Tag Archive budget

ByCurtis Watts

Let the Roaring 2020s Begin

First some great news: because of your support in reading and sharing this blog, it has been able to earn quite a lot of income and give away over $300,000 so far.

The latest $100k of that happens at the end of this article. Please check it out if you want to feel good, learn more, and even join me in helping out the world a bit.

As I type this, there are only a few days left in the 2010s, and holy shit what a decade it has been.

Ten years ago, a 35 year old MMM and the former Mrs. MM were four years into retirement, but not feeling very retired yet. We stumbled out of 2009 with a precious but very high strung three-year-old, a house building business that was way more stressful than it should have been, and a much more rudimentary set of life skills. It was a time of great promise, but a lot of this promise was yet to be claimed.

Ten years later, despite the fact that I have one less marriage, one less surviving parent, and ten years less remaining youth, I am in an even better place in life right now, and would never want to trade places with the 2009 version of me. And on that measure alone, I can tell it has been a successful decade.

This is a great sign and it bodes well for early retirees everywhere. Compared to the start of the decade, I am healthier and stronger physically, wealthier financially, and (hopefully) at least a bit wiser emotionally. I’ve been through so much, learned so much in so many new interesting fields, and packed so much living into these 3653 days. A big part of that just flowed from the act of retiring from my career in 2005, which freed me up to do so many other things, including starting this blog.

It has not always been easy, in fact the hard times of this decade have been some of the hardest of my life. But by coming through it all I have learned that super difficult experiences only serve to enrich your life even more, by widening your range of feelings and allowing you to savor the normal moments and the great ones even more.

Ten Years of Learning in Three Points

I think the real meaning of “Wisdom” is just “I’ve seen a lot of shit go down in my lifetime and over time you start to notice everything just boils down to a few principles.

The books all say it, and the wise older people in real life all say it too. And for me, it’s probably the following few things that stand out the most:

1) This Too Shall Pass: nothing is as big a deal as you think it is at the time. Angry or sad emotions from life traumas will fade remarkably quickly, but so will the positive surprises from one-time life upgrades through the sometimes-bummer magic of Hedonic Adaptation. What’s left is just you – no matter where you go, there you are.

2) But You Are Really Just a Bundle of Habits: most of your day (and therefore your life) is comprised of repeating the same set of behaviors over and over. The way you get up, the things you focus your mind on. Your job. The way you interact with other people. The way you eat and exercise. Unless you give all of this a lot of mindful attention and work to tweak it, it stays the same, which means your life barely changes, which means your level of happiness barely changes.

3) Change Your Habits, Change your Life: Because of all this, the easiest and best way to have a happier and more satisfying life is to figure out what ingredients go into a good day, and start adding those things while subtracting the things that create bad days. For me (and quite possibly you, whether you realize it or not), the good things include positive social interactions, helping people, outdoor physical activity, creative expression and problem solving, and just good old-fashioned hard work. The bad things mostly revolve around stress due to over-scheduling one’s life, emotional negativity and interpersonal conflict – all things I am especially sensitive to.

So while I can’t control everything, I have found that the more I work to design those happiness creators into my life and step away from things that consistently cause bad days, the happier and richer life can become.

Speaking of Richer:

I recently read two very different books, which still ended up pointing me in the same direction:

This Could Be Our Future, by former Kickstarter cofounder and CEO Yancey Strickler, is a concise manifesto that makes a great case for running our lives, businesses, and even giant corporations, according to a much more generous and person-centric set of rules.

Instead of the narrow minded perspective of “Profit Maximization” that drives so many of the world’s shittier companies and gives capitalism a bad reputation, he points out that even small changes in the attitude of company (and world) leaders, can lead to huge changes in the way our economy runs.

The end result is more total wealth and happier lives for all of us – like Mustachianism itself, it really is a win/win proposition rather than any form of compromise or tradeoff. In fact, Strickler specifically mentions you and me in this book, using the FIRE movement as an example of a group of people who have adopted different values in order to lead better lives.

Die with Zero*, by former hedge fund manager and thrill seeking poker champion Bill Perkins sounds like a completely different book on the surface: Perkins’ point is that many people work too long and defer too much gratification for far too long in their lives.

Instead, he encourages you to map out your life decade by decade and make sure that you maximize your experiences in each stage, while you are still young enough to enjoy each phase. For example, do your time in the skate park and the black diamond ski slopes in your 20s and 30s, rather than saving every dollar in the hopes that you can do more snowboarding after you retire in your 60s.

Obviously, as Mr. Money Mustache I disagree on a few of the finer points: Life is not an experiences contest, you can get just as much joy from simpler local experiences as from exotic ones in foreign lands, and spending more money on yourself does not create more happiness, so if you die with millions in the bank you have not necessarily left anything on the table. But it does take skill to put these truths into practice, and for an untrained consumer with no imagination, buying experiences can still be an upgrade over sitting at home watching TV.

However, he does make one great point: one thing you can spend money on is helping other people – whether they are your own children, family, friends, or people with much more serious needs like famine and preventable disease.

And if you are going to give away this money, it’s better to do it now, while you are alive, rather than just leaving it behind in your estate, when your beneficiaries may be too old to benefit from your gift anyway.

So with this in mind, I made a point of making another round of donations to effective causes this year – a further $100,000 which was made possible by some unexpected successes with this blog this year, combined with finding that my own lifestyle continues to cost less than $20k to sustain, even in “luxury bachelor” mode.

And here’s where it all went!

$80,000 to GiveWell, who will automatically deliver it to their top recommended charities. This is always my top donation, because it is the most serious and research-backed choice. This means you are very likely doing the most good with each dollar, if your goal is the wellbeing of fellow human beings. GiveWell does constant research on effective charities and keeps an updated list on their results – which makes it a great shortcut for me. Further info in my The Life You Can Save post.

Strategic Note: I made this donation from my Betterment account where I keep a pretty big portion of my investments. This is because of tax advantages which multiply my giving/saving power – details here at Betterment and in my own article about the first time I used this trick.

