Tuesday

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget Starting Today


We know eating healthy is important for everyone. Not only will it help you focus at work, it can improve your overall health which means less money spent on medical bills. You should think about healthy eating as a three-step process: Planning, Purchasing, Preparing. Following these three "p's" you too can find healthy ways to approach your meals while keeping within your budget.

Planning for Healthy Meals

While some of us are faithful about making a list, if you're going to save money at the grocery store, a list is a necessity. Planning for healthy meals begins before making shopping lists however, it starts with developing a menu. Whether you shop once a month, once a week, or every two weeks, the first step you should take is creating a menu.

Your menu can be created on note cards, online in the cloud, or you can use a meal planner app.  Whatever method you choose, you should include breakfast, lunch and dinner menus initially. If it's something new for you, consider starting off with only a single week until you get into the habit of planning a menu. Don't forget to account for leftovers when creating your menu: Even if you use leftovers to make an omelet, or for lunch, it will reduce your grocery budget.

Once you've created your menus, check your cupboards for staples which can be eliminated from your shopping list. If you are short on spices, or other necessities, consider traveling to your local dollar store to stock up at a cheap price. If there are specific items on sale which you can make a healthy meal from, you may want to tweak your menu a bit.

Purchasing Items for Healthy Meals

From your menus, develop your shopping list. Arrange the list by "type" of foods, for example, list all the meats together, list all dairy products together, etc. This will help you stay focused while shopping and may help curb impulse buying. Remember, the fewer aisles you must visit, the less likely you are to give into impulses. Before heading to the market, make sure you have something to eat: A hungry shopper is more likely to overspend on items not on their list.

Just because you've been going to the same grocery store for years doesn't mean you're getting the best deal. Scour your local advertisements for items on sale, check online for grocery coupons, and identify the store where you can save the most money. Once you're there, verify unit pricing of items — just because it has a name brand on it does not automatically mean it's a better product. Generic or store brand items often cost far less than their name brand counterparts and can save you tons of money.

Bulk purchases can also save you a lot of money. For example, even if your menu only calls for rice one night, you may save more money purchasing a five-pound bag than a one-pound box. This means you must be aware of "use by" dates so use your best judgment.

Preparing Healthy Meals

One of the biggest challenges most of us face is time — you can save time if you prepare meals on a day like Saturday or Sunday when you can spend time cooking the "major" items like roasting a chicken or cooking a roast. This will save you time during the week and help you avoid last-minute takeout orders because you don't feel like cooking. The other option is to make the most of a slow-cooker — you can put your meal into the cooker before you leave for work in the morning and let it cook while you're away.

These are just a few tips that can help you eat healthy on a budget. As you grow more accustomed to planning ahead for meals, chances are high you will spend less. Remember to use extenders like frozen vegetables, store your leftovers properly so they can be reused and take advantage of sales and coupons.

Friday

The Impact of Unfiled Tax Returns on Bankruptcy

When filing bankruptcy, you will be obligated to provide a breadth of financial information along with your petition. The specific form to be filed is called a Statement of Financial Affairs for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy. Generally, the information on this form is easy to fill out if you have access to your tax returns. Otherwise, you will have to recreate your income from pay stubs, bank accounts, and other documents. Unfiled taxes should be filed prior to filing a bankruptcy petition for several reasons but, failing to do so could cause you more problems than you think.

What Happens With Unfiled Tax Returns

The bankruptcy petition should be accompanied by your tax returns. Chapter 7 filings require you to have filed the last two years of tax returns while a Chapter 13 requires the filing of at least the last four years. However, in some instances, a debtor files for bankruptcy protection without understanding the implications of an unfiled return. Should you fail to file your returns first, the Internal Revenue Service may file a return on your behalf.

Additionally, if you have prior filed returns and owe the IRS money, you may be able to have some of the debt discharged in bankruptcy. Should you have unfiled returns and be owed a refund, you may lose the right to collect a refund if one is outstanding. If you have unpaid taxes and your returns are unfiled, you could lose the right to have some of them discharged as part of a Chapter 7 and the unfiled tax returns will also mean you will be unable to restructure outstanding tax debt as part of a Chapter 13. In some cases, the court will reject your petition for bankruptcy should you have unfiled tax returns or you could be denied a discharge of your petition.

