Monday, December 26, 2011

Budgeting after the holidays

So you’ve blown your budget on Christmas presents, and after playing Santa it’s time to pay the piper.

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, after dieting, is budgeting. Once you start receiving the bills in January, you’ll have to trim the fat from your spending.

You need a two-mode attack plan: Knock out what you spent this past Christmas and make sure you don’t overspend this coming year.

Payoff plan
Don’t just pay the minimum on those credit card bills. Have you learned nothing from The Easy Budget? Pay as much extra as you can afford every pay period to get them down.

If you’re using a budget plan, such as The Easy Budget, you would take this money out of one of your budget categories like Debt. If that category is already being used up to pay off other debts you’ll have to dip into another category, such as Entertainment, Miscellaneous, or something else. Then you’ll just have to live lean in that category until you pay off your Christmas shopping bills.

Savings plan
Once you’ve paid off last Christmas’ bills it’s time to make sure you don’t repeat past mistakes. Remember the old Christmas clubs from days of yore? Create your own.

Many banks, such as ING, allow you to easily create sub-accounts that you can name anything you like. If yours does, just give one the name “Christmas Club” and sock away a certain amount each pay period so you’ll have enough to buy next Christmas’ gifts. That way you won’t go into debt.

If you can’t easily make a special account through your bank, put the money in your regular savings account and keep up with how much of it is your Christmas fund.

How do you know how much you’ll need? Just look at last Christmas’ bills. Once you done that, take the number of pay periods between now and next Christmas and divide the amount you intend to spend by the number of pay periods and you’ve got the amount you need to sock away each pay period.

Buy throughout the year
Stores don’t run sales only on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the day after Christmas; they run sales throughout the year. If you see something on sale in May that would be a perfect gift for someone on your list, buy it. Then save it for Christmas. My wife did that very thing for me this Christmas. And I did it for her on our first anniversary.

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Photo: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, [reproduction number,  LC-USF34-082017-E DLC (b&w film nitrate neg.)]

Monday, December 19, 2011

Give yourself a Christmas gift: Learn how to budget for the New Year (video)

The Nutcrackers are hard at work, but their boss is cracking the whip and paying them peanuts. All while expecting them to crack peanuts -- which you don't even need nutcrackers to open! Still, he's buying them "The Easy Budget" to manage the meager wages he's paying them, as seen in this Christmas-themed video.

If you still have a friend who needs a gift and he or she is on a tight budget, download "The Easy Budget" from, or iTunes. Or if it is  you who is on a budget -- and if it is, you know you are on the Nice List -- ask for it in your own virtual stocking. It's only $4.99.

And keep coming back to this blog for free money-saving tips.

You should follow "The Easy Budget" on Twitter here and become a Facebook fan here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Nutcracker "Easy Budget" promo gets closer (video)

Editing on the final product is taking place this weekend. In the meantime, enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at the production of our Nutcracker-themed promo video:

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Monday, December 12, 2011

New Easy Budget video will feature Nutcracker theme

(Click on photos to enlarge.)
Production has begun on the Christmas "Easy Budget" promotional video -- and, yes, puppeteering was involved. At top, Owen Tew himself operates a nutcracker who'll be receiving a copy of "The Easy Budget" from his boss. At bottom, a still from the upcoming video.

You should follow "The Easy Budget" on Twitter here and become a Facebook fan here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Save Money While Improving Your Diet

By Laura Axelrod
Staff writer
Most people don’t realize you can save money by improving your diet. It may seem counter-intuitive. After all, healthful foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables cost more than a bag of chips or cookies. When you buy junk food, it feels like a bargain. But the money you save today will end up costing you in the long run. When you fill up on junk food, your body isn’t getting the nourishment it needs. That leads to health problems and doctor bills down the road.

Changing your habits and attitudes about food will help you and your pocketbook.

Drink Water
Rather than drinking water, many people fill up on soda and juices filled with high-fructose corn syrup. These alternatives add empty calories to your diet. They also have little to no nutritional value. The corn syrup will likely spike your blood sugar, causing you to feel tired later in the day.

Drinking eight eight-ounce glasses of water will hydrate your body and keep your system healthy. You may even begin to lose weight. Many people mistake thirst for hunger. Drinking water in the morning is a fabulous way to start your day.

Portion Control
Portion sizes have grown over the years. Restaurants serve large meals, with more food than you could ever consume in one sitting. Even when dining at home, it is easy to overeat. Before starting your next meal, compare your serving with the suggested serving listed on the food label. The difference in amounts may surprise you.

Consider using your hands or familiar objects as guidelines for portion control. Your fist equals a cup of cereal, fruit or salad. A tablespoon is half a ping-pong ball. Eat half of what you order in a restaurant. Request a to-go box early, so you can enjoy the food at another time. Periodically measure your portions to make sure they have not grown.

Eat When Hungry
One way to save money and lose weight is to eat only when you are hungry. Many people use food as a distraction. They eat when they are bored, sad, angry or depressed. Meals and snacks become a drug rather than a way of caring for your body. Other times, you may be eating simply out of habit. Before grabbing a meal or snack, ask yourself if you are physically hungry. If not, consider other ways you can satisfy your emotional needs. Rather than eating, take a walk or write in a journal. You may look forward to your new habit, rather than your next meal.

