College Tuition Savings Challenge

The $6,000 College Tuition Savings Challenge

The specter of college tuition has been breathing down my neck for several years now. I, like many parents, spent my daughter’s high school years living in dread that she would get into her dream school, but that financial aid would fall short of what we could actually afford. If you are also looking down the tunnel at a potentially sizable college tuition, this challenge is for you.

In April, my daughter did get into her dream college. Fortunately, the financial package was very generous. College tuition might not be the massive financial hit I feared after all.

The College Tuition Situation

Starting in September, my daughter will be attending a school whose ticket price for tuition, room, board, and fees is north of 70K. I know that sounds crazy-town. But after the school’s hefty scholarship offer, my daughter’s reasonable student loans, and some grandparent contributions, the  out of pocket cost to my ex-wife and I is only about $18,000.

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6 Steps You Must Take Before You Make Hotel Reservations

The 6 Steps You Must Take Before Making Hotel Reservations

When you are planing a trip, whether long-term or short, you will often need to make hotel reservations. On the surface, this seems like a straightforward task. However, a number of factors will determine whether you return home congratulating yourself on a hotel well-chosen, or lamenting your misguided decision.

These 6 steps will make or break your hotel reservation process:

1. Determine Whether a Hotel is Right for Your Trip

The very first step is determining whether you want to make hotel reservations at all. In this day and age, there are a wide variety of options for overnight accommodations other than hotels. At the outset of your trip planning process, you should consider these alternate possibilities:

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How to Keep a Gratitude Journal

How To Keep a Gratitude Journal

When you are working toward long-term goals, it can be difficult to maintain focus on the positive.  If optimism does not come naturally to you, it’s easy to emphasize the obstacles and stumbling blocks rather than the progress you are making toward your goal. In order to keep your motivation high, it is crucial to acknowledge the wins. And the best way to ensure that you notice the good things in your life is to write them down. Keeping a gratitude journal has helped prevent us from missing all we have to be grateful for and kept our eye on the prize of our long-term dream.

Why Keep a Gratitude Journal

We keep a gratitude journal just because it feels good and it reminds us to be thankful. As it turns out, a number of scientific studies have shown concrete benefits of gratitude journaling. In 2015, Psychology Today published an article citing several scientific studies about gratitude which have shown, among other things, that gratitude improves physical and psychological health, improves empathy, and actually leads to better sleep. Last year, an article in Time Magazine added the benefits of patience, better relationships, and willpower to that list. Researchers at NIH have found the direct neurological causes for these outcomes. Gratitude increases activity in the hypothalamus (hormone levels and eating and sleeping control) and the brain’s use of dopamine.

So why not just think happy thoughts? There is value to translating your thoughts into whole language. In other words, simply thinking grateful thoughts is not as powerful as writing them down. Additionally, research indicates that using handwriting to record gratitude (vs. speaking or typing) is a  more effective way to reap the full physical and emotional benefits.

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5 Best Poker Movies of All Time

5 Best Poker Movies of All Time

Poker movies just don’t get it right most of the time. Poker is a fascinating game filled with great real life characters. Doyle Brunson, Stu Unger, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Scotty Nguyen and Daniel Negreanu to name just a few. What’s even more amazing is that most small stakes poker rooms are filled with more of the same. Complex, interesting characters that can’t possibly be real. Only they are.

Despite such a rich landscape, there are precious few good poker movies.  Sports like boxing, basketball, and baseball have produced a stunning number of good films. But poker seems to be resistant to the movie genre. There may be more good chess films than quality poker movies.  There are a few nuggets out there, and we hope the recent release of Molly’s Game brings renewed interest, but it won’t take you very long to work your way through the entire poker oevre.  We think these five movies are the best out there. And we’ll be watching and re-watching them until we can live our own poker travel dream.

5. Big Hand for a Little Lady

Big Hand for a Little Lady portrays the Western archetypal spin on poker with a side of comedy.  The iconic American journey of a couple and their son moving west to buy a farm (of course) near San Antonio is interrupted by a poker game in Laredo (where else?).  Meredith (Henry Fonda) is a recovering gambling addict who wanders into a, you guessed it, saloon. He extracts permission from virtuous wife Mary (Joanne Woodward) to watch a high stakes poker game. You can probably guess where it goes from there.  Meredith enters the game, ends up putting the entire family fortune at risk. Then there is a big hand….and the “little lady” takes over when Meredith suffers a sudden attack.

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Leftovers

Throwdown Thursday: Leftovers Dilemma

I hate leftovers.

There, I said it. I don’t care how good the gelatinous mess in the refrigerator tasted when we had it for dinner two nights ago. In my opinion it now belongs in the trash. I know that’s a terrible, awful, financially suspect opinion. But it’s just how I feel.  Paul disagrees. Just today I had to force him to throw out a Tupperware containing steak from a meal last week. He was planning to eat it for lunch.

Paul: Man, I could just get old school with “There are starving children in Africa, Heather! And you are throwing out perfectly good food! Such financial folly! Go to your room, but eat these old beets first!” But that is too paternal and not the role-playing dynamic I want in our relationship. So I’ll just stick with: throwing out perfectly good food is sacrilege and flies against all that is just and right with the world. You will fry in eternal damnation if you toss that petite sirloin in the trash before it turns into a true bio-hazard.

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