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5 Health and Fitness Tips to Get You Geared Up for Spring



Awaken from your winter hibernation! Spring is just around the corner with the promise of longer daylight hours and warmer weather. That means it’s time to go outside and start exercising again.  Here are some tips for getting back into the swing… of Spring!


1. Drink plenty of water. You should drink water throughout your day. Get in at least 60 ounces to keep your body hydrated and to help flush toxins out of your body. Water also helps to fill your stomach during meals which will help you eat smaller portions of food. Try drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning.


2. Watch what you eat. Avoid processed foods and snacking. Try not to dine out as often and cook healthier meals at home. Making small adjustments to your diet, like adding more fruits and vegetables, can make a big difference in your health as well. Eat three meals a day and don’t skip breakfast.


3. Exercise regularly. Make sure you are exercising regularly to burn calories. Walking or running is the easiest way to increase your fitness level and decrease your stress, especially in Spring when the weather is pleasant. At home you can try doing yoga, follow along to exercise DVDs, lift weights or invest in home exercise equipment like a treadmill. Remember to take at least five minutes to stretch your muscles before and after you work out.


4. Get enough sleep. When you sleep your body recovers from everything you did to it during the day.  Although there never seems to be enough time in the day to accomplish everything, do not forego sleep. Instead you should make sleep a priority and get at least seven hours rest each night. Doing so will keep you refreshed, energetic and you will be much more likely to accomplish tasks during the day.


5. Works toward a goal. It’s a good idea to start off slow in your exercise routine. You don’t need to run 5 miles every day just because the weather is clear. Set realistic goals and build up to higher levels of exercise. For example, create a plan to run a 5k in a few months and train for it. This kind of goal will help you stay on track. You may get discouraged, but persevere. You were probably less active in Winter so your body will need time to acclimate to your Spring exercise routine. It may take a few weeks, so go at a slower pace until your body adapts.



7 Tips to Celebrate Valentine’s Day On a Budget


The biggest budget item in February is undoubtedly Valentine’s Day. How much should you spend on a gift for your sweetheart? Do you need to spend over $100 at dinner? Many of us tend to go overboard, causing financial stress on a day that is supposed to be whimsical and fun. But you don't have to break your budget or your lover's heart. Take your time, use your imagination and consider a gift that’s more personal than one straight from your wallet. Here are some suggestions for celebrating Valentine's Day on a budget.


Create Your Own Card

Cards are pretty expensive, especially on Valentine’s Day. It can also be difficult to find the perfect one. Don’t be afraid to make your own. One suggestion is to take the best photo of you and your significant other, and use it as the front of a black card. card. Inside, you can write about how much the moment captured in the photo means to you. Another idea is to cut out phrases or words from Valentine's inspired stories in magazines and attach them to a black card. Homemade cards like these are much more meaningful and personal than a store bought card.


Make a Fancy Dinner

Instead of taking out your valentine for an expensive dinner, try making dinner. You’ll put more effort into it and it will cost a lot less. Make your sweetheart’s favorite meal (with dessert, of course) and serve it by candlelight. Don’t forget the wine. You can pick up a bottle for $10 or less at grocery stores like Trader Joe’s. If you aren’t good at cooking, put together a platter of cheeses and charcuterie with bread, olive oil and fruit. Don’t underestimate the comfort of your own home. Dinner alone with your loved one in a warm surrounding is a lot more romantic than dining out at a crowded restaurant.


Celebrate Valentine’s Day Early

You don’t have to celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14. Why not celebrate a week early?  if you’re thinking of getting flowers they will be a lot cheaper earlier in the month and you’ll have a better selection to choose from. Celebrating early can also make for a great surprise. Your sweetheart won’t expect an early celebration.


Make Something by Hand

Making something for your love by hand is much more meaningful than a store bought box of chocolates. And you don’t have to be the most creative person on Earth to make your gift special. Print out photos and create a photo album, collage or scrapbook. You can go even fancier and make a Memory Box. Find a wooden box and put in items that remind you of experiences you've shared or remembrances of places you’ve visited together – a ticket stub from a concert you attended together, a menu from your favorite restaurant, etc.


Buy Estate Jewelry

Jewelry is one of the most popular Valentine's Day gifts. During the holiday many stores mark up their prices in anticipation of the increase in customer activity. But you don’t have to buy something at a fancy place in the mall. Estate jewelry, which is the industry's term for used jewelry, can be found in antique stores. Much of what you’ll find is quite unique. Go for style over authentic gems when perusing secondhand shops.


