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Bag Lady Syndrome

Living in a van down by the river, ending up broke, old, and alone, living beyond any reasonable means of savings--all these and more a symptoms of the Bag Lady syndrome.

You ever get that feeling, before spending any money that, "no wait, I shouldn't." And then you feel bad you even wanted to spend the money, because you should be saving the money--so you don't end up a single old lady eating cat food? Or maybe you spend the money, but never feel true "value" from your purchase, maybe you binge shop as a result of the initial guilt of even wanting to spend and enjoy your money.

The guilt can be so distracting that you buy stuff to feel better, resulting in many consequences like a closet full of clothes with tags on them, never warn, and frankly, not enjoyed.

Then the next round of pangs of guilt come in "spring cleaning" - oy! - all these clothes I never wore, all this money I spent, and I knew I shouldn't have spent it!

These are classic signs of bag lady syndrome. Research indicates that children who grew up during the Great Depression tended to exhibit extremely frugal behaviors throughout the rest of their lives, even despite many positive economic indicators which would allow them to "loosen up."

But that fear, whether systemic from exposure to "hard times" as a child, or growing up in poverty in general, or just maybe the endemic nature of feeling the pressure to have to "accept one's circumstances as a woman" who must provide for herself in a country where her worth is 70% that of a man's in terms of salary despite on average living longer, being divorced more often, and having the added responsibility of being awarded full custody and care of dependents.

So it makes sense, it makes sense that we women, and some men too, would fall victim to this mentality. And whether you express your fear as an outright resistance effort never spending money or are so wracked with guilt of being unaware of our actual financial needs that we end up adopting a short-term "#yolo" lifestyle, only to find ourselves increasingly in piles of consumer debt and shopping binges for items we don't love, don't need, and which make us feel worse for even owning.

I know because I've been there. I've gotten mad at romantic partners for even suggesting to spend money on...anything, like dinners out. I've also been in denial quickly tossing receipts after shopping trips for new clothes just purchased as my two full hampers sat laundered in my closet.

But there is a better way. It starts with awareness, and truly wanting a different way to approach finances, fear, and this particular part of your life. The solution is found in the creative ways you can approach the "problem" in the first place. The reality is, that most people who suffer from the bag lady syndrome earn an income, and most likely, will not be in dire straights financially. However, the point is, us bag ladies, we just "don't know what we don't know"!

Because we feel like we don't know an alternative, we don't seek out a better way. But there is a better way. It starts by honestly and gently considering the solutions available if you didn't have any access to money. And from there, continue to count your blessings:

1. Thank goodness for my friends, I can ask my friends for help

2. Thank goodness for my car, I could live in my car

3. Thank goodness I'm good at bookkeeping, I could offer my services on craigslist

4. Thank goodness my church helps those in need, I can try that out as an option

Or maybe...maybe we never end up broke or "impoverished"? What would that look like, and how would we get there. It starts by thinking about creative solutions to our lives today. If we approach our life today with creativity and solution-based thinking to our fears, then there is nothing to tell us that that same mindset will also provide us the foundation to seek care and comfort during our twilight years.

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My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock

In this post, we're reviewing the book My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock.

In this 295 page memoir, a savvy New Yorker autobiographically presents her journey of a year of fear. Her year of fear is a year in which she loses her job and finds her mission in life all by confronting one fear each day for 365 days.

In a year as accounted by Ms. Hancock, you'll be with her, side by side, as she depletes her entire savings account and follows the life and advice of the Ms. Eleanor Roosevelt herself from her books and interviews along with a present day therapist guide, compassionate boy-friend, and a troupe of sassy New Yorkers to help her along her journey.

From Aruba to Arusha, you'll learn that this at times vapid yet hilarious writer encounters truly scary tasks from confronting all of her fears. From the fear of heights, fear of small aircrafts, fear of death, and fear of being alone, no fear is left untackled! Noelle covers plenty more fears as well, but these were most top of mind for this reader. Her journey, while somewhat simple and pedestrian, was a wonderfully light read that I indulged in each night before bed. This piece also encouraged me to personally tackle my own fears as I would reflect, "if she can do it, and I have come to admire Ms. Roosevelt, then I can face my fears too."

I admit that overall, I enjoyed the gutsy attitudes and "fake it 'til you make it" adages Noelle, through her study of Eleanor, lived, embodied, and continue to push all admirers and readers to do the same.

Learning about Eleanor Roosevelt's life through brief passages which served as interludes and segways within Noelle's journey also had me gnawing through page-by-page for more of her life. Roosevelt turns out to have been quite the audacious, gutsy lady herself and I am looking forward to finding and reading about her life more exhaustively.

What it's like in a small airplane and death when you're scared of both? These two passages in particular, as an avid small aircraft enthusiast, had me rolling with laughter as I reread passages, which perfectly depicted real life on a small aircraft for the novice, that I shared with my boyfriend who also found such passages amusing too.

This is a really fun book that dips into some deeper topics. What you may find to be most surprising is that Hancock's writing style actually made me laugh at loud, which seems to be rare given my more serious selections of non-fiction I've been making as of late spanning podcasts, audiobooks, and real books.

Will this book change your life? Probably not, but you made find it refreshing to read this piece of non-fiction that is written to make you laugh and introduce you to an incredible woman in history: Eleanor Roosevelt.

My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir
$9.68
By Noelle Hancock

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How to make people care about your bright ideas.

Another meeting and another chance for me to listen to guy co-worker (or gal): "I have this great idea, why don't we..."

Wait...no, actually, DON'T be a control freak. Or do...Who knows :).

Wait...no, actually, DON'T be a control freak. Or do...Who knows :).

UGH!

That was MY idea.

How dare he or she steal it! We were JUST talking about that idea in the break room.

But he or she spoke up and vocalized the idea to the team and I didn't.

I remember this happening to me on many occasions from as early as high school up to present day throughout my startup jobs and corporate job.

On the one hand, ideas are like flowing bodies of water, and that there is always more where that came from.

On the other hand, someone who didn't have the creativity to put that idea together is getting credit and acclaim for it.

In high school, I was assigned to a group project in Advanced Standing English class. We were studying a book; I don't remember the book. It turns out to have been one of the first groups I was assigned to without a natural "leader." All other groups I had been assigned to, naturally had a leader rise up and assign out work, and everyone would simply show up with their assignment mostly-ready. Among the five parts of the project, one of pieces of work included writing a Socratic dialogue between two of the characters of the book.

The night before the project was due, I had to, meet with as many members as possible, assign out work, finish up loose ends, and then, making the very "leader-ly" decision to say to the group when our meeting time was up, "and I guess I'll write the Socratic Dialogue portion." After driving the last classmate in my group home, over a half an hour away from school, and another half an hour away from my home, I wrote the piece.

The next day, we presented our project and turned in our work. The teacher, who had never really noticed me and had nothing but average grades and comments to give me on my work exclaimed, "and WHO on the team wrote the Socratic dialogue? It completely captured the concept elegantly between the characters in the book!" Silence.

Finally, I raised my hand, "Oh, um, I did" at the same time my classmates pointed to me and said, "Liz did." My shyness or lack of pride, must have set her off a bit, in fact, I feared that maybe I had misunderstood the entire assignment at that point. She quickly remarked, "Oh? You did?" as she raised her eyebrows which intuitively made me believe that she was hiding an opinion that probably wasn't very constructive. See, even as a high schooler, a 16 year old teenager, I could read her like a book. She was saying one thing, but her body was telling me, "seriously? But I never thought that you wrote very well. This seems like work of a much higher caliber than you are capable of." Ultimately her body language was telling me her truth, that she didn't think that I was a good student, and that I didn't write very well.

Which may have been entirely true. But under the anonymous guise of a group project, where my name was lost and never included in the details, I produced a wonderful piece of work, under pressure, with ease. I suspected it was good when I printed it out that night I wrote it. It flowed from me beautifully, and I remember seeing the two characters talking write in front of me as I listened and wrote down what they said at the computer. It sounds like fantasy, and it probably was more of my creativity being expressed as a day-dream, but indeed, I saw these two characters speaking to each other as I wrote the piece. It was a beautiful lesson for me to learn and look back on. When the pressure was about producing quality work, and when I could create anonymously, and then see the impact of that work anonymously, I generally produced greater, more creative work.

And then years later, after watching only one or two excellent leaders "build consensus," I learned that: true "smarts" is realizing that you have the power to formulate beautiful ideas, solutions, and quality work, but a real leader knows how to socialize those ideas and solutions so that it appears to be everybody's good idea, a vision to stand behind.

But how do I get "credit"? How do I get "promoted" for my good ideas?

Well, in a word or two: you don't.

You get credit and promoted based on how well you respond to other people's demands on you and how well life has set you up to play the various games in jobs being played around you.

Now, that being said, there will be environments and jobs where you will be promoted because, it's a game you enjoy playing, it's a team you enjoy serving.

But if you don't care to play the game, at a job you only partially like, but you STILL have brilliant ideas? The best way, rather than unofficially "socialize" your ideas to others, is to make a plan of action to build consensus, and offer your ideas to the team as an exercise in building consensus.

What this means is that, you state the "problem" you'd like to solve to your management. You decide who needs to be apart of the solution, and then you schedule time in meetings and powerpoint decks to brainstorm and decide how to solve that problem. What's great about this idea is, other people, when they trust you, will want to offer their brilliant ideas too. Then your ideas can meld, mold, and shape a grander idea to benefit the company you work for.

What's the advantage? It makes work more interesting if you're somewhat disengaged. It's also great practice for what great leaders already do, they may have good ideas, but they know how to get the best ideas from a group of idea-makers. It'll make you more valuable in any job. It'll allow you to build on more of your work relationships with others.

The best piece of advice I learned from observing smart, excellent leaders? Your ideas ARE NOT YOU. They come from you, but we all have the capacity to create beautiful solutions if provoked. So seek to provoke your team to produce the best, creative ideas and solutions. Choose to remove your ego from the best solution. It isn't that your smart and therefore that you have brilliant ideas that everyone should jump on to execute. The best solutions are the solutions that have consensus built behind them and that are actually executed on.

This just happens to be a mindset that worked for me and lead to my piece on How to Build Consensus last week. However, I can only share what has worked for me.

Have other ways to make people care about your bright ideas? Share them with us in the comments below.

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The Winning Recipe to Build Consensus on a Team

Being rich, wealthy, successful, healthy, and having it all is going to require other people. But what happens when all the folks who need to get along, can't get along? Consider the following corporate setting below in which the team must decide between three options offered by three opinionated, smart co-workers. How would you proceed?

Ok, ok, that's ONE way to build consensus, but read below for the alcohol-free version of this recipe!

Ok, ok, that's ONE way to build consensus, but read below for the alcohol-free version of this recipe!

Executive: "I see no other option, we need to go forward with THIS plan A!"

Manager: "We really need to move forward with plan C."

Individual Contributor: "Option B is what makes the most sense, option A frankly, sucks."

So what is it? A, B, or C?

Maybe one of those, none of those, a combination of those, an idea not yet mentioned/discovered/thought of, or a case of a deadline which needs to be pushed out!

