I hate to admit it, but my baby girl turns 30 this month -- nothing like your child hitting an age "mile stone" to make you feel your age! When I said this to my mom, she told me to think how she feels having a granddaughter that's 30!

That put things in perspective! Thanks mom!

We have a lot of family birthdays in February. My husband and my grandson share the same birthday. We had a wonderful time celebrating their birthdays this past week. My husband was glad that the weather cooperated for a change. It wasn't too cold and the sun was shining. February in North Central Texas tends to be rather dreary -- cold, wet and cloudy (just like it is today).

I know some of the folks in the north are covered over in snow. Remember -- spring is just around the corner -- keep your chin up!

Don't forget to celebrate the love for your family this February. Have a Happy Valentines Day and thank you for your continued interest in Messy Makeover Magazine.

Shelly Morton

P.S. Ever wondered how Valentines Day came about? Click on the "Valentines Heart" picture above to go to the History of Valentines Day page on Straighten-Up-Now.

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Saving --- the “New” Spending
[Saving Money -- Great Tips for Saving Your Hard Earned Cash!]

If you’re like most Americans these days, the term “security” seems like a thing of the past. Whether it’s personal safety (physical safety or identity theft), financial (joblessness and debt), or emotional (what in the world is going on), almost everyone feels less secure than they did just a few short years ago.

Regardless of what the fear mongers in the media tell you, there is good news. Here’s one good example . . .

Personal savings in the U.S. is currently at the highest level in more than 15 years!

The Associated Press recently stated that the U.S. personal savings rate jumped to 6.9 percent. This is the highest rate since 1993. When you consider that in recent years the savings rate sunk below zero at times and lingered below 1 percent during 2005 to 2007, this is a dramatic increase and should lift your spirits!

You can get on course to healthier financial management and more peace of mind. This issue of Messy Makeover Magazine is dedicated to giving you some valuable tips to help you get your finances in order.

Tip #1--Know where your money is going! Figure out what you are spending and how you are spending it. You will most likely find out that some of your money is not being used wisely. I know that the word “budget” may seem like a four-letter word, but having a budget will help you identify whether you are living within your means and where you could cut some expenses.

Tip#2—Know where you are going! Once you know where your money is going, it is much easier to plan. You will know how much it takes to maintain your lifestyle and plan for emergencies and future events (vacations, retirement, etc.).

Tip #3 – Know what things cost! This will take a little time and effort, but the results are well worth it. Become an informed consumer. Find out about the product you intend to purchase and research both the pros and cons of ownership. This would also include price comparison. The Internet makes it much easier to perform this type of research. By reading product reviews and resisting impulse buying, you will purchase with more confidence and feel assured that what you are buying is truly worth it.

Tip #4 – Know how to make deals! Decide in advance how much you are willing to pay for something. If the price seems too high or there is to much risk involved, take time to reevaluate it. An experienced sales person is like a shark -- a shark can smell blood in the water -- experienced sales people can smell the “gotta have it now” in any buyer. Negotiating can be a great way to save money as long as you are only buying things you actually need. Don’t buy something just because it’s a good deal. When negotiating, always make sure you are talking to the person who has the authority to bargain.

Tip #5—Know how to bundle Bundling can apply to many things including (but not limited to) insurance and services. Many insurance companies give significant discounts for bundling your life, home and auto insurance. You can also lower your premium by choosing a higher deductible. Savings can also happen when you bundle services such as cable, phone and internet (but be sure to only buy what you need).

Tip #6 – Know how to do it yourself Doing it yourself can mean many things:

Bring your lunch instead of eating out;

Brew coffee at home instead of stopping at the coffee shop;

Change your own car oil (or get a relative or friend to do it for you) instead of taking it to a shop or dealership;

Be your own pet groomer and bond with Fido! Here’s some examples of what you can save: Teeth cleaning $11/month; Ear cleaning $9/month; Nail trim $9/month; Bath $10/month; Trim-Haircut $25/month

Be your own hair salon. Ladies -- it’s easier than you think to color your own hair. I personally save over $50 every 4-6 weeks by coloring my hair at home. You can also push your hair appointments out by two weeks and save even more (this tip applies to men as well as women). Get your friends together and give each other a manicure/pedicure – it’s fun and results in great savings!

