Monday, January 28, 2013

The Big Girl's Guide to Financial Planning

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Financial Planning

With guilty pleasures such as “retail therapy” and rather expensive taste, I’m the absolute worst person to offer advice on financial planning.  When gainfully employed, I squandered whatever extra money I could get my hands on buying luxury items and enjoying things that are of minimal value now.  Someone shared with me knowledge about interest bearing savings and investments, but I wasn’t disciplined enough (or grown up enough) to heed her advice and do smart things with the money.  Knowing what I know now, I realize that I took too much for granted.  There has been constant mention that social security - which was my entire retirement plan - could be unavailable.  And in times when employment is low, earnings are just enough to make paycheck to paycheck and there is no company retirement to buy into, saving for the future gets put on the backburner.  Unfortunately, an aging generation can’t afford to prolong financial planning.  Here are a few things I plan to do to piece together a financial plan:

Put myself to work.

Whether you are already employed or not, there are several means by which you can generate supplemental income.  There is the obvious part time job that could add a little something extra towards retirement and savings (as much as your tax bracket can stand without penalizing you for earning two dollars too much).  Should there be time constraints or other reasons that make that a less desirable option, you can always go into business for yourself.  Make your hobby work for you.  Ever get called on to do a little work on a car?  How about being handy around the house?  Like to sew?  Whatever it is you do that has people calling on you to do it for them, begin to attach a price tag to your services.  Not feeling exceptionally gifted in any area?  You don’t have to have special talents to earn a little something on the side.  There are businesses such as AVON, Mary Kay and others that require little more than a small start up fee and a social circle to ante up your earning potential.  If you decide you’re really serious about creating multiple streams of income, you can opt to do all of the above.

Create a realistic budget/plan for spending.

Tidying up my budget is a good way to find out where I can shave off some cash to add to my future.  Again, I’m terrible at budgets.  But what I have learned from having tried one once upon a time is that if you create a strict “military” plan you are essentially setting yourself up to fail.  Although focus is on creating a substantial savings, allow yourself some allotment to do delve into whatever temptation (as long as you do so responsibly).  This could also be an opportune time to tackle whatever debt that is robbing you in interest and subtracting from your total earning potential.  Eliminating financed headaches leaves larger amounts to add to your savings.  Another helpful tip is to reevaluate your cellular plan.  Many people are easily paying $100 a month on cell phone plans to equal $1200 a year for the convenience of unlimited texting and cute ringtones and what not.  If you’re not using all of the bells and whistles that you’re paying for, or even if you are, taking a look at what is absolutely necessary and what can be omitted will help put money back into your pockets. 

Decide how much I plan to save.

Working with a specific goal in mind can make you more effective at achieving what you hope for.  Deciding how much I hope to have pocketed by the end of each week, each month, each quarter, annually and so on will help me realize that my efforts aren’t in vain.  Therefore, a projected savings over whatever period of time is an absolute must.  Simultaneously tracking extraneous costs can also be helpful.  As I replace less disciplined spending habits with more responsible choices, I begin to program myself to like “hoarding” cash to my surprise as opposed to making someone else rich. 
Get help from more experienced people.

Have a financial wizard in your family or a friend who has already achieved what you hope to accomplish?  Talk with him or her about what worked for them and apply it in your financial plan.  Research options online for financial institutions and services that can help you decide where to put the money to maximize interest.  Begin to read what the experts have to say.  Popular personalities such as Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman are a couple that have had major success extending their financial wit to those wanting answers (and ends)to their financial dilemmas.  Create your team of professionals to cheer you on!

Pay attention.

I know I don’t have to tell you this.  This goes without saying.  But for the sake of passing along information, hold our political figures and those who are responsible for making choices that directly affect our future accountable.  Where social security benefits are concerned, find out whom to hold responsible and help negotiate more feasible options that don’t penalize those that have paid into the system for the massive misappropriated spending of the government. 

