Archive for Jon Lal

How Volunteering Can Save You Money

By U.S. News...

If you’re like many of us, your New Year’s resolutions might look something like this: get healthy, lose weight, save money, travel more, find a new job or make new friends. In fact, there’s one way you can accomplish many of these things, often at once: by volunteering.

Volunteering your time, whether it’s in your community, your workplace or somewhere far across the world, is a wonderful way to give back. Volunteering is especially smart when it’s not in your budget to make a donation. Besides helping to better the lives of others, volunteering can have a lot of unexpected benefits on your own life, as well. Here are a few reasons, besides the obvious, why you might want to donate your time this year:

You can skip the gym:

Many volunteer opportunities require some physical activity. Becoming a committed volunteer could mean you’re regularly burning calories and working fitness into your lifestyle. A few examples include shoveling snow and raking leaves for the injured or elderly; working in a soup kitchen lifting boxes and serving the hungry; helping build and repair homes; walking dogs; community gardening and weed clean-up; or playing with kids in need of a role model and mentor. Consider canceling your gym membership and meeting your activity goals by volunteering a few times a week.

Improve your health:

There are even more proven health benefits to volunteering. The Corporation for National & Community Service reports that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life. Research also shows volunteering can strongly benefit older individuals that are retiring by keeping physical and social activity high during this stage of life. In that way, even opportunities that are low impact can provide physical and mental health benefits.

No more costly mixers:

Hoping to meet new people this year? Whether you want to network with future colleagues or mingle with singles, the cost to attend events can be pricey. Ticket prices, beverages and membership fees can add up each month. Instead, join a community group dedicated to giving back. It’s much easier to meet new friends or potential dates when you’re working toward a common cause. As for rubbing elbows with potential colleagues, you can meet tons of like-minded volunteers and easily expand your network without paying a fee at the door.

Boost your resume and your worth:

Speaking of networking, volunteering can add impressive experience to your resume. Future employers value hard workers, commitment to a cause, and those that go the extra mile for additional career experience. Having volunteering in your background might mean future employers will give you additional responsibility, sending you a few steps ahead in your career path.

Travel on the cheap:

Though it means more of a lifestyle change, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities that allow you to travel for an extended period at little cost. Entire organizations exist that provide volunteers with free …read more

Read more here: How Volunteering Can Save You Money

Category: money, personal finance, savings, shopping, tax deductions, volunteering

How to Protect Yourself While Holiday Shopping

By U.S. News...

It’s not to early to prepare for holiday shopping.

The busy holiday shopping season is nearly underway, so now is an ideal time to brush up on the safest ways to shop. In an increasingly digital world, there are precautions you can take to keep your personal information safe, secure and confidential. Consider these tips as you prepare to shop in stores, online or on your mobile device in the coming months.

In-store shopping:

A general rule of thumb when shopping with a credit or debit card is to regularly check your statement and online account for charges that you don’t recognize. As soon as you notice something that isn’t right, call your bank or credit card company to report it. Your financial institution will address the situation quickly and minimize the damage to your account; most banks and credit card companies have entire divisions devoted to fighting fraud. In fact, chances are that they’ll notice something as gone wrong before you do.

During the holiday shopping season, hold on to your receipts and keep them in a secure place. It might be helpful for verifying charges or statements; plus, you might need them for returns or exchanges.

Of course, you can always use cash when you shop in stores if you want to eliminate the chance of your personal information being stolen in any kind of hack or data breach. One downside of this is missing out on the discounts and coupons that are available when using some store’s rewards cards, or the points and cash back you can earn on your own credit cards. There’s also the risk of losing or misplacing the dollar bills in your pocket.

The important thing to remember when a store is hacked after you have shopped there is not to panic. Your bank or credit card company will be able to walk you through next steps, and you won’t be responsible for any charges.

Online and mobile shopping:

Shopping online is convenient and fun, can save you a ton of time and offers a number of ways to save money. You can find coupon codes, earn cash back and hunt bargains across the web. That being said, new online stores and mobile apps are popping up every day and it is important to know exactly where you’re shopping. You should always check the address bar or top of your Internet browser for a padlock icon, which indicates that the website you are on is secure. Additionally, look for the “s” at the end of “http” in a website’s URL address.

Thanks to laptops, tablets and mobile devices, you can shop online virtually anywhere. However, it’s recommended you only do so while on a secure network connection. Shopping online on public Wi-Fi leaves your information vulnerable and exposed to anyone else on that network.

On that same note, keep …read more

Read more here: How to Protect Yourself While Holiday Shopping

Category: black friday, christmas, cyberattack, cybersecurity, debit cards, e-commerce, internet, mobile, online shopping, shopping, stores

5 Frugal Hobbies to Help You Stress Less

By U.S. News...

