5 Features to Look for in Your Next Credit Card

Before you apply for your next credit card, it makes sense to stop and look at several cards before investing. Think of getting a credit card as taking a loan out from a bank. You would not go to just any bank to get a mortgage loan, would you? You would take the time to find out about rates, costs and fees. The same thing is true when it comes to a credit card. The more you know about the credit card, the better a decision you can make in regards to what that card can offer.

The following are five features that some credit card companies are now offering. Before you invest, be sure you have the right tools to make the right decisions about these cards. More so, be sure the benefits of the card fit your needs.

Introductory Offers
If you have excellent credit, take advantage of introductory offers, including a period of six to twelve months of zero percent interest. Use these cards to transfer higher interest rate debt to so you can pay it off at a lower cost. The key to making this offer work for you is to pay off the balance before the introductory period ends, helping to guarantee you a better rate.

Rewards Programs
Rewards programs can be beneficial in many ways, but only if you use them wisely. Rewards now offer discounts on fuel, flying and travel discounts. Look for discounts on vehicle purchases and on dining offers, too. To make the most of this offer, pay off your balance in full each month to avoid the heavier than usually interest rates that rewards credit cards often charge.

Bad Credit Rebuilding
If you have bad credit, choose prepaid debit cards to help you to rebuild. However, choose those that report to the credit agencies instead of just prepaid cards. This will help you to rebuild your credit effectively, without having to worry about the overhead costs involved in bad credit, credit cards.

Customizable Credit Cards
Some credit card companies are now offering customizable credit cards. This feature allows you to choose the features important to you, such as a longer grace period, lower interest rates or better rewards programs that work for the way you want to use the card. Keep your financial goals in mind as you consider these offers, though.

Low Interest
The least expensive way to choose a credit card is to look for a low interest rate card. These cards offer fewer perks, but they cost less and for many people this is the best feature to look for. The good news is that lenders will offer lower rates for those who have good to excellent credit. The bad news is that some companies negate these benefits by charging higher fees than normal.

The best way to get the best credit cards is to compare your options. You can do this online easier than contacting individual credit card companies. Remember, you need to read the terms of the offers before agreeing to any line of credit. Further, the credit card offers you get in the mail are rarely the best offer for you. Check out numerous options before investing.

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Taming Teens: Creating Boundaries

In these enlightened, information-rich days, it is around the age of 11 that most children seem to start considering their role as a teenager.  Anthony is a fairly typical example.  He has never been what you would call compliant.  Even before his eleventh birthday every request for him to help around the house has been met with a series of probing questions: “Why me?”, “Why not someone else?”, “Why now?”.  Now that he has discovered that he is only two years away from authentic teenager status he has started training seriously for what he believes will be his zenith of rudeness.

So, as parents, we have to think constructively about how to deal with the rebellious years. Dealing with it is the only option as ignoring or avoiding the rowdy, anti-social and downright dangerous behavior could be life-scarring or, at worst, fatal.  No, it is a parent’s job to face this traitor in our midst, the terrorist that we bred ourselves and find a way to teach them how to be strong, happy, healthy and respectful.

The first guideline for unruly teens (and pre-teens) is to agree clear boundaries for behavior. Please notice that this is not “attitude” as in the phrase “I don’t like your attitude”.  To a teenager that’s like saying “I don’t like your height” but talking about their behavior, the things they say and do, can seem more manageable.

Make the discussion about boundaries a serious one. If you have never had a family meeting this is a great place to start.  Don’t use the meeting to impose your will, use it to talk things through.  If your teenager won’t, for example, agree a sensible time to be home every night; give him or her a choice between two grown-up options based on the reason why being home by 10pm is a good thing; Mom stops worrying you are getting into trouble and you get a good nights sleep before school .

  • Option 1 – You can be home before 10pm Sunday through Thursday and 11pm on a Friday and Saturday.
  • Option 2 – You can stay out after 10pm any night but you’ve got to tell us beforehand and also every hour after ten gets added to the following night’s curfew so you can catch up on sleep.

