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  • Use Your Taxes as Your Springboard

    This is a post from Jenna Smith. Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this post.

    Spring cleaning isn’t just about decluttering your house and making everything all clean and sparkly. Spring cleaning is about taking stock of your life. It’s when you look at where you’ve been, where you are, and where you want to go. Yes, a lot of those ideas manifest in the clearing out of physical clutter, but it also manifests in other ways, like getting your finances back on track . . . or did you think that it was a coincidence that tax time happens in the spring?

    Okay, well, it probably is a coincidence, but let’s pretend that it’s all part of a bigger system, okay? It’ll make this post more fun.

    Starting Up: What Are You Bringing In?

    The most eye popping number on your tax forms isn’t the amount that you owe or the amount you’re getting back. The most important number on your tax forms is your earned income. Trust us: now that you have that number, everything else gets a lot easier.

    Step One: What Is Your Debt to Income Ratio?

    The best place to start here is with your bills. Gather together all of your utility bills, your credit card bills, your car loan and mortgage bills and any other payments you might be making. This will give you a black and white evaluation of what you’re spending at a minimum each year. Divide that amount by the amount of money you brought in. This will give you your debt-to-income-ratio.

    According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, you want a debt-to-income ratio that is below 43%. If your debt-to-income ratio is higher than 43%, you are more likely to have problems paying your bills on time. If the amount you pay out every year is higher than the amount you’re bringing in, that means that you are living on credit. Living on credit never goes well.

    Step Two: Lowering Your Debt to Income Ratio

    First – don’t be ashamed if your debt to income ratio is higher than 43% or even if you’re living on credit. What’s important isn’t what you did last year. What is important is what you are going to do this year. There are a few different approaches that you can take to reducing the amount of money you pay out every month (and year):

    1. Settle Your Debts.

    Settling your debts is where you work with a creditor to come up with a lump sum payment that is less than the full amount you owe but that you pay all at once to declare your commitment fulfilled.

    Sometimes you can do this yourself but it is usually better to work with a third party. Most creditors and debt holders prefer working with debt reduction specialists. They are also more likely to give you a better deal when you work with these companies and individuals than if you approach them on your own.

    2. Adjust your payments.

    Creditors and debtors want to keep your business. They would rather lower interest rates and forgive fees than have you close your account. Call them and ask them to work with you to make your debt repayment easier.

    3. Live on the Cheap

    Debts aren’t the only things eating up your annual income. Track your spending habits for a month or two and then evaluate: can you cut anything? There are lots of ways to live super frugally without having to give up the things you love. You just have to be creative.

    Remember: the goal is to be in a better financial position next year than you are this year. Even if you can’t get debt-free within the next twelve months, some progress is better than none!

    Flashback Friday: What To Do with Leftover Macaroni and Cheese

    This post was originally published in 2011, but since my kids recently left me with a nearly full pot of mac and cheese, it’s time to bring it back!

    Ideas for Leftover Mac & Cheese - chieffamilyofficer.com

    If your kids are like mine, they regularly leave you with leftovers. If you’re left with a pot of leftover mac and cheese, here are some things you can remake them into for another {frugal!} meal:

    Fried Macaroni and Cheese – Refrigerate leftover mac and cheese until firm, then cut leftovers into squares, rectangles, or triangles, or scoop into balls. Dredge mac and cheese in flour, a beaten egg, and then panko or bread crumbs. Fry in a hot skillet until golden brown on all sides.

    Chili Mac and Cheese – Combine leftover macaroni and cheese with some chili.

    Hamburger “Helper” – Brown ground beef or turkey, and combine with leftover mac and cheese. (You may need to add some water, milk or broth to achieve the desired consistency.) You could add some diced tomatoes, chopped broccoli or spinach, or other veggies.

    Chicken or Ham Casserole – Stir diced chicken or ham and steamed broccoli into the mac and cheese. You can serve it as is, or top with crushed crackers and butter and bake until bubbly.

    Mac and Cheese Pizza – As weird as it may sound, a Google search turns up over 20 million results. I’ve yet to try this one myself, but apparently you just put the mac and cheese on a regular pizza crust, and bake. You can top it with more cheese and/or breadcrumbs, if desired.


    Affiliate banner via Escalate Media Network

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by KEKO64.

    3 Ways To Prevent Spam Traffic On Your Blog

    This is a post from Jenna Smith. Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this post.

    Fake traffic bots, comment spams and unwanted website links can eat up your blog’s hosting resources and bandwidth, without providing any benefits in terms of search engine rankings or revenue.

    And it can be very exciting for the newbies to see a surge in traffic, but the reality turns out be quite different after a breakdown of the traffic sources.

    University of Wisconsin computer science instructor Dr. Paul Bradford conducted a study to detect fake web traffic and found that 10 different traffic networks contributed to 500 million fake impressions in a month, and 50% of the internet traffic is bots. This further has harmful effects on advertisers apart from blog owners, who end up paying for non-human traffic.

    The technique can be applied by competitors to harm the reputation of your business or personal blog, and it won’t cost them a lot of money to get started (considering all the gigs being offered on Fiverr, Freelancer etc.).

    It’s quite easy to identify fake traffic before you take preventive measures against it. Some of the things you should look are:

    1.  Visit time frame 

    Most of the fake traffic will only stay on your blog for 5-10 seconds so if your blog is seeing an unusual increase in bounce rate, it’s a warning sign.

    2.  Day time frame

    When fake traffic arrives at your blog, it will be served during particular hours of the day, and the traffic spike will fade away the next day.

    3.  URLs of the referrals

    With the advancement in spam traffic techniques, fake page views are now accompanied by URLs (there used to be no URLs before) which makes them look genuine. Some examples of suspicious URLs include vid.surfs.ru, owl.ly and linkn.co.

    Putting an end to fake/spam traffic

    Thankfully there are ways to prevent the damage that can result from traffic spam. Measures to take include:

    1. Real-time traffic inspection

    You can utilize the real-time feature provided by Google Analytics to see an overview of the traffic, and then filter out the traffic coming from unusual sources/country IPs through segmenting sources. It is even possible for bloggers to utilize solutions that inspect traffic coming from networks and take advantage of security tools that provide security updates to block malicious traffic. Their own Deep Discovery program is one such solution.

    2. Install appropriate plugins

    Apparently the easiest way to prevent the buildup of fake traffic if your blog is hosted on WordPress, is to install a plugin to protect the site from spam traffic attacks. One of the ideal plugins is Fake Traffic Blaster that detects black hat traffic generation techniques and redirects suspicious visits away from the targeted blog.

    3. Don’t participate in traffic exchange networks

    Traffic exchange networks are being detected by search engine companies, and bloggers that manipulated their rankings (willingly or unwillingly) are facing a hefty penalty in terms of decreased rankings, revenue and reputation. The best way to avoid negative consequences and prevent non-human traffic from networks is to stay away from them . . . No matter how tempting the offer of attracting page views sounds to you.

    Evening Roundup: Last chance for Amazon Prime at $79, Target deals & More

    Evening Roundup includes the best of the latest coupons, deals, and info I think you may find interesting. Prices and deals can change at any time so be sure to verify them before making your purchase. Please note this post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for using them! You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    - Amazon: Last chance to get Amazon Prime for $79 before the price goes up to $99

    - New Coupons.com printables:

    - Ralphs Facebook page: Digital coupon for $10 off a $100 purchase

    - Hip2Save: Cheap Easter candy at Walgreens

    - For the Mommas: Cheap L’Oreal stylers at Target

    - Savings Lifestyle: Cheap coffee creamer at Target

    - Printable Coupons: Rare Del Monte fresh produce coupon

    - Dealicious Mom: Free subscription to Family Circle magazine

    - Passion for Savings: Free subscription to Better Homes & Gardens

    - Rite Aid 101: Free Stride gum at Rite Aid


    Banner ad via MySavings.com.

    Giveaway: Veronica Mars DVD

    I never watched Veronica Mars when it was on TV, but it must have been quite the show to inspire such a devoted following that years after its TV run ended, fans donated over $5 million through Kickstarter to fund a new Veronica Mars movie. The movie comes out in select theaters on March 14:

    On the eve of graduating law school, Veronica Mars has put Neptune and her amateur sleuthing days behind her. While interviewing at high-end New York law firms, Veronica Mars gets a call from her ex-boyfriend Logan who has been accused of murder. Veronica heads back to Neptune just to help Logan find an attorney, but when things don’t seem right with how Logan’s case is perceived and handled, Veronica finds herself being pulled back into a life she thought she had left behind.

    Get ready for the movie with this fun interactive widget:


    WIN IT!
    One lucky CFO reader will win the Veronica Mars DVD when it is released {approximately May 2014}. To enter this giveaway, just follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below:
    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    RSS and email readers: Click here to reach the form.

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