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Music Mondays – My Grown Up Christmas List

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Mindful Holidays

This holiday season, I have taken my Music Monday posts to help frame a conversation around the holidays, and how we can become more mindful about what is important to us during the holiday season. I began the season with a reminder to not get caught up in the holiday marketing and overspend what you don’t have. Then I wanted the remind everyone to remember that it is the people that we love that are truly what the holidays are all about. Next I cautioned about asking for too much from loved ones during the holidays. Financial strain and stress during this time of year are avoidable and it starts with the creation of wish lists. And last week, I discussed focusing on people in need to truly enjoy the best Christmas ever. This week, I will share with you my Christmas list and my Christmas confession.

Christmas Confession

I grew up in a home with five children. In fact, we just recently watched home videos of Christmas’ past, and even though Christmas was always “big” because there were seven family members, it was never “big” for any one person. My parents struggled enough to make ends meet, and the holidays were always a challenge. Of course, I did not realize this when I was little; however, I do now. As an adult, I overcompensated for my limited Christmas gifts with over the top experiences for those I love. The last few years, though, I have become more mindful of the holiday experience, and I have scaled back my gifting. Not because I have become a Grinch, but because I think it is a responsible exercise for everyone. Through this evolution, though, the fact is that no matter how big or small the holiday, I always enjoy it. There is truly magic around this time of year, and I thrive on the holiday spirit. So my confession is that I lost my way in the “stuff” of Christmas for a number of years; however, I am happy to report, that I have found my way back. If you have lost your way, I hope you make it a challenge to find your way back. I promise you won’t miss anything!

My Grown Up Christmas List

On that note, here is my Christmas List for 2013:

1)   Happiness and health for those I love

2)   Safe travels for those I love

3)   Quality time with my husband and son

4)   New Perfume (I am not completely reformed!)

5)   A rice cooker (I broke my last one)

6)   A few hours of uninterrupted time to read a book

7)   A Christmas morning wake up after 8am

What’s on your Christmas List this year? I hope that you enjoy this week and challenge yourself to remain mindful this holiday season. You will find that no matter what is under the tree, your enjoyment level will remain high!

Top Ten Year End Planning Musts

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With only 11 days left in 2013, I am taking this Friday to remind you of items you should check off your list before we hit 2014. I know there is a lot going on for most people between now and the end of the year, but take the time and review this list to make sure you have done everything you need to do in 2013.

10) Review your credit score – You should do this regularly, but definitely use this time of year to check in and make sure everything looks okay. I love Credit Karma because it is free and gives you a report card telling you what you can do to improve your credit score.

9) Confirm your healthcare coverage for next year – Did you lose it because of Obamacare? Did you confirm it with your company? Do you need to go to healthcare.gov? Make sure you and your family are set for 2014.

8) Business Planning – Do you own a business and need new equipment or new to make other business related expenses in 2013? If you plan to write them off for this year, then make sure they are purchased before year end.

7) IRA Contributions – You technically have until you file your taxes to take care of this, but if you were planning on making a contribution to your IRA for 2013, why not take care of it now?

6) Gifts to Family or Non-Profits – If you were planning to give cash or stock gifts this year, you need to make sure those are done before the calendar year end.

5) Doctor appointments – Have you gotten your money’s worth on your doctor visits this year? If you have access to these through insurance and you have not scheduled them, get them in before year end. Typically people forget eye doctors, dentists and your general physician for your annual physical. Preventative care is essential for long term health and wellness.

4) Donations – Make sure that you give your clothes and goods to your charities before the end of the year, especially if you plan to include them on your tax return.

3) Flex Spending – If you still have money in your flex spending account, make sure you make purchases before year end so you can use it and not lose it.

2) Investment Portfolio Review – If you have non-retirement investments, you should review your portfolio for gains and losses and determine if you want to take them before the end of the year.

1) Budget for 2014 – The end of the year is a perfect time to reflect on the previous year and lay out the plan for the next year. I know most people think that budgets are a nuisance, but it is the best road map you can give yourself to assure that you achieve all of your financial goals in life. I have suggested sites to help with this, but you can also just use a simple spreadsheet to plan it out.

Who’s Your Goose?

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You haven’t heard of Top Gun?

