5 Things You Can Do to Save Big in 2016

2016 has made its way into our lives and we are already almost through the first two months. There is no better time to start saving money to set ourselves up for financial success than right now. We have about 10 months to save as big as we can, but wait! How will we save big?

One of the hardest parts about saving money is that you do not want to see a huge loss of money fly from your hands, so it can be hard to set aside hundreds of dollars a month. Below, we will go over some awesome ways to make saving a substantial amount of money painless this 2016!

 

  1. Limit How Many Fees You Spend

One of the worst things about saving money is not having the money to save, but when you start to think about all of the fees you spend to maintain accounts and withdrawal money, you will quickly see you are throwing a lot of dough out the window.

For example, if you use an out of network ATM, you will spend anywhere between one to five dollar to withdraw the money from the chosen ATM and then your bank will charge you ANOTHER service fee on top of this. Therefore, just to withdraw $100, you are paying $110. If you do this often, you are quickly tossing money out.

In addition, consider other things you may be paying fees for such as paper statements, pinless debt charges, etc.

 

  1. Student Loan Refinancing

If you want to painlessly save thousands of dollars this year, then look directly at your student loans coming – after all, they won’t see it coming. Student loan refinancing is a great way to keep money in your pocket while paying down the debt that you owe.

Student loan refinancing is designed to help get you a better interest rate on your student loans, which will save you a ton of money. For example, switching from a seven percent interest rate down to a three percent interest rate is a big leap and you can place this saved money right into your bank account.

 

  1. Avoid Eating Out

One way that you can save big this 2016 is to commit to eating at home more often. When you eat out, you are paying for convenience and a meal for two can easily be $30 at a restaurant. Imagine going out to eat five days out of the week, that is $150 just for dinner! You could spend that $150 at the grocery store and feed your family for the week.

When you can, use coupons for the items you buy too. If you have the extra time to do so, you can match up the coupons with some of the local ads and really save some bucks at the store.

 

  1. Avoid the Movie Theater

Alright, alright, maybe once or twice, but seriously, you should stop heading to the theater on date night. While you may not realize it at the time, your movie ticket is costing you up to $15 PER. If you visit the movies once or twice a month, this really adds up.

You could rent a movie or two from Redbox and spend significantly less than you would if you went to the movies. In fact, the rentals at Redbox are just a buck.

 

  1. Utilize Power Wisely

One area that people tend to spend the most is on their utility bill. This bill includes your power consumption and sometimes your gas consumption as well. If you take some time to turn lights off, keep the AC off, and use minimal power, then you will notice that your utility bill drops in price and you can set aside the additional money you would have been sending to the power company.

If you are looking to save a lot of money this year, consider the five tips above to help you. It is important that you eliminate things that you do not need from your budget or find alternatives, such as buying a generic brand and so on.

We believe you can start saving more than you think! Ready for the challenge? Let’s do it together!

 

 

Tech For Teachers: The Number One Skill Needed – File Organization

It does not matter if you use or prefer a Mac, a PC or any other operating system. You must be able to quickly locate the material that you have saved on your computer.  I have been both a teacher and spent half a lifetime in the technology field.  In fact, for some time I was a network administrator and technician for a large school district, taking care of the tech for teachers.  I understand how most of them work.  One of their worst habits, we used to our advantage. It was their horrible file organization.

We had several thousand PC computers sitting on teacher’s desks, with a staff of less than 10 to maintain them all.  We found that with only a handful of exceptions, every file important to individual teachers was dumped all willy-nilly into that black hole of a folder called “My Documents.”  We played a bit of a trick on them to protect them.  Each teacher of course had a network/computer login.  We used that to change the physical location of their personal “My Documents” folder.  It really wasn’t on their hard drive at all. It was in a secure building across town!  (We didn’t even tell them.) We would often get a panicked call about a crashed computer and arrive to see a teacher literally in tears, thinking they had lost everything they had saved for years, including precious photos, student papers, grades, and essential paperwork.  I would sit a new computer on their desk, plug it in, turn it on and say, “Now log in.” then “Now look in your “My Documents folder. You did not lose a single file.”  The range of looks of utter shock, disbelief, relief and even confusion were amusing.  “How did you do that?” they would always ask, as if I performed a magic trick, which was usually followed by profuse thanks and even hugs and kisses.  Those teachers were lucky, because of their particular environment.  But it perfectly illustrates a lack of skill number 1, file organization.

Think of your computer’s hard drive being like an old fashion file cabinet, with drawers, those dividers, cardboard hanging folders, sometimes with other folders inside of them, and pieces of paper (files) within the folders.  That analogy is EXACTLY how a computer is organized and how your data should be treated.  If you had a real file cabinet, the drawers, dividers and folders would have different titles, depending upon what type of business you did or your work style.  Imagine a business, such as a doctor’s office, with everything paper, from patient records to billing. Someone says, “File this please.” They open a door to a large room and throw the paper in the air and it lands in a big pile.  That is what one does by putting everything in that one “My Documents” folder, all out in the open.

It is ok to put things there, but if you do, make that the outer container, like the file cabinet itself.  How you divide the rest up, and organize it is completely up to you. (To make a new folder in Windows, just right click and click “new”, then choose “folder” and give it a name.)  You could have folders based on dates, folders for lectures or teaching materials, students’ work, personal folders, you name it!  Try to come up with a system that is standardized to you, which you use on all your computers in your life. Be sure to make your backup hard drives or flash/thumb drives use the same system. The prices of external hard drives are quite good at Office Depot.  Have a system of how you name files and life will become even easier.  For example, if someone asked to see a paper, that a student named Jimmy Smith wrote 10 years ago, about frogs. You could find it in 5 seconds or less.  When you can do something like that, you have mastered tech skill #1.

3 Things that Are More Fun if You Do Them at Home

Are you bored? Do you feel like going out to a pub, to see a movie, or just drive around for hours without a specific purpose? Well, these are all great – but if you are a frugal individual like yours truly, you might want to keep the expense of these to a minimum. And the minimum in this case is zero – if you find the right activities to do. The list below has some of the activities I love to do at home – as I find them much more fun than the ones that need me to leave home. With friends, of course.

1. Instead of going to the movies…

Seeing the movie you have been looking forward to is great – but comes at a price. Drive to the theater, buy a ticket, buy some overpriced snacks – and be annoyed all the time because of the one idiot that didn’t turn his phone off and has a noisy bag in his hand. Has it happened to you? ‘Cause it has sure happened to me – several times.

… host a themed movie night with friends!

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Inviting your friends over for a movie night – especially if you have a big screen TV – can be just as much fun. Of course, most of them will have seen at least some of the movies you plan to show them, but even seeing an old movie is a lot of fun with friends. Prepare the popcorn, chill the drinks, and go for it – you won’t regret it.

2. Instead of visiting Vegas…

Driving to Vegas? Well, that would be an adventure – or would it? Hours of driving, all that fuel money wasted, arriving tired to an overpriced – or overbooked – hotel, crowded casinos and pubs, should I go on? It might be my personal misfortune that my last visit to the Sin City looked exactly like this.

… play your favorite casino games online.

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But why should I drive for hours and stress out because of all the things that go wrong when I can have the best experience without leaving home? I can load up the Red Flush online casino, browse to my favorite game and play it from the comfort of my own home – on the couch, on my phone. I don’t even have to put on pants for it. For me playing casino games online is just as satisfactory as being there in person. Besides, I can always take a walk to the fridge if I need a fresh drink or a snack. The Red Flush has all the games I can think of right at my fingertips. Its specials give me all the play time I need, and its friendly customer service is there for me whenever I have a question… Instead of going out to a restaurant…

… make reservations days ahead, fight for a parking spot, have a clumsy waiter and not be satisfied with your meal… I think this has happened to all of you at least once…

… why not host a dinner party?

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If you love to cook – and have a bit of a chef in you – you can treat your friends and family with a delicious and special meal without the need for an occasion. Sit around the table, have a nice chat and a nice meal, and save yourself the fuss of eating out.

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Top 5 Tips for Buying the Right Boat for summer

Summer is fast approaching and with it the urge to get out on the water, whether that water happens to be a lake, river or the ocean, and take advantage of all that mother nature has to offer.

The best way to do that is with a boat, if your budget can afford it, and today’s blog will help you to do just that and purchase a boat that fits your budget. Enjoy.

