Balancing Summer Spending

by Alexander J. Boughton

Alex is an advocate for life skills and home safety training, a free-lance journalist, and the co-founder of the National Kids Construction Club. He holds a Master of Science in Real Estate from American University’s Kogod School of Business. Alex welcomes your questions and the opportunity to speak to your school or organization. He can be reached on Facebook at Alex J. Boughton.

Alex is an advocate for life skills and home safety training, a free-lance journalist, and the co-founder of the National Kids Construction Club. He holds a Master of Science in Real Estate from American University’s Kogod School of Business. Alex welcomes your questions and the opportunity to speak to your school or organization. He can be reached on Facebook at Alex J. Boughton.

Summer will soon be here! It’s a great time to entertain outside with friends and family and some good seafood, steaks and cold brews. It’s a wonderful time to get away from everyday routines by escaping to a fun European city. For Millennials, like me, who are just starting to save money for their first home, it’s not easy to say no to an exotic island retreat or an unrestrained party with local friends.

So here’s the question: how do you balance all the priorities of spending this summer with what you have available in your checkbook? That question has many answers, so let’s review the best ways to curb unnecessary spending while still enjoying more time in the great outdoors.

Be honest with yourself about “wants” vs “needs” by creating and adhering to a realistic budget on a spreadsheet. Don’t bite into savings to redecorate your home for the season. Purchase timeless pieces that are appropriate for all seasons, including summertime. Find inspiration from the yellow sun, blue sky and green grass. Consider bright, yellow pillows for a sofa and colorful, potted flowers for a table. Contemplate if it is really necessary to go to Europe at this moment in your life. What’s wrong with a local beach vacation instead? As for a lavish summer party over Memorial Day, you can still have fun with friends eating hot dogs and burgers instead of lobsters and oysters.

Practice discipline! Don’t buy impulsively. Avoid binge spending. Think twice before paying big bucks for a whole new set of vacation clothes. Buy just a few new fashion pieces to enhance your current wardrobe. Limit the quality and quantity of summer events at your home. Just because you happen to have the biggest backyard amongst your friends, doesn’t mean it’s the only place to host a large party. Consider gathering at a park, by a lake or at the beach.

Try to use cash whenever possible. This helps you track bad spending habits more quickly. Many have gotten into the practice of using credit cards and digital wallets, which can contribute to overspending because you don’t realize how much you have charged until the statement comes in. Much like when you go to a casino and gamble with chips, which are easier to bet with than real money, the same concept applies when it comes to credit. When I do use my credit card, I appreciate how it allows me to track my biggest currency drainer ­– food and eating out. Having observed my own hurried buying habits at the local markets, I now take the extra time to wholesale shop.

Try saving money. Don’t go on a vacation until you can pay for it. Open a savings account and start dropping money into it every pay check. Some companies offer direct deposit, which really simplifies one’s ability to save. If contributing to a 401K, why not increase the contribution percentage after a decent raise. You can still take home additional money and save more at the same time.

Having great summer experiences doesn’t mean we have to drain our earnings, if we practice how to spend money more wisely. It takes time, but once good spending habits take hold, you will gain greater satisfaction and discover how sound financial decisions made today can bring about a better future, perhaps filled with more vacations, parties and even a new home!

 

Digital Age of Home Repair

Alex is an advocate for lifestyle skills and home safety training, a free-lance journalist, and the co-founder of the National Kids Construction Club. He holds a Master of Science in Real Estate from American University’s Kogod School of Business. Alex welcomes your questions and the opportunity to speak to your school or organization. He can be reached on Facebook at Alex J. Boughton.

Alex is an advocate for lifestyle skills and home safety training, a free-lance journalist, and the co-founder of the National Kids Construction Club. He holds a Master of Science in Real Estate from American University’s Kogod School of Business. Alex welcomes your questions and the opportunity to speak to your school or organization. He can be reached on Facebook at Alex J. Boughton.

Spring is a great time to think about home repairs and maintenance, whether you own or rent your home. At the moment, I live in a rental property in Washington D.C. with four graduate students. As you can imagine, it does occasionally get somewhat cluttered and some things fall into disrepair.