Whew!  Growing up sure is taxing on my brain!  Gone are the days when I could spend, spend, spend without worrying about much more than which outfit I’m going to wear with what pair of shoes.  And to that angel that told me just over ten years ago “You don’t have to spend all that money.  You can take some of that and put it in an interest bearing savings account,” I heard what you were saying.  And if I had listened, it makes my head spin to think about how much I could’ve saved if I had followed your advice.  Ignorance is costly.  But thank you for calling that to my attention.  To whomever is reading this at this moment, don’t be like me.  Begin to take control of your money now, because if you don’t there are certainly a number of finance companies and lenders who are more than happy to mooch off of your future as long as you’ll allow.  Wealth to the wise!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Big Girl Chronicles:  Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Few among us today possess the courage of this one man.  He is a man that moved to the forefront of a race of people who were tired of the ill treatment that had become common among them and declared that we would no longer submit to the oppression and degradation of the dominant society.  But observe how he did this.  During a time when black people were commonly thought to be UNcivilized, he organized peaceful protests and demonstrations.  Where it was believed that black people were UNeducated he challenged laws of ignorance that only sought to preserve a “separate but equal” society.  He didn’t just talk about it.  He himself marched, was arrested and stood alongside his peers in the face of public humiliation and demoralization.

Despite the racial turmoil and social unrest of that time, Martin Luther King, Jr. continued to give speeches encouraging efforts to remain nonviolent and true to the cause.  I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to encourage others when he and his family were being threatened and harassed.  However, his famous I Have A Dream speech spoke to thousands about the passion of his efforts to transform an unjust society into one that will fairly judge his children and peers based upon their character, meet their potential and ultimately hold America accountable to what it has declared the foundation of its establishment to be.    

I’m sure you’re already aware of Martin Luther King Jr.’s significance in history.  So, as we pause on this day to remember Martin Luther King, Jr., also do personal analysis and reflection.  How have you honored what he has helped us to accomplish as a race of people?  What else can be done to maximize the potential of his vision?

*Include among your New Year’s resolutions plans to increase your knowledge of the civil rights struggle and the sacrifices he along with other black men and women have made to achieve equality.  An awareness of the past creates a renewed sense of appreciation for the present.  And what we appreciate we value and preserve. 

*Study their character and accomplishments as a point of reference for dealing with adversity.   Whether considered educated or not, they were prepared for the possible consequences of their actions and knowledgeable about the laws they sought to change.  They were organized and goal-directed.  Each challenge that was faced wasn’t just to cause a scene or engage in a power struggle, but to demonstrate how committed they were to social and political equality.   
Their focus remained problem-oriented and not people-oriented, careful not to adopt the thoughts and ways of those that stood against them but instead focus on the desired outcome.

*Find ways to become more active in your community.  Whether it’s a local civic organization or church group, dedicate yourself to increasing your presence and participation in your area.  Keep abreast of news and current events that affect voting rights and other concerns.  Use your vote to make positive changes that preserve the foundation Martin Luther King, Jr. and others have helped to build.

To learn more about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy, visit .  To view a complete transcription of the I Have A Dream speech, visit or visit YouTube to watch.  Just type Martin Luther King – I Have A Dream Speech in the search engine. 

**The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are that solely of The Big Girl Chronicles.  Martin Luther King, Jr., his family, The King Center nor any of its affiliates should be held responsible for the contents.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Big Girl's Guide to Fitness Motivation

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Fitness Motivation

 I’m getting to that age when I can’t take my body for granted anymore.  That rotund twenty year old derriere, along with some other body parts that will go unmentioned, is beginning to lose its battle with gravity.  Add to that those health concerns that you once thought were only applicable to “old people.”  You know the ones.  Hypertension.  Diabetes.  All that other stuff that comes with a decrease in metabolism and manifestation of unhealthy eating habits.   Trying to get it under control is kicking my “sagging derriere.”  But I have to put things in perspective.  The very first thing the good doctor will tell you after he hits you with that lifestyle-altering diagnosis will probably have a lot to do with diet and exercise.  So if this seems familiar to you, why not try to get a jump on it before it “jumps” you?

Increased activity is probably one of your most effective deterrents with regard to hypertension and diabetes.  Of course it’s understandable why you don’t exercise.  You’re a busy mom.  Careerist.  Whatever.  Maintaining your ideal weight will help keep you around to enjoy your kids and career.  Start off gradually.  Try 15 minutes a day.  Take a brisk walk and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.  Rainy day?  There are so many resources these days that you don’t even have to leave your home if the weather has other plans or you feel a little self-conscious.  You can buy some home instructional workout dvds at places like your local dollar store or general store for less than the cost of a magazine.  Need even more inspiration?  Set your workout to music by creating a playlist with your favorite dance tunes and get moving.   

After you’ve had that exhilarating workout, now comes the really hard part – paying attention to what you eat.  Who wants to say “no” to a good burger or pizza?  More than likely, not eating these things in moderation is what got us to this point in the first place.  Resolve to practice a healthy balanced diet that gives you room to cheat occasionally based upon your progress.  Make healthy choices for meals that don’t undo all that you’ve accomplished.  Avoid stuffing yourself with junk food and snacks and make water your best friend.  It’s 100% useful for your body and doesn’t leave any unwanted calories.   Whatever it is you crave, ask yourself first if it’s worth the calories you’ll have to work off after you indulge.

Whether you’re trying to recoup from baby weight, fight off health scares or just feel better about your body, the process doesn’t have to seem like excruciating punishment.   Approach your health goals with a positive attitude and keep your mind set on your end result.  I’ve even taped a picture of myself to my wall of when I felt the most pleased with my weight and shape to inspire myself.  Give yourself and your body the attention you deserve to shape yourself into the best person you can become! 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Pampering Yourself On A Budget

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Pampering Yourself On A Budget

You hosted that fabulous Christmas dinner, managed to shop for all the Christmas presents and get them wrapped without shattering the illusion of Santa Claus for the children, sit through the “unwrapping” ceremony, tolerate loud screams and chatter from happy kids in addition to clamor from mechanical toys that seem nothing more than nerve-wrecking noisemakers, tackle all the clean-up and still pull off that New Year’s celebration.  Whew!  You are some kind of “superbeing” running on sheer adrenaline!  But now that the holiday season has ended, it’s time for you to de-stress and subject yourself to the cruel and unusual punishment of pampered princess relaxation.  “But with what?” you ask.  All the cash has been shelled out on presents and parties.  Pulling it all together isn’t as expensive as you’d imagine.  You can have spa quality for little of nothing.

What you want to do first is raid your gifts.  Some of those things you got that you politely imagined tossing or regifting as soon as the guests are gone could prove helpful after all.  Cheap house socks?  Perfect for helping to keep those little piggys moisturized.  More sets of towels?  Make them your special set for a relaxing facial.  Go ahead.  Take a second look.  It’ll almost be like unwrapping gifts all over again.

Once you’ve sorted through your stash, you’ll want to decide what you’ll need to create a relaxing environment.  I suggest some soothing music and candles that are always a surefire mood enhancer.  Whether it’s jazz or old school soul, R&B, classical or instrumental, make a selection that will mellow the milieu.  Create a playlist and plug in the mp3 to set the mood to music.  Also gather together some candles and arrange them throughout the area you plan to occupy the remainder of the night to subtly add to the ambience and allow yourself to begin to unwind.  If you don’t have any of these items already on standby, make a dash to your local dollar store or general store that usually has a stock of instrumental, classical or themed music along with candles that are cost friendly.  Use those gift cards.

Now that you have created a visually relaxing environment and added soothing tones to lull you, you’ll want to further calm your senses by engaging in something physically relaxing.  Draw a nice, hot bath.  Add a small amount of baby oil to help moisturize your skin and lightly perfume the water.  Think bubbles would make the perfect touch, but don’t have the bubble bath.  Use some dishwashing detergent to make suds.  Nobody has to know.  Submerge, lay back and allow this peaceful soak to permeate your senses.   

Just because the bathwater has cooled and the suds are gone doesn’t stop your moment.  Follow through with your routine and give yourself a pressure point and deep tissue massage as you moisturize.  Remember those house socks?  Great to relax in and retain moisture as you continue to melt the stress away.   Clothe yourself in your favorite snuggles and complete your evening.  For a finale, fix a nice warm cup of tea, or wine if you prefer, and give yourself a mini home mani and pedi.  Finish off your evening continuing to enjoy soothing music, reading material or a favorite movie. 

Ahhh... Doesn’t that feel so much better?  What stressful holidays?  Now get a good night’s sleep and awaken refreshed and rejuvenated.  You have to go back to work!