Week 4 of Budget 101

PART 4: SAVE ON THE NECESSARY THINGS

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that getting your financial life in order is hard work!  I wish I could say it will be a cakewalk from now on, but alas, there is still much to be done.  Don’t let that discourage you or make you give up.  If you are feeling overwhelmed (a perfectly normal reaction), then just stop, take a deep breath, and give yourself a break.  Wait a week or two to pick up where you started.  This series will be here for you when you’re ready.  I promise you CAN do this, and it’s okay if it takes you longer than 8 weeks to get there.
(NOTE: If you are new to “Through The Eyes Of I” or missed out last week, you might want to start at Week 1 of Budget 101 before starting this week’s assignment!)
Last week we focused lowering our major expenses–housing, transportation, & insurance.   Hopefully you were able to find a few ways to save, and if so, YAHOO!    If not, take heart, there are plenty of other areas left to save.
This week we are going to focus on lowering your expenses for the necessities in your budget.  Do you remember the exercise from week 1, where we focused on separating our wants from our needs?  Well, this is where that comes into play. There are certain things we simply can’t live without– groceries, utilities, gas –but we most likely CAN pay less for them.

For those of you who don’t want to bother with coupons, there are still many ways to reduce your grocery bills simply by changing the way you shop. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. ANY savings is better than none!

Unless you have already been trying to cut your expenses in this area, your utility bills should be one place you can find lots of opportunities for savings!  Small tweaks can make a BIG difference in your final bill, and if you are anything like me, you probably have a whole pile of utility bills to deals with each month–everything from water to electricity, cable to phones,  the list goes on and on, and seems to get longer all the time.

Gas is a hard expense to cut significantly. We obviously have no control over gas prices, and we usually need to travel where we need to go. But there are a few things we can do to make sure we are making the most of our gas mileage, and again, small tweaks can make a big difference over time.

This week’s assignment will be pretty straightforward.  We’re going to methodically go through those things we MUST spend money on, whether we want to or not, and then look for ways to cut those expenses.  A little here, and a little there really does add up.

This week’s assignment:

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1. Develop a strategy for saving on your groceries

If you are already saving money with coupons, great!  Look for ways to stretch those savings even more, perhaps by committing to a few meatless meals a week or by getting more proficient at “shopping” and cooking from your own stockpile. If you are not using coupons and don’t want to, there are still a lot of ways to reduce that grocery bill by planning your meals & shopping list around what’s on sale, and stocking up when you find things at a great price.

2.  Reduce Your Utilities

Make a list of all the utilities you pay each month, and make an active commitment to reduce each one. For instance, you could commit to reducing your electric bill by setting your A/C a few degrees lower and by turning off the lights during the day (and keeping them off.)  You could decide to eliminate your landline in favor of cell phones, downgrade your cable plan, or switch internet providers.  Remember, every little bit helps, but whatever you decide to do, WRITE IT DOWN!  Then do it!

3.  Commit to Saving Money on Gas

Once again, be specific.  Write down at least 5 things you can start doing right away to help lower that expense every month, whether it be planning your errands better to make them more efficient, carpooling, walking when possible, or even checking to make sure your tires are properly inflated. That’s all there is for this week.  That wasn’t so bad was it?  Compared to all the big stuff, it was a walk in the park, and maybe it was even a little fun!  It is amazing how much money we literally throw away each month, just because we don’t pay attention to the details in all these different areas.  It really does add up.

 
Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Sunday and don’t forget to let me know how you’re doing!
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Food Pyramid Turned My Pyramid Turned My Plate

Most of us have seen the iconic USDA Food Guide Pyramid at some point. It was first introduced in 1992, was remade in 2005 as My Pyramid, and in 2011 was changed to My Plate. All of these eating guides incorporate the different food groups and try to give us an understanding of how to eat a healthy diet. But have you ever wondered if they are correct? Who wrote them?

What research are they based on? Does profit or the food industry create a bias in these models? Why have they changed? Do you really need to eat 11 servings of grains in a day? Is there really a one size fits all diet? This article will help you understand the answers to all of these questions.

Food Pyramid

THE FOOD GUIDE PYRAMID

The original Food Pyramid was created in 1992 by the United States Department of Agriculture. It became the uncontested model for a “healthy diet” in schools, doctor’s offices, on food labels, and in the media. For more than 20 years, Americans tried to follow this high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet recommended by the Food Pyramid. The results are in, and sadly Americans are sicker and more over weight than ever before in our nation’s history. So what went wrong?

As the Food Pyramid held the power to greatly influence the multibillion dollar food industry, was the original Food Pyramid solely based on nutritional science, or was it was influenced by commercial interests? As more research has been done, it has become clear that a diet high in carbohydrates and low in fat is not optimal for disease prevention. (1)

A diet high in pasteurized dairy and carbohydrates causes inflammation and an overly acidic body pH, which is an underlying factor in almost every chronic disease. (2) It is also clear that many people are allergic to or have a difficult time digesting dairy and grains.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid has six levels. Foods from the six major food groups are shown in the levels of the Pyramid. The food groups are:

  • grains;
  • vegetables;
  • fruits;
  • milk and dairy products;
  • meat, fish, beans and nuts;
  • oils and fats.

File:MyPyramidFood.svg

MY PYRAMID

The 2005 My Pyramid model, which was like the original one turned on its side, was heavily criticized from the beginning as being too confusing and overly vague. The one good thing about this model was that it incorporated exercise as one of the “steps to a healthier you.” However, it still placed grains as the largest source of calories and did not incorporate our need for healthy fats.

With the massive increase in processed foods, this model did not help Americans navigate all of these choices. Many products advertised the number of “whole grains” it contained while being full of refined sugar, food additives, trans fat, genetically modified corn and soy, preservatives, artificial colors and flavorings, and other unhealthy ingredients. (3) A great example of this is breakfast cereals. The idea that Lucky Charms, Coco Puffs or Cinnamon Toast Crunch is a good and healthy breakfast choice—just because it contains whole grains—shows how far off track we’ve gone.

MyPyramid was a visual illustration of suggested healthy eating habits and physical activity. Like its predecessor, the Food Guide Pyramid, MyPyramid combined the government’s dietary guidelines and recommended allowances into six food groups. But instead of illustrating the number of servings based on a one-size-fits-all 2,000 calorie intake, the MyPyramid symbol itself showed six vertical color bands, each representing varying proportions of the pyramid. These colors represented the food groups as follows.

  • Orange for grains
  • Green for vegetables
  • Red for fruits
  • Yellow for oils
  • Blue for milk
  • Purple for meat and beans
  • Fruit Group should provide 4 daily servings, or 2 cups.
  • Vegetable Group should provide 5 servings, or 2.5 cups.
  • Grain Group should provide 6 ounce-equivalents (1 ounce-equivalent means 1 serving), half of which should be whole grain..
  • Meat and Beans Group should provide 5.5 ounce-equivalents or servings.
  • Milk Group should provide 3 cups/servings.
  • Oils should provide 24g or 6 teaspoons.
  • Discretionary Calories: The remaining amount of calories in each calorie level after nutrient-dense foods have been chosen. Up to 267 calories could be consumed in solid fats or added sugars if the other requirements were been met

MyPlate Food Pyramid Replacement

MY PLATE

In 2011, the new “My Plate” was introduced. This is a significant improvement from its predecessors as it is much easier to visualize what it actually means on your plate. My Plate really makes meal planning easier. Just by looking at the icon, you know right away that vegetables and fruits should take up half the plate (with the veggie portion being a bit bigger), and grains and protein foods should take up the other half (with more grains on this side). And with a side helping of dairy, you’re reminded to include milk or another dairy food (like cheese or yogurt) in your daily meal plan.

Because My Plate is a divided plate, no one food group overpowers the others. That’s because dietary guidelines encourage eating a variety of foods and discourage “super-sized” portions which can lead to weight gain and obesity.

Although the food guide icon has changed, the USDA’s message about eating well has stayed the same. Everyone still needs to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, along with lean meats or other forms of protein and low-fat dairy products.

Oils provide important nutrients and are recommended in small amounts but aren’t included on the My Plate icon. Choose oils over solid fats, but limit the amount you eat.

Exercise is also no longer included in the icon, but it’s still an important component of a healthy lifestyle. Everyone should and will benefit from exercise. Starting at 2 years old, kids need at least 60 minutes of moderate to physical activity each day.

Criticisms are that it still does not help us navigate what kinds of foods should be in each category. Before the industrialization of our food supply, these categories were very simple. Now we are bombarded with thousands of choices and new “food products” on the shelves of the supermarket every week.

So what should we eat!? The question, “what is a healthy diet?” seems to still remain once we take a deeper look at the shortcomings of these food models.

9 Smart Ways to Save on Car Insurance

Understanding Auto Insurance Basics Liability Collision Comprehensive

Much like having to pay for utilities or car repairs, paying for car insurance is one of those annoying expenses that we all have bear, even if we don’t really want to. But while purchasing auto insurance may be unavoidable, paying too much to insure our vehicles are something to watch out for.

Although most of the time we simply just pay the bill without really thinking about it, there are actually some clever ways most of us can decrease our car insurance rates, at least a little.

Don’t believe me? Here are nine smart ways to save on car insurance that are well worth reviewing. Even if you’ve heard some of them before, taking the time to make sure you are following them could save you hundreds with just a phone call or two:

1. Review Your Policy Annually

Like with home insurance, it is important to be vigilant about reviewing your auto insurance policy on an annual basis to make ensure you are getting the best rate and to find out if there are any new or additional discounts available. Your insurance agent will not do this for you, at least not without you asking him to. Instead, you must be your own best advocate when it comes to paying less for insurance.

2. Shop Around

While it is easy to get attached to a particular agent or agency, particularly one who has served your family for years, it always pays to shop around.  Even if you decide to stick with your current provider, comparing prices and getting multiple quotes will give you a much clearer idea of what you could or should be paying, and will also give you more leverage for negotiating rates.

Interestingly, according to the Allstate policy specialist I spoke with, choosing the cheaper premium may not always be the best route to take. He suggested determining what coverage you need or expect to require as well as researching claims procedures (such as time to respond, special benefits, etc.), and then determining what type of relationship you want (face-to-face, web only, etc.) Once you’ve researched all these factors, and created a list of companies that offer what you are looking for you will have a much better way of comparing cost to value.

3. Combine Insurance Policies

While shopping around is important, it can also payoff big time to carry all your various insurance policies with the same carrier to take advantage of a multiple-policy discount.  Furthermore, bundling policies can not only cost you less money, it can also make life easier by giving you one reliable contact (your agent) for your insurance needs and questions.

4. Be a Safe Driver

One of the most effective ways to pay less for insurance is to be a safe and conscientious driver, as the best premiums and rates are offered to those without speeding tickets or accidents tarnishing their records. On top of that, many insurance companies give bonuses and credits for every additional year of safe driving.

But what if your record is already tarnished? Is there any way to redeem yourself once you’ve made a mistake?