If you decide which option to go with in isolation, you will piss somebody off, and you won't have all the information necessary to go forward efficiently. The wrong idea will waste time and money. But by building consensus, getting everyone on board with a common idea, leverages the combined intelligence of the team and then everyone can be equally attached to the success or failure (read: learning experience) of the decision. This great because this experience teaches teams how to make better decisions moving forward when done repeatedly.

Back to our example, a team must consider all three of the inputs, and choose the best to move forward. But how?

Start with pre-planning, set your ego aside and detach yourself from any option you "like" best, and decide to get all three co-workers together in the same room* (*this could be a virtual room as well) to collectively decide which option everyone agrees with as the go-forward option.

Consensus building is difficult, and if you're working for the government or a large corporation, you'll quickly find that it can be just as powerful to build consensus as it is to be "creative" with your "own contributions." Once you've practiced and perfected the art of consensus building, you will more easily leverage the expertise and intelligence of an entire team rather than re-inventing the wheel or carrying a much-too-heavy burden on your own shoulders.

Begin building consensus today by using these five easy ways of building consensus and prepare you and your team to toot your own horns for getting everyone to agree!

Step 1. Schedule the meeting one day or more before the deadline

Invite all important co-workers into the meeting. Take care of all coffee, bio-breaking, double check that all technology works, and that conference lines are clear. Technical difficulties or logistical problems are extremely distracting and time consuming.

Step 2. Collect your ingredients

Prior to the meeting, in poster boards or a powerpoint presentation, quickly outline the following: objective (what does "done" mean in three bullet points), deadline, timelines, and outline all of the options, featuring one board or powerpoint slide for each option A, B, and C. Extra points for more images, and less text. Mastery level: less text is more magic; large fonts are more courteous.

Step 2b. Pizza pie in the sky time!

Now, set time in your calendar for an hour to really consider the provided options. Was any other option not considered? What, if any, are options which are too "outlandish or political to mention, but should be mentioned because it meets the objective and deadline? You're never limited to just one, two, or three options in most cases. Consider this part of the process as though you're building your own pizza! On top of your doughy foundation, add on toppings featuring a little bit of one option and a little or a lot of other options and leave off what doesn't taste good. In this case, we'll call your pizza "Option D," and include it as a planted slide at the end of your materials. Option D will be an excellent "jumping off point" in your meeting to make your team think more creatively to arrive at an Option everyone agrees on.

Step 3. T-1

A day before your meeting, send an update with your agenda included, powerpoint/materials attached, and ask for feedback prior (like this: specifically ask for what you want to have happen: a. please review all materials, b. do I have the options listed correctly, let me know where to omit/edit/add, c. looking forward to having you all on the call tomorrow). This creates urgency, authority, and keeps everyone on the same page, which means essentially, no secrets, no politics, and a tremendous amount of focus which ends up using time more efficiently.

Step 3b. Rinse and Repeat

Repeat Step 3 as you receive feedback. Mention that you've received additional feedback and that you have provided the updated materials accordingly. This reinforces that you validate the contributions and thoughts of each of your co-workers. Long-term, this builds more trust in you as someone your team can rely on to share ideas with, judgement free, and that you respect their ideas enough to include them into the discussion including the most important details.

Step 4. Go-Time

Once everyone has joined the meeting, welcome everyone and remind them of your sent prep materials (by the way, assume no one looked at the materials beforehand, but don't say that, say this: "I'm sure you've all been really busy so I really appreciate the folks that took a look at the prep materials. For those who haven't yet had a chance, we'll quickly review to open up the meeting/call.") Long term, this is a subtle nudge to indicate that you mean what you say, and in future, this statement should generate more hearty responses and adherence to your instructions.

Step 4b. Addressing MIAs

When someone doesn't show up? Still work this recipe to build consensus, but plan to defend the missing party's point of view. Plan to work all five steps, but shorten the call by 50% as you'll only want to move forward with everyone in agreement. You will reschedule another call, and then repeat Steps 1-5, but open this second meeting by summarizing the first call, and making this second meeting up to 50% shorter as well.

Step 5. Final Countdown

Review the powerpoint slides with the team starting with the Objective, Deadlines, and Timelines. Real-time, on the call, update this shared slide presentation with any new edits or information. Mark down any other folks you need to verify these updates with. Make sure everyone decides on one option. Build this new option, in this case, Option E, on a blank powerpoint slide or poster chart page during the live discussion by copy/pasting, or drawing. Continually ask clarifying questions to each team mate by asking, "Did you see what I added on the screen? I took what you said to mean x, y, and z. From what you see, do I have the right?" Keep pushing the team to consider what hasn't been said yet, if there is anything we can add that we're politically too scared to add, but should, or if anything else is missing.

At the end of the call: Here is your exact script:

By the end of the call, you should have drawn out a good idea of a fully agreed upon single plan. Confirm this with the team by stating the following: "Team, we've decided on this option from a host of excellent suggestions. This is the best go-forward plan because it considers all stakeholders and viewpoints, meets the business objectives, and the deadline. Executive, do you agree?" Make sure the executive says yes on the call, and continue down the line of meeting attendees until everyone says yes on the call.

It obviously won't always work out perfectly as you're learning, but what I've noticed is that...busy people say often "yes" too frequently, while others automatically will say "no" which in many cases they don't have the authority to say "no" or flat out shouldn't say "no," and almost always the busiest people require someone to keep them on track to make a decision in a timely fashion to meet business objectives.

In time by following this recipe you will find that:

1. Keeping records in various powerpoint drafts to access later and cover any discrepancies (save with dates in the titles of the document) makes information easy to access as the same types of questions will arise throughout the process.

2. Keeping records in Outlook or a mail/calendar program of all agendas and notes keeps everyone honest and ensures that all of the important details are included.

3. In order to keep the team focused before and after the decision is made, utilizing in-person and/or virtual tools creates a "single source of truth" (the powerpoint and the email reply-alls) which establishes a single plan that is agreed upon, saved, and easy to reference.

What are your top two tips to build consensus in groups? Tell us below in the comments section and be sure to subscribe to GetHotAgain for more tips winning recipes for success!

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You can have it all! The 3 ways to have it all!

I'm here to tell you that...you CAN have it all.

Only, do really want it all??

Do you want children while you're advancing in your career?

Do you want a debilitating mortgage or student loan debt that ties you to your crummy, thankless job?

Career women, single, hoping for children? What about volunteering to mentor a child and have that experience without all of the guilt every single professional woman you know feels about balancing career with children.

What about the emotions that come with burn out, taking care of aging parents, over-spending, and on and on and on? Because, that's part of the "all" too, all the crazy that comes with that crazy-making!

What if instead, everything you have, is exactly the "all" that you want? Then our story and experience changes. And it's a beautiful thing.

What if all of the "all" that you want in your life, is already IN your life. All of the "other stuff" that you wish you had, simply becomes, other stuff that has yet to arrive in your life. All of the "other stuff" that you have, and wish you didn't have, simply becomes, outdated and naturally falls away from your experience.

Imagine that?

Wouldn't that take the stress out of "having it all," if you already, had...it...all?

You can have it all, because you already do have it all -- in fact, thinking you want anything more than you have is fantasy. Wanting more, achieving more, attracting more, that's all well and good, but wanting what you have, what a true, wealthy way to look at the world you.

But what if I'm in an emotionally rocky relationship? What if I hate my job? What if my thyroid condition makes it impossible to lose weight?

I was there too, at least, in the rocky relationship. I would have naturally resolved my emotional roller coaster situation sooner, if I had allowed myself to feel what I truly know now about that rocky relationship, which is this: "You're being treated this way, because deep down, you don't feel worthy for the kind of love you've imagined since you were a little girl. It's not a "prince charming" or "fairy tale" kind of love, but the love that appreciates you and your gifts and is reciprocal. You do deserve that. Your current relationship won't get better because it's based on a lie which is: you don't deserve a relationship that 'feels good,' you have a hard relationship because relationships are supposed to be hard."

Those are lies. Because my relationship, felt so awful. I woke up dreading my relationship. I would often cry myself to sleep about it. I would complain on the phone and in person with friends for hours about it instead of enjoying my life. I would put my key in the door and think "I really wish I would turn around and run away right now." Regardless of how it "appeared," my relationship felt awful to me, and I didn't have to stay.

If I had stopped lying to myself that relationships are hard, and that it would eventually "get better" (whatever that means), and that I deserve to be yelled at, called 100s of times a week, and stalked until I "relented" for the cycle to start itself up all over again, I would have realized that...I'm free, I have everything I need, and want, and I am happy. Believing that my new story, that true story, that I, in fact DID deserve a different experience, an experience that felt good for me, then I probably would have released my "grip" on this toxic relationship sooner, and it would have probably dissolved less painfully.

Or not.

It ended the way it had to end and it became a part of my story. It encouraged me to keep holding on tight to that truth of how I knew I always wanted to "feel" in a relationship rather than any stories about how a relationship should "look" like. I'd like to think that I suffered for the betterment of others; for others to know that I went down a path and realized that...it can get better, and it does, but only if you believe the story that you are enough, you have it all, and focus on those aspects of your life that result in you truly believing that you "have it all." I found something that made me feel good in self-help and development and...I became obsessed with my apartment, I dressed it up, invested in it, it was the perfect escape. I was a (finally) single lady with the best apartment, fixed up on a budget, and I had tons of friends over for parties and socializing. It was always "there" already. From there, I could heal, and from there, I found love. And only after I found love, as a single women with a mission to enjoy everything that she had, I ended up in a healthy relationship.

Do I have it all? Some days yes, some days no. But I admire many women who I feel "have it all," and I've observed what they do in their lives to continue to impress me with their lives which I feel exemplify "having it all." So if I were to break down the three steps to "having it all," here's how it would look:

1. Get honest about how your reality "feels"

Whatever it is that you hate about your life, or love about your life, ask yourself: does this feel good? Do this privately, journal, sing it out, dance it out, talk out loud to yourself, channel your inner Oprah and interview yourself about what feels good and bad. Trust me, I grew up in a conservative, religious household where lying and keeping up appearances was more important than feeling good and being happy, you have to have this conversation by yourself and know that it will slowly change over time too. It takes time and persistence to really understand your emotions from some of us who have never been encouraged or allowed to embrace how we truly feel about our lives. Feeling good, makes you a better servant to your higher power. Feeling good, being in touch with what makes you feel good, allows you to better serve humanity because, hurt people, hurt people. We need to feel good, in order to understand how to hurt less, and therefore, hurt fewer people.

2. Is it healthy too?

Once you've decided what feel "good" and what feels "bad" to you, not what you "think," and not what others "think," but deep down how something makes YOU FEEL, do more of what makes you feel good. If it does not feel good, do not focus any attention on it. If it does feel good, focus all of your attention on it. This is not "hedonism" or an addiction, obviously heroine, from what I'm told "feels good," but I'm talking about the "healthy" kinds of feeling good. Take, dancing in the rain, that feels good, so focus on it and keep doing it. Taking a walk at lunch instead of moaning about work feels good, so focus on it and do more of it. Relationship sucks? Decide to no longer invest in it. Don't water it, don't nurture it, instead, nurture what feels good, spend time with friends, and spend time with your higher power instead in the case that either feels good. Your higher, decision-making will flow from feeling good.