Make a Custom Playlist

Burning a Valentine’s Day CD is a classic, heartfelt gift. Create an album of songs that make you think about your loved one, especially songs you love together. Go the extra mile and create a custom cover for it by finding a romantic image or creating one yourself from photos. You can go old school and actually burn a CD or create a digital playlist and artwork, and upload them to a flash drive to give as a gift. There are a variety of flash drives out there that feature cool patterns or fictional characters. Get one that your significant other will enjoy.


Enjoy Some Inexpensive Entertainment

You don’t have to go out to a see a Broadway musical or a big concert and spend hundreds of dollars, not when there are a variety of fun spots to go that cost less or are free. Places like museums, art galleries, cultural centers, improv clubs, small theater companies and coffee houses are great options. You don’t even have to go out if you don’t want to. Save money by staying in and watching cheesy, romantic movies on Netflix.



How to Host Your Oscars Party on a Budget


With The Academy Awards coming up in a few weeks on Sunday, Feb. 26, you may be thinking about hosting an Oscars-watching party. Any party can be expensive, especially a themed one, but throwing a great Oscar party for your friends and family doesn’t have to empty your savings account. Here are a few tips and tricks for celebrating the 2017 Academy Awards party on a budget.


Send Electronic Invitations

Don’t bother with paper invitations. Instead, go green and save money on invitation cards, envelopes and stamps. Your guests will appreciate invites that they can easily access on their cellphones or computers. You can also create an event page on Facebook. Electronic invitations can be centered on a theme and can include the images and text you want. They are also completely free.


Focus on Simple Food and Drinks

A great party should have a great spread. Unfortunately, providing food and beverage options for many guests can get expensive very quickly. You can keep costs low by sticking to appetizers like bruschetta, chicken fingers, pot stickers, cheese and charcuterie and other crowd pleasers that are easy to make. Popcorn is an appropriate treat for watching a movies award show and it’s inexpensive. Buy a bag of kernels in bulk and pop them at your party. Pick up some cheap paper bags and offer a variety of seasonings to make it festive. When it comes to drinks make the event “BYOB” or stick to serving one special cocktail for the night.


Get Creative with Decorations

To help celebrate the Oscars you may want to decorate with a Hollywood-inspired theme. You can do this on a budget by visiting your local dollar store and pick up cheap materials like star cutouts, streamers, balloons and tinsel. One fun idea is to hang gold stars from your ceiling that feature the names of each guest. The Academy Awards' website, www.oscars.org, a features many images you can download and print to bolster your decor. You can also make mini-posters of movies that have won Best Picture or other Oscars. Simply do a Google image search and print the posters you find on standard 8x12 paper. If you want to get really fancy, consider rolling out a red carpet on your porch made out of inexpensive felt that’s available at any craft store.  


Get Guests Involved

Make your party interactive by encouraging your guests to cast votes for winners before the show begins. The Academy Awards' website features a printable Oscars ballot (PDF) and a variety of Oscars bingo cards (PDF). If you have room in your budget, give themed prizes to your guests who make the right guesses for the big awards like Best Picture, best actress and so forth. You don’t have to spend a lot on prizes. Candy, cheap dollar store trophies or medals, or discount DVDs you can find in a Target discount bin can be inexpensive and fun additions to your event.


Make Your Party a Potluck

One of the best ways to host an Oscars party on a budget and make it stress-free is to allow your guests the opportunity to contribute. Try making it a potluck. Create a checklist for what you need and ask your guests what they can bring. Assign them something from the list – drinks, appetizers, etc. so you know what everyone will bring. Friends and family are usually happy to make a dish or bring something to share.


Plan Your Wedding on a Budget



You’re getting married in 2017! Congratulations! Now you just have to figure out how to pay for the big day. The average cost of a wedding is more than $20,000, making it one of the most expensive events in people’s lives. If you don’t have that kind of money, however, you may want to do some planning to reduce costs. Believe it or not, you can do that and still have a fantastic day at the altar. Here are a few tips:


Make a Realistic Budget

Create a budget before you make your first purchase. Research everything you dream about for your wedding, then meet with retailers, venue owners and caterers to get printed price lists. You want to know how much everything will actually cost before you sit down and create a realistic budget. When you have done your research and figured out how much you can spend, then you can start selecting which wedding elements are most important to you for the big day. Make a Priority List. Doing this will take you time but it’s worth it to have a budget to guide you and keep you from overspending. If you find you need additional funds to make your special day a reality, consider talking it over with your parents or other relatives to see if they might be willing to help pay for the wedding.


Find an Affordable Wedding Venue

Wedding venues can be expensive, but you can save a lot of money by getting married on a weekday, by finding a place outside a big city and choosing a date during the year where venue costs are lower. January through April will typically yield lower-priced packages. Just keep in mind that the winter and spring months increase the risk of inclement weather. Consider an indoor only ceremony or choose a flexible location with indoor and outdoor areas.


Save on Reception Food and Drink

The best way to save money on food and drink is to provide your own. You’ll have to recruit your family and friends to make that possible and you should not try to make meals that are too elaborate. If making food doesn’t work for you, consider serving appetizers instead of a full meal. Find a venue that allows you to bring your own alcohol since the bar tab is usually one of the most expensive parts of the reception.


Hire a Rookie Photographer

It’s important to have a photographer or videographer to document your big day, but you don’t have to pay top dollar for a studio. Find someone who’s just getting started with their photography career to take pictures for less.


Keep Music Costs Low

Hiring a band or a DJ to perform at your wedding can be expensive, but you have other options. Create your own playlist for the ceremony and the reception and have a friend play the music on your iPod. You can also hire a student musician, or enlist a musical friend or family member to perform.


Decorate Responsibly

Make sure you don’t go too crazy decorating your wedding venue by keeping your costs in check. Be smart about the types of flowers you select. You can also repurpose them throughout the wedding. Consider making your own centerpieces and decorations. You don’t have to spend much to make your venue look great and you can have a lot of fun doing it.


Spend Less on a Wedding Dress

Saving money on a dress requires smart shopping. Get on bridal shop and designer mailing lists so you will be notified of upcoming shows and sales. These events tend to offer significant discounts on gowns, shoes and other accessories. You don’t even have to buy a traditional wedding dress. You can save quite a bit of money by purchasing a pretty bridesmaid’s dress and having a tailor make a few alterations, for example.


Create Your Own Wedding Invitations & Favors

Your wedding invitations can also be done inexpensively by creating and printing them yourself, or providing your own cardstock to a printer. You could also go all electronic and send email invitations to family and friends. Wedding favors are traditional thank you gifts for your guests. You don’t have to buy expensive items. Make something yourself, like a CD of your favorite love songs.



Be Financially Prepared for Your New Baby


You’re preparing to be a parent this year! Getting ready for your little one is exciting and amazing, but it also means you have a lot to do for prepare financially. Here are some steps you should take to ensure you are ready:


Understand Your Insurance

Babies are expensive, even when you have health insurance, so it’s important to understand your policy and anticipate the costs. You should make a forecast of what you will spend. Make sure to select a pediatrician within your insurance network because you will need one soon after your baby is born. Talk to friends and family to get recommendations. You can also call local clinics and ask to talk to pediatricians to help make your choice. Add your child to your health insurance. Typically, you have 30 days from your child’s birth date to do so.


Health insurance isn’t the only kind of insurance you should have before baby comes. Also consider life insurance. Unfortunately, tragedies do happen. Even though we don’t like to think about the possibility it’s important to be prepared. A life insurance policy for a child is generally a low cost. Life insurance for you and your significant other should equal at least six to eight times your gross annual salary when you are expecting. 


Plan for Maternity and Paternity Leave

Understand your company’s policies and your state’s laws about maternity and paternity leave to figure out how it will affect your household finances. Know how much time you’ll get off work and whether you’re paid for the time you’re away.


Draft a Budget that Includes Baby

When your baby comes you will have a lot of new expenses, so plan ahead before the birth. First, cut down credit card debt. High balances in the thousands of dollars will cost you hundreds in annual interest and will make it harder for you to get loans for a larger home or a bigger car. Consider transferring your balance to a credit card with a lower interest rate.


Now you need to create a new budget. Keep track of everything you spend and document everything so you know exactly where your money is going. Finance software can be a big help with this. Programs like Mint.com will make creating a budget easy and offer you the ability tracking your cash flow.


Your new budget should take into account all your upcoming childrearing costs. Costs such as diapers, food and child care will be recurring for years to come. Make sure to visit day care centers or interview nannies in advance if you know you will require their services. Find out what the costs are to make sure you get quality service at a good price. Child Care Aware (www.childcareaware.org) will put you in touch with a local referral agency for free.


Start an Emergency Fund

Children are accident prone and will increase the chances of an emergency situation, so it’s best to anticipate those events by putting money away to pay for any unexpected expenses. A “rainy day” fund with at least three to six months’ worth of salary is a good place to start.



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