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Creating an Exercise Program

While you may be unsure and think that you need a personal trainer to really create the exercise program that best fits your lifestyle, hold on to that wallet! There are a lot of different ways to help you individualize your training and create a program that is right for you.
You need to start by thinking about what your goals are. Will you need to change your diet? Devote a certain period of time each day? Or just keep track of things in an effective way? All of these are good questions to get you started.

What Are You Doing Now?

If you are planning on changing your routine, you need to think about what is working for your right now and what isn’t. Maybe you have been trying to gain weight but you have been doing too much cardio. You have to start in the present if you want to figure out what you are going to do in the future.

Making Sustainable Changes

Many people who create an exercise program don’t think about whether it will be sustainable or not. This is HUGE! If you don’t want to end up like the millions of others out there who work out the first week for their New Year’s resolutions and then end up giving up. It needs to be something that you can fit into and ultimately make it part of your lifestyle. You don’t want to peak out, burn out, and then go back to where you were before.

Your primary goal should always be your all-around health.

Use Technology

We are living in the 21st century, so there is no excuse for you not to have a good record of everything that you do. Not only that, but you should be able to record your progress as well. Most of the apps that can help you do this are absolutely free! If you aren’t recording your progress, it can be hard to see where you need help and it can be even harder to stay motivated.

Throw in Little Workouts Throughout the Day

A lot of times we think that it is all about the gym and what we get done in that one hour. That is not everything though. You need to be able to little exercises throughout the day as well. This can be a quick 50 pushups at work or pullups when you get home. Maybe you decide to ride your bike to work. Whatever it is, when you incorporate small exercises throughout the day, what you are really doing is creating an active lifestyle.

Change it up

You may be a skinny guy who wants to bulk up. Don’t get too caught up in the weightlifting though. Same goes for the people who are so focused on losing weight that they only do cardio. It is important to change things up so your body doesn’t get burned out. This will also prevent you from hitting plateaus in your work out.

Apply these tips when you are starting your workout regimen and you will be well on your way to a healthier and more active lifestyle!

Working Your Way to the Excel Big Leagues


If you’re a little behind the times, tackling your budgeting and finances through online sites, tools, and apps, might be a little intimidating.

There are some great sources out there like Quicken, You Need a Budget,, etc., but if you aren’t ready to trust your finances with your budding computer skills, there is an alternate way to get started: Microsoft Excel.

The Beauty of the Basics

If you think it’s time to move from paper to electronic budgeting, Excel could be a great transitional tool for you. If you aren’t familiar with Excel, it is Microsoft’s spreadsheet program. It is perfect for budgeting, because it can be used to do math, formulas, tables, charts, and graphs, all tailored to your personal needs and preferences.
The great thing about excel is that it is a step up from paper to electric, but is still very simple, clean, and clear. It’s almost like having your old paper checkbook, except it does the math for you.

But perhaps most importantly, you won’t risk messing up real money like you might on an online program if you make a mistake. There is no button you can push that will wipe out your funds, sign you up for unwanted services, or enable hackers to access your accounts.

*But remember – most online programs are very safe. You won’t risk the aforementioned tragedies using trusted online software and services. But if you are worried regardless, Excel is a great electronic stepping stone for you.

Using Excel

Although with a little tinkering around you can figure out how to use Excel’s basic functions without help, there’s no harm in asking a more tech-savvy friend or relative to set up some nice budgeting tools for you.

In Excel, there are endless possibilities to the styles and methods you can choose to use for your budgeting and finances. For example, you can create weekly or monthly tables, basically identical to your checkbook. Add a mathematical formula to the table, and it will do the math for you.

You can set up different tables or tabs (like pages) devoted to certain accounts, categories of spending, specific credit cards, and so on. You can even link information from each table to one consolidated place to track your overall financial situation.

If you are an Excel beginner, you may need some help setting up these tables and functions. But if you do know your way around Excel, don’t be afraid to experiment around with different systems of budgeting and work out a unique system that works for you!

