November – December 2021

What's in this issue

The Gift of Giving

‘Tis the season to give and though everyone may be feeling the effects of the economy there are still ways to donate without having to write a check.


Donate your old cell phone
Verizon Hopeline – Take your old cell phone into any Verizon Wireless store and your phone will find its way to a domestic violence victim.


Cellphones for Soldiers – Donate your old phone and they sell it for pre-paid calling cards that are sent to soldiers overseas. To find a donation location near you go to:


PetSmart’s Recycle for Life – You can help save homeless pets by recycling your used inkjet cartridges and cellular phones. Just visit your nearest PetSmart store and look for the PetSmart Charities recycling display to pick up free postage-paid pre-addressed envelopes. Drop it in the mail and PetSmart Charities will receive a $2 -$15 donation for every cartridge or phone recycled through this program. Plus, you will help save the environment too!


Spend Time on the Internet
There are some sites that feature ads on their page where every time you click to view the ad money is donated to a charity. Though it may not be much, taking a few extra seconds while surfing can add up to the charities that are linked to these promotions.


Oldies but Goodies
This time of year there is always more of a need for things.

For about 20 minutes you can save someone’s life by donating blood. Harsh weather often deters people from getting things done and this can deplete blood bank supplies in a hurry.


Your kids will probably receive more toys this year and they probably have plenty that they don’t use anymore. Donate them to kids who may not get toys this year. You can also donate some of the clothes you don’t wear anymore.


You can always donate some time towards your charity of choice. Just get on the phone and call to see where you can be of use. You can always find charitable projects through your local church as well.


It may be a tough year for you with the economic woes, but there are plenty of people out there who have it worse and a little extra effort this year can bring them some joy.

Budget Boosters

Christmas Break means the kids are home and you need to find things for them to do so they don’t drive you crazy. Here are some things to remember and some ideas that won’t break the bank.


You may need to arrange for daycare services. Call around to find out what the different places have to offer. You also need to know how much they cost, and if they have openings. You may have a relative or friend who is available during the day and is willing to watch the kids for you. You may have kids who are old enough to be home by themselves during the day but it may not hurt to have someone stop in and check on them.

Keeping kids busy during the break can be a challenge and this first suggestion will probably not get a lot of enthusiasm. Chances are your kids may have received some homework to complete over Christmas break. Encourage them to do it early and get it out of the way to avoid scrambling to do it last minute. If they don’t have homework they can still do activities that will educate them but still be fun at the same time.


Spend a day at the library. There are plenty of educational activities to do and it won’t cost you a dime.


Instead of spring cleaning, do a little winter cleaning. Spend some time tidying up a place in your house that could use the extra attention. You may want to go through some of your children’s old toys that you can donate, especially if they are going to get a few new ones for Christmas.


A great way to spread holiday cheer is to offer your services. If you can spend all of the break with your children, offer to have a friend’s child spend the day at your place.


For an electronic-free evening, turn off the TV, video games, computer, etc. Clear the table, pop some corn, and get out board games or puzzles. Board games provide time for all your family to visit, interact, and have fun together.


Before your scheduled game time, check your local thrift shop for games and puzzles at one-tenth the price you would pay for the new. Check the box and count the game pieces. If pieces are missing, buy a second game and still save eighty percent. If the rules are missing, you can find them free online at


Read aloud together. This is the number one, all-time greatest thing to do together as a family. Select a special book to read during your break and divide the number of pages by the number of reading times (e.i., after lunch and/or dinner). Take turns reading aloud. Make this time as relaxed and enjoyable as possible, but stop to explain or discuss items that come up.


No matter what amount of time you can spend with your kids over break make it quality and take time out to teach your children some of the lessons of Christmas.

Penny Pinchers Club

Are you the type of person that comes up with terrific ways to Pinch Pennies? If so please email us and share your ideas.


I’m sure many people do this, but we always make coupons to give out for Christmas. They are good for goods and services that we can use during the year. Our family always looks forward seeing what we are willing to offer.


-Rachel H. CA

Finding the Best Machanic

No one expects to lose their house to foreclosure, but by understanding the foreclosure process and what may lead up to it, you can be in a better position to recognize and address potential problems that may impact your ability to make every mortgage payment on time.

What is foreclosure?

In the contract you signed when your mortgage lender loaned you money to buy your house, you agreed that if you can’t repay the loan, the lender can foreclose to take ownership of the house.


If you do not pay your monthly mortgage payment, you are technically in default on your mortgage. State laws vary, but generally, a loan that is as little as 90 days delinquent can be considered in foreclosure.