$5000 to the Choose FI Foundation – this was an unexpected donation for me, based on my respect for the major work the ChooseFI gang are doing with their blog and podcast and meetups, and their hard-charging ally Edmund Tee who I met on a recent trip. They are creating a curriculum and teaching kids and young adults how to manage their money with valuable but free courses.

$2000 to the True Potential Scholarship Fund, set up by my inspiring and badass Omaha lawyer friend Ross Pesek. Ross first inspired me years ago by going through law school using an extremely frugal combination of community and state colleges, then rising to the top of the pack and starting his own firm anyway. Then he immediately turned around and started using some of the profits to help often-exploited immigrant workers in his own community with both legal needs and education.

$1000 to plant one thousand trees, via the #teamtrees effort via the National Arbor Day Foundation. I credit some prominent YouTubers and Elon Musk for promoting this effort – so far it has resulted in over 20 million trees being funded, which is a lot (roughly equal to creating a dense forest as big as New York City)

$5000 to Bicycle Colorado – a force for change (and sometimes leading the entire United States) in encouraging Colorado leaders and lawmakers to shift our spending and our laws just slightly away from “all cars all the time” and towards the vastly more effective direction of accommodating bikes and feet as transportation options. Partly because of their work, I have seen incredible changes in Denver, which is rapidly becoming a bike utopia. Boulder is not far behind, and while Longmont is still partially stuck in the 1980s as we widen car roads and build even more empty parking lots, these changes slowly trickle down from leaders to followers, so I want to fund the leaders.

$5000 (tripled to $15,000 due to a matching program that runs until Dec. 31) to Planned Parenthood. Although US-centric, this is an incredibly useful medical resource for our people in the greatest need. Due to emotional manipulation by politicians who use religion as a wedge to divide public opinion, this general healthcare organization is under constant attack because they also support women’s reproductive rights. But if you have a loved one or family member who has ever been helped during a difficult time by Planned Parenthood, you know exactly why they are such an incredible force for good – affecting millions of lives for the better.

And finally, just for reasons of personal and local appreciation, $1000 to the orchestra program of little MM’s public middle school. I have been amazed at the transformation in my own son and the hundreds of other kids who have benefited from this program. They operate a world-class program on a shoestring (violin-string?) budget which they try to boost by painstakingly fundraising with poinsettia plants and chocolate bars. So I could see that even a little boost like this could make a difference. (He plays the upright bass.)

You could definitely argue that there are places that need money more than a successful school in a wealthy and peaceful area like Colorado, and I would agree with you. Because of this, I always encourage people not to do the bulk of their giving to local organizations. Sure, it may feel more gratifying and you may see the results personally, but you can make a much bigger difference by sending your dollars to where they are needed the most. So as a compromise, I try to split things up and send the lion’s share of my donations to GiveWell where they will make the biggest difference, and do a few smaller local things here as a reward mostly for myself.

So those are the donations that are complete – $99,000 of my own cash plus an additional $10,000 in matching funds for Planned Parenthood. But because environment and energy are such big things to me, I wanted to do one more fun thing:

$5000 to build or expand a local solar farm.

This one is more of an investment than a donation, but it still does a lot of good. Because if you recall, last year I built a solar array for the MMM Headquarters coworking space, which has been pumping out free energy ever since. My initial setup only cost me $3800 and it has already delivered about $1000 in free energy, more than the total amount used to run the HQ and charge a bunch of electric cars on the side.

So, I plan to invest another $5000, to expand the array at HQ if possible, or to build a similar one on the roof of my own house, possibly with the help of Tesla Energy, which is surprisingly one of the most cost-effective ways to get solar panels installed these days. These will generate decades of clean energy, displacing fossil fuels in my local area while paying me dividends the whole time, which I can reinvest into even more philanthropy in the future.

What a great way to begin the decade. Let’s get on it!

* Die With Zero is not yet released, but I read a pre-release copy that his publisher sent me. The real book comes out on May 5th

** Also, if you find the scientific pursuit of helping the world as fascinating as I do, you should definitely watch the new Bill Gates documentary called Inside Bill’s Brain, which is available on Netflix.

Source: mrmoneymustache.com

ByCurtis Watts

Why Would A Person Choose To Live A Frugal Life?

For some reason, there is a myth out there that living a frugal life means you are living a boring life. Some even believe that if you are frugal then you are a bad parent, a bad person, and a bad friend.

If you don’t believe that, I recommend you read the comments on the next frugal living-related article on a major website such as Forbes, YahooFinance, or something similar. One thing that will be in common with most of the comments is the negativeness from many of the commenters.

I’ve even overheard conversations myself where people think I’m missing out on life because they assume that all frugal people just sit at home all day and do nothing with their lives.

That is FAR from the truth. I know many who are taking part in frugal living and I think they are some of the best 🙂

Sadly, many aren’t interested in frugal living because they believe the myth above.

There are many reasons to live a frugal life, though. Continue reading below to see the reasons for why many choose to take part in frugal living.

 

1. You want to be comfortable in your financial situation.

Seeking financial freedom is something that many are aiming for by living frugally. Being frugal may give you a better chance at reaching this since you are most likely honest with yourself about how much money you earn, how much you spend, and how much you need in order to survive.

Knowing that you are in control of your financial situation is a great benefit of living a frugal life!

Not being comfortable may even lead to debt, which I discuss in the next reason…

 

2. You want to avoid debt.

No one actually wants debt, right? By choosing to live the frugal life, you may be able to avoid debt much more than the average person.

By avoiding debt, you will have less stress due to the fact that you won’t be worried about the next bill you have to pay and the amount of interest that is building up.

You will also be more likely to retire earlier, buy the things that you actually do want to buy, and more.

Related article: How To Live On One Income

 

3. You want a simpler life.

Bigger isn’t always better. More isn’t always better either.

By living a frugal life, you are most likely making do with what you have, buying and using quality items that will last, and so on.

