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  • Be #CartonSmart this Holiday Season and Get Great Taste While Saving the Environment

    This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Carton Smart for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

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    These days, we all care an awful lot about protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, and minimizing waste. This holiday season, consider buying and using staples packed in Tetra Pak cartons. Here's why:

    • Tetra Pak® cartons are made of 70% paper, a renewable resource, from selectively harvested, re-grown trees that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
    • Cartons use 1/3 of the packaging compared to cans . . . or even an egg!
    • Cartons are stackable and space saving, and easy to store and open. Keep your pantry neat and toss your can openers.
    • The unique packaging process preserves the flavor and nutrients of food without the use of preservatives.Product quality is exactly the way it was intended to be.
    • Cartons are recycleable and result in 60% less landfill waste than cans.
    • Cartons are re-closable so you can use what you need and save the rest for later.

    You know you need:

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    Chicken stock – perfect in everying from soup to stuffing to gravy

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    Pumpkin Puree – not just for pies, but for cheesecake and even homemade pumpkin spice lattes

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    and Cranberry Sauce, which you can put in a salad, turn into a dessert, or mix with mandarin oranges for a super easy side … like this:

    I love that Pacific Foods Chicken Stock comes in small cartons that are the same size as my kids' single-serve organic milk drinks. When I use the large cartons, I always have some leftover that I forget to use up or freeze, so these smaller cartons are perfect for those times when you're not making soup, and just need a cup or so to finish off a dish {I used it in pasta just the other night!}.

    Check out Become Carton Smart for more information on the benefits of choosing cartons instead of cans, as well as recipe ideas. You can also Tweet @CartonSmart or Follow #CartonSmart on Pinterest for even more suggestions and ideas!

    How will you become #CartonSmart?

    Visit Sponsor's Site

    How to Save for Retirement: Employer-Based, IRA and Money Market Accounts

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

    Let’s talk about some of the ways that you can save for retirement. Sure, you could use a simple and standard savings account, but if you want to have as much money as possible come retirement time, there are other things that you should do and other ways in which you should invest.

    Investing is a scary word, I know. For most of us, it calls to mind pointy graphs that trend downward, horror stories of people losing everything in the stock market, and other frightening images. With regards to retirement, however, investing is really just saving . . . but it’s saving on steroids.


    When looking at retirement savings options and plans, you’re going to hear a lot about pre-tax and after-tax and pre-tax is going to sound like the better deal. Why? Because when you contribute something to an account “pre-tax” it means that the amount of your contribution is taken out of your income before taxes are figured out. It essentially helps you reduce your tax liability while allowing you to save for retirement at the same time. Pretty great!

    It’s important to understand that pre-tax contributions are not the same as tax free. You are going to pay taxes on that money eventually. With a pre-tax contribution, though, the amount of tax you pay is deferred until you start receiving payments from those accounts — and it will be taxed at whatever your current tax rate is, not your rate at the time when you invested the money.

    Post-tax contributions, on the other hand, are invested after your income has been taxed, which means you have less take home pay now. But! The IRS won’t tax your income twice so you don’t have to worry about paying taxes on payments from post-tax accounts. Even what you earn is generally untaxed. So what you’ve saved is what you get.

    Employer Based Programs

    Many employers offer some sort of retirement plan as part of your benefits package (these are most often 401(k)s). Take advantage of that plan. A lot of employer-offered retirement plans are offered pre-tax and some will even match your contributions, which helps you save twice as much while reducing your current tax liability at the same time.

    Make sure that any employer based retirement fund is transferable if you ever decide to change jobs.

    Individual Retirement Arrangements

    Setting up an Individual Retirement Arrangement is a fantastic way to save for retirement. You can use these accounts to supplement any plan you have through your employer. IRA accounts typically have a much higher interest rate than a regular savings account. It is also money that you are actively discouraged against dipping into if you find yourself short on cash. If you try to take money out of your IRA before you are 59 ½ years old, you’ll get smacked with a hefty fee (current fee is 10% of what you decide to withdraw). There are seven different types of IRAs but the most common are the traditional and the Roth.

    IRAs are also fantastic retirement savings plans for people who are self-employed or who own their own business.

    Money Market Account

    A “money market” account is basically just a savings account too — but it has super high interest rates because it requires a higher minimum balance, only allows you to make a few transactions with the account each month, and requires larger deposits than a regular checking or savings account. The great thing about the interest on a money market account is that it compounds daily and is paid out every month. You can see how beneficial that is by checking out this money market savings graph by Discover.

    The nice thing about a money market account is that it functions like a regular savings/checking account, your money is insured by the FDIC, you can put money in and take money out whenever you need to do so without a bunch of penalties, and it has the higher interest rates that are associated with other types of investments. It’s kind of the best of both worlds.

    Note: You do have to pay taxes on the interest earned on some money market accounts, and there is a minimal level of risk associated with these accounts.

    These are just three ways that you can save up for your (and your spouse’s) retirement. What’s your favorite way to save for retirement?

    Make Your Own Custom LEGO Minifigure Family Holiday Cards

    This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of LEGO for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

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    Happy Holidays from the CFO family!

    And check out the custom cards you can make when you "Minifig" your family:

    LEGO has a fun new interactive activity called “Minifigure Family”, which enables you to create your own custom LEGO Minifigure Family holiday card. As you can see above, I prefer the traditional Minifigure look, but there are actually a lot of custom options, including skin tone, facial expressions, outfits and more. You can even set your own scene, and while the default snow scene is cute, our favorite vacation site is Hawaii, so I went for the beach scene (even though I chose the pink parka outfit for my own Minifigure, LOL).

    The cards are really easy to make – so easy, that if you are in a rush, you could do it in just a few minutes. I took a little more time, since I was trying to find outfits for us that kind of reflect our personalities – that was the hardest part, since I didn't want all of my men (big and little) in baseball uniforms. I also had a bit of difficulty telling what some of the outfits were supposed to be, and it would have been nice if there had been more sports outfits to choose from. For families with kids who play the same sport, it can be tough to choose outfits and not have everyone look the same. But speaking of kids, I love that you can put up to 13 family members on one card!

    I have some friends whose kids are over-the-moon crazy about LEGO, and I can only imagine what a hit these custom Minifigure Family cards will be. The cards are very easy to share, via Facebook, Twitter, email and other social channels. So have fun "Minifig-ing" your family!

    Visit Sponsor's Site

    Toys R Us: Save 15% off your regular priced toy purchase #ToysRUs15

    This post is sponsored by Read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Toys R Us coupon

    Save on holiday gifts with a Toys R Us coupon!

    Get 15% off your entire regular priced toy purchase at your local Toys R Us store or online. This is a great way to save on hot or rare items on your child’s wishlist that don’t go on sale!

    If you’re shopping online, you can ship to store for free, or look for the “Ships Free” icon on qualifying items to get free shipping on orders of $49+. Just use promo code TAKE15 at checkout.

    This offer is only valid 12.9.13 through 12.10.13 (Monday and Tuesday, in store and online).

    Tightening Up the Entertainment Belt

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

    Some families’ biggest luxury is eating out. For other families, it is taking long vacations. And for still others, it is going to movies, plays and concerts. It’s nice when there’s enough money on hand after paying the bills to be able to pay for a fun family evening out but … what about those times when money is tight? How do you stay entertained when frugality is the name of the game?

    First, you have to stop thinking that you have to spend money to be entertained as a family. There are lots of ways to put together a fun evening, while spending very little or even, sometimes, nothing at all. Check it out:

    Social Connections

    Cooking dinner together can be just as much fun as going to a restaurant. If you assign one part of the meal to each person in your family, it makes less work and more enjoyment for everyone. You can make it even more fun by setting up a neighborhood potluck — every family gets fed and gets in some socializing at the same time and all for the cost of one dish!

    Another great spin on this idea is to join up with another family – one provides the food, while the other provides the entertainment. For example, let’s say you’ve turned off your cable subscription but your family loves to watch NFL football. Your friends across the street still have cable and get the NFL Network’s Thursday Night Game. Why not offer to cook dinner for everybody once a week if they’ll agree to have the game on for everybody to enjoy?

    Staying Home

    Instead of taking the kids out to a movie (which can easily run close to a hundred bucks if you let the kids get their own snacks), consider staying in. There are plenty of movies and television shows that you can find, legally and for free, online. YouTube offers full length older movies for free online and (if you don’t mind the occasional pause for buffering) they can be a great way to introduce your kids to classics from your childhood.

    Another great example is a streaming media subscription service. Netflix, for example, has an incredibly diverse library of entertainment for people of all ages. If you don’t yet have a Netflix subscription, you can try Netflix for a month free when you use a coupon code. Then, if you like it, it’s only $8 a month. That’s less than the cost of one ticket to a movie theater.

    Community Resources

    Don’t forget that the library is a fantastic resource when you need free entertainment. In addition to being able to check out books, music, movies and in some locations even video games, libraries also have a wealth of programming. They offer talks and movie nights and classes — almost always for free — to their local communities. When the family is itching for a movie night out of the house, try the one at the local library.

    Community centers are also great places to find fun activities for the family. In addition to a variety of classes (for all ages), they offer sports, dances, film nights, concerts, hobby fairs and other activities. A lot of these events are free and even the ones that do charge admission usually charge relatively small fees.

    These are just a few ways that your family can save money on entertainment and getting out of the house. What are some of your favorite ways to keep everyone occupied and happy while spending as little money as possible?