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December 9, 2010, 6:00 am

Are You Ready For a Baby?

by: MD    Category: Frugal

Are you ready for a baby? Are you expecting a baby or know someone that is? If so then this is the perfect article for you.

I recently reviewed Generation Earn. I mentioned how many of the sections in the book were sort of useless to me in my current life situation. There was a chunk of the book dedicated to baby and wedding talk. That part wasn’t of any use to me. However, that’s the great thing about writing about personal finance. You can really write about anything that you want. Since I know couples that have recently had a baby and chances are that many young professionals will go through this eventually, I figured I could actually read the part about babies and we could talk about getting ready for a baby today.

Getting ready for a baby:

Hopefully you were expecting your new baby, if not then it’s still all good. You still have 9 months to prepare.

Find out the cost of adding another person to your current health insurance.

The pregnancy stage is the best time to find out how much it’s going to cost you to put another person under your current health plan. You need to get this over with so that you don’t have to deal with it later on in life.

Save up for baby expenses.

Some experts on this topic advise you to save up a few months worth of baby expenses, others urge you to get used to living life with baby-related expenses while still going through the pregnancy. Either way you should try your best to put money aside for your new found baby expenses (toys, diapers, clothes, etc.).

Take care of major purchases.

A friend of mine was considering buying a new car for the longest time. Finally when he found out that his wife was pregnant he decided to take the plunge and buy that new car. He felt that he needed something more reliable for the new born. Many older friends have told me that it’s a great idea to take care of your major expenses in life (home, new car, home improvements, and education) before you bring a child into the world.

Figure out the maternity rules at your workplace.

I remember mocking a male friend because he was going to stay home with the new baby instead of his wife. He explained to us that he was doing this because his work granted him a one year leave of absence, while his wife could only get 6 months off. Every work place has different policies in place for maternity leaves. You should look into yours so you know exactly how much time you or your partner will be getting off

Saving money for a baby:

Once you’ve started to plan for your baby financially and generally, you can then move forward to worry about figuring out how you’ll pay for your new baby and baby related expenses.

Borrow from other parents.

You might know other couples that just had a baby, or you could even ask relatives. Chances are that you won’t be the only couple in your circle of friends to have a baby. This is why you should always help out others. Hopefully another couple that you know will be willing to loan basic baby supplies to you guys.

Take advantage of free/cheap baby stuff.

You can sign up at freecycle.org to find used baby items from other parents. You should also look for as many freebies as you can. I know that when my youngest brother turned 6 that my parents couldn’t wait to get rid of all of the baby stuff. Luckily for another couple in our family, they were able to pick up all of this baby stuff for free. These are major savings for a young couple in their 20s.

Wait until after birth to buy toys.

You never know what kind of toys your baby is going to want to play with. You also never know what kind of freebies/gifts you’ll receive for your newborn baby. It’s recommended that you save the money but hold off on any actual purchases for baby toys until after birth.

Try living on less.

Some parents are simply too busy with their careers to take any extended time off. Unless you have a relative that is retired and willing to help you out or you work from home, chances are that you’re going to have to pay for daycare. Daycare is not cheap by any means. Young couples are often advised to consider living on $500-900 less a month. The reason for this is that this is how much you might end up forking over for daycare costs. Could you survive financially without this money in your pocket?

[Note: I’m not a parent nor am I expecting children any time soon. However, having a baby is a popular topic for young professionals. The goal of this blog to help you guys deal with any money issues that might come your way in life.]

Have any of you had a baby lately? Were you ready for it financially?

(photo credit: jcestnik)

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June 21, 2010, 5:00 am

7 tips on saving money on a summer vacation

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Frugal

You have been working hard for a long time without taking a break. So you can’t be blamed if you start daydreaming about basking in the sun on the beach. Yes, you do need a summer vacation. However, summer vacations can be a financial drain. Moreover, the gloomy state of the economy over the past few years demands prudent spending. Under the circumstance it is very important for you to find out some innovative ways to save money during the vacation. So check out the following money saving tips before you put your right foot forward:

 

 

· Get started by preparing a budget. This will help you to spend according to your means and make sure that you don’t come back from your vacation with a scary debt. A budget also will also help you to use your money in an organized manner. You will have a fair about the different expenses involved.

 

· A great way to save your money is by traveling to some beautiful yet lesser known location. Try to stay away from the most popular areas of the country. You can ask your friends and relatives about uncommon places they have been to. If you manage to find such a destination then it is highly possible that you will get yourself some terrific deal. Many families save hundreds of dollars every summer just by avoiding places that do not thrive on tourism.

 

· Research on the Internet to compare rates and find out whether the cruise company or the hotel is offering any special packages or discounts. If there is any hotel chain or airlines company which you usually stick to then make sure that you are a member of their points club. The points you earn will get you discounts..

 

· Look for coupons on the Internet, inside free tourism booklets etc. These coupons allow you to visit theme parks or other similar tourist attractions at a much cheaper rate, sometimes for free. Therefore, these coupons are a great way to save money during vacations.