3. Have a little faith

Have a little faith that, that your life gets better. That doesn't mean your relationship will get better, or that your job will get better, but that YOUR LIFE WILL GET BETTER. This is the hardest part, having faith that, given the extreme and sucky situations life gives us...and having faith that it will get better, meaning, we will have more of what makes us feel good and is healthy in our life, only if we have faith that it will.

Conclusion

How do I know? Why would you end up on a blog, read it up until this point, if you weren't looking for ways to "have it all"? By looking for ways to have it all, it inherently tells me that, you feel you're lacking in life.

Love bug, you do have it all, so do the three steps, and keep them in your emotional toolbox, assessing your feel good and feel bad life circumstances all the days of your life.

Want to know more about my story about the female hero's journey? Sign up for my mailing list to receive a free copy of My Story now!

 

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Hiring a financial planner...when you're in debt

I have a lot of people asking me for money advice. And it's fine and good because, I LOVE to talk about money. I could talk about money all day long.

I'm reminded of a story when I was about 4 years old. I came back from church Sunday school one Sunday morning after "toddler's first tithing lesson," which explained to young Christians, to put away 10% of our money for the church, for God, essentially, for do-gooding besides your own needs. I felt called and inspired! The first chance I had, I went to my bedroom, stood next to my dresser, pulled out each drawer, and climbed up to the top of the dresser in order to reach my glass, full of coin, piggy bank. I was so close to my dream: giving my money away as a tithe to the church. If 10% is good, I feel moved to give 50%! Or in little toddler's head: more!

At the same time, my mom had left to go grocery shopping and left my dad, now promptly asleep on the couch downstairs snoring away, to "watch" my older brother and me. I knew in order to open the piggy bank, which was vacant of any manual way to open, would require...surgery of sorts. I was going to have to break it open, and my wooden medical hammer just wouldn't suffice. So after taking my piggy bank down from the top of my dresser, I quietly went downstairs, tiptoed so as not to wake my hard working dad, went into the garage, and found the hammer. Re-traced my steps back up to my room, hammer in hand.

I knelled down on the carpet, and proceeded to gently, yet firmly, go to town on this piggy bank. CRASH! I opened/smashed the glass piggy bank open, finally! Coins everywhere! So I grabbed my best, largest, white, long-strapped patent leather purse and fished out from the shards of glass all of my coins and put them into the purse. I did my best to clean up all of the glass and shards from the carpet and put those pieces into the garbage can. Being the responsible child I was, I quietly returned the hammer.

Two reactions:

My Mom: instantly screaming when she came to my room and I explained to her what I'd done. Before I had a chance to explain my intent and motivation, she continued to yell through the house and confront my father with her opinions about his "babysitting/parenting" skills while multi-tasking in his sleep during the day time. I felt ashamed, I must have done something incredibly awful to trigger this yelling.

I basically grounded myself to my bed. The house was tense, I wasn't sure what went so wrong in my master plan to give more money as my tithe next week in church.

My Dad: what felt like hours later, approached me kindly after asking if he could "come in" to which I nodded my approval. He sat next to me on my bed and gently asked me a few questions. Allowing me explain my motivation, I think it turned out that he was equal parts touched and impressed that his daughter had such noble intent and calling. After a long, reverent, period of silence he says, "next time Elizabeth, make sure you wrap the piggy bank with a towel first."

Ah ha! Now THAT'S parenting!

See, what my Dad recognized was, it's not about being critical of the person I'm growing up to be and my unique, natural motivations to randomly bust open a glass piggy bank, for him, parenting was about guiding me to make better decisions in my life moving forward, starting from exactly where we find ourselves: in the present.

In a word, I've always loved helping people and I've always loved money. Putting the two together is my personal heaven, my personal salvation - and it's incredibly fun for me! It's just such a fascinating concept these little pieces of linen ("cash") that we exchange our time in order to acquire and have other people's goods.

But in being a money coach, I have to build value. If you do not see your net worth increase, or have the information you need to improve your income and reduce your spending, YOU WON'T HIRE ME AGAIN! I'm only interested in helping women build wealth, security, and freedom. I want them to think about their life "goals" and with me as their coach, think: "to-do list item #4: manage money (check! hired Elizabeth)" and it's done, they no longer have to fret, worry, or have over-whelming thoughts about how to manage their income, spending, and net worth. Retirement ready? Bring it! And let's cheers our lattes to that. I never want a women to feel "stuck" or "fearful" around her money ever again. I don't want a women to ever feel separated from her dreams because she's scared of money.

But what happens when people approach me who are in debt?

I take my Dad's approach. I can advise anyone in debt for a free session meeting you exactly where we are, right in the present moment! At the end of our open and honest discussion, we can still put a plan together on your next steps, get you on the road to your dreams, on your way to pay off all of your debt, and then you'll be more than ready to hire me as your money coach to help you build and maximize your wealth and net worth at that time.

Why?

Because I want to help everyone! But it's unethical to preach personal finance and responsible money management if I decided to charge people for my services when I know every extra penny of theirs should go toward paying off their debt. I'm more than happy to help so...when do we get started?

Contact me now to join in one of my two coaching spots available now.

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A HOUSE is not a HOME

Question from my co-worker, who is very smart and charismatic, and someone I've come to admire:

"Should my wife and I buy a house?"

The facts:

1. We all live in the Bay Area outside of currently one of the most expensive city in the US, San Francisco.

2. He's in a very stable marriage.

3. They live off of one income and save the rest into a quickly accessible, but low-interest earning savings accounts.

4. He puts the max amount of money into his employee sponsored 401k ($17,500 this year).

5. They pay $2400 per month in rent currently.

My checklist for buying a home generally looks like this:

-Pay for renter's insurance first while you rent

-Calculate your housing costs (mortgage, property taxes, housing maintenance, moving costs, etc)

-Take that amount, and subtract your current rent.

-Put that remainder amount into a savings account automatically (that you don't spend on other stuff! If you've never saved before, withdrawing for vacation and crap will be oh so tempting!) on the first each month; this acts like a "simulated" housing expense that you'd experience once you own your home. This account can be your down payment account too. This is an extremely good idea.

-Do not accumulate more stuff like clothes, furniture, and pots/pans. Do not "buy for your home" before you purchase and move in. You'll just have to pay to move it all and experience more discomfort before you move in a tiny cramped rental. Besides, most people buy all new stuff to better "fit" their new digs. Consider borrowing (store and use furniture for friends who are traveling without charging a storage fee), pick up freecycle.org goods, be creative or just do without. Need a shelf? How about tossing those items that you need the shelf for. Need drawer organizers? Try using tupperwares and shoe boxes. This way, you get to see what you use and like before you upgrade anyways.

-Commit to own less in general, have a garage sale, donate to charity (the year you buy, so you can use the tax deduction for these donation receipts--be sure to get the receipts).

-Make sure you're maxing out all of your retirement benefits, accounts, and consider an IRA or RothIRA to max out. A house is a great "savings account", but if you end up needing that money one day, you get it simply by: selling your house. Keep savings and retirement in mind another tool in your financial toolbox to make sure you're setting your future up the best way possible.

-Make sure your first property is for personal use, not for renting out.

-Do you want to live and take care of your primary residence?

The Answer?

They meet all of the requirements on my check list but, I told them not to buy a home right now.

Turns out, my friend and his wife love to travel. They want to live more flexibly than taking care of their property when they save currently and have a landlord for those items.

If this couple didn't save for retirement, and they were asking "should I buy a home OR save for retirement," I'd recommend: DO BOTH.

But really, I'd say invest in your retirement because, it's a savings habit first and foremost. Once you've maxed out your retirement, you can then move more savings and funds into an account for a home, one day, when you can afford it, and your lifestyle is ready for buying a home.

I know there is a lot of hysteria to buy a home, but consider this: it's the #1 best decision to procrastinate because while you save cash you can be ready for a real estate bubble burst and buy property at a better value. Until then, you're retirement funds are building, and you're building a savings habit which will put you in an incredibly strong position to buy a home when prices are right and your lifestyle is ready.

Happy living...a house is not a home. A home is where you stay dry and warm and hug your loved ones. That is all; ownership or renting are not required for this kind of home in a real sense.

What would you tell this friend? Rent or Buy?

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Lies we're told about Money

I write about women and personal finance, and by all accounts, financially, I'm above average for savings, investing, and income for my demographics in the US (white, female, college educated, technology sector, etc). Not bad for someone who has quit jobs without backups plans, was completely broke about seven years ago, and who loves to spend on what she loves to spend on!

Don't tell me lies, you dummy! This guy is a life-sized figurine, not an actual human being ;)!

Don't tell me lies, you dummy! This guy is a life-sized figurine, not an actual human being ;)!

Seven years after fully diving into personal finance and teaching myself how to build wealth, I find that a lot of money advice isn't new, complicated, or different. In fact, the largest source of money "advice" we receive on a regular basis isn't even advice at all. Most of the information we receive about money and wealth are all based on LIES. These lies are fed to us through entertainment, the media, and advertising. I should know, I worked in online marketing for a long time. We advertising and marketing professionals do our best to direct your attention and spending dollars to what we are selling.

It isn't that we truly believe that we can get wealthy by being a celebrity that we see on TV and in the media or on an advertisement, but we're force fed so many messages on where to spend our money. As women, we want the prestige and recognition, so we buy the labels and try to live lifestyles and learn to speak in the same vocabulary as Kim Kardashian without understanding the facts from the fictions. For instance, many celebrities fully own the fact that they do not buy designer clothing, they are GIVEN designer clothing. They wear their free clothing using their bodies as walking billboards. Which isn't a "lie" or "wrong," but if you, the viewer, aren't aware that this is happening, you can be passively persuaded to continue to spend money on an image that frankly, isn't real, and never was real.

Lie: If I buy the best, most expensive wardrobe, I will also be successful and admired.

Fact: The successful people are successful for other reasons than their wardrobes; they themselves are successful precisely because they do NOT buy the best, most expensive wardrobe, but they "do something successful" and in exchange are given those clothes for free.

What can we do about it: Define what "looks beautiful" on our bodies independent of the media and television. We can take care on what we choose to wear, how much we're willing to spend on clothes, how we treat our fine garments, and how we take care of our bodies that we adorn with each piece of clothing we own and wear. We can buy for value, not too much, wash and maintain and love what we do have in our closets, and keep our focus on improving the health bodies rather than expensive labels.

Now, it does depend on what you consider "success" to be, but financially, I do believe as long as Kim Kardashian is happy and has managed her money properly, she does not have to work ever again. And if she does work it is because she chooses to do so. And she is just one example. For a more high brow example, think Oprah Winfrey and her "favorite things," which she did not buy at full price in order to give away to hundreds of fans in her audiences on her TV show, most likely, she received a significant price cut on those items in exchange for promoting her "fandom" of each favorite item.

Lie: The more money we make, the happier we will be!