Additional Perks

Even beyond convenience and clarity, using Excel for your budgeting/finances comes with some extra perks:

  • It’s free
  • It’s a great way to keep reliable financial records
  • Some banks allow you to download financial statements directly to Excel
  • It’s customizable to your personal preferences/style/use

Stepping Stone

If you try Excel and enjoy that style of budgeting, great! But if you’d like an even easier or more sophisticated and direct style of banking, Excel will act as an excellent stepping stone to online programs.
Still stuck on paper? Take the first step to electronic budgeting with your very own Excel spreadsheet!

What I Learned About Saving From Extreme Cheapskates

Today’s post is from Adam, one of the members of the web team. He recently got sucked into the hit “reality series” called Extreme Cheapskates on TLC, here are some of the things he’s learned from the show.

The reality TV show on TLC, “Extreme Cheapskates,” is meant to be entertainment. Most of the antics of the people portrayed on the show inspire revulsion rather than a desire to become more frugal.

For example, one woman picks a cake out of the trash and serves it to her guests. Another woman cooks up road kill for dinner.

These examples are why this show is first and foremost entertainment. Basically like all of reality TV. However, once I got past the icky stuff, I was able to pick out a few valuable lessons on saving money.

Save Through Adventurous Eating

Jeff Yeager is a self-proclaimed extreme cheapskate who appears regularly on the show, and he provides much of the most helpful advice. In one episode he serves up boiled fish heads to his guests—it’s pretty funny to see the looks of disgust on a teenager’s face at Jeff eats the fish’s eyeballs.

So this is an “extreme” example of adventurous eating. However, considering all the bizarre things people eat all over the world, opening your mind to new flavors and textures could be a fun way to save money.

If you’re constantly on the lookout for deals at the grocery store, it’s a good idea to broaden your horizons to food you might not have tried before. It doesn’t have to be fish heads, but it might be chopped liver, or an item from the international isle.

Save by Conserving Water

California is currently going through an extreme drought, and so for residents of that state water conservation may soon become a necessity. When it comes down to it, it’s possible to drastically reduce your household’s water use, and the people on “Extreme Cheapskates” prove it.

One simple way of saving water, as portrayed in the show, is to take a “navy shower.” This is when you only leave the water on to rinse yourself. While you lather your hair with shampoo and clean yourself with soap, the water stays off until it’s time to wash yourself down.

In “Extreme Cheapskates,” a woman forces her boyfriend to take these “navy showers” in a pretty demeaning way—she puts a baby monitor in the bathroom so she can bark at him if she thinks he’s using too much water. It’s hard to imagine a grown man putting up with that, but it appears he does.

Despite the brash personalities of the characters in the show, taking a “navy shower” is a pretty reasonable and effective way to conserve water. It might take some getting used to, but if it’s good enough for the navy, then it’s probably good enough for the rest of us.

My conclusion after watching a few episodes was that while I probably don’t fit the description of an “Extreme Cheapskate,” there are a few good ideas for saving money. These people have obviously taken it to the next level, sometimes to the point of lunacy. But if I really wanted to, I could follow their lead and find some great ways to cut my own spending.

How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast


When people are carrying around a substantial amount of credit card debt, they sometimes have difficulty just getting started paying off that debt.

It’s easy to get frustrated quickly, and feeling overly anxious about your debt isn’t going to help you pay it off any faster. So what is the best approach to eliminating your credit card debt?

A quick Google search of “how to pay off credit card debt” will give you over a hundred different answers. The truth is that different methods work better for different people—you need to understand your own personality and spending habits in order to choose the best option works for you.

Know if You’re a Compulsive Buyer

Many people combat their own feelings of stress and anxiety by shopping compulsively. Maybe this is why you’ve found yourself with so much credit card debt.

If you can admit to yourself that you’re a compulsive shopper, then you can craft your strategy with this in mind. For example, to ensure you don’t keep adding to your debt, you can start by cutting up your credit cards.

