Secrets of Mom Search Results

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sorry guys...

Last night it was brought to my attention that blogger wasn't allowing most people to comment, making it difficult to enter the giveaway. So sorry. I think I fixed it. Try again, it should work this time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

How to Save Money on Healthcare

These days health care costs are a big deal. So many people have overwhelming financial struggles because of their health care bills. As a nurse, and just with my interactions with people, I have heard so many sad stories of people with enormous medical bills that sometimes took decades to pay off. Some of these costs could have been prevented if people understood and were better prepared, and unfortunately some could not. But as a nurse and as a friend this is what I would recommend to try to prevent those stressful situations.
  1. Wash your hands! And wash your kids' hands! This is the best way to prevent illness. Use hand sanitizer. It's not as good as a thorough hand washing, but it's still much better than an un-thorough hand washing.
  2. Open an FSA (Flexible Spending Account) if your company offers one. You decide the amount to put in and the money is taken out of your check pre-tax for things you are buying anyway. (And there is an enormous list of things that qualify.)
  3. Get health insurance, even if you think that you don't need it or can't afford it, try to get something. You can't predict the future and you don't know when you might need it. (However, there is an exception to this. I have a relative who has a rare genetic disease, and is considered "uninsurable". It costs him nothing to manage his disease, but if he doesn't it can lead to organ failure. He can get insurance through the state, but it's not very good coverage and when he looked into it ten years ago, premiums would cost $1200 each month for himself alone. In cases like this, you are better off paying out of pocket on an as needed basis.)
  4. Shop around for your health insurance. What your employer offers isn't necessarily the best option for you and your family.
  5. Understand your health insurance, especially when it comes to hospitalisations. Before you are admitted to the hospital understand your coverage. It is not your doctor's, nurse's or therapist's job to understand what or will not be covered. It is yours. There are many times in my work I see patients who I think "Are you sure you want to make that choice? Because I'm willing to bet money that your insurance will not pay for that." But I am not allowed to say that, medical billing is not in the scope of my practice. I just do what the doctor orders. Really, taking the time to understand your health insurance can save you thousands of dollars.
  6. Examine all of your options. I had a co-worker who's husband was "uninsurable". He found that he could get his medical equipment from India for 1/4th of the cost. 
  7. Exercise  regularly. It will help you to feel better and can save you thousands down the road by helping to prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease to name a few.
  8. Eat a well balanced diet and drink plenty of water. Same story.
  9. Check out your local health department. They often offer discounted vaccinations, assistance programs, and classes on improving your health.
  10. If your insurance company denies your claim, call and ask why. I have had this happen to me several times with a few different insurance companies and every single time when questioned, the insurance company covered at least part if not all of my claim. It's always worth a shot. "Oh really, that's funny, because I thought that classifying pregnancy as a pre-existing condition was against federal law." Every single time.
  11. Use preferred providers. Some insurance companies have a list of providers that they are contracted with and the upshot is that when you go to these people your bill is significantly less. When you've picked someone and you want to find out what your coverage is don't ask "Do you accept X insurance?", ask "Are you a preferred provider for X insurance?" A small difference in phrasing that again can save you thousands of dollars.
  12. Keep track of your receipts. For your FSA or your taxes.
  13. Compare prices at various pharmacies.
  14. Take care of your teeth. Floss daily and spend the extra money on a quality toothbrush. It's worth the investment of time and money.
  15. Listen to your gut feeling. If you think something is wrong with yourself or your child speak out and don't be silenced until somebody listens. It really ticks me off when a doctor doesn't listen and in the end they discover something terrible that could have been treated or prevented if someone had just listened to the child's mother.

