Monday, May 31, 2010

Free Book : Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Programme

Get your kids reading this northern summer. Read any eight books between now and September 2010 and earn one of the following free books from your local Barnes & Noble:

Abraham Lincoln: Lawyer, Leader, Legend
Curious George Cleans Up
Frog and Toad Are Friends
Last One In Is a Rotten Egg
Gorillas: Gentle Giants Of The Forest
Thomas Jefferson's Feast
My Trip to the Zoo
January Joker
Ramona la chinche
Trouble at the Arcade
Sophie The Awesome
Treasure Fever
Ramona's World
Half-Moon Investigations (by Eoin Colfer )
The Cricket in Times Square
The Calder Game
El SoƱador
The Maze of Bones
The Capture
Jim and Me
The Hero and the Crown (by Robin McKinley )
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More (by Roald Dahl )
Freckle Juice (by Judy Blume)
Stolen Sapphires: A Samantha Mystery
No Talking
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
My Last Best Friend

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Every Little Bit of Saving Adds Up

Moms Saving MoneyLiving on a budget is the key to financial freedom, but getting started can be frustrating. When we look at our expenses and see all of those bills we're paying every month, it's easy to throw our hands up in disgust. But what about all those little expenses we incur? You might be surprised to find out just how much they amount to.

Frugillionaire: 500 Fabulous Ways to Live Richly and Save a FortuneIt's easy to dismiss cutting back on little things. A few dollars a month won't make a significant difference in the big picture. But a few dollars here and a few dollars there adds up to a few more dollars. When you cut back in a lot of small ways, you could end up with a lot more money at the end of the month.

Waste Not, Want Not

One thing we can do that is good for the budget is stop wasting so much. This can apply to many areas in our lives. From eating to home heating, waste equals money going down the drain unnecessarily.

Cooking for the family instead of eating takeout or dining out is a great way to save money. But if you're throwing food out, the benefit is reduced. So if you have leftovers, don't let them end up in the trash. Some dishes freeze well, and this makes for easy dinners when you don't have time to cook. You could also eat dinner leftovers for lunch the following day.

The Smartest Way to Save: Why You Can't Hang on to Money and What to Do About ItIf your home is not well insulated, you're probably wasting lots of money on home heating and cooling. Insulating will cost some money up front, but it will pay for itself quickly. If you have drafts around windows and doors, weatherstripping can help maintain the temperature of your home.

Most households waste an unbelievable amount of electricity. This can be prevented in part by using energy efficient appliances and light bulbs. Turn lights, televisions, computers and other devices off when you're not using them, and open blinds to take advantage of the sun's light during the day.

Do Yourself a Favor: Do It Yourself

Any time you pay someone else to do something that you could do yourself, you're spending money unnecessarily. This applies to little things like buying coffee instead of making your own, as well as to larger expenses such as home repairs.

The Little Book of Big Savings: 351 Practical Ways to Save Money NowMany of us buy coffee or a soft drink from a convenience store or coffee shop on the way to work in the morning. This can really add up over time. Instead, make your own coffee, or buy soda in 2-liter bottles and pour some into a smaller bottle or cup to take with you. The same applies to lunches. Instead of springing for fast food, take a sandwich or something microwavable to work.

While we're not all good at all types of repairs and maintenance, most of us can do some things for ourselves. Maybe you could change your own oil instead of paying someone else to do it. If the walls need painting, consider getting friends and family to help you do it instead of hiring a painter. Things like these can save us a noticeable amount of money right away.

When you add up the savings, little things can make a big difference to the budget. So take a close look at your budget and see what small expenses are lurking there. If you can eliminate or reduce them, it could positively impact your bottom line.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Power of Antioxidants for Staying Young

Everyone wants to grow old gracefully.  Some go under the knife to get that youthful look while others opt for a more natural way to maintain that healthful glow.  The way to make peace with age can be found in the types of foods that we eat and the miracle ingredient they contain.

This hidden “miracle” is called antioxidants.  They have graced the pages of magazines, medical journals and every product from hand cream to supplement pills.  But what are antioxidants and what can they do to keep you looking your best?