Another trick is to come up with an activity that you can turn to whenever you feel the urge to spend compulsively. It could be anything—gardening, reading a book, or going for a walk—the point is to get your mind off of your compulsive behavior long enough for the urges to pass.

Identify Wants and Needs

Another part of what makes you unique is that you have specific wants and needs that could be very different from other people. For you, something that another person might think is a want is something you strongly feel is a need.
It’s ok to have unconventional wants and needs. You just need to be able to identify them. Because—let’s be honest here—you’re not going to be able to get out of debt unless you avoid unnecessary spending on things that you don’t need.

Take a close look at past spending and compare it to your list of wants and needs. How much was spent on wants?
I bet you’ll discover that you have plenty of room to cut out unnecessary spending. If you understand what your needs are, then you won’t feel bad about spending money on them. On the other hand, you need the self-control to avoid those pesky “wants.”

Focus on High Interest Rates First

The trick to paying off credit cards fast is honing in on the one card with the highest interest rate, and paying that off first. And remember, it isn’t necessarily going to be the card with the biggest balance.

By paying off the cards with higher interest rates first, you’re lowering the amount you pay to the credit card companies in interest, ultimately reducing the overall amount you’ll wind up paying. The result—your debt will be paid off faster, and at a lower cost.

Keep all other payments at the minimum, and once you’ve paid off the worst offender, move on to the next-highest interest rate.

Don’t Give Up

People make mistakes, and if you slip up along the way don’t give up on your overall goal. If you stumble, then pick yourself up and continue on the path to financial stability.

6 After School Activities to Keep Your Children Interested in Learning

Learning should never stop, even when school is out—it should even extend beyond homework. But sometimes kids get burnt out on school, and all they want to do is play. Play time is important, too and it presents a wonderful opportunity.

To help your kids continue learning throughout the day, and even on the weekends, here are 6 cool activities that deceptively combine play with education.

Have your kids write a play, then act it out

Children’s minds are constantly brimming with creativity just waiting to be tapped. If you encourage your kids to come up with a play, and promise that you’ll all act it out together (that’s right, you should be acting it out, too), you’ll be surprised at the wonderful stories they can come up with.

A fun science experiment with cabbage

All you’ll need is a head of cabbage, some food coloring, water and some jars to illustrate how plants absorb water. Fill some jars with water and food dye, stick a leaf of cabbage in each jar, and before long the cabbage will absorb the dye and transform into new colors!

Decorate non-perishable food items to donate

One of the most important lessons you can teach your children is the importance of charity and giving. Turn it into a fun activity by having your kids decorate cans of food and other non-perishables. Then go on a road trip to your local food bank. Don’t forget to explain how their act of charity is helping feed people who are in need.

Salt art

It’s easy for children to get excited about art, especially if it involves a new medium. Here’s a cool idea: get some colorful construction paper and spread salt across it. Have your children “paint” images or words in the salt—the colored paper beneath it creates a cool effect.

Play a game of “sink or float”

Teach your children about buoyancy with a simple game of “sink or float.” Basically, you get regular household items, have your kids guess whether the items would sink or float, and then toss them (the objects, not your kids) in a tub of water. This is a very basic form of the scientific method—your kids come up with a hypothesis, and then they get to test it out and determine if they were right.

For extra credit, have your kids combine two things and see whether they “sink or float.”

Make paper plate birds that actually fly

Cut a paper plate in half, and then tape a plastic spoon to it, with the ladle of the spoon being the bird’s head. Color and decorate the bird (it could be a majestic eagle, or a colorful parrot), and then test it out—it should soar across the living room with ease.

Take one, or a few of these ideas, and get your children excited about learning at home! One of the best lessons you can give is that learning doesn’t only have to take place in a classroom—it can happen anywhere!

7 Amazing Ways Regular Exercise Can Improve Your Brain Power


When it comes to exercise, we tend to focus on the physical benefits. We tell ourselves, you’re going to get great abs, or you’ll finally be able to wear that amazing bikini to the beach! But if you need some extra motivation to go to the gym, there are many excellent reasons to work out.