By having less stuff and less clutter in your life, you will live a more simple life that you can truly enjoy. Material items do not always equal happiness. Sometimes they just add stress, debt, and more. Think about it – the more stuff you have, the more likely that something will break, something will get lost or tossed to the side, and so on.

 

4. You know that you can still have fun while being frugal.

Anyone who thinks you can’t have fun while being frugal is crazy. You don’t need to spend a ton of money or be rich in order to enjoy life.

Yes, you can still go on vacations, buy your dream home, have a family, spend time with friends and family, and more. Being frugal doesn’t mean that you are giving up fun things in life.

Side note: I recommend looking into Digit if you want to trick yourself into saving more money. Digit is a FREE service that looks at your spending and transfers money to a savings account for you. Digit makes everything easy so that you can start saving money with very little effort. Read Digit Review – A New Way To Save Money.

 

5. You want to appreciate everything and anything around you.

When we were spending more due to lifestyle inflation, we realized we weren’t really appreciating the things we were spending our money on.

We were buying things, not enjoying them, and just being a little lazy because we weren’t in the right mindset. I didn’t like feeling this way because I felt wasteful and even guilty of the way I was behaving.

Life is great and you don’t need to be rich in order to enjoy it. By living a frugal life, you are more likely to appreciate what you have.

Would you rather enjoy each meal you eat, each item you buy, and more? Life is a great thing and appreciating the little things can be a great feeling.

Are you interested in frugal living? Why or why not? Why do you believe some are so negative about frugality?

 

The post Why Would A Person Choose To Live A Frugal Life? appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

ByCurtis Watts

4 Inexpensive East Coast Destinations to Travel to With Your Family

It’s amazing how things change when you have kids. Before kids, weekend getaways and trips were fairly easy. When we needed to take a break, I remember we could look at the calendar and twenty minutes later, have a few dates to run by work for time off.  Even the destinations would already be top of mind and after looking for deals on travel sites and asking around, we’d settle with whatever had the best price. Pretty easy.

Fast forward a few years and now we’re parents of an eight-year-old and a four-year-old.  

Those first few years with our little ones were honestly rough. We’re trying to coordinate between two jobs and one school schedule. It was tough finding the perfect time to take a week or so off. Once we had our dates, we’d then have to make sure that we could find a deal. Thankfully, we’ve gotten a little bit wiser. We found our footing and came up with our little system for timing our vacations and snagging some good savings. We’ve also found some spots that allow us to unwind without breaking the budget.  

Affordable Family Vacations to Take This Fall 

While school is back in season, that doesn’t mean you have to write off the rest of the year.  You still have time to take one last getaway to recharge your battery, have some fun, and connect as a family.  

To make things easy for you, I want to share a few of our favorite spots that both we and the kids enjoyed. The cherry on top? They’re also affordable spots!  

Daytona Beach, Florida 

If you’re looking to escape and have some beach time, then Florida is the way to go. However, staying in Orlando is not on the list if you’re looking for a chance to relax and actually save money. Instead, soak up some beach time before the weather gets too cold and hang out for a bit in Daytona Beach.  

When we did our trip last October in Florida, it couldn’t have been more perfect. The weather was still warm, the large crowds of tourists were gone (along with the overpriced hotels), and there were plenty of things to do around.  

Racing fans can enjoy the Daytona International Speedway or if you’re in the mood for stars, you can head over to MOA’s planetarium.  And if your kids really want to visit the Magic Kingdom or Universal Studios, you can make it a more affordable day trip rather than blow your budget by spending your whole time there.  We once went to Universal right after Thanksgiving and were able to skip waiting in line because it was so quiet.  

Charleston, South Carolina 

We took trips to Charleston for the last few Decembers and I have to say, we’ve enjoyed every one. While the temperatures have cooled down a bit, making beach time minimal, we still managed to be out and about. Throw on a jacket, wear your fall layers, and you’re all set to hit the town and enjoy some history and food.  

You have to visit The Tavern at Rainbow Row. Besides being the oldest liquor store in the country, the vibe there is incredible. It’s small, but the selection is wide. Want to have an incredible lunch that’s still cheap? Try out The Blind Tiger. The truffle duck, bourbon bread pudding, buffalo cheese curds are delicious.  

Asheville, North Carolina 

One of our favorite low-key trips we’ve taken was a camping adventure with some friends just outside of Asheville. Being able to see the mountains shift into autumn colors was incredible. If you’re a photographer or love being outdoors, you have to take a trip here. It’s so peaceful and the views are amazing. For the parents, Asheville is the hot spot for fantastic food and a wide array of awesome breweries.   

After spending your days enjoying the parks and maybe getting some tubing in, treat yourself and the kids to Double D’s Coffee and Dessert. It’s a cool double-decker bus in the city that’s also nearby Wicked Weed brewery.  

Tuxedo, New York 

If you absolutely love New York City but also relish some peace and relaxation that a more rural spot gives, then you should check out some of the small towns upstate.   

I may be a little biased since I lived here for a few years, but fall is pretty much the best time to visit. You can truly have the best of both worlds with renting a spot in a town just outside the city.  The Metro-North Railroad means you can take a train to New York City, allowing you to enjoy a scenic ride and skip put on the nightmare of driving in Manhattan.  

Have your day trips to shop, visit the museums, and explore some of the best restaurants. You can then head back to your affordable getaway spot and enjoy some of the local events including celebrating autumn with exquisite apple cider.  

Saving Up for Family Trips 

While you hunt for the deals, you can start now saving up for your trip. You can create a vacation fund as separate savings to keep you motivated.  

Using a tool like Mint makes it easy to track your progress and help you find ways to trim your budget a smidge so you have more money for fun during your trip. Knowing our money leaks allowed us to try some fun monthly challenges to sock away an extra couple hundred dollars.  Keep your vacations debt-free also means there’s less stress as you don’t have to worry about a bill afterward. Double win in my book!  

If you’re looking for tips, please check out my post on how to shift gears and become a savvy saver.  It’s much easier than you think and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish in one month.  