At 35, I do not consider myself “old,” yet recently I recounted my love for the 1986 movie classic, Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise (before he became a couch jumping, Scientology supporting crazy man) to a 26-year-old friend of mine. To my great dismay, I discovered that she had not seen the movie, and barely knew the reference I was making. If you are like my friend and you have in fact not watched the cheesy brilliance of Top Gun, please stop reading this right now and proceed directly to your most convenient streaming source (Netflix, I-Tunes, Cable, Satellite) and rent this movie. The volleyball scene in the middle is worth the $4 alone. If you have seen this movie, then you know are aware of the nickname, Goose. He is probably one of the greatest movie buddies of all time. In the movie, Goose, was known as a “REO” or navigator on a fighter jet. It is a REO’s job to be another set of eyes on the plane to make sure that the pilot is fully aware of all of the risks surrounding him while flying. As you can imagine, this is an important relationship as the pilot is truly entrusting his life in the REO, and vice versa.

A Financial Buddy Can Save Your Life

Even though it did not end well for Goose, I bring up the importance of a buddy like this because I believe it is important to have a buddy when you are trying to become financially fit. Two years ago, I was 50 pounds overweight, and I joined Weight Watchers. In 8 months, I achieved my weight loss goals, and I fully attribute it to the fact that my husband, Bill, was my weight loss buddy. He kept me on track and had my back through the entire process. Even when he achieved his goal, he continued to partner with me until I achieved mine. I believe the same relationship is absolutely necessary for achieving financial fitness. If you are in a relationship and one of you is a saver and one is a spender, it is difficult to get ahead and for you to achieve all of your goals as a team. If you are trying to save, but you have friends who are constantly trying to get you to go out and spend money, then it will be difficult for you to achieve your savings goals.

Make an Effort to Find Your Buddy

So, I challenge all of you to find your Goose where financial fitness is concerned. Partner with someone and share your goals with each other. Then work together as a team to make sure you both achieve your goals. Your Goose does not have to be a spouse or significant other, but it is always nice to have each other’s backs like that. Whoever your Goose is, choose someone you would trust with your life because your financial health is truly as important as your physical health and that person should feel the same way. If you agree to be someone’s Goose, you should have their back and help them make smart financial choices. If your Maverick has a tough time sticking to them, look for ways to help him or her with those challenges. Financial health, as in many areas of life, is so much more fun and achievable with the help and support of people we love.  Do you already have a Goose? If so, let me know. Let me know what you do to support each other. If not, find one and have each other’s backs so you can achieve the most out of life possible.

Music Mondays – Do They Know It’s Christmas?

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Childhood Joy Becomes Adult Concern

This is probably my favorite “non-holiday” holiday song. Since I was a little girl, I remember liking the music; and despite the fact that Pop Up Video found numerous flaws in this song, I still love it. What I love most about this song now, is that it is a reminder to think about others around this time of year. We all get consumed with providing the best holiday that we can for those we love, but there are people who have very basic needs that they can’t fulfill this holiday season, and there are ways that we can help them. I have a 7-year-old son and for the last three years, we take this week before Christmas and make him go through all of the toys in his room and pick the ones that he will donate to children in need. We make sure that he picks good ones because we don’t want to give someone something that he wouldn’t want. We also take him shopping to pick out toys for Toys for Tots.

Other than toy and clothes donation, there are always charities looking for food, money or your time around this time of year. Once I got married, my mom made a habit of volunteering at a soup kitchen on the Christmas’s that I spent with my in-laws. When my son is older, I plan to do this with him.  Below are a few links to help you find ways to give back this holiday season and help other’s know that it is Christmastime.

Ways to Give Back

5 Charities That Accept Toy Donations

The Heavy Purse – A great list of projects to do with your kids

Feeding America – Find your local food bank to give or volunteer in

All for Good – Helps match you with volunteer opportunities

Military Benefits – Here are ways to help military families

Top 10 Holiday Movies

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10) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohlSF_TNrBo

9) The Santa Clause

8) Mickey’s Christmas Carol

7) Charlie Brown Christmas

6) How the Grinch Stole Christmas

5) Home Alone

4) A Christmas Story

3) Elf

2) Love Actually

1) Christmas Vacation

Life Lessons From Starbucks

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I’m curious about why I can order the same exact drink at Starbucks, and it can taste different every single time.  It seems like we should be able to rely on this experience every time (certainly for how much we pay for it), and yet we feel the opposite.  As I take a sip of my Venti 2 Splenda Skinny Vanilla Latte, I wonder if they didn’t pump enough vanilla or did they pump too much.  Did they forget the Splenda?  Why does my coffee have a burnt taste?  Is there too much milk?