When the IRS Files Your Return

Should the Internal Revenue Service file your return on your behalf, you may be shocked at what happens. The substitute federal return (SFR) is based on information received by the IRS from your employer. This means they will take into consideration any 1099's and W2 forms issued for monies earned.

It is important for you to understand  the IRS does not do any type of "deep dive" into your specific circumstances so you will only get a single exemption for yourself, they will not add any deductions which you may have been entitled to, and you will not be given credit for any tax credits you may be entitled to. Additionally, the IRS will add significant penalties for late payment and other penalties which will mean you are being issued an inflated tax bill.

Replacing the SFR

Should the IRS file substitute returns on your behalf, you can correct your tax filings by taking the necessary steps to file accurate returns on your own. This should be completed before filing your bankruptcy petition. Your bankruptcy attorney may recommend you seek assistance from a tax specialist before they complete your bankruptcy filing.

Tax Debt and Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

When you still owe the Internal Revenue Service money and you are filing bankruptcy, if you have filed late returns you may not be eligible to ask for part of the debt to be discharged. This is because the taxes must be owed for three years prior to filing. If the returns are filed just prior to filing bankruptcy, they do not qualify for discharge. When you are filing Chapter 13, you will be eligible to have any IRS debt included as part of your repayment plan as long as your returns are filed prior to your bankruptcy petition. You should discuss the impact of additional penalties and other fees charged by the IRS with your bankruptcy attorney when you meet to discuss your bankruptcy options.

Working With a Bankruptcy Attorney

Debtors who are considering filing for bankruptcy protection should make sure they inform their bankruptcy attorney about all of their financial obligations including unfiled state or federal tax returns. This is important because these returns will have an impact on your petition and may create additional problems if they are unaware of your tax filing problems. Since unpaid taxes are part of your overall debt, and uncollected refunds are a component of your assets, they could also have an impact on the decision to file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Tax Liens and IRS Wage Garnishment

Tax liens will not go away when you file Chapter 7, however, unless you were notified prior to filing Chapter 7 that you may be subject to a lien, the IRS is not able to file a new lien during the process. Another important thing to be aware of is if you have existing wage garnishments and file for bankruptcy protection, the automatic stay stops these collection activities. This could give you some time to negotiate a settlement for some debts, including taxes owed to the IRS. Talk to a bankruptcy attorney if you have existing wage garnishments so they can make sure they stop once your petition is accepted by the court.

The decision to file for protection under the U. S. Bankruptcy Code is not an easy one. However, you should keep in mind thousands of people every year seek this form of protection. We have worked with clients who have suffered a financial setback due to illness, divorce, or work slowdowns or layoffs. Filing Chapter 7 will give you a clean slate from many of the debts you are facing because they will be discharged. Chapter 13 allows you to make payments over a period of up to five years allowing you time to get your finances in order and get a fresh start on rebuilding your future.


Sources: Statement of Financial Affairs

Thursday

Tips for avoiding diabetic retinopathy


Diabetic retinopathy is one of the possible long-term complications to consider when you are diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy can be avoided. These tips can help you reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, or slowing the progression.

  • Have your eyes examined - If you are diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes you should have your eyes examined at least annually. An annual visit to an ophthalmologist is essential to helping detect early retinal damage. Retinal damage can be treated easily with laser therapy if detected early. For those with Type II Diabetes, you should have an eye exam as quickly after you receive a diagnosis as possible and it should be repeated annually.
  • Control Blood Sugar - Diabetic retinopathy can be avoided by closely monitoring blood sugar levels. Follow any advice given by your doctor. Your diabetes is going to require aggressive management and you must follow your physician's advice. A hemoglobin test every three to six months can help evaluate how well under control your blood sugar levels are. Every ten percent reduction in your HbA1c levels (hemoglobin) can reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by more than thirty percent.
  • Maintain normal blood pressure - Whether you are diabetic or not, it is important to keep your blood pressure normal. If you are a diabetic, blood pressure is even more important. Increased blood pressure can result in the onset or progression of diabetic retinopathy. Keeping your blood pressure at or below 130/80 can help prevent possible long-term complications associated with diabetic retinopathy.
  • Quit Smoking - Many studies (though there are conflicting studies) show that cigarette smoking increases the risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. This is believed to be because of the tendency of those who smoke to have higher blood pressure levels. Whether there is a direct link to diabetic retinopathy has not been fully established. However, quitting smoking does often help with lower blood pressure levels.
  • Controlling Cholesterol - Conflicting studies show that high cholesterol may be associated with the risks of diabetic retinopathy. Lower cholesterol levels are sensible for all of us, but for those who are diabetic it could be even more important. Maintaining low cholesterol levels can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Some studies have indicated that lowering your cholesterol may also lower your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. 
Warning signs