Your Take on Family Getaways 

Wherever you go, I hope you have a wonderful time together. Now that you know my favorites, I’d love to hear about your spots.  What have been some of your best vacations together?  

 

 

 

The post 4 Inexpensive East Coast Destinations to Travel to With Your Family appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

ByCurtis Watts

Home Ownership vs Renting As A Minimalist Lifestyle Decision

When it comes to buying a home or renting, there are many things to consider. While there are tons of resources on the financial implications of both options, I’d like to share my thoughts on buying versus renting from an intentional living and minimalist perspective. The decision to buy or rent is just as much a lifestyle decision as it is a financial one. Ultimately, if the decision to buy is made, a home affordability calculator is a great resource to get started.

Longevity and Flexibility

It’s important to consider how long you’re planning to be in a certain area and how much location flexibility you need when you’re making the decision to buy or rent. When renting, the leases are typically 12 months or less and there may be options to work out a more flexible move-out date with the landlord or management company. If you end up needing to move to a different area, you have more flexibility to do so.

It becomes a lot more complicated if you need to move away from a home you own. You’ll likely need to sell the house or rent it out—options that require more time and resources than if you were renting an apartment. With the amount of investment and time that a house requires, it’s probably best to stay in a location for at least a few years if you’re going to buy.

Personal Values

Think about how you want to spend your time. Similarly, it’s also important to consider how much responsibility you’re willing to take on. During the time I lived in an apartment, I barely changed a light bulb. There were no repairs, no additional investment and no worries.

For the past five years I’ve owned a home, it’s a whole different experience. I spend time cleaning the gutters, mowing the lawn, buying and fixing appliances and other maintenance activities that you never have to think about when you’re renting.   Regular or unexpected repairs can quickly add up to large sums when you own a home. Part of the benefit of renting is that you don’t have to deal with or budget for anything like that.

Customization

Another thing to think about is how much customization and control you’d like to have. A home you own can be customized to your exact liking, a rental on the other hand has more limitations. From painting the wall a different color to making bigger changes to your living space, you’ll have greater control if it’s your home. With a rental, any customizations would need to be approved by the owner.

Amenities

Amenities are another lifestyle consideration when it comes to buying or renting.

Most likely, an apartment will have more amenities than a typical home, such as a workout room, pool, large party room or even a concierge service. Of course, you may have the option of building or adding similar amenities to a home you buy, but it can be pricey and impractical investment. If you want a pool without the cost and maintenance that owning one would require, then renting an apartment with a community pool is the way to go.

From my perspective, whether you buy or rent has a significant impact on your lifestyle, particularly over the long-term. Thinking about what’s important to you and how you want to spend your time will help you determine what best fits your desired lifestyle.

The post Home Ownership vs Renting As A Minimalist Lifestyle Decision appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

ByCurtis Watts

5 Ways to Look for a New Job

This post can be found en Español here.

The current coronavirus pandemic has caused a large upheaval across many different areas. In addition to the changes COVID-19 has made in the areas of health and safety (masks, social distancing and quarantines), it has also caused major changes to the economy across all walks to life. The United States has experienced record levels of unemployment, and even many of those who are still employed have experienced disruptions to their unemployment. 

If you are recently unemployed or are looking for new work due to changes in your work situation (being furloughed, having hours reduced or changes in the type or location of your work), there are several different ways that you can look for a new job. In this article, we’ll look through some of the best ways to look for a new job.

Networking with friends, family and former colleagues

There’s a reason the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is so popular – it’s quite true. As it has in most industries, the Internet has disrupted the way that recruiters and HR departments source their open job positions. Since most job applications are available at no cost and with the click of a button, the volume of resumes received for each open position is staggering. You truly have to make sure that your resume stands out.

One way to do this is to have a referral from a friend, family member or former colleague. Talk to your circle of influence and see what jobs are available where they work. A referral from someone who already works where you’re looking to hire on is a great first step. In many cases, a referral from an existing employee can help to short-circuit the HR department and get you directly in front of the hiring manager.

Make sure that your Linkedin profile is up-to-date

Going along with the power of networking and referrals is making sure that your Linkedin profile is accurate and current. Linkedin can be more useful in certain professions and in certain areas, so you’ll have to take a look to see how it might work for you. Generally, you’ll find more people and companies active on Linkedin in more white-collar trades. 

Linkedin also has a setting where you can state that you are actively looking for jobs. That setting will bring your Linkedin profile to the attention of recruiters who are looking to hire in your industry. This can be both positive and negative. Most recruiters also cast a wide net, so you may find it to be distracting having to answer calls and emails from recruiters who are hiring for jobs that may be not quite what you’re looking for.

Don’t forget about a solid resume

A traditional (paper) resume is less important than it was 10-20 years ago but still is useful to keep current. Depending on where you’re looking and in what industry, you might find a resume more or less important. The big reason resumes are not nearly as important anymore is that most job applications online are done electronically. So you may fill out an online form rather than uploading a Word document or PDF. Even if you do upload your resume online, it’s likely that it is getting parsed and converted into a different format, so all the time you spent carefully formatting your resume doesn’t tend to matter.

Another great resume tip is to make sure and target your resume and cover letter to the individual company and position you’re applying for. Each job is different, and showing that you took the time to emphasize skills and experience that was directly solicited in the job posting will only help.

Scour the big job boards

All of the traditional job “boards” have also moved online, with big job sites like Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder and Linkedin posting millions of jobs per month. With so many jobs posted, it can be challenging to wade through all of them and find ones that make sense for what you’re looking for. Some good advice is to make sure to narrow down your search as much as possible. 

You may be tempted to cast a wide net in the hopes of finding something, but unless you have a ton of time, you may find it more beneficial to focus more narrowly. Most job sites will also let you set up ongoing searches that will immediately alert you if a new job is posted that matches your criteria.

Explore the gig economy

Depending on your household’s financial situation, you may also be looking to pick up some extra income while you’re looking for a new job. Joining the gig economy may make sense as a short-term option while you’re looking for a more stable job. Companies like Uber, Lyft, Doordash or Instacart are generally always hiring people to work through their platforms and offer flexibility that could make it an easier fit on your schedule. 

