Wednesday, March 28, 2012

4 Ideas For An Inexpensive, Stress-Free Getaway

tropical getaway coconut trees
1. LivingSocial and Groupon
LivingSocial is my fave!  I've used them for discounted dentist appointments,  yoga classes, wine tastings and even trips.  They have deals for all sorts of things and if you haven't heard of it yet, where have you been?  While most people probably know what I'm talking about, I have no clue how many of them actually use it.    Well, for what it's worth, I love it.  A vacation won't be cheap but it will be heavily discounted and sans stress because the itinerary is all done for you.

Have you ever wondered what the secret is behind these group discount sites?  Why are they able to offer such huge deals?  It's simple, due to the sheer numbers of buyers companies offer huge discounts, it's worth it for them because they sell and they sell fast.  There's power in numbers.  In fact, there's a new company called 4N1FUND which has taken this idea a step further by combining the group discount benefits with financial planning.  Not only can you now get discounted rates on medical services, spas and vacations, but you can get discounted rates on investing in your future too!

2. Local Ashram
Spending a weekend at a local Ashram is an inexpensive spiritual getaway that I highly recommend.  You don't have to adhere to eastern religious practices, in fact most attendees don't.  It's simply a nice break from daily life, a welcoming community and an interesting experience.  Ashrams provide a relaxing environment and a place of refuge.  In fact, stress is what drives most people to ashrams, stress and the dire need to unwind.  I'm from New York where ashrams are very popular.  City dwellers flock upstate to meditate and change their pace.  Zen Mountain Monastery is a good example.

Ashram accommodations are similar to youth hostels and can be as low as $60 a night for a dorm style room.  Some Ashrams will even allow you to stay for free if you agree to work.  My mother enjoys time spent at Ashrams.  She and her friends went free of charge once and were assigned the task of ironing the guru's robes, which was a unique and even intoxicating experience.  A few years ago, The New York Times ran a great article on the trend of visiting an ashram for an inexpensive, sans stress getaway.

3. Local Casino
In stark contrast to the ashram, casinos can provide a decent getaway for not much money.  If you can get away during the week even better because casinos offer huge discounts.  You definitely don't have to gamble to enjoy them.  There are shows, nightclubs, restaurants.  A casino is like a huge mall of fun.  Now malls or casinos aren't for everyone but when you're looking to break up the monotony of life for an affordable price, staying a night or two at a casino is a good option.  Invite some friends, chip in on a suite and have a blast!  There are casinos everywhere and perhaps they represent what's wrong with society but I say, when in Rome...

4. Dude Ranch 
When I was a kid my mom and I used to frequent a dude ranch in Pennsylvania.  This is a great family experience and can also be great for friends and couples.  Dude ranches organize so many activities from treasure hunts to nature hikes, there is plenty of wholesome fun to be had.  You might spend $800 for four nights but this includes food, lodging, horseback riding and activities.  So the stress of planning is not on you and the price is pretty reasonable compared to most vacations.  Also, call and see when they run specials because you may be able to score a deal.

Many states have Dude Ranchers' Associations.  Here in California there are quite a few options.

I hope this helps!  Remember, avoid stress at all costs.  Life is too short, there's not point in stressing.  Please send me your ideas on inexpensive, stress-free getaways so I can add them to the list!


Friday, March 23, 2012

The Dalai Lama on Money and Happiness

The Dalai Lama sat for an interview with WSJ's Barbara Chai to discuss his specific thoughts on a range of topics. In this video, we look at the Dalai Lama's views on money, economics and happiness.

Wow!  Please enjoy.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

3 Things To Remember When Saving Sans Stress

Via georgetowntxblog
Times, they are  changing.  Gone are the days of working hard at the same job for years and then retiring in paradise somewhere.  With more people working as freelancers, self-employed, and changing careers, financial stability takes more effort than it once did.  As I encourage readers to live stress-free lives and also in abundance I have three important reminders.

1. Credit Unions
Big banks cause stress.   With the state of the economy as it is, and corporations behaving as they do, we need, as people, to believe our voices are heard and we have some power.  At a credit union, the customers are the owners.  The executive management must answer to its owners. With a publicly-traded banking institution, shareholders only care about making money.  So management caters to the shareholder and not the customer.  Are you a bank shareholder or are you a bank customer? 

As a regular, educated, working individual, it's important for me to not feel exploited and for the little bit that I have to not be taken advantage of.   Credit unions are non-profits, have fewer fees and higher savings rates.

