Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A different way of focusing on the season of Lent - Splurgeit.org

Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday - the first day of the Lent Season.  The season of Lent is a time to reflect on Christ's sacrifice at Easter, by preparing for the death of Christ.  "Lent is a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter." (Catholic Education - History of Lent Website)

Growing up I never really paid attention to Lent - I always thought of it as "something that my Catholic friends did", as I'd hear of them giving up desserts or soda pop for the season.  Then, before I knew it would be Good Friday and Easter, and I remember wishing I'd spent more time to think about the significance of Easter before it was all over. 

As an adult, I'm learning more about what it means to be purposeful spending time reflecting on Christ's sacrifice in the 40  days BEFORE Easter.  It really makes the Easter season much more meaningful as you spend time 40 days leading up, rather than thinking about it for the first time on Good Friday and the days after. 

As my husband and I were discussing what we should "give up" for Lent, as a small token of reminding us of the sacrifice Christ made for us, I came across an idea a local church in my area has for a different way of celebrating Lent - SPLURGEIT.ORG

Splurgeit.org recommends a different way to celebrate Lent - by splurging on the resources we do have so that others may have more.  Intrigued?  I was.  I suggest checking out their website.  Click on their HOME page, and then for each daily suggestion of how to splurgeit, go to the Experience page.  Click on the day of Lent (starting on Ash Wednesday to find out what day we're on.  i.e. if you're reading this post the same day I post it (Feb 28), then you are on day 7)

Haven't started thinking about Lent?  It isn't too late - check out splurgeit.org, or start preparing your mind & your heart in another way.... Easter is coming soon - don't "miss" it. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

National Pancake Day 2012- Tues, Feb 28 (Free Pancakes & Supporting a Good Cause)

Ready to celebrate National Pancake Day?

Tuesday, Feb 28 you can celebrate by getting a free Short Stack at iHOP.  In return, they ask you consider making a donation to the Children's Miracle Network, which supports local children's hospitals.

Who doesn't love pancakes? :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lowes Free Kids Clinic Tomorrow at 10am ("Cool Race Car")

Tomorrow, Feb 25th is the next FREE Lowes Build & Grow Kids Clinic.  These are NATIONWIDE - so wherever you are, you can do it.  You must register for these - see link below.


Some of these clinics are more popular than others - this one WILL BE popular, so get there before 10am when it starts.  Even if you've registered, they can run out of kids, so don't miss it!  I showed my boys the picture of the car this morning, and they're quite excited to build a "cool race car"!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

10 for $10 at Meijer Again This Week! (Walmart will match prices)

Meijer is having their 10 items for $10 sale again this week..... each item is $1, and when you purchase 10 you get the 11th free!

On the list:  bags of organic baby carrots, 1lb containers of fresh strawberries, red/yellow/orange peppers, and bags Dole lettuce kits! 

Remember, if you're a Walmart shopper, they will match Meijer's Sale prices, so get the same items that are on sale at Meijer at Walmart, but when you check-out at Walmart just tell them that each of these items is on sale at Meijer for $1! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Let's talk Life Insurance

A little unknown fact about me is that I am, and have been, a licensed Life & Health insurance agent for the past 8 years.  Even though I'm licensed, I don't currently sell these products (nor have I ever sold for any individual companies - I previously worked for a benefits consulting firm), so I figure now is a good time to offer my unsolicited advice on insurance since I have nothing to personally gain.

Do you have life insurance?  Do you  have a family with young children?  If the answer to the second question is "yes", then the answer to the first question should also be "yes".  Not sure how to get started, which products are the best, or if you have enough?  Here are a few tips, and this is your chance to ask questions to someone who has nothing to gain by selling you something!

  • Whole Life Insurance - too expensive and not worth it - don't waste your time.  Most insurance agents push Whole Life or Universal Life/Variable Life (below) because this is how they make their money.  Don't fall for it. 
  •  Universal Life Insurance or Variable Life Insurance - these are a blend of Whole Life Insurance and Term Life Insurance policies.  Still to expensive, don't waste your time or money.  A better plan is to invest your money in mutual funds/stocks/etc., and then purchase a Term Life Policy (below).
  • Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D) - NOT life insurance.  These policies are CHEAP b/c they're not really life insurance - they ONLY pay if you die in an accident or are dismembered (two things that statistically are extremely rare, which is why these policies are so cheap).
  •  Term Life Insurance - this is good for a set period of time, usually in 15, 20 or 30 year increments (meaning if you're 30 when you purchase a 30 year term-policy, then it will last until you are 60).  Term Life Insurance is what I recommend, because it is the cheapest, and gets you through the time that you really need protection for a young family.  The point of life insurance is not to leave an inheritance to make someone rich, it is to protect your family members who would need help if they lost you (usually a spouse with young children). Generally speaking, you want 7-10 years living expenses for your family.  So, if your family is bringing in/living on $50,000 year right now, you need $350,000 - $500,000 in life insurance between the breadwinners in your home.  Something to remember with a term policy - SOME is better than none.  If you can't afford a $500,000 policy for your spouse, but you can manage a $250,000 policy,  then do what you can manage, because at least some will get your family through until the other spouse can work, etc.  Remember that you may also have a term policy through your work, and that you will probably be getting some social security benefit from a spouse that passes away.  You need to figure in all of this when determining how much you need in a policy.  Also something to know is that often times you may have a number in your head, thinking you want to purchase, say $300,000 through a Term Policy, but the company that gives you a quote may have their price breaks at $250,000/$350,000/$500,000, so a $350,000 policy may cost you the same as a $300,000 policy - SO, the important thing to know it to ask for quotes on a range of policy amounts so you can determine what makes the most sense financially. 

Term Life Insurance can be purchased through just about anyone - your bank, a broker, AAA.... everybody sells this stuff.  To get a quote, you fill out a short application, and then the insurance company will pay for a lab to send someone to your home, draw some blood, and ask you a bunch of medical and family history questions.  After they test your blood, they'll send your results along with you family history and application to their underwriters, who will determine how high a risk you are/how much your rate will be.  After you're notified what your rate is, you have the option to continue the life insurance policy OR to cancel with 100% back on your money. 

Something else to remember about getting life insurance - it gets more expensive as you get older, so if you can buy when you're young & healthy you'll be able to lock in the best rate. 

My husband and I purchased individuals policies when I was pregnant with our first kid.  We used Matrix Direct (a broker), and ended up with policies through AIG.  We have 30 year term policies, so they'll be good until we're 59.  We purchased "Return of Premium" policies, which means than if when the 30 years is up we are still alive, we get 100% of the premium we paid over the 30 years back.  Return of Premium policies are usually $10 - $20 more per policy per month, but we're hoping that if we're still alive it'll be worth getting all of our money back in the end. 

Life Insurance isn't a fun topic to think about... but it really is important.  Got a question?  Ask me in the comments section below and I'll do my best to answer. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hotels.com.... have you tried it yet?

We have a few family trips coming up in the next few months, so I've started working through the travel details.  We'll be heading to Nashville in a few weeks, so that trip is the one I'm currently working on, and I've started with our hotel.

Have you tried hotels.com yet?  I'd heard of it for a while, but it wasn't until a year ago that I started using it.  In the past I'd usually search Expedia for hotels, then compare what I found there directly with the hotel's site, but I think I'm now a true convert to hotels.com

What I like about hotels.com:
  • After booking & staying 10 nights through them (at an assortment of hotels & chains - doesn't all have to be the same one), you get the average price of all ten stays in a "credit" to use at your next stay.  Basically, you get a free night, but one worth the average price of all your previous stays.  This average price "credit" can be used toward any hotel, even one that costs more than your credit (you will just have to pay the difference in price).  My husband uses hotels.com when he travels for work, so we can use business & personal nights to "log" our 10 nights, getting us to a free night faster! 
  • You can put a location - a city, a highway, etc. that you want your hotel near, and it will pull up all the hotels around your location, tell you how much each costs at a "quick glance", and the exact distance from your location to the hotel.  I LOVE this feature.  I used it last night as my husband will be doing research at an archives in Nashville, so I put in the archives building address and was able to see all the hotels around it so we don't end up staying 15 miles from where we'll have to drop him off & pick him up each day when I take my little men off to play.  I've also used this feature when I was going to be driving from IN to NY - I put in my location as the highway I was going to be on (right outside a city I knew was about half way), and found hotels right on my path so I didn't have to veer too far off the highway when I pulled over for the night.
  • You can enter your search parameters, including price range for hotel, pool, free breakfast, etc. so you only see the hotels that fit your criteria!  LOVE this.  Unfortunately, I can't tell if something has free internet, which is one thing I'd change if I could... you can only select "internet".  
  • The hotel's cancellation policy is clearly laid out.
  • REVIEWS in order of most recent to most distant.  This option is an important one, as I thought I'd found the perfect hotel last night in my price range with all my criteria, when my husband said, "What do the reviews say", at which point I found out that a week ago a reviewer found BED BEDS in the room.  That piece of info changed my mind 100% about staying there (I'm not taking a chance!)
  • Price Match Guarantee:
    The hotels.com Price Match Guarantee protects your pocket book and takes the worry out of booking a hotel room. After you book with hotels.com, if you find a lower publicly available rate online for the same dates, hotel, and room category, we will match the price and refund you the difference.
    And unlike some of our competitors, we will match the price right up to the time of the property's cancellation deadline, whether that is three days after you made the reservation or three months. So stop worrying and start booking.
  • Pictures of the room, eating area, pool, etc., a "know before you go" section, and additional info all clearly laid out.  I like that all the hotels I'm looking at through hotels.com are laid out in the same format, making it easy to quickly scan through.  
 The only thing I DON'T like about hotels.com, is that when you make your reservation the ENTIRE cost of your stay is charged on your credit card right then.  If the hotel allows for cancellation, you can get your $ back in accordance with their cancellation policy, but if you're not ready to pay for your trip when you book, it can be a bit intimidating.  Still, as long as I determine from the hotels cancellation policy that I can cancel later, I will book my room (my husband calls me the "Queen of Returns").  Remember, each hotel has a different cancellation policy, so check out their rules (thankfully they're easily found on the hotels.com site).  

So, if you have a trip coming up - try it out!  Happy traveling. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rescue Mission "Walk-a-Mile" event - TOMORROW (Sat) at 10am!

Just a reminder from my post a couple of weeks ago - TOMORROW is the Walk-a-Mile event!  Check-in is at 9:15am at the YMCA in Marion, and the event starts at 10am.  Bundle up, grab your family, and come out to raise money and awareness for homelessness in our community.  I'll be there with my family - hope to see you there!

Saturday, February 18, 2012 is the 7th Annual "Walk-a-Mile" event in Marion.  The purpose of the event is to raise awareness of homelessness in our community, and also to raise money for the Rescue Mission, which provides shelter, food, clothing, counseling, and educational opportunities to help people get back on their feet.  The goal of the walk is to raise money, so walkers are asked to make a donation and/or solicit donations from family/friends/co-workers, but even if you aren't able to contribute money you can still join the walk to help raise awareness!

To register for the event, go to their website:
Phone: 765.662.0988 (Debra Ballard, Coordinator)

Registration deadline is Feb 13, 2012.  The walk is Saturday, Feb 18  - check-in is at 9:15am and the walk starts at 10am.  It starts and ends at the YMCA, there is hot chocolate and coffee served along the way and a free lunch served after the event.  I've done this event the past two years with my family and will be doing it again this year - hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nobel Peace Prize winner speaks this Thurs on Indiana Wesleyan's Campus - Don't Miss it!

Leymah Gbowee Visits Indiana Wesleyan University

Gbowbee Leymah Gbowee, one of three women who shared the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, will speak at 7:30 p.m., February 16, at the Chapel Auditorium at Indiana Wesleyan University. The event will be open to the public, and there is no admissions charge.

Gbowee is a peace activist, trained social worker and women's rights advocate in Liberia. She will speak about the organization she co-founded in 2006, the Women Peace and Security Network Africa. 

If you haven't seen it already, watch Pray the Devil Back to Hell, a documentary on the Liberian civil war, and her role in ending it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

FREE Lowes Build & Grow Clinic (2/11/12)

The next FREE Lowes Build & Grow kids clinic is this Saturday, at 10am.  If you haven't been to one of these before, they're neat FREE activities to do with your kids.  My boys are 2 and 4, and they love them, even though they're "recommended" for kids 5 & up.  This week you'll be making a Valentine's Day Card Creator (see picture).  To register ahead of time and reserve your spot (only first 50 accepted), go to http://lowesbuildandgrow.com/

Have fun! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Have you tried Mint.com yet?

If you file your taxes with Turbo Tax,  you've probably noticed the FREE service offered at the end of doing your taxes called Mint.com.  After filing last year's taxes, I was intrigued, as I'm always looking for easier ways to manage my household and looking for purposeful ways to budget & save, so I tried it out.

Mint.com is free, as advertised, and while it does take a good little chunk of time on the front end to enter all your account information, budget, and financial goals, I have to say that I think it is worth it.  Mint.com is linked to all of my accounts (credit cards, bank accounts, mortgage, etc.), and so it tracks all my spending, and my saving.  I also entered in the dates that I have bills due, so it emails me reminders each month reminding me to pay my bills before they're due!  Mint.com keeps me aware of my spending, tracking expenses in each of my budget category (it pulls the info directly from my credit card and checks!).  And, if I have any "large" transactions (large is defined/set by each individual), it emails me to give me a heads up to make sure everything is legit.

If you haven't tried it already, check it out.  Make sure you sit down with all your account info on all your accounts before you start.  If you keep up on this throughout the year (I haven't kept up on it as well as I'd hoped, but I'm thankful for even the bit I have!), I think you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Globe Theatre February Schedule

Have you tried out the Globe Theatre, which is on Indiana Wesleyan's campus (but open to the public)?  If you haven't, it is a neat, affordable way to see a movie for your family!  Only $2/person, and cheap snacks too (take cash - I don't think they take credit cards).  February's schedule is below.  For more info, go to: http://wildcat.indwes.edu/Globe/


Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Fri. February 3 at 7 PM, 9:15 PM & 12 AM
Sat. February 4 at 7 PM & 9:15 PM

Dolphin Tale
Fri. February 10 at 7 PM, 9:15 PM & 12 AM
Sat. February 11 at 7 PM & 9:15 PM

The Muppets
Fri. February 24 at 7 PM, 9:30 PM & 12 AM
Sat. February 25 at 7 PM & 9:30 PM