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How to save $1,000 in 30 days

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Nothing tops experience as a means of learning. And the global financial challenges plaguing us for the past few years have certainly offered plenty of lessons, none more fundamental than the importance of saving money in an emergency fund. Setting aside cash is not a luxury; it’s a necessity in today’s economic environment. High unemployment continues, with no sign of easing. If you had to go without a paycheck, would you be ready? For many Americans, saving money in an emergency fund has made the difference between financially sinking and staying afloat. Many more have been caught short, unable to make ends meet, in part for lack of this critical component in their financial plan. A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that half of Americans would struggle to come up with $2,000 for an unexpected expense. Ordinarily, I recommend that this stash cover three to six months of living expenses. But if you think a pink slip could be coming your way, it probably makes sense to have nine to 12 months of cash set aside, given today’s job outlook. I suspect to many of you, nine to 12 months of cash in the bank seems like a bridge too far. Not so fast! It may not happen overnight, but it definitely isn’t possible unless you get started. Below, I’ve mapped out some ideas on how I could scrape together $1,000 in 30 days – a good start to saving money: Brown-bag it Dining out for lunch typically runs about $8. If I take my lunch to work and eat at home on the weekends, I cut costs to about $2 per day. Savings = $180 Brew my own joe I grind my own organic coffee beans every morning and bring a cup to work. This costs me 50 cents per day. A cup of java at a coffee shop costs about $3. Savings = $75 Tap the tap Bottled water costs anywhere from $1.50 to $5. If I do buy bottled water, I choose the lower-end variety because I’m a cheapskate. Instead of purchasing three bottles per day, I drink tap water. Savings = $135 Going to the dog wash I have two German shepherds and a border collie. They like my shower as much as I do. Clean the dogs at home once a month instead of taking them to the groomer. Savings = $200 Skip the car wash Once a month, I wash my car in the driveway and turn off the water when it’s not in use (kind of like taking a Navy shower). Savings = $20 Lose the landline The average cost for a home phone is about $50. I dropped mine and only use my cell phone. Savings = $50 Get my news online Drop the local daily newspaper. Savings = $15 DIY pedicure Instead of paying someone else each time, do it yourself. I do. Savings = $50 (at least) In the weeds The commercial company that sprays my lawn charges $75 per month. I can put up with a few weeds at that price and save money. Savings = $75 Ditch the satellite radio The local DJs need love, too. Savings = $30 Streamline the cable package Skip the premium channels. I don’t miss them a bit. Savings = $85 Iron(ing) is good for you I iron four blouses per month instead of taking them to the cleaners. Savings = $20 (Question: Why does a woman’s blouse cost so much more to iron than a man’s shirt?) Trim dining out Imagine an enjoyable evening out with friends ... wine, an appetizer and a nice dinner. That’s about $65. I forgo that pleasure once a month and cook instead. Savings = $65 Snap! I’ve saved $1,000. I’ve upped my to-do list, but a little yardwork, nail-painting and ironing never hurt anybody. To add to my savings, I ask for military discounts (don’t be shy; they can be significant), and I might consider saving money by dropping my gym membership (I can do push-ups, sit-ups, and run/power-walk anywhere). Plus, about every two months, I highlight my own hair to save another $100 to $125. Your spending habits may be a bit different from mine, but everyone can come up with their own ways to save money. Here are just a few more ideas: shop for groceries with a list; buy in bulk; use generic products; avoid paying ATM fees and bank charges; check out movies and books at the library; or set your thermostat higher. Where can you cut back? Start building your fallback fund today. This article was originally written for The Motley Fool.

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Who will fill the gap?

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A strong American Legion membership means a stronger voice in the nation’s capital when it comes to lobbying on behalf of U.S. servicemembers and veterans. Financially, it means a stronger bottom line for the organization. But a lack of a strong membership and a plan for future growth means the multitudes of Americans impacted by Legion programs may have to look elsewhere for help, said American Legion National Adjutant Daniel S. Wheeler. Speaking to the Legion’s National Membership & Post Activities Committee, Wheeler said that a declining American Legion membership will negatively impact communities across the nation. “Think about the services that will be gone,” Wheeler said. “When people ask, ‘Why should I join The American Legion?’ I think too often we don’t have at our fingertips the many things The American Legion has done for America to make a difference in the lives we all have today. “For one thing, there would probably be no middle class in America (without the GI Bill of Rights, authored by American Legion Past National Commander Harry Colmery). Look at the thousands of kids who come off the streets and participate in American Legion youth programs. If The American Legion hadn’t been there – if the local post hadn’t been active – these people wouldn’t have become the leaders they came. They wouldn’t haven’t become the solid, hard-working, middle class Americans who are the backbone of our country. “Think of the children that wouldn’t be fed or clothed or housed if it weren’t for The American Legion’s Temporary Financial Assistance. Who would take our place in doing that?” Wheeler added that without American Legion service officers, veterans would struggle getting their disability claims approved, VA wouldn’t have advanced appropriations, and today’s military wouldn’t have the voice of support it has in the nation’s capital. “We can honestly say that the things we do ... we do for the sole reason of they’re the right things to do,” he said. “Where would America be without that? Only The American Legion can do something in your neighborhood. And everybody does it because they’re volunteering and believe it should be done. “That’s why membership is important. Membership is important to insure this American Legion legacy lives on.” During the meeting, National Commander Fang Wong tasked members of the committee to poll Legion departments on membership tactics that are working or failing. He said he’d ask the Legion’s national vice commanders to take a similar approach with department commanders. “My hope ... is that we can learn from this year’s membership program by understanding what has changed, what has not changed, and what has worked, what has not worked,” he said. “Hopefully by the time we get to the Washington Conference (Feb. 26-29) we can get some kind of feedback as to how you’re doing. In order to do that, we need to come up with some sort of standard for what we want them to tell us. “What do we really want to know? What do you really want to know from each department? How are they doing this year so far? What have they learned, have they tried? What do they think they’re doing well? Once we get that information from them ... we can do a year-end report card (at the National Membership Workshop in July). If this particular committee can do that consistently through the year, we’ll build up a lot of information we can pass on each successive year to each commander as they come along. Lessons learned.” Leading candidate for 2012-2013 national commander Jim Koutz explained the membership incentive program, Lucky 13, that he’ll implement if elected in September. Legionnaires who renew five members, sign up three new ones, transfer three members from a headquarters post and reinstate two former members will receive a Lucky 13 pin. Dan Dellinger, the committee’s Legislative Commission consultant and a former M&PA Committee chairman, said the way to bring recently transitioned servicemembers into the organization is to focus on their needs. “They’re thinking about having a job and getting an education so they can raise a family and be a productive member of our society,” he said. “ “I’m a believer in membership,” Koutz said. “Let’s make it happen.” National Internal Affairs Commission Chairman Larry Besson told the committee that 36 Legion departments had achieved the Jan. 19 80-percent target date goal, and that another 10 could hit the mark by the date. “We need to keep this rolling along,” he said. “We need to keep energized, and we need to keep enthused.” The committee also was briefed on the MyLegion.org program (www.mylegion.org), the newly developed American Legion Extension Institute online presence and online renewals. Greg Roth, director of Membership Support Services, said that to date, more than 120,000 Legionnaires have renewed online.

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New Law Change Increases Insurance Coverage for Veterans

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Some Veterans covered under the Veterans Group Life Insurance program (VGLI) now have the opportunity to increase their coverage to the current maximum coverage under the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program.

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Help Available for Drivers Who Have Wartime Trauma

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Erratic driving by returning troops is being identified as a symptom of traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder — and coming under greater scrutiny.

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Largest Annual Wheelchair Sports Event in the World Returning to Richmond this June

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Registration is open for the 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games, the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world. More than 500 Veterans from across the United States, Puerto Rico and Great Britain are expected to compete in the Games, taking place June 25-30, 2012, in Richmond, Va. - the site of the very first National Veterans Wheelchair Games held in 1981.

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