Tag Archives: Budget

How to Keep Your Relationship Financially Safe

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One of the leading causes of divorce in the United States is finances. It’s easy for a couple to find themselves bitter, angry, and resentful toward the person they once loved more than anyone when finances are a problem. Whether it’s one person spending too much, one not being generous enough with their income, or ample debt, many couples find it difficult to overcome these issues when they don’t prevent them in the first place. Keeping a healthy financial relationship with your partner is the one of the most important aspects of any good marriage, and there are several ways to keep finances healthy. Continue reading

13 Ways to Eat Healthier on a Budget

According to a recent study, a whopping 20% of Canadians can’t afford their homes. I’m sure this statistic is comparable in the US and other developed countries right now.  The report went on to state that these people frequently chose unhealthy food options because they believed them to be cheaper and felt they couldn’t afford to eat healthy.  So in my effort to help everyone who is watching their money (isn’t that just about everyone these days?) I have compiled some of my favorite ways to eat healthier on a budget.

1.  Double or triple your normal recipes and freeze the leftovers.  You’ll dramatically cut down the cost of buying prepared and packaged foods.  And, you’ll eat healthier when you’re tired or in a pinch for time.

2.  Use seasonal fruits and vegetables as much as possible.  When food is in season it is cheaper.  Plus, you’ll be doing your part for the environment by eating more locally grown food.

3.  Watch for sales.  Plan your meals around some of the cheaper sale items you find.

4.  Add more beans to your diet.  Beans are not only the “magical fruit” they can work magic on your budget since they are super nutritious and cheap.  Dried beans can be cooked effortlessly overnight in a slow cooker.  Place 1 cup dried beans and 6 cups water in a slow cooker before going to bed and cook on low overnight.  Drain and rinse in the morning and they are ready for use in your soup, stew, chili, salad, or other recipes.

5.  Eat more vegetarian meals.  Meat tends to be more expensive (not to mention takes a higher toll on the environment and your body).

6.  Take a page from a chef’s notebook:  use mirepoix as a base for many soups, stews, and rice dishes.  Mirepoix is a fancy-sounding French word simply means chopped onions, celery, and carrots.  These are among the cheapest vegetables and they add lots of flavor to your meals.

7.  Shop at your local farmers markets instead of grocery stores as much as possible.  Most farmers’ market food doesn’t have the built-in costs of lengthy transportation, distributors, warehousing, and other costs.  Plus, the food is fresher and frequently more nutritious, and eating locally is better for the environment.

8.  Grow your own sprouts and herbs.  Growing your own sprouts is much easier than you think. And, sprouts are truly the ultimate locally-grown food.

9.  Buy seasonal produce in bulk and freeze it.  From berries to sliced peaches, to chopped green and red peppers, many fruits and vegetables can be frozen.

10.  Hit the bulk bins at your local health food or grocery store.  Here’s where you’ll find the lower cost whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, and flour.  They’re usually substantially cheaper than their packaged counterparts.  And, less packaging is good for your wallet and the planet.

11.  Shop the perimeter of your grocery store.  You’ll find the fresh, healthier options there.  The center aisles are primarily reserved for the packaged, convenience foods that tend to cost more and be full of dangerous additives, trans fats, and sugar.

12.  Make your own snacks.  Prepared snack foods are not only full of junk ingredients that you should avoid, they tend to be expensive.  Make a batch of cookies, muffins, or other snack food with wholesome natural ingredients.

13.  Plan ahead.  A few minutes of planning the meals you’ll make and your grocery list can save you plenty of cash on impulse purchases you’ll be less likely to make.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be costly.  Most of my clients have always been surprised to learn how inexpensive health eating can be.

 Each week on the Intent Blog, we feature articles, videos, and images to inspire you to live a healthier, happier, more fulfilling life. This week, our focus is on Money and Finances. If you’ve recently set an intent related to your relationship with money, share it with us in the comment section below. We’ll do our best to support you with interesting content to keep you motivated along the way!

photo by: greggavedon.com

Killed My TV – Resurrected My Joy

I tell ya, killing my TV was like taking a dear desire and sending it on a rocket ship to Mars, never to be seen again. I love my reality shows, fashion programs, creative home and garden. I love my TV. My husband doesn’t. And the monthly cable bill wasn’t doing us any favors. So with much resistance (clawing and pawing and pouting), I let it go.

 The result? Sweet surprise. Quality of life. Memory making. Play.

 Last night, I looked around the living room. Music was playing. There was a fire in the fireplace. It was warm. The kids had built two forts and were tearing around the room. Yelping and jumping and having a blast. This was peaceful! It was fulfilling because I understood that this was the kind of night they will remember. It fed their heart in a way that no amount of movie watching and favorite TV shows ever could.

Giving up the TV was high on my discomfort list. But there was a gem inside of the surrender I hadn’t known was there. There’s a theme here. Out of necessity, a friend of mine made a new budget with her husband. She was mortified to have to give up her daily Starbucks four-shot espresso fancy drinks, she took such comfort in them. She hemmed and hawed, and finally gave them up. But in the end, she looks quiet these days. She looks more peaceful.

 Is the economy saving humanity?

There seems to be a deep, natural benefit to giving up the things we have come to crave. Our lives are being incrementally altered to recognize and redefine the quality in them. Maybe the triumph in giving up a spendy craving is a personal one. Give yourself the opportunity to recognize it. And to be surprised by the gem that lies on the other side.

 Living without is uncomfortable. Even the prospect is unpalatable. But for me, if I haven’t yet said a 100% no to cutting that thing out, then it means there is a place to grow. Discomfort makes us creative and open to new experiences of fulfillment. If you give up your thing and it impacts your life in negative ways, find a way to bring it back. But try your life without, just for a while, and see if fulfillment isn’t deeper, richer and sweeter than you thought. 

 

Dear Money Mom

This batch of Money Mom letters got us talking a lot about how our relationships are affected by money. It’s clearly on people’s minds. If you have tricks that get your relationship through the HYPERLINK "http://www.greensherpa.com" financial rollercoaster, share them with us in the comments below. We could all use the advice right now, surely.  

Dear Money Mom,

My husband and I have never fought so much. We have always been really happy, but since he took a pay cut and I lost my job, we argue non-stop. Is this what it’s going to be like from here on out?

Hoping Otherwise, 
Fighting Irish

 

Dear Fighting Irish, 

As long as you still have the fight in you, you have what it takes to survive an economic downturn. To keep money conflict out of your relationship, be very conscious about how you spend your time together. Set aside specific times to talk about the finances. Then set aside specific times just for romancing. Make a date, and during it, make a rule that NO business will be talked about there. It’s hard sometimes, because we forget what to talk about when we’re managing a household all the time. A date can be as simple as a walk. If you have kids, ask family or a neighbor to watch them for an hour while you and your husband get out. Heck, play Frisbee. Anything to be together without the pressure of talking about what’s next or how-to manage. You’ll both be glad for the break. And when you meet for the business side of things, you’ll come at it with less pressure.

 
 

Dear Money Mom,  

We are trying to shelter our three children from the possibility of losing our home, but they have guessed something is not right. I’m just not sure what to say to my kids when this feels like an adult issue. 

Sincerely,
Words Get Stuck
 
 

Dear Words,  

I’m so sorry for your challenge. Your children may be scared by what they can feel or judge from your stress levels and spending patterns. Helping your kids through financial hardship takes honest conversations and some deep curiosity. They need to know that you will do whatever it takes for them to feel safe and secure.

It’s about incorporating fewer expectations for them and including them in the process. Ask lots of questions. If there is no more money to go to camp, ask them what it was about camp they loved. Then make a deal to see what you can do together to create that feeling of camp they loved. Let them know you might lose the house, so that you can talk them through the transition. Ask them what they love about the house. If it is the tree in the backyard, maybe you can take the tree with you. Or you can set out to get a new tree at the new house. Or you can draw pictures of the tree and look forward to the time when you can plant that same one again.

Talk about the material items you love, recognize the feelings they make you feel, then discuss how to replicate those feelings in the transition. If you do, your kids will understand that it is not the material things that are important, but the feelings they offer. When you work through the scenario together, it will help them know that things will be fine, and this, at bottom, is really all they want.

Separate Your Personal Life from Your Personal Finances: Claiming Your Life Back from Busy

My friend tipped me off to a great practice last week. She and her husband schedule weekly business meetings to discuss the business of the family. They divide their lives into three sections—family, marriage, and fun—and they approach each topic separately. For family stuff, they arrange the pick up-drop off schedules for the kids, discuss finances and event calendars, and anything that pertains to the management of their family lives.

In a different weekly “meeting” they talk about their partnership. How is their relationship going? What came up during the week that they want to discuss and resolve?

On date nights, they don’t talk about any of it. No kid-talk, no money-talk, not a word about family business affairs ore relationship issues. For the first couple of date nights, they said nothing to each other. Then they began to take walks. Their strolls through the neighborhood began to unlock them from their habitual housekeeping, and remind them of the things they love to talk about. She would point out the pretty paint trim on that house on the corner. He would remember a funny moment they had painting together, and their conversation would start rolling…carrying none of the business of family into their night together.

An Apple A Day, A Business Meeting A Week
You can do this same trick for your own affairs. Schedule a weekly business meeting for yourself. Make this the time that you pay the bills and do the budget. During the week, if to-do’s come up around business, write a note and drop it in your business file. This way, when it gets to the day you’re handling business affairs, it is easy to see what is important and what is not.

Usually when things are just too hard to handle, we are trying to handle all of them at once. When you separate the business from the personal, you don’t get bogged down in runaway email chains or absorbed by conversations that distract you rather than support you. Your brain is clear to accomplish other life stuff.

Personal life does not have to disappear when family life or work schedules increase. Handle the important business affairs only one time each week, and you’ll notice the real importance in your life the rest of every day.

Ten Tips To A Terrific Staycation

This week the weather turned a corner and the looming summer season hit me straight in the face – and left me wishing for a summer vacation spent lazily lying on sandy beaches sipping drinks with orchids floating in them. But like many Americans, frugality prevails this year, so visits to friends and family and long, leisurely weekends at home (drinking white wine spritzers – sans the corsage) are the order of the day. Not a bad thing, just different.

So if the stiff price of gas has got you down, and the desire to simplify has you got you fired up – be it ever so humble there’s no place like home. Enter the staycation – a vacation you take in your own home town. This ongoing trend has would be world travelers seeking relaxation and adventure from the comfort of their own couches. For a successful stay at home family vacation try these ten top tips:

Create a budget: Although you won’t have the expenses of leaving home, you will want to consider how much your staycation activities will cost. If you plan on eating out more, spending one or two nights at a local hotel or starting a project that requires investment – plan a budget.

Avoid errand creep: Don’t end up doing so many things around the house – replacing the light bulbs, cleaning out the garage, fixing the front door etc. – that you miss taking the time you need to just chill. If you have a few closets you really want to clean out, schedule a specific day and time to do them.

Become a tourist in your own town: You know that old joke about how most New Yorker’s have never been to the Statue of Liberty? Buy a guidebook on the area you live in and read through it for things you might like to do. Take a guided tour, helicopter ride, boat trip, see the zoo etc.

Keep friends at bay: Unless you want a major part of your staycation to be visiting with friends, don’t over schedule the lunches, dinners and get togethers. You want the space (and freedom) to be spontaneous.

Visit a day spa: Just because you’re not staying at a five star resort with a world-class spa, does not mean you can’t get scrubbed, rubbed and pampered! Check out a day spa in your area and set up a treatment or two. If you really want to splurge go for broke and do a full-day package.

Set goals: Think about what you want to accomplish on your staycation. Is there a book you have been dying to read? A whole slew of movies you want to catch up on? Romantic time you want to spend with your spouse? Take the kids to the new exhibit at the zoo? Time to think through your long-term goals? Naps? Whatever objectives you set, let them dictate the organization of your time off.

Block out check in times: Just as you would with a regular get away vacation, set up specific times when you are going to check in with the office and stick to them. Don’t let the proximity of work, lure you away from your stay-at-home holiday.

Stay overnight: If your staycation is a week or longer consider spending one or two nights at a local hotel. Just getting away for a night, can feel exotic and fun. Not to mention romantic if you go with your significant other.

Do something different: One of the advantages of a traditional vacation is that it puts you in a different environment, where the opportunity to try something new is greater than usual. There is no reason you can’t apply this same idea to your staycation. Check out your local scene for activities that you might not normally do but sound fun.

Do nothing:
Never underestimate the value of waking up when you want to and doing whatever you want, whenever you want, all day long. Don’t feel like your staycation has to produce any tangible results – it doesn’t. Just getting renewed and refreshed is reward enough.

Karen Leland is author of the recently released books Email In An Instant: 60 Ways To Get Your Message Across With Style and Impact, Watercooler Wisdom: How Smart People Prosper In the Face of Conflict, Pressure and Change and Time Management In An Instant:60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day. She is the co-creator of a new line of Productivity Pads from Time Tamer™ and the co-founder of Sterling Consulting Group. For questions, comments or to book Karen to speak at your next event, please e-mail kleland@scgtraining.com.

Making the Most of the Recession

Like many young couples do these days, my husband and I are planning a backpacking trip around the world. Saving up our money for two years has been a long and tedious process and really we’re still not done yet.

Our original timeframe would have been to leave between December of 2009 and March of 2010, depending on when we reached our financial goal.

However, it looks like the recession has other plans for us.

In the past month, my income as a self-employed blogger was cut in half. First, I found out I was being let go from one blog. The next week two of my other blogs cut back. My dad pays for my student loans every month in exchange for me working for him remotely. The same day I found out about more of my blog cuts, he informed that one of our contracts may not be renewed this year and if it doesn’t, he won’t be able to keep me as an employee of the business –- in essence, another pay cut.

Then, my husband also received word that by the end of April his salary would be lowered or he would be fired.

To put it mildly, this economy stinks.

At first, I’ll admit, the tears flowed freely. Having our entire financial stability come crashing down on us all at once wasn’t fun. My mind ran through scenarios in which we would have to move back in with my in-laws, or start doing stupid human tricks on the street in between stoplights and then ask for change like the Two-Headed Man. And worst case scenario, I was afraid we’d never be able to save enough money to be able to leave on this big trip we’ve been dreaming about since we met each other.

And then we realized something –- we might not be able to take the trip of our dreams and travel the world for a year or two as planned. But instead of letting this recession get us down, we would make the recession work for us. We decided that if my husband gets let go that now’s the time -– we’re leaving! We can travel for 6-8 months with the money we’ve saved up. That’s longer than most people are able to find time for.

There’s no better time than now to see the world. Prices are down and airlines and hostels are giving great deals in order to attract more business, because they’re hurting too. Couch-surfing has become bigger and more convenient than ever as other travelers look to save money on lodging. And best of all, instead of having a long stretch of “unemployment” on our resumes, we’ll be able to fill in that blank with, “I saw the world.”

We’re turning these awful circumstances into an amazing one! I’m more excited than ever now that the trip is upon us. True, we’ve had to be a little flexible with our plans, but it’s worth it in order to help us snap out of all this negativity!

How are you making the most of the recession?

By Kyle Hepp of Tonic

Mastering Money and Managing Debt: Being True to Your Own Action Style

 “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations. …You can hear other people’s wisdom, but you’ve got to re-evaluate the world for yourself.”
                –Mae Jemison, the first Black woman to travel space

If you are hoping to grow in the area of personal finance and organization, it is time to be really honest with yourself about your action style. How do you best stay on track with your goals? Are you a planner, the kind of person who gets more done when you set aside time each day to complete pre-determined tasks? Or are you a crammer, the type who is more productive when you are under a tight deadline? The basic question is: What motivates you?

Questions for Optimal Planning

Knowing your action style gives you expertise about yourself you can use as a foundation to achieve any task, whether it is reading a stack of loan papers or painting your children’s rooms. Begin by selecting a specific task and making some basic observations about it.  Next, ask yourself the following questions about your action style:

•    What motivates me?  (Fear, guilt, desire, hope, change, competition, etc.)

•    What helps me become “unstuck” when I am having difficulties getting started on a project or task? (Brainstorming, delegating, friend and family intervention, incentives, etc.)

Now ask yourself these follow-up questions to determine how to move forward:

•    How can I best motivate myself to begin this task based on my action style?
•    What are five things that I can do to move forward in completing this task?

Example

Task:  I want to organize my garage.

Observation:  I notice that this task does not move off of my to-do list.
What motivates me? I am most motivated when I feel excited by a project and know all the steps required to complete it.

What helps me become unstuck? When I have trouble getting started, it helps to fantasize about how the project might look and feel once it is complete. I also find it useful to brainstorm freely about all the steps necessary to complete this task and recruit friends or family willing to help out. (The project seems far less daunting when it is broken down into smaller tasks and the work is shared.)

How can I best motivate myself based on my action style? I can spend 15 minutes breaking down the project into itemized actions in a to-do list.

 What are five things that I can do to move forward in this specific task?

1.    Spend 15 minutes brainstorming and creating a to-do list for this project.

2.    Admire the neighbor’s beautifully organized garage to gain some inspiration and become excited about how great my own garage can look.

3.    Congratulate the neighbor on doing such a wonderful job in keeping her garage clean and organized, and imagine how proud I would feel if I could do the same.

4.    Include my husband/partner/neighbor/friend in my plan to organize the garage.

5.    Set aside some time and complete five items on my to-do list.

Now you have an action plan to motivate you to begin your task and guide you through it. Take five steps forward and keep the momentum going! Once you know what gets you started and what keeps you driven, you can act efficiently to tackle each item on your to-do list, one step at a time. What gets you started? Email me at Erin@GreenSherpa.com.

 

“Being True to Your Own Action Style” is step three in a 5-step process for mastering your personal financial management. For more tips to mastering your personal finances and managing your life’s flow, click on my other articles on this site, or find me at GreenSherpa.com.

 

Women and Money

I run a business that teaches women to manage their personal finances. It’s not solely for women; everyone benefits from the techniques. But I find that it’s women who most often use my services. Why? We are the multi-taskers. We care for our families, ourselves, our jobs, our environments, our communities. We put food in the fridge and on the table and get the kids out the door to school. We are emotional about our money, and with all of these things riding on it, we should be. Shouldn’t we?

Maybe we’re just emotional, period. And our financial scenarios get wrapped up in whether the dishes are done, who took the trash out, the exercise class you missed yet again (though you’ve been paying that darned gym fee for months now). Quite often, when we take a moment to organize the thing a money issue is buried under, the issue resolves before our eyes. Then it’s sayonara to the heartbreak…Until the next one!

Practice Makes The Heart Grow Fonder
Personal financial management is a practice. It’s a structure you employ to balance your life, like going to church or temple on the weekend, calling your mother on Sundays. When you map the flow of your life’s ins and outs—cash, kid projects, meetings, bills to pay—you better understand the resources you have to deal with it all. And you escape overwhelm.  

The Spending Plan
Every week, I make a spending plan. When I don’t, without fail, I overspend. Every week, I also take time to calendar weekly events. If I don’t, inevitably, something falls off the table and feelings get hurt. And every time, I ask: What happened??

If we are not leaning forward into our lives, making use of simple financial and time management systems, we will always be looking backward and asking what happened. Looking backward, our answers don’t have a lot of meaning. Creating abundance, safety and peace of mind can only happen by having a clear purpose and a plan.

Resources Are All Around Us
Don’t let the current starved economy fool you. Financial and time management is personal. Even when the big players are treading water, you can create stability in your own life and family by exercising control of your own income and outflow. Find role models whose organizational tactics you can mimic. Search the Internet for tips on planning and maximizing money. Form a neighborhood knowledge circle that meets once a week to share money education and organizational tips, and even offers resources like carpooling and errand-sharing.

The more you enrich your personal financial management skills, the richer you will actually be: richer in time, richer at heart, and even in pocket. Most importantly, supported by structure, money will be less of an emotional trigger, leaving you to spend those precious feelings on your family, your friends, your community, and the things you value. How would that feel? I’d love to hear. Email me at erin@greensherpa.com.

For more tips to mastering your personal finances and managing your life’s flow, click on my other articles on this site, or find me at GreenSherpa.com.

 

The Lazy Marriage

I married a CPA. At the risk of offending the CPA society, your brains are just wired differently than the rest of us. That is definitely the case with my wife.

I consider myself to be fairly good with numbers, and I did well in Math back in school, but I’m not in the league of the CPA. Although I do find great pleasure when my checkbook balances and hers is off a few cents. She returns the joy by poking fun at how long it takes me to complete the 1 star Sudoku puzzle.

For the life of our marriage, she preferred to live within a budget. For the beginning years of our marriage I would enter the discussions kicking and screaming. I always felt a budget was far too limiting. I didn’t want to cramp my style.

Needless to say, my attitude helped get us in a financial hole.

The two most common topics fought over in marriage are money and sex. I’ve written plenty of times on the sex topic, now it’s time to tackle the money.

When it comes to budgeting, there are those that live by one and those of us that swear tomorrow we are going to sit down and write one out. The intention is honest, we just have trouble following through.

So how do you set up a budget you’ll actually follow?

Glad you asked. To begin, remember this one simple rule: Spend less money than you make.

Now that we covered the main idea, let’s create a simple budget that even the greatest procrastinators can follow (if they ever get around to it).

Step 1: Have a conversation with your cash.
We place meaning on the things in life. Money is no different. What does your money mean to you? What value does it provide? Beyond money’s providing of the basic necessities like food, shelter, and keeping Mr. Tax Man from visiting, what’s your money for? Security. Fun. Power. Fame. Understanding the meaning we place on money can go a long way in helping you get your money under control.

Step 2: Where’s you money go?
Every budget begins with an understanding of where your money goes on a day-to-day basis. Don’t skip this step. If you don’t know where it all goes, you won’t be able to determine where you want it to go.

There are two ways to go about this step: the CPA way, where you track your spending for at least three months, inputting every penny in a multi-category, macro-enabled Excel spreadsheet, then pouring over every debit and credit each night, or can do this the lazy person’s way.

Lazy it is! For those who use credit cards for most of their spending (paid off in full each month of course) or if you use a debit card, review the monthly statements and categorize your spending areas. Some cards will do this already.

If you live on cold hard cash, write down all your expenditures for one week. You can then multiply these numbers by 4 (there’s that pesky math again) in order to get a rough idea of where your cash goes. This method obviously is leaving out the major monthly expenses like house, car, insurance and the like. Simply add these numbers to the monthly estimate. Simple eh?

If you chose the CPA way, at this point you would add up each column of the spreadsheet, run the macro/algorithm you’ve created in your spare time on Friday night, and analyze the results by running the final numbers through the statistical program you’re bound to have on your laptop.

Step 3: Plan to spend your cash.
Now that you have an idea where your money goes, it’s time to spend your hard earned cash. Not literally yet. Sorry. Instead, make a list of expenses for the upcoming three to six months. Things like vacations, car tune ups, or planning for paying off debt, saving, or investing in your favorite mutual fund. Do the same for long-term plans, two to five years out.

You now have a spending plan. Be sure to leave a little room for the unexpected cash you’re sure to need at times. Like when your car breaks down or your in-laws decide to move in for a few months.

Step 4: That pesky math again.
With your spending plan in front of you, add in items from your “wish list.” Then calculate what these items would run you on a monthly basis. For instance, for the upcoming family vacation, divide the total cost of the trip by the number of months until the trip. Viola, you have a way to prepare for the trip and pay for it as you go.

Step 5: Save money the no-brainer way.
This is really simple. Visit your bank and set up an automatic monthly transfer of money from your checking account to savings. This could be as little as $20 a month. No worries. Put something into savings every month.

Step 6: Cut out the frivolous spending.
The list of “must have” items is endless. In order to curb the frivolous purchase’s impact on your overall spending plans, try the “envelope” system. It’s easy:

  • Come up with a reasonable weekly amount you’ll allow yourself to spend in your biggest categories. (Those are typically “food” (or, depending on your lifestyle, get more specific such as “lunch,” “family dinners out”), “entertainment” (e.g. happy hours, movies, tabloids to pass the time), “transportation” (gas, parking, taxis, public transportation), “apparel/services” (dry cleaning, bangs trim, cute shoes.)
    For guidance, consider that the four biggest budget categories for typical American household are housing (34%), transportation (18%), food (13%) and entertainment (4%).
  • Create envelopes for each of those categories.
  • Put the allotted amount of cash to cover a week’s or month’s worth of expenses into each envelope. (You don’t have to carry the entire wad with you every day, but do make sure you don’t cheat with extra visits to the ATM.)
  • Once the cash is gone, so is your weekly stipend.

Remember, once you get a handle on your finances, you’ll free up more time to worry and fight about other things. But look at this way, you’ll have more money to go out on a nice date in order to make up.

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