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Ten tips for a safe and fun-filled summer

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Make sure your kids understand (and follow!) basic safety rules for snag-free summer fun.

Summer is the season of fun! Make sure your kids follow proper safety measures to avoid any unfortunate scenarios that could put a damper on vacation time.

Remind your children
1. To never give out their personal information online
2. To never go swimming alone or during a thunderstorm

3. To jump one at a time on the trampoline and avoid attempting dangerous flips
4. To never go down a slide headfirst or at the same time as someone else
5. To always wear a helmet, pay attention to road signs and look both ways before crossing the street when riding their bikes

Furthermore, make sure
6. They know their personal information, such as their parents’ full names and phone numbers, when they go out
7. They stay hydrated, especially during heat waves
8. That your property is free of hazardous plants like poison ivy
9. They apply sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap to play outside
10. They are never left alone in the car, even for a few minutes

Do your kids stay home alone?
Are your kids old enough to stay home alone? Before you leave them on their own, jot down emergency phone numbers, prepare a first aid kit, test smoke detectors and secure access to the pool, liquor cabinet and other areas that could contain hazardous items.

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Make sure you’re prepared for a financial emergency

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Even if you have a well-paying job, affordable living costs and few debts, it’s important not to take a good financial situation for granted. Here are some steps you can take to prepare yourself for a financial emergency:

1. Have an emergency fund. Financial experts recommend creating a savings account with enough money to cover six months’ worth of expenses. That way if disaster strikes, you’re prepared.

2. Have adequate insurance. It’s essential to have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance in case of disaster. It’s also a good idea to get disability insurance, which covers your expenses if you become ill or disabled and can’t work.

3. Make sure to have credit available. In a financial emergency, you may need to bill expenses to your credit cards until you’re able to pay them off. Before financial disaster occurs, however, it’s important to do your best to avoid credit card debt and pay off your outstanding balances as quickly as possible.

4. Plan how to cut expenses quickly. Examine your expenses and identify where you can cut back. In an emergency, gym memberships and TV packages can be cancelled, and money spent on eating out can be reduced or eliminated entirely.

If you prepare for an emergency now, your financial plan won’t be totally derailed if you’re faced with a debilitating illness or injury, unexpected job loss or costly damage to your home.

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Four tips that will motivate you to stay on budget

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Budget troubles? Here are four ways to motivate yourself to meet your financial objectives.

1. Remember the reason you’re saving. Focusing on your goal (that trip to Hawaii or paying off your student loan) will motivate you to stick to your spending plan.

2. Tell people about your goals. Telling friends and family members about your budgeting goals will keep you accountable. Surround yourself with people who will support you and help you make good decisions.

3. Track successes. Keep up your morale by setting short-term goals and recognizing small successes. Celebrate when you reach these milestones.

4. Allow for occasional indulgences. It’s important to allow some room in your budget for fun activities. It’ll help you stay motivated, and you’ll be more likely to follow your budget over a longer period of time.

The point of a budget is not to deny yourself every little indulgence but to curb your expenses over time so that you can achieve your long-term goals. Spending moderately while keeping your eye on the prize is the way to do it.

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Cleaning for life: Don’t put off the project

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The gentle lady with a smidge of dementia still lived in her big home, complete with a lavish bookcase holding thousands of volumes. And a kitchen with all those serving platters and china. And four bedrooms stuffed with memories.

She was feeling weak and confused. “I would like to downsize,” she said. “But what do I do with all of this?”

The Swedish have a solution for this and it starts long before a person starts feeling too weak to start such a project. They call it, somewhat unpleasantly, ‘death cleaning.’ But the project is really about preparing to live simply.

The idea is to live in a house, cleared of clutter, where everything has a place.

Author Margareta Magnusson, in her book How to Free Yourself and your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, points out that this makes it easier for those left behind, but it also makes daily living easier.

Magnusson divides the cleaning into categories of rooms and things, like clothing and books.

She advises to start with a category with many things in it, but very little sentimental attachment. If you no longer give large family dinners, start in the kitchen where there are likely to be tons of serving dishes and tableware, fancy and not. Ask a newly married grandchild or niece, if they would like some of these items. In fact, invite your young relatives to take things you sort out.

Make a special effort to sort out photos, scrapbooks or memorabilia that other relatives will want and offer it to them.

Sort out things you don’t wish to leave to family, too.

One unique idea: Create a Throw Away box. Fill this box with things no one but you appreciates — a letter from a late friend about her summer vacation. Your family doesn’t know this person anyway. When you are gone, they can look through it or throw it away without the slightest bit of guilt. In the meantime, you can still enjoy it and leave no doubt to your relatives whether you think the items should be kept.

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Four ways to teach young kids about personal finance

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The earlier children develop good spending habits, the better. Here are four ways you can teach your kids about saving money and living frugally.

1. Pay in cash. Using cash instead of cards when shopping with kids will help them better understand how money works. Consider giving them the cash to count out when it’s time to pay — they’ll get to practice their math skills.

2. Show the benefits of comparing prices. Encourage kids to look for the lowest prices at the store and figure out if you’ll get a better deal by spending more to buy larger quantities. Make it into a game to see who can spot the best deal first.

3. Set tangible goals. Let kids know that you’re saving as a household for something they want (such as a trip to Disney World or a pool for the backyard). This will help teach them about cutting out unnecessary expenses to save for something bigger down the road.

4. Let them do the grocery shopping. If your kids are older, have them choose their meals for the week, then make an ingredients list, find the items needed at the store and pay for everything in cash.

Taking the time to teach kids how to spend money responsibly will help prepare them for a lifetime of good financial habits.

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Tips for reducing your monthly grocery bill

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Looking for a way to reduce monthly expenses? Then your grocery bill is a good place to start. Here’s how to rein in your spending at the supermarket:

• Go shopping less often. In general, people who only shop once every week spend less overall than those who make several smaller trips during the same period of time.

• Shop around. Find out what stores have the best deals and shop at those locations. Buy specific items at the stores where they’re the cheapest.

• Make a list. Always make a list of items that you need to help you avoid impulse buys. It’s also good to have a budget in mind as you shop.

• Pay in cash. If you struggle to stick to your grocery budget, take out money to spend at the grocery store in cash and leave your credit cards at home. Having to pay with cash will force you to stay on budget.

With a little planning and self-control, you’ll be able to significantly reduce your food costs without sacrificing the quality of your meals.

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Three tips for dodging financial peer pressure

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Whether they’re encouraging you to spend more than you can afford or leaning on you for economic support, it’s important to learn to say no to friends and family members when you need to. Here’s how:

1. Be truthful. Be honest about your financial situation. Most people will respect you for telling the truth and support your decision to stick to your budget.

2. Suggest an alternative. If your friends suggest an activity that’s too expensive, propose an alternative that’s more affordable. Similarly, if someone asks you for a loan, brainstorm other ways that they could come up with the sum they need.

3. Get support. Seek out family members and friends who are trying to save money. Surrounding yourself with people who are also following a strict budget will keep you from spending unnecessarily.

Remember that wanting to keep your finances in order and stay out of debt doesn’t make you the bad guy. A person who has your best interests at heart won’t intentionally pressure you into a decision you can’t afford.

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Bethel Assembly of God (111 Totten Lane, Front Royal) is having a fundraiser dinner on Tuesday, Feb 19, from 4-7pm. Menu includes all you can eat tacos with fixin’s, desserts, and drinks. Cost is $8[...]
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