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7 Ways to Cut Your Holiday Expenses PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Steve Burke   
Monday, 03 November 2014 14:35

By Jason Alderman

When it comes to holiday spending, waiting in store lines all night and jostling for discounts will mean very little if you don't have a budget that shapes your finances year-round. With the average U.S. household spending $600-$700 in 2014 for the holidays, putting that money together shouldn't be a game of chance. Here are some tips to get it right:

1. Before you make a list, plan. How's your debt? Do you have an emergency fund or any savings put aside? Start the holiday season by getting a handle on what you owe and what you're spending day-to-day. Then plan a holiday budget (www.practicalmoneyskills.com/YourHolidayBudget) as early as possible that allows you to spend wisely.

2. See what spending is really necessary. It's tough to cut young kids off a gift list, so turn to the adults. If your finances are limited, it's worth asking adult friends and family members if they'd consider a gift swap or forego gifts altogether. They might actually think it's a good idea.

3. Attack your everyday expenses. Want to afford the holidays? Consider evaluating some expensive habits. Try reducing the amount you are spending on expensive nights out. Cook at home and bring your lunch to work. Use public transportation. Compare and cut your auto and home insurance premiums. Turn down the thermostat, dump magazine subscriptions, gym memberships and any other budget item you're not using. You'll find that savings build quickly.

4. Browse before you buy. Assuming you've made a tight gift list, create a gift budget (www.practicalmoneyskills.com/YourGiftLog) tracking precisely what you're willing to pay for every item. For must-have, non-negotiable gifts, you may have to pounce before Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday and Monday for both price and selection. Also, don't forget to budget for holiday entertainment www.practicalmoneyskills.com/EntertainmentPlanner). It's a potentially huge cost. Plan ahead and don't waver.

5. Create your own Holiday Club. Online savings and money market accounts can allow you to set aside your holiday budget in small amounts throughout the year and they'll pay better rates than the last few banks offering Holiday Club savings accounts.

6. Watch gas and shipping. Smart shoppers weigh the value of store trips versus online shopping. They also keep an eagle eye for advertised online and shipping discounts. Sign up for special deals and coupons, consolidate in-person trips to stores and make sure you review return policies at online and bricks-and-mortar stores before you buy. Paying return fees or missing a window to return a gift entirely can cost big money.

7. Keep good records. Whether you track your finances on paper or on a computer, develop a system that allows you to match your holiday list to what you spend every year. Good recordkeeping not only allows you to track the numbers, but also prevents you from duplicating gifts or overspending year to year. And it's always a good idea to keep a list of what you get from others to make sure you're thanking people appropriately.

Finally, consider whether it's worth making new holiday traditions that go beyond gift giving. Some families consider contributing throughout the year to a joint vacation or reunion fund to bring everyone together. You might also consider the needs of aging or needy relatives who need assistance with chores, transportation or pet care. The holidays are what you make them.

 
Transgender Film and Panel Discussion PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Unitarian Universalists   
Monday, 03 November 2014 14:32

no dumb questions will be shown at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities (UUCQC) at 7:00 pm on Friday, November 7, 2014. This documentary film will educate and spark dialogue about transgendered identity, human acceptance and love.

Uncle Bill is becoming a woman and his 6, 9 and 11 year old nieces are struggling to understand why and how. With just weeks until Uncle Bill’s first visit as Aunt Barbara, the sisters navigate the complex territories of anatomy, sexuality, personality, gender and fashion. Their reactions are funny, touching and distinctly different. The film offers a fresh perspective on a complex situation from a family that insists there are no dumb questions.

The film runs 25 minutes and will be followed by a panel discussion.

This free event is sponsored by the UUCQC Social Justice team as part of the congregation’s First Friday film series.

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities

3707 Eastern Avenue, Davenport
Phone 563-359-0816
Website http://www.uucqc.org/

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Thomas Edison’s Dirty Little Secret – A ‘Bride of Chucky’ Doll PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 31 October 2014 15:32
Why great ideas are not always great opportunities
By: Neal Thornberry, Ph.D.

Like other authors who write about innovation, I love Thomas Edison stories. He was an inventive genius and found the code to serial innovation more than 120 years ago. That code is still in use by companies like IDEO who’ve learned his lessons and both improved upon them and added to them. But the basic core is still the same.

Less well known is Edison’s entrepreneurial side.  He put financiers, government officials, politicians and inventors like himself together in an inspired coalition that built the first electrical grid in New York City. After all, what good is a lightbulb if you don’t have a source of electricity to power it?

But his inventions were not always successful, nor were his attempts to market and sell them.

For example, very few people know about Edison’s talking doll. I think she looks like the “Bride of Chucky” and is more than a little spooky. Talking, animated objects are commonplace today, but Edison was the first to have the idea and execute it.

What gave her voice was a tiny version of the phonograph – another of his inventions. He thought it would be novel to make a talking doll and hoped it would catch on. The doll market was already thriving, so a talking doll could potentially reach the top of the heap.

But not all of Edison’s creativity turned into cash, and his Bride of Chucky was a dismal failure. The little talking machine went inside the doll with the handle protruding from her back. Edison produced 2,500 of the dolls but only 500 sold. They were $10 each -- two weeks of the average pay back in 1890 – and many of those sold were returned for quality problems.

Edison quickly turned his back on her.

I particularly like this story because it shows the critical difference between innovation and entrepreneurship. Great ideas are not always great opportunities. Opportunities possess five characteristics that differentiate them from great ideas:

Durability – They keep creating value over time.

Sustainability – The organization has the willpower, manpower and resources to sustain the idea through failure, rethinking and reformulation.

Defensibility – The potential return on investment makes it worth the time, resources and risk that accompany all new ventures, thus making it worth doing this over doing something else.

It creates value – It creates value for the person willing to reach into their pockets for money to pay for the intangible form and thus it creates value for the company.

It is compelling – The Innovation is differentiated in some critical way that makes a customer segment just have to have it.

Entrepreneurs differ substantially from innovators because they have the discipline to determine whether a great idea is also a great opportunity.  This takes a lot of work, failure, rethinking and, most of all, passion to get you through all of this vetting. Many innovators lose interest after the idea stage and don’t understand that innovation without value creation may be fun – but it’s also folly.

Edison, like many other inventors, fell in love with his baby and he built a bunch of them, assuming a slam dunk in the market. In fact, these dolls were not just spooky looking, they were big and heavy and cost a lot of money.

Edison’s enthusiasm for his ability to make a talking doll was not counterbalanced by the discipline necessary to determine whether the idea was just that or a real opportunity.  He was so eager to produce them that he didn’t ask if the market wanted such an invention and at what price.

I am sure that Edison was OK with failure, as he once said that he had not failed in his efforts to create the lightbulb, but rather found a thousand ways that didn’t work.

About Neal Thornberry, Ph.D.

Neal Thornberry, Ph.D., is the founder and CEO of IMSTRAT, LLC a consulting firm that specializes in helping private and public sector organizations develop innovation strategies. A respected thought leader in innovation, Thornberry is a highly sought-after international speaker and consultant. He  also serves as the faculty director for innovation initiatives at the Center for Executive Education at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. Thornberry, author of “InnovationJudo:Disarming Roadblocks & Blockheads on the Path to Creativity” (www.NealThornberry.com), holds a doctorate in organizational psychology and specializes in innovation, corporate entrepreneurship, leadership and organizational transformation.

 
Statement by Governor Pat Quinn on the Passing of Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Katie Hickey   
Friday, 31 October 2014 14:24
CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today issued  the following statement regarding Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino:

“We mourn the loss today of a giant among our nation’s Mayors, Tom Menino.

“As Boston’s longest-serving Mayor, Tom transformed the skyline and waterfront, turned an aging city into a green community and was a tireless advocate for affordable housing and education. As co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, he became a national voice on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. This son of a factory worker fostered innovation Downtown while growing healthy neighborhoods.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Angela, their children and grandchildren and the people of Boston.”

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Simon presents $10,000 Verizon donation for domestic violence prevention PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ken Lowe   
Wednesday, 29 October 2014 13:04

Verizon HopeLine cell phone drive helps domestic violence survivors

CHICAGO — Oct. 28, 2014. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon brought her office’s fourth annual Domestic Violence Awareness Month cell phone drive to a successful conclusion with the presentation of two $5,000 donations from Verizon’s HopeLine program to the Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois and Chicago-based Connections for Abused Women and their Children.

“Organizations like these help survivors to protect their families and themselves as they get back on their feet after abusive relationships,” Simon said. “Each year, Domestic Violence Awareness Month is about educating ourselves about domestic violence. I hope this has called some attention to the issue, and I know that the Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois, and Connections for Abused Women and their Children will use this money to help those who most need it.”

Collected phones will be donated to Verizon’s HopeLine program. Phones will be refurbished and sold, with the proceeds going to support local domestic violence shelters and programs. The program also provides domestic violence agencies with wireless phones and airtime for use by domestic violence victims. If a phone can’t be refurbished, it will be recycled in an environmentally sound way.

“Verizon is dedicated to supporting organizations like Connections and the Violence Prevention Center,” said Mike McMahon, director of business sales, Verizon Wireless. “We applaud their important contribution to our community to help victims and raise awareness of the pervasive problem of domestic violence.”

Based in Belleville, the Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois provides shelter and other services to domestic violence survivors in St. Clair, Monroe and Randolph Counties. The donation will be used to support the services provided by the Center’s legal advocacy program, said Lisa Chilton, Director of Legal Advocacy for the Violence Prevention Center.

“The Violence Prevention Center is grateful to Verizon for this financial gift because of how it will help eliminate the barriers a domestic violence survivor faces when trying to get to safety,” Chilton said. “We know lack of resources and legal assistance become barriers to safety. These additional resources will allow victims to get to safety and for the community to focus on the more important question:  "How can we stop this abuser from abusing?"

Half of the proceeds from the drive will also go toward Connections for Abused Women and Children (CAWC). Based in Chicago, the group provides domestic violence relief services to families in need. CAWC Executive Director Stephanie Love-Patterson said the cell phone drive is important and timely.

“On behalf of the board of directors and staff of Connections for Abused Women and their Children, we appreciate the generous gift from Verizon,” Love-Patterson said. “These funds will help CAWC to continue to provide life-saving services and work toward our mission of ending domestic violence. We greatly value community partners like you!”

As Lt. Governor, Simon’s office has collected more than 4,000 used cell phones to help benefit survivors of domestic violence. Simon’s office also launched the Virtual Legal Clinic, a program aimed at providing free, confidential legal consultation to domestic violence survivors in rural and underserved counties. The program, which will continue under the purview of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, connects survivors to lawyers with expertise in family law via internet technology.

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