How to make a budget

A budget is a tool you can use to get control of your expenses and save money for those expensive things you want to buy later such as a car or a home.  Following is a step-by-step procedure on how to make a personal budget and take the first step to creating your financial independence.

  1. Determine how much money you have right now. How much is in your savings account, your checking account, your investments?  You should also write down how much interest or growth you are making per year and how much you’re spending to maintain these assets.
  1. Determine how much you owe right now. On each of your debts (credit cards, mortgage, bank loans and car loan, student loan, and any other debt) what is the total amount owed on each one?  What is the monthly payment on each one?  What is the interest rate on each one?
  1. Determine your net worth. When you know how much money you have and how much money you owe, subtract one from the other to find out your net worth.  For example, if you have $50,000 and owe $35,000, your net worth is $15,000.  Your net worth may be below zero, but that’s okay at this point.  By building a budget, you can change that.
  1. Determine your average recurring monthly expenses. Sometimes this isn’t easy.  Keep all your receipts (groceries, entertainment, clothing, gasoline, insurance) utility bills (electricity, water, natural gas) and other information about your spending for two to three months.  Yearly expenses (car insurance, taxes) can be divided by 12 to see what the monthly expense is.
  1. Divide all these expenses into categories, such as food (including restaurants), clothing, general shopping, transportation (including gasoline), entertainment, utilities, credit cards, and loans. For most people, these categories are good enough, but you could add more if you like.  After tracking your expenses over a few months, determine an average amount for each category.  For example, you may find that you’re spending an average of $800 a month on food.
  1. Start a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet on your computer and input your categories and the average amounts you spend every month. If you prefer, there are several online budgeting sites like, and or apps for your smart phone like mvelopes that will do the same thing.
  1. After entering all the information, you will discover whether your spending habits are working or not. If you’re spending less money than you make each month, then you’re okay.  But if your monthly expenses are greater than your income, you’re going more and more into debt every month, and it’s just a matter of time before you are in big trouble.  If this is you, then you must immediately cut back on your expenses.  For example, you could order two cups of Starbuck’s coffee per week rather than seven.  You could go out to dinner twice a month rather than every week.  The important thing is to spend less than you make, and there are always things you can cut back on.
  1. To help you cut back on expenses, there are several websites that can help you, such as,, or On these websites you’ll learn that biking or walking to work can save you about $8600 a year and that doesn’t even include parking fees.  If you must drive, then consider car-pooling and sharing the commute with other people.  Shopping in thrift stores is another way to cut back, especially on clothing.  At the grocery store buying no-name brand products is another good idea.  These products are often made by the same manufacturers that make the name-brand products and are of the same quality for a lower price.  Rather than buying your lunch, bringing a lunch to work can save you lots.  Another way to cut back is cooking your own meals.  On the weekend make enough food for many meals and refrigerate meals for the week.  The goal of cutting back on your expenses is to have extra money at the end of the pay period.  This money is for savings, and when you determine how much it is, then you should pay yourself first.  This means that with every paycheck the first thing that you should do is put money into your savings account.  When it’s in your savings account, you won’t feel like taking it out again to meet expenses, and you’ll try harder to live within your budget.
  1. If you have lots of debt, then consider taking out a consolidation loan from the bank and paying it back over two or three years. As you’re doing this, stop using your credit cards and pay for things with cash.  This way you’ll stop going into more debt as you’re getting out of debt.
  1. As the months and years pass, you may have to make adjustments to your budget, for example when gasoline prices increase, when your rent goes up, or when you get a raise at work. You may have to move some money from one category to another to make your budget work.  If your income increases, don’t start spending more.  Instead, put more money into your savings account.  Experts say you should build your savings account to an amount that is equal to three month’s income.  This is your emergency fund in case something bad happens, such as losing your job or your car breaking down.  In the beginning sticking to your budget may seem hard to do, so you’ll need some discipline.  In the long run you’ll be happy that you started limiting your spending and saving for those big expenses like a new car or a home.


expenses:  spending
procedure:  way to do something
budget:  a plan for spending money
financial:  of or about money
independence:  freedom
determine:  find out, figure out
savings account:  a bank program that pays interest on your savings
checking account:  a bank program that allows you to write checks.
investments:  places where you can grow your money.
interest:  the percentage a bank or investment pays you on your money.
maintain:  keep in good working order
assets:  things that are worth money
owe:  have to pay back in the future
debt:  amount of money you owe
mortgage:  a loan to buy a house
loan:  money someone lends you which you have to pay back
interest rate:  percentage you pay for a loan
net worth:  the amount of money you would have if you sold everything and paid back everyone.
recurring:  happening again and again
insurance:  a program that pays you if something bad happens
utilities:  basic things you need to pay for in your home
categories:  groups of things that are alike
tracking:  writing down
average:  all the expenses added together divided by the number of expenses
spreadsheet:  a computer program where you can input numbers into columns and rows
income:  the money you make from all sources
cut back:  spend less
commute:  trip to work and back home
thrift stores:  stores that sell used items
manufacturers:  producers, makers
quality:  being well-made
pay period:  the amount of time (one week, two weeks, etc.) that you get a paycheck.
consolidation loan:  a loan that pays off all your smaller debts.
adjustments:  small changes
emergency fund:  money for when you’re in trouble and need help.
breaking down:  not working
discipline:  telling yourself what to do

How to learn English fast

A lot of people around the world are trying to learn English because it’s a useful language that can help them get a better future.  It is estimated (because nobody knows exactly) that over one billion people use English as their second language, making it the most popular second language in the world.  If you are serious about learning this language, there are five important things you should know.