Surprisingly, yes. While you can’t magically erase a bad driving record, you can vow to become a better driver from now on, and the longer you can go without any driving infractions, the more likely you will be to get a discount. Turn off your cell phone before getting in the car, eliminate other distractions as much as possible, and obey the speed limit and other traffic signs. Furthermore, it is sometimes possible to go to traffic or driving school to keep tickets from appearing on your driving record. Be sure to inquire if this is a possibility in your area!

5. Increase Your Deductible

Increasing your deductible is a quick and easy way to get a lower rate. Yes, your deductible will cost more if you ever need to file a claim, but as a good driver you may never need to. Even increasing your deductible by just a few hundred dollars can save you thousands over the long run. Of course, as our Allstate policy expert reminds us, just make sure it’s still an amount you can afford in case there comes a time that you do have to make a claim. Remember too that changes you make don’t have to be permanent—if the deductible feels too high you can always lower it again later on.

6. Drive an Older or Safer Vehicle

Insurance is often the last thing we think about when shopping for a new vehicle. We become distracted by all the beautiful colors and the shiny bells and whistles, and it isn’t until we actually have to write that first insurance check that we consider how much our pretty new car is really going to cost us.

Thus, before purchasing a new or used vehicle it is important to do a little research in order to factor in the cost of insurance. Older vehicles are generally much cheaper to insure than new vehicles because their value is greatly reduced. But, according to our Allstate analyst, age and value are not the only factors that come into play: The type of car could impact your insurance rates. For example, safety aspects of certain vehicles may end up costing less, while an expensive car could cost more to insure because it can cost more to replace. You also may be eligible for discounts if your vehicle includes certain safety features or is deemed an economical car.

7. Drive Less

Most auto insurance companies will offer discounts for vehicles that incur low annual mileage, which means that if you own a car that doesn’t get driven much or if you can find a way to drive less, you can save a bundle. There are many ways to do this, including carpooling to work (which can also provide additional carpool discounts), moving closer to work, walking, bicycling, or taking public transit when possible, or becoming more efficient with your errands by bundling them as much as possible. The added benefits of driving less include less wear and tear on your vehicle, significant gas savings, and less risk of accidents. 

8. Install Safety Features

While most newer vehicles come pre-equipped with standard safety features, installing additional safety features to older cars can help greatly decrease your insurance premium. Vehicles equipped with safety features such as automatic seat belts, running lights, an alarm system or anti-lock braking system can all save you money on your policy.

If your car doesn’t already have ABS installed in it, check to see if it would be worth the cost of installation. Insurers love the anti-lock braking system because its been tested thoroughly as a safety device and has a track record for effectiveness. Anti-lock brakes are highly effective in driving conditions where you may need to brake hard. You can keep control of the vehicle better especially when it comes to stopping on ice in a pinch.

Likewise, installing an anti-theft device may also help reduce your premium. Check with your insurance agent to be sure.

9. Take Advantage of Special Discounts

In addition to safe driver discounts, most insurance companies offer a variety of other discounts on auto insurance. While these do vary by state and company, just a few of the discounts that you may be able to take advantage of include Good Student Discounts, Senior Discounts, Retired Discounts, and Resident Student Discounts. At Allstate, Teen drivers can even take a TeenSmart driving class to lower their premiums.   There can also be significant discounts available for paying early, paying in full, or paying through automatic withdrawal.

Furthermore, while some occupations are not at all favored by insurance companies, others may qualify for discounts. You can end up with a higher rate of insurance for jobs in such fields as journalism, real estate agents, sales representatives and even entertainers, but giving your insurer information that is as specific as possible can help lower your rate. A journalist for example may get a high premium but if she is listed as an editor then she can get a lower premium. In any case do NOT be dishonest about your occupation or you may hurt your chances of qualifying for future claims. The occupation you state has to be reasonably close to what you do for a living.

While taking the time to review your auto insurance policy may not be the most enjoyable hour of your life, the thrill of saving a couple of hundred dollars should more than make up for a few minutes of tedium. These nine smart discounts are certainly a great place to start, but always remember be your own advocate and to seek out the best possible rate no matter what.

What Every Mom Needs to Know About Insurance

As parents, it’s our responsibility to make sure our kids are cared for. We go out of our way to keep our kids safe, from buying bicycle helmets to Band-Aids to winter coats, right down to holding their hand when they cross the street.

Most of us worry endlessly about our kids’ well-being. I know I do! But as much as we worry about the little things, it’s sometimes easy to let the big things, those risks and dangers that are a little more intangible—slip by ignored or unattended to.

A big part of protecting our kids, as well as securing financial peace, is making sure our families are covered for the big things including natural disasters, an injury or illness, job loss, or worse. Even so, it can sometimes be hard to determine exactly what coverage you need, especially when it seems like most insurance salesmen only want to play on your emotions.

When money is tight, you certainly don’t want to overspend on coverage that you don’t need, but you need be protected from major catastrophe. The best approach is to do your research ahead of time and be aware of the state of your family’s finances before you get a sales pitch.

It is important to remember that it’s not the insurance agency’s role to make sure you’re getting the best deal on insurance. It is up to you to be your own advocate and to get the best rate. Insurance isn’t something you can put on the back burner and just pay each month.

To get the best rates, you must continuously (at least once a year) revisit your insurance policies and do some comparison shopping. Plans and offers are constantly changing to meet the needs of the market. Rates can fluctuate as your family’s needs and situation change as well. Adding another driver, building on an addition to your home, changing your security system, or bringing a new member of your family into the world can all raise insurance questions and call for a little guidance.

There are seven types of insurance that you NEED: Homeowners/Renters, Auto, Health, Disability, Long-Term Care, Identity Theft, and Life.

Other insurances you should consider is also boat, farm and travel.

resizedimage600583-Home-Insurance-Icons

Home

If you’re paying a mortgage, the lender requires homeowner’s coverage, but even if you’re lucky enough to own your home outright, you want to be sure that you’re protected.

For renters, insurance protects your possessions in case of fire, theft and, in some cases, flood. Renters insurance is often thought of as optional, but as a parent, you must cover yourself in case of tragedy. Renters insurance is often really quite inexpensive (less than $20/month!) and it’s very important if you have big-ticket items that might be difficult to replace, such as audio equipment, collectables, exercise gear, televisions and appliances. Take inventory of your household and make a list of those larger items that could be damaged or stolen, and would result in major financial hardship if you’d have to replace them.

There are several ways to save on homeowner and renter’s insurance. You can raise your deductible, combine policies and do some home improvements and emergency preparations to raise the protection level on your home. Improvements to home security can also help you save, as can new windows, doors, and extreme weather protection.

Auto

 When we think insurance, auto insurance is often the first thing that comes to mind. Driving is possibly the highest risk activity that any of us do almost every day, and we all know the importance of having liability coverage. In many states, it’s now illegal to operate a vehicle without liability insurance or proof of financial responsibility.

In our litigious society, unfortunately, coverage is mandatory to protect yourself from financial ruin in case of an accident or driving mistake. One moment can change your life and the life of another driver forever. Trust me, your mind will be at ease when you know you’re protected.

When it comes to auto insurance, the value of your vehicle is important when you’re determining the amount of coverage and type of insurance you need. If your car is in its twilight years, you may feel comfortable with less coverage or just liability. If you have a newer car (or if you’re paying off a car loan), you need to have full coverage to keep your investment safe.

There are several other ways to save on car insurance. Shop around, compare rates, and don’t become too loyal to just one agency or provider. There are good driver discounts, multiple car discounts, and even good grade programs for driving teens and students. Installing safety upgrades or attending defensive driving courses can also help lower your monthly payments and save you when it comes to paying for coverage.

family health insurance coverage

Health

Health insurance is so important. As parents, we know we must take children to the doctor for regular checkups. We also know that serious health issues can come out of nowhere, and without coverage they can leave households financially devastated. For the many of us just surviving in todays middleclass, we make enough to pay all our bills, not enough for the extras, and too much for any assistance such as government plan health insurance such as Medicaid, family health plus and their attached HMO plans.

Many employers offer health insurance at a cost which also requires deductibles and co-pays, but if yours does not, or if you’re independently employed, private insurance providers are available. Under the Affordable Care Act, you may qualify for low-cost coverage based on your income. Keep in mind though, low-cost means anywhere from $200-$400 per person a month with deductibles and co-pays which is low cost for health insurance.

Consider a Health Savings Account and/or a high deductible plan to save the most. An HSA can save families thousands of tax-free dollars every year, which you can use toward your deductible, so your monthly premium will be lower. You can use your HSA for prescriptions, and depending on the plan, eye exams and preventative care.

Disability

Disability insurance should cover 65% of your income, and most employers offer disability coverage. It’s often something that’s overlooked, but one in seven workers will face a disability before retirement.

You should be sure your disability insurance is long-term. My personal opinion is that you should have 3–6 months of expenses saved up, which would cover your needs in the case of a short-term or minor disability. It’s the long-term scenarios that you should plan for. Most disabilities (90%) are not covered by worker’s comp or social security.

The effects of a disability can financially ruin a family if you’re not properly prepared. Many workers facing disabilities can be out of work for three years or more. Consider what would happen to your family should they face an unforeseen accident or tragedy that leaves you unable to work.

Long-Term Care

As a parent, long-term care is not necessarily something that’s on any of our minds, but it’s a necessity for anyone over age 60. If your parents cannot afford long-term care insurance, this may be something you want to consider.

Consider the scenario of a parent who is facing a condition like dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, and requires long-term care. This situation can quickly eat up your parents’ retirement savings and even dip into your own savings and accounts. Those who qualify for Medicaid will receive some assistance, but it often leaves patients with limited options and plans for complete care.

As you near your 60s, long-term care should be on your horizon and part of your post-retirement financial plan. It’s a way to make sure you don’t financially burden your children or spouse and ensures you won’t leave them unable to make ends meet.

Identity Theft

If you’ve never faced the horror in dealing with having your identity stolen, then consider yourself very lucky. With data breaches on the rise among major retailers, it seems like everyone is at risk. Identity theft can cost you big-time in terms of time, money, effort, and just general headaches. In a worst-case scenario, identity theft can damage your credit and make recovery very difficult—even if you’re an innocent victim.

Part of your insurance portfolio should include identity theft protection. You should be sure it includes an identity restoration service that can fix the damage and get your identity restored and safe once again. Teaching your family good identity-safety habits such as limiting your exposure online and protecting your passwords can help protect you as well, but should the worst happen, insurance will be a lifesaver.

Long Island Insurance Company

Life

Life insurance can be a little confusing. The general rule of thumb is you need term, not whole life. Cash value insurance can sound like a great way to invest and save money, but truth be told, it doesn’t offer high returns at all and generally is a poor performing product.

Term life insurance, on the other hand, is a way to cover yourself until you’re debt free and in a position to invest. It offers a way to help your spouse or children settle your estate and survive in relative comfort should something happen to you.

Term life insurance can help you cover burial costs and the costs of paying off your debt, plus further support of your family, particularly if you’re the sole breadwinner.

Facing uncertain scenarios in life is always unsettling, but having the proper insurance coverage can ease your mind and allow you to sleep a little easier at night. Look into the faces of your children and think of all the ways you would love to keep them safe. Insurance is one of the most simple, practical, and logical ways to protect your loved ones. 