One good reason for providing options is that it is difficult to rebel against flexibility. The options will engage your teenager in dialogue and will help them to feel you are going some way towards understanding the rush of hormones, feelings, confusion and the search for identity.

At these times it also seems difficult to find examples of good behavior to praise.  Raising teenagers makes parents think they are lurching from one disappointment to the next but, if you look real hard, you’ll find there is a spark of good behavior that can be fanned into a flame with enough attention.

In Anthony’s case the spark was an unprompted “Thank you” to Mom for helping with his homework.

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Five Ways to Save Energy Expenses at Home

One of the easiest ways to lower your personal expenses is to address energy waste at home. Most of us use electricity or fuel without considering how efficiently it’s being used. According to the US Department of Energy, Americans waste nearly 30% of the power they demand.

Here are some areas where you can lower your energy costs:

Heating

  • Purchase a programmable thermostat (many are less than $100) to keep your home environment at a steady level. Plus, some can be programmed to fire up the furnace before you arrive, making your house cozy when you get there.
  • Lower the setting on your thermostat each time you are leaving for at least four hours; if the thermostat is not located near the door you enter and exit, put a reminder nearby that you’ll see as you leave.
  • Resist the urge to constantly adjust the temperature – maintaining a constant heating or cooling level will use less energy.

Cooling

  • Raise the thermostat setting by 2° over normal setting to reduce the number of times the unit starts.
  • Check, clean and replace filters regularly. Clogged or broken filters lower the unit’s effectiveness, and cause it to run more frequently. Some brands have a function which alerts users to failing filters, but it is best to set your own schedule because waiting for the alert could be costing you money.

Hot water

  • If you have a storage tank, make sure it is wrapped with insulation to prevent heat loss. The longer the tank holds normal water temperature, the less often fuel will be used to heat the stored water.
  • If possible, change from a stored system to a tank-less system. Some units cost less than $500 installed, and can save hundreds per year in fuel costs. Be sure to purchase the appropriate size for your family’s usage.

Appliances

  • Check and adjust your refrigerator settings. Optimal temperature for refrigeration is 35° to 38°F, but safe up to 40°; for freezing, the setting should be at 3̊ to 4°F.
  • Reduce oven preheat times by one minute. If it usually takes 2-3 minutes to warm up the chamber, wait until the food is prepared then allow one minute to preheat. These few minutes saved each time a meal is prepared can save up to $100 per year electricity costs.
  • Use a toaster oven or microwave for smaller dishes and for reheating food. Heating time is reduced usually saving up to 10¢ per meal.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, don’t use your microwave to defrost frozen items. Remove tonight’s meal in the morning and allow it to thaw at room temperature throughout the day. This requires no electricity.
  • When using a dishwasher, make sure it is full before it is run. And use the energy saving setting, which uses less hot water and no heat to dry your dishes.
  • When purchasing new appliances, furnaces or other fuel/electric-driven devices, look for Energy Star®-approved units. Some equipment will be sold as Energy Star®-compliant, which means they claim to use less energy than traditional units, but they have not been actually tested by the Department of Energy (DOE).

Building

  • Examine your home’s exterior. Are there gaps, cracks or holes in the structure or foundation? If there are, you could be lowering the efficiency of your heating or cooling system. Seal openings and install weatherstipping around doors and windows.
  • If possible, update your insulation. Add a layer of rolled insulation where accessible or consider blown-in product. Check the DOE or industry websites for appropriate R-values.

With some minor investments of time or money, you can improve your home’s energy use. This could mean hundreds – maybe thousands – of dollars each year back into your pocket. There are more opportunities to save at home, so do your homework: research efficient technologies and examine your use of standby modes, how you cook, bathe, etc. You can use the dollars you save today to make a better financial future.

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Employee Input: A Double-edged Sword

I recently observed a well-meaning manager dealing with the dangerous area of collecting employee input.  An old and dingy office space was being remodeled, and this  manager reasoned that the people who were housed in the area might want some say in how it was to be reconfigured.  And they sure did!  Their office environments had been an issue for years.  They relished what they saw as the opportunity to redesign it.