If you’re looking for convenient ways to find someone to address home repairs, look no further than a Google search on your smartphone or laptop. The first thing I do: go through the massive list of service providers available in my area, including Angie’s List and Home Advisor. Sometimes it’s difficult to siphon through the data. Keep an eye out for companies that have negative customer reviews or vague or limited information online. All too often, companies that don’t have a great track record will spam you with promos trying to bring in business. Be sure to watch out for this!

Perhaps you want to save yourself time and money and perform your own home repairs or projects. If you’re unfamiliar with the repair process for your project, try asking a knowledgeable friend or use a site like YouTube which offers “how to” videos. When embarking on a larger project, such as a new patio, develop a plan in order to complete the project on time and within your budget. Consider using powerful tools like Microsoft Project or Excel that provide a spreadsheet to map out your project’s expenses. If you think you may be under budget and can outsource some of the work, be sure to double-check your spreadsheet.

Since I live in a rental overseen by a property manager, I usually have the same “preferred vendors” conducting repairs. When you rent a home, there are typically limits to the repairs being requested. On the bright side, if you plan on staying in your rental for a few years, you can often get permission to make upgrades at your own expense. For those on the home-owner side, you have the most control over maintenance or repairs to your home. That said, home-owner associations or other organizations that govern your community can sometimes pose a hindrance to renovations. This highly depends on the scope of your project, so worry not! If you plan correctly and work around these road blocks, your home will have that desired facelift.

This past winter I had the privilege of returning to my former school to educate a few hundred eighth grade students about the need for learning home safety skills. They reminded me that they are not particularly curious about home safety because gaming and school remain more important. A parallel can be drawn about me and my home. I do not currently own my home, so I don’t go looking for capital improvements; I’m busy working and attending a class at night. However, this doesn’t mean that I should ignore what may get broken or pretend that it’s unimportant.

Whether you rent or own a home, spring remains a great time to fix, repair and rejuvenate your home. The Digital Age can help to make your home a better place in which to live, work and play!

THE DIGITAL SEARCH

Alex is a motivational speaker and advocate for lifestyle skills and home safety training, a free-lance journalist, and the co-founder of the National Kids Construction Club. He holds a Master of Science in Real Estate from American University’s Kogod School of Business. Alex welcomes your questions and the opportunity to speak to your organization. He can be reached at ajboughton@optonline.net.

Alex is a motivational speaker and advocate for lifestyle skills and home safety training, a free-lance journalist, and the co-founder of the National Kids Construction Club. He holds a Master of Science in Real Estate from American University’s Kogod School of Business. Alex welcomes your questions and the opportunity to speak to your organization. He can be reached at ajboughton@optonline.net.

As a teen, I used to take for granted the ability to search the internet for buying new songs on iTunes or for purchasing cool board games through a Google search. Fast forward 10 years and we’ve come so far as a society in our ability to use big data and search engines to find anything from a favorite kitchen gadget to an amazing new home.

When it comes to buying a home, rather than relying exclusively on town records, word of mouth or taxes, we have access to an array of search features to make a home purchase. Google explorations alone can tell you more about a community, its amenities and even its demographics. Let’s not forget about search engines like Zillow, which allow for anyone to look at the purchases and records of real-estate properties in any given area. Narrowing down to the nitty gritty of a home purchase allows people to make better informed buys, especially if relying on an inexperienced real estate agent’s perspective.

Furniture and all kinds of niceties, including prescription eyeglasses, can be easily purchased through the internet. Online retail offers a wide assortment to satisfy everyone’s tastes. For example, if Amazon or Ikea don’t have the furniture you need, there’s always more refined boutique store options or completely e-commerce home goods sources such as Wayfair. Wayfair remains especially popular with out-of-state college students, since shipping is free. Retail has become more of a numbers game due to increased search engine capabilities. Let’s suppose you’re interested in getting a dresser made of a nice Cherry or Mahogany wood, but you’re not sure how to get the best price. You can make use of powerful tools like Excel to keep track of all the costs in one place. Some online stores even have price matching for their products, giving more power to the buyer in an already competitive marketplace. With the advent of websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, it makes it much simpler to buy local, used furniture and decorations.

Despite having multiple options and readily available data, a downside exists. Before the digital age, the process for buying remained much more relationship based. For example, oftentimes a real estate agent or furniture salesperson would give you a piece of history on a purchase to be decided. While relationship building continues to evolve and many still prefer this kind of sales method, the option to avoid it slightly or even completely continues to be more of a reality.

