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  • Children learn what they see

    Parents who wants to teach their children the art of managing money should first start by properly managing money themselves. This is where many well-intentioned fathers and mothers fail.

    It is common knowledge that children are like sponges. They do not necessarily do the things as you ask them, but rather as you do them. Children carefully study the moves made by adults and unfortunately end up emulating inappropriate money management habits.

    A group of 8 to 9 year old children were asked what their greatest fear was. It was distressing to hear one kid answer that his greatest fear was that he would have end up supporting his parents in the future.

    As you can imagine, we needed to ask the reason for this fear. The boy said that he heard his parents argue almost every night, and that his mother told the following to his father: “If you keep buying these expensive electronic gadgets we will end up living in a poorhouse. If this happens, who will take care of us?”

    What is really striking is that when we asked other children if they felt the same way, most responded with a similar story.

    We understand that parents want the best for their children. For this reason, you should understand the importance of properly managing your personal finances. Children who see that their parents have accrued a high credit card debt balance due to unnecessary purchases or vacations they could not afford, tend to behave in a similar way as adults.

    Regardless of how many people think otherwise, children who see their parents receiving letters for unpaid debts or fielding calls from collectors, are learning a detrimental lesson for their future well-being.

    Many of these children will struggle with economic problems all of their life. This problem is comparable with the one faced by children of parents who do not eat properly or who do not exercise regularly - many of the kids end up copying their parents’ habits.

  • 10 gifts from your heart

    You will not see this type of gift in shopping malls.  No one ever told us that original and full of personality gifts were easy to find.

    Holidays are supposed to be a time to share with loved ones.  So stop seeing these days as times when you should be spending a lot of money. It's time to focus on giving gifts that really mean something.

    Following are some tips for spending less money and be more creative in your gifts:

    • Family Recipes - Do you long for a meal prepared by your grandmother?  Most likely there are other family member who feel the same way.  Try to collect and transfer all family recipes into a cookbook.  Use your creativity to generate a book cover and add photos as well as stories that you may pass along to younger generations of your family.
    • Video - Who has not dreamed of being an artist at least once in their lifetime?  Ask your relatives and friends to share funny stories and favorite memories of the person to whom you will present this gift.  Usually, these stories are passed along on special occasions such as weddings or funerals.  This is an excellent idea for parents and grandparents.
    • Personalized Gifts - Homemade gifts offer what the big stores cannot provide: all the love, passion, and dedication that was put into the process of making them.  For instance, you can make a puzzle out of a family photo.  Similarly, there are many shops that allow you to add custom messages to cups or picture frames - a great gift for grandparents.  Another gift may be a restored photo of your parents’ engagement or a family portrait.
    • Family Meeting - This type of activity allows your family members to relax and enjoy the holiday.  It does not have to be an expensive party - it might just be a dinner, barbecue, on a beach or in a park.
    • Family newspaper – It is usually difficult to stay abreast of all family milestones, especially if members are scattered across a wide area.  A good gift could be to create a newspaper that included all major events that have happened in your family.
    • Gift of the month - You may use your skills to create your own gift of the month service for less money. For example, you may bake cakes, candles, flowers or vegetables from your garden, write a poem or wash cars.
    • Prepaid Phone Cards – They may be a great gift for college students or for elderly relatives living on a fixed income. This will enable them to continue calling you regardless of their limited budget.
    • Join others - This refers to a group of people who have agreed to forget about exchanging gifts with one another, but instead decide to raise money to enjoy something as a group. For example: going to a restaurant, or spending a weekend at a beach or hotel. The important thing is not to focus on material things, but appreciating the company of others.
    • Share your joy - It is better to give than to receive, so consider giving something to charity. Tell your children to choose one of their gifts and donate it to a charity, or have a family event to prepare a holiday meal that will be provided to a needy household.
    • Your time - This may be the most valuable gift of all. It may take any shape you want, but by formalizing its offer it becomes a valuable gift to be placed under the Christmas tree. Consider taking care of your relatives’ children for a night so they can enjoy a romantic dinner. You may also offer to take care of pets, help in difficult projects, do the yard, sow plant seeds, or help build a game room. Volunteer your time and expertise to aid loved ones with things they need, such as learning how to use a computer or how to prepare a family recipe.
  • Five rules to properly manage money

    Keeping a monthly budget is the key to effectively handling your money. This helps us to organize, save, invest and maintain an appropriate level of debt. Following are some of the rules that you should follow to manage your money and not vice versa.

    • Rule # 1:

    Prepare a balanced budget. The process of preparing a budget is simple but we often do not do it for lack of time or interest. Balancing your budget is a difficult task and in some cases nearly impossible. It cannot be achieved without a strategy.

    The most important thing that you should know is how much you may spend and how much you should save. As you prepare your budget and identify your expenses, you must set priorities.

    Experts recommend that you do not spend more than 30 percent of your income on general housing expenses, such as rent/mortgage, taxes, and insurance.

    In turn, it is recommended that transportation costs not exceed 16 percent of your income.

    It is important to try to save 10 percent of your monthly income and to use this money to set an emergency fund by opening a savings or investment account.

    The remaining 44 per cent can be used for other expenses such as food, education, medical expenses, education or debt repayment.

    Remember to keep an appropriate level of debt. In Rule 4 we suggest that this percentage should not exceed 20 percent of your monthly income.

    • Rule # 2:

    In the previous rule, we suggested that you allocate an amount for savings or investment. Well, the second rule is to invest your money.

    Having some of the money set aside for investments is a good way to obtain higher returns. It is recommended that you become more knowledgeable about this subject and/or seek the assistance of a financial expert before you start investing, and to seek relatively safe instruments in your initial attempts. For this money to bear fruit, you must not touch the investment for a long time (between three to ten years). Be patient and cautious.

    • Rule # 3:

    Diversify. It is not recommended that you put all your eggs in one basket. It is the number one rule of Personal Finance. Experts recommend that younger investors (usually bolder and less risk averse) allocate their investments as follows: 50 percent in stocks or mutual funds, 30 percent in bonds, and 20 percent in cash. However, when the investor is an adult experts recommend the following allocation: 50 percent in bonds, 30 percent in stocks or mutual funds, and 20 percent in cash.

    Remember that an expert may help you choose the right investment allocation for you.

    • Rule # 4:

    Manage your debts properly. Do not allow debts to overwhelm you. It is recommended that your monthly debts be less than 20 percent of your monthly income.

    If you should notice that your total debt has reached its limit or is near the line of credit assigned, seek help from a professional who can provide you with alternatives to deal with this situation.

    You may try setting up direct payments with your creditors, debt consolidation, refinancing or payment plans through counseling agencies.

    Following these rules to the letter may be time-consuming, but undoubtedly these tips will provide you peace of mind and help you keep your numbers in the black.

    In CONSUMER we can guide you on how to properly use your money and avoid excessive debt. A certified counselor will prepare a budget that will allow you to fulfill your monthly obligations and start saving money for your future. For appointments, you may call 1-800-717-2227.

  • Women cannot get money to last them enough

    Some women earn a lower salary than what men earn, and this creates a financial situation that puts them at a disadvantage. Many of these women suffer from a crippling psychological syndrome that prevents them from achieving the goal of having enough money.

    Money cannot buy happiness, but not having enough money makes you feel miserable, as many women and single mothers can attest.

    Although in recent decades women have made progress getting into the workforce and asserting their rights, the most recent statistics show that they are still at a financial disadvantage.

    Women embody a high percentage of bankruptcy filings. The majority are heads of household. Some of the reasons they decide to file for bankruptcy include the following:

    • Low income

    • No savings to cope with difficult financial situations

    • High level of debt

    • Social Security benefits represent almost half that of men

    The following are some of the questions that you may ask yourself to see if you have money problems:

    • Are you worried about your debts?

    • Do you think that it will be difficult to meet all of your monthly commitments?

    • Do you believe that you do not have sufficient financial knowledge and that you are unable to learn about money-related concepts?

    • Do you feel at fault for not having enough money?

    • Do you hide your lack of knowledge about money?

    • Do you keep you secret away from the rest of the world?

    If you answered yes to two or more questions, you could be facing problems with your money.

    You should seek counseling as soon as possible. CONSUMER has counselors who can provide recommendations about the proper use of money, the importance of budgeting and saving, as well as guidance regarding increasing your income and getting out debt.

    The most important step is to maintain a positive attitude and to be willing to seek help and learn what is yet unknown.

  • How did you fare this year?

    The year is about to end, so it's a good time to analyze the status of your personal finances. Were you able to accomplish all of your projects? Did you save the desired amount? Was your income high enough? Were you left with many unfulfilled projects? Did you end up with more debt? What will you do with your money next year?

    These questions will help you evaluate how things went this year and help you set goals for the next. To do this you need to have a good plan.

    Once you have the plan properly set in place, you need to ensure that it reflects everything that happened throughout the year. If you had envisioned saving a certain amount of money, you need to evaluate if you were able to reach that goal. If you did not reach it, you must analyze the reasons for this. There may have been extenuating circumstances. For example, you could have experienced a reduction in your income, became a parent, got sick, underwent surgery, or incurred a loss not covered by insurance.

    By setting up and following a monthly budget you are projecting how to spend your money. As part of the process, you must identify your income, expenses and debts. It is crucial that you prioritize your expenses based on your needs. Set limits on spending. If you have extra money use it to improve the savings line item or to reduce your debt.

    Recognize the warning signs of an impending economic problem. If you experience any of the following, you are probably heading to a crisis: incurring arrears in your mortgage payment, using your credit card to purchases items that you normally pay for in cash, refraining from paying some debts in order to pay other debts, or receiving collection letters from creditors.

    Do not suffer in silence; take action and seek help. Do not fear your creditors; contact them as soon you discover that you have a problem. You may be able to work out an agreement that will allow you to fulfill your obligations with your creditors and preserve your credit.

    Remember that financial success is in your hands. "Do not allow your history to control your destiny or your past determine your future."

  • Tips to begin the New Year on the right foot and to effectively deal with Christmas debts

    Now that the Christmas season is over, there are many consumers who are hounded by holiday ghosts, such as calls from their creditors, or credit card statements that include excessive purchases made during the holiday season. The satisfaction of buying and holding parties at Christmas can turn into panic and fear for those who do not control their expenses during this time.

    The following are some tips to give you a head start:

    • Make a New Year's resolution – You will reconcile your checkbook each time you get paid to ensure that you will not spend more than you make.

    • Regularly review your debts - You can use a file cabinet or a safe for your bills and statements. Assign separate files for bank statements, income tax returns, credit card statements, medical bills, mortgage documentation, and other. Be aware of the due dates of each of your bills.

    • Make a monthly budget – This document represents your spending plan for the month.  Determine your monthly income, recurring expenses (for example, savings, housing, food, transportation, utilities, education, and entertainment). Then identify other expenses, such as clothing, toiletries, maintenance, gifts, household items, purchases made with credit cards, and vacations.

    • Prioritize your expenses – You must set priorities based on your needs and wants. Set spending limits and determine the estimated cost of each expense. If there is money left over after covering all of your commitments, you can save all or some of this money or apply the surplus toward the reduction of your debt. Look for ways to reduce your daily expenses.

    • Develop a diversified savings plan – Saving should not only be limited to your retirement. It is important to save for the purchase of a home or a vehicle, and/or to cover medical expenses. Make regular deposits to a savings account to defray these expenses. Make sure you take advantage of the saving plans provided by your employer.

     Recognize the early signs of an imminent problem - If you notice any of the following indications you could be headed toward an economic crisis: you miss your January mortgage payment, use credit to buy things that you usually pay cash for, refrain from paying some debts in order to pay for others, receive collection letters or calls from your creditors, commit more than 25% of your current net monthly income to the payment of your credit card debts.

    • Do not suffer in silence; take action and seek help. Contact your creditors or seek financial counseling. - Do not fear your creditors. As soon as you know you have a problem contact them, explain your situation and tell them what you are doing to meet your obligations. Depending on your creditors’ policies and your previous payment history, you may be able to negotiate a modification in your original terms (reduction in your monthly payment as well as in the finance charges). Remember that your creditors would rather keep you as a client than lose you because you had to file for bankruptcy or had your mortgage foreclosed upon.

    It is very important that before seeking help you check the services provided by different agencies. Verify if the agency that you are considering will provide financial counseling without compelling you to sign any documents that require you to include your unsecured debts in a repayment plan. Ask the agency about their service fees and about their national affiliations. Find out if the agency is a member of the NFCC, which means they provide quality services.

  • How much money do you want to earn this year?

    Many people believe that the amount of money they can earn in a given year is one of the factors over which they have little or no control. However, we all have the ability to determine our income.

    Not only do we need enough to survive, but we need sufficient income to achieve our goals and dreams. With this objective in mind, when determining the income we desire we must set a number that requires more effort on our part - a figure that calls for the use of our true potential.

    But how do you identify this amount? Think of the total amount of revenues that you made on your most productive year and increase them by 50%. For example, if the most you have earned so far has been $20,000, set your goal for the next twelve months at $30,000.

    The next step is to determine what amount or volume of sales you will need to generate of your product or service to earn that amount. For example, if your income is based on 10% commission of the total sales volume, this means you will have to sell a total of $300,000 to earn $30,000. Then, this total sales volume will become one of your goals for the next twelve months.

    Take this goal and break it down into smaller steps. Determine what your monthly earnings goal should be. Remember that the best way to achieve a goal, however great it might seem, is breaking it down into smaller goals, objectives and activities that you can carry out every day.

    If you take the annual income you want to receive and the volume of annual sales that need to be generated in order to obtain that income and divide these numbers by the number of months and weeks worked during the year, you can project your monthly and weekly financial goals.

    Next, you should identify specific shorter-term goals. Then, you need to calculate the income and sales volumes that will enable you to achieve these goals.

    Once you have made these calculations, refuse to carry out any tasks while you are at work that do not generate money.

    Identify those actions that hinder your productivity but which if, executed properly, could increase your income.

    Which actions affect your productivity if not done? Those that contribute to your personal development or which in one way or another bring you closer to achieving your dreams or goals.

    Do not mix fun with work

    Many professionals, particularly those with flexible schedules and those who need to continuously leave the office, tend to combine their professional duties with other personal activities that do not have anything to do with their jobs and which evidently do not pay fifteen dollars per hour (purchasing household products, washing their personal car, making personal phone calls, or any other form of wasting time when they are supposed to be working).

    You cannot act this way and still expect to earn $30,000 per year, as this would be a violation of the Law of Cause and Effect.

    When you are at work, ask yourself if the activity you're doing, or are about to perform, is part of the 20% that produces 80% of your success.

    Just knowing the value of one hour of your time, based on the financial goals you wish to achieve, will allow you to appreciate it better and will help you make more accurate decisions as to how to spend it.

    As a professional, the only thing that you really have to offer is your time, so use it wisely.

  • Start the New Year by saving

    The beginning of a new year gives us the opportunity to start on the right foot. If last year was not favorable or you experienced financial difficulties, here are some tips to do things differently this year:

    • It is essential to live within your own means.
    • Create a savings fund for emergencies and personal expenses to cover contingencies such as accidents and sickness.
    • Secure a protection plan that includes health insurance and liability insurance. This is essential for optimal savings.
    • The most important thing is to prepare a budget and make it work.
    • Save or invest the extra funds when you receive a bonus or a windfall.
    • Leave your checkbook and credit cards at home to avoid yielding to the temptation of making unnecessary purchases.
    • Pay your bills on time to avoid financial penalties and surcharges.
    • Make sure there is some wiggle room in your budget. You will not succeed if your budget is too tight and cannot stick to it.
    • Visualize savings as a fixed expense.
    • Begin recording and filing copies of receipts, invoices and related documentation.
    • Regularly review your budget to make adjustments as needed.
    • For those thinking about short-term savings, we suggest buying a piggy bank and depositing in it a small amount every day. Before you know it, you may have enough money saved to cover your next vacation.

    These tips could help you make this year different from the previous one. Some people think that the solution to economic problems is to have more money, but if we do not control our spending and follow these tips, the result might be the same as in previous years.

    Try preparing a budget and following it to the letter. Seek professional help from agencies like CONSUMER, where a certified counselor can guide and present alternatives and tips to help you deal with your particular situation.  The time to start saving is now.

  • Recommendations to save energy

    There are different ways you can save money and energy without affecting your quality of life. Following are some tips suggested by experts in the field that are easy to implement, as well as others that might entail more effort:

    When washing and drying clothes…

    Wash clothes in cold or warm water and rinse with cold water. Only use hot water when necessary.

    Wash a full load each time, but do not overloading the appliances. A small load in the washing machine consumes the same amount of energy as a full load.

    Before using a dryer, wait until you have accumulated a full load.

    In addition, divide clothing to be dried based on their fabric.

    Lightweight clothing is dried faster, so the dryer may be running less time with this type of load.

    Dry clothes in consecutive loads and the dryer will retain the heat of the previous load.

    Clean the lint filter after each load. A clogged filter restricts airflow and reduces the performance of the dryer. Also, check the vents regularly to ensure there are no obstructions.

    Do not dry the clothes more time than necessary. Over drying results in wrinkles, limits the life of the fabric, generates static electricity and consumes more electricity.

    If you use the dryer, hang clothe the garments upon completion of the cycle to avoid ironing.


    Do not leave the iron on more than necessarily.

    Gather as many pieces of clothes as possible for ironing.

    Iron the clothes that need less heat first.

    Turn off the iron a few minutes before finishing the process and continue using it with the remaining heat.

    Mowing the lawn…

    Do not leave the mower on if you have to interrupt your work.

    Keep blades sharpened.

    Lubricate them often for efficiency.

    Purchase a mower that is suitable to your needs.

    Air conditioner…

    Determine the right size to purchase.

    Use the same unit during hot weather, but do not turn it on too early.

    Turn the unit off if the room is going to be vacant for a long period.

    Keep closed the doors and the exterior windows to prevent air leaks.

    Avoid using appliances that generate heat within the room, such as TVs, irons, hairdryers and others.

    Clean the filter at least once a month.

    Electric Stove…

    Plan your meals in advance to take advantage of the heat generated by the stove.

    Use containers with lids, a flat bottom, and of the same size as the burner you are using. This will minimize heat loss.

    Turn on the burner when you have all gathered all of the necessary ingredients to start cooking.

    Turn off the burner minutes before the food is fully cooked, as the heat from the burner will finish the cooking process.

    Use pressure cookers for cooking.

    Never boil water in an uncovered container.

    Refrigerator or freezer…

    Set the cooling level to the number recommended by the manufacturer or adjust it based on your particular needs. Refrigerators and freezers can be an area of significant energy waste or loss.

    Avoid opening the door too frequently to avoid the cold air from escaping.

    Make sure the rubber seal around the door closes tightly.

    Do not put hot food in the refrigerator.

    When buying a refrigerator or freezer, choose one according to the needs of the family.

    When you go out on vacation empty the refrigerator, clean it, unplug it, and leave its doors open.

    Make sure that the refrigerator and the freezer are as full as possible and that the seals are in good condition. This will decrease the energy loss when opening the door.

    For best performance, keep the refrigerator temperature between 37° F and 40° F.

    Keep food away from the internal walls to allow cold air to circulate faster.

    Maintain clean the condenser coils of your refrigerator. Clean them at least every six months.

    Avoid placing refrigerators or freezers in unventilated places such as garages.

    Think carefully before you decide to place your old refrigerator in the garage or basement for use as additional storage. Many side refrigerators are not certified by ENERGY STAR and generally use 75% more energy than the latest ENERGY STAR models.

    Water heater…

    Lower the thermostat on your water heater. A temperature of 120° F is suitable.

    Take quick showers instead of baths. That way you will drastically reduce the amount of hot water needed.

    Install low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators.  You will probably not notice much difference in the water flow, but these devices can reduce water consumption by 50%.

    Install a timer for the water heater. Setting the timer to heat the water for four to five hours or less per day will result in a significant monthly savings.


    Cooking small portions in the microwave or toaster oven generates less heat than an electric stove or oven and can reduce power consumption for cooking up to 80%.

    Use the right-sized pots on each burner of the electric stove. A 6-inch pot on an 8-inch burner wastes more than 40% of the burner’s heat.

    Ghost consumption or standby power consumption refers to the energy consumption of electronic equipment and appliances while they are off or in standby mode. To avoid ghost consumption you may unplug the appliances or turn the switch of a power strip to cut all power to the appliances. This could save you up to $100 per year.


    Use smaller lamps in work areas and desks to work without lighting the whole room.

    Turn off the lights when there is no need for them and use motion sensors if practical.

    Use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) certified by ENERGY STAR. They use three quarters less energy, generate 75% less heat and last up to 10 times longer than standard incandescent lighting.

    Outdoor lighting is usually on many more hours than inside lighting. Install CFLs and new ENERGY STAR certified exterior lights.

    Some of these suggestions for saving energy may require a larger monetary investment. However, over the long term the money to be saved makes the investment worthwhile.