Browsing Category

Family Finances

Blog and Life Updates, Budget, Family Finances

When to start Investing

September 13, 2020

A huge number of individuals go to Google each month to check whether right now is an ideal opportunity to invest. It’s a stacked inquiry, particularly this year: In late February 2020, the S&P 500 started a month long decay, finding what speculators trust was the pandemic floor on March 23.

Generally, it has taken a normal of around two years for the market to recuperate from an accident; this time, it bobbed back in only 149 days. Before the finish of August, the file was by and by hitting record highs.

More odd still, this remarkable recuperation came in the midst of dismal features, with U.S. joblessness hitting an unsurpassed high in April and staying above 10% through July.

Plus, from Robert Powell’s Retirement Daily on TheStreet: What’s the Value of a Risk-Tolerance Questionnaire?

Between the securities exchange’s unpredictable conduct and financial vulnerability over the globe, speculators are justifiably vigilant. However, that shouldn’t mean sitting out of the market.

Understanding the Main Street-Wall Street Disparity

The market’s recuperation is obviously at chances with the U.S. economy. Be that as it may, a more critical look shows this unevenness may not be as baffling as it appears.

The financial exchange reflects speculator slant about the future, not what’s going on the present moment. While retail financial specialists might be more disposed to purchase and sell dependent on every day features, institutional speculators are looking a long ways ahead. Also, given the fast market recuperation (and the desire for proceeded with assistance from the Federal Reserve), it shows up Wall Street isn’t scared.

The S&P 500 is likewise market top weighted, which means bigger organizations will biggerly affect its exhibition (perceive how the S&P 500 attempts to get familiar with this). The five biggest organizations in the list (Apple , Microsoft , Amazon , Facebook and Google’s parent organization Alphabet ) are in tech, an industry that hasn’t been hit as hard by COVID-19. The tech-driven recuperation helped push the S&P 500 to its record high, regardless of the continuous monetary issues brought about by the pandemic.

And afterward there are the high trusts in an inevitable immunization. As indicated by Robert M. Wyrick Jr., overseeing part and boss venture official of Post Oak Private Wealth Advisors in Houston, speculators might be wagering on the conviction that a Covid antibody will be delivered in the near future. In the event that and when a practical antibody is comprehensively accessible, it’s probably going to be a major driver of proceeded with development in the business sectors.

“While this is likely previously valued into the market somewhat, I would lean toward not to be uninvolved when this at last occurs,” says Wyrick, whose firm spends significant time in cutting edge hazard oversaw contributing.

Timing the Market versus Time In the Market

As per Marguerita Cheng, an affirmed monetary organizer and CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth in Gaithersburg, Maryland, when you begin contributing isn’t as significant as how long you stay contributed. Furthermore, that is a memorable proverb in a pandemic, as well.

“The most ideal approach to manufacture riches is to remain contributed, however I realize that can be testing,” Cheng says in an email meet.

It’s simpler in the event that you contribute just for long haul objectives. Try not to put cash you may require in the following five years, as it’s exceptionally conceivable the stock or shared reserve you buy will drop in an incentive for the time being. On the off chance that you need those assets for an enormous buy or crisis, you may need to sell your venture before it gets an opportunity to ricochet back, bringing about a misfortune.

Be that as it may, in case you’re contributing as long as possible, those momentary drops aren’t of much worry to you. It’s the intensifying additions after some time that will assist you with hitting your retirement or long haul monetary objectives. (Perceive how exacerbating increases work with this venture adding machine.)

The Water’s Fine, yet Wade in Slowly

Perhaps the best procedure to keep quiet and stay contributed during times of instability is a method known as dollar-cost averaging.

Through this methodology, you contribute a particular dollar sum at standard spans, state a few times per month, instead of attempting to time the market. In doing as such, you’re purchasing in at different costs that, in principle, normal out after some time.

Wyrick noticed this is additionally a phenomenal technique for first-time speculators hoping to enter the market during seasons of vulnerability.

“It’s extremely hard to time when to get into the market, as there’s no time like the present,” Wyrick says. “I wouldn’t bet everything simultaneously, except I think sticking around to perceive what befalls the economy or what befalls the market in the following three, six or nine months much of the time winds up being a waste of time.”

