.

Give Yourself Grace

Some mornings, it’s just not possible to get out the door with everything in its proper place. If you get a surprise call to schedule a showing before you can rush home to clean the dishes, don’t panic and miss an opportunity to get the right buyer into your home.

“Tell the agent what happened so they can prepare the buyer ahead of time,”Dawn advises. Buyers can often overlook a minor mess if they know what to expect before walking through your door.

And remember, just because your home is on the market doesn’t mean you have to erase every shred of evidence that it’s inhabited by humans.

“You’re still paying the mortgage and insurance—it’s okay to live there!” Dawn said.

Do your best to keep it neat and clean, but don’t turn it into a museum. Leaving a few traces of family life enables prospective buyers to believe their family could live there too.

Hand Your Worries Over to a Pro

Juggling family responsibilities is hard enough without a For Sale sign in the yard. Let a real estate agent guide you through your list of to-dos so you don’t feel overwhelmed. A true pro understands the power of positive encouragement but isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves to get the job done.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

7 products on deep discount in September

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Hurry up and grab these discounts! We’ve found seven products that are at their lowest prices in September, including gas grills. Our market research experts keep track of price fluctuations, and can spot what’s on sale all year long. This month you’ll be able to take advantage of some great sales for the whole family.

A couple of caveats: There will always be exceptions. Stores in your neighborhood could find they’re overstocked on an item at any time and put it on sale, for example. So keep an eye on Sunday circulars, text alerts, and social media for price cuts in your area. And bear in mind that the best time to save money isn’t always when you’ll find the best selection. Sales on some items occur when a season is coming to an end and inventories are thin.

Summer may be at an end–which explains why you’re likely to see big sales on bikes–but there are still months to take spins in many parts of the country.

Shopping tips

Find a good bicycle shop. You’ll probably pay more, but we think you’re more likely to be satisfied. Bikes from big-box stores might not be properly assembled or well matched to your body. If you don’t like the pedals or seat on a particular model, some bike shops will swap components at little or no cost.

Consider spending a few extra dollars. More money buys a lightweight frame made of carbon fiber, aluminum (or a combination of both materials), or high-strength steel and other high-quality components. But you can still buy a good bike for just a few hundred dollars.

Whether you’re looking for a basic digital camera (simple point-and-shoots with just the features needed for routine shots), or an advanced model (feature-laden cameras that include sophisticated models that let you change lenses), now is a good time to shop.

Shopping tips

Do your research. Buying a digital camera can be confusing. There are hundreds of cameras available at many different types of retail outlets (online and in traditional stores), with prices ranging from $75 to several thousand dollars. Some cameras are small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. Others are large and can weigh up to two pounds. Some are easy to use. Others look like you need an engineering degree to operate them.
 
Take the next steps. After you consider the type of camera you want and the number of megapixels you need, but before you dive into specific models, be sure to check out our brand profiles, which outline many of the most popular camera product lines and their respective character traits.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to get great-tasting burgers, steaks, and chicken at your next barbecue–especially this month. Our tests have shown that many lower-priced gas grills now have at least some stainless-steel trim, side burners for side dishes, and other perks once found only on the priciest grills.

Shopping tips

Give it a push. The more stable the grill, the better. Gently push the grill from several angles to see if it tips. Check the cart, firebox, lid, and shelves for sharp corners and edges.

Grip the handle. Your knuckles or fingers shouldn’t be too close to the lid or your hand could get burned. And while some flaring is normal, typically the greater the distance between the grates and burners or flavorizer bars, the fewer the sustained flare-ups.

While you’re checking out the great deals on mowers this month, read our buying guide to decide which type of mower fits your needs; subscribers can find our recommended models in each category in our Ratings.

Shopping tips

Don’t be swayed by numbers. Our latest tests confirm that more horsepower doesn’t necessarily mean higher-quality mowing. Mower manufacturers have swapped horsepower numbers for engine-size and torque specifications, but even those don’t guarantee better results.

