Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fw: Jerry Baker's What's Growin' On October Newsletter

 Look at these great tips for fall! I love and use Jerry's "Yarden" Tonics. They really do seem to help.



The air is getting crisper, the days are getting shorter, and the beautiful leaves are just starting to show their stunning fall colors. Before you know it, your Halloween jack-o'-lantern will make way for Jack Frost, who'll leave his telltale calling card all over your yard and garden. So visit the cider mill and bring home the fixin's to treat yourself to our delicious homemade applesauce. And don't worry about all those bees and yellow jackets—keep 'em at bay with a few of my easy tricks. Above all else, get out and enjoy the weather while you can because Old Man Winter will be here sooner than you think!











****************************************************************************************** ***********************************************************************
Why not try something different for Halloween this year, and carve up a turnip lantern (or two!) to hang out on the porch along with your pumpkins and jack-o'-lanterns? It's easy—here's how to do it:

  1. Find a big, round turnip—the bigger and rounder, the better.

  2. About a quarter of the way down, slice off the top completely.

  3. Scoop out the insides with a spoon. Make the shell as thin as you can without breaking the skin. Leave a layer of flesh on the bottom. In it, hollow out a socket for a candle.

  4. With a very sharp, fine knife, etch a design on the turnip. Be careful not to cut through the skin—it's a lot thinner than a pumpkin shell, and if it's broken, your lantern will collapse.

  5. Push a candle into the socket.

  6. With an awl or a nail, poke a hole on each side, about an inch or so down from the top.

  7. Thread wire or sturdy cord through the holes to make a handle. Be sure to keep it long enough so you don't burn your hand when you hold on to it.

  8. Light the candle carefully, using a long fireplace match.

  9. Hang it up outside on Halloween night for all the little trick-or-treaters to enjoy!

Back to Top

It turns out that there's a lot of truth to the old adage that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. A recent Finnish study shows that men and women who ate one apple every day had a lower risk of embolic stroke (the kind caused by a tiny blood clot blocking an artery in the brain) than those who were half-hearted in their apple munching. So here's the rest of the skinny on apples: They help your body battle cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol, as well as stroke. Plus, just one little apple every day promotes regularity. And let's face it, we can all do with a little regularity!

This recipe for Chunky French Applesauce is a great way to get your delicious daily dose. Enjoy it as a side dish, or top your morning waffles with it.

Place 4 apples (washed, cored, and cut into bite-size chunks), 1/3 cup of raisins, 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped walnuts, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 1/2 cup of water in a heavy saucepan. Bring the contents to a boil, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the apples are fork-tender, stirring occasionally. Serve the applesauce warm or cold. (Yield: Four servings.)

For even more tasty tidbits and marvelous morsels, check out my New Healing Foods book—FREE for 21 days. It's just what the doctor ordered to cure whatever ails you. For a Free 21-Day Preview, click here.

Back to Top

Experts are getting the word out before the next wave of swine flu hits: Stay healthy by washing your hands with soap several times a day. But all that lathering, rinsing, and drying sure can take a toll on your hands, leaving them rough, dry, and scaly.

You could treat yourself to one of those store-bought, super-duper hand lotions, but buying pricey potions can make your wallet sing the blues. So here's a DIY concoction that'll leave your hands soft and smooth, while keeping your wallet fat and happy:

Boil 1 tablespoon of dried rosemary, 2 tablespoons of dried chamomile flowers, and 4 cups of water in a small, uncovered pan over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature, and then strain. Store the liquid in a bottle and refrigerate, then apply the healing tonic with a cotton ball (or, if you have a spray bottle, you can spray it on instead), and let your hands air-dry.

For even more terrific tips and money-saving secrets, check out my Home, Health & Garden Problem Solver 2009 book—FREE for 21 days. It's filled with plenty of thrifty secrets for livin' the good life on the cheap. For a Free 21-Day Preview, click here.

Back to Top

This month's winning tip comes from Ray S., of British Columbia, who shared his earth-friendly gardening secret:

"I use hydrogen peroxide to sanitize all of my plant tools before using them. A quick swipe of 3% hydrogen peroxide kills all of the bacteria that tend to linger on the tools. And if you can find 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide, mix it with equal parts water and use it to wash all of your freshly picked garden vegetables before eating them."

Thanks, Ray, and thanks to everyone who entered. And if you haven't entered our contest yet, what are you waiting for? We'll draw a new winner next month, so click here to send us your entry now.