With these tips in mind, here are some other ways you can stash more cash in the upcoming year:

  • Property Taxes Lower value should mean lower taxes. Check to make sure you’re not paying too much. Request a reconsideration and do you homework with regard to similar properties in your area.

  • Insurance Check to make sure you are not over-insured with regard to life, auto and home insurance.

  • Bank Accounts Maintain your bank balances and avoid fees. If you pay your bills online, this will help increase awareness of you’re account balances and activity.

  • Save Use the 20-20-80 rule (20% of income to savings; 20% to charitable giving; 80% for living expenses). Setting aside as little as $50 a month will add up more quickly than you realize! You can also save your change. You can set aside $.50 a day (about $15 a month)– you won’t even miss it.

  • Eating Out Eating out less will definitely save you money. Also consider passing on beverages when you do eat out. Ask for a glass of water (with or without lemon) instead. The mark up on beverages (sodas, juice, coffee and wine) can be as much as 575%!

  • Energy While I believe we should be good stewards of God’s resources, I’m not into the new age religion of “green earth worship” that is being hyped in the media. However, driving within the speed limits does save on gas. Speeds above 55 mph reduce gas mileage by as much as 20% and you loose another 10% when windows are down. Lowering the temperature on your water heater from 140 to 120 degrees will also reap rewards. Turning off the tap while doing dishes and brushing your teeth also helps. Adjusting your thermostat (lower in winter/higher in summer) by 10 percent while you are at work and sleeping also yields great savings.

  • Entertainment Skip seeing the latest flicks at the theater and wait until they are released to discount theaters or put on DVD saves about $8 per person. If you do go to the movie, skip the popcorn, soda and treats – this results in HUGE savings. Consider canceling your magazine subscriptions. I discovered I rarely read many issues. The issues I did read only occasionally had an article I was interested in. Instead, I purchased only the issues that had relevant information (about 1 or 2 a year) – even at full price, it was a great savings. For additional savings, read them at your local library.

  • Sell unused items If you haven’t used it in two years, you can probably do without it. Consider having a garage sale or sell online (Ebay, etc.). This will clear up your closets, your garage, your house and your life! It is very liberating and allows you more space to organize what you actually use.

  • Deductions Donate items that didn’t sell to charity. This can even include a used car! Increasing your charitable giving is also of great benefit, spiritually as well as financially (there are Biblical principles at work here). You can hire a professional to make sure you are taking advantage of all eligible deductions. This can make a huge impact.

  • Unclaimed money Check out www.missingmoney.com to check for unclaimed money in each state you have resided in.

  • Make additional money in your spare time Instead of coming home and flopping on the couch for 4-5 hours every night in front of the TV, consider investing 1 or 2 hours a week in a part-time business. While it may take 4-5 years (or even a little longer) for your business to get off the ground, investing money in your own business venture will help you with spare change now and may even provide a nest egg for the future or supplement your retirement.

Regardless of the future, these tips are timeless and are proven to produce results. WARNING: Don’t try to do everything or do everything all at once. This can be frustrating, discouraging and over-whelming.

Instead --start somewhere and take baby steps. Check out the steps on www.straighten-up-now.com under the Start Here section for more help.

If you have more great tips on savings, use the Contact Me page. Be sure to provide your first name and where in the world you are (city, state, country) to be given credit for the submission.

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I hope you enjoyed the February 2010 issue of Messy Makeover Magazine. I consider it a privilege that you took your valuable time to subscribe and read this magazine.

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Stay tuned for the next issue! Toodles!

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