#1  Learn the language as a child would.  Have you noticed that children seem to learn a second language much faster than their parents do?  The reason for this is that children have no belief that learning a language is difficult, so they have a positive attitude.  This allows them to learn it faster than adults who believe that it’s difficult.  A child opens his mouth and uses the second language without caring if it’s perfect or not.  The only thing he cares about is being understood.  Mistakes are not important to him.  Adults, on the other hand, have learned through many years at school that mistakes are bad, so they try not to make very many.  This holds them back, and makes them afraid to open their mouths and use the language.  If you want to learn a language quickly, you must become like a child and not care if you make mistakes.  Mistakes are part of learning, not something to be avoided.

#2  Practice all 4 skills, listening, speaking, reading and writing in equal amounts.  The first thing you do is hear the language.  Then you copy what you hear and start speaking the language.  Later you see how that language is written and you read it.  Lastly, you write what you have seen written.  The order is always the same.  Listening leads to speaking which leads to reading and finally writing.  Therefore, you must balance your studying by doing work in all 4 skill areas.  A practical example of this is to listen everyday to the TV or talk radio, speak with your friends, classmates and neighbors, read the daily newspaper (the free ones are usually easier to understand), and write in a journal as well as send emails to your friends.  This balanced approach will help you develop all the skills equally so you won’t be weak in any one area.

#3  Build your vocabulary.  Your knowledge of vocabulary is a large factor of your general ability in the language.  Keep a list of new vocabulary that you see or hear.  Put them in your smart phone or write them down during the day.  In the evening make a list of them and look them up in the dictionary to get a definition.  It doesn’t matter if your definition is in English or a translation into your first language.  Then make flashcards with the word on one side and the definition (or translation) on the other side.  Carry these around with you and review them as often as you can.  When you know the word well enough, you can stop carrying it around and add more that you don’t know.  Research has shown that in order to recognize and understand a new word, you must see or hear it 7 times.  In order to make it an active word that you can use in speaking or writing, you must see or hear it 17 times.  So you see, it’s a numbers game.  All you need to do is see or hear the word repeatedly and you will learn it.  You don’t even have to study it.

#4  Develop a positive attitude.  You’ve been studying English for a while now, but you still aren’t very good at it.  This is natural.  Nobody learns a new language quickly.  For the average adult it takes between 3 and 5 years to learn a language well enough so you can easily function in that language.  Don’t be hard on yourself if you are not learning as fast as you want to.  Everyone learns at a different speed, so never compare yourself to other people.  Just know that one day in the future your English skills will be as good as anyone else’s.  It will happen.  It’s only a matter of time.  Knowing this should improve your attitude while you’re still in the beginning stages of learning.

#5  Take care of your body.  Your brain will follow your body.  If you eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly, it’s not only good for your body, but also good for your brain.  These habits are beneficial whenever you are learning anything, especially a new language.

None of these things are difficult to do, but there is one problem.  Things that are easy to do are also easy not to do, so at first you have to develop the habit of doing these things.  Research has shown that to form a new habit, it takes 31 days.  At the beginning of this period you have to force yourself to do these things, but at the end they become habits that are automatic.  Don’t worry if you miss a day or two.  Just recommit yourself and you’ll be back on track.  It’s that easy.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the above lesson.


attitude:  way of thinking
avoided:  not done
balance:  do equal amounts
practical:  useful
factor:  reason, something that produces a result
definition:  meaning of a word
research:  studies done to find the truth
recognize:  know by seeing or hearing
function:  do things
compare:  think you’re better or worse
matter of time:  with enough time it will happen
beneficial:  good for you
period:  amount of time
automatic:  happen by themselves
recommit:  decide again
on track:  doing what you planned to do

Pronunciation Exercise: Listen and repeat the vocabulary above on the audio file below.


How to do your best on a test

Tests are a reality of getting an education.  Every course a student takes has some form of testing to determine if the student passes or fails.  To pass a test, most students read the required chapters in their textbook, take notes that they can study later, review the notes they took in class, and hope that’s enough to get a good mark on the test.  Often, however, this is not enough, and students are disappointed in their test results.  Students don’t realize that there’s more to passing a test than they think.  Following are some things you can do to help you get the score you deserve on any test you take.