What’s often overlooked is that there are amazing mental benefits to regular exercise. Here are 7 ways that working out regularly can boost your brain power:

1.Exercise lowers your stress level

Feeling stressed about work or just life in general? Try a quick workout to help alleviate feelings of stress. You’ll not only feel better, but your cells will actually be less stressed as well. That’s according to a 2010 study at the University of California, San Francisco, which showed that the cells of women who worked out showed fewer signs of aging than the cells of women who didn’t exercise.

2.Regular exercise gives you more energy to get things done

The excuse that you don’t have enough time to exercise needs to be permanently put to rest. The opposite is true: people who exercise regularly are more productive overall and have increased energy throughout the day, according to a study 2008 by the University of Georgia.

3.Exercise makes you happier

Regular exercise helps boost the production of “happy” chemicals in our brains, according to a 2010 study that showed working out increases the GABA chemical which is responsible for improved mood.

4.Exercise improves your self-image

You won’t just look better to others—exercise makes you feel better about your overall self-image.

5.Exercise helps you learn better

Regular exercise is proven to increase the production of so-called “growth factors” in your brain. Basically, it helps form new connections in your brain, improving your ability to learn new things.

6.Exercise improves your cognitive abilities as you age

As we get older, our bodies age and so do our brains. One way to stay mentally fit is to work out the brain with “brain games,” but physical exercise actually is more effective at slowing cognitive decline. A study conducted in Scotland of 70-year-olds, showed that participants who exercised regularly saw better cognitive results than those who only exercised their brains.

7.Exercise improves you memory

Regular exercise helps spur the growth of cells in your hippocampus, the part of your brain largely responsible for memory. In a study of 9 and 10 year olds, conducted at the University of Illinois in 2010, children who got plenty of exercise had a bigger hippocampus, the area of the brain which is largely responsible for memory.
Overall wellness is incomplete without regular exercise
When it comes down to it, your body is not going to be at its best without regular exercise, and that includes your brain. Whoever wrote that our minds were separate from our bodies was terribly wrong—they are connected in vital ways, and if you neglect your body, you’re neglecting your brain as well.

How to Budget for Your Pets

Spring is in the air, and for a lot of people that means new family pets will be coming home. Sometimes in the excitement of looking at fresh litter of puppies and kittens it’s easy to forget about the commitment that comes along with a new pet. The added cost of shots, food, accessories can add up fast. If we are not careful, we can end up spending an unnecessary amount of money on our pets. By following some of these steps we can see just how avoidable that is if we budget are money appropriately for our animals.

Cheap Adoption

When buying an animal, consider how much money you have. If you are truly living on a budget, consider buying a fish that does not cost that much money, time, or effort to take care of. In addition, their life spans are shorter, meaning you will be paying their bills for a shorter amount of time. However, if you are looking for an animal such as a dog or a cat, you will need a slightly larger budget. In fact, it has been known for dogs and cats to cost almost ten times as much as fish to maintain. Be sure to evaluate all of your options and compare prices.
Research exactly what breed of animal you want as well. Some breeds tend to inherit expensive genetic defects, while mutts are generally relatively healthy. You can also buy from either breeders who make a living selling animals or go to the local animal shelter and rescue an animal for much less money.

Best Deals

This brings us to our second point which is, you must search for the best deals. When it comes to adopting the actual pet, taking it to the vet, or getting your pets’ medicine, it can get expensive really fast. Make sure to get your necessary pet medicines online, and not from the brand names. The medicine contains the same active ingredients as the brand names, just at a lower price.

Preventative care

Follow the instructions given by your veterinarian. If they tell you to buy certain medicines for your animal, do it, even if your animal is not sick. The reason for this is that the medicines will most likely prevent your pet from getting that disease in the future. Animals are capable of living long, healthy lives, but need nutrients and vitamins just like humans do. This preventative care will keep your animal from needing more expensive medical care and potential surgeries later on down the line.