So how, precisely, do you start dollar-cost averaging into the market? A typical methodology is to combine this with stock assets, for example, trade exchanged assets. ETFs pack a wide range of stocks together, letting you get presentation to every one of them through a solitary venture. For instance, if you somehow happened to put resources into a S&P 500 ETF, you would have a stake in each organization recorded in the file. Instead of putting all your cash in a couple of individual stocks, ETFs help you rapidly manufacture an all around differentiated portfolio.

To dollar-cost normal you could set up programmed month to month (or week by week, or fortnightly) ventures into an ETF through your online money market fund or retirement account. Through this methodology, you would accomplish the advantages of dollar-cost averaging and expansion, all through a hands-off technique intended for building long haul riches.

Budget, Family Finances, Frugal Living

Budget Friendly Birthday Party for Our Frugal Family

October 19, 2015

When I found out that I was expecting for the first time, I knew that I would be cutting it pretty close to my own birthday with the due date. Little did I know, instead of going to my birthday dinner reservation, I would be spending the evening in the military hospital, meeting our daughter for the first time.

It’s pretty cool that my daughter and I have the same birthday. It’s an extra special day in our family not only because we share the birthday, but also because I shared the birthday with my great-grandmother. I always felt like I was in a special club, sharing my birthday on October 9. My great grandmother has since passed on, but now the club continues with me and my daughter.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but two people in the same family having the same birthday is a really great way to cut down on the costs of birthday celebrations. You don’t buy two cakes or have two parties, so the costs are essentially slashed in half. My family is pretty frugal, so this has worked out pretty well so far. I don’t mind eating whatever kind of cake my daughter chooses. Also, for the moment, her friends are the children of my friends, so parties aren’t an issue either. 

This year for my daughter’s birthday, she wanted to invite her friends to the park to eat cupcakes and hit a piñata. So, that’s what we did, and it cost next to nothing. It was a very budget friendly birthday party. My husband did go a bit overboard at the store, but try telling him that his 5 year old doesn’t need helium balloons at her birthday party…wasn’t going to happen. So I just let it go, because it made him happy to do that for her and it made her happy too.

The only thing she specifically asked for was a unicorn piñata. Our local Walmart doesn’t carry unicorn pinatas though, which really left me in a bind. The one she really wanted in particular is sold on Amazon for $30. I didn’t want to spend that kind of money on something that would only last ten minutes. So, what’s a frugal mama to do?

To remedy the unicorn pinata situation, I bought the My Little Pony piñata from Walmart for $10 and decided to make a unicorn horn myself. With just 15 minutes of extra effort, I saved $20.

Turning the pony piñata into a unicorn, instead of buying one, basically covered the cost of the impromptu purchase of a helium tank, so we’ll call it even. Making 24 cupcakes for the party only cost me $5 for cake and frosting supplies, and we had fruit, veggies, pretzels, tea, and water for the party guests to snack on. All in all, it was a really affordable, fun, and budget-friendly birthday party for our frugal family. There was gorgeous weather at the park the day of the party too, which made the day even nicer.

Even though our daughter is only 5 years old, we’re already finding our groove with how to celebrate two birthdays on the same day. We also have a few family traditions now because of our unique birthday situation. For example, we go to the pumpkin patch every year on the weekend nearest to our actual birthday. I love all things fall and all things pumpkin, so going to the pumpkin patch is how I get to celebrate my birthday in my own way while also doing something the kids will enjoy.

This year, my parents, sister, and soon to be brother in law were able to join us, which made our pumpkin patch weekend even more special. As an added bonus, the pumpkin patch we went to this year was really affordable. It was also only $8 per child with accompanying adults getting in for free for all of the activities (maze, fun house, and petting zoo). They had free hay rides out to the pumpkin field to pick your own pumpkins as well. They also had a fun deal where you could get as many pumpkins as you can carry in three steps for only $20. My husband decided to do it, and he ended up carrying 6 or 7 full size pumpkins and a whole bunch of smaller ones.

My big strong husband carrying all of the family pumpkins so that we could get them for only $20.

My favorite part of the weekend was getting our family picture taken. We look forward to it every year. Taking a family picture in the hay has kind of become an annual thing for our family. We have never had professional family pictures done, so these pictures are precious to me. Our pumpkin patch picture from our birthday weekend has become one of my most cherished memories. I love that my husband and I get to make such sweet memories with our beautiful kids.

Do you have any family traditions on your birthday? What are your cost-saving measures to have a budget friendly birthday party?