Without any specific guidance from the manager, an ad-hoc employee committee sprang up. Guess who ended up leading it?  You’ve got it.  The most disgruntled and outspoken employees grabbed the reins and spent a significant amount of time researching office lay-outs, equipment needed, flooring, and even furnishings.  The manager was somewhat aware that there was a “committee,” but he didn’t give it much thought.  In the meantime,  the Office Design Committee met regularly, contacted suppliers, and previewed available equipment and furniture.  All without a budget.

After several weeks, the Office Design Committee came back to the manager with a request to present their work to him. He scheduled a slot on his calendar, and was a little surprised when the group asked to meet in the conference room rather than in his office.  And his surprise only increased once he entered the conference room.  He was presented with layout diagrams, swatches of paint color and fabric, and the full-color brochures of three or four potential vendors.  He had a couple of options as to what to do next, and he unfortunately continued to make some basic mistakes.

This manager was surprised, even blind-sided by the committee’s results. That should never have happened, and it would not have happened had he handled the remodeling communication appropriately in the first place.  When presented with the committee’s recommendations, the manager became visibly irritated.  He cut the meeting short as soon as he saw the costs this group projected for the project.  And the committee heard no more about the issue until they came in one morning to newly painted walls and different colored counter tops and cupboards in their work areas.  And none of the changes actually made were ones recommended by the committee!  This manager not only lost the opportunity to gain valuable input, he actually alienated his team by gathering far more input than he wanted and then ignoring it.  The improvements could have had a very positive outcome.  Instead, the employees looked at the “improvements” as one more evidence that management did not respect their needs, opinions, or intelligence.  And who can blame them for that attitude?

Some obvious mistakes were made here. First, the manager should have talked to the group and explained what the boundaries of the remodel were to be.  If a dollar amount was known, it should have been communicated.  If particular parts of the office structure were targeted for upgrade, the manager should have communicated that.  Perhaps there were some environmental issues that needed addressing.  Or the manager may have known that the configuration had to follow the current “footprint” of the office space in some way.  He may have been aware of coming changes in equipment which should have been reflected in the design.

Secondly, he should not have allowed the leadership of this group to default to the chronically disgruntled in his office! If a sub-team was needed to gather information, that smaller group should have been representative of the larger group.  Once they had gathered recommendations which were within budget and other stated constraints, they should have communicated that information back to the larger group for their input.  I’ve noticed that many times a small group will get sort of stymied or stumped by a problem simply because they’ve been looking at it so long.  A fresh pair of eyes may be just what they need to generate some new ideas and move the project along.

Next, the manager should listen carefully to the final recommendations of the group and ask for whatever additional information he may need to make a final decision. If some ideas cannot be implemented, he should respectfully explain why.  And he should implement the ones which can be implemented.

Finally, the work of the committee should be recognized. They should be thanked for their contributions and their efforts.  I once worked with a parent volunteer group who designed and built a beautiful playground for a non-profit agency in the area.  The agency would never have been able to afford the quality of such an addition without all the talented parent volunteers.  But the agency also didn’t have money for a big banquet or fancy thank-you gifts.  So they bought some toy hard-hats and shovels, spray painted them gold, and added some ribbon and glitter.  These very inexpensive thank-yous are still cherished by the parents today.  Some similar thank-you gifts could be extremely effective for the group of employees who did the leg work on the office remodel, too.

Now let’s think about the difference between how this project was handled in the first group and in the second. In the first, the manager ends up looking like a despot, and the employees are very unhappy with their “new and improved” office space.  In the second situation, employees are proudly moving into “their” office space.  They fully accept the reality that they couldn’t change each and every thing they wanted to, but they were able to make some significant improvements and stay within budget.  Quite a difference, isn’t it?

