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hot dogs chunks rolled in biscuit dough - Piggies 'n Blankets.

Super Favorite Bowl Snack - Piggies 'n Blankets

This inexpensive and fun party finger food is a favorite with our family. Okay, we know it's not healthy, but it is delicious and we only break them out for special party occasions like New Years and Super Bowl. Get the instructions here.

Easy and delicious football watching finger food - piggies 'n blankets.

Yellow school buses parked at a yellow curb.

How to be a high schooler and crush college costs

How to be a high schooler and crush college costs.

College is a monumental expense for parents and students alike. Who among us is prepared for paying out tens of thousands of dollars over a 4 or 5 year period. But as with any large expense, the more you and your child prepare, the more manageable the expense can be.

After helping five of our own kids and hundreds of others work toward a debt-free college experience, we’ve learned a few things that might help your family dodge the dastardly debt bullet and get a college education without a backpack full of loans.

The preparations don’t start with the months before our darling high school seniors pack their bags for the dorm room.

No, the moneysmart preparations should begin years before.

In this article, we’re focusing on what can be done in the high school years to trim college fees and prepare our youngsters minds and wallets for a higher education at a much lower cost.

Here are 5 things that work:

1) Double Dip in English Class  

This idea came from Ben Kaplan, author of the book, “How to go to College Almost for Free.” Help your high schooler unearth scholarships that require essays. As they write the essays, they can be submitted to their English teachers for extra credit . . . and editing. We don’t know any teacher who wouldn’t reward this type of initiative and your student could get expert editorial help at no cost. Our kids used this same strategy in college, often bringing essays into their professors a couple of days ahead of the deadline, and were rewarded with expert comments for refining their work—resulting in much higher grades.

2) Leadership Leads to Scholarship   

There are multitudes of scholarships and organizations that reward leadership. If your child is gifted in this area or wants to learn, encourage their involvement in things like Key Club, 4H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA Youth and Government, Congressional Award, Debate Clubs, Honor Societies, Student Government. Experiences of these types are invaluable from the aspect of learning organizational structure and planning, but they can also open the door to cash awards and other educational benefits. 

3) Community Service

According to a DoSomething.org survey of college admissions officers, more than 70 percent of them said that long term involvement in one or two causes was of great importance to them. They want to see well-rounded individuals who exhibit the ability to focus on school while being involved in an activity or outreach for which they have a passion. Considering volunteering at crisis nurseries; animal rescues; hospitals; soup kitchens; food banks; tutoring for low income families or any other service that benefits the under-privileged, marginalized or elderly. 

Learn more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-lublin/college-admissions-community-service_b_1123212.html   
http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2011/11/30/community-service-work-increasingly-important-for- Read More...

Gravesite headstone with a vase of fresh flowers on it.

Top Funeral Insurance Companies

In our continuing series for building financial security, we're presenting this guest post on the value of funeral insurance.

Funeral insurance is part of the process of protecting yourself from unexpected bills upon the death of a family member. There are many funeral insurance companies, and many of them are also offering life insurance policies. You may find that you can take out burial insurance alongside of life insurance, to make things more convenient when it comes time to pay. We will look at some of the top funeral insurance companies.

Midland National

Midland National opened its doors in 1906 and has been in continuous operation ever since. Its extensive history already tells you what you need to know about how they do business. What separates this company from the rest is they have adapted to the changing needs of policy holders, including becoming one of the first companies to begin offering funeral insurance.

Coping with a volatile history means this company can give you peace of mind that they aren’t going to disappear one day because of a financial meltdown. But be wary about some of their sales techniques. Only recently the company went through a major multimillion dollar lawsuit over false advertising on products sold to elderly policy holders.

Transamerica Life Insurance

Transamerica Life Insurance is undoubtedly the undisputed king of the flexible policy. You can take out a custom policy designed to suit you. Transamerica Life Insurance has long been famed for its competitive rates and fairness in dealing with customers.

The only disadvantage we could spot was with some of the provisions in the life insurance policy limit its flexibility. It’s easy to see that these could trip some people up. That’s why if you take out a policy with this company you should carefully inspect the terms and conditions of the contract. Overall, the customer service options are amongst the best. It’s easy to get in contact with a representative who will provide a solution to your problems.

Primerica

Colloquially known as Prime America, Primerica is a young player in the funeral insurance industry, after only opening its doors in 1977. There are a number of good things this company offers after teaming up with some of the biggest and best life and funeral insurance providers. They have over four million life insurance policies, and at least half as many funeral insurance policy holders. Alongside their policies, they provide people with the opportunity to invest their premiums in order to boost the amount they hold in any one policy. The company has a history of paying out claims within 2 weeks, and 90% of claims are accepted. This is an enormously high rate, and is why this company is particularly popular amongst middle class Americans.

Chandelier with red glitter hearts hanging from colored ribbons.

Getting the House Valentine Ready

Annette loves decorating our home for just about every holiday. This is a simple and terrific looking Valentine craft which you can do with your kids, grandkids or just by yourself. Get the details and materials list here.

Gray ceramic bowl full of brown eggs.

3 Ways to Save on Grade A and Grade B Eggs when Prices Skyrocket.

How to save money with Grade B eggs.

Eggs are a regular breakfast food in our house and millions of other across the country. But once again, just like in 2008 egg prices have hit new record highs - and this is putting a strain on the family food budget.

How can a family enjoy a breakfast favorite without breaking their budget?

We've discovered a few ways to save on eggs that you may not have considered.

Egg Lifespan Remember that eggs, properly refrigerated can last up to a month . . . sometimes up to 6 weeks. The USDA recommends that eggs be stored no longer than 5 weeks. We say, “Use your common sense,” and your nose. The only change we notice in older eggs is that the egg-white gets a little thinner. When using older eggs, break each one in a smaller bowl to confirm that it is still good, then pour it into a larger bowl. We do this rather than breaking it into a larger bowl containing other un-shelled eggs and potentially spoiling the entire bowl with one rotten egg . . . yes, we learned this from experience.

Strategy 1: Look for Grade A eggs that are close to the sell by date and ask the dairy manager if he’s allowed to mark them down. We’ve received a good response several times and seen steep discounts.

Strategy 2: Buy Grade A eggs in bulk and share with friends. Some stores sell a case of 5-dozen eggs and the price per dozen is about 20% less than a single dozen. If you don’t use 5 dozen eggs in a month, consider splitting the cost and the eggs with a neighbor.

Strategy 3: About 5 years ago we noticed that Kroger stores were selling eggs from broken dozens, and repackaging them in packages labeled “Grade B” eggs, and selling them at steep discounts. Really, Grade B eggs are just Grade A in different packaging with lower prices!

We’ve seen Grade B eggs priced anywhere from $.99 to $1.29 per dozen at the stores in our area. That alone is a huge savings with regular prices sometimes as high as $4 per dozen.

But the deal gets even better if you weigh a carton of Grade B eggs. Because the stores takes Grade A eggs from several different dozens and combines them into their own Grade B packages, the weight of each carton can vary greatly from one to the next. Out of the 10 dozen eggs we purchased here’s what they weighed:

  • 2 weighed as much as Medium Eggs (21+ oz)
  • 3 weighed as much as Large Eggs (24+ oz)
  • 5 weighed as much as Extra Large Eggs (27+ oz )

These are the USDA size and weight requirements for a dozen eggs:

  • Small: 18 oz (1.5 oz per egg)
  • Medium: 21 oz (1.75 oz per egg)
  • Large: 24 oz (2 oz per egg)
  • Extra-Large: 27 oz (about 2.25 oz per egg) Read More...

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