Meatless Monday! You don’t need to be a

Meatless Monday!

You don’t need to be a vegan to enjoy these delicious sandwiches! 4 servings

Ingredients:
2 15.5 ounce cans dark red kidney beans, drained and divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ medium-sized onion, diced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1½ teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
4 hamburger buns

Directions:
1. In a food processor, pulse half of the kidney beans.
2. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook until onion is translucent, about five minutes.
3. Add the chili powder, sugar, oregano and red pepper flakes (if using) to the pan and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
4. Stir in crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes, or until thickened.
6. Stir the mashed beans and the remaining whole beans into the tomato mixture. Heat thoroughly and serve mixture on the sandwich rolls. http://ow.ly/i/GSF8D

5 Ways Retailers Manipulate Your Spending

Don’t get taken for a ride! Learn how retailers are manipulating your spending.

  1. BOGO. You don’t even need one of these items – why buy two?
  2. Anchoring. A high-priced item always looks cheaper next to an even higher-priced one.
  3. Urgency. You don’t really need to buy it now to risk losing a great deal. It’ll still be here tomorrow.
  4. Decoy pricing. Upgrading to the next size when it’s just a dollar more than the medium sounds like a great idea – except that you didn’t want or need the medium.
  5. Day-one markdowns. How can it be a markdown if it’s only been retailing for one day?

Your Turn: Have you ever bought a marked-down item only to discover that it wasn’t such a great deal after all? Share your experience with us in the comments!

APP REVIEW: Attraction-Finding Apps

Are you ready to have a rocking summer? Check out our list of attraction-finding apps so you can hit every hotspot in your hometown, or near your vacation destination. Go beyond Google Maps this summer, and experience the time of your life! 

TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor is your ultimate guide to worldwide hotels, movie theaters, restaurants and a whole lot more. The app does more than just bring up nearby attractions; you can also look through millions of reviews, images and videos featuring establishments around the world. Pull up the contact details of any place that looks interesting, choose a restaurant by food type or price range and boost the app’s database by posting your own reviews and photos of places you visit.

Best features

If you’re using an iPhone X, you’ll have the added option of a TripAdvisor widget that sticks around on your phone’s lock screen. The widget will bring up attractions that are near your current location so you can see what’s nearby without much effort! 

Glaring glitches

Like many apps, TripAdvisor has a basic, free version and an enhanced one – for a price. Many users find the free version to be lacking in scope. 

AroundMe

AroundMe is the attraction-finding app you’ll want in your pocket this season. Use this free app to search for a wide range of local spots, including the popular establishments, like restaurants and coffee shops, and the less-searched-for places, like hospitals and pharmacies. If you’re looking for it, they’ve got it! 

Tap the category you’re looking for and the app will bring up a list of local places that match your choice. You’ll also be shown where these locations can be found on a map. If you choose one of these options, the app will pull up details for you, including a phone number, street address, reviews and opening hours. Another tap will bring you to the business’s Google Details page. 

Best Features 

You can take your search up a level by tapping on the eye icon toward the top of the app’s screen and then holding up your iPhone or iPad 2. You’ll be shown a virtual view of the location of nearby attractions. This is super-helpful if you want to check out exactly how far you are from each place. 

Glaring Glitches

Critics of the app complain about the banner ads that can block up to 25% of the screen. Since the app is designed for use on the road, the ads are especially intrusive. There is an option to upgrade to an ad-free version, but it’ll cost you $2.99 a month. For that price, you can find something even more user-friendly in the AppStore. 

Foursquare

Though strictly a social networking app, Foursquare is an excellent way to search local hotspots. With more than 3 billion users, the free app can help you find the fun hangouts in town by pulling up all places near your location that are posted about and reviewed by the most Foursquare users. You’ll be able to look up loads of pics for a visual feel of the place and read reviews from other visitors. 

Best Features

Foursquare’s enormous community of users gives it access to more data than most similar apps. Since the app recommends attractions based on users reviews, you won’t be in for an unpleasant surprise when you pull up at an attraction. 

Glaring Glitches

Foursquare shines at social networking. However, you won’t find a map view, a GPS navigation tool or an extensive menu to search through. 

How they stack up 

App                                   Virtual View                  Images & Videos          Intrusive Ads         

TripAdvisor

No

Yes

No

AroundMe

Yes

No

Yes

Foursquare

No

Yes

No

Your Turn: What’s your favorite attraction-finding app? Tell us all about it in the comments!

Book Review: The Financial Diet

Are you always looking for a way to gain control over your finances without slogging through a long and tedious book that speaks a language you don’t understand?

Book Review branded graphic

If this sounds like you, The Financial Diet might be just what you need. The recently released personal finance book was created for people who don’t really speak “money talk” but know they need to do something about their money habits. You might be desperate to rein in your spending habits, looking for a way to crawl out from under a mountain of debt, or maybe you’re searching for tips to make your paycheck last until the end of the month. Whatever your situation and needs may be, you’ll find the answers inside The Financial Diet.

The Financial Diet

Written with people like you in mind, the book pulls no punches. It’s just straight, clear talk about the ABCs of personal finance. Author and popular blogger Chelsea Fagan has hunted down dozens of experts in all areas of money management and she’s ready to pass on the wisdom she’s found to you. Chelsea gets that personal finance is not just about investing and saving.  It touches every area of your life.

It affects the choices you make about what to eat for dinner, what kind of clothing you wear, and which model car you drive. The book covers a huge range of personal finance topics so that you can take control of every aspect of your life.

Inside The Financial Diet, you’ll find:

  • Tips on running a budget-friendly kitchen
  • How to broach sticky money topics with friends and family
  • The basics of creating and sticking to a budget
  • How to run your home responsibly
  • Investing for the clueless beginner
  • How to get that raise you’ve been after for years

And so much more!

If you’re the scholarly type who loves losing yourself in a thick tome that explores complicated money topics of all kinds, you may not like this easy-to-read book. But if you’re looking for a refreshing read that is packed with clear and simple advice on personal finance basics and beyond, you’ll love The Financial Diet.

You don’t have to take our word for it, though. Pick up a copy and start your own financial diet today!

Your Turn: Do you enjoy personal finance books written in simple, everyday language or do you like a more sophisticated tone? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Prenuptial Agreement

While most of us wouldn’t want to busy ourselves with the technicalities of financial planning during the blissful engagement period, as unromantic as it may seem, many engaged couples think it’s a smart thing to do. In addition to protecting assets in the event of a divorce or death, prenups can also help maintain marital harmony by clarifying financial topics that can otherwise become a source of conflict. Thinking of signing a prenuptial agreement? Here is a list of answers to some questions you might have.

couple signing papers

Q: So … what’s a prenuptial agreement?

A: A prenuptial agreement, otherwise known as a “prenup” or “premarital agreement,” is just a fancy term for a written, legal agreement signed by two individuals before marriage covering the financial aspects of their union. It aims to protect each spouse’s individual financial assets in case of a death or breakup and/or to clarify each person’s rights and responsibilities toward their assets during the marriage itself.

Q: Why would I be a candidate for a prenuptial agreement?

A: Prenups are especially beneficial for individuals entering second or subsequent marriages, those engaged to someone bringing excessive debt into the relationship and individuals who have a lot of assets. But you don’t have to fit into one of those categories; you may choose a prenup if you think it’s just a good idea to clarify some of the financial obligations and responsibilities of each partner during the marriage, or in case of a death or breakup.

Q: OK, what are the benefits of a prenuptial agreement?

A: Here are a few of the reasons people sign prenups:

  • Without a prenup, state law will dictate the direction of your assets when there is a death or divorce. Premarital agreements can help protect your assets from the state’s involvement.
  • If you have children and grandchildren from a previous marriage, premarital agreements can protect their inheritance and allow your property, which might otherwise go to your spouse, to be passed on to your children.
  • A prenup can protect a personal business, whose shares would otherwise be divided in the event of a divorce.
  • The agreement can protect one spouse from taking on the debts of another.
  • A prenup can limit the amount of alimony or support that one partner would be obligated to pay another in the event of a divorce.
  • Prenups can also clarify the financial rights and responsibilities of each spouse during the marriage, thereby avoiding future conflict.

Q: So, are there any drawbacks to prenups?

A: Here are some potential disadvantages to be aware of:        

  • The spouse whose support is limited as a result of the premarital agreement is naturally at a disadvantage once the subject of divorce is on the table.
  • While under the law, you would be entitled to a portion of the estate of even a deceased spouse, a premarital agreement can block that.
  • One spouse can lose the rights to a share in a business, even if during the marriage he or she invested time and effort in it and contributed to its growth.
  • Stepping into a marriage with a contract that sets forth the specifics of what will happen upon divorce might not be in the best interest of a healthy relationship.
  • It is difficult—and perhaps even unrealistic—to envision exactly how financial issues should be handled in the distant future.
  • The idealistic and romantic stage of engagement, in which death or divorce are far-flung possibilities, may not be conducive to making judgments that are in your best interest.

Q: If I want to pursue a prenup, what are the next steps?

A: You may want to follow some of these guidelines:        

  1. Though it’s not strictly necessary, it’s advisable to write out a premarital agreement together with your future spouse. Before getting started, disclose your assets to each other.
  2. Topics         that you may want to cover in the written agreement can include: any future business visions or plans for pursuing a higher education; provisions for the extended family; how property and finances as well as increases or decreases in income will be handled and managed during the marriage; a plan for dividing or distributing property—such as homes, a business, liquid property and other assets— in the event of a divorce or death; and whether and how much alimony or spousal support will be awarded.
  3. Once the document is written, it should be signed by both parties. It’s always a good idea to consult with a lawyer before the final paper is signed.

Q: What is not within the legal limits of a prenuptial agreement?

A: Wording that details illegal behavior or encourages divorce can invalidate what is written on the document. Child custody rights and the welfare of children are also beyond the limits of this agreement. Some states may also prohibit the waiver of alimony or support. A prenup is a legal document on financial matters; avoid tackling domestic issues such as who will take the kids to school, who will wash the dishes after dinner and who will feed the cat.

Q: I think I get it. Is there anything else I should do to I ensure that the prenup will stand up in court?

A: To ensure the prenup is legally binding, it should:        

  1. Identify the two parties by their full, legal names. Assert that they are both entering into the agreement of their own accord.        
  2. State that the parties, though not currently married, intend to marry. Record the day the document will go into effect.
  3. The document must contain truthful information and have reasonable stipulations.
  4. That’s it, you’re just about done!

A premarital agreement need not destroy your premarital bliss. In fact, securing your financial future can help clarify marital-related financial issues that might otherwise become thorny.

Wishing you a secure financial future and congratulations on your engagement!

Your Turn: Do you have experience with establishing a prenuptial agreement? What advice might you have for others who are considering one?

7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Making A Large Purchase

You’re convinced: You really want that Coach handbag. Or maybe you just know that gigantic entertainment center will transform your weekends. So you swipe your card and the dream item becomes yours. You’re thrilled! 

That is, until a few weeks later when the credit card bill comes, and buyer’s remorse hits. You can’t help wondering: Was it really worth the price? 

couple couch buying

Don’t get sucked in again! Before you say “yes” to a large purchase, ask yourself these 7 questions: 

1. Do I have cash to pay for this item? 

This question will help you determine if you can really afford the purchase. You need to have liquid funds that can cover the cost of your item. Putting it on credit means you’ll be hiking up the price once interest is tacked on, and you’ll be reminded of a possibly regrettable purchase for a long time to come. 

2. Is this the best price? 

When making a large purchase, it’s important to comparison-shop by checking several online listings and some brick-and-mortar shops as well. Visit coupon sites like CouponCabin.com for automatic savings. Also find out the best season for buying this particular item and wait for a sale if it makes sense to do so. Finally, consider purchasing a previously owned item for less.  

3. How many hours of work will you need to do in order to pay for this purchase? 

Calculate the total number of hours you’ll need to work to pay for this “must-have” item. Is it really worth the price? 

4. How else can I spend this money? 

Think about the money you’re about to spend on this single item. What else can that money buy? A few weeks’ worth of groceries? A year’s worth of monthly dinners out? Take some time to think of other ways you can spend this money before making a final decision. 

5. Have you splurged recently? 

If you can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with an occasional pricey indulgence. But, when luxury purchases become a habit, it can spell disaster for your finances. If you picked up a designer handbag just last week, you may be best off waiting a bit before buying the one that’s caught your eye today. 

6. How often will I use this item? 

Yes, it seems essential today, but looking ahead, how often do you think you’ll really use this item? If you can see yourself only using this purchase a few times a year, you may want to re-think your decision. 

7. How much will this money be worth if I put it into savings? 

You have the funds for this purchase, but how much would that money earn if you saved it? Check out this investment calculator to get that magic number. The results might leave you pleasantly surprised. 

Here at True North, we have several long-term savings accounts that can help your money grow. Give us a call (907) 523-4700 or stop by, and we’ll help you choose one that’s perfect for you! 

Your Turn: What’s your number one question before making a large purchase? Share it with us in the comments!

Creating A Family Budget

When you sit down and actually record where your money goes, there are always surprises. More money may be going to food and other expenses than you think. There may be areas in which you can easily cut corners that you won’t see until it’s in writing. Rather than sitting down and deciding how much of your income should go to expenses such as food, clothes, entertainment, savings, etc., keep track of where the money is actually going. Using a simple pad of paper, write down everything that you and the other members of your family spend money on every day. Do it for a full month.

family budget puzzle pieces

After a month of tracking all expenses, add up the total expenses of each category. You can decide how specific you want to get. Standard expense items are:

  • Housing (rent or mortgage)
  • Utilities
  • Telephone
  • Medical and Dental Insurance
  • Auto expenses
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Housewares
  • Personal care
  • Child care or adult care
  • Education
  • Savings
  • Debt repayment
  • Entertainment
  • Gifts
  • Contributions
  • Miscellaneous

With the numbers in front of you, you can create a spending plan. If you feel you are allocating too much toward one category and not enough toward others, see what you can do to change that. Continue keeping records until you feel the situation is exactly the way you’d like it to be.

Q&A: Helping A Parent Financially

Q: Okay, this is a very painful question. My dad lost his job and has absolutely no income. With the holidays coming in a few months, we’d all like to give him gifts, but we know he can’t reciprocate. Knowing my dad, he’d prefer we don’t give him anything. He’s also too proud to accept financial help from any of us. What do I do?

QandA generic

A: That is painful. Having been the provider for his children for so many years and possibly even helping you out as an adult, seeing the tables suddenly turned can be extremely difficult. It’s commendable that you are approaching the situation with sensitivity and concern.

You have several options. The simplest is to call your dad, wish him a merry Christmas over the phone and not go over with any gifts. But think of how lonely and sad a holiday without his family might be. You don’t mention a mom, but if your mom is in the picture, she may not share your dad’s pride, and may be hurt that you didn’t come by.

Another idea is to send dad a pre-holiday gift card to either a department store, a discount store like Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer or the mall. This gives him the opportunity to buy gifts for everyone, and pretend it’s a holiday season like all the years past. If your dad would feel uncomfortable getting this type of gift from you, consider sending it by mail, with no return address, and a note (don’t hand-write it yourself) saying it’s from a “secret holiday helper.” This can be exciting for him, too, as he tries to think which of his buddies or neighbors could possibly think so highly of him.

Of course, you can always sit face-to-face with your dad, look him in the eye and say, “Dad, I know things are tough right now. We’d still like to celebrate the holidays with you. What do you think would be the best way to do that?”

That puts the ball in dad’s court and lets him have some input too. But you need to know if your dad will appreciate that; not everyone would.

Whatever you do, don’t let external concerns sap your holiday joy. See to it that you, and your entire family, come away from the season with happy memories.

Don’t Drink Your Wallet Dry!

It’s hot out, so make sure you’re drinking up!  

You probably already know water is the best beverage choice for your health and for your money. But did you know bottled water may be costing you a fortune? 

It’s true: Many people pay exorbitant amounts of money for bottled water without even realizing how inflated the price is. 

So, let’s take a look at the costs of bottled water when compared to ordinary tap water. 

water strawberries and blueberries

For 1,000 gallons of tap water, it will cost you approximately $11. With that amount of water, you could fill 7,570 bottles of water at 16.9 fluid ounces each, with each bottle costing you just $0.0014! 

Assuming you drink three 20-oz bottles of water a day, you’ll need 1,095 bottles a year. If you’d fill those bottles with tap water, you’ll only pay $1.53 a year! 

There are many ways to get sweet-tasting water without busting your budget. Here are some options to consider: 

DIY chilling 

Love the taste and convenience of bottled water? Save big by buying your bottles in packs of 24 and refrigerating them at home instead of buying them cold on the go.  Instead of $1 a bottle, you’ll pay just $0.16. 

Water coolers 

Water coolers cost an average of $170 and can help you fill all your water needs at home. After springing for the machine, you’ll only be paying for refills. 

A 5-gallon refill of spring water will run you approximately $7. Order multiple bottles at once, and you can get discounts as steep as $5 a bottle. With each gallon filling 7.5 water bottles, you’re getting more than 37 bottles worth of bottled water for the price of one purchased bottle! 

Pitcher filters 

These contraptions snap right onto your pitcher of water and filter it on the spot. You can also purchase a pitcher with the filter already attached. Either way, you’ll have your bottled water needs met with just a one-time purchase averaging $20. 

The downside here is the minimal amount of water a pitcher filter can purify in one shot. 

Water treatment system 

Having an indoor water treatment system installed in your faucet will give you access to unlimited amounts of filtered water. These filters average $250 to $400, but usually work with only one faucet. Some companies will install a purified water tap alongside your existing faucet instead of filtering it. 

Take the tap challenge! 

Tap water is definitely the cheapest way to drink up. If it’s a safe option in your area, try drinking only tap water for a month. It may just become a lifelong habit! 

Here are some ways to make tap water more palatable: 

  • Slice some citrus fruits and let them float in your pitcher.
  • Invest in a SodaStream to add some sparkle to your glass.
  • Freeze pureed blueberries and strawberries and use them as ice cubes.

Drink wisely this summer and save big! 

Your Turn: How do you hydrate? Share your own cost-effective water sources with us in the comments!

APP REVIEW: IBOTTA

How would you like to get money, just for shopping at stores you already frequent? That’s the promise of Ibotta, a new rebate app available for iPhone and Android. The program connects manufacturers, retailers and consumers together to promote savings.

The process couldn’t be easier. Install the app from the device-appropriate app store and it’s ready to use. The startup process lets you choose retailers you shop at regularly. You can browse by store or by product for rebates.

Free iBotta app on iTunes

The rebates don’t come for nothing. You need to unlock them by completing an activity. These include answering a survey question, watching an advertisement or sharing something on Facebook.

After you unlock the rebates, you buy the product at the retailer you’ve selected. When you get home, you use your smartphone camera to scan the bar codes on your purchases. Ibotta confirms your product. Then, use your camera to scan the receipt. In a few days, Ibotta sends the rebates to your PayPal account.

The app has other social components. You can connect with friends to form savings teams. You can earn achievements which come with extra rewards.

The money isn’t much. Year-long app users who plan their purchases around rebates have reported earning $100. There are also some privacy concerns. The app links to your social media profiles to activate some rebates. It also uses your location to suggest stores you may want to visit. The app sends push notifications by default – and that can be somewhat annoying.

The range of products is limited. The most common items are prepackaged food items and bottled drinks. It would be difficult to find your entire grocery list on the app.

Still, if you don’t mind investing the time in checking for goods on rebate and verifying receipts, you can save a little money. Ibotta is an intuitive, easy-to-use program with a constantly expanding list of retailers and products. Give it a try if you’re looking to save a little green.