Use Back-to-School Shopping to Teach Financial Responsibility

With school starting up again the wallet is opened up all too frequently. You have the regular supplies such as pencils, papers, books, folders and backpacks. It then goes to registration fees for this and that. And then can come the “big one” depending upon the child. Clothes.

I had two boys who were not in any way shape or form up on the latest trends – nor required a closet full of clothes and shoes. It was typically me trying to force them into some new jeans because they had so many holes from wear…(and skateboarding falls.)

The idea of giving your child a “set amount,” as Mary Hunt discusses in her article below, and letting them deal with the consequences is a fabulous tool to start them at a young age learning about setting goals and handling their money.

Good luck to everyone as another school year approaches.

The Joys of Raising Financially Confident Teens
By Mary Hunt on 08/15/13

Dear Mary: I just read the letter from 13-year-old Abby about teaching kids financial responsibility.

I did this with my daughter when she was just a little older than Abby. Prior to that, she wanted name brand jeans, clothing, shoes…whatever she thought all of the “cool” kids had.

She wouldn’t step into a thrift shop or discount store. It was a constant battle until I decided that she would have a clothing/necessity allowance.

I gave her a set amount of money each month to cover those expenses. If there was an event coming up she would need to save ahead to pay for whatever she needed, including her prom gown and all the accessories.

It worked wonderfully. She learned to sit down and figure out what she really needed and then budget for it.

She began shopping at thrift stores and discount stores to save money. She learned to make long range plans. She still dressed fashionably but did it by stretching her money to buy what she needed. It was a valuable lesson that I wished I’d started earlier! –Margaret, email

Dear Margaret: The longer I live the more convinced I am that the only way to train children to be financially confident in ways that will extend far into their adult years, is to give the ability to make their own independent financial decisions while they are still young—then requiring them to live with the consequences of those decisions, good or bad. Those lessons, as you may have experienced, can be harder on the parents than the kids because we so want to bail our kids out to make sure they suffer no pain. Suffering the consequences for the decisions we make is the best way to make sure we don’t repeat those mistakes in the future. I applaud your decision to give our daughter the opportunity and the mandate to manage money while she was still over the safety net of your home.

Dear Mary: I have a question with credit cards and electronic devices. I am not sure what would be best. As a general rule, I completely agree with you about no credit cards for kids. However this generation of modern electronics has me in a quandary. My daughter (age 14) has earned enough money to purchase her own eReader (I am so looking forward to fewer books cluttering her room!). In order to use the device to download things she must have a credit card on file. She is a responsible young lady and I have no fear she will abide by rules I set. Thanks for your advice on the best way to handle this situation. –Kathline K., email

Dear Kathline: I suggest that you add your daughter to your existing credit card as an “Authorized User.” The company will issue a credit card on your account with her name on it and she will have full access to charge to the account, without any legal responsibility for repaying the credit card balance.

And she benefits in another way: As an authorized user, your good credit history will begin show up in her credit file. Even at her tender age, she will begin to build a good credit record by piggybacking onto your credit history. Sounds like nothing but good, doesn’t it? There are potential downsides for you the credit account holder and for her, an authorized user.

As an authorized user she could go crazy and charge up the account to the limit, without you knowing. She would have no legal obligation to repay the debt and you would have no recourse to make her. Her potential downside is that your credit behavior as the account holder could take a dive sending all kinds of negative information to her account. While these possibilities exist, I would say the chances of things turning sour would be slim to none for you and your daughter. Congratulations for having raised a your daughter to be responsible enough to have earned your trust in this way. I wish you both the best.

This column The Joys of Raising Financially Confident Teens is posted at Mary Hunt’s Everyday Cheapskate blog.







Father’s Day on a Budget

With Father’s Day fast approaching, it’s time again to figure out how you are going to celebrate the Dad in your life. Mary Hunt from Everyday Cheapskate has come up with some awesome gift ideas that don’t have to break the budget. One thing I’d like to add is the gift of “time.” Maybe It’s a Mothers view, but having your kids want to spend time with you is priceless.

Depending up on the age of those involved – and your location – how about a fun game of Frisbee golf or croquet, a barbecue in the backyard or just sitting, enjoying the view together and sharing memories.

It doesn’t have to be a special occasion to show someone you care…Happy Father’s Day to the great Men in our lives.

Our EC 2013 Father’s Day Gift Guide!

By Mary Hunt on 06/06/13

Don’t panic. Father’s Day is a week from Sunday. You still have time to get ready but you need to move quickly. To help you out, I’ve compiled a handy resource list of 16 different gift ideas, starting as low as $5, for that special Dad in your life.

Each of these gifts can be purchased online at Amazon, however that may not be your only resource. I am giving you links to make it as simple as possible for you to shop and compare in the little time you have left. And just so you know, no companies, retailers or manufacturers provided any of these products to us in exchange for an endorsement. My husband and I have purchased these items on our own and created our own reviews and recommendations.