Week 3 of Budget 101

Part 3: Save on the Big Things

After spending the last week sorting out your budget and then recording all your purchases, you hopefully now have a fairly clear idea of where your money is going.  Over the next 6 weeks be sure to keep those worksheets handy–you will need to adjust your amounts as we work to lower expenses in the various categories.  Be sure to also continue recording all your purchases in the expense tracking worksheet too!
(NOTE: If you are new to “Through The Eyes Of I” or missed out last week, you might want to start at Week 1 of Budget 101 before starting this week’s assignment!)

This week we are going to tackle lowering the BIG 3:  Housing, Transportation, & Insurance.  I will readily admit that this is not my area of expertise.  Not even close. From this point forward it should be known that you are taking financial advice from a girl who thinks a cute pair of designer shoes or a great book is a perfectly reasonable investment, not just an impulse buy.

In other words, some of this stuff is a little over my head.

Since this kind of stuff overwhelms me, I’m guessing that it probably overwhelms many of you too. So let’s figure it out together and be better for it.  Luckily for us, the internet is a vast pool of knowledge.  This week, we’re going swimming.

I think the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to your finances and the money you’re spending is this premise: Everything is negotiable.  

The great thing about NOT being socialists is that we live in a country where companies have to compete for OUR business. This is something they don’t really want you to figure out.  Most companies would rather have you believe that they are doing you a favor by financing your home or car, or providing insurance, because if you believe that, you’ll pay whatever they tell you to.  The truth is that they NEED your business, and that if they are not willing to negotiate, there is probably someone else out there who will.

Knowledge is power; use it to your advantage!

When it comes to saving money on your housing costs there are a lot of factors that will come in to play, far too many to get into specifics here.  Do you rent or own?  Do you owe more on your house than it’s worth?  Are you looking to buy?  Are you in an apartment? Is your lease coming due soon?  Your individual circumstances will determine your course of action, or even whether there is a course of action possible.

As far as transportation costs go, unless your vehicle is constantly in need of repair or way more expensive than you can afford, it is almost always more cost effective to stick with the car you have than get a different vehicle. Thus, your current car payment is probably not going to change much.  That said, if you need a new car, it is almost always better to buy used than to lease or buy something brand new. Your auto insurance, on the other hand, can definitely be negotiated!

Likewise, health, life, & home insurance prices can also be negotiated and shopping around pays.  When my Husband and I needed health insurance last year, we took a lot of time to price things out.  When we took into consideration how little we actually go to the doctor, we discovered that it made a lot more sense financially to buy only catastrophic coverage with a high deductable, then to pay a huge premium each month for medical coverage we weren’t using.  As with most things, it is very important to do the math!

How to negotiate when chartering a gulet

Here is your assignment:

1. Research options for lowering your mortgage payment or rent

Once you’ve done your homework, decide if making some changes or re-negotiating your rent or mortgage would be the right solution for your family.  I found some awesome, super informative, and, most importantly, short articles to start with:

How to Lower Your Mortgage Payment Without Refinancing (homeowners)

How to Negotiate Low Mortgage Interest Rates [Video] (homeowners)

I Owe More Than My House Is Worth (homeowners underwater)

How to get the best mortgage rate (looking to buy a home)

How to negotiate lower rent (renters)

Tips for Reducing your Insurance Premium

2. Research options for lowering your insurance rates

If you haven’t shopped around for auto, homeowners, health, or life insurance lately (or ever) then you need to.  Do some due diligence to find out what options are available, then make some phone calls (or send some emails) and get new quotes.  You might be surprised at how much money you can save.

 Here are some great articles I recently wrote to get you going:

What Every Mom Needs to Know About Insurance

9 Smart Ways to Save on Car Insurance

12 Smart Ways to Save on Home Insurance

It’s only two tasks, but this should be plenty to keep you busy this week!  If it seems daunting, just remember that every dollar saved on your mortgage, rent, vehicle, or insurance is a dollar that can be spent on shoes.
Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Sunday and don’t forget to let me know how you’re doing! What big things do you want to save money on?  Do you think it will be possible?  What is something you know you can’t save on?

About Budget 101

My goal for this series is to guide you through a series of assignments intended to put you on a sounder financial footing.  Basically it is eight weeks to a better budget. It is my personal guide, a beginners budget 101. Each week we will tackle one specific area for us to work on, and then complete assignments related to that segment of our financial life. Keep in mind, just as anything you need to do in life, following this series will take some effort & commitment on your part. There are many ways to budget your financial life, and this is the blood, sweat, & tears edition. Okay, well maybe no blood 🙂 Every Sunday will mark a new week towards a better budget. Come join me and save! Click on Budget 101 in the menu scale, and use the drop down to view the series by week.

Disclaimers: 

  • I am not a financial expert or certified financial planner.  I have degrees in business administration, criminal and business law, have studied accounting, and am a certified tax preparer and tutor.  I have no credentials whatsoever beyond my own experience to qualify me for teaching anyone about saving money.  There are plenty of money experts out there who could probably explain this stuff far better than me, and some I will even refer you to.  My only goal here is to try to break down the scary world of budgets and saving into manageable bites.  Yes, this is the baby steps guide to saving. This is my personal guide, and it has worked for me.

Week 1 of Budget 101

Welcome to My Beginner’s Guide to Saving!

My goal for this series is to guide you through a series of assignments intended to put you on sounder financial footing.  Basically it is eight weeks to a better budget. Being that you are reading this, you are starting a lifestyle to a better you, and  better financial situation.

Part One: Stop Spending!!!

Saving is not easy. We live in a crazy consumer driven “have to have it” society, where the latest electronics, cars, fashions and cars are constantly being promoted; and we are made to feel like we’re missing out if we don’t have the latest or the best.  The sheer quantity of stuff available to purchase at any given time is pretty much a bottomless pit.  There is always more, more more! So we want and spend more, more, more!

So what’s a girl (or boy) to do?

Well, it’s pretty simple really:  STOP. BUYING. STUFF.

At least in theory it is simple…….

In practice, it is sooooo much harder……

Our reasons for spending money on stuff we don’t need are plentiful and varied.  It makes us feel good.  We want to look better.  We want our house to be pretty.  We want what everyone else has.  It’s fun.  We’re bored.  We’re lonely.  We want people to like us better.  We want to be “ahead of the curve.” We’re “tech junkies”.  We can’t pass up a “good deal.” We think we might need it someday.  The sales pitch worked.  We’re stressed.  We’re trying to fill a void.  It was on sale.  We’re addicted to Starbucks, tobacco, scrapbooking, shoes, video games, books, fun, etc.

Sound familiar?

The truth is that whatever the reason, much of what we spend our money on is unnecessary, a want rather than a need.  I need to eat, but I want to drink my Keurig K-Cups coffee every day. I need to wear shoes, but I want to have dozens of pairs in every color and style imaginable. I want to get my hair done, but I have student loans and bills I need to pay. I want to take dance classes, but I need to pay for health insurance every month (why is insurance so much anyways?…347.00 a month!)  😦  So much for AFFORDABLE in Affordable Care Act.

It is so very important to realize the distinction between what we think we need and what we actually need. But its not an issue of wants Vs. needs, but wants Vs. Priorities.

It is the first critical step on the path to savings.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should never spend money on anything, and live an austere and boring life, void of pretty things, entertainment or yummy coffee drinks.

But for the sake of this series, we are going to start by curbing all spending so that down the road we can figure out how to get those things we want in a way that fits our budget.

Which brings me to this week’s assignment:

1.  Stop spending!

Try to go these next seven days without spending money on anything except what is absolutely necessary, as in matter-of-survival necessary.  No clothes, no candy, no quick stops at McDonalds, no craft supplies, no nothing.  Don’t worry, it’s only a week.  You won’t die.  I promise. It is a great way to get your budget back on track in a hurry!

2.  Make a list of wants and needs

Spend your time reflecting on all the things you spend money on in a months time, and divide those things into a “needs” list (i.e.  I need to pay rent, pay utility bills, pay health and life insurance bills, buy food, make car and insurance payment, etc.) and a “wants” list (cable, , Starbucks, etc.)

  •  Don’t just make a mental list.  Sit down and physically write down every single thing you can think of that you spend money on, from the mundane to the major.

3. Get inspired

Read a few financial articles to get yourself motivated.  It will give you something to do while you’re trying not to spend money.

4.  Find new (free) ways to fill your time

Think long and hard about the reasons you spend money frivelously.  If you are using shopping as a way to fill a void in your life then you need to seriously explore other hobbies that don’t cost anything.  Go to the library and check out some new books, make it your mission to explore every park in a 20 mile radius, set a goal of organizing every closet and cupboard in your house by the end of the summer, or better yet, have a yard sale and make some money off the things that you already have that you don’t need.

I think the thing that surprised me the most when I stopped spending money out of boredom was how much more creative I became.  The world is full of free activities. You just have to look a little harder.

And that’s it for this week!  Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Sunday and remember, I want to hear from you!  If you’ve decided to take this 8 week challenge, or if you have any ideas for fun free activities you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.  Saving money is so much more fun when you have someone to share it with.
Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Children and News

 
                 
Since my stepson was 3, he has been viewing the news on our local channels as well as NBC, MSNBC and CNN with me. At 9 years old, he now watches the news every morning before going to school, and at night during the evening broadcast. I am a current event and history fanatic, and see a major importance in both.  CNN, NBC and MSNBC not only take over my television screen, but my phone, including apps for breaking news notifications. I love to know what’s going on not only locally, but world wide. I believe children should be just as aware. Today’s news will be tomorrows history. Take my poll below and see what others believe and how you and I may agree or differ.

Don’t Always Baby Your Baby

Don’t Always Baby Your Baby

It is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings

Good parents realize that there is always much more for them to learn about in regards to being “good parents”. In a perfect world, parents would all have boundless energy, patience, knowledge, tolerance, understanding and flexibility, but no one is perfect. There is so much more to being a parent than just putting them to sleep, feeding them and buying their necessities. It also includes having a wide variety of practical skills in which more than majority of parents aren’t equipped with to have the ability to inquire, or even have the knowledge of the skill’s being, let alone their importance and affects.

When it comes to my stepson,  or my own future biological children….it is not my job — and it is certainly not anyone else’s — to prevent them from feeling frustration, fear, or discomfort. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that those things are not the end of the world, and can be overcome or used to their advantage.

If they get stuck, it is not my job or anyone else’s to save them immediately. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn to calm themselves, assess their situation, and try to problem solve their own way out of it.

  • I don’t want my children to learn that they can’t overcome obstacles without help.
  • I don’t want them to learn that they can reach great heights without effort.
  • I don’t want them to learn that they are entitled to the reward without having to push through whatever it is that’s holding them back and EARN it.
  • I want my children to know the exhilaration of overcoming fear and doubt and achieving a hard-won success.
  • I want them to believe in their own abilities and be confident and determined in their actions.
  • I want them to accept their limitations until they can figure out a way past them on their own significant power.
  • I want them to feel capable of making their own decisions, developing their own skills, taking their own risks, and coping with their own feelings.
  • I want them to climb that ladder on the slide without any help, because they can. I know it. If I give them a little space, they will soon know it too.