Fact: After about $70,000 per year, per household (!), general satisfaction of American adults sees slim to no change for every dollar earned annually above that amount. In fact, in certain cases of windfalls (making a huge amount of money from an inheritance, lottery, etc) can actually result in a decrease of happiness by about 50%. So 1 in 2 folks that receive all of the wealth they could ever dream of or imagine? That's right, they end up broker than they started with collapsed marriages and slew of other problems. I myself can say, as my income has increased, my happiness level...has largely remained the exact same. Going into trying to reach my financial goals seven years ago, I thought that I would actually "be happier" and "feel happier" once I became wealthier, but what I found was that, on this side of my financial problems, it's a complete lie.

What we can do instead: Define what really makes "us" happy. This means shutting off the Real Housewives on the TV once in awhile, it means having a little "emo" journal night alone instead of bar hopping for a hot man to "save us," and it may also mean asking ourselves the really sucky, scary, questions about life and seeing what naturally comes up for us (What happens if I don't meet "Mr. Right," like...ever? What if I'm single forever? What if, no matter what, my parents will never be satisfied with my choices?). Generally it also means that, if "money" is the answer to any of our problems, then we're not solving that problem correctly. There is always a better answer than "I can't afford that" or "I just don't make enough money to..."

Lie: I have to learn about the stock market, day trading, and investing to become rich.

Fact: There are very few successful day traders, the stock market itself is no more complex than a casino (remember, the house always wins...always), and most rich people become rich by working hard and persisting again and again after failure or are simply, born into money.

What we can do about it: You know what the first step to become an investor is? Save up a boat load of cash. If you do not know how to save up ANY cash then, don't ever worry about what "investing" or "stock market" mean. So...don't worry about investing ever again! THERE IS SOME FREEDOM IN THAT! Give up the idea of investing, just for now, don't put that dumb pressure on yourself! Let...it...go. Just start saving some cash and watch that cash grow. I have 1000's of tips how to do this, but it will be different for every single person. What I can say helped me the most? I committed to tracking everything I spent money on, and had money automatically taken from me into a hard to get at account. I was too lazy to move these funds and spend them. At the same time, I worked tirelessly on making more money, and instead of spending the more money? I increased the amount that was "taken" from me into this secret savings account. I just don't touch this money, and as far as I'm aware, it doesn't really exist because I've already "spent it" on my retirement, my future house, and whatever else I am saving for.

Lie: I can't save money because I like to buy lattes and designer jeans.

Fact: I buy designer coffees and designer jeans. But after buying two of each in one day, I realized that I would probably never fall off the deep end and end up in irreversible debt and then have to sign myself up for a Spenders-Anonymous program. Lattes and jeans aren't the reason why you can't save money. You can't save money because either...you don't want to, or your don't know how.

What we can do about it: Learn how to save from...people who are good savers. Develop some of their habits that end up working for you. Frankly, earning more is also an excellent way to "save more," but won't really make a difference if you have a spending problem in the first place. If you want to learn how to save, start hanging out with your frugal Aunt so-and-so, and pick up some her habits.

Lie: Save for retirement? I don't even have enough room in my budget NOW to save!

Fact: Um, if you're in your teens, 20s, 30s, or 40s, those are your most productive years to EARN MONEY. If you can't afford to save for retirement, then you will never be able to afford to retire.

What we can do about it: How do I even know this is a lie? Because I told myself the same thing when I was making pretty decent money at age 22. Now I realize that it was that I couldn't AFFORD to save for retirement. It was that my LIFESTYLE was more important for me to spend on than saving for my retirement. That being said, start with $1.00 per month. Can you save $1.00 per month? Can you open a RothIRA today? Can you set up an automatic payment for $1.00 per month? Then fact: you CAN save for retirement. One...dollar...at a time. Remember this, the number one thing people over the age of 40 advise younger people on is to save for retirement, aggressively, and early, the earlier the better, and there is no such thing as "too early."

Lie: I'm just going to save up some money, quit my job, and travel. It will change my life!

Fact: Committing to saving for any goal, executing it, and introducing a change as significant as quitting a job without another job lined up is risky, and it will change your life, but not for the reasons you think. True, other cultures will open your mind, expose you to new realities and beautiful ways to look at humanity, but the reasons why it changes peoples' lives is it focuses an individually on a savings goal and how to creatively make changes to reach that goal. Future "travel" expenses become more important that current "desired" expenses. This shift itself is enough to change your life, and it's a heck of a lot cheaper to save for travel than it is to actually travel.

What we can do about it: Travel, save up and do it. You won't regret it. However, remember that you bring yourself with you along with your baggage - physical and emotional. If you think people are out to "get you" in the US, you'll think the same abroad until proven otherwise. If you meet a guy and pine over his lack of "calling you back," you generally take that with you too unless you get carried away with the "this only happens in Cabo mindset," which is the "you" you want to actually get to know when you travel a la the "what would you do if..." mentality. Because what you really want is probably to "feel free from daily expectations of what to do, who gets to tell you how to do it, and worry whether you're doing it right." So, figure out ways to introduce these feelings into your life TODAY. Free style dance is an excellent way to be free of expectations, no one can tell you how to do it, and when done in private, no one except yourself can tell you that you're doing it right or wrong, frankly it's free style so...even in public no one can tell you what's right from wrong or good from bad, but they make gawk, point, and stare--hopefully they join in though ;). Or how about taking the "long way home," take a different way home on your commute, disregard the typical "rush hour" for a "relax hour and a half." Take your time, try to get lost finding a short cut. How about taking a hike nearby at lunch. Or what about going to concert you'd never consider usually.

What does this mean? There is no magic pill to getting rich. Just like there is no magic pill to losing weight. But in weight, money, and in all areas of life, what holds us back isn't "food" or "money" itself, just the REAL HABITS to get to where we'd like to be.

Because, as James Altucher would like to recommend that I say about investment advice, frankly I DON'T KNOW. I don't know how to make you rich. I don't know what will help you save more money. But what do I actually know? I know a few good tried and true habits on how I did it and how others did it too. We're NO DIFFERENT than you. I promise, we're no different than you. Our incomes now were just mere "wouldn't it be cool if...we made over $100k a year," outlandish and FUN dreams just a few years back...until those dreams became reality. And most of that reality doesn't include glamour, the stock market, or other fancy ideas from the media and entertainment industry.

Parting notes on the stock market: I think women especially, and maybe plenty of men too, glamorize the stock market and Wall Street and corresponding media outlets on the financial industry. Movies like American Psycho and the Wolf on Wall Street do nothing but confirm this glamorization of investing and the stock market. But it isn't really that glamourous...I should know, I'm an expert because I've dated an investment banker before and spent time with his friends in the investing community. Ok, maybe this doesn't quite qualify me as an expert, but in my defense, all of the investment bankers that I got to know throughout my dating experience turned out to be incredibly over-worked, rarely saw their friends and family, and often had crazy rituals (or in some cases: addictions) just to make it through each grueling 17+ hour work day, commute, and getting pooped on by upper management for year after year of their career along with other investment bankers, all vying for the exact same management position only one of the group of them would ever actually "win" and be promoted into.

So why do we glamorize the stock market and investing? Why don't we glamorize the retired couple, he a teacher, she a hair dresser, who saved their whole lives, at careers they actually loved and enjoyed, raised their kids, paid off their house, live in the midwest and now get to play bridge, volunteer for city government, and golf everyday when they're not spending time with their grandkids? I largely suspect it is simply because....those retirees aren't trying to sell us anything!

Now dear readers, what lies about money have you come across? Please share in the comments below!

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When s*** gets real...catastrophes and hitting rock bottom.

You know, being a blogger about women and personal finance often reminds me of why I attempt to write "compelling, persuasive content to encourage women to better manage their money, easily." Why is that last part so important? That work easily and ultimately EASY? It's because money management, like any other life habit or behavior is hard to start, but incredibly easy once you get started. However, like putting rocks in a stream to divert water in another direction, it's difficult to begin, but once you get started, it naturally gets loads easier over time.

Gracefully borrowed from: http://mastermanifesting.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/rockbottom-300x195.jpg

Gracefully borrowed from: http://mastermanifesting.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/rockbottom-300x195.jpg

How do I even know? Honestly, I had to bottom out. I had put my own dramatic "catastrophes" in front of me that I had to face with little money, humbled ego, and completely unaware of the "how." I had to go totally broke before I ever started to make any progress financially. I had a college degree, a fantastic urban lifestyle, and a loving boyfriend. I had to lose it all, and frankly I lost it all BY CHOICE, and go into debt, and grab myself a minimum wage job, and just...start-over from there. That's how my "fortune" began. It's not glamorous; it doesn't feel cool. Consider this: to have your friends and former co-workers who now make substantial money with tremendous responsibilities from three companies ago see you working at Banana Republic and you can still have your wits, your smile, and an explanation (not that you need one) to make sense of the whole situation!

And you know what? I know that I'm lucky because, I was even able to find myself a job that I actually enjoyed. Minimum wage in retail actually really, truly did make me happier even though my finances became extremely tight, extremely quickly from my previous salaries. And then I was able to start a business, and then, because I was already used to living on very little, I could make cool, interesting choices like starting that business creatively and make money from Day 1. I was creative and innovative enough to start a business that was profitable from the very first day, and doubled revenue year after year. Let me say that again: profitable from day 1--my first "client proposal" turned out to be paid for, worth 10 hours of work at $45/hour back in 2007. That means that every dollar I made self-employed, added to my minimum wage lifestyle, which I was already happy with. Every hour in my business, turned into $45 and on up to invest in my retirement, buy healthier organic foods, put money into my savings, and travel more.

There is something about bottoming out, hitting rock bottom, and experiencing catastrophes that makes habit change...easier.

You can see how this fact makes it tough for anyone to be an "expert" in anything, it requires work, and maybe even some pain. It requires dramatic shifts and changes, but value neutral, thankfully, the act of "letting go" can help tremendously in this process.

But it doesn't have to be hard, it doesn't have to be difficult to introduce changes into your life: from improving finances, health, and your relationships.

In fact, we've all seen it before if you've ever heard of, read of, or encountered an "addict" or someone suffering from addiction in your life. There is a moment, when an addict, hits rock bottom. That's when aggressive change can happen quickly, because it HAS too happen or else, potentially death. I've read about these "rock bottom" moments in personal finance here, here, and here too. As for other references to "rock bottom" moments, look here, here, and here.

Moreover, besides sudden death, or a long, slow, tortuous death from poor habits or environmental factors, or even simply, a failure to thrive in life and merely just survive M-F, 9a-5p at a crummy job, bottoming out, or hitting "rock bottom" is actually a treasured gift, and the most ideal situation short of making, sensible, small moves directing you towards your goals.

I love this humor-based story to better outline what this looks like:

There was an old man sitting on his porch watching the rain fall. Pretty soon the water was coming over the porch and into the house. 

The old man was still sitting there when a rescue boat came and the people on board said, "You can't stay here you have to come with us." 

The old man replied, "No, God will save me." So the boat left. A little while later the water was up to the second floor, and another rescue boat came, and again told the old man he had to come with them. 


The old man again replied, "God will save me." So the boat left him again. 

An hour later the water was up to the roof and a third rescue boat approached the old man, and tried to get him to come with them. 

Again the old man refused to leave stating that, "God will save him." So the boat left him again. 

Soon after, the man drowns and goes to heaven, and when he sees God he asks him, "Why didn't you save me?" 

