Mulch and All it’s Goodness

30 08 2010

Summer can totally drain everyone’s pockets when it comes to watering the garden.  Here at Rolist Financial Group, we are always looking for ways to trim our expenses and that’s when we turned to mulch.  Yes.  Mulch.

Some people are not aware of the many benefits in which mulch has to offer.  And just to name a few, mulch provides the following in areas of plant health and savings in your pocket:

  • Shades and Cools Soil.  Roots do better under moist, cool conditions.  These conditions are ensured by a good layer of mulch since sunlight warms the soil.  Plants will maintain a healthy life and you won’t spend money having to replace any dead ones.
  • Adds Organic Matter and Nutrients to Soil.  Organic soil treatments and mixes are relatively affordable ($15).  However, large gardening spaces require larger quantities of these products, which hit our pockets harder.  A layer of good soil topped with mulch guarantees these nutrients will be absorbed into the ground.
  • Water Retention.  Talk about instant savings!  Mulch helps the soil retain its water, therefore keeping the soil wet longer.  The less you have to water, the less you’ll pull the hose out.  (See our Fix It Tip below regarding rain barrels)
  • Reduces Weed Growth.  Mulch helps weeds from growing underneath.  Weeds cannot compete with a heavy bed of mulch over the ground.  Prices of weed killers range from $5 (small spray bottle) to $52.  Keep in mind most of these products are filled with chemicals.  Mulch compared to the weed control products is all-natural.

Where to find mulch:

  • Garden Centers.
  • Parks Department.  Check your local Parks Department.  If your park recycles Christmas Trees, chances are you can get mulch from your park for free(!).  New York City hosts “Mulchfest” in January.  The program is designed to get NYers to recycle their trees.  In turn, the Parks Department allows you to take a bag of mulch.  In addition to dropping trees off at a Mulchfest site, NYC Sanitation collects trees and uses the mulch throughout our City’s parks.

Fix It Tip.  Stop paying for that hose water.  Rain Barrels save precious money by collecting rain water to serve as your garden watering system.  Learn more about rain barrels here.

Fixed It Friday: 08-27-10

27 08 2010

Let’s all give another round of applause for Amelia.  As we recall, last month, Amelia emailed us her money-saving tips for our Friday’s edition of Fixed It Fridays.

Amelia is making extraordinary progress cutting back utility expenses.  She had this to say:

“I am cancelling wireless home networking, at least temporarily.  This is an $8 charge per month I don’t need.  I plugged the laptop directly into the modem.”

And when it came down to eliminating trips to the vending machine at work, she told us this:

“I’m estimating I’m saving $375 a year. About $7.75 every week I work in savings.”

And it doesn’t end, she is finding more creative ways to trim the monthly expenses!  And the best part, she is enjoying this newfound money! 

Way to go Amelia!  You are on the road towards Fixing your financial future!  Keep up the good work!!!

Fix It Tip.  Saving 10% of disposable income a year may not sound like much, but where else would you get that high of a return on your current investments?  Maybe you haven’t received a raise this year, think of your saving ability as a 10% raise!

We want to hear from you.  Email us your ”Fixed It Fridays” story.  Visit our Contact Page for submissions.

Military Spouses Receive Fellowships to Conduct Financial Counseling

25 08 2010

Courtesy of Business Wire

August 23, 2010 01:06 PM Eastern Daylight Time 

FINRA Foundation Program Gives Spouses Training and Portable Job Skills, Helps Military Families Overcome Financial Challenges

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nearly 200 military spouses throughout the U.S. and overseas have been awarded the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s 2010 Military Spouse Fellowship. The fellowship gives spouses the training they need to earn the Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) designation, which gives them marketable job skills and provides them with the knowledge and tools they need to help military families overcome financial challenges.

“Education and training are critical to finding employment”

The program, which began in 2006, is administered in partnership with the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education® (AFCPE®) and the National Military Family Association (NMFA). The fellowship covers the costs associated with completing the AFC® training and testing.

The 184 military spouses who received the fellowship were selected from more than 1,300 applicants and will immediately join a corps of nearly 800 U.S. military spouses worldwide who provide military families with important financial counseling services—including budgeting and credit management, retirement planning and financial planning in advance of PCS moves and deployments.

“Education and training are critical to finding employment,” said John Gannon, president of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. “The Military Spouse Fellowship program helps spouses develop portable, professional careers they can take wherever they go. Moreover, because these spouses understand military families’ specific situations—including struggles with debt and retirement planning—they can provide unique support and solutions.”

Recipients of the Military Spouse Fellowship must commit to completing the courses of study and volunteering in the financial counseling field serving the military community for up to two years. Gordon Genovese, executive director of AFCPE®, noted that, “while the Military Spouse Fellowship program is demanding, we’ve designed the coursework and volunteer practicum to meet the needs of our military spouses, particularly those living abroad, by including instructional webinars, self-scheduled exams and flexible volunteer opportunities.” To date, spouse fellows have logged more than 210,000 hours assisting the military community.

Of the 2010 fellowship class, 37 percent are Army spouses, 21 percent are Navy spouses, 28 percent are Air Force spouses and 14 percent are Marine Corps spouses. This year’s class includes 20 spouses who live abroad.

Current accredited spouses serve as financial counselors at family readiness and support centers, credit counseling and tax centers, financial aid offices and local military credit unions throughout the U.S. and abroad. These organizations, located in and around installations, are often in need of specialists who are not only well-trained, but who understand military families’ unique financial needs.

“Frequent PCS moves and deployments lead to a distinctive set of challenges that can disrupt the day-to-day lives of military families, including a spouse’s career path,” said Joyce Wessel Raezer, executive director of NMFA. “The Military Spouse Fellowship program provides spouses with the flexibility to meet the demands of the military lifestyle while building a successful and rewarding career.”

The program is open to spouses of active-duty or retired Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Army or Air National Guard or reserve component servicemembers, as well as to spouses of U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration professionals.

A list of the 2010 class of spouse fellows is available upon request. Full biographies of selected accredited spouse fellows are available at

About the FINRA Investor Education Foundation

The FINRA Investor Education Foundation is the largest foundation in the United States dedicated to investor education. Its mission is to provide investors with high-quality, easily accessible information and tools to better understand the markets and the basic principles of saving and investing. In 2006, the Foundation launched a multifaceted program to expand the saving and investing knowledge of military servicemembers and their spouses, including a free, unbiased resource, A proud partner in the Department of Defense Financial Readiness Campaign, the Foundation also presents financial education forums at military installations worldwide.

About AFCPE®

The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education® (AFCPE®) provides professional development experiences for financial educators, practitioners and researchers to improve the economic well-being of individuals and families worldwide. The Association’s vision is to be internationally recognized as the leading provider of professional development opportunities. Visit for more information.

About NMFA

Military families serve our country with pride, honor and quiet dedication. The National Military Family Association is the leading nonprofit organization committed to strengthening and protecting the families of the men and women currently serving, retired, wounded or fallen. We provide families of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and Commissioned Corps of the USPHS and NOAA with information, work to get them the benefits they deserve and offer programs that improve their lives. Our 40 years of service and accomplishments have made us a trusted resource for military families and the Nation’s leaders. Visit for more information.

Can I Pay for Emergencies?

24 08 2010

With the turn of the economy, many Americans right now are wondering if they have enough money each month to pay for their expenses.  To dissect this thought even further, many are wondering how long it is before exhausting disposable income (personal income minus personal taxes – a/k/a take home pay) to pay their monthly expenses.  Fortunately there is a calculation that does just that.

The Basic Liquidity Ratio calculates how many months you will have available to pay for your monthly expenses.  A high ratio is desirable because it indicates the number of months you will have before disposable income runs out.

Basic Liquidity Ratio = Monetary (liquid) Assets / Monthly Expenses

Example – Henry and Jackie’s monthly take-home pay is $4,420 and their monthly expenses total $5,399. 

$4,420   $5,399  =  0.82

Based on the answer, this couple has just under one month to pay their monthly expenses.  They will end up with a deficit (loss) each month because their expenses ($5,399) exceed disposable income ($4,420).

We cannot stress enough the importance of having an Emergency Fund.  Henry and Jackie’s expenses might be hefty this month because of unexpected emergency medical expenses.  However, if they had simply implemented an emergency fund with at least three to six months of expenses, they would be able to pay the bills this month without having to tap into their savings.  Or even worse, taking on consumer debt because of their lack of funds.

Fix It Tip.  Always ensure your income exceeds expenses.

Get to Know your Food Pantry

6 08 2010

When you spend less, your savings grows.  And what better way to curb excessive spending  at the grocery store is to actually use items in your own pantry cabinet!  Let’s explore the depths of our pantry and use those canned goods, boxed meals and cake mixes that are hidden on the pantry’s bottom shelf. 

Without further ado, let’s jump into our pantries:

  • Organize.  We suggest organizing your pantry and cupboards once a month.  When your pantry is cluttered it makes finding specific items impossible.  In addition to not finding items, a cluttered pantry leads to avoidance.  When you avoid noticing the items you have, you are going to spend money on items you “think” you don’t have.  We’ve all heard the saying, “out of sight, out of mind”.  Taking frequent stock of your food will stop those frequent purchases.
  • Eliminate Duplicates.  Organizing your pantry and taking stock of your food will avoid accidental duplicate purchases.  There are instances when it would not be a huge deal, but you should consider the spoiling factor.  Not only do you need to use/eat the duplicate item, but also use/eat the original item.  Another problem would be purchasing a duplicate item which is not often used, leaving you with two.
  • Consolidate.  A great way of taking stock would be to consolidate the half-used items and half-empty packages.  Free up your space so you know exactly when you need to restock.  This could eliminate a premature purchase or two.
  • Eat Out of Your Pantry.  For those that went over budget grocery shopping, you will definitely want to use the food you have on hand.  This also applies for those that hadn’t gone over budget, but need to use up their fully stocked pantry.
  • Meal Planning.  Calling all clever minds to join forces.  This is where creativity kicks in!  We’ve discussed the importance of organizing.  After you take note of the food you have on hand, you should plan meals around your stockpile.  You might just have enough food on hand to eliminate a trip grocery shopping!  A simple and favorite meal of ours is rice and beans!  Or pasta with sauce.

Above is a photo of our pantry recently organized.  You will notice our use of baskets and, of course, glass jars.  I find using these containers helpful for tossing smaller items inside them (condiment jars, cake mixes, snacks, etc.) which makes it easy to pull the entire basket from the shelf to counter.

I group like items together.  Dog food is on the left, followed by vegetable and olive oils, condiments, snack items and beverages.  The shelf directly below houses pasta sauces and tomatoes, pasta, teas and coffee, canned/boxed foods, followed by baking items.

We want to hear from you, drop us a comment.  What meals have you planned around your pantry stockpile?

Read Your Junk Mail

5 08 2010

Well, we can honestly say we were surprised here!  Often times people tear up and toss junk mail (and speaking of tearing, everyone should invest in a paper shredder*) without ever reading it (we’re guilty).  Well, today in the mail we received a postcard from our cable company offering a complimentary movie (score!).  Always make sure to read the fine print and if there is any uncertainty regarding the terms and conditions, customer service is only a phone call away.

*Paper shredders are relatively inexpensive and we recommend it as one of the most important steps to eliminate identity theft.  This protects your personal information and safeguards your credit from any dumpster divers.

Home-Grown Savings

2 08 2010

What better way to save some dough than to grow your own produce and herbs!  The savings might not be astronomical, but there are some savings to be had.  Just this month we were awarded three grape tomatoes from our tomato plant with definitely more to come! 

In addition to planting vegetables and fruits, herbs are also a popular choice.  I find herbs are the easiest to grow because they do not require the same amount of attention (watering and garden space) that vegetable and fruit plants do.  Herb seedlings are fairly inexpensive at garden centers and floral shops.  Also inexpensive are seed packets (they average $0.59-$2.00).  Grocery stores sell small amounts of herb sprigs for $1.25-$3.00.  If you notice you are using the same fresh herbs often, we suggest buying one seedling for the price of one small package of herb sprigs at the grocery store (or go the seed pack route).

For the renters out there, we sympathize with your lack of garden space.  But don’t fret, many people have succeeded in “urban” gardening.  Container planting works!  In fact, we grow basil, oregano and parsley in a flower-pot which is conveniently located on our kitchen window-sill.  If you are looking to preserve your harvest, basil leaves freeze well for up to six months in a ziploc bag.  This definitely will help safeguard your abundance.  A variety of other herbs can be dried out and/or frozen as well.

Red White Blue Tip  –  Don’t forget to use your military discount if you are deciding to purchase plants or seeds at the Home Depot.

Fix It Tip:  You don’t have to purchase fancy products and gardening books.  The library has plenty of books geared towards gardening.

Fix It Tip:  Home Depot’s Garden Club offers discounts to club members.  As always, membership is free(!) and you can score great deals on plants and seeds.

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