The Super Antioxidant Diet and Nutrition Guide: A Health Plan for the Body, Mind, and SpiritAntioxidants are substances that fight the aging process that goes on in your body.  They are not produced by the body so to get the benefit of these power-packed substances you must ingest them.  A variety of foods contain antioxidants.

Let’s go back to the beginning.  The body continually replenishes its cells.  Through a process called cellular metabolism, the body produces energy, more cells and repairs any damage.  One by-product of cellular metabolism is unstable molecules called free radicals.

Free radicals are molecules that damage your body.  They are unstable because they are missing an electron.  To get another one and become stable, free radicals will steal electrons from cells.  That theft damages the cells in a variety of ways.

The results are visible and invisible changes to our bodies.  The development of diseases like cancer, diabetes, arthritis and neurological deficiencies may begin to affect you as you age.  Also, thinner skin wrinkles and brittle bones are a problem.  Free radicals enter our body from outside sources as well: cigarette smoke, radiation and the sun’s UV rays.  The more free radicals we encounter, the greater the damage that can be done.

The Antioxidant Miracle: Put Lipoic Acid, Pycnogenol, and Vitamins E and C to Work for YouAntioxidants have been shown to be of great help in the free radical problem.  Antioxidant substances combine with free radicals and neutralize them.  Once they are neutralized, they can no longer do any damage.  Scientists don’t have any idea of a recommended daily dose of antioxidants to correct free radical damage and the diseases that come with age, but they do know that eating foods rich in antioxidants makes a huge difference in how we live.

Where do you find antioxidants?  They are all around us.  Look no further than your local farmer’s market or produce aisle in the grocery store.  Fruits and vegetables contain the principle sources of antioxidants.

Examples of antioxidants include:
* Vitamin C
* Vitamin A
* Vitamin E
* Lutein
* Lycopene
* Beta-carotene

Certain minerals like zinc and selenium also function in the body.  They are not antioxidants but they boost the immune system to fight against free radical damage.

The Anti-Cancer CookbookAntioxidants are also found in nuts, legumes, cold water fish, seafood and red meat.  So, eating a varied diet of fruits, vegetables and the foods just named will increase the amount of antioxidants in your system and help reduce the incidence of disease.  Eating fruits and vegetables in their natural form instead of juices brings the benefit of other nutrients found in the foods.  Juices also contain a lot of sugar that is not needed by your body.

Food does more than stave off hunger.  Natural substances found there can cause us to live longer and stay free of disease as we age.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Five Easy Toning Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Exercise is an important part of our lives.  Staying in shape is one way to increase your life expectancy.  Weight bearing exercises are important also for increasing muscle mass and bone density as you age.

Most of us have learned what to do when it comes to exercising.  The problem is where and when to get the job done.  With a busy lifestyle, making time for exercise is a challenge.

SPRI ES502R Xertube Resistance Band with Door Attachment and Exercise Charts (Blue, Heavy)Weight bearing exercises aren’t just for bodybuilders.  As you age, especially once you hit the age of forty, you begin to lose muscle mass.  For women especially, bone loss becomes a problem.  When the body is in need of calcium it can rob it from your bones.  Building muscle not only increases their mass but your strength.

Here are five easy toning exercises that can be done anywhere and whenever you have time.  At home, at the office, or on vacation, you can do these easy yet extremely effective exercises.

Jillian Michaels: No More Trouble Zones1. The Bridge Butt Lift –

Sounds like a plastic surgery technique but it is an easy way to tone your buttocks.  Lay down with feet flat on the floor, legs shoulder width apart.  Place your hands, palm side down, on either side of your body.  Pushing with your feet, squeeze your gluteal muscles and lift your butt off the floor.  Hold the position for a count of five to ten and release down to the floor.

Bally Total Fitness Thigh Toner2. Squats –

Squats work the butt, the hamstring muscles and the quadriceps.  If you aren’t sure of proper form, you can use a chair.  Stand with feet shoulder width apart and feet firmly planted.  Push your butt back as if you were preparing to sit in a chair.  Keep your abs tight and your upper body straight.  Once you reach chair level stop and hold the position for a count of two to five and release.  At the lowest point, place all of your weight on your heels for balance and maximum toning.