Do it Yourself

Do anything within your power to do on your own. You do not need to hire expensive groomers or trainers to do the same thing that you could do yourself. Luckily, cats do not need to be bathed. Dogs, however, need a bath at least once every three months. They also need tending to their hair and nails. Be careful and do research to know just exactly what needs to be done.
In the end, a lot of us will do anything for our pets and spend as much money as necessary to make sure that it is living a comfortable, and sometimes even pampered lifestyle. In this case, Check City offers a variety of options to quickly and easily get a small and short-term loan. Your pets will appreciate it.

DIY Home Security Ideas

There are many thousands of homeowners across the nation that want to make their home as secure as possible, but simply do not have the funds to afford expensive and lavish ways of securing their house. Such things as professionally installed and monitored security systems are nice, but their cost is seldom worth the reward especially when there are plenty of other ways in which a homeowner can make their home safe from would-be burglars by undertaking simple DIY improvements and inexpensive measures.

These home security improvements are both effective in keeping the bad guys at bay and saving a homeowner money in their home’s security costs. In fact, first and foremost, there are several strategies for making the home as safe as possible by simply changing personal habits, which will not cost a thing for the homeowner.

Totally Free Ways to Protect the Home

Some ways to change habits to add protection to the home include always remembering to lock doorways and windows, leave a light or two on while out of the house (make sure that the lights in the home are the energy efficient kind in order to save on electricity costs), and keep the outside of the home in good repair (those homes that look rundown are more likely to be targeted by criminals as it appears that the homeowner is rarely in the house).

In addition to the above changes to behavior that can keep a home safe, a homeowner can do even more to secure their home if they will keep their valuables out of clear sight from outside the home. Those homes with valuable possessions in clear view of the street (such as a television one can see through the window) are more likely to be targeted because the criminals know that they will be able to steal at least the one valuable item.

DIY Home Security Projects

After practicing safe home habits, a homeowner can do even more to protect their homes from criminals by undertaking a few of the following DIY home security projects. The first project that can be undertaken if not already equipped in the home is to install an extra bolt lock on all external doors and a bolt lock on the garage door.

Install Motion Sensors

Another effective and inexpensive home security measure that homeowners could implement themselves is to install motion sensor lights around the exterior of the home. Outside lights that are tripped by motion detectors are great deterrents to criminals because they increase the risk of being caught.

Other simple and quick DIY projects that can secure the home include placing a wooden dowel in the tracks of sliding doors and windows and planting thorny bushes beneath ground floor windows. Plants such as rose bushes are especially effective in thwarting would-be criminals due to their own self-defenses in the form of painful thorns.

With these few ideas a homeowner can safe and tightly secure their residence at little cost. And, with these added measures and others as suggested by the homeowner’s insurance company, a homeowner may even be able to receive discounts for home safety from their home insurance provider.

Protecting Yourself from Tax Theft

Well if you haven’t already done your taxes, today is the day. Post offices around the country and keeping their doors open until midnight so that tax payers can get their returns stamped in time to avoid any late payment penalties. If you haven’t done your taxes yet and don’t feel comfortable doing them yourself, it’s not too late to stop by any Check City location to have one of our tax professionals help you out. In the spirit of tax season we wanted to cover a topic that is new to a lot of people, but is definitely something you need to watch out for this tax season. It may come as a surprise to some, but as the world continues to move towards online services and tech, so do the criminals.

Last year one of the major street gangs in Miami was brought down for a crime that is sweeping the nation and bringing in billions of dollars for criminals that are able to successfully pull it off. But it was not a new drug or imported weapon that is making these gangs rich, it is our taxes.

Tax Theft is on the Rise

Tax return theft has become one of the major crimes of the past few years with the number of reported instances trippling since 2010. Every year, millions of Americans fall victim to these evolving criminals and have their tax returns stolen, exposing them to a grueling process of retribution and a seemingly endless road to recovery.

With the coming of the electronic age, criminals have successfully engineered a way to merge identity theft and tax theft to produce their ability to file fraudulent tax return claims in the names of their victims. With the understanding that a claim on a return of over $9,000 dollars will cause red flags in the IRS, criminals routinely target hundreds of individuals and file fraudulently tax returns in order to strike it rich.

The criminals and criminal organizations that enact these instances of tax fraud are extremely well versed in their crime and are very effective at its execution, which means that everyday people need to start doing more in order to protect themselves from the onslaught of tax return thieves. Luckily, there are several precautions and steps of safety that people can take to ensure that they are not one of the millions of victims this tax season.

Tips for Avoiding Tax Theft

First and foremost, the primary way in which criminals are able to pull off their tax return fraud is through securing individuals Social Security numbers and committing identity theft. So those who are able to protect their personal information are far less likely to fall victim to tax return thieves.

People should especially be cautious concerning their Social Security number, as this is the typical way in which a criminal will be able to steal a person’s identity. Keeping your Social Security card in your wallet is an extremely bad idea as a simple pick pocket could turn into a huge headache if the criminal uses your Social Security number to file a false tax return or access your bank account.

Know Your Tax Professional

Next, you will be able to protect yourself from all forms of tax fraud if you have a good and trustable relationship with the person who prepares your taxes. Walking into a random office and going over your personal and tax information with a stranger is opening yourself up for crime, so instead consider asking friends and relatives for suggestions on who they see to help file their taxes and go with someone you trust.

Beef Up Your Security

Finally, you can beef up your electronic security by adding access codes to all accounts and devices, as well as changing these codes and passwords regularly. By enacting a few of the above changes, you will be able to safely file and receive your tax return.

6 Ways Teenagers Can Start Their Own Businesses

There’s a point when an allowance just isn’t cutting it anymore. Your teenaged children aren’t going to be able to survive on ten bucks a month (or however much it is) for very long.

If they want to go on dates and afford a car, they’ll need to get out there and start earning some real cash. And what better way than starting a mini-business?

Starting a business is vastly superior then simply getting a job at the burger joint down the street for minimum wage. First of all, your kids will be able to make their own hours, so they’ll still have the flexibility to focus on school and extracurricular activities.
And more importantly, starting a mini-business teaches your kids many valuable lessons about finance and self-promotion. They’ll learn how to put themselves out there, and how to start a money-making enterprise from scratch.

Starting a mini-business doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. Here are 6 ways your teenagers can start earning money right in their own neighborhood:

Mow Lawns

Chances are you’ve already got a functioning lawn mower in the shed—have your child turn it into some steady income during the warmer months.
Here’s an added benefit of a lawn-mowing business: plenty of exercise!

Run Errands for the Elderly

Your child can learn a great lesson about serving those in need by running errands for the elderly people in your neighborhood. Your neighbors will be happy, because your teenager’s services here wouldn’t cost as much as some of the more expensive services that they would normally have to pay for.

Snow Removal

In the dead of winter, some people just aren’t capable of shoveling their own walks. Others just aren’t so motivated to take care of it themselves. Your child can take advantage of this by offering their snow-shoveling services to the neighborhood!

Rake Leaves

Your teenagers can capitalize on the autumn months by raking leaves in your neighborhood, and raking in the profits while they’re at it!

Dog Walker

Not everyone has the time to take Rex for a walk every day. Dogs need plenty of exercise to stay healthy, and your teenagers will be a huge benefit to the community’s canine population if they offer themselves up as professional dog walkers.

Walking dogs has the potential to be quite profitable, too, since you can walk 4 or 5 at a time.

Wash Cars

Where do most people take their cars to get washed? Usually some mega-chain or automatic wash. Wouldn’t it be better to pay some kids in the neighborhood to wash your car, rather than giving that money to some giant car wash chain.

Lessons Your Kids Will Remember for the Rest of Their Lives

Getting a job at a fast food restaurant is always an option, but what is your child going to learn from that besides how to punch a time card?

The benefits your teenagers will get from creating their own mini-business will carry over into their adult lives. They’ll develop a great work ethic and the financial skills necessary to be successful in whatever careers they ultimately choose.

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