Is this a good thing for consumers? With the decline of relationship-based selling, it now requires retailers and sales personnel to adapt to more aggressive styles. Big data is being used on consumers in sometimes questionable ways. Psychology has taken a frontline in order to try to deceive or manipulate our spending. Most questionable of all, our digital footprint can be tracked by the same companies trying to encourage our spending. Despite the drawbacks, it’s hard to think of our society without the human contact or the digital search technology we enjoy.

 

Creating the Fun Factor in Your First Home

BY ALEXANDER J. BOUGHTON

Alex is a motivational speaker and advocate for lifestyle skills and home safety training, a free-lance journalist and the co-founder of the National Kids Construction Club. He holds a Master of Science in Real Estate from American University’s Kogod School of Business. Alex welcomes your questions and the opportunity to speak to your organization. He can be reached at ajboughton@optonline.net.

If you’re just starting your career and working with a limited budget, like me, it is possible to create a really entertaining lifestyle in your first home. I did it by adding interactive classic games everyone can easily appreciate.

For starters, I found inexpensive housing by opting for a functionally obsolescent 1951 center hall colonial home in a quaint upscale neighborhood near shopping, fitness facilities, restaurants and nightlife. I then carefully vetted four friendly roommates to share these spacious five bedrooms and four completely vintage bathrooms.

The home’s expansive living room provides great multi-functionality. Built-in bookcases create a library for our many college text books. Two leather sofas, donated by family selling their vacation home, form a comfortable seating area around the fireplace. A classy used foosball table, purchased for $60 through Craigslist, provides a touch of unconventionality.

A sun room adjacent to the living room delivers the perfect space for a hand-me-down wooden table and six inexpensive folding chairs for playing cards and the many board games saved from our youth.

In the lower-level walk-out family room, a decent music system and an original, 1951 bar-style pool table generate real atmosphere in our home. This 7-foot hardwood beauty fetched on-line for only $100, cost a whopping $450 to carefully reassemble. A friend’s grandmother donated her 1950s bamboo sofa and matching chairs. We converted our dorm refrigerators into soda fridges and added a cheap, used wine cooler.

In the long, unfinished room next to the family room, an 8-foot, portable, hand-made ping pong table (purchased for $10) sits on a folding table. Tall, plastic palm trees found at a rummage sale add a touch of kitsch and can easily be taken to the adjacent covered patio for barbecue parties and games of badminton and volleyball in the backyard.

To create this low-budget, highly entertaining home for five bachelors, it necessitated paying close attention to every detail and utilizing lots of patience and persistence, especially when searching on-line sources or haggling with strangers, friends, family and neighbors. It proved well worth the effort. After a long day of work or graduate school, we can be found gathering for a game of pool or foosball fun. And when our parents visit, our home reminds them of their youth, especially when gathering for a game of dominoes.

Spending too much money on rental housing and not saving enough money for a future home remain major complications for many Millennials in their first few years out of college. It can be so tempting to desire an expensive updated apartment and furnishings. Remember: think more long-term and the money needed for savings, investments and even retirement.

Giving up life in the big city and finding an outdated home in an established neighborhood close to public transportation produced an affordable alternative for us. Buying older used items to fill our home, like the classic pool table, allowed us to meet a variety of people of our parents’ age. They felt honored that their fun games found a new home for Millennials to enjoy.

 

Seasonal Changes

Alex is a motivational speaker and advocate for lifestyle skills and home safety training, a free-lance journalist, and the co-founder of the National Kids Construction Club. He holds a Master of Science in Real Estate from American University’s Kogod School of Business. Alex welcomes your questions and the opportunity to speak to your organization. He can be reached at ajboughton@optonline.net.

The summer season serves not just as the best time for more outdoor relaxation and vacation fun, but often as a reflective period to effect positive change in one’s life. For some that might mean a new job or career direction and for others it may mean taking up an additional hobby or sport. It may also inspire the opportunity to revisit past mistakes or shortcomings and seek new ways to either apologize or reconcile. 

For many younger Millennials the transition to fall includes the return to college or graduate school. For those who have completed their schooling, it can be a very restless time, especially when trying to create a captivating resume and a persuasive interview. The labor market continues to be highly competitive for those seeking their best first job and the most rewarding new career opportunities. Unfortunately, Millennials constantly remain under fire from the media and the close eye of big analytics firms for the many life choices to be made. 