Plan Ahead When Traveling
When you are traveling on business, plan your meals ahead of time. Check the web to see which restaurants are in the neighborhood. You can usually find menus on the their websites. It will give you the opportunity to make sure the restaurant is within your budget. You can also think about which meals are best for your diet. If you plan on having a large dinner, you could eat light for breakfast and lunch. But don’t skip meals. You will only be setting yourself up for a large food bill later in the day.

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Photo by Gila Brand. Used under Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Easy Budget Tip #47: Bring Your Own Colas To Work (video)

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*Thanks to VIBROS for supplying the background music. Check out their music on

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Living within your means with The Easy Budget (video)

I've followed my own budgeting advice and shot my first promotional video for "The Easy Budget" e-book. By following my own advice, I mean I did it within my budget -- which is pretty sparse. My wife said it was too silly, but I reasoned that if I'd tried to take it too seriously it would have turned out just as bad, and I'd have looked like I thought it was Spielberg-esque.

Take a look and judge for yourself -- then, buy the e-book and start living within your budget!

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Friday, July 8, 2011

How I rooted azaleas on a zero-dollar budget

I don’t have a green thumb. I also don’t have any green in my wallet for plant propagation. Still, I wanted to try to root some azaleas from cuttings I made from the front yard.

I live in my family’s old farmhouse, built by my great-grandparents in 1885 and modified by generations since. I remember my Grandma having azaleas lining the sidewalks when I was a kid, and a few are still left, but they have been dwindling. I have considered buying new ones since I moved in six years ago to replace the missing ones, but have never found it in my budget.

So when I trimmed some overhanging limbs the other day I had a sudden idea: Maybe I could root the clippings. But I’d have to act fast; I hadn’t prepared for that when I started. I quickly filled a couple of containers with water and shoved the clipped ends in to save them. I called my dad, who grew up in the house and actually knows gardening, for advice.

“They used to root them in south Alabama – in Mobile,” he said. “We never did that up here (in north Alabama.)”

Well, great. This wasn’t turning out like I’d hoped.

I decided to try to the Internet.

“Cuttings of the stems of most evergreen azaleas can be rooted rather easily,” said a page from

Now, that’s more like it.

Of course, I was also hoping it could be done cheaply – and, truth be told, completely free. So I set myself on a challenge.

(Let me note that the website said I should have refrigerated those cuttings, but by the time I read that it was too late. Besides, since I intended to spend no money, I would be acting quickly; everything I used would have to be already in my possession.)

First, I needed something to bed the cuttings in. Surely there was something amid all these outbuildings I could use: In more than a century of farming this place has accumulated not only a barn but a wash house, a wood shed, a potato house a chicken house and an attachment to the garage we just call “the shed.”

My dad had been a truck farmer for about 15 years after his retirement, and there in the shed were some of the Styrofoam containers he used to put tomatoes in. They had holes in the bottom for drainage. Perfect.

I’d need a planting medium. I found a couple of bags with some soil still inside.

Next I read the Website instructions and hoped I could get them right.

Here’s what I did:

I filled two boxes four to six inches deep with the soil. I didn’t have a rooting hormone, so I skipped that step. I cut each of the cuttings two to five inches long, stripped the leaves of all but the top cluster. I then took a knife and stripped the bark off the bottom, punched a hole in the soil, filled it with water and stuck the cutting in and repeated until I had all I wanted.

Next, I needed a place where they’ll get plenty of light, but no direct sunlight (to avoid burning.) I have an empty spot at the end of the shed.

I built a mini-greenhouse from a couple of cement bars and four-by-fours that I put around the crates. I put an old window on top. A Facebook friend advised me to put a scrap piece of two-by-four under one side for ventilation.

Once winter arrives, that same Facebook friend says I should dig a hole and have the top of my crates level with the ground.

Cost, except for water from the faucet, for the whole project, so far: $0.


Read the instructions from people who actually know what they’re talking about here:

You can buy my ebook on living within a budget from, Barnes& and iTunes. (Or on if you were reading this blog post because you wanted to root azaleas on a budget of zero pounds.)

Keep up with my budgeting tips by following me on Facebook here and Twitter here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Is it OK to 'cheat' on your budget?

Q. My food budget is tight. I recently got a stomach ache at work and needed a soda to calm it down. Is it OK that I took the money from my "medical" budget rather than my "food" budget. I had plenty of money to spare in "medical."

I see no harm in an occasional move across budgets like this -- especially when it can be legitimized, as in this case. But don't make a habit of it. And don't get tricky just to justify something. Otherwise, what's the point of having a budget to begin with? No one is forcing you to budget. (At least I hope not.) So if your current budget is not working out for you that badly, maybe you need to tweak it.

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Photo: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by RambergMediaImages

Monday, March 28, 2011

How to save $1 million for retirement (VIDEO)

Today show financial editor Jean Chatzky shares tips on how to have $1 million by the time you retire. Most are familiar to some of us, but it never hurts to have a refresher. And, surprise, living within your budget is key to success.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Friday, January 21, 2011

"The Easy Budget" nominated for Axiom Business Book Award

We are happy to announce "The Easy Budget: How to Always Have the Money You Need" by Owen Tew is a nominee in the Axiom Business Book Awards under the category Personal Finance/Investing.

Read more from our publishing parter, ebookstalktome.