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The Best Bar-Bar None: How to set up a Home Bar for Entertaining

If you entertain frequently, and many of your guests drink alcohol, having a home bar set-up adds a nice touch to your gatherings.   While they are certainly nice to have, you don’t need a physical bar area to stock all the requirements for a basic home bar.  Drink carts, kitchen counters, and side tables can all be used as a bar area during a party.  While you will know best what drinks your friends prefer, the following set up will allow you to make most common drinks.  Keeping a drink recipe book on hand will allow you to satisfy unusual requests, and can be a fun way to try new concoctions.

Bar Ware – The Tools of the Trade
Before you start stocking up on liquors, mixers and garnishes,  it’s a good idea to gather together the basic tools for setting up a bar.  Keep in mind that the quantity for each glass is just a guide, and you can stock more as less glasses as suits your needs.  If you’re looking for quality glassware at a low cost, many top name crystal and glass companies have outlet stores with very affordable glassware.

Glasses:

  • 6-8 16 oz Collins Glasses – for juice based mixed drinks and soft drinks
  • 6-8 10 oz Highball Glasses – for tall mixed drinks and cocktails
  • 6-8 10 oz Rocks Glasses – for shots on the rocks and strong mixed drinks
  • 4-6 White Wine Glasses  – for white wine, will have a narrow bowl
  • 4-6 Red Wine Glasses – for red wine, will have a wider bowl
  • 8-10 Pilsner Glasses – for beer, iced tea and lemonade
  • 4-6 Martini Glasses – for martinis
  • 4-6 Margarita Glasses – for margaritas and daiquiris
  • 4 shot glasses – for shots and measuring mixed drinks in a pinch

Other Bar Tools:

  • Ice bucket and tongs
  • Jigger
  • Blender
  • Martini Shaker
  • Several long-handled spoons
  • Corkscrew/bottle opener
  • Strainer
  • Cutting board/paring knife
  • Cocktail napkins
  • Wine glass charms

Liquors and Liqueurs – Where All Cocktails Start
The basis for any cocktail is the liquor used in the recipe.  The variety of liquors you have on hand will determine the number of drink types you are able to make.  Knowing your friends’ preferences will allow you to have their favorites on hand to start, and you can gradually build your bar stock as time goes on.  Liqueurs can be sipped on their own, or used in various cocktails.  Again, the number of liqueurs you have will define the types of drinks you can put together.  A standard size for bar liquors is a fifth or 750 milliliters.

Basic Liquors

  • Gin
  • Rum
  • Whiskey
  • Vodka
  • Tequila

Extended Liquors

  • Brandy
  • Scotch
  • Mescal

Basic Liqueurs

  • Grand Marnier – Orange flavored liqueur, this is a brand name for triple sec
  • Southern Comfort – Whiskey flavored with honey
  • Chambord – Raspberry flavored liqueur
  • Cognac – Brandy liqueur
  • Kaluha – Coffee flavored liqueur
  • Sloe Gin – Plum flavored liquor

Extended Liqueurs

  • Bailey’s Irish Cream – Flavored whiskey drink
  • Crème de Cassis – Black currant flavored liqueur
  • Frangelico – Hazelnut flavored liqueur
  • Pernod – Anise flavored liqueur
  • Peach Schnapps – Peach flavored liqueur
  • Amaretto – Almond flavored liqueur
  • Midori – Melon flavored liqueur
  • Blue Curacao – Orange flavored liquor, provides color to mixed drinks

Basic Bar Mixers – Building Your Favorite Drinks
Unless you and your friends like to drink alcohol straight all the time, it’s wise to have a variety of mixers on hand.   Once again, the quantity and quality of mixers you stock should be determined by the types of drinks you usually enjoy.  For many drinks you can purchase pre-made mixes such as margarita, bloody mary, or whiskey sour mix.  There’s nothing wrong with going this route, but freshly mixed drinks almost always taste better.