Monday is the last day to enter this month's give-away.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    Saving Is An Attitude

    There were a couple things that I considered writing about for today, but they didn't work out. And I can do internet searches and find all kinds of ways to be more frugal and save money, but in the long run saving is an attitude. If you want it to be something that you consistently do it takes an adjustment in the way that you look at your finances.  You have to look at purchases not just with 'Can I afford this?' but 'Do I really need this? Is this more important than other things that I want to do with my money?' (By the way this little pep talk is as much for me as for anyone.) If saving and going without is just a big punishment, it's not something that you're going to continue. If you have a goal that's really important to you, you can sacrifice things here and there because your goal means more to you than those minor unnecessary purchases.
      For me it is being at home with my kids. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my job. I find it very fulfilling and feel like the things that I learned in nursing school make me a better mom, and maintaining my license gives me peace of mind. But cutting back on my hours meant that I have to stay within a budget if I am going to set any money aside for home repairs or whatever emergencies may happen. Yesterday morning I found myself thinking "I just want to go shopping, just for the sake of spending money. I miss being able to just buy things and not have to worry about it." But the only thing I purchased was diapers, because that's all that I needed. Yesterday afternoon I played hide-and-go-seek with my kids who make me laugh, and I was reminded that having to save money and be conscious of my spending is something I'm willing to do because it means that I get to spend more time with my kids.
    And don't wait until you are making more money to start saving. Start saving now. Start a little at a time. Studies have shown that it isn't those with the highest incomes that have saved the most for retirement, it is those who made small continual efforts over a long period of time. It's all about your attitude.

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    To Buy or Not To Buy A House

    Buying a home is a huge deal, and there is something very satisfying about having a place to call your own. Plus there are supposedly various advantages to owning a home, you can deduct the interest from your taxes, and when you move on you can get some money out of it (provided you can sell it on good terms.) But buying a house is not for everyone.
    I like to read finance blogs. However, one common idea that I have found on many of them is that buying a house is a bad idea.'Americans are silly for believing that purchasing a home is the American dream.' 'You save so much money if you just rent.' 'You don't have to pay closing costs, repairs, taxes, etc, if you just rent.' 'If you invested the money you're spending on your mortgage you'll gain so much more than you can profit from selling your home.' I'm not a financial expert, but I beg to differ with some of these.
     Yes, when you purchase a home you are now responsible for repairs and taxes. And each month you are probably paying a significant amount of interest. However, when you rent you are paying the same costs, just indirectly, through rent. If your landlord has a tax increase on his property, he is going to pass that on to you in the form of raising the rent. The same goes with all those other various maintenance costs. Also I've heard that you could be saving that money and investing if you didn't have a pay a mortgage. Sure, that's a great idea if you don't mind living in a cardboard box. In reality you have to pay for living costs whether it's to the landlord or the mortgage company.
     I think the key issue when it comes down to deciding whether to rent or to buy is direct cost. I found this great quote by Suze Ormond, which I think says it well. "In Young, Fabulous & Broke, I said real estate is one of the best investments out there. If you purchase real estate in the right way, it will pay off in the long run. The right way is, when you purchase real estate, you have to say, what does an apartment rent for versus what can you buy something for. If you buy something and can’t rent it out for anything close to the mortgage payment, including insurance and other costs, then real estate is overpriced. Have you lost your mind? Not, “Did you qualify for a mortgage?” Not, “Did you have enough money in your emergency fund?” If you had simply done your homework to see, what does the same thing rent for, then you wouldn’t have gotten caught. But people just bought real estate thinking it’s a good investment. People, don’t be so stupid."
     When my husband and I were still newly married we decided to buy a townhome. The biggest reason was that where we lived purchasing a home was much cheaper than renting. At first our mortgage each month was easily $300 less than what we would have been paying for rent (towards the end it was closer to $600 less, and our utilities were also significantly less than we were renting.). We sold our townhouse in the middle of the economic crisis, and yes, we sold it for $70-90K less than we would have gotten for it a year earlier, but we still didn't sell it at a loss. When you figure in closing costs we about broke even, we were just happy to be able sell in the economic situation and move to where my husband's new job is. So real estate was not a magical money making answer for us, but the key is that we were saving at least $300 each month. With that money, my husband graduated without any debt, we paid off our car and had two kids in the mean time. If we were renting I don't think we would have been able to accomplish that.
     However buying a house isn't for everyone, if any of the following applies to you, I would think twice about purchasing a home right now:
    • You plan on being in one place for less than two years.
    • You can't afford it.
    • Your income is unstable.
    • You can't put down at least 10% of the purchase price.
    • You haven't done research on your purchase, rent prices, loans and interest rates.
    • You have bad credit and/or overwhelming debt.
    • Housing prices have been sky-rocketing and you're at the top of a bubble. (Of course this is much easier to see in hindsight.)
    This article on I Will Teach You To Be Rich is a good starting point for your research. (Although he tends to lean towards anti-purchasing.) He lists several resources to get you started.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    Book Review- Pay It Down! From Debt To Wealth On $10 A Day