Most of these companies also offer signup bonuses from $200-$500 to incentivize new people to join with them. Taking advantage of these gigs might be a good way to stabilize your budget while looking for that perfect job.

What to do if they say no

Even in high-demand professions, you’re likely to encounter a pretty significant level of rejection. If you’re not getting rejected a lot, you’re probably not applying to enough places! Unfortunately, many companies or HR departments do not typically let you know if you are rejected. If you don’t get the job, one strategy can be to ask when would a good time to follow up. Their answer to the question can help give you an idea for possible next steps with that company. 

Again, this is where the power of having a friend or former colleague on the inside – most HR departments are historically tight-lipped because they’re afraid of getting sued. But if you have a connection on the inside, you may be able to get more and better information to help guide your path going forward.

The post 5 Ways to Look for a New Job appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

ByCurtis Watts

Cheap Ways to Keep Kids Entertained During Holiday Break

Cheap Ways to Keep Kids Entertained During Holiday Break is a post originally published on: Everything Finance – Everything Finance – Its all about Money!

During the winter, it can be difficult to keep our kids entertained. Depending upon where you live, it can be really hard to entice them to stay outside for any length of time. And during the holiday break, it seems to be even worse because they don’t have school work to keep them distracted. So, we have found some cheap ways to keep kids entertained during the holiday break and the winter. Some of these ideas won’t cost you a penny, while others may cost a tiny bit of money if you don’t already have items to work with.

Volcano Fun!

If you ever went to a school science fair, I am sure you have seen a homemade volcano at least once in your life. While there are plenty of different ways to make a volcano, there is one that I ran across on accident that I prefer.

One of my favorite ways to keep my drains clear is with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. The two of them create a chemical reaction that burns away all of the gunk that may be stopping up your drains. And when my kids were younger, they loved to watch me do it because it created a really cool effect.

Which gave me the idea to start using just those two ingredients (and sometimes food coloring when I want to get really crazy) to create homemade volcanoes for them. If you have some playdoh lying around, then that and a plate will do the trick for a volcano vessel.

Just have your kids create a volcano out of the playdoh on the plate, or even on an old piece of wood from the yard. Put a couple of spoonfuls of baking soda into the volcano. Add food coloring for effect, if desired. Then take the volcano outside and add baking soda until you start to see a reaction.

We have done this with snow also, and it was pretty cool to watch the eruption change the shape and color of the snow volcano. However you choose to create the volcano, the kids will love it and it shouldn’t cost you anything to create.

Lego Contest

If you are anything like us, then you probably have some Legos lying around somewhere. In fact, we have two huge bins of them, so there is no shortage of Leg’s around here. During the holidays, one of our favorite things to do with the surplus of Legos is to create a Lego contest.

If you have a ton of them, then the contest can get fairly creative and elaborate. And, depending upon the ages of your children, the contest will vary also. However, some of our favorite Lego contests have been:

  • Best Lego house
  • Most elaborate Lego swimming pool
  • Most creative Lego car
  • Craziest Lego family
  • Biggest Lego city
  • Best Lego luxury boat

These are just a few ideas to get you started, so get creative and have fun!

Treasure Hunt

Having a treasure hunt is always a crowd pleaser and is sure to keep kids entertained. Creating a treasure hunt is similar to the Lego contest, in that it can easily be varied based on the ages of your kids and the environment. If it is too cold outside, then you can keep the treasure hunt inside.

I like to create our treasure hunts so that they are both inside and outside, so the kids can get some fresh air. The easiest way to do this is to create a simple map and create clues to where you have hidden the treasure. The treasure can be anything, really. Hiding candy for pretend gold doubloons are always a favorite of our kids. But, you could also hide a deck of cards, a pair of warm fuzzy socks, or a small set of Legos.

I like to try and find things that we have lying around that the kids have forgotten about to hide as treasure. Sometimes I’ll throw a lollipop or piece of candy in the treasure also, for added excitement.

The treasure can be hidden in an old bag or something more elaborate like a plastic pirate treasure chest with a lock. If you use something like this, then they will have to find the key along the way before they get to the treasure. This is a ton of fun!

Make Your Own Games

Making your own games can also be a lot of fun. Especially if you put the kids in charge of making them. We happen to have a couple of artists in our house who love creating and drawing, so this is a great plan for them.

Just give them some blank paper, scissors, and crayons, markers or colored pencils to get started. Then have them create their own Snakes and Ladders, Candy Land or Pin the Tail on the Donkey game. And it doesn’t even have to be a donkey, but any animal they’d like to pin the tail on.

Let them get creative and really work hard to create their own versions of the games. Once they are done, then comes the real fun for everyone. Making and playing these homemade games can keep kids entertained for hours. Which I am a huge fan of!

Obstacle Course

And last, but definitely not least, creating an obstacle course is always a ton of fun. We like to use things such as:

  • Old boards
  • Chairs
  • Buckets
  • Planters
  • Hammock
  • Garden hose
  • Plastic bins
  • Rakes
  • Shovels

Creating an obstacle course is something that we usually prefer to create outside, just so there’s less chance of slamming into walls or furniture. But, it could be created indoors also, if the weather outside simply won’t comply.

Have your kids work on finding the raw materials around the house or yard to create the obstacle course with. Then have them create the obstacle course, which needs to be realistically doable. Then, you can time each kid running the obstacle course to see who the winner is.

After the course has been run a few times, then have the kids rearrange to create a completely different course. This is an activity that can not only keep them busy for hours but help burn out some energy and get them some fresh air. Bonus!


These are some fantastic, cheap ways to keep kids entertained!
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Keep Kids Entertained Summary

When it comes to the holidays and too much free time, there are many ways to keep kids entertained. And they don’t have to cost you very much if any, money. Use what you have at your disposal first, so you don’t have to buy anything extra. So, creating a volcano or an obstacle course might be great first choices. After you’ve tried those, I would suggest having your kids make their own games and a Lego contest, followed up by a massive treasure hunt. No matter which options you choose, your kids are sure to be entertained, which makes everyone’s life much easier.

What ideas do you have to help keep kids entertained during the holidays this year?

Cheap Ways to Keep Kids Entertained During Holiday Break is a post originally published on: Everything Finance – Everything Finance – Its all about Money!

Source: everythingfinanceblog.com

ByCurtis Watts

Seven things college freshmen don’t need — and ten they do

This article originally appeared on NerdWalletThose ubiquitous checklists of “dorm room essentials” for college freshmen are filled with items that will be ditched by the end of first semester.

Some parents “go to the store and grab a list like they did when their kids were in elementary and high school and just go straight down the list,” says Lisa Heffernan, mother of three sons and a college-shopping veteran. Or they buy things they only wish their students will use (looking at you, cleaning products).

You can safely skip about 70% of things on those lists, estimates Asha Dornfest, the author of Parent Hacks and mother of a rising college sophomore who’s home for the summer.

What Not to Buy or Bring

Freshmen really need just two things, says Heffernan, co-founder of the blog Grown and Flown: a good mattress topper and a laptop.

Here are seven items you can skip:

  • Printer. Don’t waste desk space or, worse, store it under the bed; printers are plentiful on campus.
  • TV. Students may watch on laptops or on TVs in common areas or in someone else’s room. Bonus: Your teen gets out and meets others.
  • Speakers. Small spaces don’t require powerful speakers; earphones may be a good idea and respectful of roommates.
  • Car. Some colleges bar freshmen from having cars on campus or limit their parking. You also may save on insurance by keeping the car at home.
  • Luggage. If you bring it, you must store it. Heffernan suggests collapsible blue Ikea storage bags with zippers.
  • Toiletries to last until May. Bulk buying may save money, but you need storage space.
  • Duplicates of anything provided by the college, such as a lamp, wastebasket, desk chair or dresser.

Items left behind when students pack for the summer are telling. Luke Jones, director of housing and residence life at Boise State University, sees unopened food — a lot of ramen and candy — and stuffed animals and mirrors.

Jones says many students regret bringing high school T-shirts and memorabilia and some of their clothes (dorm closets typically are tiny).

What Can You Buy, Then?

Before you shop, find out what the college forbids (candles, space heaters, electric blankets and halogen lights are common). Have your student check with assigned roommates about appliances (who’s bringing a fridge or microwave?) and color scheme if they want to set one. Know the dimensions of the room and the size of the bed. And most of all, know your budget. Not everything has to be brand new.

Ten things — besides the all-important mattress topper and laptop — that many students consider dorm room essentials include:

  • One or two fitted sheets in the correct bed size, plus pillowcases. Heffernan says most students don’t use top sheets.
  • Comforter or duvet with washable cover.
  • Towels in a distinctive pattern or light enough for labeling with laundry marker, plus shower sandals.
  • Power cord with surge protector and USB ports.
  • Basic first aid kit.
  • Easy-to-use storage. If it’s a lot of work to get something out, your student won’t, Heffernan says.
  • Cleaning wipes. Students might not touch products that require multiple steps, but they might use wipes, according to Heffernan.
  • Reading pillow with back support for studying in bed.
  • Area rug. Floors are often hard and cold.
  • Comfort items. Dornfest says it could be a blanket or a picture of the dog — something from home that will make the space a bit more personal.

Afraid you’ll forget something important? You might, Heffernan says. But chances are, you or your student can order it online and get it delivered. Consider doing this with some items simply to avoid the hassle of bringing them yourself, and remember that “dorm necessities” often go on sale once school starts.

Do a Reality Check

If you or your student still want to replicate the rooms you’ve seen on Instagram and Pinterest, think about how the room will actually be used.

Once your son or daughter moves in, the room will never look like that again. Opt for sturdy items and be realistic. Will throw pillows make the place look more homey and inviting, or will they be tossed on the floor until parents’ weekend?

Dornfest, a co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, offers a compelling reason not to make things too comfortable. “A freshman needs to be encouraged to get out of the dorm room,” she says. “Anything that pulls you into campus life can be good.”

She’s not advocating a monk-like environment, but rather one that encourages breaking out of routines. College should be a time to try new things and meet people from different backgrounds. Dornfest advises making the bed as comfortable as possible and keeping a few reminders of home. The ideal dorm room is more launch pad than cocoon.

More from Nerdwallet

  • Budgeting for College Students
  • How to Build Credit at 18
  • How to Choose a Student Credit Card

The article 7 Things College Freshmen Don’t Need — and 10 They Do originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Source: getrichslowly.org

ByCurtis Watts

Life Insurance Myths Debunked

Misconceptions and misunderstandings have perpetuated a number of life insurance myths over the years and prevented consumers from getting the cover they need. They see life insurance as something that it’s not, believing it to be out of their reach because of their lifestyle and their budget, or believing that it’s something it’s not.

If you have dependents, want them to live comfortably, and don’t have assets or funds to give them, you need life insurance coverage. And if you have been avoiding life insurance because of something you’ve been told or something you believe, it’s time to dispel those beliefs and get to the truth of the matter.

Myth 1: Life Insurance Premiums are Expensive

One of the most common myths concerning life insurance products is that they are too expensive. It only makes sense, to the uninitiated at least. After all, if they’re promising a death benefit of $200,000 over a twenty-year period, it stands to reason that they would seek to claim at least 25% of that balance to guarantee a profit.

In fact, a recent study found that consumers who had never purchased life insurance overestimated the premium costs by between 400% and 500%. That’s a massive difference.

If you’re in your 20s or 30s and are relatively healthy, you can get 20-year term insurance for less than $20 a month, and if anything happens during that term your beneficiaries will get $200,000. Life insurance companies can afford to offer such huge payouts and low premiums because the chances of a young person dying during that term are very slim.

Assuming you’re paying $20 a month for a 20-year term life insurance policy, this means you’re paying $4,800 over the term, or 2.4% of the total payout. However, the odds of a 20-year-old woman dying during this time are 1.42%, and these odds drop significantly if you remove smoking, drinking, risk-taking, and pre-existing conditions from the equation.

In other words, while it seems like a huge sum and a huge discrepancy, it still falls in favor of the life insurance company.

It’s a similar story for a 30-year-old. The odds of dying during the term are higher, but only just, as they are still less than 3%, leading to higher premiums but a great rate overall.

The older you get, the greater your risks become, but insurance companies want your money. They need you to sign on the dotted line, so they will continue to offer competitive prices. 

Keep this in mind the next time you purchase life insurance and are suspicious of the significant amount of coverage provided in relation to the cost.

Myth 2: It’s All About Money

Financial protection is important. You need a coverage amount that will cover the needs of your loved ones while also securing low premiums to make life easier for you. However, the generosity and cost of life insurance are the only factors to consider.

It’s important to consider the financial rating of the insurance company, which is acquired using a system such as A.M. Best and Moody’s. These ratings are used to determine the financial strength of a company, which is key, because you’re relying on them being around for many years to come and being rich enough to pay your death benefit when you die.

Myth 3: It’s All About the Death Benefit

While term life insurance policies are solely about the death benefit, which is paid upon the policyholder’s death, there are other options available. Whole life or permanent life insurance policies work like savings accounts as well as life insurance policies. They accumulate a cash value over the duration of the policy and the policyholder can cash this sum at any point.

If they do so, they will lose the potential death benefit and the policy will cease to exist, but it’s a good option to have if you ever find yourself in dire need of funds.

Myth 4: Insurers Find an Excuse Not to Pay

There was a time when pretty much all life insurance policies were reviewed upon the policyholder’s death. Thankfully, this changed with the introduction of a contestability period, which begins at the start of the policy and typically runs for up to 2 years.

If anything happens during this time, the policy can and will be reviewed and if any suspicions are raised, it will be contested. However, if this period passes, there is little the insurer can do. More importantly, if the policyholder was honest during the application process and the type of death is covered, the payout will be made.

The truth is that the vast majority of policies do not payout, but this is because the policies expire, the cash value is accepted, or the policyholder outlives the term. For policies that actually result in a death, the majority do payout. 

And why wouldn’t they? A life insurance company can expect to turn a profit via the underwriting process. It doesn’t need to use underhanded tactics or rob your loved ones of a payout to stay in the black.

Myth 5: My Dependents Will Survive Without Me

According to LIMRA, a research organization devoted to the insurance and financial sector, most Americans either have no coverage or not enough coverage. In both cases, they may assume their families will survive without a payout or that a small payout will be enough. There is some logic to this belief as it often comes after they perform a quick calculation, but that calculation is flawed.

Let’s imagine, for instance, that you’re a 35-year man with two children aged 5 and 7 and a 35-year-old wife. You earn $40,000 a year and your wife earns the same. You have a $150,000 house and a $100,000 mortgage.

After doing some quick calculations, you may assume that your wife’s salary will be enough to keep her going and ensure your children are looked after until they are old enough to care for themselves. You don’t have any debt to worry about and the only issue is the house, so you settle on a relatively small death benefit of $100,000.

But you’re making a lot of potentially dangerous assumptions here. Firstly, anything could happen between now and your death. On the one hand, you could comfortably pay off the mortgage, but on the other hand, inflation could rise to a point where $100,000 is a fraction of what it once was, and debts could accumulate. 

Your wife could also lose her job, and if that doesn’t happen when you’re alive and can get more cover, it might happen when you die, and she’s so overcome by grief and the stress of raising two children that she’s forced to give it up.

And then you have to think about your children. What if they want a college education? Can your wife afford that on her own? And what about your funeral or your children’s weddings? What happens if one of them falls ill and incurs huge medical expenses? 

$100,000 is a lot of money to receive as a lump sum, and if you only think in terms of lump sums you may never escape that mindset. But it’s not a single sum designed to be spent freely and enjoyed. It’s a sum designed to last your loved ones for many years and to ensure they are covered for most worst-case scenarios.

By the same token, you shouldn’t assume that your loved ones will survive without you just because you’re not the breadwinner or you have paid off your mortgage. Things can turn ugly very quickly. It only takes a few unexpected bills for things to go south, at which point that house could fall victim to an equity loan, a second mortgage, and eventually be owned by the bank when your loved ones fall behind.

Myth 6: Premiums are Tax Deductible

The premiums of an individual policy are not tax-deductible. However, there are exceptions if the individual is self-employed and using the coverage for asset protection. It’s also worth noting that the death benefit is completely tax free.

Myth 7: You Can’t Get Insurance Above a Certain Age

The older you are, the harder it is to get the financial protection that life insurance can provide. But it’s not impossible, just a little bit more expensive. Your insurance needs increase as you get older and life insurance companies have recognized this. They provide short-term policies specifically tailored to seniors. 

Known as Seniors Life Insurance or Final Expense Insurance, these policies provide a low lump sum payout, often less than $50,000, that can be used to pay for a funeral or to clear debts. You can even pay it directly to the funeral home and arrange your own funeral. 

You may also still qualify for a term life insurance policy. Of course, traditional whole life insurance policies are out of the question, and if you have a health condition you may be refused even a short term policy, but don’t give up before you do your research and check your options. 

This is something that most insurance agents will be happy to help you with.

Myth 8: Young People Don’t Need Life Insurance

Life insurance provides you with peace of mind. It aims to provide cover during a difficult time and ensures that your loved ones have financial support when dealing with your death. If you have dependents, then it doesn’t really matter how old you are. It’s true that you will probably outlive the term if you are young and healthy, but no one knows what’s around the corner.

Death is a certainty; the only question is when, not if. By not purchasing life insurance when you have dependents, you’re rolling the dice and placing their future at risk.

The younger you are, the cheaper the premiums will be and the less of an impact they will have on your finances. What’s more, you can also opt for whole life insurance, locking a rate in early and avoiding the inevitable regrets when you’re 60, don’t have any cover and are being quoted astronomical premiums.