There’s plenty to do in these waning summer days to melt away stress and anxiety. Heading to the beach or the pool on the weekend with a good book works well, and you can even take your lunch outside on the workday if it’s not too hot. Fresh air and sunshine can work wonders on your mental health.

With the busy school season and cooler temperature headed our way, you may want to think about how you can continue to make time for yourself during fall and winter. You might have to be indoors more often, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find your inner bliss.

Here are a few suggestions for new, relaxing hobbies you can adopt without shelling out a lot of cash:


Who would have thought one of your favorite childhood pastimes is now a new hot trend for those looking to relieve stress? Many adults claim that coloring is a mindless activity that can help them relax and find quiet time for themselves. There are now many adult coloring books on the market, with intricate, beautiful designs and themes. Luckily, this hobby won’t cost you too much to start — many adult coloring books go for less than $10 on Amazon. You can take your hobby a step further and get together with coworkers or friends for group coloring.


What better time to take up hiking than during the autumn foliage season? Even if you don’t live near mountainous terrain, you can find walking trails or nature preserves in almost every community. Hiking can keep you active even as it gets colder, and when the snow starts to fall you can continue your adventures with a good pair of hiking boots or snowshoes. Just search the sales and look for coupons to make sure you get a discount on a good brand of shoes — you shouldn’t skimp and buy a cheap version that might fall apart quickly or hurt your feet. Boots are one place it can make sense to spend a little more, especially if you’re wearing them to engage in an activity as thrifty as hiking. You can even pack your lunch and have a picnic, too.

Learning a Language

You might think learning a language requires expensive software or signing up for a pricy course. Thanks to the Internet, you can now learn languages for free. Websites like Duolingo and Memrise have countless hours of free resources and courses to help you learn whatever language you want, at no cost to you. You can even compete with others and earn points to stay motivated. If you start now, you might be able to impress your relatives in time for your annual holiday party!

Listening to Podcasts

There is an abundance of free podcasts available right on your mobile device. You can find stations and series on current events, happiness and well-being, sports, health, money, comedy — you name it and it’s there. It’s an incredible free resource and it already …read more

Read more here: 5 Frugal Hobbies to Help You Stress Less

Category: coloring, crafts, entertainment, family money, genealogy, hiking, hobbies, language, personal finance, podcast, saving money, shopping, stress

How to Waste Less Food and Money

By U.S. News...:

Do you ever find you’re throwing away uneaten or rotten food every week? You’re not alone; the government estimates food waste adds up to over $900 per household each year.

Not only is it bad for the environment and wasteful, especially considering that many people around the world go hungry, but it’s a hit on your wallet, as well. Summer can be an especially difficult time to avoid wasting food, as it’s a season of abundant fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as generous CSA, or community supported agriculture, shares. Do yourself and the ecosystem a favor and employ a few of these easy tips to waste less food:

Plan ahead. One hour of planning at the beginning of the week can save you time, energy and money in the long run. If you think of it as the same amount of time you watch a TV show, it’s easier to realize how little time it takes to plan meals.

Start by taking an inventory of your kitchen. Knowing exactly what you already have can help you avoid buying the same thing twice, which for perishables will almost certainly result in wasting food.

Then, plan your meals for the week. Create a grocery list of items that you will need, as well as any staple groceries that you know you eat each week. You can even plan for a “leftovers” night at the end of the week where dinner is created with whatever is still in the fridge and pantry.

Depending on your schedule, you may want to consider a few smaller trips to the store each week instead of bigger, less frequent shops. This lessens the chance that you will buy too much and end up wasting it.

Check your storage. Make sure you understand where to store food. Certain fruits and vegetables need to be refrigerated, and others do better in a cool pantry or at room temperature. Print out a list and put it on your fridge for quick reference.

As for inside the fridge, make sure to keep your vegetables and fruit separate, since they will spoil when stored together. Bring older food and leftovers to the front of the fridge instead of hiding them in the back where they won’t get eaten in time. If you can easily see food, then you’re less likely to forget about it and end up wasting it.

For pantry items like cereal, crackers or cookies, try taking products out of boxes as soon as you buy them and store them in airtight containers instead. This will prolong shelf life and keep them from getting stale too soon.

Understand expiration dates. Sometimes, it’s obvious when food needs to be thrown away, whether that comes in the form of mold or a sour smell. But other times, food may seem fine yet the expiration date has already passed. So how do you know if it’s safe to eat?

“Use by” and “Best by” dates are recommended by the manufacturer, but you can also …read more

Read more here: How to Waste Less Food and Money

Category: consumer issues, family money, food and drink, grocery shopping, household budget, personal finance, saving money, summer

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