My New Financial Secret Weapon: Yesterday’s Tomorrow

Growing up – I did not really learn the value of a dollar. I do not think it was a lack of my parents trying to teach me, I think it was more a lack of listening and paying attention to what it all really meant for me as I became an adult. I was required to do chores, I was paid an allowance, and I even had a job at 15 years old making pretty good money. But for me, I was living in the moment. Savings just was not something that I thought about.

I am not yet old, but not really young anymore either. Middle of the road? When I was 18 I could not wait to get out on my own. I loved working – I always have. So making a paycheck wasn’t an issue for me. I knew I could make the money I needed to live. But I soon understood that simply paying the bills wasn’t all you needed to do in life.

It didn’t take long for me to realize I needed to make a better plan for my finances. I wanted to save more, but my habits and daily routine needed updating. I saw many friends who had to move back in with their parents, or get multiple roommates, or came close to being altogether homeless when unexpected bills maxed them out, and I definitely don’t want to end up in that position. And I’m not alone. Research shows that one in three millennials (34%) ranked saving as their number one goal for the year.

I was excited to find FeedThePig.org. It has great resources to help me, my family, and my friends save more and spend wisely, including a new game called Yesterday’s Tomorrow. The game is like a “choose-your-own-adventure” in the form of a digital photo album! You get to develop a relationship with a future version of yourself, jumping through key life stages and instantly seeing the outcomes of those choices from teenage years through retirement. As you think through some life decisions like school, job, and awesome vacations, you’ll see how your choices may save, or lose money. No one wants to blow their money needlessly, right?

We have been using Feed the Pig games since its launch in 2008. At that time, my kids were just 8 and 9 years old. After struggling with student loan debt and other debt that we have piled up over the years – I really wanted to play this game for myself – and I wish I had done it years ago! The new Yesterday’s Tomorrow game lets you not only have a little fun but also see that financial literacy is important. I love that you can virtually see how adopting healthy financial habits can pay off!

Before I understood my personal finances, I made the mistake of maxing out a credit card as soon as I opened it. A majority of millennials (65%) attributed their lack of saving to impulse buying and not establishing a personal budget (62%), so I’m not the only one who has done this (and immediately regretted it!).

After using Feed the Pig’s resources, I realized that just by switching up how and where I spent my money, I could really begin to save. It felt impossible before, but playing through Yesterday’s Tomorrow helped me to focus more on my future self and realize the different ways to reach those goals for where I want to be financially. The game and FeedThePig.org helped us a lot.

While we are a lot older now than when we first set out on our journey of adulthood, we still have financial goals that Yesterday’s Tomorrow has helped us see. We want to be debt free and we want to have a comfortable retirement. Those are our two main goals right now.

What are your financial goals? Make sure to play Feed the Pig’s Yesterday’s Tomorrow and figure out how you can make them happen!

For more information and to play the game, visit FeedthePig.org!

Clearing your Clutter Could Mean Jobs for Your Community

I don’t know about you – but in our house, we accumulate stuff fast. Or at least it seems that way. We have been in the same house for eight years now and every year when we embark on our spring cleaning adventures, it seems like we have more stuff than we did the last year at the same time. Mind you – this is after spring cleaning last year, too.

There are only four of us, so I find myself baffled every year at how we possibly can still have so much stuff! We aren’t like, borderline hoarders or anything. Though, my husband might have hinted at that to me, a few times. I think I just have a hard time getting rid of stuff I *think* I might need next year – or I feel like as SOON as I throw it away, I am going to need it.

Our current situation:

 

So, this year we are trying some new tactics to get rid of stuff! And so much of the stuff we accumulate is still GOOD useable stuff – so instead of just taking it to the dump – we send it on to our local Goodwill store for someone else to love. Not only does this solve our problem of stuff accumulation, but it also greatly benefits our community too!

You can even calculate how much your donation helps your local community by using Goodwill’s Donation Impact Calculator, a feature available within the Goodwill Locator App available for Android and iOS devices and at http://www.goodwill.org/. Simply input the items you’re donating to calculate the number of hours of career counseling, on-the-job training, résumé preparation, financial planning classes, and other services you’ve helped provide people facing challenges finding employment.

This year – we are using these spring cleaning tips from Goodwill to help our community AND our clutter problem by using their using our A-B-C-D prioritization tool.

The older my kids get, the more they tend to lean toward wanting less clutter, less mess and having themselves more put together. So, that has been a blessing when it comes to spring cleaning. We have always included them – but now, as teenagers, they can really understand what it means to help the community as they clean their closets.

Thanks to the programs and support services made possible by donations of clothes and household items, Goodwill helped place more than 312,000 people in jobs in the United States and Canada in 2015 – that’s one person finding a job every 23 seconds of every business day.

Have old dresses laying around? 5 of them is 55 minutes of on the job training!

Jeans that don’t quite fit anymore? 4 of them is 48 minutes of on the job training!

It’s helpful to ask yourself some questions when you are unsure about getting rid of an item. Here are some of our favorites:

  • When is the last time you used this item?
  • What does it cost (in both time and money) to replace this item? And how hard would it be to find and purchase this item again?
  • What is the worst-case scenario if you did donate this item? The answer to this question might not be so bad, and just the act of considering it makes decision making easier.

Be choosy about what surrounds you, and donate what you no longer need to Goodwill® so it can find a good home and help people in your own community with job training and placement and other services and opportunities. Find your nearest donation center, or download the Goodwill app for iOS and Android devices!

How do you tackle spring cleaning? Any tips for us almost-hoarders? 😊

#LightItUpBlue With Us For Autism Awareness and Education

Since April is World Autism Month, I’ve decided to #LightItUpBlue with Autism Speaks to increase understanding and awareness of autism.

Each and every one of us is unique and special in our own ways. Being unique and understanding one another is important, especially today. Thankfully, knowledge is at our fingertips for just about anything you need to know. As a parent, having this knowledge at our fingertips is especially important.

Today, 1 in every 68 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism. That being said, it is highly likely that you know someone with autism. Personally, we have both friends and family who have kids of all different ages who have been diagnosed with Autism.

My mother-in-law has been babysitting a boy, for nearly all his life, who was diagnosed with autism at a very young age – he has a difficult time communicating, he cannot speak using words, but uses sign language and other methods of communication. He is largely misunderstood by people who are not educated on autism and I feel like this is something that we need to generate as much awareness about as possible! The more we know, the more we are able to understand and understanding is a huge step toward meeting their needs.

Some facts about autism

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in 68 children in the United States. This includes 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.
  • An estimated 50,000 teens with autism become adults – and lose school-based autism services – each year.
  • Around one-third of people with autism remain nonverbal.
  • Around one-third of people with autism have an intellectual disability.
  • Certain medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism. They include gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and phobias.

Autism refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.

The “Light It Up Blue” campaign is about more than awareness — it is about increasing understanding and acceptance of autism.  This includes advocacy and support for anyone diagnosed with autism throughout their lives. It also includes advancing research into personalized treatments for autism and related conditions.  I encourage you test your understanding of autism by taking this quiz!

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#LightItUpBlue

Certain medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism. They include GI disorders, seizures, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and phobias. All of these issues are manageable, and we all know someone that is working to manage these every single day. The more we know about what others are faced with daily, the better we can understand where they are coming from and how we can help.

You can help make a difference too by taking the Light It Up Blue Quiz to see how much you know about autism. If you’re moved to do so after visiting AutismSpeaks.org, please show your support for and understanding of the challenges faced by individuals with autism by sharing a photo to #LightItUpBlue for Autism Awareness Month too. Also, check out Autism Speaks’ nationwide calendar of autism-friendly friendly events and activities in April.