Predictable Unpredictability

I share this with you as a true question, but I think it is a great life lesson too.  We frequently expect to enter a situation and get the same results each time; however, life, like Starbucks, is rarely predictable.  I think that we are at our best when we question less and just enjoy the experience for what it is.  My drink may not taste how I expect it to taste; however, it is still good. I need to learn to let go of my disappointment and just enjoy it. I should laugh with every sip of my drink at the predictable unpredictability that my Starbucks barista has poured in a cup for me.

Plan for Surprises

When I put financial plans together for clients, I ALWAYS have them plan for “surprises” in life. There is nothing worse than experiencing something unpredictable (loss of a job, loved one, etc.) and not only going through the emotional challenge of that, but feeling it financially as well. The best way to avoid that is to plan for it. If we know and plan for the unexpected in life, then it will not have such a negative effect on us when it happens. Next time you go to Starbucks and get a cup of predictable unpredictability, think about if you have your plan in place yet and if not, get started as soon as possible. If you need help, there are plenty of resources online:

Budgets Are Sexy – Budget Templates

Money Crashers – How to make a budget

Mint

 

 

Music Mondays – Santa Baby

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Today’s song choice is not one that I actually like; I chose it as a precautionary tale for the holidays. The subject of this song has a very ambitious list for her “Santa” to buy for her. I know that most of us would not dream of asking for the following items:

1)   A fur coat

2)   A convertible

3)   A yacht

4)   A platinum mine

5)   Tree trimmings from Tiffany’s

6)   A diamond ring

However, sometimes I think we let our “wish lists” get a little out of hand to the detriment of those we love who want to give us what we want for Christmas. I have clients who put themselves in financial distress over the holidays to make sure their significant other’s wishes come true. This year, as you are assembling your wish list, think about this song and ask yourself if you sound like this singer or this one. If you sound like the Santa Baby singer, maybe you need to reflect more on your list. Think about the financial burdens that you may be placing on others who want to make you happy. A more “cost conscious” wish list will not only provide financial relief for those you love, but it will give you a better perspective on what’s important this holiday season. We all love getting gifts, and the holidays seem like a perfect time to go overboard, but we don’t want to feel good while someone else’s bank account doesn’t.

Top 10 Gifts for $10 or Less

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10) Mason Jar Shot Glasses – And if you have money leftover, you can infuse a cheap vodka with cherries or pomegranate to give along with these.

mason jar shot glass

9) Video Games – As parents, we don’t always love that our kids play games, but it is nice to find games for the family or at least affordable games. GameStop has a bunch of those.

Games

8) Custom Luggage Tag – I always hate updating those cheap ones from the airlines and having to change them if I use a different airline. I think this is something we would never buy for ourselves, but would love as a stocking stuffer.

custom luggage tag

7) Photo Calendars – Even though this is perfect for parents and grandparents, I know that I would love pictures of friends as well. With all of our pictures on our phones or computers, it’s nice to see them without having to turn anything on.

photo calendar

6) Pore Perfection Kit – Who doesn’t need to work on their complexion? And this travel set has all of the essentials.

Pore perfection

5) Candles in a tin – As someone who travels quite a bit, I love to bring candles like these with me to make sure the hotel room always smells nice.

candle tin

4) Tech Gloves – These are not only under $10, but available in a number of colors. Again, for those in cold weather climates, it’s nice to be able to play Candy Crush while waiting for the bus or train.

Tech Gloves

3) Wine Charm and Bottle Stopper Set – These are not only fun but great to have when entertaining more than a few people.

Wine charms

2) What I Love About You Book – I LOVE this book! It gives you a “fancy” way of sharing your feelings with someone you love.

Love Book

1) Bath Sets – These are available at Target for men and women. They are not “fancy” but they are practical and come with a number of useful products.

Bath Set