Family, Frugal Living 

6 ways to save on food costs during road trips with family

Friends planning road trips.

If you’ve been considering taking road trips with the kids, now might be a great time to put it into gear.

In April 2016, American drivers had saved nearly $12 billion on gas during the first months of the year compared to what they spent on fuel during the same time period in 2015, according to a recent AAA survey.

Furthermore, drivers are expected to pay the lowest gas prices in 12 years while traveling in summer, noted AAA.

As a result, 55 percent of Americans say they are more likely to take road trips this year. In fact, road trips are the most popular type of vacation for families planning to travel, followed by national parks and theme parks.

Without the need to worry about high prices at the pump, you can focus your savings radar on another key travel factor: food.

Food costs can fluctuate greatly, depending on when you stop to get a bite to eat, where you dine and what you pack before heading out.
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Budgeting for a Baby – Inexpensive Ways to Prepare

There must be something in the water. Most of the female friends I have that are about my age seem to be getting pregnant right now. Despite the fact that I am not in the market, I have been helping plan for a bunch of babies on the way. The hardest part is helping my friends stay within their own budgets. Having a baby does not have to break the bank. In fact, here are a few inexpensive ways to prepare for a baby on the way.

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 Personal Finance 

Teach Kids Money: Tying Chores & Allowances

Coins in a JarThis is a guest post by Danny Kofke, a special education teacher and author of How to Survive (and Perhaps Thrive) on a Teacher’s Salary. Danny and I have been emailing back and forth for the better part of the last month or two, working on a guest post about children and allowances. I asked Danny to write this post because it involves a hotly debated topic in parenting – should you tie your kid’s allowance to their chores? Or should they do chores “for free” because they are part of the family? Here’s his take.

My wife, Tracy, is a stay-at-home mom to my two young daughters – Ava, age 5 and Ella, 2. We don’t make a large salary so we have to be frugal with our money. We are trying to pass on our values to our children. Ava gets an allowance every week for the chores she does. We check each chore off on a daily basis and at the end of the week Ava gets paid for doing these chores.

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 Personal Finance 

Regularly Check-In On Your Finances

Eric RipertEric Ripert is part-owner and executive chef at Le Bernardin, one of four New York City restaurants to have been awarded 3 Michelin stars in the Michelin Guide NYC 2006. I first learned of Ripert after he appeared on one of my favorite shows, Bravo’s Top Chef, and started reading his blog, Avec Eric.

As always, I’m a big fan of reading and learning about “behind the scenes” type stuff and in early July, Ripert wrote a post in which he gave you a behind the scenes look at the operations of Le Bernardin. The point that I found most intriguing, and most applicable to personal finance, was that they started service each day with a “family meal” where they check-in and discuss the work ahead of them:

Before we start service each day, one or two of the cooks will put together what we call “family meal”. It is usually something like home cooking but simple and not too heavy so that we don’t feel too full during dinner service. It is important to eat a little something before the really hard work starts because our dinner service lasts for several hours and we don’t take a break at all. Also, this family meal is a good time for all of us to discuss the work day but also to connect on a personal level. Just like a family meal at home, it is an important part of the day.

Why should you care about this? This underscores the importance of regularly “checking-in” with your finances.

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 Personal Finance 

Financial Checklist for New Parents

Baby with an iPodMy wife and I recently had our first child, and to say it has changed our life is an understatement. Raising a child is an amazing responsibility, and it doesn’t stop with feeding and caring for him or her. Somewhere between the late night feedings, diaper changes, and doctors appointments, you will need to take care of an assortment of extra activities to make sure you have our finances in order. There are many things you will need to do when your child arrives and you will have many distractions, so I recommend creating a checklist so you don’t miss anything.

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How to Battle the “I Want” Syndrome

Sesame Street Toy StoreMy son is four and has been attending preschool for the past two years. When my husband and I were the sole caregivers, it was much easier to shelter him from consumer influences and keep his desire for endless amounts of stuff at bay. However, as he becomes more immersed in the school “culture” and makes more friends, he has started to notice more and more what other people have. And sometimes, this results in his yearning to have what they have.

In short, the “I Wants” have hit our house hard over the past year, and will most likely continue until we boot him out of our house after high school (and maybe even longer than that…). So I’ve had to think creatively about how to counter the constant “I Want…” reasonably and without resorting to “Because I Said So” every time!. Out of necessity and the preservation of my sanity, I’ve developed a few techniques I use when explaining that we can’t always get what we want, in four year old terms.

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 Your Take 

Your Take: What Unintended Lessons Did Your Parents Teach?

When I was younger, my dad told me to memorize the present, past, and past participle tenses of each and every verb in the dictionary. My dad had one of those red hardbound Webster’s dictionaries and in the back of the book, in the reference section, they listed a whole bunch of verbs and their tenses. My favorites were the ones that were the same throughout, like “set.” I hated the ones that went back and forth (run ran run) or the ones where the word completely changed (go went gone, seriously???).

As a first generation immigrant to this country, the first in his family, my dad knew the importance of understanding the language. You’d probably be surprised to learn his handwriting helped him secure his first job, which was another skill he believed was crucial. While my grammar is far from perfect (my handwriting is pretty good considering I type all the time), I’m pretty sure my parents armed me with some pretty good tools to face the world. While my sister and I probably would’ve been fine otherwise, we were both born in the United States, my dad left nothing to chance. We repeatedly wrote the lists down, we recited them over and over again in the morning. We would use that system to learn a lot of other things like the the states, their locations and their capitals. We learned all the nations in the world (this was USSR days) and their capitals. At one point we tried to learn state flowers, birds, and motto’s but that never caught on.

Fast forward to today, a quarter century and two software related jobs in the defense industry later, and I’ve become a personal finance writer who needs to know about present, past, and past participle tenses. 🙂

I’m curious, what unintended lessons did your parents teach you?

(Photo: Hammer51012)

 Personal Finance 

Don’t Worry About The Stock Market, Invest In Family

Fortune Cookie
“Don’t worry about the stock market. Invest in family.”

Last week, I joined my wife and one of her co-workers for lunch at a great Chinese restaurant beside our home. After our meal, we opened our fortune cookies and the above line was written on my wife’s fortune cookie fortune!

It was a pleasant reminder that, despite all the economic troubles and financial chaos, when you really get down to it, life is about the relationships you have with your friends and your family. The stock market fell 40-50% last year, companies are going bankrupt, and people are losing their jobs… but at the end of the day all the money in the world can’t buy you the love of your friends and family.

Money is important, of course, but I like to think of it as air. You need air to support you but you only need so much. You could hoard all the air you want but it won’t do you any good. Money is similar. After you acquire enough, having more is less about the money and more about fulfilling some other need, like pride or vanity or competition. The truly important things in life are supported by but cannot be defined by money.

So the next time you get your 401(k) summary, remember that it’s just money.

Don’t worry about the stock market, invest in family.

(Photo: tim_ellis)

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