 

· Try out local food during your trip. They are often simple yet delicious. More importantly, local cuisine can be friendly to your wallet. Local cafeteria, Street foods or restaurants in inexpensive neighborhoods can be a great proposition in terms of money as well as food.

 

· Consider vacation rentals rather than hotels especially if you have a decent sized family or if you are planning to travel with a large group of friends. These rentals are far more cheaper than hotel rooms. You can usually find a place to stay for $400 to $700 per week, if you share the house with another family. Moreover, you will get a kitchen which means you can prepare breakfast (lunch and dinner too, if you want to) and save tons of money by avoiding eating out everyday.

 

· If you have small children then consider schlepping along your own car seat rather than renting one from a car rental company. This might be inconvenient but will save you $5 to $15 per day. If you are heading towards a theme park then better bring your own stroller. Dragging along your Maclaren will save you $10 to $30 a day.

Summer vacations are meant to rejuvenate our tired souls. Don’t let financial worries ruin it. Just keep in mind the above things and you will be able to enjoy a great summer vacation while staying within your budget.

About the author:

David Brown is a content writer with Oak view law group. He writes on a variety of finance related topics with a strong focus on frugal living.

image source: Ahmed Amir

 

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November 12, 2009, 5:00 am

Looking for a Great Christmas Gift for Your Child?

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Frugal


IMG_4083I don’t know why, but I am in the mood for Christmas this week 😉 After finding a way to save money before Christmas, I am suggesting some great financial gifts for your child. I’ve noticed that my children have been spoiled by gifts from their grandparents and  awesome godmother and godfather. My basement is already full of toys and each Christmas and birthday, I spend hours cleaning up their playroom to make way for the incoming crowd of toys. So, I thought about how amazing it would be if they might receive a few financial gifts instead. So if you have to spend money for a gift this year, you may want to offer something useful instead of buying the 5th Transformer (I’ve looked everywhere and couldn’t find the latest Michaela 😉 ).

Gift ideas for 0 to 5 years old

Invest in an RESP

Investing in an RESP is probably the greatest gift you could give to a young child. Even if you invest a small amount of money, this will grow to become a substantial amount and other people might want to contribute too.

– Buy a cash register 😉

This is a toy, but your child wants to imitate events he sees at the store. When they are older (4 and 5 years old), you can also give them fake coins to play with as well. This will be their first contact with “capitalism”.

Gift ideas to 5 to 12 years old

– Buy a share certificate

Have you ever seen a share certificate? They look pretty awesome! You can select a company that your child is familiar with (Disney for example) and order a real share certificate. They are becoming rarer by the day, but you can still order them through a broker. Your child will have a nice share certificate and ithe value of it might go up throughout the year. You can then sit with him and show him where to see his share value on the internet.

– Offer them a financial contract

At the age of 5, I will offer my son a financial contract. I will give him an allowance every two weeks (like a pay check) and he will have to save a part of his money in order to “invest” it. I hope that he will learn to save and invest on a regular basis over the years with this method.

Gift ideas to 12 to 18 years old

– Buy a personal finance book (The Wealthy Barber or Rich Dad, Poor Dad)

I really like personal finance books and my favourites for someone who will start their financial adventure are definitely the Wealthy Barber and Rich Dad Poor Dad. Both books explain financial aspects in a clear and easy to understand manner. On top of that, both books tell a story so you don’t feel like you are at school and learning numbers in a boring way!

– Open a mutual fund account

You can open a mutual fund account with his previous investment and start investing for him. He will receive his statement quarterly and will be able to follow the market gradually. If he is lucky, he will lose his first $100 at the age of 16 and understand how the stock market really works (it goes up and it goes down 😉 ).

– Buy conference tickets

There are tons of personal finance and personal growth conferences out there. Attending one with your child will not only be a great parent-child activity but will also give him great tools for his adult and financial life!

Gift ideas for 18 years old and older

Just give them your car keys and they will be fine 😉 hahahaha!

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November 11, 2009, 5:00 am

45 Days to Save Before Christmas

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Frugal


That’s it! The Christmas countdown has already started. In fact, I noticed it had started on November 1st… only minutes after Halloween ended, stores were putting their Christmas decorations out. While I think it’s a bit crazy, but perhaps it can help us prepare a Christmas budget ahead of time.  As a result, the January credit card bill should be less painful when it arrives ;-).

I have tried to think about how I can save money for my Christmas gifts and how much it would actually take. Since I have 2 children, I have quite a bit to gather ;-).

Saving 3 coffees a week ($40)

I have decided that I would cut coffee at work until Christmas. I still enjoy one at home before I leave but I had this little vice of having another one while I start my laptop at work and take a peak at the stock market opening. I have traded the nice, warm Caramelo Coffee from Second Cup for a clear, refreshing glass of water. This will not only save me $2.25 per day (which means about $40.50 until Christmas) but it will also help me stay in shape. Can’t really say that cream and sugar is a good thing for my belly…. Even though it tastes so good! So with $40, I will able to buy at least 1 gift!