Here's some more terrific tips we received this month:

"After having my dog sprayed 8 times by a skunk, I finally found a deodorizing solution that really works. Scope® peppermint—flavored mouthwash not only does a great job of sudsing up on my dog's fur and breaking through the foul-smelling oil, it also leaves her smelling minty fresh for several days! Pour the mouthwash over the dog's body, and rub it into the fur. Use a mouthwash-soaked washcloth on the dog's face, and be extra careful around the eyes." Barbara Ann D., NY

"I use this home remedy whenever I'm troubled by toenail fungus. Twice a day, I cover my affected toe with cornmeal, and wrap it up with gauze or cheesecloth. Then I soak my foot in a warm water bath." Josie A., TX

"I love using sugar scrubs to get my skin silky smooth. But boy are they pricey! So here's my homemade version: Mix just enough olive oil and sugar to make a grainy paste, step into the shower stall, and slather it on your skin. Massage it in to any extra rough spots—like elbows, knees, and hands—then turn on the water and rinse the scrub away." Teresita M., NJ

"I fill a plastic bottle with baking soda and use it in the shower as an underarm scrub. About a handful in each armpit removes built-up deodorant and works with a fresh after-shower application of deodorant to fight off bodyodor." Rebecca B., CA

Back to Top

Warm weather weekends are coming to an end, so the time to clean the outside of your house is now. Here's a handy recipe for a general, all-purpose cleaner that'll get the job done on almost any surface—from stucco to aluminum siding, and even a concrete patio. Plus, you should already have everything you need in your garage, basement, or laundry room.

Mix 1/3 cup of powdered laundry detergent, 2/3 cup of powdered household detergent, and 1 gallon of water together in a bucket. Put on a pair of rubber gloves, grab a long-handled bristle brush, and you're good to go. Note: If you're cleaning something that's mildewed, use less water and add about a pint of household bleach.

For more handy household helpers, check out my Cleaning Magic book—FREE! It's filled with terrific tips that'll keep your home sweet home in tip-top shape. For a Free 21-Day Preview, click here.

Back to Top

Here's one surefire way to tell it's fall when you step outside—the bees and yellow jackets are everywhere (especially at the cider mill). So how can you enjoy the last outings of the season with all the buzzin' going on? Here's a few ideas that just might curb the insects' enthusiasm:

  • Lay plates of freshly sliced cucumber several feet away from where people will be eating. Bothersome bugs will be attracted to the cukes, and leave your barbecue chicken alone.
  • Tie a fabric softener sheet to a belt loop or to the back of your ball cap. Bees and yellow jackets can't stand the smell of the stuff.
  • Make a trap out of an empty 2-liter bottle. Cut a banana peel into strips and put them into the bottle, along with 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of vinegar. Pour water into the bottle until it's about 3/4 full. Set or hang the open bottle near where you've seen lots of stinging insects. They'll be attracted to the bottle's sweet contents, but when they fly into the bottle they'll get stuck in the sticky mix.

Back to Top

If you follow my time-tested regimen for putting your lawn to bed this fall, you'll be able to rest easy all winter long knowing that your turf is snoozing away happily under its snowy blanket. First off, apply my Fall Clean-Up Tonic to fend off snow mold, fungus, and any other wintertime nasties.

To make the tonic, mix 1 cup of baby shampoo, 1 cup of antiseptic mouthwash, 1 cup of tobacco tea, and 1 cup of chamomile tea in a bucket. Then add 2 cups of the mixture to a 20 gallon hose-end sprayer, filling the balance of the jar with warm water. Overspray your turf when the temperature is above 50°F. (To make tobacco tea, place half a handful of chewing tobacco in an old nylon stocking and soak it in a gallon of hot water until the mixture is dark brown.)

Within a week or so of applying my Fall Clean-Up Tonic, follow up with your regular lawn feeding and a dose of my Last Supper Tonic.

Mix 1/2 can of beer, and 1/2 cup each of apple juice, Gatorade®, urine, fish emulsion, ammonia, regular cola (not diet), and baby shampoo in a large bucket. Pour the mix into a 20 gallon hose-end sprayer, and apply to your lawn to the point of run-off. This tonic softens up dry fertilizer mix, so that your lawn can easily digest the nutrients all winter long.

My Hose-End Sprayers are specially designed for applying all of my tonics, so you can get the job done right the first time, every time. For a Free 21-Day Trial of my Hose-End Sprayer Set, plus a Free Gift, click here.

Need more potions and lotions for growing a lush lawn? In my Terrific Garden Tonics book, you'll find everything you need to know—FREE for 21 days! For a Free 21-Day Preview, click here.

