Friday, November 19, 2010


Can you believe its that time of year once again? The holidays are approaching quickly and that means holiday shopping. And since buying gifts online has become much preferred over crowded malls, seems this is the perfect time for some reminders on how to safely shop online. So, as you curl up next to your laptop with a cup of hot chocolate and your credit cards, here are some simple, but very important, tips to keep in mind:
  • Be sure you are shopping on an encrypted site. How would you know? One clue is by looking at the web browser's address bar. If the page begins with "http" then you are not. Make sure the page you are on begins with "https". That little "s" indicates the site uses Secure Sockets Layer protocol which simply means it is encrypted, thus safe.
  • Check for online reviews. You can use Google, but don't forget the Better Business Bureau website, as well.
  • Many sites will have a Trustmark like BBB or VeriSign. These can easily be loaded on a site, so click on the logo in order to verify they are legit and current.
  • Beware of using your laptop in un-secured locations. That cute little cafĂ© may seem like a relaxing place to do your online shopping, but make sure their wi-fi is secure.
And, here are a few more tips provided by the FBI website. If anybody knows what to watch out for, its these guys:
  • Use caution when dealing with companies and individuals from outside your own country.
  • Purchase items online using your credit card, rather than a debit card. That way if something does go wrong, you can dispute the charge.
  • Be cautious when responding to special offers through unsolicited email.
  • If you are suspicious, obtain a physical address, rather than post office box, and a telephone number. Call the seller to see if the phone number is correct and working.
  • Send an email to the seller to make sure the email address is active.
For the most part, shopping online with your credit card is safe. But, as with anything else, use common sense and proceed with caution. And, no matter how much due diligence you follow, bad things sometimes happen. So be sure to check your monthly statements to ensure all charges are in fact yours. If there is something you do not recognize or know is not yours, contact your bank immediately. This means you should always keep a list of your credit cards, credit card numbers and toll-free numbers in case your card is lost, stolen or compromised in any way. And this should go without mentioning, but be sure to hide this list in a very safe place.
With these little tidbits of advice, you are ready to shop, right? Well, as long as you have done this one last, but most important task. Set a budget. Make sure you know what you can spend and when you’ve reached that limit. The last thing you need is a monster credit card bill landing in your mailbox come January.
Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Has this happened to you? You're walking out of the store, pushing a grocery cart and completely baffled. You try to piece together what exactly happened. Is my receipt correct? How could I have spent that much money? You take another glance at your shopping cart. I've got two bags of groceries, a bag of dog food and hardly anything now left in my checking account. Where did my money go?

With this economy, many of us have lost jobs, taken pay cuts or taken jobs for less money. Unfortunately, basic necessities like groceries, gas, electricity, housing and even toilet paper are getting more expensive. I used to not think twice about some of my purchases. But now I think three and four times before placing some items in my cart. I find myself asking if I really need that or do I really need that now? Can I fix the old one or replace it with a cheaper one? These are questions I consider before walking up to the register anymore.

When budgeting money, being able to honestly distinguish between your needs and wants becomes very important. For example, its easy to see how food, gas, housing and toilet paper are needs. But, your cell phone - is that a need or a want? Cable television - is that a need or a want? You may think you need those items, but unless you need your cell phone for work, those are wants. Sure, we all want a new car, new clothes, new phones, but being able to honestly assess those items is crucial to staying within your budget. And, even for those items that you really, really want, create a budget for your purchase. Sometimes if you have to wait a couple months to purchase something it loses its excitement. If you've lived without it for this long, you'll most likely survive another couple months without it. And, if you saved and budgeted for that special new thing, you'll appreciate it even more as you head to the register.

In the meantime, back to one of my biggest budget breakers, the grocery store. Here are some easy tips that have helped me keep at least that part of my budget in check:
  • Plan meals. Its really that simple. By choosing five healthy meals for the week you'll know exactly what you need to buy. And, for those other two days in the week, you've got leftovers. You might even have lunch. Once you know what you need, often you find you already have most of those ingredients. Don't forget to check your cupboards when planning meals. You might already have the makings for a couple meals.
  • Bring a list. If you've followed my advice on planning meals, you'll know exactly what needs to be on your list. And don't deviate from this list. Get exactly what you need and get out as quickly as possible. There is a direct correlation between the amount of time in the store and the amount of items piled in your cart... at least in my case.
  • Consider generic. For some basic staples like canned or frozen goods, cereals and pastas, give generic a try. Often you'll find the generic versions to be just as good.
  • Never shop while hungry. Only if you've recently arrived from another planet would you have not heard this. I only repeat it because it is so true and one of the easiest ways to escape the budget-busting impulse buys
Budgeting doesn't have to be a painful, time-consuming annoyance. Simply take a look at the money coming in and what's going out. Honestly assess your needs and wants. And then create your budget, being sure to pay your bills and yourself before aimlessly tossing that "want" in your shopping cart.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


We are all taught the importance of setting goals and focusing on our dreams. We hear this, we get it and many of us even start the process. However, it's the follow through where we are often left feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. One way to successfully set and reach goals is to break this daunting task into several smaller steps. In our DVD, Goal Setting: Define & Achieve Your Dream Life, we do just that. Olympic medal winner, Shannon Miller, takes viewers through a six step process, easing you through the obstacles of this sometimes complicated path. If you're ready to make some changes in your life, start by taking yourself through these six basic steps:

Step 1 - Focus Your Dreams - Close your eyes and imagine your most perfect life. Where are you? Where do you live? Where do you work? What do you do in your spare time? Create a mental picture of your ideal location and day. Start a journal and write it all down. Be specific. Keep this journal as you continue through each step.

Step 2 - Get Informed - Learn what you don't know. Get on the internet, take classes, attend seminars, read books and talk to others who have the life you dream of. You need to become an expert in all aspects of where you want your life to go.

Step 3 - Expect Success - Practice being confident. Sometimes one of the biggest obstacles in achieving goals is your own ego. Confidence and a positive attitude can keep you motivated and focused. Visualize your success. It also helps to dress the part and surround yourself with others who are successful.

Step 4 - Review Your Goals - As you learn more about your goals and yourself, its time to revise and adjust your path. Is this really where you want to go? Is your dream life still your dream life? Allow yourself to change and refine your goals. Study your goals and write out a detailed step-by-step to-do list. Next to each step place a completion date. It's motivating to watch your list evolve into an actual timeline.

Step 5 - Gather Support - Seek out positive role models. These could be a family member, teacher, a friend, someone from your community or someone you've met while researching your goals. And if you need financial support, identify those sources, as well. If at all possible, avoid borrowing from family and friends. Your financial supporters should be a partner or bank.

Step 6 - Prioritize Your Dreams - Once again, take time to review your to-do list and the completion dates. Prioritize this timeline and schedule specific times during the day that you will work on this to-do list. It helps to keep this list with you or in a visible place.

Each of these steps is really a short term goal bringing you closer to your long term goal. Be sure to reward yourself as you complete each step. Its a perfect way to stay motivated. As encouraged in Step 1, keep a journal along the way tracking both your accomplishments and the obstacles you've overcome. Achieving your goals is certainly not easy, but by following these six steps you'll ensure you are always moving toward your dream life.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

LANDING THE JOB: The Interview

Interviewing for a job, whether your first job or further along in your career, is an intimidating, nerve-wrenching task. However, it is also your best opportunity to impress potential employers and show them you are the best candidate. Here are some simple rules to follow before, during and even after the interview that will give you an advantage to landing the job.

I.  Before The Interview
  • Learn as much as you can about the company. Find out who they are, what they do, where they are located, how long they've been in business and the position you are interviewing for. This not only shows the potential employer your interest in the company, but also prepares you to answer the interviewer's questions.
  • Be sure to bathe and use deodorant - you'd be surprised how many people skip this step. Avoid heavy perfumes and colognes. Be sure your fingernails are clean and your hair is combed. Brush your teeth and bring some mints if you are a smoker. Please don't chew gum or wear flashy jewelry. Your clothes should be clean and ironed. And, if you can, cover up your tattoos.
  • Be sure to know exactly where you are going and how long it will take to get there. Bring a map and the company's phone number, just in case.
  • You'll find most interviewers have a list of standard questions. Common interview questions include: Tell me about yourself. What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? Why do you want this job? What makes you the best candidate? Why should I hire you? Always prepare your answers ahead of time and practice giving your answers out loud.
  • Be sure to bring extra copies of your resume, a list of your own questions for the interviewer and a good attitude
II.  During The Interview
  • Arrive early, but no more than 15 minutes early. And, go alone - do not bring your mom or dad or your best friend.
  • Upon introductions, always make eye contact and give a firm handshake. Even if you start feeling nervous, keep that positive attitude. Its said that your qualifications get you the interview, but its your attitude and personality that will get you the job.
  • Listen carefully to each question and take time to think about your answers. Keep your answers brief, but be sure to cover the necessary information. Try to give specific examples of your skills and accomplishments.
  • Speak positively about yourself, but don't brag
  • Always talk positively about others. Never bad mouth anyone, particularly past jobs or employers. And, although this seems obvious, do not under any circumstances swear or cuss during an interview. Bad idea.
  • Remember to ask your own questions. This shows you are interested in the position and will also help you decide if this is a place you would like to work. Always keep in mind that this needs to be a good opportunity for you, as well as the employer.
  • As the interview comes to a close, ask when you can expect to hear from them and always, always say thank you.
III.  After The Interview
  • Evaluate how you did. Would you answer any questions differently? Was there anything you forgot to mention? Also be sure to give yourself credit for the things you feel went well.
  • Send a thank you note the day after the interview. Address the note directly to the interviewer, thanking him or her for their time. This will reinforce your interest in the position and keep your name fresh in their mind.
  • If you don't hear back, follow up with a phone call. Be polite and specific.
Preparing ahead of time for your interview is time well spent and if you follow these tips and advice, you will find a job. It may take awhile, it may not be the job you thought it would be, but stay positive and know it will happen. For more on what you've just read, check out our DVD Landing The Job: The Interview, an entertaining, documentary style program on surviving the job interview.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Self-esteem is the way in which we view ourselves and our own self worth. Those who suffer from low self-esteem tend to take fewer risks, focus on their flaws, be pessimistic and form unhealthy relationships. Having good self-esteem gives you the confidence you need to overcome all that and deal with the obstacles of everyday life. With confidence and a positive outlook, it’s easier to deal with change and pick yourself up when you do make a mistake. Good self-esteem also leads to healthier relationships, as well as success in school and in the workplace. So here are nine simple steps to follow if your self-esteem could use a boost:

1. Decide to Improve – change must come from within
No big surprise here - the first step begins with you. Like any obstacle you are trying to overcome, the first step is to realize you want to improve your situation and then make the decision to start today.

2. Make a list of things you are good at
Make a list of all the things you have achieved and the things you enjoy doing. Once you take a look at that list, you'll probably start feeling better already. You might be amazed at the talents and achievements you may have forgotten or not even realized. Give yourself some well-deserved credit.

3. Accept compliments – think more positively about yourself
Most of us tend to shy away from or brush off compliments. How many of you have responded to a compliment by then saying something negative about yourself? It’s time to accept those compliments for what they are, stand proudly and say, “thank you.”

4. Build positive relationships
When suffering from low self-esteem, the last thing you need is to surround yourself with negative, self-destructive or unhappy people. Even after you walk away from them, you carry their burdens and negativity away with you. Now, reflect on how you feel after spending time with healthy, positive people. You'll discover these positive relationships make you feel happy, confident and full of life.

5. Clarify values – determine what’s important to you
Here’s your moment of reflection. Take some time to really think about your priorities. What makes you happy? What gives your life meaning? What would you like to accomplish? This could take some time, but be sure to honestly work through this exercise. It's best to write down your thoughts and start a journal.

6. Take action, make change
This could be considered one of the most difficult steps. Here’s where you have to get up off the couch and start making a difference. You’ve decided to make a change and you’ve set your priorities, now its time for the follow-through. Say "thank you" to compliments, say “no” to those negative influences in your life and "yes" to the positive ones. Make a phone call, sign up for a class or contact that person who can put you on the path towards achieving what makes you happy and gives your life meaning. And, once you take action, you’ll be amazed at what that does to your self-esteem.

7. Set goals – make them specific
You hear this all the time. Successful people set goals. So, why are so many of us lax in doing this? Well, many of us set goals, but they are too generic or too big or maybe we don’t give ourselves a realistic time frame. Next thing you know, our goals become a sort of wish list that ends up in a drawer...forgotten. But, now that you are focused on making some changes, try this again. This time make the goals very specific and give yourself a realistic time frame. Set smaller goals that help you work your way towards the bigger goal. Put your goals in a place where you will see them everyday and be reminded of where you’re headed.

8. Create a portfolio of your accomplishments
In Step 5, I mentioned starting a journal. Keeping track of your goals, talents, desires, hopes and dreams, as well as your accomplishments will help build your self-esteem. Once you accomplish one goal, you will have the confidence to accomplish the next goal. Sometimes seeing on paper what we’ve achieved helps it to really sink in. As you add to your portfolio and reflect on what you’ve done, your self-esteem will continue to improve. You’ll have written evidence of your successes, the obstacles you’ve overcome, the values you’ve upheld and a clear path to where you want to go next. That's got to make you feel good about yourself, right?

9. Accept yourself, like who you are
This is most important. If you don’t like yourself, do you really expect anyone else to like you? Once you accept yourself for who you are, others will too. Be that person who is positive, healthy, fun, and lives true to their values. People enjoy spending time with someone who exhibits these qualities – someone with good self-esteem.

For more on Building Self-Esteem, check out our DVD of the same title. You'll follow two young people as they work through each of the nine steps, building their own self-esteem along the way.