    In lieu of America Saves Week, every post this week is in regards to saving money. Here is this week's book review: Pay It Down! From Debt To Wealth On $10 A Day by Jean Chatzky.
    There is lots of good advice here on eliminating debt. The premise is to cut out the things that are unnecessary, ten dollars at a time. Nothing revolutionary, but if money management is not your forte, it explains things well and helps you to set reasonable goals that you can actually achieve. I would recommend it to anyone who doesn't know where to start when it comes to dealing with their debt. If you feel like you have a descent handle on your debt and finances, you can probably find other books that are better able to help you achieve wealth. She also has a website which has many ideas and resources that I thought were more helpful than the ones listed in her book (but then the book was published more than 2 years ago).

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    Savings Week- 10 Tips to Save and Cut Expenses

    This year's America Saves Week is February 21-28. Yesterday's newspaper (both the Des News and the SL Trib) had this great list of ways to help cut expenses. I can stand behind every one of them. For more info on money savings classes, workshops and tips visit
    1. Make it automatic. Before you see your paycheck, make sure a portion is diverted to your 401K or other savings account.
    2. Keep minimum funds in your checking account. Make your money work for you by funneling extra funds into your savings account where it will earn more interest than in a checking account.
    3. Don't pay banking fees! If your bank doesn't offer free bill pay, automatic deposits, free checking, free reimbursement of ATM fees, find one that does.
    4. Use rewards credit cards. Get cash back on every purchase and pay the card off every month so you don't pay interest fees. Credit cards can offer big perks, (Mine doubles the warranty on electronics purchases and adds an extra year to the warranty of many purchases like tires.) but only if you can afford to pay the balance each month. Be sure to make sure that these are also free of fees.
    5. Actively search out deals. It never hurts to try and find a better deal, or request a better deal from your service providers.
    6. Use a programmable thermostat. This can cut your heating and cooling costs by 10-20%.
    7. Plan and research major purchases. Avoiding impulse buys can save you thousands.
    8. Use coupons and rebates. Use coupons for oil changes, groceries, books, on-line purchases and anything else you can find. Look on the back of store and grocery receipts; there's often a coupon there.
    9. Cook at home and eat leftovers. You can save a minimum of $20 per week by bringing lunch to work.
    10. Bundle cable, phone and internet services. You can save money by purchasing them together.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    Giveaway- I Dare You To Eat It

    Hey readers (and anyone else who just stumbled across my blog) I'm having a giveaway. I am giving away a copy of I Dare You To Eat It by Liesa Card, because I think more people should read it and benefit from the awesome information inside. There are two ways to enter (and you can do both):
    1. Become a follower of and post a comment telling me that you did so.
    2. Tell a friend about my blog and post a comment telling me.
    You have until March 1, 2010 to enter, at which time I will randomly select a winner who will be contacted by email.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010

    Book Review-The Essential Food Storage Cookbook

    I love getting new cookbooks, or even rediscovering old ones. They can help pull you out of a cooking rut. And yes, really you can find almost any recipe on the internet, there's something more satisfying having the book in front of you to refer to. You go to the internet when you have a general idea of what you want, you go to a book when you want to be inspired.
     The Essential Food Storage Cookbook seems like a descent cookbook, but I'm not going to say that everyone should run out and buy it. Here are the pro's and con's of this book.

    • Lots of recipes and some of them sound really good
    • Helpful information on shelf life and the best ways to store specific ingredients
    • Information on nutritional value of various food storage items
    • Motivation and encouragement to help you with food storage
    • All of the wheat recipes require a wheat grinder. There are other ways to use wheat.
    • Many of the recipes don't even include food storage ingredients
    • The one recipe that I have tried was a flop. A milk and fruit shake so sugary that even my kids wouldn't drink it.
    I'll continue to try some more recipes and let everyone know if I find any that I really like.

