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Shut down the noise of friends when it comes to money

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Most people think that their friends don’t influence their finances, but it can happen in subtle ways.

Take the friend who goes on a cruise three times a year. They might always want others in their circle to join them. The temptation to join is high. It is so much more fun to vacation with good friends. But is it worth it to go into debt for a cruise?

Or consider the friend who always wants to go out for a fancy dinner and drinks. Yes, it is fun, but is it in the budget every weekend?

People who would never consider keeping up with the Joneses may still fall into the trap of following friends down a bad spending path.

Here are some things you can do to keep yourself on track:

1. Stare at your money frequently.
Seriously, just look. Look at the balance, the interest payments, and review how long you have been working to increase the balance. Knowing where the path you have taken can help put today into perspective.

2. Think about what you want.
Is it a cruise now? Or do you want to buy a house, pay for a child’s college, or save for retirement? Preserve your emergency fund? These are goals you can remind yourself about.

3. Consider your track to the future at least once a year.
As you stare at your investments or savings, focus on where you will be a year from now or 20 years from now if you refuse that cruise today.

Ask yourself if investments need to be rebalanced, maybe for less risk, for example. However, avoid being influenced by the financial markets today, as they move up and down amid the chatter of analysts. Try to think long term, according to Kiplinger Personal Finance.

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Everything you need to throw an outdoor winter party

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If you’re tired of being cooped up inside this winter, consider hosting an outdoor party. Here are a few things you’ll need to make the event a success.

Decorations
To create an inviting atmosphere, string paper lanterns or fairy lights from trees and line walkways with tealights in Mason jars. Vibrant streamers and balloons will contrast beautifully with a snow-covered yard, or you can opt for natural decors like pine cones and evergreen branches.

Heating

Even if the weather is mild during the day, you’ll want to make sure your guests can remain warm once the sun begins to set. Patio heaters are the perfect solution, and they come in a variety of sizes and styles. Alternatively, you can gather around a backyard fire pit. You should also ask every-one to dress warmly and encourage them to bring their own blankets.

Activities
If you want to keep your guests entertained, plan an assortment of activities. For example, you could:

• Organize a snow sculpture contest

• Build a backyard skating rink

• Gather around a campfire for a sing-along

• Set up a dance floor and play lively music

• Rent a projector for an outdoor movie screening

Finally, make sure you have plenty of hot beverages to offer your guests including coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.

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How to get your finances in order if you’re diagnosed with a long-term illness

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If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness or disability, money may be the last thing on your mind. However, as soon as you’re able to, you should give some thought to your finances. If you can no longer work as a result of your condition, you’ll probably need to take some steps to ensure your financial situation is stable.

Determine which benefits you’re eligible for
Speak with your employer to find out how much paid sick leave you’re entitled to. If you have some form of disability coverage, also reach out to your insurer. Additionally, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance. Contact your state’s unemployment insurance program as soon as possible to apply.

If you’re going to have trouble making your mortgage payments, you should also contact your mortgage company. Some lenders offer foreclosure prevention programs to help homeowners who are dealing with a crisis.

Make a budget and manage your money carefully
Determine how much money you require each month by making a list of living expenses including groceries, rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, car payments, and other recurring fees. Compare this with what you have coming in from various revenue sources. You may need to cut back on certain frills or unnecessary expenses to make ends meet.

To manage your finances more effectively when facing an illness, consider enlisting the help of a financial adviser, debt counselor, or other industry professional.

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Social media: tips to keep your teen safe

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If you have a teenager, they likely spend time on social networking sites like Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube. But do they know the risks? While social media networks help kids keep in touch with friends, it can also expose them to people who intend to hurt them.

From cyberbullying to sextortion and data breaches to inappropriate content, there’s a lot to be wary of on the internet. That’s why it’s important to talk to your teen about how to use social media safely and responsibly. Here are a few ground rules you should establish:

• Don’t share personal information like your address, phone number, or date of birth

• Don’t post photos or videos of another person on social media without their consent

• Don’t go alone (or without an adult) to meet someone you meet online

• Don’t send intimate pictures of yourself to anyone, even if you trust the person

Remind your teen that once words and photos are shared online, they may be impossible to delete and easily misused. Even if a post doesn’t seem like a problem now, many employers use social media to screen candidates. Explain to your teen that they could miss out on their future dream job because of an inappropriate comment or video they post today.

Finally, here’s a tip to help reinforce the notion with your teen that anyone can see what they post online. Before they send or share anything on social media, encourage your teen to ask themself this question: “Would I feel comfortable if my teacher or grandmother saw this?”

The website StompOutBullying.org provides resources for how to recognize, prevent, and deal with cyberbullying and other forms of digital abuse.

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Does your dog need winter clothes?

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All dogs need to spend plenty of time outdoors in order to get enough exercise, enjoy the fresh air, stimulate their senses, and do their business. However, when the temperature drops, you may wonder if it’s safe for your pup to be out in the frigid air.

It’s important to note that, like humans, dogs can suffer from hypothermia. In fact, their ears, nose, tail, and foot pads are susceptible to frostbite. Therefore, it’s advisable to keep your pup’s outings brief if the temperature drops well below freezing.

When you do take your dog for a walk in the winter, you must make sure your canine companion is prepared for the weather. There are several factors that influence whether your dog should wear a winter coat and boots. You should consider:

• The temperature (is the cold tolerable or piercing?)

• The duration of the walk (will you be out for five minutes or an hour?)

• The planned activity (are you going for a hike or stroll around the block?)

• Your dog’s breed (short-haired and short-legged dogs tend to get colder faster)

• Your pet’s age (puppies and older dogs are more vulnerable to cold weather)

• Your dog’s health (sick, injured, or recovering pets should stay inside to keep warm)

If your dog needs to be bundled up for winter walks, visit a local pet shop to find boots and a quality coat that will keep them warm all season.

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4 tips to help kids be kind online

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It’s all too easy to write hurtful comments when you’re looking at a screen rather than a human face. That’s why it’s important to teach your kids how to be kind online. Here are four tips to get you started.

1. Set a good example
Children learn through observation, so show them when you post uplifting comments on social media or reach out to a struggling friend in a private message.

2. Implement the IRL test

Remind your kids that what they post on the internet affects people in real life. If they wouldn’t say the words to someone’s face, they shouldn’t be writing them online.

3. Write reviews together
If you have a good experience at a local shop or restaurant, sit down as a family to write a positive review. This will help your kids practice posting kind messages online.

4. Emphasize empathy
In addition to calling out cyberbullying behavior, encourage your kids to send positive messages to friends or classmates they notice are being bullied online.

If you’re looking for a fun way to teach your kids more about internet kindness and safety, play the action-packed game Interland at beinternetawesome.withgoogle.com.

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Get familiar with your home insurance

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If you took a set-it-and-forget-it approach to your homeowner’s insurance, consider getting reacquainted.

In addition to replacement and repairs, you need to think about what you own inside that dwelling, about liability if someone is injured on your property, and how you’d pay for things like hotels and restaurants if you need to stay elsewhere for a while.

And of course, every insurance has its exclusions. Do you know what’s NOT covered in your policy?

Here are some things you should review, whether on an existing or new policy:

*Replacement coverage. Stay updated on how much it would cost to rebuild–an independent insurance agent can help. Renovations can affect the value, and you need to be aware of building code requirements that might not apply to your existing place. Ask about guaranteed replacement coverage, which covers the cost regardless of spikes in labor or materials.

*Personal property coverage. Personal property includes everything from clothing and furniture to electronics and even the food in your fridge and freezer. Take an inventory of everything you own, including photos of pricier items in particular. Check whether your policy covers the cost to buy new items or whether you’d receive the actual cash value, which would take depreciation into consideration. You might also need an additional policy for expensive items like furs or jewelry.

*Liability insurance. Most policies have a minimum coverage of $100,000 but you probably want three to five times that. Forbes recommends having enough to cover all of your assets, i.e. the house plus car and money in the bank, etc.

* Additional Living Expenses (ALE) or Loss of Use coverage. Covers the cost of hotels and restaurants if you can’t live at home. Policy exclusions usually include things like floods, earthquakes, windstorms, nuclear hazards, etc. You’ll need separate coverage for those. Also consider home business coverage and identity theft coverage, among others.

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