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Money Coach

October 2011 - Posts

  • Feeling pressured to host an expensive birthday party for your kid? Fear no more!

    When most of us were kids, we had birthday parties that involved Pin the Tail on the Donkey, a pinata, birthday cake and ice cream. And there were presents, party hats and balloons.

    It's not like that these days.

    Kids' parties these days means parents spending exorbitant amounts of money on custom made birthday cakes, designer outfits for the kids to wear to the party, hiring party planners, and getting special celebrity guests to show up on the big day. Parents spend thousands of dollars on these affairs, some of which rival the lavish trappings of an expensive wedding.

    But why spend all this money on kids' parties, when the kids will be happy with something much less expensive but still fun?

    For many parents, it's about impressing the Joneses and validating their own self worth. It's also, for some, about assuaging the guilt they feel for spending more time at work than with their children. Some say it's simply because the parents of today's kids have more money to spend on these things. 

    The bad news is for the parents who don't have the money for these over-the-top parties. When their children attend these expensive parties, the children's expectations for their own birthdays are raised, and the parents throwing the expensive parties expect their children to be able to attend similar functions. 

    The sad part of this whole scenario is that the birthday boys and girls who are the center of attention at these lavish parties grow up with an inflated sense of entitlement – they think they deserve the treatment they get and just grow to expect it. They also grow up thinking that money can buy happiness.

    But you can throw a party for your child that accomplishes what's really important: Making your child feel special. And you can do this without spending a small fortune.

    Hold the event at your house, and save the cost of renting a facility. You can have the children do an inexpensive craft project, like making clay dinosaurs, or have them make their own ice cream sundaes or decorate their own cupcakes.

    You can also keep the decorations and party favors simple. Get creative and make your own – you can even get your children involved in making simple decorations, or purchase inexpensive items at a low-price store or party supply store.

    One huge expense for parties is always the cake. Bake one yourself, and get your kids involved. If you burn more cakes than you frost, you may want to consider going to your local grocer or bakery and see if you can get a low-cost cake. You can still customize it yourself.

    Entertainment is another big expense, and you don't have to hire professionals. Just keeping the kids entertained is the name of the game, and an old fashioned game of tug of war, limbo or an egg race will accomplish it. You can get teenagers from your neighborhood or church to run the games, and they'll likely do it for free as long as you feed them.

    Remember: When it comes to your child's birthday, the important thing is not how much you spend; it's the memories you create with your child. And those memories, well, you just can't put a price tag on them.

    Posted Oct 27 2011, 11:17 AM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • Ditch cable and save big

    The average consumer spends about $75 a month on cable. That means he spends $900 a year or about $45,000 in his lifetime, just on cable. But why pay when you can watch so many of the same shows for much less or free? There are people all over the country who have chosen to drop cable – thousands of people turned off their cable service in 2010. So why shouldn't you save money by ditching cable?

    For many, having cable is just another necessary expense, like groceries or gas, but it doesn't have to be that way. You can lose the expense of cable by switching to free hi-definition broadcast television for the networks and public television, and use a box for other shows. Or you can hook up your television to your computer for access to Internet programming, or purchase a television with wireless capabilities, and use your wireless Internet connection. 

    You can even go old school and hook up a set of rabbit ears – antenna – to your hi-def flat screen. You should be able to get some local channels, as well as a few others. 

    There are also services that you can get online that will enable you to see many of the shows you enjoy, like Hulu and Netflix. You can also use Internet sites like Vudu for movies, and Apple TV, Google TV and Roku.

    What if you just can't part with your cable – can you still save money? You can negotiate with your cable company. Call them and say your cable is too expensive and you want to shut it off. They'll very likely offer you a discount off your monthly bill if you agree to a one-year contract. You can also review your bill and cut the extras, like a premium movie package.

    You can hook up to basic cable by just hooking the cable directly to your television, and getting rid of the cable company's remote and cable box. Then you won't have to pay "rental" fees on those items, and you'll save money.

    Posted Oct 20 2011, 12:41 PM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • How to save money on doing laundry

    The Consumer Energy Center reports that the average American family washes about 400 loads of laundry a year, which means most families do about 7.6 loads a week. When you consider this, and factor in the price of laundry detergent and electricity, as well as water, you can see that the cost of doing this simple chore can really add up. But there are some things you can do to reduce your laundry costs. Here are our top 10 ways to make this happen.

    1. Use the recommended amount of detergent – or even less. Using too much soap can make your machine work harder and take longer to complete the cycle.

    2. Wash in cold water to increase your energy savings.

    3. Only wash full loads. It takes the same amount of energy to wash a full load as it does a half load – the savings goes directly into your pocket.

    4. Wash using the shortest cycle. It may seem like washing on the longer cycle makes for cleaner clothes, but that's not the case.

    5. Make sure your machine has an Energy Star label.

    6. Keep the lint trap clean.

    7. Line dry some items.

    8. Use warm water to pre-soak heavily soiled items only.

    9. Switch to a front-load washer.

    10. Make your own laundry detergent. It's easy to do and can mean substantial savings. The cost breakdown is this: one box of Borax ($5), 1 box of Arm and Hammer washing soda ($3) and one bar of Ivory soap ($1) will cost a total of $9 and will wash 500 loads. A 50-ounce bottle of detergent will cost $9 and will wash about 32 loads. That means you'll spend about $144 to wash the same 500 loads.  By making your own detergent, you'll save $135.

    Posted Oct 13 2011, 03:09 PM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • Treats without a high price tag – no tricks

    Each year on Halloween, consumers spend roughly $21 million – just on candy. The average household spends about $20. One of the biggest complaints registered each year is that to avoid running out of candy, most people purchased too much candy – and therefore spent too much.

    So how can you participate in the ghoulish fun without spending an obscene amount of money? 

    The first step is to not purchase the candy too far ahead – you are, after all, human. You're going to eat some of it. Or you could simply just purchase candy you aren't particularly fond of, so you won't be tempted.

    The easiest way to save money is to buy generic treats – name brands obviously cost more. If you are a stickler for name brands, you should be able to find sales in the last few days leading up to Halloween, and there are loads of coupons and special deals out there if you look for them.

    Many people think that giving out healthy treats is more expensive. This can certainly be true, but there are some inexpensive alternatives. You can shop in the school lunch box section of your local grocery store, which features items in single serving sizes, and what you don't give away, you can use for your own children's lunches. You can give out single serving packages of nuts, cheese and crackers, fruit cups, fruit roll-ups and even sugar-free gum. 

    Another alternative to giving out sugary treats is handing out small toys. These could include balloons, erasers, pencils, pencil toppers, plastic spiders, stickers and plastic rings. Many of these items can be picked up at dollar stores. If you purchase too many of these items, you can always pack them away for next year.

    Some people like to bake and look at this as a viable alternative to spending a lot of money on Halloween treats. But in this day and age, unfortunately, many parents throw out homemade treats. 

    No matter what options you choose, the key is planning. Don't wait until the last minute. 

    Posted Oct 06 2011, 12:10 PM by moneycoach with no comments
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