3. Reverse Lunges –

Lunges work the quadriceps muscles.  They can be hard for people with knee problems.  A reverse lunge still tones the right muscle groups but with less pressure on the knee.  Stand with feet together and arms at your sides.  Take one leg and move it backwards until you are in lunge position: front leg bent at a 90 degree angle and back leg extended until you are on the ball of your foot.  From this position lower yourself down until the back knee almost touches the floor.  Hold for a count of two and return to starting position.

Valeo Dual Ab Wheel4. Pushups –

This is a classic toning exercise that works all areas of the arms plus the chest muscles.  If you aren’t comfortable or strong enough to perform a pushup on your toes, lower your body to your knees.  Be sure your arms are tucked into the body and your back straight as you lower and lift your body.

5. Crunches –

Abdominal muscles can be worked every day to build strength and muscle tone.  Lying on the floor in sit up position, lace your fingers behind your head.  Squeezing your abdominal muscles, lift your upper body until your lower back is about to come off the floor.  Hold for two to five counts and return to starting position.

These five exercise moves can be done whenever you have time.  The best thing about exercise is that its effects are cumulative.  Even five or ten minutes at a time will work to your advantage.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Taming Toddler Tantrums: Tips that Really Work

Young parents get scared when they hear stories about the “terrible twos”. Take courage, though, you will survive the toddler stage. It’s not easy to understand why your toddler has a tantrum but at such a young age, a child is consumed with thoughts of themselves. Everything is about them and how they feel. Until they are taught how to share, every toy or piece of food they see automatically belongs to them.

Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and ReasonToddler temper tantrums can have a variety of effects. Your first thought might be that everyone is focused on you and your screaming child, but getting embarrassed won’t diffuse the situation. Besides, as a parent, you have many more years of embarrassing situations to look forward to courtesy of your children. So worrying about what others think during this situation is simply going to stress you and make you feel worse.

Here are a few tips to help you cope during tantrums:

1. Don’t get angry.

When you scream and they scream the situation is wildly out of control. You’ll end up crying and your toddler will still be screaming. In any situation, raised voices mean civilized conversation has ended in favor of basic primal instincts. Don’t revert back to the days of early man. Keep using the same calm voice you use when they are behaving to get your child to calm down as well.

Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes2. Do NOT praise your toddler when they behave well!

Many people believe that positive reinforcement is better than negative, but this is not true. Praising desirable behaviour creates a child who only behaves well because they are seeking praise. In the absence of a parent or figure of authority such a child will have no reason to behave well. Instead encourage your child to understand how their behaviour affects others and to try to act with that in mind. It will take time, but eventually you will raise a child who has empathy and self-discipline.

3. Show your child how to deal with emotions

Toddlers need to "cause" us frustration so that they can learn from us how to deal with it. Try to remember this and model how you want your child to behave even when they are tired and emotional.

4. Apologise to your child

If you slip up and your behaviour is not what you'd want your child to emulate, apologise and admit your error. Hitting, swearing, and shouting are often bad habits picked up from parents. Never hit your child as this only teaches them that violence can be used to manipulate someone who is weaker; it is an awful thing to teach a child.

5. Rethink "No"

Toddlers have very little control over their lives; everything is organised for them by their parents. It's little wonder that they begin to feel frustrated and manipulated as they become increasingly aware of these things. It doesn't escape their notice that adults are not always bound by the same rules.

This doesn't mean we should totally abandon rules and restrictions for toddlers and live in anarchy. But often we parent on auto-pilot and say "No" because it is more convenient for us rather than preventing a true danger. When "No", "Don't", "Stop" is all you hear all day it leaves very little space for exploration and by the end of the day you, too, would feel like yelling "Well, what CAN I do then?"

Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves: Transforming parent-child relationships from reaction and struggle to freedom, power and joy6. Offer alternatives and redirections

"Don't" is also a difficult concept for a toddler to really grasp. It is the absense of an action. Sometimes they genuinely do not understand what you want them to do because you're not telling them.

Try phrasing your instructions in positives. "Stand still", "Come to me", "Lift your hands" might be alternatives for a child about to touch something they shouldn't. Likewise, "Draw on the paper instead of the wall" and "Play with soft toys inside the house; take the ball outside if you want to play ball" can diffuse these common situations.

You will survive the toddler years. Nip temper tantrums in the bud with the above tips.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What’s For Dinner? Menu Planning Tips for Busy Mums

Dinner is the last meal of the day and a time when families can get together and discuss their day. It is also a hectic meal for busy cooks who are just getting off of work or who have been busy with other activities all day. Here are some menu planning tips to help make dinner meals easy and even fun.

Fundamentals of Menu Planning1.         Schedule your meals a week in advance.

This is one of the most important planning tips for meals. Knowing what you are going to eat throughout the week means less chance that you will stop off at the closest fast food joint for a convenient, but unhealthy, meal. Decide during the previous week what the menu will be for the following week. Create your shopping list from the list of ingredients to avoid buying what you don’t need at the grocery store.

2.         Look for bargains.

Read advertising circulars and the like to decide where best to shop for your menu items. If one ingredient is a common denominator in many meals consider buying in bulk to save money. Common staples like milk, eggs, bread, and sugar can be bought in bulk as well. Some stores will have double or triple coupon days when you can save even more.

3.         Search online.

After a while your family will get tired of chicken and rice every Thursday. You can get into a menu rut sometimes. Use the Internet to search for new and exciting recipes. Learn to put a twist on old recipes for a new taste. You can often enter the ingredients you have available and find recipes to suit what is in your pantry.

4.         Have a leftover night.

After preparing meals for five or six days, there is bound to be some food left over. Designate one night to be leftover night and let everyone mix and match for dinner.

The Weekly Feeder : A Revolutionary Shopping, Cooking and Meal Planning System5.         Cook your meals in advance.

After deciding on a menu plan for the week go ahead and prepare as many meals as you can. Choose a day when the entire family can help like a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. Perhaps each person can take one meal and prepare it for the following week. Once everything has cooled store your meals in sealed containers or casserole dishes to be frozen until the night it is needed.

6.         Do preparation in advance.

Not all of the meals can be cooked at once. Some foods just taste better freshly prepared. For these, do as much preparation as you can in advance. Enlist your kids to help cut vegetables (give them the kitchen shears), dice cooked meat, and mix together dry ingredients. On the night of the meal all that is required is to add the remaining ingredients and finish the cooking.

Meal time doesn’t have to be all on one person. The entire family can help with dinner so it is a relaxing meal for everyone.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dinner with the Family: It’s More Important Than You Might Think

When was the last time you had dinner with your family? It is the meal we often skip because we work late, the kids have sporting events, or we get tired from daily activities. But skipping dinner with the family can be detrimental to the family dynamic.

Family dinners are more than just a meal. It is about the only time that families have to share time through the week. Whether you sit down to the dinner table or enjoy a meal on tray tables and a movie in the family room, the important thing is that you are together.

Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than PeersThere are some interesting facts surrounding family dinner time. For instance, teens who spend dinner time eating with their family are less likely to get involved in drug- or alcohol-abuse or other illicit activities. This is a point many parents will find interesting. Out of all of the things you do to try to keep your kids away from bad influences the one thing that is the greatest influence is still the event that we skip routinely.

Why is dinner so important? For one thing, it is a time to share thoughts and feelings. All day kids are influenced by teachers, friends, and the outside world. At the dinner table they get a chance to connect with their parents on tough issues like schoolwork, peer pressure, and friendships. They can each share and help one another with helpful suggestions. Parents can even talk about work or family finances over a meal.

Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves: Transforming parent-child relationships from reaction and struggle to freedom, power and joyThe main point is that conversation is taking place. The average parent spends less than an hour a week talking to their child. It takes a second to say “Hi” when you come in at night, but that isn’t effective communication. When dinner is shared by the family you spend a period of time chatting; even just observing their parents' conversation is good for children's developing communication skills and awareness of other people. Even watching a television programme can prompt engaging questions or an opportunity to share a related experience.

Young children learn how to communicate with their siblings and parents. They are the center of attention with questions about their day and it makes them feel happy. You know that kids always want to be in the limelight when they are a certain age and this helps them learn to share the spot with others.

The Gentle Art of Communicating with KidsBody image is important to teenagers. Learning to prepare and eat healthy meals with their families is a good habit to develop that will keep their bodies in shape and give them a healthy relationship with food and their bodies. Teens are less likely to become the victim of an eating disorder when they eat dinner with their families.

There are many benefits to eating dinner with the family. It is a time for meaningful communication that leads children to develop stronger self-images and an ability to resist destructive behaviors.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

How to Build Communication Bridges with Your Teen

Raising a child doesn’t come with a book of instructions.  If it did, the task would be much easier.  Facing the teenage years with your son or daughter is not something most parents look forward to.  This article will help you take the experience one day at a time and learn how to bridge the communication gap.

How to Get Your Teen to Listen: A Guidebook to Effective Communication and ParentingAs your child goes from toddler to youngster to tween to teenager, something in what you say gets lost in translation.  They can give you that blank stare as if the words that are coming out of your mouth sound like the unseen teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons.

It’s not easy to improve the communication bridges with a teen but it’s important to try to get through as these years and the choices they make now will have a vital impact on their future.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Watch your body language.

How you move says a lot about you.  When a person is tired, they tend to slump.  When angered, your jaw muscles tighten and your eyes narrow into slits.  Believe it or not, teenagers are good at interpreting body language.  Yours will betray you when you are talking to them.  Keep it open and honest.  Avoid sitting with your arms crossed, eyes looking away from them or squirming in your seat.

2. Make eye contact.

When you don’t look at the person you are talking to it says that you are either hiding something or you are not at all interested in what they have to say.  Your teenager will shut down emotionally when they suspect that you are not “tuned in” to them.  Sit comfortably and give your teen undivided attention with consistent eye contact.  It lets them know that you care.

3. Keep your emotions in check.

Remember back to when you were a teenager.  Some of the things you said to your parents were aimed at freaking them out.  Teenagers will push your buttons if they can.  Don’t go overboard and get upset.  Their target is the situations they know make you mad.  Instead, take a deep breath and ignore the taunt.  Do the opposite of what they expect because really, they want you to see through their ploy and find out the real problem.

Talk: Teen Art of Communication4. Ask them about their day.

This technique works with spouses also.  Even if your teen only grunts or says the obligatory, “It was okay,” ask anyway.  Your show of caring will go a long way to convince them that you are interested in the things that they do and how they feel.

5. Be honest with them.

If you don’t understand the situation they are talking about then say so.  Kids know when you are being insincere.  Discuss the situation until you get an idea of where they are coming from.  Your teen won’t mind explaining as long as they know you are listening.

Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers6. Allow them their privacy.

This one is tricky and since you know your child better than anyone else, you can draw the line.  Teens value their time alone.  While the policy in your home may be that there are no locks on the doors, always show respect by knocking before entering.  If they don’t want to be pressed about a situation in school, wait until they are ready (if it’s not urgent) and then talk about it.

Parenting a teenager takes a tough skin, a willingness to be vulnerable and lots of love.  You will make mistakes but whatever you do, don’t ever stop talking.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Easy Relaxation Tips for Busy Mums

Mum takes care of hearth and home, but who takes care of her?  If you are a busy mum, learn to value yourself as a person and schedule personal time.

Personal time is a right of being a person.  Each of us has the capacity to nurture others but that type of care takes its toll.

A car is filled with fuel to make it run.  Eventually the fuel runs out and your car won’t move unless the car is refuelled.  The same goes for you.  Emotional issues can develop when you don’t take the time to take care of your emotional well-being, not to mention the physical results of emotional neglect.

HoMedics WFL-ROC Envirascape Illuminated Rock Garden Relaxation FountainMum time refuels the tank so that you can give to your family as well as yourself in equal measure.  Don’t be ashamed to sit for fifteen minutes doing nothing.  In the springtime, relaxing in a hammock under a tree is the perfect getaway from the pressures of the day.  Reading a book for 30 minutes can also seem like heaven to many mums.

Here are a few tips to help you fit in much needed “mum” time:

1. Get up early if you have to.

When you have kids, the day begins at a hurried pace.  Once you hit the ground running, there is no stopping you.  Waking 30 minutes to an hour ahead of time means quiet solitude to drink your coffee, read a book, meditate or listen to music.

2. Turn ordinary experiences into major events.

When you take a bath, add candles, bubble bath, quiet music and/or an inflatable bath pillow.  Your regular bath has now become a spa level experience.  If you watch a movie, turn out the lights, pop a bag of microwave popcorn and curl up on the couch.

3. Ask your significant other for help.

Kids love their mothers but time spent with dad is important too.  Let them bond with dad while you go shopping for a new outfit or root around in the garden.  Since the time is yours, do whatever you like.

4. Use the Boy Scout motto.

Always be prepared and you can spend more time in a relaxed mode.  Fix lunches the night before.  Iron clothes for the next day and place backpacks by the front door so kids can grab them on their way out.  The fewer things you have to do throughout the day, the calmer you will be with your family and not experience burnout.

5. Take exercise breaks.

When you get a few minutes the last thing you want to do is exercise but getting a little physical activity in your day has far-reaching implications.  Exercise helps you to think clearly and stretches the muscles.  Also, stress will drain away as powerful endorphins are released into your system.  Do jumping jacks during a television commercial or jog to the bus stop to pick up the kids.

365 GREAT CLEAN JOKES (Perpetual Calendar)6. Laugh at regular intervals.

Keep a funny calendar cube on your desk or subscribe to a daily joke site.  Laughing releases stress and can lift your spirits significantly.  It also keeps the abs tight.

Mums, take care of yourselves.  Your family would miss you if you were not around to love and care for them.  You owe it to yourself and you deserve a break from the daily hustle and bustle.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How to Create a Family Budget

For singles, creating a budget is relatively easy. They tend to have a good handle on how much money they have coming in, and when tracking expenses, they only have their own to think about. But creating a family budget is a whole new ball game.

Most families have multiple sources of income. And when there are multiple spenders, that makes things much more confusing. This is one of the main reasons that families lack a formal budget. But having a budget and sticking to it can greatly improve a family's financial outlook.

Family Budget Workbook: Gaining Control of Your Personal FinancesMaking a family budget may be tricky, but it can be done. Here's how.

1. Take inventory of all income.

If a certain source of income fluctuates from month to month, use the lowest amount or average it out.

2. Keep track of all expenses for a month or so.

Keep all of your receipts, and ask all family members to turn theirs in to you each day.

3. Add up your monthly expenses.

Be sure to include bills, debt payments, groceries, and everyday expenses such as lunch money and transportation costs.

4. Trim the budget.

Get the family together and discuss ways you can trim the budget. Getting input from other family members will help you determine which expenses are necessary and which ones could be cut down or eliminated. Maybe you or your spouse could start taking lunch to work instead of eating out, or maybe the kids can drop an extracurricular activity.

5. Cut down expenses.

In addition to individual expenses, discuss how you can cut down on the electric bill, groceries and other necessary family expenses. Consider such things as carpooling or taking public transportation, buying more generic foods and adjusting the thermostat.

6. Cut unnecessary items.

Estimate how much you can save on regular expenses, and cut the completely unnecessary items out of the budget. Then refigure it and see where you stand.

7. Save.

If you end up with a surplus, allocate a portion of it to savings. If you're in the red, go back and rework the budget until you have more income than expenses.

The Budget Kit: The Common Cents Money Management Workbook8. Be Realistic.

One reason that family budgets often fail is because they're just not realistic. It's great to cut down on expenses, but sometimes we tend to go too far. For example, cutting entertainment out of the budget completely might look good on paper, but we all need a little diversion every now and then.

Instead of cutting such things out of the budget completely, consider finding ways to lower the cost. Going back to the entertainment example, maybe you've been going to dinner and a movie as a family twice a month. But eating in and renting a new release would be much cheaper, and you would still get to spend quality time together.

Individual expenses can also be tricky. This can be resolved by allocating a certain amount for each family member to spend each week. If someone spends his entire amount before the week is up, reevaluate his expenses and adjust if necessary.

Creating a family budget can help keep spending under control, leaving more money to pay off debts and save for future goals. But in order to succeed, close monitoring is essential. Your efforts will be rewarded, however, with less financial stress and more money in the long run.