Blog and Life Updates, Family Finances, Police Wife Life

FINANCIAL LEAP OF FAITH AND FINCON15

September 14, 2015

14 months ago, to say that my husband and I were “struggling to make ends meet” would have been a gross understatement.

My husband was working 40 hours a week at his full time job as well as working the reserves one weekend a month. I was providing childcare during the week to try to help pay the bills. I even started a small craft business. It wasn’t enough. Working more wasn’t an option. I had newborn, and we were already working as hard as we could.

My husband was already working as a police officer, but he was being paid the same rate as he was making as a security guard before he finished the police academy, which was pennies. He wasn’t earning what he was worth, and his superiors kept coming up with a lot of empty promises for his actual police rate pay (which never came).

Facing foreclosure

We were facing foreclosure. The food that we put on our table came from the garden and government assistance food checks from WIC. Too many dinners were rice with vegetables that I grew. We were one or two weeks shy of my husband re-enlisting as an active duty member of the military and having myself and our two kids move in with my parents for a while. It was a dark place, emotionally and financially, that we never thought we would have to come to.

My husband took a financial leap of faith and started looking anywhere and everywhere for a new job. He had just achieved his goal of finishing the police academy, and he was done with his term of field training, but he was willing to go back to selling motorcycles or joining the military again, just to make ends meet. We both hoped that he could find a job for a different city working as a police officer.

One town with an open position seemed like our only hope. As my husband got further along in the hiring process, first passing the physical and written tests, the back ground check, and then the home check, we had more and more hope that this position was the answer to our prayers. He wasn’t even guaranteed the job yet, but we started packing boxes.

Our financial leap of faith 

I don’t like to talk too much about my faith online, but I wouldn’t be able to explain this story without it. I had a quiet peace in my heart about this potential position. After a lot of prayer, we both felt the need to pursue this job with alacrity and ready our home for sale or new renters.  We took another financial leap of faith, and we moved to the new town before he was even offered the job. There weren’t many homes for rent, and we found the perfect house for our needs which was within our budget. We had to pounce, or we would have lost it.

Anyone looking in from the outside would have seen our decision as brash, financially irresponsible, and foolish. Our extended family thought we were insane. But I knew in my heart that it was the right decision. This was a high risk, high reward situation, and we were willing to take the gamble. Since we were already facing the loss of everything, we literally had nothing to lose. We even had a renter lined up. Our good friend wanted to rent our house for herself and her three kids. I couldn’t have imagined anyone better as a renter.

Our financial leap of faith paid off. Two weeks after we moved into the new rental house, he was offered the job.

Since that financial gamble, we have had 13 months of financial security, money for rent, and food for the table. We have met new friends that are more like family, and we are happier than we have ever been. We still have a lot of debt, but we are working hard to pay it off and be free once and for all from that awful time of our lives. Our financial leap of faith paid back in dividends. We couldn’t have imagined a better outcome.

A new financial leap of faith

I took my own financial leap of faith in March of this year, when I took a course to learn how to get paid to write for blogs. That course was worth the investment. Cat, the instructor of the course, is both my friend and mentor. She helped me to reach the level of success with writing that I now have. I even paid taxes on my earnings for the first time yesterday. Nobody likes paying taxes, but that was a great feeling.  

I love writing from home, and I love working as a contract writer and freelance blogger. I am ready to take my business to the next level though, so with Cat’s experience and advice, I am taking another gigantic, financial leap of faith. I took on $1500 dollars of debt so that I can attend FinCon15.

FinCon15

This Wednesday, I will be driving to Charlotte, North Carolina for the four day conference. My dear friend designed and ordered 500 business cards for me to distribute, and I already have a few potential client meetings lined up. I am ready to work harder than I ever have before to meet new clients, make connections, and get my name known in the financial writing world.

I have never been more nervous for anything in my life, but I have the same kind of peace in my heart about this conference as I did when we moved without a guarantee of a job for my husband. The experience we had by flinging ourselves into the financial unknown, and surviving to tell the tale has made me more willing to take risks for the reward. I have faith in myself that I will be able to pay back my debt quickly. I made $450 dollars last month writing from home. Even if I don’t win a single new client at this conference, I will be able to pay the debt off relatively quickly. I see FinCon15 as a good debt, not unlike taking out a loan for school. 

I am ready to hustle hard, work harder, and make my own career dreams come true. I’m ready to take the financial writing world by storm.

What is the biggest leap of faith that you have ever taken? Was it in pursuit of your personal goals or your financial goals?

Blog and Life Updates, Family Finances, Motherhood

EMPLOYMENT BOUNDARIES AND KNOWING YOUR VALUE

September 4, 2015

Do you believe that money can buy you happiness? To a certain extent I believe that it does. Money certainly makes things easier. I would be more than willing to endure some unpleasant positions to make more money for my family. If someone told me that I could make 3 million dollars by shoveling out manure pits for the next three years, I would definitely do it. Most people probably would.

What if the same person offered you only $30,000 to shovel manure for the next three years? Unless you were homeless, unemployed, and starving the answer would most likely be a resounding NO. That level of physical discomfort just isn’t worth the meager paycheck. Everyone has their employment boundaries. They know when a project is worth the value or not for their time and effort involved.

This past week I learned what limits are and employment boundaries are as a writer. I did something that, three months ago, seemed inconceivable. I turned down a writing client for the first time.

After learning how to get paid to write for blogs, I have been hustling to find new clients, start new projects, and bring in more income for my family so that we can pay off debt. I’m willing to put in the time and the hours writing for free, doing guest posts, or getting paid low compensation to build up my name, my business, and my writing portfolio. Like Mark Twain is remembered for saying, “Write without pay until somebody offers pay.”

Until this week, my motto has been “any money for writing is good money for writing.” After contacting a potential client and writing a sample article, I was seriously low-balled in return for a writing project. I don’t want to get into the details, but let me just say that the time was not going to be worth the effort or the money. Compensation was going to be less than minimum wage. Significantly less. I turned down the client, letting them know that my time is worth more than they were offering, but thanks for the opportunity.

A project like the one in question would have made me crazy, the quality of my work would have been terrible, and my family would have suffered with me working so much…all for pennies. Although I am still a new writer, I know what my value is, and I know what my employment boundaries are.

I am so glad that I was able to say no. I love working from home as a contract writer, because I get to choose which projects I take on, meaning I enjoy my work and I get to be home with my kids.

I enjoy my work as a writer, and I enjoy my work as a mom. Any job that would make me unhappy with both of those positions is a job I have no desire or willingness to take. I know what my goals are as a writer, I know what my employment boundaries are, and I will only take on projects that will help me reach those goals.

What are your employment boundaries? Do you know what your bottom line amount is for the value of your work?

Before you go, here’s a roundup of some of my recent posts around the web:

Careers that Offer Student Loan Forgiveness

3 Fool-Proof Ways to Avoid Buyer’s Remorse While Shopping Online

10 Great Alternative Christmas Gift Ideas

3 Reasons Millennials Should Invest in Dividend Stocks

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Put Off Your Bucket List until Retirement

Also check out these great posts by other bloggers

Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Spouse’s Career Hold You Back

10 Ways to Get Yourself Out of a Funky Mood

How to Check the Real Savings on Amazon Gold Box Deals

Life After Debt…Remembering Your “Why”

5 Simple Ways to Get Your Productivity Back

Family Finances, Uncategorized

DON’T ALLOW $1.25 TO RUIN YOUR DAY

August 31, 2015

Yesterday started out great. My 18 month old woke me up at around 6:10, and even though I had only gotten about 4.5 hours of sleep, I actually wasn’t at all tired. I got little-man situated, made myself some coffee, and decided to bake banana muffins for breakfast. While he was playing and the muffins were baking, I worked on invoice sheets for a bit. 

My husband and daughter both got up right around the time the muffins were done baking, and we all ate breakfast together as a family. Shortly thereafter we went for a 2 mile family run, came back, and then quickly got ready and left for church. 

Fresh muffins. The promise of future payment. Great Workout. Inspiring Mass. I felt fantastic yesterday, like my body, mind, and soul were being taken care of, and I was in a great mood. 

Then I made the decision to stop at Food Lion on our way home from church. 

Before walking into the store, I knew my budget would be about $25 and I had a list of the basic items I needed: bananas, eggs, milk, etc. On the way into the store, I noticed that cereal was on sale for $1.74. That’s a great deal, especially when it’s one of the few items your 18 month old will actually eat for breakfast.

Anyway, I walked down the cereal aisle, found the shelf with the advertised cereal with big red arrows exclaiming “GREAT VALUE” “ON SALE” etc. and picked up a box off of the clearly marked shelf. I grab my other few items, wait in line, pay, and head out to the car, at which point I noticed that the cashier hadn’t rung up the cereal box as on sale.

My receipt listed it for $2.99 instead of $1.74. So I went back in the store and asked the same cashier why it hadn’t rung up as on sale. Her reply was that only the 12 oz boxes were on sale. I had bought the 9 oz box. I said, “Well, the store clearly has this box labeled as on sale.” To which her response was, “Someone must have just stuck that box there.” To which I replied again, “No, really. It is very clearly marked on that shelf that all of this size box is on sale.”

Long story short, I left the store very angry, with absolutely no help from the cashier who very clearly didn’t care at all that I had just paid $1.25 more, for 3 fewer ounces of cereal than the on sale box. 

I was fuming, steaming mad when I got home. I was putting groceries away with much more force than necessary, all while snapping at my family. I realized how crazy I was being and wondered how I let myself get so angry over a box of cereal. 

Instead of punishing my family for something that was clearly not their fault, I tried to use that negative energy for something productive. I finished my invoices, and then we went for a walk down to the park for some fresh air and to let the kiddos play for a bit before dinner and bedtime. 

As much as I really want to blame the store, because someone clearly didn’t properly label the sale items,  I should have double-checked the bar-code before putting the item in my cart. I really shouldn’t have gotten so upset over $1.25. I was about to let a fantastic day get ruined over something as trivial as 5 quarters.

So today, with just an ounce of bitterness,  I will sit and enjoy a box of my not on sale cereal at the crack of dawn, with my sweet 18 month who I love to pieces. I will be grateful that I have the money to put food on our table and in our children’s bellies, and I will never let $1.25 almost ruin my day again. 

I learned a valuable life lesson yesterday: don’t let savings, or a lack there of, decidedly ruin an otherwise great day. It’s just not worth it. I choose to be grateful and learn from my mistakes instead. 

Have you ever let something as trivial as $1.25 ruin your day? 

Blog and Life Updates, Family Finances

FRUGAL FLORIDA VACATION

August 19, 2015

Last week my family and I were able to spend the week vacationing in Florida to visit my husband’s parents. We don’t have a lot of excess cash flow, so our vacation needed to be pretty well planned out to include mostly free or cheap activities.

By going to historic sites, national parks, and doing free outdoor activities, we were able to have an amazing vacation without having to shell out a ton of money. We had a fantastic time, but the best part of our vacation was that we didn’t go over budget. It really helped that we were staying with family, and we were able to eat at home for about half of our meals.

North Florida tends to be overlooked by vacationers because of the big ticket attractions like Disney World, Universal Studios, and Downtown Disney etc. If you are willing to look beyond Orlando though, you can have an amazing, frugal Florida vacation.

Monday: Amelia Island, Fernandina, FL

Fort Clinch
View from the top of Fort Clinch

We started our vacation with a trip to see Fort Clinch which is just a few miles down the road from where my husband’s family lives. It was $6.00 for our vehicle to enter the park and $2.00 per person to see the inside of the actual fort. After exploring the endless tunnels of the fort and walking along the top of the walls, we went wading in the water along the beach to look for shark teeth.

Fort Clinch State Park was a lot of fun. The tunnels and walls of the fort were really cool to explore, and the view was amazing. I would definitely recommend a trip to see it if you ever visit North Florida. If you add in the cost of 4 popsicles to cool down and a post card to send to friends, we spent a grand total of $22.00 for the day.

Tuesday: St. Augustine, Florida

Castillo de San Marcos

I have been wanting to visit St. Augustine for years, and I am so excited that I was finally able to make the trip. We started out at the Castillo de San Marcos. Since my husband is in the military, we had free admission for our family to go into the monument. The history was haunting, the architecture was amazing, and the view from the top wall was breathtaking.

From there we went for a walk down St. George Street, adjacent to the Colonial Quarter, which is across the street a ways from the Castillo de San Marcos. We stopped inside of the Spanish Bakery for an empanada for lunch. We also stopped in Whetstone Chocolates for gelato and smoothies.

On our walk back to the car, we found a great playground called Park Project Swing for the kids to get out some energy before traveling again. This park was hands down one of the most fantastic parks I have ever taken my kids to.

From there we headed over to the Alligator Farm Zoological Park to get up close and personal with the alligators. The Alligator Farm was expensive, but my father in law treated us to the experience. The kids had a great time seeing all of the animals and feeding the alligators.

Although the Alligator Farm cost about $75 for the five of us, we personally only spent about $30 for the entire day in St. Augustine.

Wednesday: Fernandina Beach day and picnic lunch

We parked at Peter’s Point Park to have a day at the beach. Parking is free there, and you have access to bathrooms, showers, and picnic tables. You can even drive your vehicle down onto the beach if you want to. We brought a packed lunch and enjoyed a day playing in the sand and swimming in the ocean.

Total amount spent for the whole day was $8, because we stopped at a drive through to get drinks on the way home.

Thursday: Jacksonville, FL

Hands On Children’s Museum: Our kids seemed to have fun, but this was a waste of money. I wish we had read more reviews before going. It was in a not so nice part of town. We actually killed a cockroach while the kids were playing there, and the equipment felt run down and dirty. Some of the play equipment was actually falling apart. I would steer anyone away from visiting here.

Museum of Science and History (M.O.S.H.): This museum was fantastic. It had dinosaurs, science, natural history, the history of Florida, a native plants garden, and an indoor play area. Our kids loved it, and so did we.

Between the Hands on Children’s Museum which was $20 wasted, the M.O.S.H which was $24, and lunch while out, we spent about $60 for the whole day.

Friday: DeLeon Springs, Florida

Make your own pancakes at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant

Friday was one of my favorite days of our trip. We spent about half of the day at De Leon Springs State Park where we first ate breakfast at the converted Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant on site at the park. Each table has its own built-in griddle to cook your own pancakes made from stone-ground flours. After breakfast we went swimming in the natural spring on site. It was freezing but so much fun.

Our grand total for the outing was $6 for parking, and $5 per person for pancakes.

Saturday: St. Mary’s, GA and the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

We started out our Saturday by going to the local farmer’s market in St. Mary’s, where we spent about $20 on local honey, fresh peaches, and a hand-made ninja turtle hat for our daughter.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

From there we went to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge to go on a boat tour of the swamp. It was terrifying to be literally feet away from alligators in the wild. You don’t typically imagine swamps as being a beautiful place, but It was surprisingly breathtaking. There were endless “water prairies” covered in lily-pads and water lilies. The Spanish moss draped down over all of the trees, and big graceful water birds took flight over the water. It was quiet, serene, and beautiful. If you ever get a chance to visit, ask for Steve as your tour guide. He did a fantastic job of giving us an entertaining and informative tour.

The boat tour costs $19.95 per adult, but children 5 and under are free. This was another excursion that my in-laws wanted to foot the bill for. I am so grateful that they took us out to see the park, because we all had a lot of fun.

Our frugal Florida vacation grand total: $450

Our frugal Florida vacation grand total includes the cost of driving and all activities. $450 isn’t too bad for a week long vacation for a family of four. We had such a great time visiting all of the parks and seeing the sites. It goes to show that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a great time on vacation. The less hectic and more scenic options can be just as much fun as the big tourist sites.

Have you ever been to North Florida? What are your favorite inexpensive things to do while on vacation?

DIY, Family Finances, Self Suffiency

BASIC VEHICLE MAINTENANCE WILL SAVE YOU MONEY

July 24, 2015

This is dedicated to my amazing husband who I consulted to write this post and who has taught me more than I ever thought that I wanted to know about basic vehicle maintenance.

Summer time typically means road trips to visit family or driving longer distances to vacation destinations. In the next four months, my family will be making two 13 hour trips each way to visit family. All of that travel means that we will be doing some basic vehicle maintenance before we head out on the road. We hope to save ourselves the headaches and stresses which could result from not properly taking care of the engine or tires.

When planning ahead for travel, it’s easy to overlook the importance of making sure your vehicle is up for the drive. I can’t stress enough the importance of doing a quick run-through of basic vehicle maintenance before heading out on the road. You don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road in an unfamiliar area, when you could be enjoying those precious vacation hours instead.

Here are 7 basic items of preventative vehicle maintenance to save you money.

1. Oil Change

Most vehicles need an oil change every 4000 miles or as recommended by the manufacturer. You should also check oil levels between changes. If the engine oil is low, it can cause damage to the engine, reducing the life of your vehicle. Besides checking the oil dip stick, some signs of low oil are smoky exhaust or overheating engines. Learning to do an oil change yourself can save yourself some money. Mechanics charge for both labor and parts, so you will be

2. Invest in good tires

When living paycheck to paycheck, it can be hard to fork over more money for the higher-rated tires, but the more expensive option will usually save you money in the long run. Better tires mean better fuel economy, safer travel, decreased likelihood of a blow out, and less wear on your undercarriage.

3. Tire Pressure

Checking the tire pressure before traveling could save you both money and headaches. If your tire pressure is not set correctly, it can cause undue wear on the tire and reduce traction. Low tire pressure will reduce the life of your tires, meaning that you will have to replace your tires sooner than necessary.

Too low of a Psi will cause you to drive with lower fuel economy, so you will be unnecessarily spending more money on gas when you travel. Also be sure to avoid over-filling your tires, which could also wear them out prematurely. Psi should be set to vehicle specifications via the manufacturer’s recommendations, not to the tire specifications.

Taking care of your tires will allow them to last for upwards of 40,000 miles. Some high-rated tires can last for up to 80,000 miles. Invest in a tire pressure gauge to keep in your vehicle. They are fairly inexpensive and great tool to have on hand.

4. Alignment

Skewed alignment will wear down your tires and force your vehicle to work harder than necessary. Just like trying to ski in the V position, or trudging through deep mud, misalignment slows down your vehicle. This resistance will reduce your fuel economy and cause harmful wear and tear on your vehicle’s undercarriage.

5. Antifreeze

Before traveling long distances especially, be sure to check the levels as antifreeze keeps your engine from seizing in the winter and prevents overheating in the summer. If your coolant bottle is low there may be an antifreeze leak. Antifreeze is added to the coolant overflow bottle, but it can be added directly to the radiator. Never unscrew the cap on your radiator while the engine is hot, because the cap is under pressure and the fluid, which will be between 150 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit, can cause serious burns. Be sure to use a 50/50 diluted fluid mixture of water and antifreeze or the manufacturer’s suggested fluid.

6. Windshield wipers

Drivers from hot and humid states like Florida and Louisiana need to replace them more often than a driver in Maryland for example. The heat and humidity can cause the rubber strips to either crack or rot. You don’t want to be driving through a heavy rainstorm and have your wipers fail on you. Windshield wipers should be replaced at least annually, but in harsher climates, you should consider replacing them bi-annually.

With windshield wipers, more expensive is not always better. In my experience, the cheaper ones work just as effectively as the more expensive options.

7. Transmission fluid

Transmission fluid which is often overlooked, is what allows your transmission to shift and function properly while driving. For automatic transmissions, the fluid is what causes the gears to change. Follow your manufacturers recommended specifications, and never mix different types of transmission fluids.

Basic maintenance will save you money

I am amazingly lucky to have a husband who not only does 90% of our car maintenance himself, but who has taught me a great deal about basic engine safety and inspection. With the exception of tire alignments which require more tools than found in typical household garages, most of the items on this list are easy to learn how to do yourself. Even learning how to do just one or two items on this list will save you money.

If you don’t feel comfortable working on your vehicle, at the very least make sure to take it in for basic maintenance before traveling long distances. Especially if your travel will make you reach or go over the recommended miles between maintenance, it’s better to go ahead and get it done before hand.

Don’t overlook the necessity of taking care of your car’s oil, fluids, and tires. Basic maintenance will save you money through better engine performance, better fuel economy, and extended life of your vehicle.

Do you have a car maintenance checklist which you address before you travel?

Budget, Family Finances

CAN YOU BE BOTH SPONTANEOUS AND FRUGAL?

July 20, 2015

I rarely spend money without first planning for it. Having been on such a tight budget for so long means that I usually have to pry my wallet open. I don’t go shopping unless I need something in particular, and I hate when unexpected expenses pop up.

Even grocery shopping entails about 30 minutes of clipping coupons and writing a list of items by department. Saving $20 at the grocery store could be the difference between being able to pay the utility bill on time or facing over-draft charges. Every purchase for our home is usually calculated, literally and figuratively, into our finances, because we don’t have much wiggle room in our budget for error.

A bunch of home-bodies

What this boils down to is that, as a family, we aren’t very spontaneous. Both because of our tight budget and my husband’s erratic work schedule, we don’t just pick up and travel on a whim. We’re very much home-bodies who would rather rent a red-box movie than go to the theater. Most of our day off activities are free or really inexpensive and planned in advance. Now that I have kids, I have a tendency to equate spontaneity with wasted money and poor financial choices.

Ditching the deliberate and dull 

As newlyweds we did a fair bit of spontaneous travel and made impulsive purchases. While not always the most responsible, spontaneous use of our money was fun. Spontaneity keeps life interesting and fresh. Being willing to jump up at a moment’s notice and take off helps rub the sheen back into a dull life. Until last night, we hadn’t done anything spontaneous in a painfully long time.

Last night we had finished the post-dinner routine, and the kids were watching a cartoon. Since I had a free minute, and inspired by an article by Carrie of Careful Cents to create a productive work space, I got on Craigslist to see if I could find an inexpensive desk or entry table that I could buy to use as my own work space. We have a desk in our office, but my husband’s desktop computer takes up the whole surface, and it’s in the den where the kids tend to spend quite a bit of their time. I have a hard time getting work done in that room while the kids are awake.

After only about 10 minutes of different search terms, I found a beautiful, solid wood desk, with the exact dimensions I needed, listed for only $25. At 7:30 last night I called the sellers to see if the desk was still available. It was, but they were selling it out of Richmond, and they were moving so they needed it gone immediately. She sent me the address, and I told her that we would be there by 9:30.

Spontaneous frugality

So, instead of quiet, lazy bedtime routine, we quickly got our kids in their jammies, brushed their teeth, and piled everyone in the van for a three hour round trip to Richmond and back. Since it was his bedtime anyway, our son fell asleep before we even reached the highway. Our daughter chatted our ears off from the back seat the whole way to Richmond. Getting in the car that late, with no prior notice, was like a shot of adrenaline for her. She was so excited to watch the sunset come down over the trees and watch the deer grazing the edge of the tree line. We danced to music, talked, and enjoyed this spontaneous adventure as a family.

Our daughter fell asleep after we had gotten the desk, so my husband and I had a solid hour and a half ride home uninterrupted by kids, phones, computers, or the television. For $25 for the desk and $20 in gas, round-trip, I have a beautiful, solid wood desk and a fun memory of that time we allowed ourselves to be spontaneous again.

My new work space

Being spontaneous can save you money 

Sometimes you can still be frugal while also being a bit spontaneous. Not only did life unexpectedly give me the opportunity to save some money, but going for a late night trip to pick up a desk off of Craigslist was like a breath of fresh air for the whole family. The experience put a pep in my step, I don’t have quite as bad of a case of the “Mondays” today, and I have a beautiful desk to organize as my own work space.

Do you ever allow yourself to break away from routine? Do you think that you can be both frugal and spontaneous?

Budget, Family Finances

NOT PRIMED FOR PRIME DAY DEALS

July 15, 2015

Any other year, I would have been enthusiastically clicking the refresh button to get in on the new deals offered every ten minutes by Amazon Prime Day. I have always loved Black Friday shopping, and I can’t resist a good deal on quality items. We are on such a tight budget right now, I really can’t justify the expense of any “deals” no matter how much money I would be saving.

Especially since we pledged as a family to get rid of half of our stuff by the end of the year, it would be a bit ridiculous to spend money on items just because they’re on sale. I might consider looking at the deals if there was something that we actually needed right now.  As it is, I would just be tempted to spend money we don’t really have on items we don’t really need. 

When preparing for big deal days, I ask three questions before participating

Have I been waiting for an item to go on sale?

Especially for days like today and other big events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I will have been planning well in advance for a very particular item. We bought our dishwasher on Black Friday one year and saved ourselves about $200 dollars. If there is something we need, we will have a game plan for pouncing as soon as it goes on sale. 

How good is the deal?  

If we truly need an item, we will keep watch over the prices as they fluctuate throughout the year. By knowing the different price mark-ups, we know if we are actually getting a good deal. We can tell if the item we want had a 25% markup a month prior to the deal day. Instead just so that they can claim it’s now 75% off, when really we would only save 50%. 

Have I been saving for that particular item? 

If it’s something we need, then chances are we will have had some money put away to put towards it once it goes on sale. There isn’t anything that we have money set aside for right now. Since we haven’t been saving for a particular item, we don’t have the money readily available for any of the big deals today on Prime day. 

We don’t need any more clutter 

Some of the products might be nice to indulge in, but anything we could afford today would just be more of what we’re trying to get rid of: clutter. Not only are we trying our hardest to thin out our closets, empty our basement, and get ready for a yard sale, but we have some big expenses coming up that we really need to set our money aside for instead. Maybe next year I will be able to get excited for something I truly need and want to go on sale. Until then, I am going to keep focusing on saving money and getting rid of my clutter. 

Are you participating in Prime Day? Have you been waiting for any big ticket items to go on sale?