1) Your very first task should be to visit a large boat show. Boat shows are truly the best place to see a large number of different types and styles of boats, as well as different sizes, so that you can see all of the different prices, options and so forth. Having all of this information will allow you to make a much better decision on which boat/engine combination to purchase. A boat show is also an excellent place to meet lots of boating experts who can guide you in your decision.

2) Take your time. A boat is a large and expensive purchase and something you will likely have for many years. If you take care of it well, you may also be able to pass it onto your children. Point being, take your time making a decision on what type of boat to purchase so that you’re satisfied with that decision for the next few years (at least).

3) If you’re new to boating, definitely look into taking a boating safety course. The simple fact is this; while it might steer like a car, a boat handles much differently than an automobile and, if you don’t know how to handle it correctly, you could easily cause an accident or worse.

4) Keep in mind that their are a lot of additional costs when it comes to owning a boat. If you don’t have somewhere to keep it, you will need to either rent a space in a storage lot or a “slip” at a marina, both of which are relatively expensive monthly costs. Also, if you purchase gasoline from a marina, you can expect the price to be at least 30% higher than at your local gas station. Boating accessories like water skis, fishing rods, life jackets and so forth also will add to the cost, sometimes significantly.

5) If possible, take a test drive. Referring back to #2, a boat is something you will hold onto for many years. That’s why, whenever possible, you should definitely take it out for a test drive to make sure that you like the way it handles before you make your purchase decision.

And there you have them, 5 excellent tips that should help you to make the right decision when on a new boat. We wish you happy and safe boating!

Ways To Save on Gas and Drive More Fuel Efficiently

It is essential that every motorist strive to
obtain the best possible fuel economy. Reducing fuel consumption puts more cash
into your pocket and curbs the amount of environmental pollution. Although electric
cars are an option, their limited driving range presents a challenge for some
drivers. Luckily, most car owners can improve their gas mileage by making a few
changes. Here are some ways to save on gas and drive more efficiently.

steering

 

Keep the vehicle properly maintained.
The upkeep of a vehicle has a direct impact on its fuel consumption. If the spark plugs are beginning to wear down, the combustion of the fuel will not be as efficient. A worn oxygen sensor can also cause a vehicle’s gas mileage to plummet.

Reduce your traveling speed.
Gas mileage tends to decline when traveling at speeds in excess of 55 miles-per-hour. Lowering your average highway speed from 70 mph to 60 mph can improve gas mileage by up to 15 percent.

Maintain the optimal tire pressure.
Each day, thousands of motorists will hit the road on a set of under-inflated tires. The increased friction against the pavement forces the engine to expend more energy. Always remember to check the tire pressure while the tires are cold.

Easy acceleration.
Many drivers unnecessarily punch the gas pedal upon accelerating. If the tachometer gauge rises past 3000 rpm, this is a good indication that too much pressure is being applied to the accelerator. When accelerating, try to keep the engine speed between 2500-3000 rpm on the tachometer.

Learn to coast.
Instead of racing from one stop light to the next, allow the vehicle to coast to a stop. This task can be accomplished by simply releasing your foot off the accelerator. The momentum will enable the vehicle to roll without using any fuel. The key is to always be looking ahead for slowing traffic.

Consider public transportation and walking.
Although there is nothing wrong with owning a fuel efficient Toyota Corolla, try to limit the use of your vehicle as much as possible. If your destination is not within walking or biking distance, feel free to take advantage of the public transportation system. Public transportation is very affordable. When taking the train or bus, the risk of being involved in a traffic accident also declines.

 

Fuel Saving Tips and Myths

Since gas prices don’t appear like they’re going to drop any time in the near future, we’ve put together another list of fuel saving tips as well as a list of fuel saving myths, both of which should help you to make better choices and save money when filling up your tank. Enjoy.

Fuel savings tips:

  • Make sure to close your gas cap correctly. Nearly 20% of all vehicles on the road have gas caps that are damaged, not closed correctly or even completely missing. This results in a whopping 147 MILLION gallons of gas lost to vaporization every single year. On a personal level, gas cap problems result in a two mpg reduction in your car’s fuel  efficiency, so make sure they are on and working correctly.
  • Use the lowest fill setting when filling your tank. In many cases, because the gasoline is rushing in too quickly, backsplash or overfilling happens and the result is lost gasoline.
  • Don’t top off your car’s fuel tank. Simply put, once the fuel pump clicks off your tank is filled. Filling it up further to round out the dollar amount could cause your gasoline to spill out when it warms up as well as saturating your emission system with fuel.
  • Inflate your tires correctly. Underinflated tires can waste up to 3% of your gasoline. Make sure you check your tires on a regular basis.
  • Use the correct type of tire. If, for example, you have mud and snow tires on your car to get you through the winter, you should definitely remove them once the winter weather has ended as the wider tires will generally reduce your gas mileage.
  • Check and change worn spark plugs often. A dirty spark plug or one that is badly worn will cause your car to misfire and waste fuel. Every time you get your oil changed you should have the service technicians check your spark plugs to make sure that they are clean and firing correctly.
  • Maintain your air filter. Just like worn spark plugs, a dirty or clogged air filter will inhibit air from getting to your engine and waste fuel as well as reduce engine power. Simply replacing a clogged air filter has been shown to improve a car’s MPG by nearly 10%. One thing to keep in mind however is that newer vehicles with fuel injection that is computer-controlled will have sensors to automatically adjust for the amount of air that’s reaching the engine.
  • Make sure your oxygen sensor is functioning correctly. If it’s worn or not operating, you may well see a decrease in nearly 3 miles for every gallon of gas you use.
  • Change your motor oil regularly and use the best for your type of driving. Your automobile technician will be able to help you with knowing the proper oil to use but, suffice to say, changing your oil regularly is very important if you want to save money on gas.

Fuel saving myths to ignore and avoid.

1.      Myth. It’s best to fill up your car in the morning, especially during hot weather. The fact is, since most gasoline is kept in large, underground tanks its temperature is fairly constant as well as its expansion. Filling up in the morning, afternoon or evening will not affect the amount of gasoline that you get.

2.      Myth. High octane fuel will always provide better MPG. The fact on this one is simple; today’s modern vehicles allow their engines to run on octane levels that are lower than premium without any harm to the car’s engine or reduction in mileage. Unless you have a high-end sports car or luxury car, regular gas is just fine and will save you up to 30% off of the cost of premium.

3.      Myth. All gas from all gas stations is exactly the same. In most cases this would be a true statement except for a type of fuel called ‘slop’. Slop is a combination of different fuel types that’s created after fuel is transported in the same pipeline, including gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel and more. It’s considered a much lower grade of fuel and sold to discount gas stations. If you purchase premium from these stations you’re getting nothing of the sort and even regular might not be as good as the regular at a name brand station.

4.      Myth. Fuel additives can improve your car’s fuel economy. While these additives, including octane boosters, fuel line antifreeze and others, may indeed improve your vehicle’s performance, there are no studies,  whether performed independently or by the EPA, that have ever shown them to improve fuel economy.

We hope that these tips and myths about fuel economy will help you to save a few bucks the next time you fill up. If you have any questions about fuel economy, personal finances or other financial topics, please let us know and we’ll get back to you with options and answers.

What’s the deal with fuel efficient, low rolling resistance tires anyway?

Fuel-efficient tires aren’t new to the market to be sure but, as far as being able to purchase them at your local tire shop, they are definitely something new. The reason that they are new to tire shops is easy to explain as well as rather interesting; while automobile manufacturers have long been installing fuel-efficient tires on their new cars, replacing those tires when they are worn out with the same fuel-efficient tires hasn’t been possible until recently because tire shops simply didn’t sell them.  Anyone looking to purchase the same, exact tires that came stock with their automobile were out of luck and forced to purchase tires that, while okay, certainly weren’t as good as the tires that came stock.

That’s recently changed however as tire manufacturers have realized that, in order to increase their gas mileage, consumers all over the country have  become keenly interested in purchasing fuel-efficient tires in order to reduce their gas consumption as much as possible.  That realization caused tire manufacturers to start offering low rolling resistance tires in tire shops all across the country.

A fuel-efficient tire is simply a tire that has the aforementioned low rolling resistance, a forced that can be measured at the car’s axle in the direction that the car’s traveling. The less force that tire requires to roll forward the better, and fuel-efficient tires basically have much lower rolling resistance than many of the tires previously found in tire shops. Low resistance tires have been designed using powerful programs that have given them new types of tread design and they’re being made with newer materials that help your automobile to minimize the amount of energy that it needs to move itself forward, thus lowering the amount of gas your automobile uses.

Fuel-efficient tires will definitely cost you a little bit more than standard tires but, when you consider that they can reduce the amount of gasoline that your car needs by up to 10%, the savings alone could add up to enough that it pays for the extra cost of the better tires. Since the average set of tires will last about three years, that’s at least a full two years benefit that you get from the tires once they have been paid off.

A recent report released by the National Research Council showed that, by reducing rolling resistance by 10%, you could increase a car’s fuel economy by 1.5% during city driving and just over 2% while driving on the highway. Depending on how much you drive that could actually mean a substantial yearly savings on gasoline.

To take advantage of these gas improving facts, tire manufacturers like Cooper, Michelin, Goodyear and Continental all are now offering low rolling resistance tires in tire shops far and wide. While the savings in gasoline might not be tremendous, if you combine low rolling resistance tires with hypermiling techniques, a smaller, more fuel-efficient automobile and less frequent use of your auto, the overall savings could be substantial.

So, if your car’s tires are in need of replacement and you’re keen on keeping your cost at the gas pump as low as possible, purchasing low rolling resistance tires to replace your old, worn-out tires is certainly a great idea if you have questions about increasing your car’s fuel economy or you’d like to leave a comment about this blog, please do and we promise we’ll respond to it ASAP.

Summer Gas Saving Tips Part 3

Welcome back for the third and final part of our 3-part blog series on summer gas saving tips. We hope that you’ve enjoyed the series so far and that some of the tips that we have brought you have already started helping you to increase your MPG, lower that sting at the pump and have a great first week of summer. So without further prattling, here’s part 3. Enjoy

Before you pack up the car and the kids to go to a specific stop, shop, business or restaurant, make sure that you know the hours that they’re open. There are few things worse than making a long drive crammed in the car with a bunch of excited kids only to find out that it’s closed when you arrive. (Trust us, we know.) Do yourself a favor and call ahead to wherever it is that you want to go and save yourself a lot of gas and a big headache.

Most newer smart phones have a GPS navigation system built-in, something that you should definitely use if you’re going somewhere for the first time or somewhere off the beaten path. If you don’t have a GPS system, make sure that you either have directions that are well written or a map of your destination. Remember how we said that getting somewhere and it being closed was the worst thing that could happen? Going somewhere and getting lost four hours (or days!) along the way is almost as bad.

If you’re going to be making a large purchase, like a new car, appliance, furniture and so forth, do as much research online as you can before getting in the car. You may very well find the best price ahead of time and only have to go to one store or one dealership rather than several, saving time and gas in the process. Even better, there are several apps available that will tell you exactly where the best price to be found on your particular item is located. In many cases, it may be through an online retailer, eliminating the need to use your car at all.

Many of your local businesses have inexpensive or free delivery services. When possible, you can let them do the driving while you relax at home, saving wear and tear on your car and gasoline at the same time

Unless you have to be somewhere at a specific time, try to avoid driving during peak hours, when the chances that you will get stuck in traffic are much greater. This will save you gas and also a lot of frustration.

If you have several errands that you need to do, or several places to bring the kids, try and do them all in one big trip rather than making several smaller trips. If you’re going to do this, think about where you need to go ahead of time so that you can also plan out the best, shortest route.

Since the kids are out of school and have tons of pent-up energy, if you have biking trails or safe biking routes in your town it’s definitely the time to use them. If it’s safe for you to accompany your children on bicycles to local stores and shops even better.

If the only car that you have is a large SUV or truck you may wish to consider renting a smaller vehicle if you’re going on a long trip. Unless you actually need the space, a smaller car will almost always get better gas mileage and may even save you enough to actually pay for the cost of the rental car itself.

Carpooling is one of the oldest money-saving tips there is but here’s a new take on it; moms carpooling with the kids. If, for example, you and your neighbor were both planning on going to the local water park, you could drive together, have a nice conversation along the way and save a little bit of gas in the process.

Unless you are using them almost every day, get rid of any bicycle racks or luggage racks that you have on the roof and even on the trunk of your vehicle. These can cause a tremendous amount of extra drag and actually decrease mileage by up to 5%.

In some areas of the country where there is a lot of snow, people place bricks or bags of sand in their cars for better traction. Well, it’s summer now, so get rid of that extra weight as well as any other stuff that you have in your car. The lighter your car ways, the less gas that will use, it’s just that simple.

When starting your car, especially in the summer when it’s hot, make sure that all of your electric devices are turned off, like the radio, air-conditioning, cell phones and so forth. This puts less of a strain on your engine and thus causes it to use less gas.

While the joy of having a sunroof or a rag top are great, realize that having either one open is going to cause a lot more drag and use more gasoline.

With that we’d like to wish everyone a happy summer and safe driving. We hope that these tips have been useful and that will save you lots of money, headaches and of course gasoline all summer long. Make sure to come back and visit us again soon for more tips, advice and ideas about all subjects financial. See you then.

Summer Gas Saving Tips Part 2

Hello and welcome back for part 2 of our 3-part gas saving tips blog series. Many of the tips that we talked about in part 1 should already have helped you to save a little bit of money on gas, increase your MPG and get your car into tiptop shape for all the summer driving to come. We hope that you found some of them useful and that you will find some of these next tips useful as well. Enjoy.

Avoid overusing your brakes at stops. This ‘hard stopping’ not only wears down your breaks faster but also means that you’re using more gas than necessary when instead you should be using your car’s forward momentum. You’ve already used gas getting your car up to speed and, especially when you’re in stop and go traffic, let the force that you’ve already paid for move your car along rather than giving more gas and hitting the brakes more often.

Many people have a bad habit of using their left foot to ride the brake pedal, especially when they are in stop and go traffic. Like the tip above, riding your brakes is extremely damaging, a waste of gas and actually a dangerous way to drive. At driving schools everywhere they teach people to only use their right foot when driving. The reason; it safer.

Not paying attention to the road is not only dangerous but, because most people will tend to weave more, they’re using more gas. These days everyone is being told not to text, not to talk on the phone (not to do their nails) and other activities while driving because it’s dangerous. Knowing that it will also cost you more gas, you have more reasons than ever to pay attention when you’re on the road.

The tendency to accelerate when going up a hill is very common but it also uses quite a bit more gas. The best way to get over a hill, unless it’s extremely steep, is to build up speed as you approach it, maintain your speed on the way up and then save even more gas by coasting on the way down.

If you live in a major metropolitan area, and the majority do, make a habit of checking local traffic reports either before you leave or while you’re on the road. This will allow you to change your route (or change your plans) so that you don’t have to sit in traffic hours, wasting time and gasoline.

Here’s one that you might have heard before. (And if you haven’t, turning your driver’s license right now!) Accelerate from a stop at a moderate and even pace. In other words, jackrabbit starts are a no-no. Be aware that accelerating too slowly can be a problem as well because your engine is in a lower gear and using more gasoline to push your car forward.

When driving around town, try and stay below 40 mph as, above this speed, the amount of wind resistance that your car will be facing increases tremendously and, when that happens, your MPG decreases. In most metro areas, unless you’re on the highway, driving 40 on a major road should be fine.

If you’re going to be making a stop for more than 30 seconds, turn off your car completely. This has two benefits; you’ll save gas and save the planet. We can’t think of two reasons any better than those.

If you’re driving about 45 mph you should definitely close the windows completely, or open them only slightly because the extra drag this causes can reduce your mileage by over 10%. Depending on where you live and the type of weather that you get, using the air-conditioning may actually be more economical than leaving the windows down.

Using your cruise control as often as possible is an excellent way to reduce your car’s gas consumption and also reduce the amount of traffic tickets that you get. A great habit is to simply accelerate up to the posted speed limit and, at 1 or 2 mph over it, set your cruise control. Your car is much better equipped than you to drive at a stable speed and save you money and you’ll eliminate the chance that ‘Papa Bear’ will jump out of the woods with an expensive speeding ticket. (Darn bears.)

We hope that you agree that those are some excellent tips. Most of them you can start using right away and start saving right away as well. Make sure to come back and join us for part three very soon. See you then.

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