Cutting down on restaurants ($225)

We spend a lot of money in restaurants. In fact, it is not rare that we order in on Friday’s and then go out to eat with our children on Saturday, helps reinforce table manners ;-). Therefore, we easily spend $75 to eat out on a weekly basis. Since there are about 6 weeks until Christmas, I will try to cut 3 weeks of restaurants out. However, just saying that we will cut on restaurants is not enough. We need something worthwhile to replace these special occasions in order to suffer less. Instead of trying to cut modify our choice of restaurants, I have thought of changing our habits and simply not going to restaurants at all.

Solution #1: Special Feast Fridays

I suggested to my wife that we could prepare a special meal on Friday night and have dinner together. So we cook grilled cheese or pasta for the children then put them at bed around 8pm and then, we can cook a nice meal to eat alone like we used to do. While this will result in slightly higher grocery bills, we will still save money, eat healthier food and spend more quality time together.  And honestly, what could be more fun than sharing a bottle of wine while preparing a gourmet meal with the love of my life…

Solution #2: Invite people over

Instead of going to restaurants on Saturdays, we have decided to invite people over for dinner. We will see more of our friends and still have a great evening. The great part is that we will also get invited by them eventually. Therefore, it will cost less than a bill for 4 people (William is not eating as much as I do!) at the restaurant. In order to make sure we don’t over spend on food, we ask our guests to bring the wine and we take care of the rest.

Instead of spending $75 per month, I plan on spending around $35 more on groceries and save about $40 a week. This way, we won’t feel like we are missing something, we simply change our habits. Who knows, we might like it enough to keep doing it after Christmas!

Cutting all non-necessary expenses ($200)

Life is full of unnecessary daily expenses. How many times do we see something that we like and just buy it on the spot? This will probably be my biggest challenge; not spending on extra food, extra wine, clothes or electronic gadgets until Christmas. For the first 2 frugal ideas, I am able to change my lifestyle in order to help us out. But for this one, I will simply sacrifice my lifestyle in order to fit into my Christmas budget!

So in the next 45 days, I should be able to save $465 for Christmas gifts. This is $10 per day. It shouldn’t be that bad, don’t you agree? If you have other Christmas saving ideas, I’m looking forward to read about them!

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October 13, 2009, 5:00 am

Tips on Budgeting for a Wedding – Getting Married Without Going Broke

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Frugal,Personal Finance

img_0036Relationships can be like video games; they work on different levels.

Level 1: you look at the girl and she looks back at you.

Bonus points: you smile and she smiles back!

Level 2: you ask her out, she says yes.

Bonus points: you get a kiss after a nice evening (the bonus points decrease according to the number of dates before the first kiss).

Level 3: you go out on a regular basis and you are officially boyfriend/girlfriend.

Bonus points: your girlfriend gets along with your friends.

Level 4: you decide to move in together.

YOU ARE NOT MARRIED ERROR: CANNOT READ DISK: your game may bug and even reset depending on your religion and/or parents (or in-laws of course).

In order to avoid the fatal error and remain in the game, you need to make a move. You can either stay at level 3, get experience points by fighting monsters (arguments), finding stronger shields (special moments that bring you closer together), find hidden caves with treasure (you know what I mean 😉 ) and wait until you make sure you are serious about this game.

Once you are ready, there is a final step, the ultimate level: getting married (or so you think, there are special upgrade packages (being a parent, buying a house, etc.) once you complete it 😉 ).

Once both agree and you are willing to get married, the very first step is to make a list, a budget for your wedding. Spending money on a wedding is probably one of the easiest things on earth!

#1 Tip on Budget for weddingmake a list first

If I can give you only one tip for your wedding, there are a few different lists that need to be looked at before you start a wedding budget.

Budget what you need for your wedding

– Pastor

– Church

– Wedding dress

– Wedding rings

– Guests

– Meal

– Ballroom

– Wine (and comes the great question; open bar?)

You would technically be able to organize a wedding with this very short list. However, you also have to consider your (read the bride’s) priorities on a lot of details such as:

Budget what you want for your wedding

– Maid of Honor, Best man

– Flowers

– Car

– Music / DJ

– Decoration

– Invitation cards

– Photographer (video?)

– Gifts (for guests)

– etc.

Budget what resources you have for the wedding

Your main resources will obviously be your own budget 😉 You can also choose to receive help from parents and in-laws (and any accompanying requests for long lost relatives and friends to attend). But besides those, I would not count other gifts in your wedding budget. Those should come as a surprise and good news if you receive more money than expected ;-).

I had actually experienced my wedding without owing a penny (I actually didn’t make money either!). So I thought that since my best friend is getting married next year, I would look back to share my tips to save and budget wedding expenses in a frugal manner.

Disclaimer: with all due to respect to relationships, they are not to be considered games and any reference to such was purely an exaggeration on my part to make a point!

ooops! I forgot to mention my carnivals from last week!

Carnival of Personal Finance

The Festival of Frugality (Editor’s Pick!)

Twenty Something Finances Carnival

Best of Money Carnival (Editor’s Pick!)

Festival of Stocks

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