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Week of May 15

 

Friday, May 19, 2006

Top 10 Things You Can Do to Stay Out of the Mall on Saturday

 

            Here are some diversionary tactics to keep you from spending money this weekend:

 

1. Do some vicarious window-shopping on the Web. Go ahead—fill up those “shopping carts.” Just be sure to log off BEFORE you click “process order.”

 

2. Clean your closet. You may find some forgotten treasures.

 

3. Get out the crayons and design some play money with your kids. Ask them: Whose face would you put on the $20 bill?  

 

4. Hold a Preakness Party, and place imaginary bets on your favorite horses to win, place or show.

 

5.  Go to a museum, and decide which piece of art you’d buy if you were a multimillionaire. .

 

6. Take a long walk to help you lose the lbs. you’ve gained over the winter. Think of the money you’ll save if you can still fit into last summer’s shorts, swimsuits and sundresses.

 

7. Plant a garden—even if it’s just a windowsill garden. Cultivate a green thumb and maybe your bank account will grow, too.

 

8. Go to a flea market and search for bargains—or rent a table and sell some of your clutter.

 

9. Add up all the unpaid balances on your credit cards and organize them by interest rate, highest to lowest. Plan to increase your payments on the highest one each month until it’s paid off; then start on the next, and so on down the line.

 

10. Attend some open houses, and start dreaming about owning your own home. Then calculate how much longer it will take to save up a down payment. Now aren’t you glad you didn’t go to the mall?

 

Prosper & enjoy,

Gail Harlow

 

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

What’s on Your Grocery List?

 

            I’m often asked why I chose to name this women’s finance magazine Making Bread. For me, the title doesn’t need any explanation. “Making Bread” was the first thing that came to mind when I dreamed up the idea for the magazine, and I went with my gut instinct. (Perhaps I was hungry at the time.)

            Thinking about it now, in hindsight, I can clearly see the connections that my mind followed to arrive at that title. For centuries, women, primo nurturers that we are, baked bread (after sowing and harvesting the wheat and grinding it into flour) to nourish our families. In some parts of the world, women still do that. Today, we’re more likely to stop at the supermarket on our way home from work to pick up a loaf—pausing briefly to choose between Wonder Bread or the unsliced, crunchy kind. These days, we nurture our families by bringing home the bread to buy the bread to feed our loved ones. And, sometimes, on weekends when we have the time, we still knead the dough and bake a fresh loaf, serving it piping hot from the oven, to prove that we haven’t lost our touch.

             Lately, I’ve been getting extreme pleasure from shopping for fresh food at the supermarket. The colors, the shapes, the smells of fruits and vegetables, the astonishing array of choice that assaults my senses when I walk into my local Super Fresh always take my breath away. Now that I’ve shuttered Making Bread for lack of dough and have more time on my hands, I’ve rediscovered the joy of cooking. Shopping for food is the most fun I’ve had spending money in a long time. But I’m also aware that the choices I make as I walk the aisles—Am I buying local, organically raised produce or agribiz products? Was the food grown here or abroad?—will affect how much money other women in other towns and countries have to put food on the table for their families. Make no mistake: food, or more specifically the food chain, has economic, political and social roots and seeds.

            Michael Pollan, author of the best-selling “The Botany of Desire,” who writes the deliciously thoughtful  “On the Table blog for The New York Times, urges us to take our food seriously. Think about where the food you put on your table comes from. “Vote with your forks,” he says. As nurturers, we are responsible for an extended (global) family, and in the midst of all the apparent bounty we see in our stores today, there is danger of starving the planet with the choices we make. What’s on your grocery list?

 

Prosper & enjoy,

Gail Harlow

 

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Avoiding Post-Collegiate Stress Syndrome

 

            "In a funny way, at this moment in time, we're all in the same boat. We're about to step out into the unknown ... Like you, I'm about to leave my comfort zone and step into something completely undiscovered.”

            That’s what Today show co-anchor and soon-to-be CBS News anchor Katie Couric told University of Oklahoma graduates last week in her commencement speech to them.  Her cure for post-collegiate stress syndrome: spunk, persistence and the ability to “stay connected to friends and family.” Add to that wise money management, starting with your first paycheck, and you’ll build yourself a true comfort zone: the ability to take chances when you want to—or need to. Money buys you freedom of choice and freedom from worry. Couric may be stepping into the unknown in terms of her career, but her reported five-year, $14 million salary, plus bonuses and stock options, puts her in a very comfortable “zone.”

            The best graduation gift any parent can give sons and daughters about to embark on their first job is a visit to a financial planner to learn the basics of saving, investing and money management. To locate an affordable financial planner, check out the Garrett Planning Network (www.garrettplanningnetwork.com) of financial planners who charge by the hour.

            Start saving with that first paycheck, and you could be a multimillionaire by the time you’re ready to retire. Financial expert David Bach suggests that we all set aside a minimum of one hour’s salary every day. Work that first hour for yourself, and you won’t feel like a corporate slave but the CEO of a corporation called YOU. Set up a direct deposit into your savings account with every paycheck, and you won’t even miss the dough. Really! Look at it as a bill from your future self to your current self, and pay that bill first. Your future self will thank you.

 

Prosper & enjoy,

Gail Harlow

 

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Be Calculating Women!

           

            Looking for inspiration to help you save mo’ money? There’s no better motivation than a savings calculator to show you how fast a little pile of dough can grow, given the “yeast” of compound interest. Try the calculators on the following sites to see how much you need to put away every month if you want to have a million by retirement, enough to pay for college, or whatever other goal you might have your mind (or heart) set on. The MyFico calculator (sixth in the list) offers dramatic evidence of how much money a higher credit score can save you when you borrow money:

 

            http://www.bankrate.com/brm/calc/savecalc.asp

            http://finaid.org/calculators/

            http://moneycentral.msn.com/investor/calcs/n_savapp/main.asp

            http://www.dinkytown.net/savings.html

            http://home.ingdirect.com/privacy/privacy.asp?s=Calculators

            http://www.myfico.com/myfico/CreditCentral/LoanRates.asp

 

            Lori, a Fresh Bread Money Blog reader, wrote in today, asking about the ING Direct mortgage contest we mentioned in our April 3 blog entry, “ Contests We Love.” She wanted to know what the deadline is. ING tells me it’s May 31, so those of you who are interested still have time to compete for $15,000 in mortgage payments. Call 1-800-ING-DIRECT for more information. Lori also recommends a contest you’ll find on www.writingcompetition.com. First prize: $4,000. At 250 words (the length you’re required to write), that’s $16 a word. More than even a best-selling writer might earn! Using one of the calculators above, I find that if you invest that $4,000 in a CD or mutual fund paying 8 percent, you’ll end up with $18,643.88 in 20 years, more than quadrupling your savings.     

            Doing some emotional calculations, I’m prompted to mention this deficit: The last episode of The West Wing aired on Sunday night. As President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) flew off into the sunset, I and millions of other Liberals (that dreaded “L” word) were left without even a fictional Administration to represent our views. Time for us to turn our efforts to voting in a new cast of characters to star in that soap opera called Capitol Hill come November.

 

Prosper & enjoy,

Gail Harlow

 

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Are Women the More Generous Sex?

 

            A couple of years ago, we published an article about women and philanthropy that posed the question, “Are Women the More Generous Sex?” The answer, it turns out, is that while men give more money, women give more of their disposable income, according to one expert.  Philanthropy, as the article, written by Allison Acken, author of It’s Only Money: A Primer for Women,” points out, isn’t just for millionaires writing big checks to their favorite causes. It’s the dollar you hand to the homeless person in the street, the dollars you spend to buy Girl Scout cookies, and the $25 check you sent to Katrina relief.     

            The experts quoted in that article, which also profiles four remarkable women who’ve found innovative ways to incorporate giving into their daily living, recommend that you consolidate your giving if you want to make a difference. “Focus your giving. Move from small gifts of $25. Put your money together,” says philanthropist Jean Fairfax. Read the article, (it also outlines what you get for giving in terms of tax advantages), and the rest of that issue by CLICKING HERE. Then head on over to www.glamour.com to check out “7 Ways to Help Women in Need,” listing seven great charities whose missions aid women around the world, in Glamour magazine’s latest issue.

            Watercooler topic for the day: Should ABC let President Bush bump Oprah tonight? Oprah’s been publicizing her “Legends’ Ball” special, honoring the women who’ve inspired her, originally scheduled to air at 8 P.M. (ET) tonight, for more than a week. She even flew to New York to plug it on The View. Sure, what the President has to say about immigration reform tonight is important, but in this age of all news all the time, where we can get our news where and when we want it, do all of the networks really have to carry all of his speeches?

 

Prosper & enjoy,

Gail Harlow 

 

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If you like the blog, you’ll love the book.

 For more savvy finance advice, buy 

“Making Bread: The Ultimate Financial Guide for Women Who Need Dough,”

 by Gail Harlow and Elizabeth Lewin, available on Amazon.com and at your local bookstore

 

 

 

 

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Last Updated 11/07/2006 03:39