Having Trouble Saving? Finding the Right Strategy Is Easier Than You Think

Saving money is hard. In fact, it has proven so difficult that a June 2011 Bankrate.com poll revealed that only 24 percent of Americans have a six-month emergency savings cushion.

However, making a few small adjustments to your spending, beginning with creating a reasonable and modest budget, can help you put good saving habits into practice.

Take action on your budgeting

Everyone says you need a budget, but how do you create one that someone can stick to?

Budget-Friendly Kitchen Redos With Wallpaper

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – A kitchen renovation is almost always a costly and time-consuming undertaking. The thought of ripping out and replacing cabinets, countertops and appliances is enough to stop you in your tracks. But a kitchen redo doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Sometimes, the smallest changes can make the biggest difference. Take wallpaper, for example.
Nothing enlivens an outdated kitchen more quickly or more easily than wallpaper. A bright, happy pattern like a toss of fruits or vegetables can play on the past with kitschy, retro-inspired style. Or you can modernize with patterns that mimic tile, stone and metal: a budget-friendly alternative to the real, more costly materials for backsplashes. You don’t have to worry about most stains because most wallpaper has a protective coating and is washable, even scrubbable. In fact, kitchen-friendly wallpapers are much lower maintenance than paint, which has about a three-year life span.
Wallpaper isn’t just for kitchen walls. Here are some ideas that can modernize any kitchen in an instant:
* With extra wallpaper or coordinating border, cover lamp shades on hanging fixtures to create a chic, pulled-together look.
* Wallpaper inset panels on cabinets and pantry doors.
* Paper the back of glass cabinets or open shelves and turn the display of everyday china into a work of art.
* Tap into your creativity: layer wallpaper with a coordinating border and removable wall decals. Or, if there’s a hard-to-reach angle where wallpaper won’t work, use a complementary wall decal to pull the look together.
* If the seating in your kitchen faces one wall, create an art installation by placing individual peel-and-stick wall decals in store-bought frames in a pattern on the wall.
To find additional information on wallpaper, visit www.yorkwall.com.

Throw a Birthday Party On a Budget

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – A birthday celebration can be anything from a quiet dinner to an extravaganza with party hats, games and noisemakers – and you can pull off either one even if you are on a budget. Here are some tips:
* Set a budget. Before you do anything else, set a budget for food, drinks, decorations and other party-related costs. To avoid buying more than you need, confirm your guest list. If you don’t want guests to spend a lot on gifts, write a suggested spending limit on your invitations.
* Find affordable gifts. Retailers like Dollar General (www.DollarGeneral.com) offer many gift choices for both
children and adults. Many children’s toys are priced under $10, and birthday cards are always two for $1.
Grown-ups love getting personalized gifts, like framed pictures. You might also want to consider purchasing an item that will brighten up the birthday boy or girl’s home or office. Decorative clocks, lamps and other home furnishings are useful as well as aesthetically pleasing.
* Give back to the community. Announce plans to donate gifts to a good cause, and you’ll relieve your guests of the pressure and money that can go into choosing the perfect gift. Ask guests to bring cans for a donation to your local food pantry. For a child’s party, have guests bring a children’s book or stuffed animal that can be donated to a local children’s hospital.
* Let them eat cake. Saving room for dessert is never more important than when you’re at a birthday party. Stock up on an assortment of options, including cake mixes, pie crusts, fruit fillings, ice cream, cake decorations and more at a discounter such as Dollar General. That way, you’re prepared to create the perfect dessert (or two).
* Leave guests with a favor. Thank your guests for coming by surprising them with a little something to take home. Start with plastic fold-top sandwich bags, and fill them with simple goodies such as mini candy bars or homemade cookies. For kids, pencils, stickers or animal crackers are popular and inexpensive favorites. Tie up each bag with colorful ribbons.

Savvy Shopping Tips for the At-Home Bartender

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Cinco de Mayo celebrations go hand in hand with tequila, Mexico’s specialty spirit. If you are planning your own Cinco de Mayo fiesta, here are some money-saving tips to mastering a memorable tequila cocktail menu on a budget.
The first key to quality tequila cocktails is mixing with a top-notch tequila. To determine the quality level of tequilas that fit your budget, use the label as your guide map.
The most important quality cue to look for when purchasing tequila is to make sure “100 percent agave tequila” is on the label, your guarantee that the tequila you are drinking is made from 100 percent pure agave with no additives, flavoring or coloring added. Tequila labeled “Oro,” “Joven” or “Gold,” by comparison, indicates designation as a mixto, a lesser quality tequila made with equal parts agave and cane sugar distillates that can often-times lead to hangovers.
There are a handful of great, affordable 100 percent agave tequilas on the market today that sell for $20 or less. Look for Familia Camarena Tequila, a widely available, popular-priced 100 percent agave tequila produced by the respected Camarena family of Mexico whose experience in the tequila making industry spans six generations. Familia Camarena Tequila makes a 100 percent agave silver tequila (unaged) and a 100 percent agave reposado tequila (slightly aged), both great in classic cocktails like the margarita.
Another money-saving tip that also adds a touch of sophistication to your cocktail menu is to use fresh ingredients, as opposed to store-bought mixers. Buying a five-pound bag of limes, for example, not only costs less but will yield more drinks than a one-liter bottle of pre-made margarita mix.
Skip out on expensive liqueurs to add sweetness to your margarita, and instead use a tablespoon of maple syrup from the kitchen cabinet or a tablespoon of agave nectar (natural syrup from agave plants that make tequila), widely available and cheaper than your average orange liqueur.
For an upscale, fresh and inexpensive margarita, impress guests this Cinco de Mayo with this easy recipe.

Gen Y: Build a Credit and Debt Game Plan

America’s Gen Y – 87 million people age 18 to 34 – are stressed out over finances, according to Western Union Payments MoneyMindset Index survey. The survey reports that half of Gen Y respondents feel increased stress about financial obligations; 40 percent say their financial situation has worsened in the last six months.

However, the survey, conducted quarterly by Javelin Strategy & Research, also has good news.

“In spite of the difficult economy, Gen Y are engaging in smart financial behavior to help build their better future,” says David Shapiro, senior vice president, Western Union. “This survey shows Gen Y using tools such as online banking and online bill pay to manage their budget and credit standing.”

Credit-Care Game Plan Offers Route to Better Finances for Gen Y

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – America’s Gen Y — 87 million people age 18 to 34 — are stressed out over finances, according to Western Union Payments MoneyMindset Index survey. The survey reports that half of Gen Y respondents feel increased stress about financial obligations; 40 percent say their financial situation has worsened in the last six months.
However, the survey, conducted quarterly by Javelin Strategy & Research, also has good news.
“In spite of the difficult economy, Gen Y is engaging in smart financial behavior to help build their better future,” says David Shapiro, senior vice president, Western Union. “This survey shows Gen Y using tools such as online banking and online bill pay to manage their budget and credit standing.”
Here are some tips to get you started:

Throw a Birthday Party On a Budget

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – A birthday celebration can be anything from a quiet dinner to an extravaganza with party hats, games and noisemakers – and you can pull off either one even if you are on a budget. Here are some tips:
* Set a budget. Before you do anything else, set a budget for food, drinks, decorations and other party-related costs. To avoid buying more than you need, confirm your guest list. If you don’t want guests to spend a lot on gifts, write a suggested spending limit on your invitations.
* Find affordable gifts. Retailers like Dollar General (www.DollarGeneral.com) offer many gift choices for both
children and adults. Many children’s toys are priced under $10, and birthday cards are always two for $1.
Grown-ups love getting personalized gifts, like framed pictures. You might also want to consider purchasing an item that will brighten up the birthday boy or girl’s home or office. Decorative clocks, lamps and other home furnishings are useful as well as aesthetically pleasing.
* Give back to the community. Announce plans to donate gifts to a good cause, and you’ll relieve your guests of the pressure and money that can go into choosing the perfect gift. Ask guests to bring cans for a donation to your local food pantry. For a child’s party, have guests bring a children’s book or stuffed animal that can be donated to a local children’s hospital.
* Let them eat cake. Saving room for dessert is never more important than when you’re at a birthday party. Stock up on an assortment of options, including cake mixes, pie crusts, fruit fillings, ice cream, cake decorations and more at a discounter such as Dollar General. That way, you’re prepared to create the perfect dessert (or two).
* Leave guests with a favor. Thank your guests for coming by surprising them with a little something to take home. Start with plastic fold-top sandwich bags, and fill them with simple goodies such as mini candy bars or homemade cookies. For kids, pencils, stickers or animal crackers are popular and inexpensive favorites. Tie up each bag with colorful ribbons.

Budget-Friendly Holiday Baking Tips

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Holiday baking is a tradition for many families, as well as an inexpensive, thoughtful gift. Save money on all your baking and cooking by planning …

Tips to Plan a Fun Family Reunion

As extended families spread out throughout the country, it becomes more difficult to get everyone together. Holding a family reunion, then, gives everyone a chance to meet, catch-up and learn a little more about their family history.

Arranging a reunion can be a massive undertaking, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But with a little planning, anyone can pull off a successful family reunion.

Follow these tips to ensure a fun, rewarding family reunion experience:

Tips to Plan a Fun Family Reunion

As extended families spread out throughout the country, it becomes more difficult to get everyone together. Holding a family reunion, then, gives everyone a chance to meet, catch-up and learn a little more about their family history.
But arranging a reunion can be a massive undertaking, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed.  However, with a little planning, anyone can pull off a successful family reunion.
Follow these tips to ensure a fun, rewarding family reunion experience:
•    Create a family reunion committee. You will need at least two people to plan location, food, activities, budget, mailings, payments and record-keeping. The better organized your committee, the more smoothly your reunion will run. You can never start planning too early – you will need to start at least a year ahead of time
•    Pick a theme. Designing your reunion around a theme can make planning activities, food and decorations more creative. Family history themes, such a celebrating an anniversary, a birthday or a cultural heritage – a Mexican fiesta, for example – are always popular.
•    Develop a budget. Your budget will influence the rest of your decisions regarding housing, food and activities. When in doubt, plan for affordability – as much fun as a Caribbean cruise might be, it’s unlikely that every family member can afford to attend.
•    Plan housing. If possible, choose a location that offers a range of lodging choices. National parks, for example, often have hotels nearby and may have cabins or tent-camping available, giving your guests plenty of options.
•    Keep the kids entertained. Don’t presume that the grandparents or teenagers will act as babysitters for the whole reunion. Ask for volunteers, and rotate babysitting duties. Arranging competitions, like three-legged and costume races, will keep kids happy. You can even present the winner with a trophy – Plaquemaker Plus offers a variety of trophies, including “Trophy Dudes” with bendable arms and legs.
•    Create activities. Adults might be content to sit around and chatter, but integrating the whole family can be a challenge. Try giving each family member a family tree to fill out, or arrange a friendly game of family trivia. And don’t forget to take a family photo. Plaquemaker Plus can even create heirloom-quality wooden plaques or acrylic images, so you can offer a unique souvenir to any family member who wants one.