Myth 9: You Won’t Qualify if you are in Bad Health

If you have been diagnosed with a terminal disease, it’s unlikely that any insurer would cover you. However, if you have survived a serious disease or have a pre-existing medical condition, you may still qualify.

It’s all about risk, and if the insurer determines you’re more likely to survive the term than not, they will offer you a policy based on those probabilities. The less healthy they consider you to be, the more premiums you will pay and the lower your death benefit will be. But you can still get a worthwhile policy and it might be a lot cheaper than you think.

Myth 10: If You Have Money, You Don’t Need Insurance

If you have assets to leave your heirs, a life insurance policy is not as important as it might be for a stay at home parent or a low-income couple. However, it still has its uses. 

For instance, many high-income households have a lot of debt, and while the assets can typically cover this debt, it will eat into the estate. There are also estate taxes and legal fees to consider, all of which can significantly reduce the value of the estate.

In this case, a short term policy can provide some additional coverage and ensure that those extra costs are covered.

Myth 11: The Money is Lost if there are no Beneficiaries

If you die with no beneficiaries, the money will likely go to your estate, at which point the probate process will begin. If you have a will, this process will be relatively quick and painless, and your designated heirs will get what they are owed. 

If not, things could get messy and the process will be slow. What’s more, if you have any debts, your creditors will take what they are owed from your estate, including your death benefit.

Adding a beneficiary will prevent all of this, but don’t expect the insurer to contact your beneficiary and let them know. They expect the beneficiary to come to them. It’s important, therefore, to assign at least one (and preferably more) beneficiary and to make sure they know of the existence of the policy.

Summary: Life Insurance Myths Debunked

Now that we’ve debunked the myths concerning life insurance, it’s time for you to get out there and get the cover you need. The type of life insurance you need, and the amount of death benefit you will receive, all depends on your personal circumstances and health. 

This is a subject we have discussed at length here at PocketYourDollars.com, so check out our other guides on the subject.

Life Insurance Myths Debunked is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

ByCurtis Watts

How to Invest in Stocks: A Guide to Getting Started

A tablet shows the trajectory of a stock.

In 2020, around 55% of American adults invest in the stock market. That’s down from a peak of 65% in 2007 but around the average over the past 10 years. Do you want to get a piece of the action? Before you jump all in, make sure you know the basics of how to invest in stocks. 

A quick note before we dive in: we’re not investment experts or advisors. So if you’re seriously considering investing, you should work with professional brokers, financial advisors or other knowledgeable experts when you invest. That’s especially true if you plan on investing a lot. 

1. Decide on a Budget for Investing

Start by deciding how much you want to use to invest in stocks. Here’s a good starting place—make the potential stocks you’d invest in a percentage of your portfolio. A rule of thumb that many advisors go by is to take 110 or 120 and subtract your age. That’s how much of your investment portfolio you should keep in stocks.

For example, if you’re 30, then you’d keep between 80 and 90% of your portfolio in stocks. If that feels a little aggressive for your financial goals, start with 100 and subtract your age from that.

You also need to decide how much you can invest overall. That depends on your own income, what financial obligations you have and your overall budget. While investing is important, you shouldn’t invest money at the sake of paying your bills, for example.

2. Open an Account for Making Your Investments.

Stocks aren’t like retail goods. You can’t just buy them here and there when you see one you like on display on an ecommerce site. You typically need an account to purchase your stocks through. Some options you can choose include:

  • Opening a brokerage account. This lets you buy and sell stocks through a professional service. You can opt for a brokerage where you do your own research and push the buttons on buying and selling, or you can choose a managed option where someone provides advice or handles these things on your behalf.
  • Using a robo-advisor. This is an app or software program that lets you set goals for your investments and uses machine learning, AI and algorithms to handle your investments. One popular robo-advisor is Acorns, which is an app that lets you round up your purchases with connected debit cards and put the change into investments. While you’re making many micro investments, the total can add up over time.

3. Get Help Creating an Investment Plan

An investment plan is a comprehensive approach to wealth building. Stocks may play an important part in that, but you typically want to ensure you’re well diversified. A diversified portfolio just means you have various types of investments. This way if one isn’t performing well, the others might offer some protection.

One option for getting investment advice is by signing up for an Ellevest account. You pay a monthly membership for this robo investment app, but you gain access to investment and other financial coaching and educational materials.

4. Learn More About Stocks

You don’t have to be a stock expert or financial advisor to have success investing in stocks. But you do have to know a bit about what you’re investing in, especially if you’re going to make very specific stock choices.

You might be familiar with the concept of buying and selling stocks as seen in television and movies. While you canbuy and sell specific stocks because you want to invest in a specific company, you don’t have to invest like that. You can also invest in groups of stocks via stock mutual funds. When you invest in a stock mutual fund, you’re actually buying many different stocks or pieces of stocks. That spreads your risk out over a wider range of assets.

You should also understand the trends associated with the stock market, at least in general. For example, stocks do tend to rise over time barring big economic downturns. On any particular day, the chance that stocks will rise is around 53%. The chance that they will fall is around 47%. But if you look at the long-term, such as a 12-month period, stocks typically have a chance of rising of 75%. 

5. Use Other Tools to Make Investing Easy as You Get Started

Start by getting your immediate financial house in order. Understand what your budget is, and check your credit to ensure there are no surprises looming. You can sign up for ExtraCredit to get a comprehensive understanding of where your credit score is. Once you know where you stand, you can start creating an investment plan with confidence. You can even rely on ExtraCredit’s Reward It feature for cashback offers when signing up for Credit.com partners that provide investment apps and other financial services.

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

Start Investing in Stocks Today 

So, should you invest? Honestly, that’s up to you. Take a good look at your finances and, if you need guidance, try working with a professional. If you do decide to start investing, start easy and slow. There’s no need to jump all in right at once. Hopefully, if investing works out, you’ll reap some serious rewards. 

The post How to Invest in Stocks: A Guide to Getting Started appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com