Each year, Kohl’s recognizes and rewards young volunteers (ages 6-18) across the country for their amazing contributions to their communities. This year we are recognizing more than 2,100 kids with more than $415,000 in scholarships and prizes. 

To be eligible, the student must meet the following criteria as of March 15, 2011.

This year, more than 2,100 kids will be recognized with over $415,000 in scholarships and prizes.

< a href=http://www.kohlscorporation.com/CommunityRelations/scholarship/index.asp>The Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program</a> recognizes and rewards young volunteers (ages 6-18) who help make their communities a better place to live.

Must be between the ages of 6 and 18 and not yet a high school graduate.

Actions must be described in detail and should document efforts above and beyond what is expected of a child his or her age.

Volunteer efforts must have occurred in the last year.

Winners are chosen based on the project, benefits and outcome.

Store Winners will receive a $50 Kohl’s Gift Card.

Regional Winners will each be awarded a $1,000 scholarship for post-secondary education.

National Winners will each be awarded a total of $10,000 in scholarships for post-secondary education and Kohl’s will donate $1,000 to a non-profit organization on each winner’s behalf.

If your child is not eligible this year or does not win this year, it gives you time to get ready for next year.

With the increasing cost of college and other expenses, scholarships are a great way to help out with the costs.

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Nancy Kvamme

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about <a href=http://intheblack.areavoices.com/2011/02/08/america-saves-week>America Saves Week</a>.  It is February 20-27. 

With the way the economy is, it is more than important now than ever to teach people the importance of saving.  In our instant gratification society, it is hard but if you make a committment to it you can do it. 

It’s also important to realize that you can spend money, but to make a plan that you have enough to both spend and save.

As part of America Saves Week, organizations and employers provide opportunities for members and employees to learn about saving.

Nancy Kvamme

We hear we should use cash more than credit and debit cards, but you still need to keep track of what you spend it on. Even using cash, it is easy to overspend. When you pay by check or credit/debit cards you have some record of where you spent the money. But with cash once its gone, you don’t know what it was for unless you keep track of it.

On the show, <a href=http://www.cnbc.com/id/33421145>Til Debt Do Us Part</a> Gail Vaz-Oxlade helps couples get out of debt and change their way of spending. In many cases they have not been keeping track of where their money is going. They are amazed by how much they actually owe and how much they have been paying in late fees and interest. And many have a lot of money spent in cash, which they don’t realize what they have spent it on.

Studies show that you spend more when you use a credit card, since you don’t feel the emotion of spending at the moment. When you are spending cash, you know that the money is being spent now. You think about what you are spending more when you are using cash, since you only have so much to spend.

So even if you spend cash, you need to keep track of how you spend it. A dollar here and there may not seem like a lot but can add up quickly.

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Nancy Kvamme

Debt Free for Life is David Bach’s latest book.  Like his other books it is easy to read and understand about how to manage your finances.  The book includes ways to get out of debt and change your habits to stay that way.  One of the first steps is to organize your debt.  It may seem scary, but you cannot solve something if you don’t know how much you owe.  If you make a list of your debts either by smallest balance due to largest, or highest interest rate to lowest.  Some people suggest paying off smallest debt first so the quick win will keep you motivated to keep going.  Others say to pay the highest interest rate ones first, to save on interest.  Either way works, as long as you commit to getting and staying out of debt.

One of his other books is The Automatic Millionaire.  Yesterday, he was launching a new website, http://www.getami.com/davidbach, Automatic Millionaire International.  There was so much response that the server crashed.  They will be updating the site with a new date of launching.

I have read all 12 of his books and would recommend them all.  Some of his other books are Smart Women Finish Rich and Smart Couples Finish Rich.

Nancy Kvamme

Are you looking for answers to your debt related questions? Check out www.Askdoctordebt.com. Ask Doctor Debt is sponsored by the ACA International Education Foundation (ACAEF). ACAEF is the philanthropic area of ACA International, the association of Credit and Collection Professionals.

On the website there are answers to over 350 questions that have been asked. If you do not find an answer to your question, you can enter your question. They try to answer all questions within 60 days.

The primary mission of ACA International is to serve consumers who are challenged by debt by improving their financial literacy and providing them with tools and resources.

Visitors are not asked to register, provide any personal information or required to pay to use the variety of services it offers.

On the website there are also other resources such as other website links and tools such as a mortgage calculator and credit card calculator. With the calculators you enter your balance and interest rates and it calculates how long it will take to pay it off.

Nancy Kvamme

In previous posts I have mentioned the importance of teaching children about finances. Along with that is teaching Employee Financial Literacy. Many of us were not taught how to manage finances when we were in school. In many cases also, people are trained how to practice their profession but then get out of school and do not know how to run the “business” part of a business.
Studies show that in 1979, 10% of adults reported they had stress from personal finance difficulties, in recent studies that number has climbed to 25%. Employees often list financial stress as the top source of all types of stress they experience.
For employers, financial literacy education in the workplace can lead to improved motivation, improved recruitment and retention of staff. Providing employees the tools to become financially literate about the basics – knowing how to manage personal savings, understand credit and create a spending plan helps improve factors that affect the organization’s bottom line, such as productivity.
Employees under financial stress can be passive, unengaged in their work, confused and anxious about mortgage and college loans, vehicle and credit card payments and more.
I feel it is now more than important than ever to face these issues. When people are having difficulties with their finances and start borrowing, that borrowing cannot go on forever and someday they will have to face it. The sooner they get to the root of the problem and start solving it the better. Also, if we educate employees they will be better equipped to teach their children about finances

If you are getting the winter blahs, it is easy to freshen things up a little by just making a few changes. A lot of the stores have their bedding and other home items on sale now.

You don’t have to spend a lot to make a big difference. Last week, I stopped at Family Dollar. They have comforter sets from $25-$45. I got a 3 piece comforter set, a Starburst mirror and clock for $40 and got a $5 giftcard from a coupon that was valid last week. So the next day I went back and got a $10 shower curtain for $5. They also have inexpensive decorating items.

You can also check out dollar stores for frugal decorating items,

So if you have the time to look around a little, you can spice up your décor.

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Nancy Kvamme

With the personal savings rate is near zero, most Americans are not saving adequately for retirement, and most lower-income households do not have adequate emergency savings for unexpected expenditures like a car repair.  But with more societal encouragement and support, more Americans will be persuaded to build wealth, not debt.

During <a href=://www.Americasavesweek.org>America Save Week</a>, individuals will be encouraged and assisted to assess their savings progress and take action to advance this progress.  This encouragement and assistance will be provided by organizations and professionals with an interest in improving the financial security of individuals and families.

This year it will be observed February 20 – February 27.

Some examples of assistance that will be offered are:

Employers encourage and make it easier for employees to participate in savings and retirement programs.

Banks and credit unions promote automatic transfers from checking to savings and investments.

Mortgage lenders help consumers attain homeownership by saving the down payment on a first mortgage loan.

Financial educators discuss savings opportunities such as automatic deposits and the “miracle” of compound interest.

Individuals take action to save more effectively and encourage family and friend to do the same.

If you like to receive monthly e-mails from national experts on topics such as money management, investment basics, building wealth through homeownership, saving during tax time, and getting out of debt, see this <a href=http://americasavesweek.org/individuals/receivemessages.asp>site</a>.

Nancy Kvamme

Lately, I have been hearing of stories about credit card companies reducing credit limits for some customers. They have been doing it to people with balances and also to others who usually pay off the balance each month.

So keep an eye on your credit limit and the amount you charge on your cards. In some cases, they reduce it enough that the person only has a few hundred dollars leeway. If they have become reliant on charging items on their credit cards, this can cause big problems.

One case, I found online was a credit limit was cut from $12,300 to $1,900, a 85% cut and it left the customer with $400 leeway on his credit card.

Another problem with this, is that it could do damage to your credit score. The percentage of credit available that a consumer actually uses accounts for around 30% of your credit score.

If all of a sudden you go from using 35-40% of available credit to 90%, that is going to have a huge effect on your credit score.

Some consumers think they are doing the right thing by paying down their debts, and then are penalized by having their credit limit decreased.

This is another reason to keep an eye on how much you charge on your credit cards.

Nancy Kvamme

“Mind Your Mortgage” by Robert Bernabe is a great resource for both people searching for their first mortgage and people who already have a mortgage.  Like he says in the book, most things we purchase the prices are cut and dry.  But with mortgages, the companies can present the fees in a way that you are not sure what you are paying for and it is important to shop around to make sure you are getting the best deal.

I have worked in the Real Estate appraisal business for 20 years and have seen first hand the downfalls of using your mortgage in the wrong way. 

Even if your mortgage broker tells you they can help you lower your payments and save money, in most cases after the fees are added you don’t end up saving as much as you thought and may have added additional years and interest charges to your mortgage.

In the past few years too many people used their houses as an ATM machine.  When the interest rates went down, people refinanced their homes and took some of the equity out as cash.  In some cases, they used this money for purchases such as vacations, swimming pools and other items they could not have afforded otherwise.  But in some cases they added additional years onto their mortgage which also adds interest. 

He also reminds us not to rely on your home as a retirement plan.  When the values go up you may have quite a bit of equity in your home.   But when values drop like they have in the last few years so does your equity. 

By adding just a little to your mortgage principal each month, over time can make a big difference in the amount of interest you end up paying on your mortgage.

Nancy Kvamme