Consider your lawn. A gas or electric push mower is fine for a small lawn. But you’ll probably prefer a self-propelled gas model for slopes and a lawn tractor for a lawn one-half acre or larger.

Early fall is a good time to buy many small consumer electronics such as MP3 players, DVD players, and Blu-ray players. As with many items you buy, deciding which ones are right for you depends on which type fit your needs and come with features that are important to you.

Shopping tips

Give them a try. For example, whichever type of MP3 player you choose, make sure you’ll be comfortable using the device. Look for a display that is easy to read and controls that can be worked with one hand, useful features iPods lack. When it comes to home theaters, audition systems in the store and ask about a return or exchange if the one you buy doesn’t suit you.

Consider online retailers, too. In recent years, the Consumer Reports readers we’ve surveyed who shopped online were more satisfied overall than those who shopped at a walk-in store. In fact, websites as a whole outdid walk-in stores for quality, selection, and price.

Many sales started on snow blowers last month, but prices will still be low in September. So if you couldn’t bear to think about the white stuff piling up on your driveway in August, there’s still time to get a great deal.

Shopping tips

Don’t fall for sales pitches. Manufacturers and retailers also push bigger engines—typically expressed in cubic centimeters of piston displacement (ccs)—and wider clearing swaths. But as our Ratings show, size isn’t everything when it comes to snow blowers. Some smaller machines can out-clear and out-throw the big boys for less money.

Look for important features. For example, it’s a good idea to check out floor samples. Make sure you’re comfortable with the height of the handle and with the chute adjustment. Look for a critical safety feature that stops the spinning auger or impeller when you release the handlebar grips.

September is a great time to fill in neglected parts of your yard. Trees, shrubs, flowers, and other plants will be discounted at your local garden centers.

Planting tips

Time it right. For cooler regions, planting now through the end of October gives most plants a head start in the spring, since roots will grow in still-warm soil long after air temperatures drop. Where winters are mild, the fall planting season extends into winter. Be sure to soak the root ball thoroughly at least weekly if the weather is dry in your area. In the frigid North, apply mulch after the soil freezes to prevent the soil around plants from thawing and refreezing, which can damage tender new roots.

Measure the depth. Large bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips, should be planted about 8 inches deep, and smaller bulbs, such as crocus, about 5 inches deep. If you’re combining them with other bulbs, figure on two to three daffodil and tulip bulbs (full-size varieties) per square foot. For smaller bulbs, plant three to five per square foot—twice as many for a solid bed of color.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

21st Annual Saint Louis Art Fair

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DATE: Friday, September 5, 2014 until Sunday, September 7, 2014

VENUE: Downtown Clayton, Missouri

CATEGORY: Annual Events

Saint Louis Art Fair in Clayton, Missouri on September 7, 2008.

Visual artists from across the nation exhibit an unprecedented selection of the highest quality, original works of art along with three stages of entertainment, educational hands-on activities for children, culinary treats from St. Louis’ finest restaurants and much more. 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. (5), 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (6), 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (7) http://www.culturalfestivals.com/, (314) 863-0278

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Top 3 Tips for Home Sellers

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When preparing your home for sale, a number of simple cosmetic changes often provide the biggest return on investment. Here are three tips to upgrade your house without breaking the bank:

  • Bring in the light. The right light creates the right mood. Adding lights to dark rooms can make your home feel warm and inviting. Bring outdoor light inside by opening curtains and installing economical suntubes.

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  • Create Space. Many of today’s buyers are looking for open rooms. Consider removing unwanted walls to make your home feel more spacious. Buyers will often pay a premium to get a bit of extra room.

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  • Replace Flooring. Get rid of that old carpet in the den and replace it with today’s newer hardwoods and laminates. You don’t have to spend a lot to make a big impression!

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These simple tips can help you sell your home and take advantage of today’s market. Please contact us if you have any questions about selling your home. We are here to help!

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

EXISTING HOME SALES ON RISE

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Increased inventory levels in June helped push existing-home sales to their highest levels since October 2013, according to a recent report by the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). Existing-home sales, which include recently purchased single family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops rose 2.6 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted 5.04 million units for the year.

Existing Home Sales By Region

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun believes the market is moving in the right direction. “Inventories are at their highest level in over a year and price gains have slowed to much more welcoming levels in many parts of the country. This bodes well for rising home sales in the upcoming months as consumers are provided with more choices,” he said. “On the contrary, new home construction needs to rise by at least 50 percent for a complete return to a balanced market because supply shortages – particularly in the West – are still putting upward pressure on prices.”

Nationally, total housing inventory increased 2.2 percent during June to 2.3 million units. The median time for homes to sell was 44 days in June, down from 47 days in May. Forty-two percent of June home sales were on the market for less than a month.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Tips for Sticking to Your Budget: Getting Clothes Shopping Under Control

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By Erin Roberts

Sometimes getting a bargain isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There are tons of tips out there for getting a deal on your clothes shopping — shop off season for coats and swimsuits, swing by the store on a Wednesday morning to scope out the new markdowns, use the department store’s extra percentage off coupon, etc. Sure, these are great tips for saving money when you buy clothing, but not particularly helpful if you’re buying up the deals willy-nilly without an eye to how these items fit into your life. I’m all for saving money, but sometimes shopping smart, and for the right items, is more of a savings than any trick for getting a bargain.

Here’s my strategy for thoughtful shopping and putting an end to my own bargain-hunting, over-buying ways.

  • Evaluate what you have. Pull everything out of your closet and drawers and spend an afternoon playing dress up. Do you really wear all of these items? Donate anything that doesn’t fit, or that simply doesn’t suit you any longer, and separate out anything that’s in need of repairs for a future trip to the tailor.
  • Identify your “basics”. We’ve all seen lists over the years which claim every wardrobe needs a foundation of basics like a white button down, a blue button down, a black dress, a pair of black pants, and so on. It’s a great idea, but everyone’s “basics” are going to be different. Whether it’s jeans and striped t-shirts or pencil skirts and button downs, or even floral dresses and bright blazers, determine what items you wear day after day, and invest in high-quality versions of these items.
  • Make a list. I carry a list in my wallet of clothing items that my wardrobe is lacking and allow myself to buy anything from the list at any time. These are typically items that are replacing older “basic” garments in my wardrobe that have either worn out or no longer suit my style. Right now my list consists of thin black pants (I’ve been without black pants for over a year, I can’t seem to find any I like!), non-skinny jeans, a white t-shirt that is not transparent, tan heels, white tennis shoes, and a dark color knit dress. I keep this list with me to remind myself when I’m out that these are items that I decided I needed while at home, actually looking at my wardrobe. There is a reason these items are on my list and a tangerine silk cocktail dress for an as yet unknown event is not.
  • Allow for fun purchases. Set a limit for yourself of how many fun, non-basic items you’re allowed to buy. I tend to allow myself 2-3 non-basic purchases for each season (summer/winter), but I don’t invest the same kind of money in these purchases as in my basics. While I love the new floral sundress I purchased last month, I am simply not going to wear it with the same frequency as my basic navy shift.
  • Follow the “one in, one out” rule. Full disclosure, I hate this rule, I hate it with fiery passion, but it’s a good one and I try to force myself to stick to it. Whenever you buy something new, something old needs to go. This is easy when you’re buying replacement basics from your list, but a bit harder when one of your fun purchases means getting rid of something that isn’t directly being replaced. I certainly struggle with this rule, but I try to follow it at least 80% of the time. I have to admit that the idea of having to get rid of something has stopped me from making a purchase more than once!

What are your tried and true tips for getting the most out of your clothing budget?

The Gina Koerner Team   www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-229-8746   “Changing Lives… One Home at a Time”

Our Future Entrepreneurs

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By CNN Money

Lizzie Marie Likness
Company: Lizzie Marie Cuisine
Age: 11

An aspiring chef since age 2, Lizzie Marie Likness is well on her way to becoming the next generation’s Rachael Ray.

At age 6, Lizzie Marie Likness yearned to take horseback riding lessons. She wanted them so badly that she offered to help foot part of the bill.

When her parents asked where she would get the money, she replied,”I’ll sell healthy homemade baked goods at the local farmer’s market.” From that moment on, Lizzie became the founder of Lizzie Marie Cuisine.

”Lizzie Marie Cuisine is unique because I teach kids how to have fun cooking healthy meals and how to live healthy,” said Likness. “My company teaches people that it’s not all about eating healthy, it’s also about living healthy.”

A few short years later, word about her original recipes and ability to empower young people had spread beyond her local community. She soon began receiving invitations to demonstrate her cooking prowess alongside celebrity chefs at major live events, such as Taste of Atlanta.

She also was asked to become a spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s ”Go Red For Women,” campaign, and the Atlanta Falcons’s ”First Down For Fitness Program.” She also has appeared as a guest on the ”Rachael Ray Show.”

Today, Likness is the star of the WebMD Fit Channel’s series, ”Healthy Cooking with Lizzie.” She also just signed a branded entertainment and TV development deal with N.Y.-based production company, DBG, and global digital marketing agency, Digitas.

The mini-preneur, who hails from Georgia, expects to launch a series of healthy cooking cookbooks, packaged food products, and new digital media shows in the near future.

Her best advice: ”The greatest reward is doing what you love for the good of others.”

The Gina Koerner Team   www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-229-8746   “Changing Lives… One Home at a Time”

July Special Expenses: Don’t Blow Your Budget

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By Dave Ramsey

Making a rock-solid budget is key to getting out of debt and saving money. But just like Independence Day—which comes at the same time each year—there are always expenses that pop up regularly to blow your budget like a big fireworks finale.

This year, be ready. Go ahead and work special expenses into your July budget now and don’t get stuck picking up the pieces in August.

Cookouts: The mother of all cookouts is your Fourth of July party. After all, it’s the day the country was built around! So if you’re planning on putting some boom in the sky, put some money in your budget.

Pest Control: In case you haven’t noticed, the bugs are out—from giant mosquitos to ants by the dozen. Now is the time to schedule your next visit from the exterminator. And heads up, he usually doesn’t work for free.

Vacation Extras: You’ve planned your vacation, but maybe you forgot about all those little extras like parking, tipping and rent-by-the-hour beach chairs. Factor in the fees now so they don’t take away from the fun stuff later.

Wedding Gifts: Before you RSVP to that next wedding celebration, make room in your budget for a special guest named George Foreman and his great line of kitchen appliances. Showing up without a gift is typically frowned upon.

Camps and Mission Trips: It’s great that your kids are getting away to serve and grow, but it’s not free. From bug spray to shower shoes, there’s plenty more to buy. And don’t forget their pocket money!

Pet Boarding: Hiring a pet sitter or boarding your animal isn’t a cheap endeavor. Make sure your four-legged family member has a safe and trustworthy caretaker while you’re away.

Houseguests: It’s fun to be with your family during the summer—until they eat you out of house and home. If your in-laws or cousins are planning a visit, be sure to beef up the grocery and entertainment budgets now.

Sweet Splurges: It’s way too easy to drop $20 at the gourmet yogurt or ice cream shop. Multiply that by two outings per week, and bye-bye food budget (and waistline)! Treats are fine, but not every night.

The point is this: Spending just a few minutes looking ahead to the next month can save you money and peace of mind. So take a moment to decide what else needs adding to your July budget. Then stick to it!

It’s time well spent, and the results might just, well, blow you away.

The Gina Koerner Team   www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-229-8746   “Changing Lives… One Home at a Time”

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