 2. Alternative Investing Plans
Investing money for the future is something we should all be doing.  But it shouldn't be a source of stress and worry.  We're not all financial wizards who know when to buy and sell.  Heck, we don't all have enough money to invest wisely in the market.  Tons of people put off saving for the future because they don't know where to begin or because they believe they don't have the money to start.  If you have money to go to movies regularly then you have money to invest in your future.   Since we know we can't depend on social security, it's integral that you take action.

Many jobs have 401k plans, which require you to trust corporate America and Wall Street to make the right decisions.  However, more and more people are investing in 4N1FUND, a plan that combines social networking as we know it with financial planning.  4N1FUND does not rely on the stability of corporate America but on the power of the group.  By pooling the money of a group (much like Groupon) the plan receives huge discounts on the rates of return.  Equity Indexed Universal Life as a wealth plan for the future is smart.  4N1FUND is even smarter.  It combines the benefits of a 401K with the benefits of EIUL and has created a social network for it -- your money is leveraged through the use of an internet group.  Pretty genius, right?   It's based on the S&P but not invested in the market so when wall street panics, there's no need for you to stress because your money is fine.  No early withdrawal penalties, annual tax-free income stream...the benefits are many!

3. Detachment
The key to living a stress free life is to detach from any desires or goals.  Have them, go after them, get them but don't become them.  You are not how much money you have.  You are not what you do for a living.  You are not defined by your work, your bank account, your possessions, your desires or even your abilities.  You are defined by something deeper.  You are a spiritual being, a soul so profound I won't attempt to sum it up here.  But know that once you let go of all the worldly ideas and things, stress disappears instantly.  Worries, anxieties and problems turn into hope, joy and happiness.  Try it sometime.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

5 Healthy Discount Foods

Via saucytart
Eating healthy on a budget is not as difficult as it may seem.   Yes a cheeseburger costs $.99 and a salad costs $8.  But, that doesn't mean you have to be rich to eat well.  And when I say well, I mean nutritiously.  In the future I'd like to post some great low-calorie, low-cost recipes.  But for now, and I until I become a better cook, here are some food items that are both healthy and very inexpensive.  

1. Sardines
This is definitely known as the poor man's snack but they're delicious and so good for you. I always keep a few cans on hand. I usually enjoy them with some whole grain crackers but people prepare them in all sorts of ways (sandwiches, salads, with rice). Sardines, smoked herring, tuna -- all reasonably priced, full of nutrients and easy to enjoy.

2. Peanut Butter 
 Nuts tend to be expensive. A 16oz jar of peanuts is $5.  A 16oz jar of peanut butter is $3.50.  Peanut butter is more versatile, tends to last longer than whole nuts,  is filling and inexpensive. Just make sure you get an organic brand that isn't loaded with preservatives.

3. Bell Peppers
Instead of potato chips I try to snack on healthy things. Not always easy to do, but bell peppers are a great healthy snack and they won't break your budget. Veggies in general can be pricey especially if buying organic (which you should) but one bell pepper only costs about $1.50. Cut it into slices and store it well, I can spread one pepper into two or three snacks. A small bag of chips costs at least $.75 and you eat the whole thing in one sitting, not to mention all the salt, grease and calories.

4. Popcorn
When I need something salty and greasy I usually make popcorn. I pop my own kernels on the stove. A bag of organic popcorn will only run you a couple of bucks and can make around seven bowls of popcorn. A bag of already popped, packaged popcorn will run you the same price, is less healthy and will only make about two bowls. So you do the math. Making your own popcorn is not only healthier but more cost effective as well. Tastes better too.

5. Beans
 A bag of dry beans costs $.99, are delicious, healthy and a good addition to any meal. There are so many good bean recipes out there and it's really a nutritious staple, especially for vegetarians. The only thing is, if you get dry beans they take a while to cook.

I guess the moral of the story here is that if you can eat healthy for less, but it takes more time than just popping something in the microwave or ripping open a bag.

I tend to appreciate the time it takes, maybe that's just me but convenience isn't always best.   Sometimes (meaning always) slow and in the moment is better.

Monday, March 12, 2012

5 Ways To Save Money On Gas

save money on gas
Via epautos
After relocating from New York City to Los Angeles, I've come to realize just how horrible these high gas prices really are.  I'm probably more ignorant than most when it comes to cars.  I was born and raised in a city where no one drives. But now that I get behind the wheel almost everyday, I did a little research and discovered a few tips that help me save money on gas.