      Tuesday, February 16, 2010

      Kitchen Experiment- Chicken Tabouleh Salad

      The recipe for this Middle Eastern dish came from Brown Bag Success. It was not a big hit in our house, even after I made my own alterations. I should have known better than to try to feed my husband something with cucumbers and tomatoes. He doesn't like it, the kids won't eat it. The whole thing smacks of "chic food". However, I still enjoyed it. It's a different and easy way to eat wheat, that doesn't require a wheat grinder and I'm always looking for those. Perhaps this recipe will useful to someone whose family isn't quite as picky about their produce. I think that it would be good as a side to a pasta dish.

      Chicken Tabouleh Salad 
      1 cup cooked wheat berries
      1 cup chopped cooked chicken
      1 tomato chopped
      1/4 cup snipped parsley
      1/2 cup chopped cucumber
      1 green onion chopped
      1/2 cup Italian dressing
      1/2 tsp garlic powder
      1 tsp grated parmesean

      Mix everything in a bowl. Cover and store in the fridge for several hours before eating. This gives the wheat a chance to absorb the dressing.

      Pantry Challenge Update: Cranberry Pork Ribs, Beef & Bean Burritos, Wheat Salsa, Homemade Pizza and French Toast, and of coarse lots of leftovers. We haven't had to buy any meat or cheese, just the occasional small random ingredient. We had guests this weekend and everyone was complimentary of the food, even if it was totally based around my food storage. No one complained that the french toast was made with homemade bread and powdered milk. I thought of a way to use some of those canned pork chunks, but it requires beans. How am I out of beans? Some time in March I will have to try this.

      Monday, February 15, 2010

      How to Survive Road Trips with Small Children

      As our closest family is four hours away, I have mastered the art of a successful road trip, and have had many an unsuccessful road trip also. Success just requires a little preparation.  Make sure that you have the following readily available:
      • baby wipes- best thing for cleaning up sticky fingers and faces (and diapers if applicable)
      • a change of clothes per child (In an emergency situation we had to have our child pee in the bushes by the side of the road, she's small, it's awkward, and we had to dig a change of clothes out of the trunk)
      • 2 toys per child- When they get bored with the first, they can change without stealing from their neighbor
      • a few favorite books, coloring books, a few crayons each
      • cds with music that your children enjoy to sing along with and cds with music that is soothing and can help transition to nap time
      • a pillow and blanket for each child- Sometimes they sleep with them, sometimes they hide under them, on one trip I think my son played peek-a-boo with his for two hours straight
      • SNACKS- This is a must. Here are some of our favorites: baby carrots, fruit snacks, granola bars, cookies, apple slices, beef jerky, fruit leather, craisins, crackers, and string cheese.
      • frozen Caprisuns- crucial in the summer time. We always throw a few of these in a small cooler with some other drinks. Towards the beginning of the trip you drink whatever you threw in there to be chilled. Towards the end you can drink your thawed, but still icy Caprisuns. They can actually keep food cold for 2-3 days if you have enough frozen Caprisuns and keep the cooler shut.
      • a few water bottles
      • a plastic grocery bag for tossing garbage
      • something for you to read when the kids fall asleep
      • map/atlas or GPS
      As much as I dislike the place, McDonald's has made many a road trip easier. The kids get out of the car, eat two bites of a happy meal, run around until they're totally worn out, get back in the car and quickly fall asleep. And there's always a McDonald's somewhere, they're easy to spot and it's a doable option, rain, shine, snow, whatever. We've just gotten to the point where we stop somewhere else for Mommy to get a sandwich or salad first, and I eat that while they let their nuggets get cold. (Happy Meals aren't the most nutritious things, but they have gotten better than when we were kids. I'm ok with my kids having them on occasion. They always get the chicken nuggets, apple slices and chocolate milk.) If you know the area, or it's a good day for your GPS and the weather's nice, you can get the same results with taking lunch in a park, but you can't bank on those factors.
       I had a co-worker once tell me that she just gave her kids Benedryl and then they slept for most of their long roads trips. I tried that. Didn't work for us at all. I gave my daughter a second dose and I she was more wired than before. I've found classical music to be more effective in getting my kids to sleep in the car than anything else. I also found that road trips became sooo much easier after we had two kids. My daughter just didn't like to be alone in the back seat for long periods of time.