  • Orange, Cranberry and Grapefruit Juice
  • Cola Soft Drink
  • Lemon-Lime Soft Drink
  • Ginger Ale
  • Tomato Juice
  • Lemonade
  • Club Soda
  • Tonic Water
  • Grenadine
  • Angostura Bitters

Beer/Wine – Just the Basics
Having selected beer and wines on hand will provide even more variety for your guests.  Beer should be chilled prior to the event and served in frosted glasses if possible.  Covering all possible options, it’s good to have a case each of light beer, standard beer and dark beer for your bar.  As for wines, you can have as many as you like, but serving at least one white wine and one red wine is standard for bar set-ups.  For special occasions, plan to have several bottles of champagne or sparkling wine on hand.   In most cases, red wine should be served at room temperature while white wines and champagne are served chilled.

Garnishes – The Finishing Touch
Providing applicable garnishes will complete your bar set-up and should be the last thing you attend to as many of them are perishable.  It’s often a good idea to cut lemon and lime wedges as they are needed to keep the fruit fresh.   For a whimsical touch, include multi-colored swizzle sticks and paper umbrellas with your garnish set-up.  Some common garnishes and cocktail condiments include:

  • Fresh Lemons and Limes
  • Celery stalks
  • Green olives
  • Cocktail onions
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Coarse Salt
  • Fine Sugar
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Tabasco Sauce

Final Tips About Using Your Home Bar
If you’re hosting a party with drinking involved, be sure to provide options to guests who imbibe beyond moderation.  Check for designated drivers,  match sober drivers with guests needing a ride, call a cab or pull out your couch if necessary.  It’s a good idea to have coffee and non-alcoholic beverages available for your non-drinking guests.  As much as your new bar can provide an entertainment Mecca for your friends, it also brings with it a level of responsibility.

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Retirement Planning: Where to Begin

When you’re young, retirement seems so far away, but most of us will find that those years are upon us in what seems like the blink of the eye.  Many, however, will enter these years unprepared for the reduction of income they’ll face upon retirement, the unexpected costs of medical problems, and the other challenges they’ll face that seem to eat away at what may be just a meager savings.  That’s why experts encourage us to start planning early by investing in financial tools that will keep us comfortable in our later years.

Planning for retirement can be confusing.  There are so many vehicles from which to choose to assist you in amassing enough money to allow you to enjoy a comfortable retirement, free of financial woes.

Should I Use a Financial Planner?
If you’re not employed in the financial field, chances are that you don’t know everything there is to know about investing.  If that’s the case, there are a few things you can do to become educated about products available to enhance your wealth. If so desired, you can enlist the services of a financial planner.  Such licensed individuals are well-versed in a variety of products that will assist you in saving for your retirement.

You’ll want to choose a planner carefully as some have a vested interest in selling only one particular product or group of products and will probably encourage you to buy those specific items as he’ll receive an incentive in return.  Instead, look for an “independent” financial planner who’s eager to offer a variety of options.

Regardless of what kind of planner you use, that individual should take time to ask questions to determine not only your current financial status but also your goals for retirement.  When do you wish to stop working?  Will you move to a more affordable community upon retirement?  Do you hope to travel extensively in your later years?

Your goals and how far you are from retirement should help the planner choose vehicles that will get you what you need when you need it.  Those who are far from retirement can be a bit more experimental in choosing where to invest.  However, if you’re starting late and you need to amass a large amount of money in a small amount of time, you’ll need to choose more aggressive investments.

A Little Research Can Go a Long Way
Enlisting the services of a financial planner can be expensive, so if you’re just starting out in your career, you may want to do some research on your own.  It’s easy to educate yourself on the ins and outs of particular investment tools just by taking some time to do a little reading.

Research such investment items as CDs, savings bonds, mutual funds, traditional and Roth IRAs, annuities, and stocks. Learn the disadvantages and advantages of each, including the risks you take when you invest.  Determine the investments with which you’d be comfortable.  If you’re a hesitant investor, you may find stocks to be too risky but perhaps you’d be happy with mutual funds.

Smart investing means that you shouldn’t be constantly stressed about your money and what’s happening to it.  Choose wisely to ensure your peace of mind.