1. Find Discount Deals
 Lots of supermarkets have deals with gas stations. Buy groceries and get rewards at the pump. Find out what deals are offered at you local supermarket.

2. Don't Brake
Drive at a consistent speed.  Avoid quick acceleration and hard braking because apparently that uses more gas (who knew!)  Cruise control will keep you at a constant speed, even when going up and down hills.

3. Check Tire Pressure Monthly
Buy a digital gauge and keep it in your glove box. Refer to the manufacturer's recommended pressure level and inflate tires as needed.  Be sure to check tire pressure when your tires are cold. A good time is early in the morning after your car's been idle overnight.

4. Walk
I love walking!  I'm lucky because I live in a fairly walkable part of Southern California. I can walk to the supermarket, coffee shops, yoga, some restaurants, even to the beach. As a New Yorker, I'm used to walking and it's great exercise. Walking to nearby places will benefit you in more ways than just saving gas money.

5. Park in the Shade
Hot summer sun makes the inside of your car feel like a sauna and zaps fuel from your gas tank.  So find a shady spot and buy a good windshield shade to block sunlight and help keep your fuel from evaporating.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Take A 401(k) Chill Pill

The American Medical Association notes that stress is the basic cause of more than 60 percent of all human illness and disease.  The good thing is, stress is avoidable.  Stress tends to be something we do to ourselves. People let themselves be stressed by not looking for solutions, not changing their attitudes, and by thinking a certain way.  

In today’s political and economic climate people stress most about money.   As people continue to stress about retirement and dwindling 401k’s it’s important to remember that there are other retirement planning options, less stressful ones.    

401(k) vs 4N1FUND 
Stress - Trust Your Employer - Can you depend on corporate America? Do you trust your employer?   A 401(K) requires you do both.  Some employers operating 401(k) plans are not in compliance with IRS and Department of Labor regulations.  Some 401(k) plans use risky or questionable investments. Many plans invested in mortgage-backed securities and lost most of their value in the mortgage collapse of 2008. You must investigate and research your employer’s 401(k) plan to make sure it’s safe and sound.

          Sans Stress   
  • Trust Yourself - 4N1FUND does not rely on the stability of corporate America and you don’t have to trust your employer to make the right choices.  All you have to do is commit to making monthly payments.  4N1FUND relies on the power of the group.  Once an online group is formed, your money is leveraged due to the sheer numbers.   

Stress - Pay Taxes - Generally, your 401(k) distributions are taxed as ordinary income.  401(k) plans also have a minimum distribution requirement.  If you fail to withdraw income by age 70 you pay hefty fees.  

         Sans Stress
  • Annual Tax-Free Income Stream - 4N1FUND provides an incredible annual tax-free income stream.  The tax advantages are incomparable to any other retirement plan.  You don’t have to worry about paying Uncle Sam.  You’ve given him enough.  Go to the 4N1FUND website and see what your projections are!

Stress - Watch the Market -- A 401(k) plan is money invested in the stock market.  If you have one, you must do the work to monitor it.  You have to watch out for any alterations in portfolio options, strategy changes, manager departures, long-term performance shortcomings, etc.

         Sans Stress
  • No Work Involved - 4N1FUND takes the stress out of planning for the future.  You won’t have to pay attention to the stock market downswings because when the market drops it will not affect your benefits.  You won’t have to monitor changes.   It’s a much simpler approach to saving!  Take the intimidating stress of being lost in the economic world out of the equation and focus on the fun things in life, like finding your next relaxing vacation spot.

Stress - Heavy Early Withdrawal Penalties - Don't touch your 401(k) before retirement. The money is yours, so you can withdraw it if you want, but not without paying taxes and heavy penalties (generally 10%) on the amount withdrawn.  If you make an early withdrawal, be prepared to lose money.

          Sans Stress
  • NO Early Withdrawal Penalties - 4N1FUND provides living benefits in times of personal crisis.  You won’t have exorbitant penalties to pay if a circumstance arises that requires you to stop working and withdraw funds for income before you reach retirement age.  It offers protection in times of need and you won’t have to jump through any hoops.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dangerous Stress

Stress Can Damage Women's Health | Video - ABC News

Please watch this.  Take a moment to breath, chill.  De-stress.  Life is not a race or a competition.