If you live in western America, fireworks might be banned due to fire restrictions in your area. I know you can’t even buy fireworks in my hometown this year because of the high fire danger due to an extreme drought in Eastern Montana.

Just because there are no fireworks doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate Independence Day, though. There’s plenty you can do with your day off that is still patriotic while being less flammable and less expensive. Here are a few things you can do in lieu of fireworks on Independence Day.

1. Host a party

Thanks to social media, it’s never too late to host a party. You can create an event on Facebook or Google+ in minutes and have people over for fun and games. Have guests bring an item for a potluck. Hit the local store and buy some party favors in red, white and blue.

Play Bocci or do something truly American and throw a baseball around or shoot some hoops. You can even spray paint a Twister board on the lawn in non-toxic, red, white and blue marking chalk. Yard games like cornhole and the ladder golf ball toss are fun for kids and adults alike, and you can make them yourself at home and have them ready overnight. My favorite and the favorite of our family’s is the “original” washer toss game. It’s a pair of carpeted boards with three holes into which you toss large washers from 10 feet away. Some call it Texas horseshoes apparently. Follow the links to do it yourself.

2. Hit the gun range

If you still want that feeling of American patriotism flowing through your veins that only exploding artillery provides, go down to the local gun club or shooting range and fire off a few rounds in succession. Print some fun targets like Osama Bin Laden’s face or a poster of his entire body and tape it together. Then unload like you’re fighting for America’s independence all over again. I assure you this will help you forget about there being no fireworks.

3. Go fishing

If you live near water, there’s nothing like taking a day to go fishing. Anyone can do it, and it’s the ultimate relaxation activity. You can even bring a small, gas grill and cooler with you to have a barbecue. You can even bring a small, gas grill and cooler with you to have a barbecue. You can get all the information you need regarding fishing licenses and permits by visiting here.

4. Volunteer

I know what you’re thinking: “The last thing I want to do with my day off is work.” But volunteering to help a fellow American who’s less fortunate enjoy Independence Day is far more fulfilling than fireworks. Here are some volunteer events happening in America on the Fourth of July.

You could also help out a military family in your neighborhood. Feed them lunch or put together a care package for a member of your community who’s serving overseas. You can even write them a letter, or write a letter to the family of a veteran who was lost to a war or conflict. Visit the local nursing homes and speak to a veteran, or visit a VFW or American Legion club and buy a veteran a drink.

Volunteering could be as simple as going to a local park where the homeless frequent and barbecuing hot dogs and hamburgers for them. Veterans account for nearly eight percent of the homeless population after all. Bring some voter registration cards and call it a voter registration drive. You can print voter registration cards from your Secretary of State’s website. Even people without an address have the right to vote. You can use the address of the nearest shelter if someone doesn’t have a place where they receive mail.

5. Attend a parade

Parades happen almost everywhere in America on the Fourth of July. Chances are the main street in your town will be shut down for an Independence Day Parade. Check it out. You’ll score a bunch of free schwag and candy and the kids will have a blast.

6. Attend a fireworks display in the area

If you must have your fireworks then you can get in the car and drive. Just because fireworks are banned where you live doesn’t mean there isn’t a fireworks display nearby. In the case of Eastern Montana, that’s exactly the case, though. But for others, you might be just a few hours away from a fireworks display. Use this map to find one in your area. Searching “fireworks displays near me” on Google will also give you more local options.

So that's what to do in lieu of fireworks on Independence Day. Don’t let the lack of fireworks get you down and take action now to make this Fourth of July one you and those around you will never forget.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights, Americanuck Radio, American Survival Radio, Building America, The Debbie Nigro Show, Free Talk Live, Freedom Feens, The Gun Owners News Hour, Homeland Security Radio, LockNLoad, The Lounge, Meat Masters, The Power Hour, Sons of Liberty, Stone Cold Truth, Travellers411, USA Prepares, What’s Cookin’ Today

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So you’ve got an idea that’s going to revolutionize an industry. You’ve got some startup capital to invest in your business, and you’re ready to dedicate yourself to your startup. But before you launch your product or service, there are mistakes you can easily avoid when starting your business that will sink your startup before it starts up.

1. Write a business plan before doing anything else

You might be thinking, “But I don’t need any funding,” or “I’m bootstrapping this business,” or “I have to be first to market.” And none of that matters. A business plan isn’t just a way to entice investors to provide funding for your startup. It’s a way for you to get to get to know your business intimately.

Most startups that fail do so because the CEO provided a product or service that didn’t solve a problem. Don’t try to solve a problem people don’t know they have; solve a problem they know they have. Writing a business plan is the best way to determine whether your business is solving a problem people know they have.

A business plan will also help prepare content for your website. You’ll nail down your company’s mission and answer key questions customers will have about your business. You’ll likely realize where a section of your business plan fits on your website while you’re writing it.

Most importantly, a business plan will help you prepare for each phase of your startup process, both operationally and financially. You’ll know how much startup capital you’ll need to start your business and have a budget so you don’t overextend yourself. You’ll also know who you’ll need to help start your business, and the list is probably longer than you imagined.

2. Invest in people before your product or service

The most important assets a company has is its employees, and it’s no different for a startup. Before you invest in a prototype or technology, surrounding yourself with the right people can help you avoid a failed launch of your business.

The first people you need are potential customers. You’re not selling them at this point, but their needs should dictate yours and that of your company. They can provide valuable feedback about your product or service that will help you perfect it prior to launch. Talk to at least 15 people you think would have an interest in your product or service. Let them know what you intend to offer and how they would improve it.

One of the best investments you can make in your business is in public relations. You might think you can do this work yourself, especially after writing a business plan. After all, you know your business better than anyone else. But journalists and editors of newspapers, magazines and websites are more apt to publish something about your business when it comes from a PR person or firm with whom they’re familiar. A press release received from an email address that contains the same business name as the press release doesn’t exactly scream “trust me.” A third party writing about your business, though, does have some validity, even though you’re paying that party.

You’ll likely pay more than you think, too, according to Tom Hogan and Carol Broadbent’s new book, The Ultimate Start-up Guide: Marketing Lessons, War Stories, and Hard-won Advice from Leading Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors. Hogan and Broadbent recommend you never have a PR firm work on your account part-time and to hire a local firm where available. You should also seek out a PR firm that has contacts with media members who publish to your target market. And when you set the initial meeting, request that the people who will be actually working on your account are at the meeting. Some firms will send principal members of the firm who will never actually work on your account. Don’t allow them to pull the “bait-and-switch.”

Once you’ve chosen a PR firm to spread the word about your company, set regular updates and weekly meetings to keep everyone on the same page and make sure your goals are being accomplished. Also be sure that your public relations team is fulfilling your agreed-upon reporting style.

Another place new business owners attempt to save money is by not hiring a social media manager. Don’t do this unless you are a social media wizard that understands how to read Facebook Insights and analytics and where to best invest your social media advertising dollars. If your target market is Millenials, the majority, if not all of your advertising budget should be spent online.

3. Don’t do business with family

If you have a family member with money to invest in your startup, don’t allow them to do so unless they’re aware they could lose every penny and you know it won’t alter your relationship.

If your big brother is a social media wizard, think twice about hiring him as a social media manager. How will your big brother handle taking orders from you? Believe me, I know what it’s like to work with family. I made my senior film a family affair and ended up being ordered around by my elders despite being the writer, producer, assistant director and assistant editor of the film. While I didn’t follow their orders, it wasn’t pleasant for anyone else on set.

4. Don’t go it alone

You need a partner. While no one likes to give up equity in their company, investors like to see at least two people working together to start a business. It shows that both are capable of working with others. If you go it alone you don’t give that impression.

Having a partner also allows you to get a different perspective to make more well-informed decisions early in the startup process. Working within your own bubble puts your business in a bubble that will burst. Be open to new ideas and different perspectives because your business can benefit.

5. Find a mentor

You can find business executives that will give you free advice through SCORE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping small business get their start. Just enter your zip code and find business mentors near you. They’ll give you tips on your business plan, sales, advertising, operations management, etc.

There are also other tools available through SCORE. There are templates for business forms, webinars that will answer your immediate questions, and you can even register for a workshop in your area our schedule time with a business counselor. Even if you’re confident in your business plan, run it by a mentor to see what you and your partner are missing.

6. Stick to a timeline for launch and expansion

Whether you’re planning a soft launch or a massive grand opening, your launch is the first impression potential customers get of your business. Don’t screw it up too badly because it can sink your startup before is starts. Plan every part of your launch (and expansion) meticulously and stick to that timeline. Set goals that you want to reach within a certain period of time and then meet those short-term goals. If you say you’re going to launch on a certain date in press releases and advertisements, the worst thing you could do is push back your launch date because you’re behind schedule.

You’ll also want to set goals for expanding your company and meet those goals within a certain timeframe. If you say you want to open a new store within three years of launch, make sure you do your damndest to be in a position to do so. Meeting your goals gives you a lot to brag about as a company and CEO.

These are the easiest and most common mistakes you can avoid when starting your business, so don’t let one of them sink your startup before it starts.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl

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Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of articles about how the impoverished American can overcome proposed budget cuts by utilizing other services and methods. 

Donald Trump has proposed to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) by $190 billion over 10 years. The entire SNAP budget in 2016 was $70.9 billion, and the program provided an average of $125.50 per month in food per person enrolled.

Executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, Colleen Moriarty, informed that a proposed cut to SNAP that size would result in 120,000 Minnesotans losing SNAP benefits. There are only 400,000 Minnesotans utilizing the program, which is seven percent of the state’s population. That’s roughly half the national rate -- 13.4 percent of all Americans utilize SNAP benefits to obtain food -- two-thirds of which are children, seniors and the disabled. Trump has also proposed cuts to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grants and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in the amounts of $15.6 billion and $200 million, respectively.

Moriarty was en route to Washington D.C. to accept a national award from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) when she spoke to GCN Live on Tuesday. FRAC is “the leading, national nonprofit working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States.” Moriarty’s receiving the award because of her SNAP innovations like a one-page application for seniors, securing state funding to give beneficiaries an additional $10 to spend at farmers markets, and a help line to answer calls from all counties in Minnesota. She’s concerned that the Trump administration seems to be targeting children and seniors to fund increased defense spending. She called Trump’s proposed budget cuts “devastating,” adding later that “this administration seems intent to target the people who need help the most.”

Trump’s budget still has to get out of the Senate, though, so it’s unlikely the cuts will pass as they’re proposed. But Senate Democrats won’t be successful in fighting for all the funding programs like SNAP, WIC and TANF have received in the past. They’re going to have to compromise, which means the programs will be available to fewer Americans. This guide will provide five ways to feed yourself and family if you lose SNAP or WIC benefits.

Visit the Nearest Food Bank

Moriarty believes those who lose their SNAP benefits will spillover to food banks, but she doesn’t think there’s enough donated food to go around.

“The emergency food system cannot accommodate that. It would break the system….I think some people say...let the charitable organizations handle it, but just five percent of all funding is a charitable response, and most of it comes from the federal government,” she said.

Regardless, if you were on SNAP and got kicked off, you still have to find food, and you most certainly qualify for a monthly visit to your local food bank. If you don’t have a food bank in your town, try a neighboring town. Food banks are very welcoming of everyone in need, so if you let them know you drove 30 miles to get there, you’ll almost certainly come home with food. This won’t replace the $125.50 you were getting from SNAP, as a typical, monthly visit to a food bank results in less than $100-worth of food for a single person.

I do qualify for food bank benefits given my income, and my first trip to a Minnesota food bank resulted in more than enough food for one person for one month. This was the case in Montana as well, and I suspect this will be how food banks will support the increased number of families that will have lost SNAP or WIC benefits. By cutting the number of items a single person can take home, food banks will be able to help more families, seniors and starving children.

The value of the nearly 40 items I was able to take home was roughly $103.49, mostly due to a five-pound bag of shredded cheddar cheese ($25), three loaves of bread ($9.95) and five packages of meat ($20.74) -- all of which I can freeze. 

Meat is expensive, which is why it’s the best value at food banks. Only a few options have fallen in price since last year (chicken and bologna are two), and with budget cuts to agriculture looming, you can expect prices to continue rising. More on that in a later article, though.

If you don’t eat meat, there are vegetarian options like tuna, vegetarian refried beans and dairy proteins like cottage cheese. If you’re vegan, you probably weren’t on SNAP or WIC in the first place. If you were, at least you’ve nearly replaced the $125 monthly food allowance you had. If you can’t make it to a food bank, many offer delivery service as well. If you can make it, sign up for any nutrition or cooking classes offered. You’ll get some great information, healthy recipes and take home even more groceries.

But there’s an even better way to get more, lean protein in your diet that’s so easy even your children can do it.

Buy a Fishing License

Fishing licenses are cheap and easy to obtain. For as little as $15 you can fish all of Illinois’ freshwater for an entire year, and the average price in the Midwest is $20 annually. California has the second-highest annual, base fee of $47.01, but you pay even more to catch certain fish in the state, likely making it the most expensive license in the country.

TakeMeFishing.org is a fantastic place to get all the information you need about acquiring a fishing license, and in some cases, you can even apply and pay online. Many states even offer free or discounted fishing licenses to Veterans, the disabled or impoverished. I have a friend in Minnesota who lived down the street from a lake (almost everyone does), and he and his kids caught so much fish they cleaned it, froze it and had enough to donate to the needy.

You might think you need a bunch of expensive gear to fish, but that’s not true at all. You can use a stick, some fishing line and a hook to start. If you want something that will last, though, visit your local pawn shop. You can almost always find fishing rods and sometimes tackle at a reasonable price. If not, you can get an entire fishing tackle kit for $10 at most retail outlets. And you’ll need a fillet knife and sharpener, which you can also find at a pawn shop. For a tackle box, just use what you can find and throw it all in a five-gallon bucket. That way you can turn the bucket over and have a seat while you fish.

When it comes to bait, just dig up some worms where you see fresh, moist soil. You can also use your first catch as bait if it’s not worth eating. Fish eyes tend to work well because they reflect light, but they can be a pain to cut out. Try to utilize the scales of the fish to draw the eye of other fish. Here’s an instructional on how to fish. Here are some knots you should know. Here’s how to fillet a fish.

The most tolerable freshwater fish to eat and easiest to catch tend to be Sunnies, Crappies and Bluegills. Catfish aren’t terrible, but you have to be careful about their fine bones, so chew slowly. If you manage to hook a trout or walleye, you’ll be eating pretty well for quite some time.

If the fish are biting, you can generally take home one, one-person meal per day per person fishing ($5) minus the license fee ($15-$50) and fishing tackle expenses ($11 pawn shop rod + $1 in fishing line + $10 in fishing tackle), which comes out to a payback period between eight and 15 days, depending on the fish, of course. That’s a pretty good deal considering fishing season never ends if you have an ice auger ($40), which makes the payback period just eight days longer. Don’t forget to check Craigslist and the pawn shops for augers as well.

Start a Community Garden

If you live in a duplex, quadplex, or condo and have any lawn space, get together with your neighbors and ask your landlord if you you can install a community or urban garden somewhere. Try to convince her by saying it would mean less lawn for her to mow, and it would increase the value of the property. 

While the biggest problem with community and urban gardens is loss to the grazing of animals and humans, I think you’ll find there’s always a bit of food out there when you need it. If you’re worried about losing food to grazers, plant foods they wouldn’t eat raw, like peppers and onions. You can also ask your landlord to install a motion-activated light overlooking the garden. That should spook some animals, and if you put up a security camera, some humans. The security camera doesn’t even have to be hooked up; it just needs to look like it’s sending a signal somewhere.

Since you and your neighbors likely keep different hours, get a rough idea of when everyone is available to do some gardening. You’ll find it gives kids something to do, too. Be sure to place the garden where it gets the most sunlight. And try to put the garden in a place where every tenant can see it from a window in their apartment.

Grow Food in Your Windows

If you live in an apartment building downtown, you probably don’t have room for a community garden. But there are a lot of foods you can grow indoors, including everything you need for a salad (carrots, mushrooms, lettuce, mandarin oranges, tomatoes) and guacamole (avocados, tomatoes, lemons, onions, cilantro). You can also grow herbs like basil, chive, ginger, mint and rosemary, and fruits like strawberries, grapes, figs, papaya, mulberries, watermelon, nectarines, peaches and apricots. 

You can grab window sill planters at Wal-mart for under $5 each and seeds for about $3.50 per package. Harvest times vary by plant, but you can expect to harvest onions every three weeks, lettuce once a month or so, and carrots every two months. Fruit takes a lot longer, and here’s a guide for herbs.

Dumpster Dive

Americans throw away 40 percent of their food, so if you’ve lost your SNAP benefits and can’t make the four previous recommendations work for you, there’s plenty of edible food to be found in dumpsters. Here’s a guide on how to prepare for dumpster diving.

While I’ve only ever “dove” in a dumpster for flowers, I worked many years in grocery stores and know the delis in those stores toss a lot of perfectly edible food out at the end of each night. So be aware of your local grocers’ business hours. If you get there just as they close, you’ll end up with a plethora of fried foods ranging from day-old chicken to pizza sticks right on top of the trash. If you get there early, I bet you can even convince one of the high schoolers working in the deli to wrap the food in a separate bag so it doesn’t get trashy.

Any restaurant that offers a buffet will also create a lot of edible trash, so frequent those places around closing time and see what you can score. And don’t just look for food in dumpsters. People throw away all kinds of valuable things that can be resold.

So there are five ways to feed yourself and your family despite budget cuts to food assistance. Next up in our series to help you make it through the budget cuts, we’ll look at how you can work around the proposed cuts to housing and urban development.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, The Tech Night Owl, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Free Talk Live, The Easy Organic Gardener, The Magic Garden, The Paul Parent Garden Club Show, USA Prepares, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Home Talk

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