Money Makeover: Renew Your Budget this Spring

Tidy up more than your home this season by giving your budget a money makeover! Carmen Wong Ulrich, host of Marketplace Money, APM, and author of "The Real Cost of Living" offers a few helpful budgeting tips for reevaluating your spending plan.

Write down everything you spend for a month.

“What works for dieting, works for budgeting,” Wong Ulrich says. Dieting studies have found that keeping a daily log of meals and snacks reduces the amount of food consumed, and the same goes for spending. Keep track of everything you spend money on, and after a month this log will provide a clear picture of where every dollar is going. “Look where you can cut back and where you have wiggle room,” she advises.

Evaluate needs and wants.

“Basic needs tend to be the same across the board,” says Wong Ulrich. “But the ‘want’ creeps in when we make decisions about not only frivolous spending, but big ticket items in our budget.” Yes, we need a car, but is an expensive car still a ‘need’? It is imperative to evaluate each spending choice as a matter of needs versus wants and even further, at what price-point the purchases should be made. “I’m not a fan of living so frugally that you can’t enjoy life, but I’m a big fan of being honest with yourself as to the quality of the ‘needs’ choices you make.”

Splurging today means sacrificing tomorrow.

“Splurges are going to happen, but be willing to pay the price down the line in terms of giving up something else.” She gives an example, “If you splurge with a night out with the girls, you’ll need to commit to cutting back on other spending during the week.” It is a slippery slope, but it is important to maintain your spending balance.

Reach Your Career Goals in 2014

Julie Stav has persevered in the face of many obstacles throughout the course of her education and career. Now a financial expert, best-selling author and successful business owner, she dedicates her life to empowering mujeres by giving them the tools to take charge of their lives and finances. Las Fabulosas asks Julie for tips that lead to professional success.

So how can readers get ahead at work?

Make sure you know what you are trying to accomplish. Business owners need to establish what is called a mission statement, the reason for their existence. Employees need to do that too. Everything you do should bring you closer to achieving that purpose. A collective intention sets the tone for a fertile ground of innovative ideas. Don't be afraid to be the leader and take charge in getting your team focused on what really matters.

How do you know when it is acceptable to go beyond your role without overstepping superiors?

Establish a common goal with your superiors and shake hands on the fact that you are creating something bigger than either one of you. Your role should make use of your strengths and talents toward a common purpose. Once you focus on the horizon, it is easier to stay away from the petty distractions of egos along the way.

Should Latinas only pursue projects that they’re extremely passionate about? Or is it worth pursuing others as well?

The most successful and fulfilling projects are those where you aim for the stars while you keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. Make sure you are providing a service or product that is not only needed, but wanted. Focus on one thing and give it your all! If you get knocked down, find out why, learn from it, then get up and try a different way.

Did you ever feel like the steps you were taking weren't leading anywhere concrete in your career?

Oh yes, many times!

How did you keep yourself motivated to keep pushing ahead?

I asked myself: “Is this happening because I'm distracted, or because I should be looking somewhere else?” Your goals can change mid-game. Your path can take a different turn at the fork in the road.

Why are the risks worth the effort even when they don't succeed?

Success is not just reaching your goals. The mere fact that you are moving toward your present goal makes you successful already. It's like building a puzzle, where you pick up each piece with each experience, sometimes unaware that you will need it to complete your picture. Some puzzles have 100 pieces and take a short time to put together; others have 1,000 pieces and seem to take forever. These, however, are usually breathtaking.

Food Storage Made Easy

Keeping your cocina stocked with fresh foods is a great way to ensure a healthy diet for la familia. But a big shopping trip can become messy if you forget what you bought. Avoid wasting comida and dinero by properly storing all your food items, with tips from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Food Storage Made Easy

A stocked refrigerator can be a blessing, but “it’s a good idea for people to think about air flow and make sure they can see that air will be able to circulate,” says Kasey Christian, a spokesperson with the NCHFP team. Avoid overcrowding by cleaning out the refrigerator regularly. A full freezer, on the other hand, is more energy efficient than a partially filled one. To stay organized, Christian recommends keeping a list of what you put in and when it was packaged. When shopping, note “sell by” and “use by” dates.

Storing Hierbas: Dried herbs and spices should be stored in airtight containers, in a dry space away from heat or light (think: clean cupboard). Herbs stored in the cupboard can be kept for one to two years, according to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Fresh herbs require more maintenance to last. Herbs such as basil and cilantro can be stored for up to a week on a table or countertop, in a glass with about one inch of water. Be sure to trim the ends before placing in the glass. Herbs can also be wrapped in a moist paper towel and stored in a re-sealable bag. Different herbs need different levels of moisture: cilantro and parsley need more, while herbs such as rosemary and thyme need less.

Storing Verduras: Most fresh vegetables should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer within an hour of purchasing at the grocery store, with the exception of veggies such as sweet potato, tomatoes and onions. Colorado State University provides the following guidelines for storing commonly consumed vegetables in the refrigerator.

  • Corn and mushrooms - Up to two days
  • Green beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, lettuce and peppers - Up to one week in the refrigerator
  • Carrots - Up to two weeks in the refrigerator

Storing Fruta: Most fruits can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer, with the exception of apples, avocados and bananas. Peaches, nectarines, pears and plums should ripen at room temperature before refrigerating. Check all fruit before refrigerating to make sure there isn’t any mold (or remove any moldy pieces) to prevent spreading.

  • Berries such as blueberries, blackberries and strawberries - Up to two days
  • Green and red grapes, peaches and pears once ripe: Up to five days
  • Cut melons such as cantaloupe and honeydew - Up to one week
  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit - Up to three weeks

Storing Carnes: Meats are the most important food to refrigerate or freeze immediately after purchasing: They should never be left out for more than 1-2 two hours. When storing meat in the freezer for longer than two weeks, take it out of its original packaging and store in a freezer storage bag.

  • Chops (lamb, pork, veal) - Up to four days refrigerated; up to six months in freezer
  • Ground meat - Up to two days refrigerated; up to four months in freezer
  • Steak - Up to four days refrigerated; up to one year in freezer
  • Lunch meats - Up to four days refrigerated; up to two months in freezer
  • Cooked meats - Up to four days refrigerated; up to three months in freezer
  • Chicken and turkey - Up to two days refrigerated; up to one year in freezer