Preschool Drop Off Was Harder Than I Expected

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I knew it wouldn’t be easy to drop my little guy off at preschool. I expected a bit of separation anxiety and perhaps a few tears. After three straight years together I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it would be hard to place my son in the arms of his teacher and walk away. I thought a lot about what my son might experience, but I didn’t realize how powerful my own emotions would be.

The first few days of drop off my son walked into the classroom with a smile, but I left the school in tears. For the record my husband found it pretty difficult to walk away too. The hardest part was leaving him behind when I knew he really didn’t NEED to go.

Unlike moms who drop their children off at daycare, my son doesn’t need to go to school twice a week for a few hours a day. While it certainly helps me complete invoices for my husband’s billing, prepare dinner, grocery shop in a third of the time and clean the house without little hands placing toys in front of the vacuum cleaner or broom, I could accomplish those tasks with him around. I didn’t enroll him for any of those reasons. I sent him because we couldn’t consistently schedule play dates with other kids and our neighborhood playground is void of children.

I don’t believe that three year olds require socialization, but I did think he would have a lot of fun exploring the world with other children beside him. After a ridiculous amount of contemplation, including investigating    various school philosophies and costs I chose a preschool that offered the best experiences and opportunities for my son. Each week he sings along with a professional music teacher, cooks with the teachers and participates in tons of play based activities alongside eight other children with temperaments similar to his own.

He cried at two of the first five days of school, but the teacher assures me he is fine a few minutes after drop off. (Interestingly those tears did not come on the first two days of school.) Every school night he lays in bed and tells me all about the days adventures; what children he played with, what toys he discovered, what books he read, what songs he sang and which playground he explored.

Despite all of this I must admit that I still find it hard to drop him off. It’s only two days a week, but each morning I get a little sad at the thought of taking him to school.

The first few days I went shopping after leaving the school grounds and decided I really shouldn’t do that anymore. I quickly found myself adding toys and games to the cart that I never intended to buy. I wanted to provide something special for my son to look forward to after pick up. This started out as simple things like baking sugar cookies and taking him to the playground, but I quickly found myself purchasing unnecessary items from the clearance sections of Target. I didn’t buy anything that cost more than two or three dollars, but I believe guilt was factoring into my purchases more than anything else.

Tomorrow is another school day. I will head home after drop off and do not plan to perform any shopping other than buying groceries for at least the next month.

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September 17, 2014 at 10:02 PM Leave a comment

Will Installment Loans Help Your Credit?

Many people fear obtaining a loan that is repaid in installments because of the credit reporting involved. Being one day late is a strike against you and can actually reflect negatively on your credit. When you are able to make the payments on time, it works in your favor.

Helps Establish Credit

Although you likely need credit to obtain credit, installment loans work a little differently. One of the first things to do is obtain a low limit credit card or cell phone in your name. Make the payments on time as it will help you do establish credit. Establishing credit is one way to increase your credit score. You have to make payments on time or early to keep your good credit rating.

Provides Credit History

Installment loans help you to develop a credit history. Many creditors, especially for auto loans and mortgages, look at your credit history. If your credit report has been dormant for a period of time, it is likely that the creditor will deny your application.

A suggestion here is to take a small personal loan, obtain a new credit card or obtain new cell phone service if you have not had any type of recurring or revolving credit account in the past 3 years. This is especially the case if you plan to purchase a home or new vehicle within the next 12 months.

Shows Financial Responsibility

Financial responsibility is important to uphold. It helps to increase your credit score, making it easier to obtain higher installment loans, mortgages and car loans. With impeccable financial responsibility showing on your credit report, you’ll also be rewarded with lower interest rates, essentially repaying only about 3-percent more than your initial loan. This is far less than the average consumer should expect to pay.

Installment loans are actually beneficial to your credit. It keeps your credit report active. These loan facilities also report to credit bureaus. These reports help other potential creditors to decide whether you are a good candidate or a financial risk. Lenders are less likely to work with those that have potential to default or pose too much risk. The only instance where an installment loan is bad for your credit is if you become unable to pay. Negative notes will be placed within that account in credit bureaus. Other potential lenders will see this and the additional inquiries into your credit report will cause your overall score to decrease over time.

September 17, 2014 at 6:38 PM Leave a comment

The Moments That Defined Our Financial Future

The other night I took my husband out to celebrate his thirty-eighth birthday. Over wings and beer we began discussing the current state of our bank accounts and the events that helped define our finances. Here are the details in no particular order:

  1. Our parents paid for our college education leaving us completely debt free after college.
  2. Neither of us ever accumulated credit card debt.
  3. Through the combination of a variety of paid internships and jobs we saved a good deal of money before ever leaving school.
  4. After graduation I lived in a group house, which saved me thousands of dollars in rent and utilities.
  5. Rather than renting an apartment we bought our first house within two years of graduation. We lucked out and purchased when the market was low and refinanced a number of times when rates dropped.
  6. Moving in together helped us save on all living expenses as we paid one set of bills rather than two.
  7. We both worked in the high paying field of software development.
  8. The company where I worked had amazing benefits including high paying bonuses and pay raises in my first ten years.
  9. Two of our three cars are over fifteen years old.
  10. We live within our means and never inflated our lifestyles, (other than purchasing our vacation home), as our incomes increased.
  11. Other than back and forth trips to North Carolina we have traveled very infrequently. (I’m not particularly happy with this fact, but it has helped us save money.)
  12. Due to a number of unforeseen medical issues my first child was not born until shortly after my thirty-fourth birthday. Thanks to time and the first eleven items on this bullet list we had already saved a significant amount of money.

I’m sure there are other major events that impacted our financial success but these are the first twelve that came to mind.

September 14, 2014 at 5:47 PM Leave a comment

Book Review: 25 Money Saving Strategies Your Teacher Forgot to Tell You About

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There are a lot of books on the market to help you save money. I could line my bookshelves with at least twenty or thirty that I’ve read over the past ten years. Many regurgitate the same concepts over and over. Don’t buy lattes and don’t rack up credit card debt on things you don’t need. Seems simple enough.

When I received a copy of 25 Money Saving Strategies Your Teacher Forgot to Tell You About I was skeptical it would be any different and while some of the ideas are the same the overall approach to saving is a bit more radical.

Among the advice I found quite funny was dumping your significant other to save. After all the high price of flowers and dining out can get quite expensive and you might go on many dates between now and the time you find the right one.

The author also tells his readers to move back home with their parents. While this book is intended for the younger crowd, he points out that you can save an awful lot of money by living with mom and dad until you reach your mid-twenties.

It’s not always feasible to move back home. My parents didn’t live anywhere near the job I landed just after college, but I do agree in finding roommates to save on monthly expenses. Having one roommate is great, but if you can find a group house with three or four different people you’ll do even better. I paid a little over $300 a month in rent and split utilities with five other people. It wasn’t the best experience of my life, but it did enable me to save a boatload of money in my first year out of college. Thanks to that year I paid off my car within one year and began saving for my first house.

25 Money Saving Strategies Your Teacher Forgot to Tell You About focuses quite a bit on avoiding the luxuries in life. In essence, minimize the amount of things you have, don’t drive fancy cars and retain a constant living standard.

These are all wise lessons for those just graduating from college. If you keep your tastes in line with your budget when you are young you will continue that trend as you get older.

All in all I enjoyed reading this book. The advice is rather straight forward and to the point. It focuses on saving money on the big things in life, not just the $5 lattes.

 

 

September 10, 2014 at 5:26 PM Leave a comment

Mortgage Countdown

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It has been nearly three years since I left the work force. While I wake up every morning feeling happy about my place in this world my husband wakes up feeling miserable. Quite frankly he doesn’t like his job. He wakes up slowly and trudges off to work praising the weekends and telling me they never come soon enough.

I often feel guilty for staying home. While I know deep in my heart it is the best solution for our family I also know that a six figure income would certainly take the burden off my husband’s shoulders.

I’m not sure if my husband will stop working when our mortgages are paid off, but as time passes I am happy to see a clear end in sight. In 4 years, 6 months and 24 days the mortgage on our primary home will be paid in full.

That’s not so far away, but it is a miserable 143,942,400 seconds, 2,399,040 minutes, 39,984 hours, 1666 days and 238 weeks away from now.

I certainly don’t wish to speed up time. I’ll be nearly forty-one when that final mortgage is paid, my husband will be forty-two and my son will be seven, but it sure would be nice to be done with it already.

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September 8, 2014 at 5:47 PM Leave a comment

That Out-of-Town Medical Bill Gets Bigger!

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Last month, after much contemplation, I decided to remain in North Carolina rather than driving over two hundred and sixty miles back to Maryland for an unexpected medical test.

I was all set to pay a higher price for that procedure and called in advance to receive a quote. Unfortunately, on the day of the scan the hospital could not confirm the quoted price.

My original $550 estimate went right out the window. It was too late to choose a different facility, (the test had to be performed within a specific time frame), so I proceeded without any idea of what I might actually owe.

Well the first bills have arrived and my final cost is twice the original estimate! The quoted $550 procedure was correct, but an additional and completely unexpected charge of $330 was included in my bill along with an additional doctor’s bill of $268. The ugly total; a whooping $1148!

On top of that my insurance company has denied the claim due to lack of preauthorization. I knew that I would pay the out-of-pocket total but I hoped that out-of-network rates would apply and that the final payment would be added to my yearly deductible. As of now, no such luck.

For those wondering I did ask the doctor’s office requesting the exam to seek preauthorization from the insurance company a week before the test was scheduled. They called twice and were told on both occasions that preauthorization was not necessary. So my only recourse is to appeal the denial and hope that the claim is reprocessed.

Despite this rather hefty medical bill I am still happy with my decision to stay in North Carolina on the day of the test. My family was in town with me that week and I did not tell them about the scan. I don’t like them to worry necessarily. If I had gone home I inevitably would have told them or lied to them about my need to return to Maryland.

It would have been a six hour drive each way, which would have been a twelve hour round trip, not including the time at the doctor’s office getting scanned or a twelve hour drive plus an overnight stay in Maryland away from my family.

If the outcome was poor I would have spent six hours driving alone contemplating those results, which would have made for a rather somber and depressing ride.

I am certainly not happy paying over $1100 for a procedure that should have cost nothing more than a $30 copay. I am still hopeful that the claim can be properly appealed and that the final cost will be closer to five or six hundred dollars.

It was certainly not the frugal choice, but if I choose the frugal options all along the way, then every once in awhile I should get to select an option that makes sense in ways that aren’t financial. At least that’s what I’m telling myself to help me feel better.

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September 7, 2014 at 11:01 AM Leave a comment

How to Save Money on Lawn Care

Lawn care is expensive when you’re trying to keep it green, weed-free and healthy. It becomes even more costly when you’re using a lawn care service. There is nothing wrong with being frugal about landscaping and lawn care expenses. The treatments that you can make yourself cost pennies compared to paying a professional service or using bottled chemicals.

Use Natural Weed Killers

Natural weed killers use items that most families already have on-hand. It just takes a proper mixture of each ingredient to make a great weed killer.

Ingredients needed:

  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar per gallon of water
  • ½ pound salt per gallon of water
  • 20-percent dish soap per batch
  • 1 cup citrus oil

It is best to use slightly warm water to get the ingredients to mix. Use a sprayer or garden hose attachment to spray an even amount on the entire lawn. This will help to kill existing weeds and will help prevent new ones from growing back.

Household Items Keep Insects Away

You can use a simple solution of citrus oil or vinegar and water to keep insects away. You’ll just want to make a weak diluted blend with a 3:1 ratio. Three parts water to 1 part citrus oil or vinegar.  If you are using the combination above for weed killer, it will also work to keep insects like ants and grubs from ruining your lawn.

Do the Maintenance Yourself

It is always better to save money and do your own yard maintenance. Of course it takes time away from other things but it is also relaxing to do your own yard work.  You can easily purchase a used push mower for smaller yards used online. Most sell for between $20 and $100 depending on brand and condition. Other lawn tools are also inexpensive in used condition. The good thing is you can make lawn maintenance a family affair making the entire process go much faster.

If you use a quality grass seed for your lawn, chances are you’ll just need to keep it mowed and trimmed neatly. Low-quality grass seeds have a tendency of becoming weed ridden. You’re also likely to have grassless spots in the yard or areas where it just looks thin and unhealthy. Make the commitment to maintain your own lawn for a fraction of the amount it would cost to hire lawn care companies. The equipment doesn’t take up much space in the storage area either.

September 4, 2014 at 4:37 PM Leave a comment

Preparing Your Finances For Your Retirement

Preparing your finances for your retirement

For many people, stopping work is enough of a change in lifestyle without financial worries being added to the equation. I have read many stories in the press about people who have to spend a lot longer working than they had planned simply because their finances will not cover their expenses if they stop work or because their retirement plan has not performed as expected. However, I am going to suggest a few steps for those of you approaching retirement, to prevent this from happening to you.

Planning retirement savings

First of all you need to be very aware of what your expenses are and if they are going to change in any way once you have retired. Then you need to figure out how to build your nest egg to ensure it meets your needs. For most people, this nest egg will have to deliver an amount that is a reasonable percentage of the salary earned before retirement. For some, this could be anything between 70 and 90%. Then work out how much you need to save in order to achieve this. Getting the assistance of an experienced financial advisor could help here as professional advice can help you to make the most of your savings.

Figuring this out in advance means that there will be no nasty surprises once retirement has happened. All too often people do not consider what their needs will be when they finish work and just assume that their pension plan will be able to cover the cost. By working it all out in advance you can determine where changes will happen and if you need to make any further adjustments to your savings to compensate.

Workplace pensions are a good thing to get into. In most cases the employer will match the contributions made by the employee so in actual fact you can add a great deal more than you would expect to the retirement pot. In fact, having a variety of savings plans means that there is more potential for taking advantage of great interest rates and tax-free savings schemes such as a Roth IRA. Not all employers have workplace pensions and employees are not always offered them so it is worth asking for details as soon as you can.

Taking advantage of tax-free savings schemes is a good way to maximize savings for retirement but this is only something that can be done with a great deal of forward planning. It is important to get the right advice on where to put your money for maximum growth and returns. Not all saving schemes are created equal!

Budgeting is essential once you have retired. These lump sums that you have been building can be very tempting but spending it all at once is not a good idea. Make sure that you have a planned budget that you can stick to in order to make the funds last for as long as possible.

Retirement accommodation

Those of you living in a larger home might want to consider downsizing and moving to one of the modern retirement villages. This means that some of the capital tied up in your original property can be released and will help to fund retirement. Having the right accommodation when you are retired will also have a positive effect on your health, thanks to the relaxed atmosphere promoted by these villages. You can make new friends and have a very active lifestyle in comfortable surroundings and this in itself can help you to stay happier and healthier.

There are also cost savings to be made from living in a retirement village so this can dramatically reduce retirement expenditure. For example, there will be no need to adapt the living accommodation to the needs of an elderly person as retirement villages are planned with this in mind, with features such as elevators, higher electrical sockets and hand rails in places such as the bathroom. Consider this when you are planning.

With so many ways of being able to save for your retirement years, it does mean that there is a plan out there to suit everyone, no matter where they live, what their income and how much they are going to need. As with most aspects of retirement, there are many options open to you so consider all of them carefully before you make a decision. You need to plan for a long and happy retirement so that you can make the most of every moment without feeling as though you are missing out on anything.

September 3, 2014 at 2:24 PM Leave a comment

My Advice: Unequal Financial Gifts for Grown Children

A few days ago I posted a reader’s question about unequal financial gifts for his children. I thought I’d follow up with my advice. Here is the email I sent in response:

Up until this point I have only received comments and emails about this subject from grown children and I appreciated hearing from a parent’s point of view.

I have not experienced financially inequality from my own parents, but I have witnessed it many times via extended family members.

Here is the issue… Hypothetically, f I work hard, stay on track and save my money I can afford a house in a nice community. If my sibling does not do these things do they “deserve” the same life that I live? Do we not make choices in our life and have to live by the choices we made? For example, if I choose to become a software engineer than I may earn a lot, but I might not enjoy my job. In that case money wins over enjoyment. If my sibling chooses to become an artist they may love their job but not be able to afford a house in a nice community. I believe resentment grows when a sibling sees a child getting the best of both worlds; a life they enjoy and financial success (in the form of money from their parents).

Similarly if a child goes through his late teens and early twenties enjoying life and running up debt, while another sibling settles into a career and starts working, is it really fair to even the financial score. That sibling had the time of his life and ends up right on track with their sibling who had to work hard and make a way in their lives for themselves. Resentment breeds when perception says “I didn’t enjoy the last ten years the way my sibling did and now they are on equal footing.”

You also have to take into account “perceived” need versus “real” need. Is your son really in such a dire predicament. Does he really need to move into a new, nicer community if he cannot afford to get their himself? I have seen parents who believed their children “needed” an SUV because they had two children. There are many families who drive smaller cars and get by just fine with that. Only you know if he really needs help, but it is important to realize that your dreams for his life may not match up with his salary and lifestyle.

Having said all of that I love my son more than anything I ever could have imagined in life. I am going to send him to preschool next week and my heart breaks for the couple of hours that he will be away from me each week. While I know that it will be good for him to play with other children I hate to let him go even for just a little bit. The love we have for our children is strong and as parents we want to do everything in our power to protect and help them. Ultimately you have to follow your heart in your decision and if you believe your son needs help then you will probably provide it to him.

I would suggest talking to your daughter about the situation though. From what I’ve seen a lot of the pain comes from misunderstandings between parents and their children. The child who receives money feels loved. The child who does not feels left out. If you plan to give your son money I would have a very frank and open conversation with your daughter about your choices and how it ultimately effects her. She may be perfectly fine with your decision but even if she’s not she will appreciate the fact that you were concerned over this topic, that you thought of her feelings and that you reached out to her before doing anything. Let her know that you are concerned that she will not receive equality in this situation, but that you love her so much that you wrote a comment seeking advice :)

My son is not even three, but one of my goals in life, (and I sure hope I’m able to remain on task), is to provide a level of transparency into the decisions we make for him. If we don’t understand motivations we may come to resentment them.

Thanks again for leaving a comment and sending an email. I do hope you will let me know what you decide and how things work out. I wish you the best of luck.

September 1, 2014 at 5:41 PM 1 comment

Reader Advice: Unequal Financial Gifts for Grown Children

Over the years I’ve written a lot about unequal financial gifts for children. In response I’ve received many personal emails asking for advice. Up until this week all of those posts came from grown children in these situations, but a few days ago I received this comment from a concerned parent.

I thought I would repost his comment and ask my readers for advice. What do you think this concerned father should do?

We very much love and have been trying hard to treat both our now adult children equally. We paid for their education, though they paid for their living away from home.  They love and trust each other, and this is very important for us.

Our daughter worked hard in school, got a university diploma and has been working tirelessly, even now, while raising her three teen/pre-teen children.  They have their own house with a large mortgage, but they live comfortably as both she and her husband have good income, and need no financial support.

Our son, several years younger, had a couple of false starts at college but eventually got a minor degree, while engaging in a more liberal and financially less responsible lifestyle, accumulating a sizable debt.  We cleared most of his debt with a “loan” at one point, most of which was left unpaid.  At the time we made it clear that it will be considered  in the distribution of our estate whenever…  Many years later, after getting married and having one child, he lost his job (not his fault…), and had a hard time finally finding one, which is still just an unpaid “Internship”, hoping it leads to a reasonably paying full time position.  Now their second child is coming, and they still live in a rented apartment, in an area not preferred for raising children.  Their savings are not enough for the down payment on a reasonable house.  We live frugally, but would be willing to help him out from our limited retirement savings.  However, it would be difficult to justify giving an equal amount to our daughter now, as our savings were meant for our old age, so we should have no need to rely on our children’s help.  In a way, we would like to equalize the chances of our grandchildren.

So, what to do, and how to do it?  We would love to hear from you, the contributors of this blog “on the other side of the coin”.

August 30, 2014 at 9:30 AM 3 comments

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