Categories Investing and Financial Planning, Retirement
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Delicious and Economical Cooking for One

Singles, widows/widowers, and others who live alone often face a real challenge when to comes to preparing delicious, healthy, and affordable meals in portions that are just the right size to satisfy one.  Rather than cooking for just themselves, many resort to fast food, take-out, or pre-packaged grocery store cuisine that leaves them wishing for something better.  With a little thought and planning, there are better options for preparing and enjoying tasty meals especially designed for just one person.

Preparing meals for just one person can be a drag and often downright difficult.  With grocery stores touting “family packs” of meat and other staples, purchasing food in quantities that are appropriate for one person isn’t easy.  Many find themselves laying out huge amounts of money for large packages of food for their lunch or dinner, and freezing them one piece at a time, only to tire of eating the same thing over and over again before they’ve finished the package.

Buying the Correct Portions
There are a number of ways to handle this problem.  First of all, try to find items that are individually frozen.  If your local market doesn’t offer such fare, seek out the store’s butcher.  Most of the time, they are eager to offer you food in the quantity you seek if you just take the time to ask.  Be assertive!  Let them know that you only need one or two chicken breasts or pork chops and a piece of roast big enough for your dinner and perhaps one sandwich later in the week.

Seafood is often a sensible answer to finding foods that are available in small quantities.  Many stores feature seafood counters offering a selection of fish that isn’t pre-packaged.  That allows you to choose as small a quantity as you’d like.  Often, markets even offer seafood that’s pre-seasoned, like lemon pepper salmon or coconut-crusted tilapia, making it an easy but tasty meal to prepare.

Planning Ahead
If you’re unable to purchase meats and other items in smaller quantities, schedule a cooking day where you prepare several different dishes containing the same main item.  For example, you might choose three or four favorite chicken recipes, such as fried, cordon bleu, or divan, and prepare a little of each.  Eat one for dinner and take advantage of your freezer and store the others.  Pre-prepared meals such as these are perfect for evenings when you’re in a hurry and don’t have much time for preparation.

Simple One-Dish Meals
One-dish meals are also ideal for singles.  That means there’s less clean up as well as time spent preparing the dish.  Consider small casseroles that include items such as chicken, rice, and broccoli or beef, mushrooms, and noodles.  If you need more to fill you up, a small side salad is easy to prepare or you can hit the salad bar at the market on your way home.

Invite a Friend
Many singles note that they miss those meals that are often cooked in large portions, like pot roast or turkey.  If you’re one of those individuals, consider inviting a friend or two to dinner once or twice a month so you can enjoy such dishes and all the wonderful trimmings that go with them, like a big steaming pot of mashed potatoes and plenty of fresh vegetables.

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Planting a Butterfly Garden

If you love butterflies, there is a simple way to attract more of them into your yard.  Plant flowers!  Butterflies sip on the rich nectar produced by the flowers.  Certain butterflies favor a specific flower, but the more flowers that are in your yard will draw more butterflies.

The factors that attract butterflies also include having a selection of plants on which they can lay their eggs, called host plants. These plants have large leaves or sturdy branches where eggs can develop until hatching.  Butterflies will not get nectar from host plants, and the caterpillars prefer to eat green leafy material, so a host plant is just that, a host.

When the eggs hatch into caterpillars, they are hungry!  The caterpillars will eat different plants and leaves than what attracts the butterfly.  Nectar bearing, host and larvae plants are required to keep everyone happy in your yard.  Keeping a balance of flowers, host plants and larvae favorite plants sounds tricky, but it’s not really.

A butterfly garden does not need to be large. Depending on which stage, or all stages, of a butterfly’s life you want to see determines what to plant.  A flowerbox added under a window will draw adult butterflies.  A milkweed plant in the backyard can draw Monarch butterflies to lay their eggs.  Birch and Elm trees are feed many different caterpillars before the form their cocoons.

To keep butterflies in your yard as long as possible, plant strategically. Plant flowers that bloom in different times of the year, such as early spring bulbs, summer annuals and perennials and fall bloomers.  Certain flowers and plants bloom continuously during a season and attract regulars.  When choosing flowers to plant, use some from every color group to create a more tempting garden for butterflies to dine in.

Manmade nectar also attracts butterflies.  A shallow dish or specialty feeder can hold sweet drinks such as juice or beer, or even water to attract butterflies.  Make sure it is shallow, with a rim and a center rock for landing.  The bugs and bees will also be attracted to this, so it may require cleaning and careful placement in the yard.

Butterfly gardens work best in wide open sunlight.  The butterflies use the energy from the sun’s rays to warm their wings.  Warm wings are also dry wings, which help the butterfly to fly faster and keep away from predators.  Butterflies will spend time in the shade, however, they are drawn to the warm sunny areas first.

Following are flowers that will draw a variety of butterflies such as Admiral, Monarch, Swallowtail, Painted Lady, and on and on.  Depending on your region, you may have more species to dine on your flowers than others.  The seasons will attract more or less butterflies too.  Michigan in February is void of all fluttering critters!

If you have a favorite butterfly you want to draw into your yard, plant all of its host plant preferences, larvae food plants and nectar offering foods. Specific lists can be found online, in books or at the library.

Flowers are listed for all of North America and need to be adapted according to your climate and growing region.  Flowers for attracting North American Butterflies:

Cosmos

Sunflowers

Zinnia

Moss Rose

Phlox

Love-lies-bleeding

Cockscomb

Bachelor Buttons

Asters

Poppies

Thistle

Coreopsis

Chrysanthemums

Black-eyed Susan

Calendula

Salvia

Bellflowers

Lilac bushes

Butterfly bushes

Forsythia

Goldenrod

Verbena

Daisy

Hollyhock

Snapdragons

Violets

Pansies

Host Plants:

Bayberry Bush

Milkweed

Cedar Tree

Dogwood

Cypress

Daisy

Broomweed

Crabgrass

Larvae Food

Ash Tree

Birch Tree

Tulip Tree

Willow Tree Poplar Tree

Elm Tree

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Money Saving Tips for 2012

Understanding your finances can seem like a daunting and frustrating task but there are many ways to alleviate some of this stress and help you through the financial mine field. We have taken the time to do some of the research for you to help you save as much as you can in 2012 and get your retirement investment plans underway. Take a look at the list below and decide how you can apply them to your everyday life.

  • The first thing you may want to consider is taking all your household bills off instant payment systems. When the bills are paid without you having to look at the bill and go to the bank it can become easier and easier to overlook you expenses. When you have to receive the bill in the mail and physically pay it, you are more aware of how much energy you’re using, water, etc. and may be inclined to implement some energy saving techniques within your home.
  • Be sure to spend your money on your necessities first. This includes your household bills, food, gas, etc. The things that you cannot live without should be paid for first and then you get to see what you have left over for savings. If you have only a little left over it should be saved, but if you have a significant chunk left there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to something special but try and make sure at least 10% of your monthly earnings are invested or saved.
  • Budgeting your money in advance can provide you with a visual of your finances. You can literally see where your money is going and how much will be left. To avoid living pay check to pay check, try and save as much of your left over income as possible. The more you spend the less you have to invest for your future.
  • Price comparison may seem like a timely habit to keep but it can save you a great deal of money in the long run. Even choosing to buy non-brand name products can save you up to 8X the cost of a brand name product. You will find that many of the off brand products are just as effective and high quality as the brand names we all know, except they are generally half the price.
  • Home efficiency is one everyone is stressing these days and it can really have an effect on your energy bills. Making sure your windows and doors are well sealed can help keep the warmth in and the cold out in the winter and vice a versa in the summer. Even the simple act of turning off lights in rooms that aren’t in use can make a dent in your bills. Whatever you can to limit your use of energy can save you money in the long run.
  • A great idea is to create a list of errands you have to do and spend an afternoon getting them all accomplished. There is nothing worse than running in and out all week and wasting gas and time. Many people don’t even realize what a waste of money not being organized can be.

As you can see, there are many ways you can save money in 2012 and this is only a small taste of the many different financial strategies you can take. Be creative and try doing things differently this year. Thinking outside the box can really help you manage your finances differently and get out of that money spending rut.

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