If you are unable to make your mortgage payment:

1. Don’t ignore the problem.
The further behind you become, the harder it will be to reinstate your loan, and the more likely that you will lose your house.


2. Contact your lender as soon as you realize that you have a problem.
Lenders do not want your house. They have options to help borrowers through difficult financial times.


3. Open and respond to all mail from your lender.
The first notices you receive will offer good information about foreclosure prevention options that can help you weather financial problems. Later mail may include important notice of pending legal action. Your failure to open the mail will not be an excuse in foreclosure court.

4. Know your mortgage rights.
Find your loan documents and read them so you know what your lender may do if you can’t make your payments. Learn about the foreclosure laws and time frames in your state (as every state is different) by contacting the State Government Housing Office.


5. Understand foreclosure prevention options.
Valuable information about foreclosure prevention (also called loss mitigation) options can be found on the internet.


6. Contact a HUD-approved housing counselor.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds free or very low-cost housing counseling nationwide. Housing counselors can help you understand the law and your options, organize your finances, and represent you in negotiations with your lender if you need this assistance. Find a HUD-approved housing counselor near you or call (800) 569-4287 or TTY (800) 877-8339.


7. Prioritize your spending.
After healthcare, keeping your house should be your first priority. Review your finances and see where you can cut spending in order to make your mortgage payment. Look for optional expenses-cable TV, memberships, entertainment that you can eliminate. Delay payments on credit cards and other “unsecured” debt until you have paid your mortgage.


8. Use your assets.
Do you have assets such as a second car, jewelry, or a whole life insurance policy that you can sell for cash to help reinstate your loan? Can anyone in your household get an extra job to bring in additional income? Even if these efforts don’t significantly increase your available cash or your income, they demonstrate to your lender that you are willing to make sacrifices to keep your home.


9. Avoid foreclosure prevention companies.
You don’t need to pay fees for foreclosure prevention help use that money to pay the mortgage instead. Many for-profit companies will contact you promising to negotiate with your lender. While these may be legitimate businesses, they will charge you a hefty fee (often two or three months’ mortgage payment) for information and services your lender or a HUD-approved housing counselor will provide free if you contact them.


10. Don’t lose your house to foreclosure recovery scams!
If any firm claims they can stop your foreclosure immediately if you sign a document appointing them to act on your behalf, you may well be signing over the title to your property and becoming a renter in your own home! Never sign a legal document without reading and understanding all the terms and getting professional advice from an attorney, a trusted real estate professional, or a HUD-approved housing counselor.

The Easy Way Out

Gift Cards

With Christmas around the corner, and always popular last-minute gift has been gift cards. It is expected that the sales of gift cards will be down along with all holiday sales in this down-year. Many people are opting to buy gifts that are the best bargains and are buying more cost-effective gifts this year. Gift cards are still very popular, so consider some of these options when buying a gift card for someone this month.


One of the more popular forms of gift cards is a pre-paid debit card. These can be used where any major credit card is accepted. This allows the recipient to use the card wherever they would like instead of a particular store. This also gives them the option of using the gift card on something they need instead of something they want.


Gift cards to restaurants and fast-food places can offer a nice break for a family when they would not have normally gone out to eat. Many people have cut down on eating out, so it can be nice to know that if they are having a busy week and don’t feel like cooking they will enjoy a night out.


Another popular type of gift card has been a pre-paid gas card. Though gas prices have gone down a little, not many of us expect that trend to last long. The gift of a tank of gas can come in very handy for someone.


Gift cards for grocery stores and discount warehouse stores have also become a popular choice among shoppers. As noted before people are choosing to use gift cards on things they need instead of what they want. There is probably someone you know that could use a week’s worth of groceries. That could help open up their budgets and allow them to use that money on other important things.

There will still be plenty of gift cards purchased for department and clothing stores. These can be used for someone who needs new clothes for the kids or maybe a new outfit for work or a job interview. With the slow economy, people have cut back on buying clothes.


Here are some things to consider when picking out a gift card.


Try and avoid gift cards that have any fees. Some cards have an activation fee or may lose value if not used in a certain period of time. Fees and expiration dates have been one of the bigger complaints about gift cards and many retailers have listened by removing fees, but there are still a few.


Expiration dates are used to encourage people to use the cards as soon as possible and even though the card has been paid for they are banking on the fact that you will spend more than the amount that’s just on the card. A little research on the web can help you find out what cards still have fees.


Many retailers have allowed the use of the card for in-store or to make purchases online. This has not always been the case, as many retailers like to get you physically in the store. By allowing use online they may be able to purchase things that are not available at their local chain.


Some retailers offer gift cards when you shop with them. So you may be purchasing gifts for someone and receive a gift card along with it, which you can use to give to someone as a gift. However, you don’t want to spend more than you intended just so you can get an extra gift card.


You may want to be careful with the stores where you buy gift cards from. There have been some retailers that have been hit hard by the economy and if they have to file for bankruptcy the gift card you purchased can be obsolete. Keep up with some of the business news to find out if there are any businesses that are walking the financial tightrope.


One complaint with gift cards is that they are so impersonal. Stores have been trying to make them a little more decorative with fancy holiday designs, and gift card holders, and personalizing them with picture options. You can personalize them even further with a little ribbon or bow. You can also include it with a small gift like a coffee mug.


Shopping for people can be hard but if you take into account their personality or know of something they may need a gift card can be a great gift for them while being convenient for you.

It's Back!

Everyone that submits a correct answer will receive a complimentary gift! Simply e-mail your answers to us at:

Please make sure that the subject line reads: Read & Win Contest, and the Newsletter Issue date)

  1. What’s one way you will try and save over the holidays that was not mentioned in the newsletter?
  2. What does HUD stand for?
  3. What program helps homeless pets find homes?

If you do not have a copy of our FREE “Simplified Guide to Financial Life Skills” workbook, contact us and we will ship one to you at – NO COST! –

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Pioneer Credit Counseling

Attn: Newsletter Subscription

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Pioneer is not responsible for any advice given in The Pioneer Pilot. Everyone has a different set of circumstances that would determine if an idea or plan is the best one for them. Information provided should not be intended as legal advice.




Step by step instructions provided at NO COST! These sheets are provided to bankruptcy attorneys for a fast easy to follow guide through Pioneer’s Bankruptcy Counseling.

My Financial Journal

Hopefully, everyone is holding up during this hectic time of year and made it through Thanksgiving. As usual, things have been pretty busy for us around this time of year.


My wife has been busy juggling the duties of a mom, teacher, and student all while four months pregnant. So, as you can imagine we have been adjusting and preparing for another major life change. We are both very excited and are eagerly awaiting the new challenges that lie ahead with a second child.


We have had to adjust some of our regular plans since the pregnancy. We were doing pretty well with meal planning week by week. That plan has kind of gone out the window. 

There are some nights when both of us are too tired to prepare the meal that we had planned and sometimes the planned meal might not sound like the most appetizing meal for my wife’s sensitive stomach. This has led to more daily stops at the grocery store, which adds up quickly. We have also been dining out more and ordering food than we usually do. We will probably have to keep a better eye on how much we’ve been spending on food.


With being as busy as we have, we haven’t had time to do much Christmas shopping. When going over the types of gift exchanges mentioned in this issue I realized that I participate in most of them and it has helped me save a lot of money. On my wife’s side of the family, we draw names to determine whom we will buy a gift for that year. We set a reasonable limit and only have to worry about that person. (Except for my daughter who will probably receive presents from everyone, in which I will have to start looking for a new house for all her toys.) We give each other helpful hints to direct each other in the right direction.


My mom’s side of the family has done a white elephant gift exchange for many years now. The laughs definitely outweigh the gifts which are usually gender-specific which makes things even more interesting when you get to see your teenage brother open a present that contains a bra or tea set. There is usually a couple of good gifts included which makes things even better as it is continually getting swapped.


Working in the office I have also been a part of many Secret Santa’s. We have also included a wish list where your Secret Santa can see some things you may be interested in. This helps in a place where you might not know your co-workers that well or you are adding new people to the team.


I recently had to go to the optometrist to update my prescription and find some new glasses. This usually brings mixed emotions. I’m excited to get a new pair of glasses but stress out over the fact that I have to spend a couple of hundred dollars on a nice pair of frames and I know that I probably can’t get a pair of prescription sunglasses. Well, my wife has a friend who bought her glasses online for cheap. I looked at their site and was surprised to see that they had some really nice frames. I was very skeptical however because the price of the prescription glasses was $8 plus $5 shipping! I couldn’t believe that this was a legitimate company offering glasses for $13 when they cost over $200 anywhere else. So, I hopped on the internet and read every review I could find and much to my surprise found nothing but praise for the company. So I decided to pick out a few frames and enter into my prescription. I bought 2 pairs of glasses and a pair of sunglasses for $52 including shipping! They arrived less than 2 weeks later and I have been very pleased with them so far. I will let you know that the prescription was correct with no problems. The lenses are not glass but hard plastic. Some of the frames are not as strong as expensive ones but hold up well. If you wear glasses and hate paying outrageous prices you should at least check them out. The website is


If only for a spare pair or if you have kids that go through glasses like crazy. Even if you had to replace a pair every four months for 2 years you would still be spending less for one pair in that 2-year frame. If you are hesitant, order one pair and if you happen to not like them you are not out that much. I wouldn’t suggest it if they hadn’t worked for me.


I will end with a public service announcement. For all you parents, I implore that you are hard on your kids when it comes to brushing their teeth. Even though regular checkups can cost you money it doesn’t compare to what you will pay for future repairs. Also, have your children’s wisdom teeth pulled as young as you can. Don’t wait until they are too old and need to have them surgically removed. If you can’t tell by now I have an appointment to have mine removed and I’m not looking forward to it and it doesn’t help to know that it would have been easier (and less painful) if I took care of it at a younger age.


So until next month, Good Luck and ..mmph hmm.. mmph AHHHH!

Last Minute Christmas Tips

Don’t hit the panic button quite yet. Sure, Christmas is only a couple of weeks away and you haven’t bought gifts for everyone on your list and you’re worried you might over-extend your budget. Follow some of these last-minute tips to help you along the way and hopefully save your Christmas budget.


The first thing you need to do is look at your budget and figure out how much you can reasonably afford to spend on gifts for those you have left to buy for. You need to make sure all of your monthly bills take priority and you have enough money for all other essentials.


Prioritize your list as to whom is most important to buy for. You may determine that some of the people on the list don’t need a gift or would appreciate something from you besides a gift. You can then brainstorm some ideas for each person who is still on your list. Estimate the cost of your ideas or you can even hop online to scan for prices to give you a better idea. You will be able to eliminate some of your ideas right away based on their price.


Now that you have every one written down and some ideas you will probably notice that it exceeds your original budget. This means you need to either change your gifts or eliminate some more people. Don’t raise your budget to accommodate your list, adjust your list to accommodate your budget.


You still may have some time to shop online where you can find really good deals on some of the stuff you are shopping for. You may also want to find the local retail ads and search for some of the ideas on your list. You may also find other gifts that are more affordable by searching the ads.

Clear an afternoon, or better yet an evening (not as crowded as the weekend rush) to dedicate your time to get all of your gift shopping done at once.


Here are some fun ways to celebrate a gift exchange that will also help you save some money.


Name-Drawing – This works well with a large family. You set a price limit for the gifts and then you put everyone’s name in a hat. It’s as simple as pulling a name from the hat and only being responsible for that person. Sure, you may not get as many gifts but this is an affordable way to do a gift exchange for your family. Remember to stick to the price limit.


White Elephant/Yankee Swap – A popular form of gift exchange that is very affordable and fun. There is usually a low price limit, like $10, or can even be something that you find around the house. There are a variety of ways to play this game, but the basic gameplay is that all the presents are wrapped and everyone draws a number to determine the order. The first person picks a gift and opens it, the next person can either steal the first gift or chooses to open a different one that is still wrapped. This process continues until everyone has received a gift. Depending on what kinds of gifts are brought you can get stuck with a goofy knick-knack. This is for more fun than it is to receive thoughtful gifts.


Secret Santa – This is similar to drawing names, but you don’t tell anyone whose name you drew. You can then give hints in the form of little gifts leading up to Christmas and then have everyone gather around for the gift opening and have the people guess who their Secret Santa is. This is a popular choice for work-related gift exchanges.


Gifts aren’t the only thing that we find ourselves spending extra money on this time of year. Include these expenses into your budget to make sure you don’t over-extend your finances.


Many of us will be hosting Christmas dinner, which means spending a lot of money to feed the family. If a family member offers to bring a dish or dessert, take them up on their offer. That is just an extra thing you don’t have to spend money or time on. Consider some non-traditional meals if it helps you save some money.


The other thing you may have to budget for is traveling during the holidays. More than likely if you have to travel by plane you have had your plans set for a while now. If you are traveling by automobile make sure you budget for gas and the potential of bad weather, which can force you to stay in a hotel or make car repairs. To help save on gas consider carpooling with other family members or perhaps you have friends traveling to the same destination.


Even though we are a few short weeks away, a little planning and organization can help you get through it with your sanity and without depleting your checkbook.