Back to Top

The traditional gathering up of fall leaves is a gardening ritual that some of us love and some of us hate. No matter which camp you're in, these tips will make the job easier:

  • Use a plastic snow shovel to push leaves into piles. The shovel will slide smoothly over the grass, and it's easier on your shoulders than raking.

  • Lay a large, empty cardboard box on its side on the lawn. With your gloved hands, rake the leaves into the box, and then drag the boxed leaves to their destination.

  • Hold a garbage can lid in each hand and clamp clumps of piled-up leaves between them. Transfer the clumps to a yard waste bag or garden cart.

Back to Top

This is an offer from Jerry Baker. We value our relationship with you, and invite you to examine our Privacy Policy. Please don't lose touch with us. To be sure to continue to receive newsletters and Jerry Baker updates, please add to your address book. This address, though, is used only for delivery of our emails. If you wish to email Jerry Baker, please send to

If you no longer wish to receive these emails, please reply to this message with "Unsubscribe" in the subject line or simply click on the following link: Unsubscribe

Jerry Baker
53400 Grand River Ave.
New Hudson, Michigan 48165

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Get Rich Slowly: “Renters Insurance: Peace of Mind for Ten Bucks a Month”

I'm a big advocate of renter's insurance. I was robbed in my apartment once. It's worth every penny.

Get Rich Slowly: "Renters Insurance: Peace of Mind for Ten Bucks a Month" plus 1 more

Link to Get Rich Slowly

Renters Insurance: Peace of Mind for Ten Bucks a Month

Posted: 23 Sep 2009 05:00 AM PDT

This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman.

On 02 August 2005, my friend Frank and his partner awoke at 2:45 a.m. to the dog barking and a neighbor knocking on their door. The apartment complex was on fire. They grabbed their dog and whatever they could carry and ran from the building.

"We lost everything," he says. Later they'd find out that it was arson. A former employee of the apartment complex stole rent checks and set the office on fire. Frank was moving into a new apartment in ten days, and the new complex agreed to let them move in early. "We moved in with a plastic bag of groceries, paid for with a $50 food voucher from the Red Cross," he says. The other 70 displaced tenants stayed in Red Cross shelters.

To make matters worse, Frank didn't have renters insurance. "We didn't think we'd ever need it," he says. "You don't see why you should pay this extra bill until you're in a situation where you need it." They had to start over from scratch.

Why renters skip the insurance
There are any number of reasons renters don't think insurance is a necessary expense. I myself didn't have a policy until Frank's situation motivated me to get one. Common reasons renters forgo an insurance policy include the following:

  • "What are the odds anything will happen?" The odds are not in your favor. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that renters are 50 percent more likely to be burglarized than homeowners.
  • "My landlord has insurance." That means that your landlord (or condo association) has their valuables — the building — protected. Your belongings are not covered.
  • "I can't afford renters insurance." Many people are willing to spend a couple hundred dollars on clothes, but won't spend the cash to protect themselves from the risk of losing everything they own. It's possible to find a policy for $10-12 per month, though your premium will depend on location, the deductible, the insurance company, and coverage needs.

There are ways to lower the cost of coverage, including raising your deductible (make sure you can afford it, though) and having protective devices such as smoke detectors, extinguishers, and security alarms. Some insurance companies offer discounts to senior citizens. Also look for a multi-line discount, which is a discount for buying more than one type of policy from the same company (e.g., renters insurance and auto insurance).

I suspect that the main reason most people don't have a policy, though, is that they don't understand how renters insurance works, or why they need it.

Renters insurance 101
Renters need a HO-4 policy. Condominium owners need a HO-6 policy. Both will cover personal property loss from "named perils," which is insurance-speak for what you're insured against. Your policy will likely include the following named perils:

  • Fire and lightning
  • Windstorm and hail
  • Smoke
  • Vandalism and malicious mischief
  • Theft
  • Accidental discharge of water

Other named perils covered sound like scenes from Die Hard (explosion, riot, damage caused by air crafts and falling objects), but I suppose you never know when German radical activists might terrorize your Christmas party.

Renters insurance also includes liability protection, which covers medical expenses for a person injured on your property and legal defense, if necessary. Additionally, if your apartment or condo becomes uninhabitable due to a named peril, your coverage will pay for somewhere to live in the meantime.

What is not covered: If you live an an area prone to floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes, you may need to purchase a rider, or separate policy. Also, if you have valuables that would exceed your policy limit, such as expensive jewelry or antiques, you'll need a rider to recover the full loss.

Buying a policy
Shopping for renters insurance is similar to shopping for other types of policies. Here are the basic steps:

Take inventory. This seems to be the step that most of us dread, but it's where we should start. (Confession: I haven't done it yet. It's been languishing on my to-do list for almost a year now, but I'm going to make it a top priority.) If you lost everything, it'd be awful to have to recall every item you owned and it's value. Better to document it. Here's the plan of action:

  1. Photograph or videotape each room.
  2. List the value and serial and model number of items.
  3. Attach receipts, if you have them.
  4. Save the list and the photos or video to a DVD, and make at least three copies. Keep one copy in a fireproof place, one at an off-site location (could be a parent's house or a safe-deposit box), and send one to your insurer.

There also are software programs that walk you through the process. The Insurance Information Institute provides free inventory software that helps you complete a room-by-room inventory.

Prepare. Write down a set of questions you want to ask your potential insurance providers. Some suggestions include:

  • Do you have brochures or any information you can send me in the mail? (Keep the ones from insurers that appear to be a good fit and use them to compare each provider's policies.)
  • What could cause my rates to increase?
  • What discounts do you offer?
  • Does the liability insurance cover legal defense and medical expenses?
  • Do you pay actual cash value (ACV) or replacement cost coverage? (ACV coverage pays what your property was worth at the time it was destroyed or stolen, minus the deductible. Replacement cost coverage pays what it will cost to replace the items, minus the deductible. It costs more in premiums, but pays more if you file a claim.)
  • Do you offer separate policies for roommates? (Alternatively, talk to your roommate about splitting the cost of a policy.)

Shop around. To find the right provider and policy, consider the following:

  • Contact the insurance company that provides your auto insurance policy. Ask about multi-line discounts.
  • Call your local bank. Some banks offer insurance policies.
  • Search "renters insurance" online. Most providers have Web sites that give you a free quote.
  • Ask friends and neighbors which company they use, and if they are happy with their experience.

Updating your policy
Renters insurance isn't a Ron Popeil rotisserie — don't set it and forget it. Stay in touch with your agent to make sure you're getting the best deal and taking advantage of new options or discounts. Also, be sure to contact her if your living situation changes, as in the following situations:

  • You moved. Each residence requires a unique policy.
  • You got a roommate: human or furball. You'll need to decide on a separate or shared policy for the former. Make sure the latter is listed in your liability coverage.
  • You bought an expensive bauble or a pricey new toy. You need to have it listed in your policy, or you might need a separate rider to cover it.

It's easier than you might think to find an affordable renters policy with good coverage, and it's time and money well-spent. As my friend Frank says, "It's the cheapest bill you'll have. For very little money, we could have replaced everything we lost."

If you are a renter, do you have renters insurance? If not, is there a reason you don't have it?

Photo by DVS.

Related Articles at Get Rich Slowly:

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Muse is Crazy

Let me set the scene for you, here. I was driving home after a very long morning power-walking with my best buddy from 7-8 AM, then I made a mad dash to the doctor's office for my monthly weigh-in. I was proud of myself, because I'd lost another six pounds. So proud, even the rain pelting down on us didn't bother me in the slightest. My daughter was chattering happily away about our upcoming holiday plans and how we could implement the suggestions the nutritionist had recommended.
Then my ADHD Muse Cleo decided to have a brainstorm right in the middle of the Buckman Bridge during the worst of the downpour. Seriously. What other muse would decided to start quoting Shakespeare and decide that moment was the perfect time to reveal how the book will end, SIX chapters from now. 
I darn near wrecked the car. Cleo rambled on, totally oblivious to our upcoming watery deaths. (Yeah, I wrote it all down when we got home and I restarted my heart.)
My muse has a death wish.  


NiceWerewolf.jpg Nice Werewolf image by voiceomt2002

Lena Austin

Writing blog:

Recipe and Pagan blog:

Low Carb Diet blog:


From: Cynnara Tregarth <>
Sent: Sunday, September 20, 2009 12:36:16 PM
Subject: Re: [ChangelingPress] Fw: [News] ArchNews 20 SEP 09


But we're so proud of you and the stories are rocking and they're AWESOME! (is finishing critting chapter 10 and giggling happily)
who can make but not drink coffee


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wild Thing is on a cool website I like

This is interesting. Sassy Brit, a well-known reviewer, has honored me by sharing my excerpt on their site. It's here:

Or...did my promo manager Slade Wolf, do something really cool? Who cares? Okay, I do. LOL!


Lena Austin

Writing blog:

Recipe and Pagan blog:

Low Carb Diet blog:


Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Weight Loss Pix are here!

Don't I look different now? LOL! That's my daughter's shirt.

The striped shirt is from when I weighed 298 lbs.
I'm only halfway to my goal weight, but several have asked to see the difference. I'm proud to say I've gone from a size 26 to wearing my daughter's size 18 shirt in that new picture.
Can't see it? Go here:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fw: Get Rich Slowly: The Best Ways to Boost Your Retirement

Now this is a comprehensive way to look at retirement. I don't have $100K in savings. I'm lucky to keep $1000 in there sometimes. Still, DH and I have a guaranteed income from the Navy until the day he dies. Then I'm up the creek without a paddle. Perhaps I'd better study this plan a little more closely, hmm?

Get Rich Slowly: The Best Ways to Boost Your Retirement

Link to Get Rich Slowly

The Best Ways to Boost Your Retirement

Posted: 03 Sep 2009 05:00 AM PDT

This is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the advisor for The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks.

With the S&P 500 still down more than a third from its 2007 high, we're all a little unsure about our retirement plans these days. So it's time for some good old-fashioned elbow grease. A little effort now should make for a lifetime of security and peace of mind. And the first step is to run your numbers through financial calculators to estimate whether you'll have enough saved to kiss the boss goodbye. (Metaphorically, of course.)

The calculators' answers are important information. But what's even more useful is changing the variables to see what most improves your chances for success. A retirement plan has a lot of moving parts ― how much you save, where you live, when you start taking Social Security benefits ― and some decisions will have a bigger effect on your nest egg than others.

The factors that have the biggest impact on a retirement plan vary from person to person. But to demonstrate how you can fiddle with your factors to analyze your own plan, let's examine the retirement prospects of a hypothetical worker ― whom we'll call Hilda, as I'm a sucker for good German names ― and see how dialing her numbers one way or the other changes her projected retirement income. Here are Hilda's particulars:

  • Age: 55
  • Marital status: Single
  • Current income: $60,000
  • Desired retirement age: 65
  • Desired retirement income: $45,000
  • Estimated age at death: 95
  • Current savings: $100,000
  • Annual contributions to retirement accounts: $6,000
  • Assumed annual return on investments: 8%

For our analysis, we'll use the "Am I saving enough? What can I change?" calculator found among the retirement calculators at The Motley Fool. Once you've entered your numbers and hit the "results" button, the calculator provides the number of months that it estimates your savings will last given your desired retirement income. In Hilda's case, here's the calculator's analysis: "Your living expenses after retirement will be fully funded for 127 months." Divide by 12, and you see that her money is expected to last 10.6 years. Unfortunately, that's not good enough. If she wants to retire at 65 and expects to live until 95, she needs her money to last 30 years, or 360 months.

So what should Hilda do? Here are her options and possible outcomes, adjusted a single factor at a time.

Save More
Hilda's current saving rate is 10% of her income. What if she ups that to 15%, or $9,000 this year? According to our calculators, that will make her income last 155 months ― an additional 2.3 years. That's a fine first step, but it still has her running out of money in less than 13 years.

Let's say she, through a drastic lifestyle reduction, managed to contribute the maximum to her 401(k), which in 2009 is $22,000 for someone age 50 and older. That would supersize her portfolio enough to last an estimated 322 months, much closer to the 360-month mark. But she probably can't save 36% of her income. She'll have to look at other options.

Spend Less in Retirement
What if Hilda decides she can live on a retirement income of $40,000 instead of $45,000? After all, she'll no longer be stuffing her 401(k) or paying Social Security and Medicare taxes (7.65% of each and every paycheck), and her income-tax bill will drop, too. Maybe she'll also have eliminated her mortgage by then.

Dropping her annual income requirements by $5,000 adds 51 months (4.3 years) to her portfolio's estimated lifespan. Not huge, but not negligible, either. However, Hilda feels this would be cutting costs a little too close. She wants to look at other possibilities.

Retire Later
What happens when Hilda continues to save just 10% of her income but retires at 68 rather than 65? In that case, she'd have three more years of saving, a higher Social Security benefit (because of her higher lifetime earnings and her beginning benefits later), and she'd need her money to last just 324 months.

In this case, her money would last 255 months, or 21.3 years. By retiring three years later, she's doubled the longevity of her portfolio. But it still won't last until age 95. However, if she retires just one more year later ― at 69 ― the calculator estimates her money will last longer than she will, which is the goal of any retirement plan.

Work in Retirement
Unfortunately, Hilda can't stand the thought of working full-time for more than another decade. However, she's open to the idea of working part-time for the first five years of her "retirement." If she earns $30,000 in each of those five years, her portfolio's life expectancy improves from 127 months to 237 months, or almost 20 years. That doesn't get her to age 95, but it's a significant improvement. In fact, for every year she works part-time in retirement, she adds about two years to the estimated endurance of her portfolio.

Quick note: Because Hilda's "full retirement age" for Social Security purposes is 66, she shouldn't begin taking Social Security until then if she's still working. When you begin benefits before your full retirement age but then earn work-related income, your benefit can be significantly reduced.

Tap Home Equity
There are a few ways to use home equity to boost your retirement. Let's see how Hilda could add these to her calculations.

First, let's assume that she no longer needs her family-sized home. She actually has some equity in the home, so she sells it, buys a smaller home, and comes out with an extra $50,000. Realistically, given the state of real estate these days, it would take at least a year to sell her house and actually get that $50,000 into her hands to invest. If it earns 8% a year, it would add 58 months ― almost five years ― to the longevity of her savings. That's a decent-sized boost, and that's not counting the lower cost of heating, cooling, maintaining, and paying property taxes on a smaller home.

The other option is a reverse mortgage, which is when a bank pays you money based on the value of your home, and you don't pay it back until you move. A reverse mortgage on a home currently worth $300,000 could provide a check of $1,200 every month that the borrower stays in the house, according to Our retirement calculator doesn't have an input field for reverse mortgage, but since it operates essentially like a pension, that's where we'll add the $1,200. Input "30″ in the "Years you will receive payments" field, and check the "First payment adjusted for inflation" button (but not the others). Click on the results and ― voila! ― Hilda's retirement is fully funded.

While that's encouraging, we should mention that it assumes Hilda's mortgage is paid off before she takes out the reverse mortgage. If she moves before she passes away, she'll have to pay off the loan. Plus, reverse mortgages can be expensive. So our preference is to put off taking out a reverse mortgage for as long as possible, perhaps using it only in the case of an emergency, such as needing in-home long-term care.

Change Your Expiration Date
Of course, Hilda's original retirement plan is perfect as long as she dies within 127 months of retiring. All jokes aside, it's worth remembering that we're playing it very safe by assuming she'll live to 95. According to the Social Security actuarial tables, only 10.3% of 55-year-old women make it to 95. If Hilda's not in good health or longevity doesn't run in her family, she might assume she'll die at age 90. That doesn't change how long her portfolio will last, but it does change how long she'll need it to last.

A Mixture of the Factors
We looked at many variables in isolation, but the best solution for Hilda is to tweak several categories to find a combination of changes that she finds palatable. For example, if Hilda downsizes to a smaller home (resulting in a $50,000 investment a year from now), saves $200 more a month, delays retirement to age 66, and works part-time for the first two years of her retirement, her money will last until she's 95. Considering all her options, Hilda decides these are adjustments she can live with.

The Bottom Line
Retirement calculators are very handy tools, but they're not crystal balls. The results are based on many variables ― such as inflation, investment returns, and Social Security benefits ― that we can't predict and could turn out worse than expected.

How should you handle this uncertainty? Run your numbers once a year, using updated account balances, savings rates, and benefits projections (for example, put in the estimated Social Security benefit found in the statement you receive in the mail three months before your birthday each year).

Also, different calculators provide different results, so don't rely on just one. For additional opinions, check out:

Despite their shortcomings, retirement calculators do a good job of estimating the value of one decision over another. For Hilda, the variable that had the biggest impact on her plan was retiring a few years later. But it will be different for other people. As one example, boosting a savings rate from 10% to 15% would have a much bigger payoff for younger investors than it did for Hilda, who was already within a decade of her target retirement date.

What will provide the most power to your plan? There's only one way to find out. Visit a financial calculator and start plugging away.

Related Articles at Get Rich Slowly:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My new Punch Needle jeans designs

If you would like to see what I'm doing with my punch needle designs on jeans, here's a link...
It's not terribly fancy. I'm just playing around.


NiceWerewolf.jpg Nice Werewolf image by voiceomt2002

Lena Austin

Writing blog:

Recipe and Pagan blog:

Low Carb Diet blog:


Get Rich Slowly: “Slash Your Grocery Bill With Store-Brand Products” plus 1 more

I am a big fan of GRS, and this is why. It's true. Comparison shopping on the items you specifically buy will show clearly where to shop and when to take the generic option.

Get Rich Slowly: "Slash Your Grocery Bill With Store-Brand Products" plus 1 more

Link to Get Rich Slowly

Slash Your Grocery Bill With Store-Brand Products

Posted: 15 Sep 2009 05:00 AM PDT

Name Brands vs. Store BrandsThe October 2009 issue of Consumer Reports contains an article extolling the virtues of generic store-brand products. While shoppers used to sacrifice quality when choosing generic, that's no longer the case. From the article:

If concern about taste has kept you from trying store-brand foods, hesitate no more. In blind tests, our trained tasters compared a big national brand with a store brand in 29 food categories. Store and national brands tasted about equally good 19 times. Four times, the store brand won; six times, the national brand won.

In other words, store brands offer roughly the same quality as national brands, but at a much-reduced cost. How much reduced? Consumer Reports says that the store brands they tested cost an average of 27 percent less than the name brand equivalents.

How much can you save?
Sometimes theory is one thing and reality another. It's nice that Consumer Reports can score great deals on store brands. But could I? Last week, I walked to two local grocery stores to do my own research. First I looked at Safeway, where Kris and I shop most often. Next, I walked across the street to Fred Meyer, a store we usually try to avoid. (The store is huge and its layout makes little sense to me..)

I spent an hour in each store, roaming the aisles, looking for representative prices on a variety of items. I tried to pick one item at random from every section of the store. When I'd finished, I had a list of 25 products for which each store carried the same name brand and their own store-brand equivalent.

The results actually surprised me. You can save a lot of money with store-brand products — far more than I suspected. Here's the raw data from my research:

Click to open larger image in new window

The first column lists the name-brand item I used as a basis for comparison. I've given each store two columns, one for the price of the name-brand item, and one for the generic item. On each line, red text indicates the highest-priced option and green text indicates the least expensive option.

Here's a closer look at some of these comparisons:

  • I'm out of my Head and Shoulders shampoo. I just threw away the bottle this morning. Normally I buy actual Head and Shoulders at Safeway, which costs me $5.99 if it's not on sale. If I were to instead buy the Fred Meyer store brand, I'd only pay $2.49 — a savings of nearly 60%!
  • At Safeway, standard Charmin two-ply toilet paper costs $10.99 for 12 rolls. At $9.49, the store brand isn't much cheaper. But if I were to go across the street to Fred Meyer, I'd pay just $4.89 for the store brand. (Actually, Kris and I get our toilet paper at Costco, and I have no idea what we pay.)
  • Hungry? For $2.17, you could buy a can of generic chicken noodle soup, a box of generic saltine crackers, and a bottle of generic root beer at Fred Meyer. To buy name-brand equivalents at Safeway would cost you $6.18. (You could eat three of those meals using generic Fred Meyer food for the price of one meal from Safeway.)

You get the idea. Buying store brands at Safeway would save nearly 22% for the items on this list. At Fred Meyer, I could save over 36%. And Fred Meyer store brands cost 44% less than name brands at Safeway — without the need for a "loyalty card".

A note on methodology: While conducting this survey, I faced a tough choice. Which price should I list? The non-sale price for each item? Or the sale price? Of the 25 name-brand items listed, 15 were on sale at Safeway and 14 were on sale at Fred Meyer. (There was a lot of overlap on the sales, too.) At Safeway, 20 of the generics were on sale; 10 were on sale at Fred Meyer. I chose to list non-sale prices because it's impossible to know which items are on sale when.

Running the numbers
I learned a number of things from this project. First off, we're shopping at the wrong grocery store. Buying name-brand products at Safeway is the most expensive way to go. Based on this list, shopping at Fred Meyer instead would save us nearly 12%, even without moving to generics.

Second, generics are not always a bargain. On 10 out of the 25 items, the Safeway generic cost as much (or more!) than the name-brand equivalent at Fred Meyer. On the other hand, Fred Meyer store-brand items offer fantastic savings, especially when compared to Safeway's name-brand selections. (The items on this list were 44% less expensive!)

Another factor to consider is that some stores have a better selection of store brands than others. Subjectively speaking, Fred Meyer seemed to have about double the number of generic items that Safeway had — and often had multiple sizes or varieties. They carried several types of store brand salsa, for example, while Safeway's selection was more limited. At both stores, the generics were generally staple items: rice, toilet paper, tomato sauce, etc.

"We should buy more generics," I told Kris after collating my data.

"We do buy generics," she said.

"We do? Like what?"

"…" she said (proving for once that Kris is not always right!).

Though Kris and I do a lot of things to save money, we don't actually buy a lot of store brands. We're not opposed to them — we just stick to brands we trust. This brand loyalty costs us money. Here's how Consumer Reports put it in the article that inspired my research: "Switching to store brands can be a painless way to cut your grocery bill." They're right.

After conducting this experiment, I realize there are four key steps to saving big bucks on groceries. More than anything else, these actions can help struggling families cut costs:

  1. Grow whatever produce you are able. The more you grow, the more you save.
  2. Buy store brands whenever possible.
  3. For everything else, do your best to purchase items only when they're on sale. (This may mean developing a grocery price book.)
  4. Learn to clip coupons, especially for processed foods.

This exercise was eye-opening in another way. I discovered that shopping at Safeway costs us money. If the data here is representative, then switching to Fred Meyer could save us over 10% on our grocery bill.. That's enough to let us dine out one extra time per month. Or it's more money we can save for our trip to France next year.

Kris and I are both wary of switching from Safeway to Fred Meyer — as I mentioned, there's more to this decision than price — but I suspect that if we give it a chance, we'll find ways to deal with Fred Meyer's annoyances and save money in the process.

Related Articles at Get Rich Slowly:

The Personal Finance Hour, Episode 20: Spending Smart with Greg Karp

Posted: 14 Sep 2009 04:42 PM PDT

On this week's installment of The Personal Finance Hour, Jim and I spent the hour talking with nationally-syndicated financial columnist Greg Karp. Greg is the author of The 1-2-3 Money Plan, which I reviewed last week. We had a wide-ranging conversation about spending smart.

Spending Smart
One of Karp's mottos is, "You can't outearn dumb spending." Some people believe they can always just earn more money to sustain their lifetyle — but their lifestyle often grows to match the income. By spending smart, it's possible to make the most of your income — and to enjoy life too.

Karp notes that the goal of life is not to "live cheap and die loaded". Yes, you want to save for the future, but you should also allow yourself to enjoy today. Karp makes room in his budget for golf and good cigars. Now that I'm out of debt, I allow myself to spend more money on comic books.. It's fine to spend on yourself, as long as you keep your spending reasonable.

We also discussed the relationship between money and happiness. Karp recently interviewed Gretchen Rubin from The Happiness Project. Karp says he's learned that there are a number of ways you can "buy" happiness.. For example, you can spend your money on experiences rather than things. Material goods depreciate. The day after you buy them, they're worth less than what you paid. And they don't bring a lot of happiness. Experiences, on the other hand, tend to appreciate. Our memories of the things we do become fonder with time because we tend to focus on the positives rather than the negatives.

Our conversation covered several other topics as well, including:

  • How to save money on insurance. Karp advises raising your deductibles. I'm an advocate of self-insuring whenever possible. And Aaron called in to remind us that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • How prepaid cell phones can save you money. Jim noted that on his recent trip to Europe, everyone seemed to be using prepaid wireless.
  • How to save money on food. Tammy called to ask advice for saving at the grocery store. The three of us contributed our best advice.

During the show, Karp and I both ranted a bit. Karp complained about people who buy bottled water. (I confess that I'm guilty of this.) "This is stuff that falls from the sky for free," he said. And I ranted about the new Joan Rivers show How'd You Get So Rich?, which is lowest common denominator television at its worst. It's all about glitz and spending when it could have been so much more. (I'd like to see a Millionaire Next Door television show that profiles the rich and frugal.)

Be sure to join us next week when we speak with Michael Hampton from the Career Development Center at Western Oregon University. Hampton will be chatting with us about job hunting skills.

Note: Our guest last week was Flexo from Consumerism Commentary. Jim and I spoke with him about what it takes to make the leap from a secure job to working full-time for yourself. Though much of the conversation revolved around professional blogging, there's plenty here for people looking to make any sort of career change. Here's a detailed show summary.

The Personal Finance Hour
Jim and I host The Personal Finance Hour nearly every Monday at 3pm Pacific (6pm Eastern). For the next week, our conversation with Greg Karp will be available via this widget (after that it will be replaced by the next episode):

You can always find this show (and other episodes from the archive) by following this link, which will open in iTunes. Finally, please note that every week Brain from My Next Buck takes the time and effort to create detailed show summaries, which you can find at

Related Articles at Get Rich Slowly:

Welcome to my Blog!

Thanks for popping by! Don't sit on the whipping horse unless you want to find out how it's used. I speak my mind and annoy many people, but all of it is meant in good spirit. Feel free to argue with me. I like it.

Best way to reach me is by email: