Six Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

If you are thinking about the holidays right now and frowning, smooth your face, square your shoulders and take a cleansing breath. A little positive thinking can go a long way in helping you to enjoy the holidays this year instead of agonizing over all the little details. These 6 tips for a stress-free holiday season will start you off on the right foot.

1. Plan ahead. Print out return address labels for cards (I’m really doing it this year – bad hand cramping), update your address book, make room in your front hall closet for guest coats instead of piling them on a bed like usual, and prepare guest rooms ahead of time. Tackling a few of these tasks before you get really busy can make a world of difference.

2. Rethink your gift giving. Cut down on the mad shopping rush and stress of finding exactly what everyone wants this year – consider giving experiences instead of material gifts, and maybe even implement The Four Gift Rule. My extreme-gift-giving mom is actually trying it this year. Thanks, Mom!

3. Keep things simple with food and décor. Stick to your favourite recipes instead of trying something complicated and new, and a simple homemade centrepiece is all you need on your table. Please don’t belittle yourself for not having matching napkins and candleholders! Focus more on the family and friends you are gathering with rather than stressing over too many fussy preparations.

4. Have a few extra gifts on hand. A small stash of thoughtfully wrapped gifts is perfect for unannounced friends or last-minute invites. Choose items that have universal appeal and can be used by you and your family if they are still around come January. Think locally-made condiments, soy candles, handmade chocolates, wine and preserves.

5. Be choosy when it comes to events. This can be tough for social butterflies (my husband) and people who have trouble saying no (me). Only accept invitations to gatherings that are pertinent to the holiday and meaningful to your family. When planning your own event, keep it small and intimate with just a few close friends and relatives. We used to have a big Christmas open house but after a few years, we realized it was too chaotic as we spent most of our time greeting and seeing friends out, refilling glasses and snack bowls, and making sure little ones didn’t trash our house (even if they were adorable). Choose to host big parties at a different time of the year, when there is less going on and you are not so taxed.

6. Live in the now. As you trim the tree or make cookies with your kids, don’t forget to pause and really live in the moment. Don’t worry about what’s still on your to-do list (there’s always something), because before you know it the holiday will be over and you’ll be disappointed that you didn’t make the most of it. Also, carve out some time to do something just for you – take a walk, read your book, have a hot bath – it will go a long way in helping you to keep your sanity during the holidays.

Find Loan Companies Near to You

It can happen to anyone, however good you are budgeting. You are getting close to payday and, suddenly, out of the blue, the car breaks down, the heating packs up, or you faced with another type of emergency expense that you just weren’t expecting.

The traditional way for people to deal with this situation was to look through the newspaper or phone directory to find the nearest loan company that would provide a short-term, small loan, but searching for the nearest local loan company severely restricts your choices and it often means that you will need to stand in line at a local loan store, which can be very embarrassing.

Fortunately, the internet has made finding loan providers much easier, but it can be very time-consuming and frustrating making inquiries at lots of different web sites and you also need to be aware that every enquiry you make could trigger a credit check, which could adversely affect your credit rating.

There are, however, free services available on the internet that many people are not aware of that make the search for a loan Company much easier.

These websites partner with a network of lenders, so they give you more choice than just going direct to a single loan company. You just simply complete an online application form with a few details about your earnings and employment and then the system will try to match your requirements with one or more of their lenders.

Leaders in these networks may do credit checks, but they don’t usually use the big credit agencies, so the check won’t affect your credit rating. They are usually a lot more flexible than the major banks are about things like lending to people who have less than perfect credit ratings.

Of course, as with all credit arrangements, you need to make sure that you read the terms and conditions properly and that you fully understand when the loan needs to be repaid and how much interest and charges will be levied, but you do get the opportunity to do that before you agree to accept the loan.

You also need to be aware that short-term loans, or payday loans as they are sometimes called, are only meant to be used to tide you over to your next pay-check. If you try to use them for long-term finance, or you keep rolling them over, they can get very expensive.

So, if you do need cash fast for an emergency bill, don’t panic, take your time, and look around for the best deal. You don’t have to go running straight to the nearest loan shop in your town, you can do a bit of research for free on the internet, in the privacy of your own home.

So long as you use them for the purpose they are intended, and you pay them back on time, short-term small loans are and affordable way to see you through a cash crisis. Just be sure to read the terms and conditions of any loan before you take it out.

Protect Yourself Against, and Mitigate Damages From, Identity Theft

We’ve all heard of it. But we all think that we’re invincible to it. Identity Theft!

What is it? It refers to the preparatory stage of acquiring and collecting someone else’s personal information for criminal purposes.

Identity theft techniques can range from unsophisticated, such as dumpster diving and mail theft, to more elaborate schemes.

If your identity is stolen, do you have a plan in place to mitigate the damages? If not, you should at least bookmark this, just in case you need it in the future.

Identity thieves are looking for the following information:
• full name
• date of birth
• Social Insurance Numbers
• full address
• mother’s maiden name
• username and password for online services
• driver’s license number
• personal identification numbers (PIN)
• credit card information (numbers, expiry dates and the last three digits printed on the signature panel)
• bank account numbers
• signature
• passport number

There are things that you can do to protect yourself from identity theft, and there are steps that you can take to minimize the damage and help bring the thief to justice.

Here are 5 things that you can do right now to protect yourself:
1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put ‘PHOTO ID REQUIRED.’
2. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the ‘For’ line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your cheque as it passes through all the cheque processing channels won’t have access to it.
3. Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your SIN printed on your checks. (DUH!) You can add it if it is necessary. But if you have It printed, anyone can get it.
4. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place.
5. When you travel abroad, carry a photocopy of your passport. We’ve all heard horror stories about fraud that’s committed on us in stealing a Name, address, Social Insurance number, credit cards, etc…

If your identity does get stolen, what kind of things can you expect to have happen?

Here are just some of what they can do:
1. Access your bank accounts
2. Open new bank accounts
3. Transfer bank balances
4. Apply for loans, credit cards
5. Make purchases
6. Buy cell phone packages
7. Credit line approved by retail stores
8. Access your driving record, and change your information online

If you are a victim, here’s some critical information to act on immediately:
1. Cancel your credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them. This is why we photocopy them (see above). Call your local bank/financial institution as well.
2. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).
But here’s what is perhaps most important of all:
3. Call the nationwide credit reporting companies immediately. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your name and credit report. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

Here are the numbers for two national credit bureaus:
1.) Equifax: 1-800-465-7166
2.) TransUnion Canada: 1-877-525-3823
3. Order free copies of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies.

Have you even been a victim of identify theft? Tell us your story and maybe others can learn from what you did, or didn’t do.

Multitasking High Cost

In today’s busy world, multitasking is so common that juggling multiple tasks and responsibilities might seem like the best way to get a lot done. While multitasking, what we are really doing is quickly shifting our focus from one thing to the next. Switching from one task to another makes it difficult to avoid distractions and can cause mental blocks that can slow us down, thereby reducing our efficiency.

It has been found that when chronic multitaskers focus on just single task, their brains are less effective and efficient. But, on the other hand, the evidence suggests that if they stop multitasking, they will be able to perform better.

Experts also suggest that the negative impact of chronic, heavy multitasking might be the most detrimental to young minds. At this age, in particular, brains of teens are busy forming important neural connections.

High Cost of Multitasking -

When we multitask, our attention is expended on the act of switching gears from one task to other and, as a result, we never get into the zone for any of the tasks, affecting our performance. Multitasking affects performance in the followings ways:

It Slows One Down – Contrary to the common belief that multitasking saves time, actually it slows us down making us spend more time on an activity because we are jumping back and forth on different activities. Every task requires a particular approach. Once we get into a groove for an activity, we can do it fast and better.

One Makes Mistakes – Experts estimate that multitasking can cause as much as 40% loss in productivity. It has been found that the human brain can handle two complicated tasks without too much difficulty because it has two lobes that can divide responsibility equally between the two. However, adding another task can overwhelm the frontal cortex and increase the number of mistakes one makes.

It Stresses One Out – Multitasking keeps us perpetually in “high alert” mode, which sooner or later can stress us out and cause some stress-related problems.

It Makes One Miss Out – People, who are busy doing two or more things at once, don’t see the obvious things in front of them. For example, while talking on cell phone, we miss noticing an acquaintance passing by us. This is termed inattentional blindness because even though the cell-phone talkers are looking at their surroundings, none of it is actually registering in their brains.

It Makes One Miss Important Details – One is likely to miss important details while doing one or more things at once. It happens more so with older people. Researchers say that as the brain ages, it has a harder time getting back on track after even a brief detour.

It Can Make One Overeat – Being distracted during mealtime can prevent brain from fully processing what one has eaten. This can result in overeating. Even people who eat alone should refrain from turning on the television while eating.

It Can Dampen Creativity – Multitasking uses up most of working memory. So it can take away from our ability to think creatively because so much is already going on in head.

It Can Be Dangerous – Driving when texting or talking on a cell phone, even with a hands-free device, is as dangerous as driving drunken. Even that doesn’t stop people from doing it.

It Can Hurt Relationships – Using a cell phone during a personal conversation can give rise to friction and distrust between partners. Do your relationship a favor by paying your partner some exclusive attention.

Conclusion -

We all multitask at times but it has become a common trend amongst many, especially children and youngsters. In fact, we do it at a high cost because researchers have found that it can cause brain damage resulting in cognitive impairment and a decline in IQ. Moreover, multitasking has been found to slacken our emotional control. In this context, it is all the more important that children and youngsters should avoid multitasking as their young brains are growing.