God replied, "You dummy! I tried. I sent three boats after you!!"

What are you being "dumb" about in your life? I can't tell you. You can probably pay a professional to tell you. But ultimately, you already know the answer. It's those tough conversations you don't want to have with someone in your life or at work. It's that retirement account you never started to fund. It's that consumer debt you racked up when you were at that crummy job. It's the bags of news clothes hidden in the back of your closet from your spouse. It's that secret snacking you conspire in when no one is looking, making you feel like a complete fraud in your public, weight loss efforts. It's your commitment to once again, quit your job, and yet, taking no related action, and staying there day...after day...after day.

But it doesn't have to be hard, it doesn't have to be difficult to introduce changes into your life: from improving finances, health, and your relationships.

Don't wait a minute longer. Take action now. But make it small, meaningful, and fun. Just one small action, and do it repeatedly--not because you want to see results, but because you want to move slightly in a better direction. But not because I told you so, but because YOU TOLD YOURSELF SO.

So let's together, choose to reframe "ROCK bottom." Let's choose our rock bottom moments, by placing an actual rock in that river! Let's start with one rock in the right direction for our lives. On our divine journeys, let's divert the streams in our life that are flooding our health, bank accounts, and humble existence. Let's allow for our streams to move inch by inch, in the correct directions for our wholeness and light to shine.

I'm going to say this: you deserve "it", whatever that "it" is for you. You're worth it, and you're life will shine as it already does even if you can't "see that yet." But "getting there" will just be another stepping stone on your journey, not the end of it. You won't suddenly "be happy" when you get "it" or by "getting there."

You will achieve something, and then you will decide, what's next to reach for, so be sure to enjoy your journey and get there and achieve it. Jump in that first boat that you're sent. I'm no different than you. I've felt and continue to feel all of the same insecurities as anyone else. I've regretted things I could have said but didn't, I've regretted things I've over-shared and said and probably could have gone without saying, I feel like a fraud at at least one point in each day, and I do wonder if anyone will finally "figure out" how much I don't yet know.

I sometimes wait in suspense for "this F moment," but you know what - it's rarely ever come to fruition. No one has pointed me out with a scarlet "F" (for failure or fraud") on my chest and called me out as such except...for my very own self-criticism. But then on the good days and better days I look back and say with extreme happiness and clarity and remark, "oh, so that's why things had to happen that way. That's why I did what I did there in that moment. Thank goodness I acted as I had." If you keep moving forward, and hop in those miracle boats, and keep moving forward, you realize that, even though it's scary and uncertain while you move forward, you do get somewhere, and with enough time, that somewhere makes sense and makes you happier and in turn, that happiness is more easily shared to the world around you.

“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.” 
― 
Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist

Share with us in the comments below what small, tiny change you commit to invest in your life?

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What to do when you get robbed: Top 8 Tips

What does getting robbed have to do with personal finance? There are some catastrophes in life you cannot prepare for, but usually, good, simple, easy best practices and insurance offerings help for peace of mind and financial coverage. Being aware and prepared helps, but no amount of awareness and preparation can keep you protected from the feeling of violation that being robbed can have on a person. I can only hope this advice helps others who may encounter being robbed from their vehicle or home.

When I was robbed, while on a hike which was maybe 1 mile away from the scene of the crime, my car was broken into and all the contents were stolen including my hidden purse and it's contents: my camera, my wallet, my keys, a library book (which was literally a history book about the exact geographical area I was hiking at, at that very moment, in my sub-urban town--which felt the most violating to lose for some reason), and plenty more items. In addition to the broken window, and countless hours calling the police, my credit card companies, replacing keys, and missing work, I have to say the emotional damage felt the worst. Someone targeted me, at 7:00am, while I was in a very peaceful parking area for a very popular, peaceful hiking trail to go for a jog with a co-worker and friend.

One person had the ability to completely rock my day, the following days after, and my general sense of security. All in the $1000 of stolen items and repairs just didn't really bother me because...money and things are generally replaceable. Having a sense of security, especially as a single female who was living by herself for the first time, is something that isn't as easily replaceable. It seems as though no one is immune either. I'm writing this blog post today because recently, my boyfriend's business had one of their vans broken into and $1,000's of equipment and tools were stolen and the van itself was damaged. Both in my experience and my boyfriend's business experience, insurance deductibles just weren't enough to cover our losses, we just had to "eat" the losses ourselves.

So I wanted to put together a list of creative ways to help insure ourselves from the losses which are somewhere between insurance deductibles and a general pain in the ass/totally ruin any sense of security we have. It's not an exhaustive list, and it's more of a brainstorm, so keep your ideas in mind too and make sure to include them in the comments below. Since I don't believe that any human can ever feel 100% "secure", it's always great to have some peace of mind that our actions may discourage attacks against our property or at least give us some semblance of "offense", and the chance to defend our stolen property.

1. Renter's Insurance (Homeowner's insurance if you own a home). When I got my renter's insurance, at $1,000 deductible (that means I pay the first $1,000 in losses and then they start to pay for the rest after that of the value of my losses), it costs less than $10 per month. Additionally, it lowered my auto insurance because i used the same provider and...it actually turned out to be less expensive for me to combine both policies than to just have auto insurance. SAY WHAT?! Seriously, it was cheaper for me to have both policies. It gives me some peace of mind, and renter's insurance, check with your agent and policy first, generally covers theft of items from your personal vehicle too.

2. Own Less Crap When I lost my items, I never ended up replacing my camera and now only use my iPhone. I also threw away or cancelled old loyalty cards, credit cards, etc. Not only that, when you have less stuff, you become less of a target for theft, be it in your car, purse, or home.

3. Carry Less Crap I probably struggle the most with this item, but carrying less stuff in your car, purse, or backpack, and even wallet, means that you have less to lose if you were robbed or even if you accidentally misplaced any items. It builds resilience and security from be able to go out of the house and run errands with fewer items, not more. Cut up old insurance cards and old credit cards and regularly purge your wallets, backpacks, etc. It means you carry less (win!) and you have less to lose (win!).

4. Keep a List Somewhere in your life, and in my case, I use a Google Spreadsheet, keep a list of all of your cards, insurance numbers, those URLs, the contact phone numbers, perhaps the name of your account executive you work with, and the usernames. Totally optional whether you put the passwords, and since nothing is safe or sacred online, I encourage you consider anything you save online (and Google Spreadsheets are saved and live "online"). This way, be sure to just bookmark your Google spreadsheet and update it as you receive new cards, new accounts, and change your usernames, etc. Some experts prefer to "print" these document lists out and place into a binder that remains, at home at all times! But the act of updating a file, printing, and placing into a binder is a HUGE barrier for me, so I that's why I choose a google spreadsheet that I can access from any browser and any of my devices with internet.

5. Never Carry Keys I accomplish this by using a combination lockbox on my door handle that contains my key. This way, my keys are less likely to be "lost" from my purse or "stolen." I find it incredibly convenient when I have guests at my home, a responsible house sitter while I'm away, and convenient housekeeping and other household services. In addition, at my apartment, I have a carport spot to park my car. This spot has extra storage protected by another combination lock. I keep an extra full set of keys to my home and car here (separately), hidden in this locker.

6. Immediately Cancel All Cards Once you have a single place for all of your logins, URLs, and accounts, it becomes incredibly easy to call each number and cancel your cards. In my case, I had to go home, miss a half day of work, and search through all of my files and do online searches for all of my banks in order to call and cancel all of my accounts while also working with the local Deputy Sheriff to track down the robber after each failed charge on my Amex that we leaving a "trail." Acting quick is CRITICAL when you've been robbed and having a place to start increases your chance at responding quickly.

7. Afterwards, Process the Lesson For me, I learned...all of the advice here! I had a pity party, and was in a whirlwind of replacing items like my driver's license and emergency credit cards since I would need both to rent a car for a wedding all the way on the other side of the country that I was attending three days after being robbed. After a few weeks had passed, I went into a full assault and implemented all of the processes and items you see here. I learned especially to carry less, and pack items in my trunk before I ever arrive at a location, even "safe" areas. I share this information because, on a rainy day, it's an easy activity, and it'll be way better to know you have these steps in place before you ever get robbed.

8. More Safety, What's Next Do whatever you need to do to FEEL safer. For me this meant, packing my car with extras like food/water/spare tire stuff/filling my spare tire/insurance cards, stocking my kitchen with a fire extinguisher, ensuring my fire and carbon monoxide alarms worked, installing a hotel-style indoor only extra deadbolt on my door, installing extra windows locks as a deterrent, making sure my more valuable items were not visible from my windows, and in general, constantly taken inventory on what I don't need/don't use and getting rid of those items. If you would like pepper spray or to take a personal defense course, do that too. Never step considering ways to better protect yourself.

Those are the top 8 tips I cannot stress enough to anyone who's been robbed or would like to know how to better protect themselves.

What are your best tips to recover from being robbed?

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Top 10 ways to eat healthier, and on a budget

I have to say this: focusing on two goals at the same time is really, really HARD! So that's what makes this list especially challenging: eating for less AND eating healthier. I asked a lot of people for their advice, and most of the advice is really, really hard to implement. So I wanted to start with the "real, boring, and hard, yet effective" advice that in the long run 100% works, and then sprinkle it up with some of the funny responses too that might be a laugh to try!

SF Farmer's Market, 2008 at the Ferry Building, taken by Elizabeth May

SF Farmer's Market, 2008 at the Ferry Building, taken by Elizabeth May

#1 - Cook your own food; eat at home more often. I'd also add: when you do eat at home, make sure each meal is less than you'd usually spend eating a meal out.

Crap, who wants to hear that? We even have our very own guest writer a Multi-Optimizational Maven (Mom ;) ) say the exact same thing when she went from working outside the home to becoming a stay at home mom while she raises her new baby girl. Eat out less! It's healthier and more cost effective. But it's the hardest thing to actually DO over the long term. Most people, and especially Americans, don't make catastrophic changes like eating out to eating, cheaply and healthfully, unless they've "bottomed out" or experienced a dramatic, catastrophic event like losing a job or other event requiring down-sizing. However, if you know that it's usually cheaper and more healthful to eat and cook your own food at home, then you know exactly what to do. Just recognize than $40 of ingredients for 1-2 people may not be as "cost-effective" as you'd like, so stick with simpler items such as pre-made rotisserie chicken on top of a bed of pre-mixed, washed greens.

#2 - Only dine with people who have less money than you do.

This one makes me laugh, but it literally had a dramatic effect on lowering my "cost of eating" budget. When you eat with people who have less money, you tend to choose restaurants that on average, cost way less. When I stopped spending as much time with people who dined out more frequently at very expensive tasting-menu-style restaurants, I was finally able to "move the needle" and save more cash. They also are the ones with the Groupons - let them buy the groupon on their own dime, and make sure you help them spend it. Be sure to offer to pay for half of the groupon when you redeem it, and also allow them to get the "better end of the deal" if it's buy one, get one free. However, a Groupon does not exclude that person from tax and tip!

#3 - Know how much you spend on Food, Restaurants each month - try mint.com

I'm willing to bet that 99% of people don't track how much money they spend on...anything. Using a tool like Mint.com, entering in all of your accounts, or just checking your AmericanExpress.com spending summary can give you a ROUGH idea of how much money you spend on food/restaurants each month. Try to lower that amount each month, first, just try to "meet" that exact same amount, and then two months later, lower it $10-$20, and continue lowering it each month as you develop the "cheap & healthy" habit muscle. $20 each month, when you know how much you spend, is $240 a year. Which is serious money if you're working part-time, a stay at home mom, or out of work. Also, imagine then what a $100 monthly reduction turns into: $2400 saved in a year. Just keep that in mind and celebrate your consistent success! Now, a $5000 raise is better than $2400 in savings, but, if you ask for the raise and get denied, you know exactly what your next steps can be because: $2400 in savings is exactly like a $2400 raise!

Just KNOWING how much you spend tends to make you spend the same or less. Don't invest too much into everything, just look at the total spend on food last month, judgment free - try to meet that amount or beat it by spending less. When I signed up for mint.com, I remained in active for three years. Now that I'm more engaged, I learned how helpful the budgeting and goals tools are and strongly recommend to everyone. Message me if you have questions on how to better use mint.com! I am not compensated for any mint.com advertising or recommendations, I sincerely love the free offering :).

#4 - Whatever you do, bulk up on bulk veggies, greens

Overall, they tend to be cheaper whether you cook greens at home or buy more greens at restaurants. You can eat a ton of greens and you will actually be healthier for it, and you can eat many greens raw, sautéed, thrown into soups, freeze for later use in casseroles, and on and on and on! I especially love when I perfected my Bolognese sauce because once you have a meat tomato sauce for pasta perfected, you can very easily add in your whole veggie drawer from diced carrots, spinach, diced eggplant, diced zucchini, squash, etc. Shoot, maybe even skip the meat entirely some nights.

The Gabriel Method is very focused on this concept too, adding in more healthful greens and veggies above all other changes, as in "give yourself the gift of more veggies" instead of any other dietary restrictions. This guy impossibly went from 400+ lbs. to under 200, and I eat up all of his advice as well as many others following his site and materials.

#5 - Buy a few "cheats on the cheap" for the freezer and cupboard

What this means is, if you see Amy's frozen pizzas marked 2/$10, pick up a couple to keep in your freezer. The reason why is because most people fail at "eating at home" because when you're tired, you've cooked all week, and you've worked all week - the LAST thing that you want to do is cook ANOTHER meal that takes a lot of time. When you have a few organic canned soups bought in bulk from Costco, or a few fun frozen pizzas on the ready in the freezer, you can easily get away with less cooking, for cheap, and not fall into the "eating out for convenience" trap spending more money and effort than you ever intended too.

#6 - Eat Less

Simple, effective, yet sooo hard! Some ideas here are to package up half of your meal out before it ever comes to your table - portion sizes at most restaurants are ridiculously too big as it is AND you get a second meal instantly for dinner or lunch the next day. From a health standpoint a budget standpoint, it's a huge help. So if you must eat out, consider eating less by splitting your entree between you and your companion or just packaging up half before you ever have a chance to eat it.

#7 - Dine with people who spend less on food than you do regularly

Different from #2, once you start observing people, you can get a good grasp on who already spends less on food regularly. Pick out those who spend less on food from your social circle and make sure to dine with them more often. You'll notice they offer to split entrees with you more often and probably would have pot lucks more often too. It's also great networking if you find a more senior co-worker who enjoys cheap deli sandwiches or cheap burritos, invite yourself to dine at lunch with this more senior co-worker and ask them about their career. If you get your burrito "naked" you can skip the tortilla or skip on the sour cream and cheese to save a few calories for health!

#8 - Eat at Mom's more often :)

Mom's are great. I feel like most moms are very preoccupied and concerned with the health and diet of their offspring. Most moms that I've met always have plenty of extra place settings and love having more company over for dinner once the kids have flown the nest. Grandmas are good for this too as well as rich aunts. I'm vastly over-generalizing here, but given my polling random audiences, this idea is more popular than it would seem!

#9 - Bring your lunch to work

This really worked for me, but it did mean eating with co-workers, just by bringing my lunch to the cafeteria with me more days than not. Also, on the days I would work through lunch at my desk, it became easier, and cheaper too. It's good to keep a few healthy cheats at your desk or in the fridge at work because you can bring a whole half lasagna and then just take a portion each day on a plate. This means, you cook and bring in lunch once, but eat it a few times within the week. Served with a baggie of baby carrots, and you're really got something!

#10 - Eat more earlier in the day time

I wouldn't go so far as to say "breakfast is the most important meal of the day," but I will say, when I have a small (200-300 calorie or less) meal before lunch, I usually eat less later in the day. How this looks for me: bring a yogurt with a baggie of granola to eat around 10:30/11 AM. I'm usually still starving for lunch around noon, so there isn't a difference there. But then around dinner time, I find myself eating to be slightly full because I don't feel that "starved" feeling before dinner like I would if I didn't have more food earlier in the day. This is great because I wake up more hungry the next day for my light meal again at 10 AM and the pattern is self-reinforcing. Breakfast, brunch, and lunch tend to be lower cost than the same items purchased at dinner-time prices too.

So there you have it! Ten ways, from real to real ridiculous, on how to eat healthier, and on a budget.

What's your favorite way to eat healthier for less? Grocery store dumpster dive? The readers want to know, share one of your ideas in the comments below.

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It's beginning to look a lot like...Christmas?

With a name like GetHotAgain, it has us wondering throughout this past winter of record lows and storms that we experienced here in the US: when WILL it get hot again? Resort wear collections, the perfect fitting swimsuit bought at a surprising low deal price from Target, planning summer camps for the kids - oh my!

Here in California, we're experiencing some beautiful temperatures, and we're sending out happy, good, warm vibes for the rest of the country. While we're all thawing out and warming up, what a perfect time, during this transition, to think about...holiday shopping!

Um...why the heck would we do that!? Because if we think about it now, we can easily have an extra $160 (and on up; there is no limit) by the holidays.

How? By following these three simple steps:

1. Open a savings account that is hard to get at (like capitalone360.com -- both you and GHA get paid $20 each if you open an account through this link)

2. Connect it to our checking account (this process takes 1-5 business days)

3. Set up a monthly $20 transfer (and on up!)

And then don't touch it until you pay your December credit card bill in January! Transfer that $160 into the account you use to pay off your bill, or just pay by using this cash.

That's it, that will total up to $160 dollars if you make your first monthly automatic transfer in May. Technically, it's $180 with the free bonus - RAD!

What's $20 per month? That's only:

4 grande mochas

2.5 movie tickets

Chipotle meal for 3

And on and on, $180 is real cash, and when thought about in small $20 per month increments, it really couldn't be easier. Feeling ambitious? Try to stretch yourself. Now that we're so close to the 2013 holidays, check your statement and see how much you should realistically be saving and start now. Talk about no more holiday credit card drama!

Watch for this tip and even more tips here, now:

#TBT: I was recently interviewed in 2013 about saving for holiday shopping. See my clip here with other savvy advice! Watch now: Save now for holiday shopping.

Free tip: while we warm up this Spring, keep your spring cleaning in mind and consider "gifting" any items for donation (and keep the receipt for potential tax benefits). Or do like Danielle Laporte does and GIFT your gently warn, nicer, designer items to friends as gifts throughout the year. When this works best? When you give a friend an item of yours, which no longer serves you, but is certainly a piece she has been coveting. For instance, girlfriend to you: "oh my goodness, I LOVE those Citizen for Humanity jeans, they just suit you so well, what size are those." These and other similar comments will steer you in the perfect direction for the perfect friend to benefit from your perfectly de-cluttered closet!

On her "stop doing list", #5:

"Bringing my nicest clothes to consignment stores, it's so not worth it. And it's much more fun to make my friends happy with a bag o' style."

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Tuesday, Review Day: The Habits of High Net Worth Women

Each week here on the GetHotAgain.com blog, we feature a review of books, movies, and other common popular culture items through the GET HOT lens perspective on women, personal finance, and entrepreneurship.

This week we're reviewing The 10 Habit of High Net Worth Women. Holy smokes! I've been waiting for an article like this for a LONG time!

The 10 Habits of High Net Worth Women is written by DailyWorth, a female focused personal finance blog and collection of writers. I dabble on Dailyworth.com once in a while, and when I saw this article show up in a feed somewhere, maybe it was Facebook, I practically jumped out of my chair!

First off, out of the 10 entirely accurate habits, only TWO relate to investing. That means, that all 8 remaining habits are easily done and completed by any other woman, or man for that matter. Habits indicate self-worth, self-worth indicates net worth. Happiness aside, we all have a certain income, that if we really thought about all that we "need" to be happy, should earn. Always believe that, and say "yes" to those opportunities. Now, in the meantime, this tip list makes it easy to start and begin on each of the habits. Done consistently, over and over again, they work.

How do I know these habits work? They worked for me. I've literally done all of the ten habits with immense success except that I had to read dozens of personal finance blogs and books in order to cover all of my bases which are easily spelled out in this article. I always find it ironic that in order to have a high net worth, or rather, to be "rich", you must adopt the habit of living "poor". What I think this ultimately means is, poor compared to spending every stinking penny that you earn. There are ways to "live richly" for less especially in fashion see ideas here and watch the video here!

For instance, when I was broke and I wanted to window shop (my excuse for "cardio" which always turned into a tempting purchase and money I didn't have spent!), instead of being tempting and actually going shopping I would tell myself:

1. "A closet of clean, hemmed, tailored, hung clothes is the best kind of 'new outfit' I could buy" meaning "do you laundry, dry cleaning, put your clothes away, and fix or mend everything that needs fixing or mending."

2. "The best makeup, is a clean face, healthy smile, and bright complexion" meaning "wash your face regularly, brush your teeth and floss, and exercise outdoors for rosier cheeks".

3. "Nothing ever looked so good as dropping a pound or two" meaning "go for a walk in nature, it's free and good for you".

I received plenty of compliments because I looked good and was healthy and energetic which therefore automatically (or what seemed "magically") made my clothes and minimal makeup APPEAR to look better. This is living richer, on the cheap.

Motivational Task: Make it an annual goal, choose April to begin on focusing on habit #1, May for habit #2, and on and on...since they're only 10 habits, and they are VERY easy habits, you will have touched each habit by February 1, 2015. Then take March 2015 off to enjoy and reflect while your share your new prosperity with a mini-vacation or treats...within your budget, naturally!

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What is a Part Time Diva?!

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What is a Part Time Diva?!

Last week, GetHotAgain.com blog featured "What is a Multi-Optimization Maven." A clever twist to "SAHM" or "Stay at home Mom." My friend, a multi-optimization maven herself wrote about the top ways to save and contribute as a non-income earning partner or spouse.

This week here at the blog, we're reviewing an experience from a Part Time Diva. A part-time diva is any women with a job, that isn't a 9-5, regular commitment, and isn't a full-fledge start up or business she owns. She IS her business and she works on project based work usually designed around her strengths and interests.

Please welcome an interview of this featured Part Time Diva who responds as part of GetHotAgain Q&A on her viewing of 78 year old Dalai Lama two weeks ago during her last semester in college.

GHA: So tell me what brought the Dalai Lama to your university to speak?

PTD: Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education were the two organizers of the event. They worked with the Dalai Lama Foundation to make Santa Clara University a stop on his 3-day Bay Area tour. The Dalai Lama was targeting the Silicon Valley as a prime spot to spread his message of incorporating ethics and compassion into business.

GHA: What were you most looking forward to in seeing him speak?

PTD: Personally, I was looking forward to the advice he had for the audience. Honestly, just seeing him was so surreal that that probably would have been enough to get me through life. I mean, how many people can say they’ve seen the Dalai Lama in person??? I truly just basked in his presence  He brought with him a great message though, and I’m glad I wasn’t too starstruck to miss his words of wisdom.

GHA: What surprised you the most about the Dalai Lama?

PTD: His sense of humor! He is 78-years old and his laugh is honesty the most infectious thing I have ever heard. From the moment he came onstage, he was cracking jokes and I won’t forget how he opted to wear a Santa Clara visor onstage to help with the glare of the spotlights. Students cheered louder than I’ve ever heard them cheer at sporting events when that visor was placed on His Holiness’ head. There were a few awkward moments with language barriers or a point where Lloyd Dean, the CEO of Dignity Health (another speaker at the event) made a prostate exam joke, and it could have been awkward, but the Dalai Lama just cracked up. It was amazing.

GHA: From what you saw today, what will you most carry with you throughout your life?

PTD: There were a lot of things that surprised me about today. First of all, it always amazes me how much one person can influence so many others. Sitting in an audience of 4,000 people where you could hear a pin drop because everyone was hanging on every word that the Dalai Lama said was something so unreal. On the other end of that spectrum, it was sad, but also kind of interesting to see how many people were out protesting the Dalai Lama right across from campus. Many of the protestors said that he was taking away people’s religious freedom by banning praying to another Buddhist figure. I had not realized this, so that was an interesting and different point of view to be exposed to today too. With that said, the Dalai Lama’s advice to the audience (which I will expand on below) was something that I will always remember too.

GHA: Were there any words of caution his Holiness had for your generation?

PTD: The Dalai Lama told us two things that really resonated with me. First, "Compassion brings mental peace, mental comfort. Economy and material bring physical comfort. We need both." His Holiness talked a lot about the balance that is needed in life, which is something that I think our fast-paced community, especially in the Silicon Valley, forgets to really consider sometimes. He also said, “Female is biologically more sensitive. Females needs to take more active role in leadership, Females as leaders would have less conflict, less violence,” which was something that as a female, I loved hearing! I feel like not enough prominent figures say things like that! I am all for more women in leadership positions and I was so happy that His Holiness brought that to everyone else’s attention.

GHA: What was the most memorable part about this experience?

PTD: I think the very end of the event was the most memorable for me. His Holiness was being ushered out of the building, but he stopped and went to the very edge of the stage and bowed to everyone, waved, and even posed for some pictures, making eye contact with most of the people in the front-row. It really showed that he wanted to connect with his audience and I thought that was very telling of the kind of generous and personable man he is.

GHA: What do you think would have improved the experience?

PTD: It’s hard to come away from an experience like this and have a lot of critiques, but I guess I would have liked if His Holiness had spoken a little more. I would have liked to just hear him talk without a set subject or agenda. I think he would have “wowed” us with many more pieces of advice!

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What is a Multi-Optimization Maven?!

GetHotAgain has been graced with an expert writer contributing as a Stay At Home Mom, or as we like to call SAHMs: Multi-Optimization Mavens! Many women contribute to a household financially, but there are also many women (and men for that matter) who contribute to their households outside of "bread-winning". Multi-Optimization Mavens take every opportunity to optimize a family's budget, expenses, and management. 

From managing the family, household, calendar, and more - multi-optimization mavens are constantly over-worked and underpaid helping their families run smoothly, lovingly, and financially sound. Mostly, multi-optimization mavens contribute to the family's bottom line by being creative with spending and keeping expenses manageable, paid on time, and constantly looking for ways to save. Oftentimes this means contributing her or his time in hours of (unpaid) labor to, for instance, make homemade meals which as we'll learn, drastically drops the amount families spends on food each month eliminating the need to eat out as often. Curious about how they do it? For one perspective, let's invite my dear friend to GetHotAgain and her piece outlining her story.

Let's give her a round of applause and a very hot welcome - her post begins here:

Stay-at-home-mom-illusion 2.jpg

There it was again: that unwelcome ATM screen telling me that I only had £5 in my back account. I was at university in the UK at the time and my three happy years there were punctuated by these stressful realizations - I had, once again, failed to keep an eye on my finances.

Back in those days it took almost a week for a money transfer to reach your account so, after a frantic call to my parents who were 6,000 miles away, I settled into a week of surviving on tins of baked beans and a positive outlook. "Next time, I'll do better" I told myself, eating those beans straight out of the tin with a fork. "I'm going to set up a budget and I'm going to do better." Once the money hit my account jubilation ensued and I obviously began the entire process all over again.

I was always aware of money growing up and my parents did a great job of impressing its importance on us. I knew that it was something you needed to work for, that it shouldn't be taken for granted, and that it was always important to save part of what you earned. Looking back my parents must have despaired whenever they got those frantic phone calls from their youngest who had, once again, found herself on the brink of a financial emergency. I suppose it wasn't until I got my first real job at the age of 21 that all of those lessons they had taught me began to sink in. I worked, I saved, I realized I needed to do a Masters degree for my career and I went back to school while working full time. I started thinking about my financial future; I started thinking about what I would need to make my goals possible.

Fast forward 8 years and my husband and I found ourselves living back in the Bay Area and overjoyed to be expecting a baby girl - our first child. I was working as a consultant and my current contract was due to end a month before our baby's due date. Not sure of what parenthood would hold and anxious to give ourselves some flexibility, we decided that I would put off finding a new job at least until our daughter was 3 months old.

In the months leading up to our daughters due date we looked at where we could make savings and the most obvious priority was moving to a smaller place; with the loss of my income our monthly rent was a higher proportion of my husband's income than we felt comfortable with. We soon realized, however, that our current place and location was going to provide everything we wanted for our new life as a family of three: "The park is right there!" "We have soooo much storage space" "Remember last week? I left the car window rolled down all night and nothing was stolen!" With our shift in priorities we decided to stay in our home and work as hard as we could to find savings elsewhere.

The decision not to immediately return to work once our daughter arrived surprised me. I have always taken great joy and pride in my career and I was sure that I would want to resume working as soon as she was three months old. After all, what was I without my career? What was I now contributing to my family? How were we going to manage financially? But once She was in our lives I found new purpose. Not only was I now a mom, I also became the official household cook, cleaner, planner and, most importantly, accountant.

This may not be an exhaustive list, but these are some of the things that have helped our family to manage on one income:

1. Keep a spending diary, even if it's just for a month. This is so useful for working out where your money goes and where you can afford to cut back. The first time we did this we were pre-baby and discovered that we were spending 30% (30%!) of our income on eating out. With that realization...

2. Cook 90% of your food at home and make going out a treat. If you don't like cooking, make it fun and easy! There are lots of great cooking apps out there that come complete with recipe ideas, ingredient syncing, and cooking tips. You'll be surprised at how much money you can save eating (delicious) dinners at home and buying in food for packed lunches.

3. Make your baby's food. Once your baby is on solids (typically around the 6 month mark) it is really easy to make your own fruit and vegetable purees at home. I'd make a big batch and pour them into ice cube trays to store in the freezer. There are lots of excellent baby and toddler cookbooks available that make it fun and easy to cook healthy foods for your kids as they grow.

4. Subscribe to deals in your neighborhood. As a new parent I was desperate to get out and find fun activities for me and my baby to do, with the hope of meeting other moms while we were at it. I joined the local parents group that, with a small annual subscription fee, allowed us to access all kinds of local classes and activities at a discounted price. Local libraries, gyms and pools will also often have fun activities for you and your little one for very little cost.

5. Shop around. Yes, it can be difficult to compare prices and deals when you already have so much on your plate, but you can save so much more just by doing a few comparisons!

6. ...And when you settle on a provider, make them work for you. A lot of companies offer great deals to new customers but you know what? You should be rewarded for your loyalty. Phone up your Internet provider/cell phone company/electricity provider and find out how they would like to reward your years of loyal service.

7. Ask friends for recommendations. When I was working I thought nothing of spending upwards of $90 for a hair cut but this soon became difficult to justify when I was no longer contributing to our household finances. I asked friends if they had recommendations for hair stylists and discovered that I could pay half as much and get a great cut. Since then I have started asking friends for a whole lot of other recommendations.

8. Subscribe to deals in your neighborhood. Along with #6, if you subscribe to web-sites like Groupon, for example, you can get great deals on what you need and find great local businesses in the process.

9. Bulk buy, bulk buy, bulk buy! We all know (and let's be honest, love) Costco and there are other companies and web-sites that encourage bulk buying. Diapers.com for example offers free shipping on orders over $35 and let's be honest, it's pretty easy to spend $35 on household and baby goods. So look around! You might be surprised at what you can save.

And finally...

10. Be sure to save the odd treat for yourself. Some indulgences provide so much more value than the money you pay for them. Maybe it's the cost of a coffee to catch up with a friend, a glass of wine with those amazing home-cooked dinners you're making every night, or maybe it's the relaxation afforded by a monthly pedicure. Whatever it may be, leave room in your new budget for the occasional treat for yourself. After all, we know you've earned it mama.

Thank you Multi-Optimization Maven for your contribution! How encouraging to see your journey over a span of about a decade. What a wonderful transition for you and your family, and we're looking forward to more posts from your perspective in the future!

For more information about succeeding financially as a part of a couple, see the GetHotAgain.com post from this past Tuesday, Review Day on David Bach's Smart Couples Finish Rich, a personal finance book for couples!

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Tuesday, Review Day: Smart Couples Finish Rich

Each week here on the GetHotAgain.com blog, we feature a review of books, movies, and other common popular culture items through the GET HOT lens perspective on women, personal finance, and entrepreneurship.

This week we're reviewing David Bach's personal finance book, designed for COUPLES to "win" financially, entitled Smart Couples Finish Rich.

I cannot give enough praise to David Bach and his "Finish Rich" books and workbooks. Smart Couples Finish Rich is no exception. Bach was the first personal finance guru I read and followed beginning in my last semester of college. I carry his file system, myth-busting, and methodology with me today in my heart, mind, and practices. His approach to money is so...fundamental!

It starts with values! You've got to figure out: a. do you want to be rich and b. why do you want to be rich? The why is all about "1. Be, 2. Do, 3. Have," and Bach correctly points out, oftentimes Americans choose what to "have," and therefore buy, before they've decided on who they'd like to "Be" and what they'd like to "Do." I myself may fall into that trap focusing more on what I want to "Do" and "Have" often neglecting who I want to "Be." I WANT to be an entrepreneur full-time, but I have a full-time corporate job, the inconsistencies in my values means that, I'm probably a little confused about money myself in the way I hoard money into savings, am fearful to spend it in general, and over-work myself into almost burn out.

Thankfully, I've followed David's advice on how to manage and plan my finances and financial future, so that as my values change and express themselves differently throughout my life, I have a financial plan that's flexible enough for these changes. Surprisingly, "rich" doesn't mean the same thing for any two people, and it doesn't mean making a lot of money nor does it mean working all the time.

But this book is about "Couples"! Bach again stresses the importance of finishing rich WITH your partner, as a team, both achieving your goals. His book outlines the exact steps from kindly introducing the subject to full blown implementation all the way through retirement. In one book, that's pretty amazing. I'm sure you'll agree, that this book belongs in the permanent "reference" section of any home library.

Bach has a special strength in his work: testimonials! Not only testimonials FOR his work, but he draws his advice and planning strategies from couples, like he outlines in this book, who retire richly, he at age 50, she at age 60 fully supported by a pension, IRA, and rental income. That same couple, never took home more than $60,000 a year...like, ever. My income has certainly fluctuating drastically given my life choices in diverse careers and location in the SF Bay Area, but I took home more than that my second year out of college!

Read this book to get pumped about YOUR finances, become aware that 90% of Americans retire fully unprepared financially, and only 2.3% of Americans are millionaires. Use Bach's blueprint to know where you stand, and know how to get where you'd like to be financially. No matter the "stretch" dreams you have, Bach helps you isolate what you want today in your life and helps map out the plan to get there, with your partner, happily.

Lastly, I'm currently thinking about what role finances plays in my current long-term relationship. We talk about finances often, and I know that this book helps us out! I have my financial house in order, but how to merge the both of us in the future? How to prepare now for a smooth transition? I'll keep you posted on the progress and funny conversations. For one, my boyfriend doesn't like to read, but I also "heard" this book on Audible.com, so I loaded the Audible.com app on his phone and logged him in as my user account and downloaded this one audio book for him because he expressed interest in it when I was telling him about this blog post.

Other books in the "Finish Rich" series by Bach:

1. Smart Women Finish Rich

2. Start Late, Finish Rich

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Tuesday, Review Day: Steve Jobs

Each week here on the GetHotAgain.com blog, we feature a review of books, movies, and other common popular culture items through the GET HOT lens of women, entrepreneurship, and personal finance.

This week, we're reviewing the book "Steve Jobs" written by Walter Isaacson.

If you haven't seen the JOBS movie yet, a feature film about highlights from Steve Jobs' life and career as played by Ashton Kutcher, watch the movie first, and then read this book. The two are unrelated except in topic matter, but the movie is limited in depth and breadth compared to the book and will leave you wanting so much more if you read the book first and then watch the movie after.

Overall, reading this book changed me, not only because I'm typing this review on my MacBook Pro 13 inch Retina and my iPhone 5s has text messages buzzing about, but because Steven Jobs was equal parts magician, leader, and asshole all in one. What I think is great for women is that, oftentimes, as Sheryl Sandberg states in her book, and based on her research, "likability", how much we like someone, is negatively correlated with women meaning, we like successful women less than we like successful men. What I like about Jobs, and Mr. Isaacson's writing and research does not dismiss, is that he was successful and somewhat UNLIKEABLE. Which basically means, like-ability, might not matter when it comes to a life well lived or expressing a personal genius. For the most successful, like-ability may not be that important, compared to contributions and rewards, regardless of gender. I find this to be thankfully liberating and I encourage genius, smart, and intelligent female leaders to embrace this potentiality--you don't necessarily HAVE to play nice!

Ashton Kutcher plays the role of Jobs in the movie, and I praise him for taking the time to explore a new side and daunting project playing the role of such an icon. However, I felt that I was "watching Ashton play Jobs" rather than actually watching Jobs. I think the role would have been challenging for anyone frankly, and applaud Ashton's choice to pursue it. What I especially enjoyed was Jobs influence on Kutcher outside of the film. Here is a video to see his rant at the People's Choice Award in which he quotes Steve Jobs and the philosophy they both share: "People who make the rules aren't that much smarter" (I paraphrase).

Here's the quotation from Jobs:

"Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That's a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again." -Steve Jobs

What you'll find in this book is that Jobs truly embodied and embraced this philosophy. Would there have been Apple products without Jobs? Even though he could hardly make the items himself? Probably not, at least not in his lifetime. I think this presents an interesting opportunity for all of us, men and women, to take note and think of life in much broader terms with respect to leadership, making a mark on society, service, and gender.

Lastly, read this book, because once you begin, you won't be able to put it down. Part biography and yet also part walk through Silicon Valley history as told through the eyes of Apple enthusiasts. You won't regret reading about the life of this iconic figure: Steve Jobs.

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Tax Time: are you ready?

Have you filed your 2013 tax return yet? It's due April 15th, 2014.

I have finished my returns and I'm awaiting about $900 back in refunds between my federal and California state tax returns.

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Top 10 reasons I file my taxes early:

1. I'm single, own no property, and only had one employer last year (1040EZ)

2. I get my refund back faster

3. Or, if I owe, I have 2.5 months (February, March, half of April) to plan on how I will pay for it

4. Well before Jan 31st, I should have all of my 1099s from interest income and W-2 from my employer

5. I use an online tax prep software with super easy wizards, year after year: taxact.com

6. I already keep my important tax stuff in one file throughout the year and easily throw in all donation receipts in there too, so it's ready when I'm ready to file.

7. It makes me really happy to finish a task early with an artificial deadline (Feb. 1st) rather than the actual deadline in case anything else comes up in between now and April 15th that would prevent me from finishing on time, accurately.

8. I can use the extra time to plan for 2014 tax planning and prep. Where will I donate? How much will I donate? Do I plan to make any significant changes (get married, move, change jobs, etc)? Will I need a professional or CPA? I have time to research all of this, more than a year to research what I'll need to know next tax time.

9. My winning financial life philosophy: I believe in helping those less fortunate with (hopefully maybe) 10% of my income, time AND paying the taxes owed by living in the country and state I live in according to the law. I can do both, and it's fortunate to be able to do both and enjoy my life with what remains from my labor. Donate More or Pay Taxes? Don't decide, Do Both! (Tweet it!)

10. It's true, I'm a little nutty about personal finance, with a penchant for saving my pennies since I was a little kid, but I'm not without my periods of debt and money mis-management in my life. You don't have to be rich, smart, a finance major, or anything else to file your taxes early. There is no barrier to entry to start and file your taxes early.

Having trouble deciding HOW you'll file your taxes early? Check out tax filing software suggestions here on The Simple Dollar blog featuring "The 5 Best Free Tax Software for 2014."

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Tuesday, Review Day: City of Thieves

Each week here on the GetHotAgain.com blog, we feature a review of books, movies, and other common cultural items. Book clubs are so hot right now, and how awesome is it to have a forum to review books and other works of art and discuss the highlights and criticisms with like minded hot individuals? Very awesome. Join us now!

This week, we're reviewing the book "City of Thieves" by David Benioff.

City of Thieves is a novel that takes you through the German siege on Leningrad, today's St. Petersburg, Russia, during World War II. We are quickly introduced to the first person narrator, Lev. Lev takes us on a most precarious journey this 17 year old, meet boy of Jewish decent could ever imagine. He's convicted of looted and sentenced to a mission along with army deserter Kolya, a charismatic charmer with an propensity for skirt-chasing and out-witting any scuffle or encounter. The success of their mission will mean life or death for the motley two-some.

Benioff's work was one of two historical fiction books I've read set in wartimes. The first of which I reviewed here on the blog about A Thousand Splendid Sons. What I found most fascinating reading to books set in wartimes, in different decades, in different parts of the world, is that there are common themes with respect to women in wartimes.

The first theme is that women and children generally have an opportunity to find refuge away from the front lines, as refugees in other neighboring, allegedly safer locations.

The second theme is that the surviving women are remarkably strong, terrified, victimized, and victorious.

Through Lev, Benioff introduces us to two main female characters in particular: Vika, the assassin and Sonya, the caretaker. Both women are strong and generous women. They both use their talents to help aid in victory on behalf of the men fighting for their values. While we are introduced to various other women throughout the novel, Vika and Sonya continue to impress me from Sonya's "stone soup" scene creating meals for many seemingly out of thin air to Vika's full admonishing of her cooking abilities, or lack their of per her declaration to Lev.

There are plenty of notable scenes, but since the first person narrative was that of a seventeen year old boy, there were no notable quotations or passages that changed my life as the amateur literary critic that I am. Ultimately, it's Lev's journey, along with Kolya, Vika, Sonya, and many others that stands out and picked me up, chewed me up, and spit me out onto the cold, winter steps of St. Petersburg and North through the desolate, burnt villages of war-torn Russia.

This is truly good historical fiction. I'm encouraged to check out the books Benioff acknowledges as well as his other release "The 25th Hour." Well-written, though not lyrical, entertaining, and enriching fiction is hard to find for this non-fiction-diva! Thankfully, Benioff did not disappoint.

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Tuesday, Review Day: Strengths Finder 2.0

Each week here on the GetHotAgain.com blog, we feature a review of books, movies, and other common cultural items. Book clubs are so hot right now, and how awesome is it to have a forum to review books and other works of art and discuss the highlights and criticisms with like minded hot individuals? Very awesome. Join us now!

This week, we're reviewing the book "Strengths Finder 2.0" by Tom Rath.

Strengths Finder 2.0 is part online assessment and part pamphlet on the strengths philosophy. Be prepared to enjoy both. Women and personal finance are not topics directly related to Strengths Finder, but I do find that women who have personal finance success to be those women who've learned to identify and capitalize on their strengths. The more that women can use their strengths in the workplace, the more benefit to their career which hopefully comes with financial reward along with it.

My Strengths:

1. Connectedness

2. Input

3. Relator

4. Significance

5. Futuristic

For my own strengths results, and I feel this may apply to many women in the workplace or not, domestic or abroad, seeing the Gallup classification, description, and validation of these traits as "strengths" revealed that most likely, I've been taking these strengths for granted.

First, I feel I've taken my strengths for granted because, all five appear to me to be softer skills that don't necessarily identify with key components of success in our culture today. Second, because I've never had these five aspects of my being validated as actual strengths, that which could prove to be actual useful, beneficial, and cherished in an organization, I needed a book backed by an infamous polling and research company to tell me what I do well and may enjoy doing more of in work, career, and in life.

If you do not buy in to the strengths philosophy, where by you're better off focusing on how you can improve your strengths rather than improve your weaknesses, then this book won't be necessarily beneficial for you. However, if you feel that you would like to focus your efforts in your work, career, and life on that which you naturally do well and enjoy doing, your strengths, then this book is a tremendous help.

I think a secondary benefit to this book is that once an individual can identify and capitalize on their own strengths, and focus their daily work efforts on improving those strengths which they enjoy for the benefit of something "greater" (like a career, vocation, etc), then that individual may also use the Strengths Finder philosophy to assess, build, and promote the strengths of any person on their team, association, or organization.

Lastly, the book comes with a code to administer your unique exam online in a broswer based portal. After completing the exam and viewing your top five strengths, follow along with the book or the browser based portal to read validating comments about each strength and how to capitalize on each strength. Having the online portal materials makes this book pretty useless upon completion of the exam online. However, the book will prove to be useful in assessing the strengths of others in an easy to use alphabetical layout.

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