Diabetic retinopathy is not generally symptomatic. There are changes that may occur in your eyes that should be considered warning signs including loss of vision in one eye, blurry vision, reading problems, double vision, pain in the eye, feeling of pressure behind the eye or other changes that you are concerned about.

Diabetic Retinopathy does not have to be one of the consequences of your diabetes. Taking care of your blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels can help reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.

Understanding the various Diabetes treatments


Diabetic patients will need to work constantly with their health care professional to guarantee their long-term health. Patients will require a long-term treatment plan that works for them. Diabetes patients who are left untreated, run the risk of many other health issues that can stem from uncontrolled blood sugar levels.   Diabetes treatments are not the same for all patients although all treatments have the same goal in mind, keeping your blood sugar in check.

Insulin dependent diabetes (Type 1) generally is diagnosed early in life. For those patients, exercise and diet along with prescribed insulin injections will likely be part of your long-term treatment plan.  For those who have non-insulin dependent diabetes (Type 2), not only will diet and exercise be required, but you must be monitored for other problems.

Type 2 Diabetes can create other issues

While neither form of diabetes is without other health implications, Type 2 has certain dangers that are critical to understand. Type 2 Diabetes means that your body may be unable to process the insulin that it creates. This can lead to requiring a change in treatment plans to make sure that the body continues to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Treatments options vary

There are multiple treatment options for either type of diabetes. While oral medication may work for some people, there are also insulin injections (which may now be provided through the use of a pump) which may prove more effective for some patients.  Side effects from oral medication can range from simple upset stomach to a more threatening low blood glucose level, which must be addressed as quickly as possible.  Whatever treatment options your physician recommends, it must be adhered to carefully.

Exercise and medications

It is important to discuss with your physician how your exercise plan impacts your diabetes medication. In some cases, you may need to increase or decrease your medication on days where you exercise heavily or do not exercise at all. Both of these factors may have an impact on how your medication works.

Know your risk factors

It is important that you understand all of the potential risk factors for diabetes related problems. In addition, you should understand how your treatment plan will affect those risk factors, including diabetic retinopathy, heart disease and other ailments.

Patients who have diabetes must work closely with their health care professional to manage their diabetes. Failing to do so can have a negative impact on your overall quality of life. Understanding how to treat your diabetes using a combination of diet, exercise and medication will help you stay healthier.

Image credit: By BruceBlaus (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A simple understanding of the disease Diabetes


People who suffer with diabetes do not produce enough insulin or their bodies do not use insulin effectively. Insulin turns food into energy. Obesity and a lack of exercise can factor into whether you develop diabetes.
More than 1/3 of the 21 million children and adults who have diabetes do not know it. Too often, diabetes symptoms including too frequent urination, extreme thirst and other simple symptoms are overlooked.

This chronic disease has no cure. Sadly, untreated it can create other health problems. Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable blindness. Untreated, diabetes can lead to premature death.

People with diabetes often suffer from high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke. Kidney disease is common in diabetics. Left untreated, ulcers on the feet and legs can lead to amputations.

Some people believe that when they are diagnosed with diabetes that they will have to make dramatic life changes and start taking insulin. This is not the case. Some believe that diabetes is contagious. It most certainly is not.

The proper diet for a diabetic is not much different from a diet that would be healthy for most of us. Lower fats, moderate intake of sugar and salt and healthy meals are necessary for diabetics. One caution about high carbohydrate meals they can elevate your blood sugar levels.

Those who have diabetes are typically encouraged to get flu shots, but unlike popular myths, diabetics are no more likely to get a cold or the flu than anyone else is. Colds and flu do can affect blood sugar levels so a diabetes patient must pay special attention for unusual symptoms.

In the past, there have been concerns that insulin treatment for diabetics increased the risk of high blood pressure, obesity and arteriosclerosis. Various scientific studies have determined that the risk of these side effects are not significant enough to warrant discontinuing insulin treatments.

A nutritionist can help a diabetic learn how to eat healthy. Primary care physicians typically handle most diabetics' day-to-day care. Eye specialists are necessary for diabetics to prevent eye disease.

Be sure to educate yourself on all the risks associated with diabetes and keep close watch on your blood sugar levels. Contact your doctor should you have any questions or concerns or if your blood sugar levels become elevated above the levels defined by your physician.

Type 1 diabetes: What is it?


Type 1 diabetes is a disease that is caused by the bodies failure to produce insulin (specifically the pancreas), which prevents other cells in the body from getting the sugar they need and causing sugar to build up in the blood.

Type 1 diabetes is most commonly known as "juvenile diabetes", since it typically starts in childhood. While Type 1 diabetes has no known cure, people can live very long and healthy lives with proper care and treatment. According to the American Diabetes Association:

  • Five percent to 10 percent of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes
  • One in every 400 children and adolescents has Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 1 diabetes most often develops in girls when they reach 10 to 12 years of age and in boys when they reach 12 to 14 years of age
  • The incidence of Type 1 diabetes seems to be increasing, especially in children from birth to age four

Some people have a predisposition to diabetes by virtue of the fact they have a parent or sibling who also has the disease. However, most people who develop Type 1 diabetes have no previous family history of the disease.

Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include:
  • Being very thirsty
  • Increased urine output
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Being hungrier than usual (sometimes)

Symptoms of diabetes generally appear over a few days or a few weeks. These symptoms may be more noticeable if you have been battling the flu or another illness. Unfortunately, because some of these symptoms do mimic the flu, they are often ignored. Waiting too long to get proper medical care may result in diabetic ketoacidosis which can be life-threatening. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include:

  • Flushed, hot and dry skin
  • Unexplained lack of appetite
  • Abdominal pain and vomiting
  • Fruity breath odor that is inordinately strong
  • Confusion is also a common symptom
  • Breathing changes including fast, shallow breathing

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the immune system destroying beta cells which produce insulin. As a result, our bodies are unable to supply enough insulin to keep our body healthy. Enteroviruses, such as coxsackie viruses and echoviruses, which live in the intestines of humans and other animals, may contribute to the possibility of developing Type 1 diabetes.

If not controlled, diabetes can cause complications that can affect nearly every organ in the body, including:

  • Heart and blood vessel damage - studies show that controlling diabetes can prevent or stop the progression of heart and blood vessel disease in diabetics. Left uncontrolled, blood vessel damage can lead to a host of problems including potential amputation of the leg and foot (more than 60 percent of amputations are due to diabetes).
  • Eye problems - the leading cause of blindness in the United States, diabetes can cause glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. Left untreated these diseases of the eye may potentially lead to blindness.
  • Kidney damage - typically treated with medications that would lower blood pressure (even if you don't have high blood pressure), diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure in the United States.
  • Nerve damage - high blood glucose levels can cause loss of feeling in the feet. Early symptoms of this type of damage are often a burning sensation in the feet. If left unchecked, diabetes can cause pain in the legs, arms, and hands. Nerve damage can cause problems with digestion, going to the bathroom or having sex.
  • Tooth decay and gum disease – while the reasons are unknown, people with Type 1 diabetes are at higher risk for gum disease. Both can be prevented by having a good oral care routine and seeing a dentist regularly. 
Anyone who is displaying symptoms that may be associated with diabetes of any type is strongly encouraged to seek medical advice. Only with proper treatment may this disease be controlled and allow the person to live a normal life.

Used with permission from Diabetic Health Guide
Image credit: Häggström, Mikael. "Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014". Wikiversity Journal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008. ISSN 20018762. (See above. All used images are in public domain.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons