April 1, 2024

April 2024

Spring Clean Your Finances

As the seasons change, so too should our approach to managing personal finances. Spring, with its themes of renewal and clarity, is the perfect time to declutter your financial life. Here’s how you can thoroughly review your budget, reassess your financial plans, and strengthen your overall money management strategies.

Begin with a Financial Audit

Start your financial spring cleaning with a comprehensive audit. This means taking a close look at every aspect of your financial situation—your income streams, expenses, debts, savings, and investments. Gather all relevant financial statements, bills, and documents. This panoramic assessment is crucial as it provides a clear picture of where you stand financially, setting the stage for informed decision-making.

Declutter Your Budget

Once you have a solid understanding of your financial status, it’s time to streamline your budget. Scrutinize your monthly subscriptions, memberships, and recurring services. Are they still beneficial? Eliminate what you no longer need or use. Look for ways to reduce utility costs—maybe by adopting more energy-efficient practices, renegotiating contracts, or using resources more sparingly. When shopping, plan your grocery trips, use coupons, and choose generic brands when practical. Small changes can lead to significant savings.

Streamline and Automate

Efficiency is key in effective financial management. Set up automatic transfers to your savings accounts right after each paycheck to prioritize savings over spending. Automate your bill payments to avoid late fees and protect your credit score. Consider consolidating multiple high-interest debts into a single lower-interest loan to simplify repayments and reduce the amount spent on interest.

Set Practical Financial Goals

Goal setting is vital. Define clear, achievable financial targets for the short and long term. Short-term goals might include saving for a vacation, building an emergency fund, or paying off a particular debt. For the long term, think about retirement savings, buying a home, or investing in education. These goals will guide your financial decisions and help maintain focus.

Maintain Momentum

Achieving financial goals is a cause for celebration—it motivates continued effort and success. Keep your financial knowledge fresh by engaging with financial blogs, podcasts, or workshops. Don’t underestimate the value of professional advice for more complex financial situations. A certified financial planner can offer customized strategies that cater to your unique circumstances and help you navigate the complexities of financial planning.

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Reflections from Our Balcony

A little history on our home first. In 1994, we bought about 7 acres of land and built a 30 x 32, story and a half Cape Cod style home. 9’ ceilings, 2×12 floor joists, 6-inch walls, along with some other tweaks to make it special to us. I was the general contractor. Myself and Laura did a lot of the work ourselves, such as the plumbing, all of it, the septic, all of that too, and the drywall, etc… Yes, 100-pound Laura and I hung most of the drywall. It was fun, but we really did a lot of the work because we could not afford to hire it out. We didn’t have a basement, just a crawl space, and no garage. In addition, because of our rocky ground and the county needing 48 inches of soil above the leach field, we needed an estimated 100 tandem loads of dirt. Which we also couldn’t afford. So, I rented a bulldozer and had my buddy scrape the soil from all around the house (about a 200’ diameter circle) and pushed it all towards the home, to build it up before we could even break ground on the home. By the way, we pay for this mistake now because every now and then, if we have a wet Spring, or a bunch of storms in the Summer, we have a moat around our home. Laura calls it “Lake Maslyk”. Yes, I can bring in all of the dirt now and pay for new grass, but I don’t mind it. It brings back memories when I see our moat. Since the early years, we have added a garage, landscaping, patio and decking, a hot tub, a sauna, and so on. The big investment was a two-story room addition, which included a family room, laundry room (our old one was a stacked washer and dryer in a closet off the kitchen), a master bedroom and a master bath on the second floor, AND a basement! The basement is just under the addition; we still have the crawl space under the original part of the home.

Now comes The Balcony. We designed the addition, using the original home’s prints, and then me drawing making changes from the prints onto drafting paper for the permits (those of you who are clients are probably laughing because of my handwriting, but when I slow down and take my time, I print well using an architect’s type font, and I draw sloth-like slow. I can’t do that in appointments; people would run out pulling their hair, screaming. I’d have been out of business years ago). I added to these drawings, a Balcony off of our master bedroom, that went the full length of the 25-foot addition. It cantilevered about 5 feet out, with no posts for support. It has white picket type vinyl railings, and composite gray decking to match our gray siding. We have a large sliding door, so we could easily walk out of our bedroom to our beautiful Balcony. I envisioned morning coffee watching the sun rise. Wine or other adult beverages at night, watching the deer frolic, and maybe moseying down to the hot tub after. The Balcony added extra engineering, material costs, and labor. But I wanted that Balcony badly. How cool it would be.

I was in my backyard recently taking in the Spring changes and glanced up at the still beautiful Balcony. I thought to myself, when was the last time I was up there? Then, how many times have I actually used it? The answer is maybe three times, definitely under five! And it’s been 15 years give or take! It kind of depressed me. Why haven’t I taken the time to use this beautiful part of our home? I guess it’s because I wake up, clean up, get dressed and leave. Then I arrive home, relax, eat, clean up, and hit the hay. So routinely, I’ve never taken advantage of that Balcony. Laura hasn’t used it either.

Do you have a “Balcony” in your life? A “something”, you planned on using or doing more with? A “friend”? A “family member”? A “destination”? I think now and then we all need to examine our choices and the way we spend our time, and then make some decisions. Decisions to keep it going the same as it’s always been, or decisions to make some changes! What do you think?

Recipe of the Month

Caprese Roasted Asparagus

Transform simple ingredients into a sophisticated, colorful side dish. Ideal for spring gatherings, family dinners, or as a chic accompaniment to your main course.

  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Fresh chopped basil, for garnish
  • Bottled balsamic glaze, for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Place the asparagus on one side of the baking sheet in a row and the tomatoes on the other side in rows. Drizzle the top of the asparagus with 1 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper. Repeat process with tomatoes.
  3. Place in the oven and cook for 10 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the baking sheet and top the asparagus with mozzarella. Place back in the oven and continue to cook until the cheese has melted and is slightly golden.
  4. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place the asparagus on a serving plate. Top the asparagus with tomatoes and fresh basil. Drizzle the balsamic glaze on top and serve.
View the Recipe

What's in Season

In spring, a vibrant array of vegetables come into season, including asparagus, artichokes, snap peas, young carrots, fava beans, spring garlic, spring onions, leeks, and fennel. Additionally, radishes, spinach, lettuce, peas, rhubarb, arugula, chard, and spring potatoes flourish during this time. These fresh and flavorful options provide ample opportunities for creating delicious dishes that celebrate the season’s bounty.

Thank you for your referrals!

April Gift Card Recipient: Mr. & Mrs. John Shoulter

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Sandusky, OH 44870

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Madeira Beach, FL 33708

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Great Lakes Benefits Inc. is a Financial Advisory firm. Investment Advisory Services are offered by Great Lakes Benefits & Wealth Management, an OH Registered Investment Advisor.

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