The first thing to do is to start early and give yourself enough time to study.  Not doing this is the major reason why students fail.  You need time to learn any material, so determine how much time you think you’ll need, double it and make a schedule of your study times.  Put this schedule on a calendar that you can easily see everyday.  You can also put this schedule in your smart phone.  Then all you have to do is stick to your schedule and don’t let anything interfere with these times.  More than a few students try to cram before a test because they didn’t plan their study times, so they didn’t study well enough.  Although you may get a passing score, cramming is not a good way to prepare for a test.  The reason is if you study late into the night before a test, your brain won’t function properly the following day.  You’ll feel sluggish and you’ll have trouble remembering things that you think you learned, so don’t put yourself in a position where cramming is the only thing that you can do.

The second thing to do is to take breaks.  Give yourself a mini-break of 5 minutes or so every hour.  During this break, stretch your body, dance, or do calisthenics.  Then eat a brain-boosting snack such as fruit or almonds, which allows your body to replenish the glucose it needs to feed the brain and keep it working well.  Short, repeated periods of study are often more effective than long periods of study.

The third thing you should do is to change the location of your studying.  Research has shown that if you study in different places, such as in your room, at a quiet coffee shop, or at the library, you don’t associate the material you learn with any one place, so it’s more easily recalled.  You can even study on the bus if you’ve brought flashcards with you.

The fourth thing is something you should not do, which is multitask. Multitasking is doing two or more things at the same time as you’re studying.  This is a bad idea because your brain can’t give enough attention to more than one thing at a time.  Give yourself dedicated study time and do the other things at another time.  The exception to this is listening to music, which can make you feel more relaxed and help you focus better on the material you’re trying to learn.  The music you listen to should be wordless, however, or part of your brain will be listening to the words and not remembering what you’re studying.

The fifth thing to do is get enough sleep the night before a test.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers aged 14 to 17 need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night, young adults 18 to 25 need 7 to 9 hours, adults 26 to 64 need 7 to 9 hours, and older adults over 65 need 7 to 8 hours.  Getting less than this amount affects your mental abilities.  If you can’t get to sleep, try some warm milk or tea.  Many students have found that taking melatonin a half hour before bedtime is an easy way to fall asleep.  Unlike traditional sleep medication, melatonin is a hormone that your body produces to make you sleepy, so it’s a natural aid you can use without fear of addiction.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the first part of the lesson.

The sixth thing to do is to avoid any food too close to bedtime.  All that digesting will keep you awake at night.  However, it’s a good idea to feed your brain the evening before.  Fish that contains omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, help boost your brainpower.  You might also want to incorporate some eggs into your general diet.  Eggs contain choline, which is linked to memory and cognitive performance.  Avoid simple carbohydrates and processed sugar.  These may give you a temporary energy boost, but they cause your body to crash, which leaves you feeling super tired later.  If you crave something sweet, go for fruits, especially those that contain vitamin C, which help improve your mental abilities.  If you like salty snacks, eat pumpkin seeds or nuts, which have vitamin E and zinc, also good for your brain.  Lastly, on the morning of your test, eat a healthy breakfast with fiber and protein, which will keep your mind alert.  An example of a good breakfast is a glass of juice, an egg, toast, and cheese.

The seventh thing you should do is stay generally hydrated, especially before an exam.  One of the symptoms of dehydration is fatigue, so bring a bottle of water with you to the test.  A lot of students drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages not only when studying but also before taking a test.  However, be careful because caffeine is a diuretic, which means it will dehydrate you.  Dehydration can cause fatigue, so if you do drink coffee, also drink plenty of plain, clear water so you don’t get dehydrated.  Drinking coffee after dinnertime is also a bad idea because it keeps you awake, and you need to get a good night’s sleep before a test.  Chewing mints or mint gum is an alternate way to stay alert.  Studies have shown that mints or mint gum increase alertness, accelerate reaction time, and increase how people process information.  There’s one more thing.  Avoid alcohol, especially the night before a test.  In addition to the hangovers, alcohol also dehydrates you.

The last thing to do is use visualization, which is using your imagination to mentally create a situation.  There are two ways that visualization can help you prepare for a test.  You can use this technique to help you relax before a test or to help you create the outcome you want.  To relax and get rid of your stress, close your eyes and cover them with the palms of your hands to eliminate any light.  Then imagine a scene that’s very relaxing to you, such as a day at the beach or curled up in bed with a good book.  Picture as many details as possible to make it realistic, and spend a minute enjoying the relaxing scene.  Open your eyes and feel your body more relaxed than it was before.  Then repeat the same visualization scene.  The more you practice this, the easier it becomes.  This process creates a safe place for you to feel calm and relaxed before you sit down to take your test.  The other kind of visualization is about creating the result you want.  Imagine yourself achieving your goal of passing the test. What does it look and feel like?  Imagine your success in as much detail as possible.

On the day of the test, you can do the following things to insure that you do well on the test.  First, go to the bathroom so you won’t have the urge for the duration the test.  Find the place in yourself that is confident, and go to this place and stay there.  When you get the test, read the directions carefully and follow them.  Before you start, look over the entire test and identify which sections are the easiest and which are the hardest.  Answer the easy questions first, which will not only get them out of the way, but will also give you confidence for the harder parts.  Skip questions you don’t know and come back to them at the end if you have time.  Your job is to get the highest score you can on the test, and if you get stuck on hard questions, you’ll just waste time and may not get to the questions that you can answer.  Set a good pace that will allow you to finish the whole test in the time that you have.  Also, if it’s a multiple choice test, cross out any obviously wrong answers.  Even if you don’t know the right answer, you increase your chances of guessing correctly.  For essay questions, write an outline before you start.  In your outline write down your main point and the supporting details you want to mention.  This will help you stay on track as you write your response.  Lastly, review your answers before you submit your test.  Too often students forget to do this and turn in a test with careless errors.

Armed with these suggestions, you should do well on your next test.  Good luck.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the last part of the lesson.


determine:  decide, figure out
required:  necessary, assigned by the teacher
realize:  know
score:  mark, percentage
major:  most important, biggest
material:  information to learn
double:  multiply by 2
schedule:  plan of the days and times that something will happen
interfere:  stop something from happening
cram:  try to learn as much as possible in a short time
function:  work
sluggish:  slow
position:  situation
calisthenics:  exercises where you move your body in a repeated way
boosting:  making better
replenish:  put back, replace
effective:  working well and fast
research:  studies to find out something important
associate:  make a connection
recalled:  remembered
flashcards:  cards with a vocabulary word on one side and its definition on the other side
attention:  focus, concentration
dedicated:  doing only one single thing
according to:  as stated by
affects:  changes, makes worse
hormone:  a chemical your body makes
aid:  help
addiction:  dependency, something you can’t easily stop
avoid:  stay away from, not eat
digesting:  turning food into something the body can use
omega-3 fatty acids:  a chemical found in food that is good for your body
incorporate:  use regularly
cognitive:  brain
carbohydrates:  food composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
processed sugar:  sugar that is made pure
crave:  really need
contain:  have
mental:  brain
fiber:  plant matter that cannot be digested
protein:  meat and similar plant food
alert:  focused, aware
hydrated:  watered
symptoms:  negative effects on the body
dehydration:  lack of enough water
fatigue:  great tiredness
caffeinated:  containing caffeine
mints:  green plants with a fresh taste
alternate:  other, different
accelerate:  make faster
process:  learn, remember
hangovers:  headaches and general pain that result from too much alcohol
technique:  practice, way of doing something
outcome:  result
palms:  the inside parts of the hands that aren’t the fingers
eliminate:  stop, cancel
scene: picture
realistic:  seem real
achieving:  being successful getting
duration:  length, time
confident:  feeling like you can do something successfully
entire:  whole, 100%
identify:  find out
skip:  don’t do
stuck:  not able to move forward
pace:  speed
multiple choice:  choosing the correct answer from a list
obviously:  easily seen or known
essay:  writing a long answer
mention: write about
on track:  on the topic
review:  look again at
submit:  give to the teacher
errors:  mistakes
armed:  knowing and using

How to stay healthy

Your health is the most important part of your life because if you’re sick, nothing else seems to matter.  There are many things you can do to stay healthy.  The first and most important of these is exercise, both physical and mental.  Your physical exercise should be regular.  Apart from the daily short walks that all of us do, you should set aside three twenty-minute exercise periods every week.  During these times you can do things like sit-ups, push-ups, running and weight training, but even extended walking can have health benefitsWeight training builds more muscle and increases your metabolism, which helps your body burn more calories and keeps your weight down.  Your heart is an important muscle that needs to get exercise to stay healthy, so when you’re exercising, get your heart rate up and keep it up during your exercise time.

Besides your body, your brain also needs to get exercise.  As you get older, you get mentally lazier because you do the same kinds of thinking everyday.  To make your brain healthier, do more mental exercises like reading, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, or other mental games.  This will create more connections between your brain cells and keep your brain working well.  You can also challenge your brain by learning new things such as a new language or how to play a musical instrument.

The next most important thing to staying healthy is to eat right.  Eat foods that are high in nutritional value, and stay away from junk food, which has too much sugar or salt.  If you love to eat sweets, eat fruit, which has natural sugar.  Avoid eating too much salt.  Most processed food has lots of salt in it, so cook your own meals and don’t add much salt.  Caffeine in coffee is not a bad thing if you limit the amount you drink.  Never have coffee in the evening because it can effect your ability to sleep.  Finally, drink lots of water.  It keeps your whole body, inside and out, working well.  Carry a liter of water with you all day and take a drink when you’re thirsty.  It should be filtered to remove the chlorine and fluoride which are added to kill bacteria.

Stress also needs to be managed.  To reduce your stress you can learn to do yoga or meditation.  Even watching TV, especially shows that make you laugh, and listening to music can lower your stress.  Taking walks along the beach or in a park and staying mentally in the present also lower your stress level.   Staying in the present and not thinking about the past or the future allows you to focus on being alive.  Smell the roses, feel the air on your skin, notice the clouds above and everything else happening around you.

Your relationships are also important to your health.  Everyone needs somebody they can talk to and tell their thoughts and feelings to.  Everyone also needs love in their lives.  Apart from the people that you love, pets are wonderful companions that you can love and that will love you back unconditionally.  People need to feel that they’re part of something bigger, and joining an organization can give you this feeling.  Get the feeling of belonging by joining a church, a club, or even an online community.  People who have a lot of social contact get sick less often than people who don’t.

Of course, being clean protects you against diseases that can make you sick.  Develop the habit of washing your hands after a visit to the bathroom and before eating to kill the germs on your hands that can make you sick.  When you’re away from home, try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth at anytime.  Bacteria and viruses usually enter your body through these openings.  When you get home at the end of your work day, wash your hands to keep your home a safe place.  A bath or shower should be a regular activity, even a daily activity.  Brushing your teeth and tongue twice a day will help prevent the many diseases that start there.

Finally, staying healthy requires enough sleep every night.  Adults should get between 7 and 9 hours, and school-aged children should get between 10 and 11.  To sleep better avoid caffeine for at least 6 hours, alcohol for at least 4 hours, and eating for at least 3 hours before bedtime.  People who exercise regularly sleep better, and a good night’s sleep will prevent overeating.

All of the above can become habits if you make the effort to do them regularly.  When they become habits, it will be easier to keep your good health because you won’t have to think about it.  It will be automatic.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the above lesson.


matter:  be important
physical:  of the body
mental:  of the mind
apart from:  in addition to
set aside:  reserve, plan the time
periods:  times
sit-ups:  an exercise where you lie on your back and lift your upper body to a vertical position
push-ups:  an exercise where you lie on your stomach and push your hands against the floor until you rise up.
weight training:  exercises where you use heavy weights to develop your muscles
extended:  longer
benefits:  things that are good for you
metabolism:  your body’s ability to burn calories
rate:  speed
crossword puzzles:  a game where you put words into little boxes that cross each other
Sudoku:  a number game where each row, column and square contain the numbers 1 to 9
cells:  the smallest living parts
challenge:  do something more difficult
nutritional value:  food goodness
natural:  from nature, not artificial
avoid:  don’t do
processed:  made in large quantities with unhealthy preservatives added
caffeine:  a drug that makes you alert and keeps you awake
limit:  not do too much
effect:  have a result on
bacteria:  tiny life forms that can make you sick
managed:  taken care of
reduce:  make less, lower
yoga:  a practice where you stretch your body gently
meditation:  a practice where you make your mind quiet
focus:  put your attention
companions:  friends that stay with yo
unconditionally:  for no reason
social contact:  meeting and talking to people
habit:  something you do without thinking
viruses:  tiny life forms that need your body to live
regular:  happening often
daily:  happening everyday
prevent:  stop from happening
diseases:  sicknesses
requires:  must have
overeating:  eating too much
automatic:  done by itself

Pronunciation Exercise:  Listen and repeat the vocabulary above on the audio file below.

© 2014 Ambien Malecot

How to write a resume

Resumes are a requirement when you’re applying for most jobs.  Although there are many ways to write one, they usually have five sections: your personal contact information, your skills, your work experience, your education and training, and your interests.  A well-written resume can get you an interview and make the difference between whether you get the job or not.  Let’s look at how to write each section.

At the top of your resume and centered on the page, put your first and last name.  Many people put their names in a larger size and in bold print.  Under that on two separate lines, put your complete address, including your postal code.  On the line under that put your phone number and finally your email address under that.

The next part contains your skills, abilities and areas of expertise.  Write your skills in point form, one under the other, lined up on the left side of the page.  You can also put your skills under different categories, such as General skills (for example, hard-working, reliable, organized, quick learner,) Computer skills (for example, proficient in using Microsoft Word, Outlook, Excel,) and Leadership skills (for example, president of your high school graduating class.)

The third part contains your work experience, starting with the latest one.  Again, line these up on the left side of the page.  Put the dates of these jobs (include both paid and volunteer jobs) either on the left or on the right side.  Put the name of the company that you worked for, the city it’s located in and your job title.  You can also include short descriptions of the kind of work you did in each job.

The fourth part contains your education and training.  Again, start with the latest, and include your university or college and any degrees or certificates you got from them.  If you’ve had post-secondary education, it’s not necessary to include your high school.  Also put any other training that you got, for example, a seminar on management.  Put the dates either on the left or on the right side.

The last part, which can be left out if your resume is getting too long, is your interests and hobbies.  Include things that show that you’re a well-rounded person.  If the reader of your resume shares one of your interests, you are more likely to get an interview.

Resumes should be one page if possible, and be on white paper.  Use an easy-to-read font like Times New Roman or Arial at size 12.  Do not include your physical features (height, weight, or a photo), your health (including pregnancy,) the country you come from, languages you speak (unless this is important for the job you want), your marital status, your sexual orientation, your religion, your Facebook or Linkedin accounts, or your age.

There are many online sites that can help you write your resume, so find one of them and get started.  Good luck in your job search.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the above lesson.


requirement:  something that is necessary
applying:  asking to get
sections:  parts
personal contact:  how to communicate with you
skills:  things you are good at doing
interview:  face to face talk
whether:  if
centered:  in the middle
bold:  dark and heavy
separate:  different
contains:  has
expertise:  things you are excellent at doing
point form:  not complete sentences, short
categories:  titles
reliable:  dependable, doing what you say you’ll do
proficient in:  good at
latest:  last, most recent
degrees:  Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree or Doctorate degree (PhD)
certificates:  a statement of completion
post-secondary:  after high school
seminar:  short course
left out:  not included
well-rounded:  doing or good at lots of different things
are more likely:  have a better chance
font:  lettering
pregnancy:  having a baby inside
marital status:  married, single, divorced, living with someone
sexual orientation:  straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transexual

Pronunciation Exercise:  Listen and repeat the vocabulary above on the audio file below.

© 2014 Ambien Malecot

How to use a credit card responsibly

So many people misuse credit cards and find themselves in debt only able to make the minimum payment that is required.  A minimum payment mostly pays the interest, so your balance doesn’t go down very fast, and you have to keep paying for a long time.  Learning to use credit responsibly is a very smart thing to do so that you always have money to spend, money to share, and money to grow.

If you feel that you are ready to handle credit responsibly, then apply for a credit card.  The best kind of credit card is one that gives points.  I live in Vancouver and shop at a grocery store that has a Mastercard that gives points, so that’s the card I use for most purchases.  Every time I buy a product or service from anywhere, I use my credit card and receive points.  For every thousand points, I get a dollar off when I purchase groceries.

I’m Ambien’s wife, and I developed a credit card system that guarantees we never spend more money than we have.  For this system to work, you must make a budget and know how much money you have each month to spend.  You also need to have three bank accounts – one savings account and two checking accounts.  The first checking account is where your paycheck is deposited, and the second checking account is the one that pays your credit card bill.  As you go through the month, you use an envelope to record and store all of your credit card receipts.  On the front of the envelope you record the date, the name of the store where you made the purchase, and the amount that you spent, and inside the envelope you put all the receipts.  You do this all month long.  Every few days you add up the total that you have spent so far and transfer that money from your first checking account to your second.  When your first account is getting low, you know that you have to be careful with your spending because you can only spend what’s left in the account.  If you follow this system, you will never spend money that you don’t have.  When your credit card statement arrives at the end of the month, check each item on the statement against the receipts in the envelope to make sure that they match.  Then pay your entire credit card bill either online or at the bank.  When you pay your entire bill each month, you never pay any interest.  You get to use credit for free, and you get benefits.  Since we started using this system, we have found that it takes us about three months to earn around $250 worth of points that we can spend on groceries.

Using a credit card in this way will enable you to become a conscious shopper.  When you track your spending like this, you will know how much you spend every month, and you will also know what you are spending your money on.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the above lesson.


in debt:  owing money
interest:  money you pay for using credit
balance:  the total amount you have to pay
responsibly:  the best way
apply:  fill out a form
grocery:  food
purchases:  things that you buy
guarantees:  makes certain
system:  way of doing things
budget:  a plan on how to spend your money
deposited:  put into
record:  write down
store: keep
receipt:  the paper you get when you buy something
transfer:  move
statement:  a record from the bank of all your credit card charges
match:  are the same
entire:  whole, 100%
benefits:  good things
enable:  let you be able
conscious:  thinking well
track:  know by using a system

Pronunciation Exercise:  Listen and repeat the vocabulary above on the audio file below.

© 2014 Ambien Malecot

How to negotiate effectively

Negotiating with someone means bargaining or trading to get what you want while at the same time giving the other person what he wants. This may sound easy, but unless you follow a few rules, things will not go very well for you, and you’ll give more than you get. Think of negotiating as a game that you can win because you have learned the rules. Using these rules, you have a better chance of getting what you want. Here they are:

Rule 1:

Before you start the process, do some research online to find out what a reasonable price for the item is. If you are selling, you want to start your negotiation at a price above that; if you’re buying, you want to start at a price below that. Let me explain by using an example.  You want to sell your used smartphone.  If you determine that a used smart phone is worth $200, then you want to ask $250 for it.  Someone would love to buy it from you for $150.  If you asked for only $200, which is the real price you’re willing to sell it for, the other person would still only offer you $150, knowing that you would come down a little to meet his offer. You would then probably sell it for around $175, which is not what you want. You need to give yourself some “wiggle room” and ask for more than you’re willing to take.

Rule 2:

Get the other person to tell you his opening price first.  This gives you an advantage because you now know his starting position before he knows yours.  If his number is $50 lower than you want, then counter his offer with a price that’s $50 higher than you want.  He says, “I’ll give you $150 for the phone.”  You look dissatisfied, and after pausing for five seconds, you say, “I can’t do that.  I’ll give it to you for $250.”  Looking dissatisfied is a major part of negotiating.  The more dissatisfied you look, the higher the other person will make his second offer.

Rule 3:

When the other person comes up in his counter offer, you come down by the same amount. Continuing with our example, he now says, “Well, I could come up another $25. How about $175?”   You counter by looking disappointed again, and then say, “I could come down to $225, but that’s as low as I’m willing to go. By saying this last part, you’re telling him that the negotiations are getting tougher, and you’re not going to come down much more.  If he’s not an experienced negotiator, he may agree to pay your price of $225. However, if he understands that the negotiation isn’t finished yet, he’ll suggest “splitting the difference.” He’ll say, “I’ll tell you what. Let’s split the difference, and we’ll both be happy.” At that point you can agree to sell the phone at $200.

Rule 4:

If he doesn’t seem willing to split the difference, then you can offer a little something extra to make him feel like he’s getting a good deal.  You could say, “I’d be willing to throw in the phone case if you’ll agree to $200.” Often, this is enough to seal the deal.

Rule 5:

If there’s a long silence in the negotiation, do not say anything.  The first person who speaks is the person who’s willing to make a concession and meet the other person’s price.

Rule 6:

The last rule is that you can’t seem desperate to make a deal.  You must always look like you’re willing to walk away with no deal.  Sometimes if you’re not happy with the price, walking away is the only thing you can do.

So there are the six simple rules that you can use the next time you negotiate with someone.   Of course, practice makes perfect, so go out into the world and practice this process until you get good at it.  Being a good negotiator will save you or make you lots of money in a short time.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the above lesson.


bargaining: the process of agreeing on a price.
process: the steps you take to do something
reasonable: correct for both buying and selling
item: the thing that is being sold.
determine: decide through research
wiggle room: room to move up or down
advantage:  opportunity for success that the other person doesn’t have
counter: say your price in response to his price
dissatisfied: not happy
tougher: harder
splitting the difference: going half way between his price and yours
throw in: include
seal:  successfully conclude
concession: a thing that is given up
desperate: having an urgent need
deal: agreement

Pronunciation Exercise:  Listen and repeat the vocabulary above on the audio file below.

© 2014 Ambien Malecot

How to do well in a job interview

Before you can get a job, there is often an interview process where you meet the person who does the hiring.  It may seem like a scary thing to do, but if you prepare yourself, you can have a very good interview.  Here are some things you can do.

Long before the date of the interview, do some research online to find out about the company.  You should find out what products or services the company offers, how many employees work there, who the company’s competition is, and how long the company has been in operation.  In the interview you are often asked what you know about the company, and if you know very little, then your interview won’t go very well, so make sure you know these things.

It’s also a good idea to visit the company and see what people are wearing.  Go to your interview wearing the same kind of clothes as everyone there.  The way you dress tells the interviewer if you’ll fit in with the other employees.  Start practicing your answers to the common interview questions.  (See below)

On the day of your interview, prepare yourself well.  Clean your body, including washing your hair.  Afterwards, don’t put on too much perfume or after shave lotion.  Strong smells could make the interviewer uncomfortable or worse.  Arrive at the interview site at least fifteen minutes before your appointment.  After you tell the secretary your name, take a seat and relax.  Repeat to yourself, “This is MY job.  All I have to do is finish this interview, and they will offer me the job.”  By saying this again and again, you start to believe it.  When you believe it, you have a positive attitude.  When you bring this attitude into the interview, you have more confidence, so the interview goes much better.

When the interviewer comes out of his or her office, put a smile on your face, stand up and walk towards him ready to give a firm handshake, which is neither too strong nor weak.  At the same time look him in the eyes and say, “I’m pleased to meet you.”  Looking someone in the eyes makes a connection, and this will help in the interview.

After you both sit down in his office, he will start asking you questions.  Answer as honestly as you can.  Sometimes the interviewer will ask a question that has no good answer, such as, “What is your greatest weakness.”   When this happens, choose an answer that’s not so bad.  Say, “Sometimes I get a little nervous when I’m asked to do something I’ve never done before, but I’m learning to ask others for help.  The words “sometimes” and “a little” make your weakness sound smaller, and the part after “but” tells the interviewer that you’re trying to improve.  An answer like this will usually impress the interviewer.  Some people think a job interview is only about answering questions, but this isn’t true.  For every three or four questions you answer, you can ask a question yourself, such as, “Does the company have daycare service?”  If you ask the interviewer a question about the company, it shows that you’re interested in the company.

Don’t ask the money question too early in the interview.  Put that question after questions about benefits, such as medical and dental plans.  Use these words when you ask the money question:  “What can I expect in the way of salary?’  Don’t use:  “How much does the job pay?” because it sounds like you’re not as interested in the job.

If you follow the above guidelines, your job interview should go very well.  Below is a list of common interview questions that you should prepare.

•  Why would you like to work for our company?
•  What two or three things are most important to you in a job?
•  How do you work under pressure?
•  What do you know about our company?
•  What was the worst problem you had in your last job?
•  Why did you leave your last job?
•  Tell me about your last job.
•  Why should we hire you?
•  What are your weaknesses?
•  What are your strengths?
•  Tell me about yourself.
•  Where do you see yourself five years from now?
•  When were you most satisfied in your last job?
•  What did you like about your last job?
•  Why are you leaving your present job?

Click on the audio recording below to hear the lesson.  When you get to the interview questions, pause the audio after each question and give your best answer.


process:  a series of actions
prepare:  do things before the interview that will make it go better
research:  gathering information
online:  on the Internet
products:  things that are sold
services:  actions one person does for another
competition:  other companies that sell or do the same thing
in operation:  doing business
fit in:  be able to work well
site:  place, office
confidence:  a feeling that you are good enough
improve:  get better
impress:  make someone think you’re good
guidelines:  list of things to do, suggestions
common:  used in many interviews
Pronunciation Exercise:  Listen and repeat the vocabulary on the audio file below.
© 2013 Ambien Malecot

How to send a package

If you want to send a package through the mail, there are some things you should do.  First, get a box that is just a little bigger than your item.  If your item is heavy, then use a thicker box.  If you’re sending something that can easily break, then put newspaper, bubble wrap, or something soft around the item in the box.  Make sure the item can’t move when the box is closed.  Secondly, you should tape it up well.  Use packing tape to do this. Don’t use masking tape or duct tape, which may not be accepted by some companies. Never use string, which can come off during shipping.  Thirdly, put your address on the top of the box in the upper left corner, and the address you’re sending it to in the middle.  It’s a good idea to put clear tape over both addresses so the shipper can read them even if they get wet.  Fourthly, if your package is going to another country, you have to put a “Customs Declaration” sticker on it.  On the sticker you should write what is in the package, the value, and the weight.  The clerk will ask if you want the package to go by “air mail” or by “surface mail.”  Surface mail goes by truck, train, or boat, and is cheaper but slower.  Lastly, the clerk will measure and weigh the box and charge you for shipping.  You can also buy insurance if the item is expensive.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the above lesson.


item:  the thing you are sending
bubble wrap:  a packing material made of plastic air bubbles
masking tape:  a tape used for painting and other temporary jobs
duct tape:  a strong silver tape used for air ducts
value:  how much it cost
charge you:  get you to pay
shipping:  moving the package to the other person
insurance:  protection in case of loss or damage

Pronunciation Exercise:  Listen and repeat the vocabulary above on the audio file below.


Student:  I’d like to mail this package overseas, please.
Clerk:  Okay.  Let me weigh and measure it.  It weighs 765 grams, and measures 12 by 34 by 22 for a total of 68 centimeters.  Because it’s less than 2 kilograms and 90 centimeters, it is classed as a small packet, not a parcel.
Student:  What does that mean?
Clerk:  That‘s the cheapest rate.  Do you want to send it by surface mail or air mail?
Student:  I’d like it to get there by the weekend, so send it by air mail.  What’s the charge?
Clerk:  That’ll cost you $16.60 plus $1.00 GST.
Student:  That’s good.  Here’s a twenty.
Clerk:  Thanks.  Here’s your receipt and $2.40 change.  Fill out this customs declaration form, and I’ll stick it on the packet.  Do you want insurance on it?
Student:  No thanks.  It’s not very valuable.  There.  All finished.  Thank you for your help.
Clerk:  My pleasure.


overseas:  to another country
packet:  package under 2 kg
parcel:  package over 2 kg
rate:  the amount you have to pay
charge:  price
GST:  Goods and services tax (in Canada only)
receipt:  proof of payment
customs declaration:  a paper that says what’s inside a package
insurance:  a guarantee of getting your money back if it’s lost
valuable:  worth a lot of money

Pronunciation Exercise:  Listen and repeat the vocabulary above on the audio file below.

© 2013 Ambien Malecot


How to wash your hands

Like many other people, I’ve gotten into the habit of washing my hands every time I come back home.  You never know what you’ve touched out there, and you don’t want to get sick from it, so off you go to the bathroom or kitchen sink to do your duty.  If you’re like most people, you run the water until it’s warm, wet your hands and rub a bar of soap between them.  I did a little research online and found out that it makes no difference whether you wash your hands with hot or with cold water.  Studies have shown that they get just as clean either way.  But how long should you wash your hands to get rid of the bacteria and viruses that may be on them?  The answer is 30 seconds, but few people will watch a clock while they wash their hands.  However, there’s an easy way you can time your hand washing.  Just sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself three times, which takes 30 seconds.  You know – “Happy birthday to you.  Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear (your name). Happy birthday to you.”  By the way, if you start washing your hands every time you get home, it will take 30 days before it becomes a habit.  After that it will be something that you always do without thinking.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the above lesson.


habit:  something you do all the time without thinking
come back:  return
duty:  thing you must do
bar:  solid piece that fits in your hand
research:  finding information
online:  on the Internet
found out:  got the information, discovered
whether:  if
studies:  scientific methods to find the truth
just as:  equally
get rid of:  make go away
bacteria:  tiny one-celled pieces of life
viruses:  tiny pieces of life that reproduce only inside the cell of an animal

Pronunciation Exercise:  Listen and repeat the vocabulary above on the audio file below.


Short video on hand washing:

© 2013 Ambien Malecot