Because, as they grow up, the ladders will only get taller, and scarier, and much more difficult to climb. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather help them learn the skills they’ll need to navigate them now, while a misstep means a bumped head or scraped knee that can be healed with a kiss, while the most difficult of hills can be conquered by chanting, “I think I can” to “I know I can” to “I did it”

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

A Blog For My Step Son

This article is based on the free eBook

My nine year old stepson Felix is filled with creativity, quite more than energy, but I love that he has a creative side. We spoke  about starting a blog made by him for other kids who share similar interest or just like to explore into other thoughts and ideas, but we have yet to begin one. Im thinking of allowing him to express freely to the free world about random subjects or stories that comes to his mind including recipes and crafts. Of course I’ll  be monitoring his sharing and interaction with others, but maybe an audience greater than our household would give him more initiative to use and share his creativity in writing format as well as also help him with his computer, syncing, coding and writing skill. For all my fellow wordpress artist and writers, like this post if you believe a child should be able to create thier own site and blog , but even better, leave a comment with ideas or thoughts you have towards this subject or ideas about what he should blog about.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

I Am a Mother, Accept It

I Am a Mother, Accept It

A mother is a mother; is a mother. I don’t care if she gives birth, adopts, fosters, or is co-parenting her boyfriend’s/ fiancé’s/ husband’s kid(s) with his kids’ mother.

Giving birth immediately makes a woman a mother, a bio mother, but not necessarily a parent. A mother, yes, this is biological destiny, a religious blessing, and simple anatomy science. This is fact. It does not matter if she is not raising her child. It does not matter if she does not play any significant role in the child’s life at all. It does not matter who she is or what she does for a living or how much money she has or what her IQ is. The fact that she gave birth is indisputable. It makes her a biological mother, but not a parent.

Adopting or fostering makes one a mother and a parent. You have a legal document that says so. You are doing the mothering, parenting and the loving. You are building a relationship and a history with your child. You are a mom.

Mom is in the term “step-mom”.  Again, you are building a relationship, and a history with a child, or children, they’re your child, your children.

I am a mom as well. I didn’t give birth to any, but I am a mother, accept it.

To those many woman in my shoes or alike, that’s loving, providing for and protecting a child or children that’s not theirs, you are a mother to that child or children, regardless of their bio moms availability, relationship or opinion. In your heart, as well as the child(ren)s, their father’s, maybe mother’s (depending on your sexual preference), you do have a role without boundaries, because your love has none. Don’t believe you have a place that is limited or a role that is minimum, you loving a child that’s not yours is normal, not weird. A woman who’s says its weird is a woman who has the inability to do it herself.

When another woman takes place in a childs life, this woman is automatically a bad character in too many mothers eye’s. Some even take it to the extent to share that opinion with their child(ren). She now becomes topic in conversation amongst a mother’s conversation with her family and friends, but majority of the time, a jealous, classless and even coniving woman makes it a negative one almost everytime. Some are even caught in lies when others from her party try to intervene.

It’s still a valid question to ask why do many woman say they want to know who’s around their child(ren), but do not take the time to learn about them woman to woman. She may say she wants to see if she’s a good person, but when she finds the good, its not shared amongst her circle, but she rather negatively discuss her and even tease her flaws. Most likely because that other woman is a better woman, and may even make a better mother. In the end, from the very beginning, a mother can continue to show that the only negative woman involved in that child’s life is the actual mother herself with her rude comments, disrespectful, and even violent demeanor towards the woman she expects to be of high value to be good enough for her child(ren).

 

Why does it feel like some bio-moms need to make it a war, or a competition? Someone always has to be the loser, and the other the winner. Or another woman has to be trying to take over instead of working with. Some women and their “territory”, it’s sad. A child isn’t property. A child is human aren’t they? Aren’t people, people, and not ones property?

Why must a woman be able to accept another woman as a mother figure, and even call them mom, ma or say they are “like” or “are” their mom, but when it comes to their own child(ren), no other woman can be that to them? Why must she ask her child(ren) if the other woman makes them call her mom? Or even tell their child(ren) never to call her mom? Eventually the child(ren) will realize that his or her neighbors, celebrity idols, friends, and other family members call another woman mom or ma and realize it is normal, and not a crime. Thus, he or she will then realize how selfish, immature and even jealous their mother is or was, and will call that other woman ma or mom at their own will.

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What many of us woman need to understand is, is that woman who do act like that, are woman who do not have the ability or willingness to love, and nurture a child that is not their own, and maybe one that is as well. She cannot be with a man who has children Of his own nor take care of a child or children who isn’t hers and provide that child with what One needs emotionally and spiritualy to grow healthy and happy.

You’re a mother. She’s a mother. You’re a mother. I’m a mother, accept it.

How does a child have the ability to have a step-father, or simply have a man around and involved, who’s not their father, in their life, but another woman can’t step foot near or have time spent with them and a step mom is of nonexistence and is treated as a crime? I’m confused.

Be glad that a child of yours has extra love and guidance in their life. Even though you may have used, or use your child(ren) as pawns, doesn’t mean that “house” is a game that another woman plays with your child(ren) as its pieces.

“This is MY child”, “These are MY kids”, an unconfident or threatened woman would reply or start a conversation with. Obviously the other woman didn’t give birth, you did, so that is not needed to be mentioned. You aren’t proving a point of who’s the mother, or that you are the one in control, you’re showing how weak, threatened and unconfident you are as a woman, as a mother.

A woman who shows that persona when it comes to her own, and shows her over protectiveness to a man that has children himself, shows that his children will never be priority nor good enough to be considered her own and therefore, that relationship nor any other will work. It scares and turns off a man, its shows far off from being a loving woman and a mature mother.

It is crazy and completely irrational, but one may think another woman is trying to take her kid(s) from her, or that their kid(s) would like the other woman better and wish she were their mom instead. A not so great mother with a guilty conscience or unconfident woman feels her motherhood has been threatened or questioned, like perhaps she was being judged and maybe she has been discovered as not a good enough parent. But, a great and confident mother would know better, and therefore would do better.

Love is what makes a mother, not just biological science or spiritual religion.

Whether our children are biological, adopted, fostered, step or spiritual, love is what gives us that role of influence in another’s life. We are mothers because we love, and love is paired, so often and necessarily, with sacrifice.

Having a heart doesn’t make you compassionate any more than having a brain makes you intelligent. You had the tools to create a child as any woman does, but that doesn’t mean you have the correct priorities or guidance to raise one. Some woman, and their so-called “motherly love, fight and awareness”, it’s sad and even sadder of the lack of knowledge and commitment some have to fulfill the role of a positive, rational and loving mother.

Good mothers set a high enough bar of being ones mother and a confident and mature mother would not be in fear of losing the role she loved and valued so much. If she knew she was doing the job correctly, there would be nothing to fear, only something to gain, the additional love that her child(ren) would endure. And being a mother involves sacrificing your own pride for your child(ren)’s emotional well-being and allowing your child to love another.

Love and sacrifice.

The love we give, and the sacrifices us woman make for the love we give is what makes us mothers. Its about what our child(ren) needs, not what we want. I will be dressed in rags before I keep my stepson, well my son, away from what pleases him. He wants to do martial arts, my hair appointments will now take place in my own bathroom. He needs extra support with school work, I will adjust my schedule. He wants to spend more time with me, my nights out come to an end. He is the son of my fiancé, I am the fiancé of his father. In the same, I am a mother, he is my son. He’s not a part of my biological DNA, but we are both major key parts in each other’s positive emotional well-being, spiritual world and life in whole.

It was love that led Christ to come to earth, and it was love that led him to, and through the cross. As women made in his image, we are called to love and serve those in our care, whether they are our physical or spiritual children. But truly loving and sacrificing for others is costly, in small and large ways. And in this way, it is Love that makes us mothers. We need not be biological mothers to fulfill the role.

I am a mother, accept it.

– Samantha Jonas-Rongo

I Have A Dream

I Have A Dream, August 28, 1963

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

Revised by: Samantha Jonas-Rongo

 

On August 28, 1963, the historic March on Washington drew more than 200,000 people in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial. It was here that King made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, emphasizing his belief that someday all people will be considered equal and live in peace and respect. I was 15 years old during the 11th grade, and my peers and I were given extra credit to memorize, and recite important speeches from the past. Even though my grades were well enough to not need the extra credit, I could afford to add a few points! Plus, I enjoyed learning and experiencing anyways so of course I took on the extra credit challenges and opportunities.

One I chose to recite was “I Have A Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr. In honor of that brave and intelligent man and it being his Day of honor, I decided to attempt the challenge once more even though it has been almost 15 years since I sat in that 7th grade classroom.

To be honest, I needed some prepping and correction!

This is the fully corrected and revised version of “I Have A Dream”. Please read, and remember why we have the opportunities we have today. Teach our children the meaning and lead by example so today will be more than just a day we reserve. If a child can remember a songs lyrics and understand their meaning, along with words that are not even proper words, they can do the same with important speeches that made history and how we live today….Think About It!

Martin-Luther-King-Jrs-I-Have-a-Dream-speech-VIDEO

“I Have A Dream”

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free; one hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination; one hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity; one hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.

So we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was the promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make the real the promises of democracy; now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice; now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood; now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content, will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the worn threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy, which has engulfed the Negro community, must not lead us to a distrust of all white people. For many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of Civil Rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality; we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities; we cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one; we can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”; we cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro in Mississippi cannot vote, and the Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No! no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations.  Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi. Go back to Alabama. Go back to South Carolina. Go back to Georgia. Go back to Louisiana. Go back to the slums and ghettos of our Northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.  Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I HAVE A DREAM TODAY!

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama — with its vicious racists, with its Governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification — one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I HAVE A DREAM TODAY!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be plain and the crooked places will be made straight, “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.  With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brother-hood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.  And this will be the day. This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire; let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York; let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania; let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado; let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that. Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia; let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee; let freedom ring from every hill and mole hill of Mississippi. “From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”… Martin Luther King Jr. 1963

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Samantha Jonas-Rongo

The Importance of Play for Later Success

The Importance of Play for Later Success

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

play

As children grow, play is an important factor for their development. They gain knowledge and skills benefitting not only their current life, but they also build a foundation for further success as an adult. Every time a child plays, they learn more about the world surrounding them and how to manage situations along with dealing with others. Play is fun for children and without them realizing, they are learning and beginning their education on life.

The stages of play vary, each style and effect. It is the work of childhood, in a laboratory in which they make developments, figure out how the world works, who they are and who they might be. Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children to help prosper. As children grow and change, play develops with them according to a developmental sequence as they age.

Communication also plays a key role in the success of any workplace program or policy, and is gained starting while interacting with others at a young age, normally during play. The type of work that is on the rise and still earns a decent living is work that involves not only uniquely human skills, as opposed to skills that a computer can copy, but skills that are standardized across humans. Job growth has occurred in those jobs that require creativity and relationships. Over the past several decades, majority of jobs require complex communication and cognitive work or expert thinking.

Importance of Play-way method in Child’s Development

For starters, a reputation for trustworthiness is an important asset in personal living, and in our economy. Developing such a reputation requires the ability to act with responsibility and with a sense of ethics which is related to learning to socialize and communicate with others beginning as children. Success, then, in the type of economy toward which we are moving, and that today’s children will experience, depends upon the capacities of creativity, self-knowledge, social skills, and virtue. Relationships matter not just because the economy is structured by levels of relationships among firms, but because the primary economic assets reside within individuals. Before an innovation becomes marketable, it is an idea that lives within the mind of the innovator. Relationships and interpersonal cooperation are part and parcel of the creative economy.

During early childhood, peer interaction increases as children move from nonsocial activity, such as an unoccupied and/or onlooker, advancing to participate. Parents and/or caregivers influence early peer relations both directly through attempts to influence their child’s peer relations and indirectly through their parent moral practices. Secure attachment, emotionally positive parent-child conversations, and cooperative parent-child play are linked to favorable peer interaction. As the frequency of associative and cooperative play increase, the frequency of non-social activity is constant.

Very young children normally have a limited form of social participation. They play near other children with similar materials, but will most likely not try to influence or interact with other children. This is the parallel play stage, and is in par for the developmental course for babies, even toddlers.

While they may appear to be playing independently, kids this age are actually keeping an eye on each other’s behavior. Eventually, they’ll begin to imitate what he or she sees the others doing, and the peer pressure opens their mind to new possibilities for play. Becoming observant and imitating eventually helps extend vocabulary. Parallel play is often a first step in forming strong social relationships outside of the family.

Developing Core Vocabulary for Each Academic Area

Play is also vital to children’s social development. It enables children to develop a better communicating ground. During play, children increase their verbal and non-verbal communication skills by negotiating roles, and extending their speech, vocabulary and comprehension of the words. By becoming social with others, they exercise their abilities to identify with others as well as themselves. They learn to gain access to their peers’ feelings and appreciating the feelings of others.

Play also supports emotional maturity by providing a way to express and cope with feelings. While they play, they are allowed to think about experienced feelings both pleasant and unpleasant and re-enact the situation to their preference. In addition to expressing feelings, children also learn to cope with their feelings as they act out. For example, how they react to being angry or overwhelmed in response to situations and other people. In play, children learn how to regulate their fear and anger and thereby learn how to maintain emotional control in threatening real-life situations.

Play also contributes to children’s fine and gross motor development and body awareness as they actively use their bodies. Using their bodies during play enables them to feel physically confident, secure and self-assured. It provides various health benefits as well. Physical activity promotes early brain development, and learning in infants and young children. It also decreases the risk of developing health conditions like coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, obesity and many other chronic health conditions.

Most children naturally develop the ability to run and walk. However, they require practice and instruction to develop hopping, galloping, sliding, catching, jumping, throwing, kicking, bouncing and striking skills. Children incorporate these skills into sports, games and dance. Playgrounds are perfect places for a child to develop mental connections, socialize and develop fine and gross motor skills.

Collaborating to Solve Problems

Creative thinking can also be considered an aspect of problem solving which originates in play. When young children use their imaginations, they become more creative, perform better at school task, and develop a problem solving approach to learning. It allows a new response and awareness of new connections. Children create their own version of transformation of information including music, arts & crafts and audio-visual.

Symbolic play is an often-overlooked important scaffold to emerging literacy. The appearance of symbolic play is considered one of the most significant cognitive developments of a young child. Symbolic play, along with deferred imitation and language; signals the development of representational thought and allows gradual exploration and control. The key importance of representational thought is that the child is now able to represent objects and events symbolically. Symbolic representation shows you how sophisticated their brain is becoming. It also allows them to prepare for, or work through future events and situations, and build relationships with others.

The industrial age was a time in which first manual, and then routine cognitive skills were emphasized. We have found that the work of both of these skill categories can be replicated by machines. Today, more Americans are employed in the arts, entertainment and designed industries than are employed as lawyers, accountants and auditors. Our economy also has more writers and artist than ever before. Due to how they will be plying their own human assets in their entrepreneurial endeavors, today’s children will need to know how to make full use of their human assets.

More than thirty percent of the work force belongs to the “creative class”, a group of people whose primary occupation involves creativity-based human capital whose numbers now suppress those of the working class. Primary assets that creative economy participants use to ply their entrepreneurial talents are those that are uniquely human in nature. In other words, educating the human being is becoming an economic necessity, not simply an alternative lifestyle. Not only is the creative economy more entrepreneurial, but its roots are structured differently.

Technology, of course, encompasses more than just computers and machines. The machines themselves are actually the product of process of technology, which represents the ability to create a tangible product. Technology, is then dependent upon human cognitive capacities as are talent and tolerance. Computer programming, work that we use to consider white-collar and highly skilled, is increasingly diminishing. In almost all cases these types of jobs are learning economies like ours, because the forms of careers that are expanding, relay on routine cognitive skills.

The fact of the matter is, healthy play offers the ability to evolve into healthy success.                                                                                                                                 

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Resolve Resolution Dilemmas

“The way I seen it, if you want to change something about yourself, you should just do it rather than wait around for the new year”…..Samantha Jonas-Rongo

2015

Resolve Resolution Dilemmas                                                                          

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Happy New Years!

Being its New Year’s, what’s best but to discuss New Years Resolutions? To be honest, I gave up on resolutions for quite a few years because I realized that I would never follow through on any of them. Instead I liked to use New Years as a time of reflection of what I did accomplish during the year, and celebrate my successes and learn from my failures. I didn’t make any new wishes or goals at midnight, but rather continued on my overall vision of where I wanted to go in life.

The way I seen it, if you want to change something about yourself, you should just do it rather than wait around for the new year.

I had also preferred to make challenges instead of resolutions. I challenged myself to do certain things by a certain date. If I didn’t meet the challenge than I continued on until I did. This way, I have completed more things than if it was a resolution. I also don’t feel like I have let myself down. So, I look at my challenges as to what I was able to accomplish.

Change-Ahead-sign

This year I do not only have challenges, but I will return to setting, but accomplishing my resolutions. I have made a plan and have created suggestions to not only help myself, but those like myself who suffer from breaking their resolutions within only a few weeks.

The key to keeping one’s New Year’s Resolutions involves picking a realistic goal, taking small steps toward that goal and learning to take slip ups in stride.

  • Pick things that you want to change or set one goal that you want to accomplish.
  • Take small steps, or make small changes every day to incorporate that change into your life.
  • Keep track of your progress.
  • Be sure to congratulate yourself for making these small changes.
  • Learn to take setbacks in stride and recommit to your goal.

Set S.M.A.R.T goals
- Focus on creating goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time based (SMART).

Plan ahead – Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to think about your resolution. Last minute decisions tend to be based on what is on your mind at that time. Instead, take some time out a few days before and reflect upon what you really want to achieve.

Look ahead – Focus on how much better life will be for you, and those around you, when you achieve your resolution.

Avoid previous resolutions – Deciding to re-visit a past resolution sets you up for frustration and disappointment. Choose something new, or approach an old problem in a new way. For example, instead of trying to lose weight by signing up for a gym, try starting out by working out at home before you become locked into a gym contract that you will later regret if you don’t continue to work out. Also, having a gym bill on your credit report isn’t a good financial or personal look either.

New-year-resolution-funny

Make it personal – Don’t run with the crowd and go with the usual every year resolutions, or those that your family and friends set. Instead think about what you really want out of life, so think about finishing that novel, begin to read even, or learn to play an instrument, rather than just losing weight and getting to the gym.

Be specific – Think through exactly what you are going to do, where you are going to do it, and at what time. Vague plans fail.

Have you ever been told not to tell your wish, or it won’t come true? Well resolutions are not wishes, resolutions are the answer to a problem.

Go public
- Many people keep their New Year’s Resolution to themselves. Unfortunately, this makes it all too easy to simply forget about them. Instead, go public, tell your friends, family and colleagues about your resolution, and ask them to provide you with helpful nudges to assist you in achieving your goal. Either way, do not keep your resolution to yourself.

Be persistent
- New habits take time to learn, and once in a while you will slip up and revert to the old you. People on diets might suddenly give in to temptation, or those trying to exercise more might not find the time to go to the gym for a week. Remember that everyone messes up from time to time. Don’t blame yourself if you falter, or allow the experience to make you give up.

Keep track – Keep track of your accomplishments so far, and keep up with what you can do to help out with being successful of accomplishing your goal(s).

Congratulate yourself – In order to keep yourself motivated, you need to acknowledge what you have done so far and reward yourself for doing a great job.

Before you mark your New Years resolution permanent, watch this:

Regardless of what you may want to change, only you can do it. Don’t wait on someone else to do their part, if they even have one, focus on what you need to do.

Luckily,

We live in a time where technology, has advanced and it is at the tip of our fingers to accomplish, research, and find almost anything. If your goal is to lose weight, there are apps that offer recipes, fitness trackers, calorie counters and even exercise training.

If you want to budget, apps can keep track of your spending habits, creates budgets and charts of transactions, and gives advice to how you can help save and/or budget. You can even sign up for credit reporting and download the app to keep track of your balances and spending.

If you want to start reading more, or even finish a book you never completed, you can download E-books on almost any device.

Regardless of your choice of change, you can most likely find an app to help you be successful. These are my top 5 resolution apps for anyone:

Download novels with the Kindle app

Keep track of your Calorie intake and download My Fitness Pal

Keep track of your spending, credit score and manage your financial budget with the MInt app

Learn a new language with the Rosetta Stone app

Quit smoking, track days, health progression, and money saved from quitting smoking with the Smoke Free app

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

 

My Love for Moscato

“Call it Muscat in French or Moscato in Italian, regardless of its pronunciation, I absolutely loved my gift. I love this wine,…..”- Samantha Jonas-Rongo

 My Love for Moscato                                                                              

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Last Night my fiancé and I had attended his job’s company Christmas party and I was given a bottle of Moscato as a gift from his co-workers, our friends. Call it Muscat in French or Moscato in Italian, regardless of its pronunciation, I absolutely loved my gift. I love this wine, not only because I am a wine fan and am not a heavy drinker; but because Moscato offers a sweet taste that goes down smoothly and pairs well. After a long hard day of being fabulous, I like to relax with a glass of wine, but I don’t want it to bite me back. It is also yummy with salads, seafood, poultry, fruit and cheese plate, spicy dishes.  As I now sit, sip on my glass of delicious white Moscato and update my site, I figured why not share my knowledge and opinion of this wonderful drink so others can be inspired to either start or continue to enjoy it as well. I will also share my Pink Moscato and Red Raspberry Sangria recipe with you later in my recipe section of my website.

Moscato or Muscat is a white wine grape. The wines, slightly sweet and low in alcohol, are often served with dessert.

First things first:

There are three types of Moscato and they include:

  • White Moscato (My Favorite)- Crisp, fruity and bursting with flavors of peach, honey, and citrus.
  • Pink Moscato- Light-bodied and bursting with citrus and peach, with a hint of red berries
  • Red Moscato- Sweet red wine bursting with red berries and hints of citrus.

Moscato also is available in a variety of Bubbly, other flavors and is produced by many different brands.

In the U.S., wine drinking has held its own during these hard economic times. Moscato, the Italian dessert wine, has gone from relative obscurity to the toast of the town.

Until about a decade ago, the ancient Italian wine could have been described as obscure — what one wine expert called “a little backwater grape.” Now the words used about the rise of moscato are “breathtaking,” “phenomenal”. Industry watchers say they’ve never seen anything like it. It is the fastest growing varietal wine in the country.

At a time when complaints are that wines from all over the world are growing more alike, the original Moscato with origins in Piedmont, Italy, Moscato d’Asti is something of an anomaly. It is low in alcohol, sweet and slightly fizzy, all hardly the qualities most wine drinkers or critics seem to be looking for these days. A few years ago, Moscato d’Asti seemed to be headed for questioning in the wine industry. Then Moscato d’Asti was discovered by hip-hop artists.

Hip-hop singer/rapper and producer, Drake, in his song “Do It Now,” gives it a shout-out. It’s also the wine Kanye West orders, and it’s the wine Real Housewife of Atlanta, NeNe Leakes sells under the label “Miss Moscato”.

Moscato, the slightly sweet, fizzy, low alcohol and inexpensive white wine, has become the hip-hop community’s new favorite drink. Hence, it has cropped up in so many music artists vocabulary. For example, thereafter, the rapper Drake calls for a “glass of Moscato for the girl who’s a student and her friend who’s a model”; in a song he featured in with R&B singer, Trey Songz.

Soon, Moscato was being served at parties in New York and Los Angeles.

Sales of Moscato surged. Imitators sprang up around the globe, trying mostly unsuccessfully to match the signature taste of the Piemontese original but became delicious enough for many creditors, such as myself to enjoy. Jugs of Barefoot moscato are sold at BJ’s Wholesale Club, most local wine outlets, and is even on the menu at Olive Garden and other fine dining restaurants.

Moscato is inexpensive, generally $8 to $20 a bottle. It’s low in alcohol and has a lightly sweet, fresh flavor with hints of peaches, apricots, pears, orange blossoms and rose petals. Sweet wines are selling big, especially to the under 40 crowd, who grew up enjoying and appreciating sugary drinks.

It is being called a gateway beverage for new wine drinkers and an all-time favorite by others. Then there’s the whole hip-hop, edgy thing: Drink moscato and you’ll be cool like rapper Waka Flocka or Drake. Even many woman are now drinking wine rather than traditional hard or malt liquors because it’s classy and, sophisticated presence and it’s now recognition in the hip-hop and R&B world. All it took was a few shout-outs in a song to spread its presence as the same happened with Cristal champagne, Hennessy cognac and Patron tequila.

For years the drinks most associated with hip-hop were distinctly aspirational. Busta Rhymes rapped about Courvoisier, Jay-Z about Louis Roederer Cristal and later, Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades champagne, and Nas rhymed about vodka Grey Goose.

These were expensive symbols of the high life.

Now that Moscato, the fairly inexpensive but compelling wine is popular, it is a symbol that maybe times are starting to change and that you do not have to spend an extreme amount of cash to have something of greater value. However, Moscato is not just for nightly fun or night caps. These are yet more reasons why I enjoy this wine.

  • BRUNCH – If you’re looking for a brunch wine, Moscato pairs well with breakfast pastries, eggs, pancakes and other brunch foods such chicken or even fish.
  • COCKTAIL MUNCHIES – Crackers, cheese (hard or soft), and olives provide a salty counterpoint to the slightly sweet wine. Simple bruschetta is also a perfect pairing along with these snacks.
  • FRESH VEGTABLES – The crispness of raw vegetables pairs well with Moscato.
  • CHICKEN & FISH  – Moscato is delicious with lighter chicken and fish dishes.
  • CREAM SAUCES – Mild cream sauces pair well with Moscato.
  •  DESSERT – While moscato is far less sweet than other dessert wines, it has enough residual sugar to work with many desserts such as cheesecake or strawberry shortcake.
  • FRUIT – A snack or dessert of fresh fruit, or a fruit pie is an occasion for Moscato. Peaches are a perfect match with this peachy wine.
  • HAM – Here’s another fine sweet-and-salty pairing, whether it’s a baked dinner ham, a ham sandwich or ham-based brunch..
  • PICNICS & POOLSIDE – Moscato is an ideal wine to sip poolside or relaxing at a picnic while cooling off from the heat.
  • SALADS – Want a glass of wine with your lunch or dinner salad? Grab the Moscato.
  • SHELLFISH – Sweeter wines like Moscato are a favorite pairing with crab, lobster, shrimp, scallops and sushi.
  • SPICY FOODS – The slight sweetness of Moscato complements the heat and spice to pair with Asian, Indian and other hot cuisines, along with spicy favorites such as Spaghetti, pizza and garlic based dishes.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Credit Does Matter

Credit Does Matter                                                                                             Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Majority of people are becoming increasingly dependent on using credit to make purchases and decisions. These days, good credit is used for more than just getting a credit card or a loan……Samantha Jonas-Rongo

If you think bad credit isn’t a big deal — think again. The truth is, credit issues can have a crippling effect on all facets of your financial life. So, before you shrug off a low score, think again and work towards building a higher one.

The “American Dream” isn’t cheap. Having a family, purchasing a new car, building or buying a house all cost lots of money. Chances are, you won’t be able to pay cash, (in full), for some of the bigger things your family wants and needs. That is why credit is so essential to not only your current living, but building a better, efficient future that Is reachable due to your past and present spending responsibility and behavior.

Have you ever wondered why you were turned down for an apartment or car loan? Or why you did not receive a job offer you applied for, even though you thought you had nailed the interview? Perhaps it was due to your credit record.

Your credit score, also known as a FICO score, can range from 300 – 850, 850 being the best possible score, (your Vantage score can go up to 990 at max). Your credit score is monitored and reported by three main credit bureaus known as Equifax, Trans Union and Experian. Your credit history begins the first time you apply for credit. The action initiates a credit inquiry to the credit bureaus and also establishes a profile in the system. Credit scores are determined using five types of information about you:

  • PAYMENT HISTORY = 35%

Lenders need to know how reliable you have been in the past, and your payment history illustrates just that. This section covers:

  1. Your payment consistency
  2. Collections and charge-offs
  3. Bankruptcies, tax liens, etc.
  • OPEN ACCOUNTS AND BALANCES = 30%

Contrary to popular belief, debt can be a good thing when utilized correctly in proportion to your overall credit limits. This section covers:

  1. Your total number of active loans (e.g., mortgage, student debt, etc.)
  2. Your credit card debt and credit utilization. The healthiest credit scores are born from using 30 percent or less of your monthly credit allowance. For example, if you have a $10,000 monthly credit limit, you should never use more than $3,000 during that month.
  • LENGTH OF TIME ANY ACCOUNT(S) HAVE BEEN OPEN = 15%

In addition to reviewing your track record, lenders want to be sure you actually have one. A credit history of seven years or more is ideal when establishing clean credit, so make sure to keep your oldest accounts active.

  • TYPES OF CREDIT USED = 10%

Smart planning is key in every financial realm, and spreading out your spending is a great way to illustrate this concept. Lenders want to see your experience with numerous credit types. If you only have installment loans, consider opening a bank credit – (Not a bank debit card that’s affiliated with your bank account), or another line of credit. Broadening your horizons will demonstrate your flexibility and success with multiple credit forms.

  • CREDIT INQUIRIES (DENIED OR APPROVED) – NEW CREDIT = 10%

Every new account will likely depress your scores. Of course, you can’t increase (or even have) a credit score without having a track record to begin with. Just know that, with every new account, your credit score will probably get worse before the longer term scoring benefits are realized. Creditors fear those who appear to depend too much upon acquiring new credit accounts.

To maintain a good credit score, it is important to avoid all of the following actions:

  • Making late payments (even one month)
  • Utilizing more than 30% of the total credit limit on any credit card(s)
  • Closing credit cards you have not used for some time
  • Frequently opening new credit card accounts
  • Routinely transferring payments between credit cards to obtain rate advantage

Delinquencies on your credit report will have an impact on your credit score and so does the length of time which has passed since your last major delinquency. A bankruptcy may stay on your credit report for up to 10 years, but additional credit may be acquired once a two-year timeframe has passed.

Some of the basic things that we would like to purchase can be placed at a halt or become more expensive and difficult to buy due to your financial responsibility. However, having good credit and containing it can make these purchases more convenient and obtainable.

  1. MORTGAGE:

    Having good credit is important when it comes to where you live. Mortgage lenders want to know that you won’t default on your mortgage. If you don’t have good credit, the lender will consider it risky to give you a mortgage loan. Unless you have a lot of money saved and are planning on purchasing a house or thinking of buying a foreclosed abandoned one at a cheap cost of $15,000 and spending at least another $50,000 to renovate it, you will need to pull out loans and mortgages to do so. This could result in a higher cost of borrowing or worse, a denial of the loan. Your credit is used for rental decisions, too. Landlords consider your lease as a loan.  You’re being loaned a place to live and the landlord wants to know you’ll pay back this loan. If you don’t have good credit, you can get denied for an apartment especially if you have any evictions or late utility payments on record. More than often, good landlords want good tenants so they will check your credit report.

  2. VEHICLE FINANCING:

    Unless you have all the cash to purchase a new car, you’ll have to get a loan. I’m not speaking in regards of a used car that you purchase from someone else, but a used and new car from any lot or dealership. The cars that come with warranties and are fully approved and checked for safe performance, mobility and consistency unlike those that can be bought from an individual. Your credit not only affects whether or not you qualify for a loan, but also the amount and interest rate of the loan. A lot of people believe you will pay double or more than what the car is worth, but the amount you pay depends on the interest rate which is reflected from your personal report. Generally, loan applicants with good credit qualify for larger loan amounts with lower interest rates. Regardless if a loan is from the dealership, credit union or your own bank, your credit score will be scanned and your finances and cost will be reflected.

  3. ENTREPRENEURSHIP:

    business-startMany people have dreams of starting their own business. Business startups require a sizable amount of cash that you might not have available. In that case, you’ll need to obtain a small business loan or a personal loan to get started.  Among other things, you need to have good credit to qualify for the business loan. It is near impossible to  qualify for a business loan if your credit is poor, especially if you have evictions on record as well. Unfortunately, with a low credit score, your chances of getting any type of loan are slim to none. You might qualify if you have a co-signer with great credit and plenty of collateral, but expect a higher interest rate than someone with an excellent credit history. Your availability to have a co-signer with great credit may be a difficult task as well because that individual may not be able to trust you and your financial stability and responsibility.