      Friday, February 12, 2010

      Valentine's Day on the Cheap

       This year for V-day I made beef jerky for my beloved. He will know this truly a sign of my love because I HATE touching raw meat, which is an unavoidable downside of making your own beef jerky. (Although it's very tasty, and super easy and inexpensive to do if you have a dehydrator and a jerky gun.) Including the cute container to put it in, it cost me less than $4. For my kids I found some cute V-day socks at Old Navy for 70 cents each and a couple books for a few dollars each.
       In the past we have made it a point to not go out to dinner on Valentine's Day. Even the places that are usually empty are packed. When it's so busy service seems to decline and you spend a large part of your evening listening to each other's stomach's growl as you wait for your food. So we have made it a tradition to make dinner together, and then go out a few days before or after. And Valentine's is the one day of the year that I make his favorite dessert, that I hate. This year we'll make heart-shaped pizzas as well as a few batches of cookies. Showing your love doesn't have to cost a lot of money.

      Thursday, February 11, 2010

      The Pantry Challenge

       Recently I stumbled across a blog called Money Saving Mom as she was discussing her pantry challenge for the month of January. It sounded like something I would like to give a shot, well sort of. Her challenge was for the entire month of January only use foods that she already had in her fridge, freezer and pantry. I'm just not that hard-core. What I have been doing  for February is using stuff from my pantry in every meal and I plan everything based on what I already have. In assessing my pantry, other than the staples, I noticed a few things:
      •  I have enough cookies mixes and other dessert ingredients to last me at least a year, at least. Seriously, if there is some major natural disaster leading to a lack of food in the grocery stores any readers are welcome to come to my house for cookies and hot chocolate, provided you can get on the internet at that point and ask for directions to my place.
      • I may have enough Post Raisin Bran to last me that long too. (Ok, maybe not quite that long.) I keep buying the stuff when it goes on sale for $1 a box because my husband likes it, but he doesn't eat that much of it.
      • I have lots of canned pork chunks. I only know how to do one thing with them, Chile Verde, and it's not something my kids are willing to eat.
      So far so good. To turn my pantry items into meals that I and my family will eat I find myself going to the store every couple days for fresh fruit and vegetables. (Yeah, I could probably plan this a little better.) But that's ok, I'm still spending way less, I'm rotating through my stuff, I'm improvising and trying new things and my family still eats it. Here is what we've been eating lately: Cheesy Mushroom Chicken and Rice, Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins, homemade Chicken Soup, Oatmeal Cranberry Muffins, Chicken Piccata, Hamburger Helper (feeling uncreative and needed to eat something other than chicken) and Kung Pao Chicken. No one has complained. No one has even noticed that I've been doing anything different. Strangely enough, both my children have been eating better than usual. I'm afraid if I say anything it will break the magic spell. Next project: learn to make something with canned pork chunks.

      Wednesday, February 10, 2010

      Book Review- Brown Bag Success

      While working on a project that I will talk more about later, I came across a cookbook in my cupboard that I had never actually tried. It's called Brown Bag Success: Making Healthy Lunches Your Kids Won't Trade by Sandra K. Nissenberg, MS, RD & Barbara N. Pearl, MS, RD. It gives lots of tips for bringing variety into your children's lunches and getting them to eat healthy foods. In additions to ideas and suggestions about the lunch making process, they also offer dozens of recipes that are easy to prepare and pack. Looking through these recipes, I'm excited to try them, even if my kids aren't old enough to be taking lunches to school. I know they could make what I eat more interesting and healthy. As I try them I'll  talk about them in later posts.
      Here are my favorite tips from the book:
      • Add color, texture and flavors. Kids like variety.
      • Get your kids involved.
      • Be creative! Make fun shapes with cookies cutters or drop in stickers or a note.
      • Pack your meals the night before to reduce morning stress.

      Tuesday, February 9, 2010

      Help fo Haiti Part 3- Hygiene Kits

      In my last post in reference to Haiti I mentioned humanitarian kits. Here's the instructions to make a hygiene kit: Place the following items in a heavy duty one-gallon sealable bag. Remove the air before sealing.
      • 2 unbreakable combs without sharp handles
      • 4 toothbrushes sealed
      • 1 tube of toothpaste (6-8 oz, no pumps)
      • 2 bars of soap (3.5-5 oz each)
      • 2 hand towels (approximately 15x25")
      For this and other patterns go to the following link. I found that the best place to get the hand towels is Sam's I got 2 dozen hotel hand towels for $21. The other items I picked up from Walmart, but that doesn't mean that that's the cheapest place to get them, it was just most convenient at the time. They were easy and fun to make, even my four year-old-was getting involved.
      If you live in Utah you can drop them off at the nearest Deseret Industries or bishop's storehouse in a sealed box labeled "LDS Humanitarian Services" or you can ship them to:
      Latter-Day Saint Humanitarian Center
      1665 South Bennett Road
      Salt Lake City, UT 84104

      Monday, February 8, 2010

      Things to do with a slice of bread (besides eat it)

      About 8 months ago I started reading Reader's Digest's Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things: 2,317 Ways to Save Money and Time. It sounds like something I would be interested in. It's a reference book, so it's a very slow read. There are several things I come across that I think "Everyone knows that trick, don't they?" or "Wow, that's a lot of work to create something very tacky." or there are a few that I found don't work like the book claims they do. However, throughout there are some good ideas. This weekend I came across a couple with bread that actually seemed helpful, plus I added one of my own.
      • Soften up hard marshmallows. Put marshmallows in a seal-able container with a couple slices of bread. Leave it alone for a couple days and remove the bread. The marshmallows will have absorbed the moisture from the bread.
      • Soften up hard brown sugar. Same idea.
      • Pick up glass fragments. After picking up the big shards, press a piece of bread over the area to pick up all the tiny slivers. Just be careful as you're throwing the bread away.

      Friday, February 5, 2010

      Where I shop for children's clothing

      On a several occasions I have been asked where and how I get such good deals on children's clothing. Here's the breakdown:

      Online: (More convenient and we all love packages, don't we?)
      OldNavy & Gap- It seems that about every other month they have a sale where you can get 20-30% off. They generally have most of what I am looking for, and I can often find things for my husband and I there also. It's the best place to get pants if your kids are of the tall and skinny proportions. There are often great deals in the clearance section and everything that I have bought there so far has outlasted my kids. If you have a ON card, there are extra bonuses. You get 5% back of what you spend in reward bucks, plus there are double & triple points offers and often coupons for free stuff.  (Example, last December they mailed out coupons for $10 off any purchase. So I got $30 worth of merchandise for free.) They also give a Upromise rebate. The drawback of shopping online is that you often have to pay for shipping if you spend less than $100, however online you can stack your coupons plus you get the rebate, whereas you don't get that in the store. Another drawback is that there is less of the "exciting and different", but it's where I go for the basics. If you sign up for emails, they'll tell you about sales and send you coupons.

      The Children's Place- They also have some great deals every few months, especially if you are buying out of season. Last fall I stocked up on shorts and t-shirts for my kids because with the coupons they came to 75 cents each. (I live in St. George, it's shorts weather 9-10 months out of the year.) They don't allow coupon stacking, but they do give a Upromise rebate. $5 flat shipping rate. Also of note: their shoes wear out super fast.

      Kohl's- I've gotten a few darling outfits for my daughter here for $6 each. Upromise rebate and more rewards if you have a Kohl's card. (I can't tell you what they are, because I don't.) Limited coupon stacking.

      In stores: (No shipping charge or minimum, yay!)
      JC Penny- They often have super cute baby clothes at good prices.

      Macy's- I've gotten a few super amazing deals in the kid's department if your timing is right. 4-piece outfits for $5, little dresses for $3.

      Gap- The clearance section is where it's at, and it's always better than the clearance online. They often have great deals that aren't out of season yet. Last fall I got an adorable lined boy's pea coat for $17 plus I snagged a black angora cableknit sweater for me for $10.

      Old Navy- I actually don't shop there that often. Online prices are always better, but there is the occasional sale....

      Costco- Best place for kid's pajamas and little girl's Christmas and Easter dresses. The Carter's fleece footie jammies are about $7. Although, here you run a great chance of having her wear the same dress that the neighbor girl is wearing.

      Ross- Not always the best selection for kids clothing in the size you need and less reliability, but I've found my best shoe finds here.  Skecher's for $15

      Thursday, February 4, 2010

      Laughter- The best way to deal with stress

      Laughter is one of the things that makes life worth living. And I find that I am less stress if I can find a reason to laugh about a situation or at least find something else to laugh about. Here are several sites that can always make me laugh: A cake decorator who makes fun of monstrous professional cakes. Funnier than you would imagine. Another one that surprised me with how very entertaining it is. This woman posts real estate pictures and listings and comments on them. It's amazing how very hilarious some ads can be. (Thanks, Kristy.) Sometimes people hack things together in interesting ways. Ok, so perhaps it's not nice to laugh at other people's stupidity, but sometimes I can't help myself. Who would have thought that poorly drawn comic about history could be so funny?

      Wednesday, February 3, 2010

      Upromise- start saving for your children's college without having to think about it

      Previously I gave a list of websites that I use to save money, but I didn't go into a lot of detail on each. So I'll expand on them some more.
       One website I use is Upromise. Signing up is free, and how it works is this site advertises various businesses and when you use those businesses, they donate a percentage of what you spend to your account. Now by advertising, the businesses are trying to get your money, because hey that's what business is about. And I'm not sure, but they probably can write off the money they donate as a charitable contribution because it goes toward education.
       To make this work for you, just buy the things you were going to buy anyway and get a percentage back. Spending a dollar to get 13 cents back doesn't make any sense.  But if you planned on spending that dollar on something you need, why not get 13% back? Websites that I've used include The Children's Place, Old Navy, Barnes & Noble, Verizon, and 1800Contacts to name a few, but they have an enormous list to choose from. If you don't want to have to go to the Upromise site first every time you shop online, you can download a little gadget that alerts you whenever you are visiting a participating site. Thus you are saving money for college without thinking about it.
        You can also get money back from what you spend at the grocery store if you register you Smiths's or Albertson's cards with them. There's not a huge payoff there, but a few free dollars back. The site offers rebates on hotel, travel, furniture, restaurants, purchasing a home, subscriptions, with rebates ranging between 1-20%. Plus they often have coupon codes that are not found in other places.
        I've had my account for about a year and a half and have saved $500, which by the time my daughter gets to college will probably cover a semester's worth of books, if I'm lucky. But I still have a long time to save and really I would have spent money on those various things anyway, so why not get $500 back?

      Tuesday, February 2, 2010

      My latest way to sneak veggies to my children

      If you're like me and many other moms, you struggle to get your kids to eat veggies. (Click here for my favorite means of sneaking it to them.) And I'm always looking for ways to get my kids to eat better that actually work. Here's my latest trick: Pepperidge Farm Garden Cheddar Goldfish. Each 1.1 oz serving of crackers contains 1/3 serving of vegetables. Yes, nutritionally, this is not as good as eating whole vegetables, but it's a taste that my kids love, are familiar with and is easy to stash in my purse for those times when we're out and my kids need a snack. The crackers are baked with dried vegetable powder in the mix and my kids love them. There is a slight veggie taste to them, but honestly think that it improves the flavor. And right now they're on sale for $0.88 per package at Smith's.

      Monday, February 1, 2010

      Book Review-I Will Teach You To Be Rich

      I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
      I recommend this book to everyone. Especially anyone under forty who wants to know more about being financially successful. Ramit gives sound advice on becoming rich, and not becoming rich quick, mind you, but about becoming rich. (It seems to me that every get rich quick scheme is either a scam or is somehow taking advantage of other people.) The first thing he asks is what does being rich mean to you? Really think about it. For some people it means being able to afford nice vacations. Fine. Cut corners and be cheap on other things so you can afford the things that matter to you. And did I mention that he's hilarious? Often finance books=boring, but not in this case.
       He set his book up as a 6 week program that goes like this:
      Week 1: Optimise your credit cards- Don't pay fees or interest and get some perks too.
      Week 2: Beat the banks- Open high interest accounts and never pay fees
      Week 3: Open investment accounts- Your 401K and Roth IRA
      Week 4: Conscious spending- Figure out where your money is going
      Week 5: Automate your accounts- Make your bill pay and investing automatic
      Week 6: Investing- Why it's important and how to make the most of the market
       Nothing off-the-wall, just sound financial advice explained so the average person can understand. If you want more info, he also have a blog that offers great advice, although it tends to be geared more towards entrepreneurial and business types: