Family Column

This column focuses on family finances, from starting a family to planning a meal, your family is probably the largest expense in your budget and undoubtably the most important too! We will try to cover all aspects of family planning in this column.


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 Family 
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Don’t let your savings go to the dogs …

6 tips to save on pet care


You love Rover and Whiskers but the cost of treating your furry friends like family adds up. From vet bills and pet meds to gourmet kibble, pet owners are expected to spend a whopping $58.5 billion on their four-legged charges this year, according to the American Pet Products Association.

“There are many ways to save money and still provide quality care,” says Dr. Liz Hanson, a veterinarian at Corona del Mar Animal Hospital in California.

Try these six savings strategies to keep pet care costs in check.
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 Family 
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5 sibling discounts you simply have to ask for


How would you like to pay thousands less for the most common big ticket kids’ expenses?

If you have two or more kids, you’ll be surprised how many places have existing policies for sibling discounts, which can slash 10% to 25% off the stated cost for one or more of your children, depending on the policy.

You just need the balls to ask for the discount whenever paying for more than one-at-a-time for these common, expensive kid costs.

Daycare

The average annual cost for two children (an infant and a 4-year-old) in a full-time childcare center ranged from $9,175 in Mississippi to $28,606 in Massachusetts.

It’s the highest single household expense in the Northeast, Midwest and South, surpassed only by housing costs in the West, according to, “Parents & The High Cost of Child Care 2013″ which surveyed state Child Care Resource & Referral network offices about 2012 daycare costs.
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 Family 
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How to save money and avoid birthday party drama

The school year’s well underway and the weekly birthday party invitations are pouring in.

If you’ve got a couple of kids in school, with 20 to 30 children in each of their classes, the birthday party circuit can get very expensive, very quickly.

If you don’t want to add a line item into your budget to cover kid gifts and party items, or become that party pooper parent, here’s a game plan for keeping birthday spending in perspective.

When you’re the guest…

Don’t go to every party. As much as you want your child to be social, only attend parties for the friends that your child is closest with, or that he or she is really excited about attending. And if you’re not going to a party, no, you don’t have to send a gift. If you have a social butterfly type of child who’s disappointed about missing out, make an effort to invite a couple of friends over another day for a play date.
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 Family 
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How to get the most mileage out of baby gear


If you’ve ever shopped for baby stuff, you know that it’s very easy to see your paycheck disappear in a flash. So. Much. Stuff!

Do babies really need all of these things, you might wonder? Probably not, but you ultimately buy everything anyway because you want your little ones to have every new high-tech bouncy seat, fancy teething toy, and designer baby cuteness imaginable. And then there are the bottles, baby food, wipes, diapers, and other daily essentials that have doubled your grocery bills.

While you wind up kicking yourself for spending so much on things that baby will outgrow in mere months, or probably didn’t need in the first place (we’re looking at you, baby food processor and wipes warmer), there are some ways to get more mileage out of your baby-related purchases for years to come.

First, some tips to get the biggest bang for your baby buck if you’re newly pregnant and still shopping:
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Should you pay your child for good grades?


I’ve paid all three of my kids for good grades many different ways and times throughout their school years. But, I can’t say it ever resulted in better grades.

My son, now a senior in high school, would never push a 78 to an 80 just to get some extra cash.

My oldest daughter, now a 20-year old junior college student, had mostly good grades whether I paid for them or not. In high school, she jumped on the honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes and the ACT study guide because they helped her accomplish her goal of becoming a college volleyball athlete.

Once, I promised my middle school kids $20 for every “A” on their final report card. But, that didn’t help either daughter, both “C” math students (even with a tutor), get an “A” in a difficult subject for them, so they felt worse. I probably should have set a more realistic goal. And, paying three kids for all those “A’s” got expensive, so I was also broke that month.

A 2012 survey for American Institute of CPAs found 48% of 269 parents with kids in school, not only paid their children an allowance, but also paid them for good grades.

The average reward for an “A” was $16.60. Seems I overpaid, too.
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 Family 
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Raising commercial-free kids a perk of cord-cutting

Raising commercial-free kids has its benefitsI’ve been a “cord-cutter” for almost 3 years now, meaning I don’t subscribe to any kind of cable TV package. I do subscribe to high-speed Internet — a necessity in this line of work — but I get my video fix through a PC connected to my TV and a Netflix subscription.

We’ve saved a lot of money doing that. According to 2012 data from the FCC, the most popular cable package among U.S. consumers, expanded basic, costs an average of $61.63 a month, or about $739.56 a year.

But we also have reasons for cutting the cord that go beyond money.
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 Family, Frugal Living 
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‘Sell by’ dates on food lie to you, waste your money

Problems with food dating cause people to waste foodEver find food past its “sell by” date in the fridge and just throw it away without looking at it? If so, you’re almost certainly throwing away perfectly good food, according to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic.

There’s a temptation to treat the dates on food as infallible predictors of when food will go bad, but in a lot of cases they’re basically bologna. Many dates aren’t based on food safety, but on when the manufacturers thinks the food will taste best. That causes a lot of retailers and consumers to toss food that’s perfectly fine to eat.

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 Family 
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What Financial Considerations Come with Divorce?

Broken heartDivorce is rarely easy. Not only are there emotional difficulties to deal with, but finances often come into play as well. “In general,” says Rick Vincent, a specialist with Investors Capital Corp., “divorce results in a poorer person.”

By the time you split up the assets, pay the lawyers, and take care of court fees and other costs, chances are that you will be out a few thousand dollars. In some cases, it can take years to financially recover from a divorce.

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