Recently, Pew Research discovered Millennials choose to stay in their parents’ home, making it look as though we don’t know how to control our destiny. Sadly, those living home probably can’t afford to move out. They may not have been able to find a fulfilling first job, internship or sustainable occupation in this continuing sluggish economy. Maybe their college debt doesn’t allow them to afford a place to live on their own. College expenses continue to increase each year. A good, 4-year, private college can cost over a quarter of a million dollars for tuition, room and board, but the expenses don’t end there. During college recess, those who want to stay competitive and secure the best jobs know it’s important to complete several good internships and include an international class or semester abroad. 

So consider not judging all Millennials too harshly until you truly understand that you can’t just judge by what you see or read about in the media. Did you know many graduates elect to work for non-profits for up to 10 years in exchange for reducing their college loans? Did you know many grads can’t find gainful employment and have no choice but to live at home? Many have set realistic goals in their lives only to find they simply can’t be reached. 

On the bright side, the future of Millennials continues to look better than ever. With breakthroughs in technology, anyone with access to the internet can more easily expand their repertoire. Go to YouTube and see myriad low-cost ways to advance your career, learn a new hobby or heal your mind and soul. In this time of transition from summer to fall, take a moment to reflect on how to motivate yourself in order to make life much more worthwhile. Take up that activity you’ve been putting off or make that business change with the many low-to-no cost educational/tutorial materials obtainable on-line. Most importantly, do what makes you happy now that you’ve had the less hectic days of summer to help move forward a new you! 

 

Striving for a More Resilient and Liberated Self

Just before summer, millions of Millennials graduate from higher education in the hopes of securing a good job and a nice place to live. What kind of transition can they expect? Who will miss the fraternity and sorority parties? Who will lament about the halls of learning or playing a college sport? For better or worse, who will be unemployed, underemployed or disillusioned with their college diploma?

Alex is a motivational speaker and advocate for lifestyle skills and home safety training, a free-lance journalist, and the co-founder of the National Kids Construction Club. He holds a Master of Science in Real Estate from American University’s Kogod School of Business. Alex welcomes your questions and the opportunity to speak to your organization. He can be reached at ajboughton@optonline.net.

Alex is a motivational speaker and advocate for lifestyle skills and home safety training, a free-lance journalist, and the co-founder of the National Kids Construction Club. He holds a Master of Science in Real Estate from American University’s Kogod School of Business. Alex welcomes your questions and the opportunity to speak to your organization. He can be reached at ajboughton@optonline.net.

Securing a career path should satisfy one’s soul, but it can be difficult to achieve at the age of 21. Many Millennials feel discontented staying with one company. Their job and salary expectations may be set too high. Perhaps they didn’t explore enough employment options through internships or part-time jobs while in college. Maybe a trade school could have been more fulfilling.

New tech and startup companies continue to attract recent grads, especially since many have chosen to embrace millennial mores. For example, arrive to work at 11 am, go home by 8 pm and in between, work out at the gym. It grants a young professional the ability to follow his or her idea of a dream job. If our economy doesn’t deliver your “perfect profession,” are you willing to keep an open mind?

As for housing, who among the grads can afford to buy their first place? How many will lose their independence and remain with their parents in order to save money? Millennials prefer to rent and like uprooting over shorter periods of time, often to other states, causing a rise in the rental market. They have seen their parents’ homes not retain their values and aren’t so sure they like the idea of planting roots just yet. ­Developers seem keen on keeping pace with that trend, but it’s not just renting habits that have businesses trying to frantically keep up.

Millennials seem poised to drive major societal changes through technology and to make work environments more dynamic, but some things may be more difficult to forsake. Who will be prepared to age gracefully and adjust to existing expectations of their older colleagues? Do you want millennial trends to be a reality forever, especially after marriage and kids?

How many Millennials can easily transition to using their hands to create, build and fix things? Without life skills, expect more challenges. Our grandparents passed along self-respect and dignity through hands-on skills. They routinely knew how to grow vegetables, build things and sew clothes.

It’s been both a blessing and a curse for our generation to have access to so much technology to help us. While most of our parents encouraged us to go to college, they didn’t necessarily inspire the strength and conviction to perpetuate life skills learning at home and in schools. We come from all walks of life and graduate intellectually stronger. Instead of just using our education as a means to accelerate our incomes, shouldn’t we take extra care to find a fulfilling career while growing our lifestyle skills too? Enjoy time’s passageways; it will make for a more resilient and liberated self!

Living a greener lifestyle with organic gardening

Alex is a motivational speaker and ­advocate for lifestyle skills and home safety training, a free-lance journalist, and the co-founder of the National Kids Construction Club. He holds a Master of Science in Real Estate from the Kogod School of Business at American University. Alex welcomes your questions and the opportunity to speak to your organization. He can be reached at ajboughton@optonline.net.


More often than not, companies like Whole Foods or Chipotle come to mind when looking for organic or GMO free (genetically modified organisms) foods. For those who might be like me – you like to try new things and prefer organic foods – maybe it’s time to consider growing our own fruits, vegetables and herbs. It seems fairly easy and fun, and it’s good for you too! If my 88-year-old grandfather still cans his fresh strawberries, picks edible mushrooms in the forest and grows his own tomatoes, there must be hope for us Millennials. 

Over the last 25 years, farming has evolved and changed. For example, smaller, organic farms appear to be on the rise as are urban farms in places like Brooklyn and Philadelphia. A few builders are even creating communities with land set aside so owners can grow their own organic vegetables. Surprisingly, some small farms are being gifted to their towns as educational facilities in which to teach local residents how to grow their own food.

How big do you want your new garden? When considering a place to live, one of the more aesthetically pleasing items to add to your wish list can be your own organic garden. In order to make a successful garden, you need to identify what’s the right style for you. For those living in a suburban setting with ample green space in your backyard, the sky’s the limit for what you want to grow and how you want to display your garden. For large spaces where you have the ability to add some curb appeal within your garden, it makes sense to match your existing outdoor exterior with that of your garden in the making. 

For those with less space, such as a condo, you could make a green room in the interior of your home if you have some spare space and window availability. A green room not only provides a change of scenery from the rest of your home, but still gives you that feel of having the outdoors closer to you. If none of these options appear possible, add some spice to your life by buying organic foods from a local farmer or community garden.

For nearly five years, I’ve had the privilege of studying and residing in DC, home to American University’s award-winning Arboretum and Gardens. Over 100 different trees and plants surround me whenever I walk to class. This arboretum exposed me to beautiful gardens, sustainable landscaping and a great environment to feel at ease and relax in. While creating your own organic garden may not be as glamorous looking, it’s definitely a good change of pace from playing video games and texting on your cell phone, and it offers so many other kinds of creative possibilities. 

As organic and GMO free foods grow in popularity, why not explore the possibility of creating you own fresh and inexpensive organic foods? Don’t you think you deserve to eat healthier foods? Joel Salatin’s humorous book, Family Friendly Farming, explores the landscape of clean food and clean land. Consider exploring organic gardening; it’s much better for your health and it’s a great way to create a more interactive dining experience! 

 

Meaningful Music for the Soul

Alex is a motivational speaker for life skills and home safety issues, a free-lance journalist, and the co-founder of the National Kids Construction Club. He holds a Master of Science in Real Estate from the Kogod School of Business at American University. Alex welcomes your questions and the opportunity to speak to your organization. He can be reached at ajboughton@optonline.net.

I love listening to music, ­especially when cooking and hanging with friends at home. For many occasions, creating the right environment through music ­depends on the ears of the ­listener. I know Millennials enjoy many different genres of music from rock and roll and country to hip hop and jazz. As for me, I’m torn between classic rock of the 70s and 80s and pop music from the last few decades. 

To explore why Millennials like me gravitate to music from the 70s and 80s and to see how the music industry has changed over the years, I turned to female rock artist Gail Petersen, founder and lead singer of the all-girl band The Catholic Girls. Gail wrote all the songs for her newest CD Kiss Me One More Time. While attending a private Catholic school for 12 years shaped her brand, so too do the strong memories and themes she makes references to in her music.
“In the 80s, I wrote ‘God Made You for Me,’ which was banned by the Archdiocese of Providence, Rhode Island.” Gail said. “I took the brunt of that controversy. The name of my band, our school uniforms and rosary-bead earrings got us less airplay than many other bands – less airplay; less money; less fame.”

As Gail recalls, she wasn’t looking for controversy; she just wanted to sing about ideas that were important to her. While other artists found money and fans, she paid the price due to her religious themes. 

I asked Gail what she thought of our music. “Today, music evolves around such things as popularity, record contracts, airplay and more have metamorphosed from talent to abs, breasts, choreography, trendy subjects, and some (as ever) hard-core sex. There are performers, somewhere, writing about injustice and controversial subjects—but to do that is at their own risk.”

Now that I’ve had the opportunity to see the music industry through the eyes of someone who has spent over 35 years in it, I wasn’t surprised when Gail said my generation tends to have a short attention span and wants music to be quick and hard – and understandable.

“It’s not the 70s or 80s where lyrics often had hidden or substantive meaning. Today, audiences are not necessarily searching their souls, but searching for a trend or slogan they can hook into, dance to, play to or pose to. The consciousness is physicality, not philosophy. For the artist, safer is easier, better, more popular and more profitable.”

Music is no longer confined to albums and radio as with Gail’s generation. Millennials have so many musical outlets, such as Pandora and iHeartRadio, and access to a much wider variety of songs. Having the ability to create the right environment when you want to enjoy music has become a more widespread occurrence. Whether it’s jamming out to 70s rock or listening to your favorite pop artist of today, there’s a flavor of music for everyone to enjoy while spending quality time at home. 

Soul! Role! Goal!

BY ALEXANDER J. BOUGHTON

Bestselling author, business consultant and motivational speaker Mitch Axelrod appreciates Millennials. He thinks we should do just fine in life if we remember to connect with three important things: our soul, role and goal! 

Alex is a motivational speaker for life skills and home safety issues, an author and the co-founder of the National Kids Construction Club. He is currently a candidate for a Master of Science in Real Estate at the Kogod School of Business at American University. Alex welcomes your questions and the opportunity to speak to your organization. He can be reached at ajboughton@optonline.net.

I certainly think this sounds nice, but what exactly does this mean? To begin, Mitch has been in the consulting business for over 25 years, is a Baby Boomer and a recent Amazon number-one bestselling author of “The New Game of Selling.” Mitch believes we all have to adapt to the “new” game of selling and not stick to the “old” ways, before the digital age and the timeworn business culture of the past. “Our generation’s goal was to make a good living and take care of family,” said Mitch. “For Millennials that goal does not seem to be the end game. You want a role that serves your soul. You want less authority and more autonomy.”

While Mitch enjoys helping young adults better their understanding of successful selling, I focused on learning from his experiences as a mentor. Especially since his insight has been a great influencer in bridging the gap of understanding between his generation and mine.  

Not surprisingly, Mitch believes it remains important for my generation to connect with our parents' generation. “When I see a Millennial, I see my child. It's difficult to shed my parental paradigm. Parents walk a fine line between sharing our values with our children and demanding they be as we want them to be.” 

Mitch also understands that Millennials have different values. “We can learn a lot from each other. Although you have instant access to any information, you cannot get wisdom from Siri or experience from Google search,” he remarked. “There's great value in wisdom and experience ­– that like fine wine is enriched by time. Native tribes treasured their young, and they celebrated their elders. You are our future. We are your past. Today, we need to peacefully coexist in the present. It's up to all of us to build a bridge to create a better world for everyone.”

Mitch has many more words of wisdom to share as a mentor to me and others my age. “Think for yourself. Know yourself. Be true to yourself. Value yourself. Live your life. Listen to your soul. Play roles that express your talent and fulfill you. Set goals in alignment with your soul and role. Do your soul setting and role setting THEN do your goal setting. And finally, never elevate authority above autonomy. When given the choice between obeying your rules or someone else's or loving and serving yourself or others, love and serve yourself and others!”

Having a mentor like Mitch makes me realize that my generation has much to be thankful for in our parents. Such wisdom!  As Mitch explains, it's most fulfilling when you align your talent, skill and personality to your work. Know yourself (soul). Choose what you do (role). Value and get paid for what you bring to the marketplace (goal). Soul! Role! Goal!

“It's a whole NEW game!”

Mitch had many other great things to say, but a better resource is to check out his new book!