  4. EMPLOYMENT:
    Open sollicitatieMany employers conduct credit checks as a part of the hiring process. If you haven’t demonstrated financial responsibility, a prospective employer might be hesitant to hire you. Why does your credit rating count? Employers in the financial sector often use it as a part of the pre-employment screening process to check out an individual’s character, decision-making skills and of course as a way to measure whether or not they can handle money. It can also be used to make sure new employees aren’t distracted, or stressed out, by financial issues.  Its simply standard operating procedure for many companies to do a credit check, along with checking out your work and education references, or even doing a drug test or checking to see if you have a criminal history. When you sign on the dotted line, you may not realize you’re authorizing a credit check, unless you read the fine print. According to federal law, individuals in the pre-employment process must give their prospective employer permission for not only a background check, but a credit check as well. So it pays to read exactly what it is you’re signing.
  5. UTILITY SERVICES:
    It might be somewhat shocking to learn that your credit is needed to establish utility service. Your electric company contends that you’re borrowing one month of electric service. So, before turning on your electricity, the company will check to see if you have good credit. This applies to most utility services including cable, telephone, water, and even cell phone. You may still qualify for a contract or services, but you may need to put down a security deposit when others with great credit do not.
  6. HOME/AUTO INSURANCE PREMIUMS:
    Insurance companies are in the business of risk management. the lower your credit score, they higher you are as a risk and the higher car insurance rate you will likely payInsuring your life’s most precious possessions is another segment of life that is controlled by your credit score. Insurance companies check your credit and price for risk when determining annual premiums. Insurance companies want to make sure they get paid for their services of insuring your assets. Not only that, but insurance companies see a correlation between low credit scores and insurance fraud when putting in a claim. Some auto insurance providers run credit checks and charge higher premiums to those with low credit scores. The thought behind this is that people with good credit are usually more responsible drivers and those with higher credit scores are more likely to make on-time payments. You can maintain low and affordable premiums by improving your credit score.
  7. RELATIONSHIPS:                                                                                                      Love me, love my debt? NotWhen you enter into a committed partnership with a significant other, in which you share everything, that does not exclude your credit histories. Granted, even a spouse is not legally responsible for debt you incurred prior to the marriage. However, any major purchases you want to make together, as a couple, will be negatively impacted if you have bad credit. This not only makes it difficult to buy a house or a car together, for example, but it puts an unwelcome strain on the relationship in general.

Believe it or not, but your credit habits can affect your children’s lives as well. If bad credit prevents you from buying a house or buying an automobile, this affects where and how you raise your children, and whether you’re able to have reliable transportation for your family. Also, if you have a low credit score, you might not be able to co-sign for your child(ren) to get a student or auto loan, or help your child financially in other aspects of his or her life. If you pass away with debt, your debt will rollover as your child’s responsibility and if you have life insurance, the debt will be deducted from the payment as so before being issued to your dependents.

Yes that is correct, landlords, insurance companies, and employers etc.; not just banks and car dealerships, check credit records. Your credit report allows these companies to look into your personal spending habits, your payment history, whether you have been sued, evicted and whether you have declared bankruptcy. Not only do they check, they also report. Having a good credit history is an important part of maintaining a secure, healthy, and financially fit life.

If you have no credit or have experienced some financial setbacks in the past that have negatively affected your credit, lenders won’t be very eager to loan you the money you need, which can keep you from buying that car, paying for school, or investing in a home. Good credit, on the other hand, means you can get the financing you need, and usually at a better rate, which will save you money in the long run.

Even if you never had a credit card you can damage your credit before you apply for one and therefore, you will not be approved and may need to settle for a secure credit card where you need to place a security deposit down. Secured credit cards can help build credit and impact your score, but it will take longer to build and fix your credit. You can monitor your score for free but some free websites such as Credit Karma may only track your actual credit card usage and not reflect your actual score. If you never had a credit card, sites such as Credit Karma may state you do not have enough credit when in actuality, you may have poor credit but not enough credit card usage to higher your real credit score and enough to have been tracked by these sites.

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It takes time to rebuild your credit history and positively impact your score. Don’t get discouraged if your report doesn’t immediately reflect the work you’ve put into rehashing your credit file. Just be patient and continue working to gain more control over your finances.

In addition to keeping an eye on your credit balances and accounts, you may want to consider other methods of getting control of your personal finances, such as reducing household spending or creating a detailed budget.

You can also write a personal statement for your credit report. It won’t impact your score, but it can be read by anyone checking your credit report, from prospective employers to potential lenders.

With a little patience and discipline, you can positively impact your credit score and credit file.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Deadly Tragedy in Pakistan

PreK, then K-12 equals 14 years of guaranteed FREE education for every child in this country. It is not only our rights as Americans, but an opportunity camouflaged by law. Too many people are taking for granted our education system that many others would do anything to take advantage of. While too many Americans settle for a GED, refugees and immigrants are fleeing their countries and are earning the Masters and Doctoral available on our home land. It is by law we get an education. However, for many others around the world, it is only a hope and a dream.…..Samantha Jonas-Rongo

A soldier escorts schoolchildren from the Army Public School that is under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar

schoolchildren from the Army Public School that is under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar

Deadly Tragedy in Pakistan

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

The Pakistan Taliban shouted, “God is great” as they made their way rampant through Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, Pakistan. They came in with enough ammunition and other supplies to last for days and were not expecting to come out alive, according to a Pakistani military official.

145 people, all mostly children were killed in the shootings. The schools principal was a victim of the tragedy along with a couple of teachers, including a teacher who was shot, then burned to death and the 7 Taliban extremist who all wore suicide bombs.

While children were in class at 10am in Pakistan,12am US (ET),  a car exploded behind the school. Pakistani education minister Muhammad Baligh Ur Rehman explained to CNN that the blast was meant to divert the attention of the school’s security guards before the attack.

Policemen stand beside empty coffins at the hospital after an attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School in Peshawar

DR. Aamir Bilal of Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, cited students that gunmen got over the walls and walked through where students in grades 8 through 10 were having classes and fired randomly.

14-year-old Ahmed Faraz who was shot in the attack told CNN that he and others were in an auditorium when 4 to 5 people swarmed through a backdoor, and started shooting rapidly.

As ninth-grader Ahmed and the other children hid in the auditorium, the gunman swarmed in and one of them told the others that a lot of the children were hiding under the benches.

“kill them”, he then said according to Ahmed.

The gunmen then climbed the benches and started firing at the children.

Shahrukh Khan, 17, said a gunman had entered his classroom and opened fire at random. As he hid under a desk, he saw his friends being shot, one in the head and one in the chest. Two teachers were also killed.

Other children who escaped say the militants went from one classroom to another, shooting indiscriminately.

Pakistani authorities spent Tuesday night inside Army Public School and Degree College looking for survivors, victims and improvised explosive devices planted to worsen the carnage.

Men move bodies of students, who were killed during an attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School, in an ambulance outside a hospital in Peshawar

Men move bodies of students, who were killed during an attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School, in an ambulance outside a hospital in Peshawar

Even Taliban militants in neighboring Afghanistan decried the killing spree, calling it “un-Islamic.”

This gruesome attack has been labeled as a response and revenge for the recent Nobel Peace Prize given to Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education, the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate, and victim of the Taliban’s violence. (For those who haven’t read, “I am Malala”, you need too. I have and she is an amazing and inspiring young woman with such a great story and hope for the future all man kind. She is not only an exceptional role model, she is someone who we all need to know about and teach our children. I will actually attach a link at the bottom of this page so you can purchase her book.)

She was awarded for her work against the “suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”, and victim of the Taliban’s violence.

Malala_Yousafzai_at_Girl_Summit_2014

Malala Yousafzai 2014

“I am heartbroken by this senseless and cold-blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us,” Yousafzai said in a statement.

“Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this,” she continued. “I condemn these atrocious and cowardly acts and stand united with the government and armed forces of Pakistan whose efforts so far to address this horrific event are commendable.”

She concluded: “I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters – but we will never be defeated.”

On any typical day, the school is home to about 1,100 students and staff, most of them sons and daughters of army personnel from around Peshawar. A Taliban spokesman told BBC Urdu that the school, which is run by the army, had been targeted in response to military operations. Hundreds of Taliban fighters are thought to have died in a recent offensive in North Waziristan and the nearby Khyber.

If the Pakistani Taliban extremists had hoped the attack would cause the government to ease off its military offensive that began in June in the country’s tribal region, it appeared to have the opposite effect. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged to step up the campaign, along with U.S. drone strikes; as targeted the militants.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Rescue workers and family members carry the coffin of a student, who killed during an attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School, in Peshawar

Rescue workers and family members carry the coffin of a student, who killed during an attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School, in Peshawar

Click here to read the first 21 pages of “I Am Malala”

Click here to purchase “I Am Malala”

 

Human Rights, Not Human Privileges

Human Rights, Not Human Privileges                                                                             By Samantha Jonas-Rongo


            ” As a proud and honored American citizen, I have a question, for the C.I.A; “What makes a person unique enough to be an individual?” Wait…..I said that backwards!  “What makes an individual, human enough to be considered human?” …..Samantha Jonas-Rongo

I’m proud to be an American. On this land, we have opportunity and ability to have a bright future no matter how dark our days were early on in life.

We are the country of the proud and free aren’t we? We flaunt that in our national songs, and make it our duty to pass them on from generation to generation. We stand so very tall and proud with our hands over our hearts in honor of those many lost in our great wars and for those who will stand tall in the future. We expect our children to rise this great nation higher than the last generation has done and we allow our children the ability and tools to do so. That is our rights as humans rights? Or is it only as Americans?

Originally, people had rights only because of their membership in a group, such as a family. Then, in 539 BC, Cyrus the Great, after conquering the city of Babylon, freed all slaves to return home. He then declared that people should choose their own religion. The first human rights declaration in history was a clay tablet containing his statements. It’s name is “The Cyrus Cylinder”

The concept of human rights spread quickly to Greece, India and eventually Rome. The most important advances since have included:

  • The Magna Carta 1215—gave people new rights and made the king subject to the law.
  • The Petition of Right 1628—set out the rights of the people.
  • The United States Declaration of Independence 1776—proclaimed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
  • The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen 1789—a document of France, stating that all citizens are equal under the law.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948—the first document listing the 30 rights to which everyone is entitled.

Every person is entitled to certain fundamental rights, simply due to being human. These are called “human rights”, not “human privileges” (which can be taken away at another’s whim). They are “rights” because they are things we are allowed to be, to do or to have. These rights are there for our protection against people who might want to harm or hurt us. They are also there to help us get along with each other and live in peace.

When human rights are not well-known by people, abuses such as discrimination, intolerance, injustice, oppression and slavery can arise.

The United Nations (UN) came into being in 1945, shortly after the end of World War II.

The stated purpose of the UN is to bring peace to all nations of the world. After World War II, a committee of persons headed by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, wrote a special document which “declares” the rights that everyone in the entire world should have—the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today there are 192 member states of the UN, all of whom have signed on in agreement with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I am aware of this knowledge from the free high school education that I have received and unlike many of the detainees in Guantanamo and other prisons monitored by the C.I.A, I know about these agreements and rights I have as a human. They were taught to me as a child and they are the laws of this land we live on. Those detainees aren’t as fortunate to have received the same education or live in democracy that many others took for granted in this country.

Question and interrogate with self respect even if you have no respect for the one in question. Doesn’t your morals remind you what was inappropriate and out of line? How can you forget that those detainees are humans as well? Some of those men are innocent, why the change of heart? Why the discrimination and face value judgment again after all this country for? Don’t we have to live up to the standards and titles we gave ourselves? When these men leave and return home, they will leave with more hatred for our country than they had, or they will leave with a new hatred that they didn’t have before.

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

1. We Are All Born Free & Equal. We are all born free. We all have our own thoughts and ideas. We should all be treated in the same way.

2. Don’t Discriminate. These rights belong to everybody, whatever our differences.

3. The Right to Life. We all have the right to life, and to live in freedom and safety.

4. No Slavery. Nobody has any right to make us a slave. We cannot make anyone our slave.

5. No Torture. Nobody has any right to hurt us or to torture us.

6. You Have Rights No Matter Where You Go. I am a person just like you!

7. We’re All Equal Before the Law. The law is the same for everyone. It must treat us all fairly.

8. Your Human Rights Are Protected by Law. We can all ask for the law to help us when we are not treated fairly.

9. No Unfair Detainment. Nobody has the right to put us in prison without good reason and keep us there, or to send us away from our country.

10. The Right to Trial. If we are put on trial this should be in public. The people who try us should not let anyone tell them what to do.

11. We’re Always Innocent Till Proven Guilty. Nobody should be blamed for doing something until it is proven. When people say we did a bad thing we have the right to show it is not true.

12. The Right to Privacy. Nobody should try to harm our good name. Nobody has the right to come into our home, open our letters, or bother us or our family without a good reason.

13. Freedom to Move. We all have the right to go where we want in our own country and to travel as we wish.

14. The Right to Seek a Safe Place to Live. If we are frightened of being badly treated in our own country, we all have the right to run away to another country to be safe.

15. Right to a Nationality. We all have the right to belong to a country.

16. Marriage and Family. Every grown-up has the right to marry and have a family if they want to. Men and women have the same rights when they are married, and when they are separated.

17. The Right to Your Own Things. Everyone has the right to own things or share them. Nobody should take our things from us without a good reason.

18. Freedom of Thought. We all have the right to believe in what we want to believe, to have a religion, or to change it if we want.

19. Freedom of Expression. We all have the right to make up our own minds, to think what we like, to say what we think, and to share our ideas with other people.

20. The Right to Public Assembly. We all have the right to meet our friends and to work together in peace to defend our rights. Nobody can make us join a group if we don’t want to.

21. The Right to Democracy. We all have the right to take part in the government of our country. Every grown-up should be allowed to choose their own leaders.

22. Social Security. We all have the right to affordable housing, medicine, education, and childcare, enough money to live on and medical help if we are ill or old.

23. Workers’ Rights. Every grown-up has the right to do a job, to a fair wage for their work, and to join a trade union.

24. The Right to Play. We all have the right to rest from work and to relax.

25. Food and Shelter for All. We all have the right to a good life. Mothers and children, people who are old, unemployed or disabled, and all people have the right to be cared for.

26. The Right to Education. Education is a right. Primary school should be free. We should learn about the United Nations and how to get on with others. Our parents can choose what we learn.

27. Copyright. Copyright is a special law that protects one’s own artistic creations and writings; others cannot make copies without permission. We all have the right to our own way of life and to enjoy the good things that art, science and learning bring.

28. A Fair and Free World. There must be proper order so we can all enjoy rights and freedoms in our own country and all over the world.

29. Responsibility. We have a duty to other people, and we should protect their rights and freedoms.

30. No One Can Take Away Your Human Rights.

 

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

 

My Easy Beef Pastellios

My Easy Beef Pastellios

By Samantha Jonas-Rongo

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“I started teaching and sharing my recipes with my stepson for four reasons; he won’t have to depend on any woman to cook for him; He will have a family of his own that he will have to cook for one day, and when the day comes where he may want to cook for me; I want to have a wide variety selection menu to chose from, and I want it to be good”!!!! LOL …..Samantha Jonas-Rongo

One of my favorite appetizers to make and eat is the Pastellio. It is my 8 yr. old stepson’s absolute favorite which is why I was inspired to share my recipe with you all. Mmmm!!!….. The delicious combination of beef, potato, cheese, olives, seasoned to perfection, and fried delicately inside a flaky pastry shell originating from Latin America will satisfy anyone. They’re not just delicious but they are simple to make. Not only are they great on the side of a meal, (especially my favorite and special of steak, rice, beans with a side of salad and sliced avocado); they are great alone as an appetizer, or snack. You can even enjoy them with hot sauce or other homemade sauces if you’re the daring type of guy or gal. With Christmas on its way, Pastellio’s make great snacks before dinner or even as a side dish. Either way you decide to eat them, you’ll be thankful you made them a part of your daily menu, you won’t be disappointed.

First things first….INGREDIENTS

1 lb. of ground beef

1/4 cup of water

1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup) ….optional

1/4 cup of tomato sauce…pref. GOYA brand

10 olives stuffed with pimento, slice thin… optional

1 1/2 packet of GOYA Sazon with coriander and annatto 1 tsp.. of minced garlic or 2 garlic cloves finely chopped

1 tsp.. of dried oregano

3 tbsp.. of GOYA Sofrito…frozen or jarred. For best results, use homemade Sofrito


1/2 tsp. of pepper to taste

1/2 tsp. of GOYA Adobo to taste 

1 package (14 oz.) GOYA Discos (Yellow or White), thawed

2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled, cut in 1 in cubes

2 cups of shredded cheese…pref. cheddar but it’s your option

corn or vegetable oil for frying… if deep-frying, leave enough oil to cover the pastellios as they fry but remember to leave room in the fryer for oil to rise. If frying inside an average frying pan,.oil standing alone shouldn’t be any higher than 1 1/2 inches high. Heat should be on medium.

To add more flavor, you can add green, and red peppers or even corn.

Now Let’s Get Started….DIRECTIONS

  1. Defrost Discos
  2. Place 1 tbsp. of Sofrito on pan, mixed with water, heat for approximately 3 minutes or until Sofrito begins to lightly bubble. Heat should be medium.
  3. Add diced potatoes, mixing them in Sofrito mix to coat
  4. Cover pan and let fry for 5 minutes
  5. Add ground beef and brown beef and potatoes until soft
  6. Drain and return to pan
  7. Add spices, garlic, olives, and tomato sauce. Mix well to combine
  8. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes so flavor can blend into meat and potatoes
  9. THIS STEP IS OPTIONAL, SOME PEOPLE, such as myself, PREFER TO MIX CHEESE IN MEAT BLEND AND MELT IT AS THE MEAT IS IN PAN, OR YOU CAN SKIP THIS STEP AND ADD CHEESE ON TOP OF MEAT WHEN FILLING DISCO.
  10. Spoon meat mixture onto one half of defrosted Disco
  11. Top meat with cheese if haven’t added cheese yet
  12.  Fold disco over. Crimp edges with a fork to seal.

If preparing pastellios before frying, make sure to wrap with seal sheet the disco came with so dough will stay moist. If disco starts to dry, wet fingers and touch disco to moisten dough. If needed, you can rub edges of disco before closing with fork.

Pastellios can also be frozen after being prepared and fried later, just wrap with saran wrap and place in freezer for up to a month. Warm in microwave for 4 minutes and fry as normal.

13. Fry pastellios in hot oil until golden brown and crispy on both sides.

14. Drain and serve immediately, ENJOY!!!



Enjoy,                                                                                                                  Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Sam Sung, Miss Mary Mac

Sam Sung, Miss Mary Mac                                                                                             By Samantha Jonas-Rongo

 

“If I do not protect myself, am not handled appropriately, or am placed in hazardous situations, I can be harmed. The harm done may be repairable, but there are still the chances that I can be permanently damaged or destroyed, and there is no coming back once all goes black”…..Samantha Jonas-Rongo

I see myself something similar to a computer. Not any specific model, made in any exact year, or running on any specific system; just a basic functioning computer. It has a memory ram as a brain with the need of electricity as it’s oxygen, and a strong but delicate body with an attractive screen as its face, broadcasting only what it chooses.

I’m in sync with the computers resting in the classrooms we dwell in. Its ability to connect to the internet and right to access information is similar to my American right to read and learn. It’s my personal ability to download that info in my brain and share it with whom I choose. Technology of the computer allows it to mainly respond by itself with numbers and letters, creating the same form of communication as myself. Depending on its user(s), such as my company in reflection; the results given are reflections and reaction of what they are in search for when in ones company.

I was born with a personality that is shy, but strong and filled with curiosity which has helped with my ability to gain information. More than often, that attribute of being able to provide knowledge to others mainly shows only when someone is requesting its presence. I interact when I am acknowledged. Those conversing with search engines have in fact also witnessed how a computer suffers from this similar shy software bug. I interact when I am acknowledged, but turn mute and sometimes automatically turned off when I am ignored. If I am overly bored, I tend to fall asleep. My mindset is then something of the monitor’s screen saver while my unconscious trance is one with the computer’s hibernating mode.

Over the years I have gained more information on various subjects and my ability to grasp, understand and share it has advanced over time. Given the experience, including the support of others who worked on helping me achieve success has benefited my performance in that matter, and in life overall. All similar to a computer’s production and performance after the years of gained knowledge and advanced abilities.

At times, Some of the knowledge I have is correct while some I withhold isn’t. That is due to people providing me with inaccurate information, such as those liars scrimmaging the web with the intentions of manifesting its lies. Or it could be those who are misinformed themselves, but too vulnerable to not know to stop spreading the wrong information.

A keyboard is used as a tool to spread and request more information, something like my mouth used for speech. In a unique way, it is like my ears as well. It just takes in what is being pressed and being said by its enforcer, traveling to my brain and to its memory ram. I have to be careful and take precautions with actions and travels I choose to make, similar to the sites one chooses to view, as viruses can contaminate my body and cause harm to not only my functioning but physical appearance.

I need to care for my body and its well-being by providing all the nutrients needed for its survival as a computer needs energy from an electrical source. If there is no source of energy, I cannot function properly and without any necessary nutrients for a certain amount of time, it may cause my body to just shut down as a computer dies overtime if not charged.

If I do not protect myself, am not handled appropriately or am placed in hazardous situations, I can be harmed. The harm done may be repairable but there are still the chances that I can be permanently damaged or destroyed, and there is no coming back once all goes black.

-Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Hi, America? America needs our help!

 Hi, America? America Needs Our Help!                                                                     Samantha Jonas-Rongo

 “People should have food at their calling as we do oxygen on a daily basis”…Samantha Jonas-Rongo

With the holidays arriving abruptly, we are finishing up with our last minute shopping, decorating and travel plans. It is the time of year where meal preparations and dinner invites make the holidays even more special. Friends and family will be surrounding each other sharing years of meal traditions as many less fortunate families and individuals are going to go without a basic meal to eat. Give this season to those who need it the most. You can even make a donation and place it in your child’s name. Give them the credit and the experience of helping those who can benefit from it the most. This is what Christmas is all about anyways, right? Below I have attached links to some of the charities my husband  and I donate to throughout the year . Help feed America and give the season a true meaning.

    – Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Click on any of the links below to donate or browse their site.

Feed The Children

Feeding America

http://www.foodpantries.org/ Find your local food pantry for services or donations.

Salvation Army Find your local Salvation Army or donate online