So let’s get started. This first group of gift ideas will appeal to your man …

BECAUSE He’s Manly…

1. Cordless Drill. There are cordless drills and then there’s this Black & Decker 20-volt Matrix Drill. This thing is amazing. With a 20-volt high-performance motor (serious power for a handheld drill) it’s anything but wimpy and more than able to carry out even the most challenging home improvement and maintenance jobs. Your man will love the quick-charging lithium battery that comes with a charging unit. This baby is is quite a bargain, too. About $60.

2. LED Flashlight. Every man needs one of these in his pocket at all times. This super mini Cree LED Flashlight is like a mini torch, that’s just how bright it is. It runs on a single AA battery, producing 300 lumens output with adjustable focus zoom. For the price it can’t be beat. About $5.

3. Stud Finder. I know what you’re thinking: They don’t work. And normally I would agree, but finally someone known as CH Hanson has broken the code. This Magnetic Stud Finder is amazingly reliable and accurate. If a man in your life has ever made 57 holes in the wall before actually locating a stud, he wasn’t trying to annoy you. He just didn’t have one of these! This is every handyman’s dream come true. And a bargain to boot. Under $8.

4. LED Lantern. Now this is some serious kind of light. And reliable? Oh, yeah. Rayovac Sportsman LED Lantern runs on three D batteries, which will power it up for 40 hours on high, 90 hours on low. See what I mean? Reliability. And the 4-watt LEDs will last for 100,000 hours, which really means forever. And get this: It comes with a full lifetime warranty. No man wants to run the risk of being stuck in the dark and one of these will make sure it doesn’t happen. Under $25.

BECAUSE He’s a Culinary Rock Star…

5. One Serious Appliance. Yes, this is Blendtec Total Blender and it is the biggest and baddest. Blendtec sits on our kitchen counter where we have used it every day for years. I know about this appliance. It’s not for sissies. And it’s not just a blender. Your guy can get rid of his grain mill, juicer, bread machine, ice-cream maker, smoothie maker, blender, milkshake maker, coffee grinder and ice crusher too, because Blendtec does it all. This professional-quality 1,500-watt 3-horsepower juggernaut of a machine can handle almost any kitchen task. I’m sure it could grind nuts and bolts into a fine powder. This is it: the last blender you’ll ever buy. Under $360.

6. Stovetop Griddle. Oh, how I love and adore my new Nordic Ware 2 Burner Backsplash Griddle. Know why? It makes me feel like a guest on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” (Food Network). I now know the joy of cooking on a “flat top.” You know what I’m talking about and it’s not Guy’s hair. My new gas range does not have a built-in griddle, a choice I regretted at first. But no more. This baby is so cool. It sits over two burners and it’s made of cast aluminum so it heats evenly. (When not in use, I store it in the oven.) I have not used a skillet or fry pan since this sweetie followed me home. And clean up is a breeze because it is non-stick and has that little backsplash and drip reservoir. Truly a remarkable piece of kitchen awesomeness. (Also available in a single-burner size.) Under $50.

7. Grill Set. With summer in full swing, who wants to cook indoors? Not a serious grill man, that’s for sure. And he needs the right tools to get the job done. Here they are: Cuisinart 14-Piece Deluxe Stainless-Steel Grill Set. This set even includes 8 corn holders and cleaning brush, with everything fitting neatly into a sleek aluminum carrying case. Under. $40.

8. Chef’s Knife. Prepared to be amazed by this next item. And I mean by the quality and the price. This 8-inch multipurpose chef’s knife is perfect for chopping, mincing, slicing and dicing. It is high-carbon stainless steel, which means it’s sharp and retains that edge when cared for properly. Made in Switzerland where they know a thing or two about cutlery, this Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef’s Knife is an excellent choice for the home chef. Your man will not be disappointed. Under $30.

BECAUSE He’s Techy…

9. TV Streaming Player. I don’t know a man alive who wouldn’t be excited about pulling the plug on his cable service and still have access to all of his favorite TV shows and movies. Roku 3 Streaming Player plugs into his TV and works with the existing Internet or WIFI in your home to allow him to stream thousands of movies and TV shows for FREE. The Roku also allows you to connect your Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Hulu Plus accounts to expand your viewing library. Roku 3 has all the bells and whistles with up to 1080p HD video and extended-range, dual-band wireless performance. Free iOS and Android device apps allow him to use his Android or iPhone like a remote. Check. It. Out. And the price? I’m guessing less than one-month of your current cable service. Under $100.

10. Remote Control. You know what drives me crazy? Multiple remote controls. I mean seriously, is this the only way to control multiple electronic devices? The answer would be yes, unless you replace all of them with this one, sleek Logitech Harmony 300 Remote Control. It controls up to four audio/visual components and is compatible with 225,000 difference brands and models. Unlike other universal remotes, online programming of this remote is awesome and quick—like five minutes to get everything set and ready to roll. And it’s priced well. Under $45.

11. Kindle Reader. If your man is as voracious a reader as mine, you may know what it’s like to have stacks and stacks of books everywhere. And some of them library books that are about to become overdue. Know what solved that issue for us? An electronic reader. Kindle Paperwhite is the latest and greatest version and just too cool for school. Holds up to 1,100 books so he can take his library wherever he goes. The price is right, too. Under $120.

12. GPS Rangefinder. The GolfBuddy Voice GPS Rangefinder is the first golf GPS that displays and also speaks the distances. He won’t have to worry if he forgot his reading glasses. GolfBuddy is smaller than 2-inches square and weighs only 1 ounce. All your golfer has to do is press a single button and it displays and speaks the distance to the next hole. Isn’t technology great? For the serious golfer. Under $125.

BECAUSE He’s Adorable…

13. Aftershave. Here it is, ladies. An aftershave that men like because it is cooling while at the same time reduces rashes and razor burn—and we love because it smells so wonderful. Not overpowering, Proraso Aftershave Lotion, Refresh is made from natural ingredients offering a very pleasant, clean, mild fragrance—an aftershave product you can give with confidence. And it won’t bust the budget. Under $15.

14. Pocket T-Shirt. If your guy is like mine, he is picky about his T-shirts. They have to be all cotton, tight around the neck, a pocket on the left, sleeves that are not too short and made from material that won’t shrink. And they have to feel sturdy. I know of only one brand that meets my boys’ Dad (had to get Father’s Day in here somewhere) and that is Carhartt Men’s Workwear Pocket T-Shirt. Available in regular or tall and in sizes to XXXX-Large, this shirt comes in 20 different colors. Caution: This T-shirt runs large. Under $12 (Hunter Green, Size L; price varies slightly with size and color).

15. Sunglasses. Not all guys can tolerate sunglasses from the dollar store. If that describes your man, take a look at the latest Ray-Ban New Wayfarer Sunglasses. With a rock-and-roll look, these frames are classic Wayfarer, first introduced by Ray-Ban in 1952. He’ll love the great fit (two sizes from which to choose), and you’ll love that they come in a variety of frame and lens colors. As a bonus, the polarized lenses are RX-able, which means they can be taken to an optician to be ground to a prescription. Under $120.

16. PJs. What would Father’s Day be without new PJs for Dad? And given that it’s summer and all, why not save a few bucks with just pants—Bottoms Out Mens Relaxed Fit Woven Lounge/Sleepwear Pants. They’re roomy, super soft, two-pocketed, and just plain cool. Under $15.

Hopefully, this gives you some ideas for Father’s Day gifts and takes the stress out of last-minute planning. Have a great celebration.








Mother’s Day on a Budget

It’s that time of year again…Spring Clean Up; Window washing, clearing the yard of winter’s remnants and dusting off the grill. AND it’s also nearing Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day doesn’t need to equate to presents. The gift of presence is SO much more valuable. Consider all the special women in your life – it may be your Mom, an Aunt, a dear neighbor…give of yourself to show how much you appreciate them.

Here are some suggestions for Mother’s Day on a budget:

• Offer to help clean up the yard or wash the windows.

• Bake a cake and delight your honoree. You don’t have to be a master baker, there are box mixes that can be easy to use and easy on the pocket book.

• Find a favorite photograph and frame it. It captures a special moment that will bring joy every time she looks at it.

• A plant for in the house – or one for outside. If you watch the stores there are great bargains this time of year.

• Offer to cook a meal. They’d be thrilled – even if you used their pantry! (Personal opinion of course).

• Make a card. Sound corny? Remind you of grade school? Believe me – no matter the age, a personal card is heartwarming

Whatever you do to acknowledge her – coming from the heart is priceless.


Ways to Guarantee a Great Family Vacation

Family vacations. These two words can evoke memories that stand up the hairs on the back of your neck, or bring a huge smile to your face and a “warm fuzzy” all over.

Now that our children are grown and moved out I think back to vacations we took. Snippets of images captured on film can help recall a snap-shot. We traveled on a budget – no five star resorts or huge theme parks for us.

Camping – my family loved it, my back hated it. But, the boys building the fire and proudly roasting marshmallows – priceless. Exploring in the nearby woods for treasures or big brother helping his younger brother cast out his Snoopy fishing rod; I wouldn’t trade it for that theme park packed with tourists.

Whichever way you go – embrace the time you have without breaking the bank. You won’t regret it.

6 Ways to Guarantee a Fabulous Family Vacation

By Mary Hunt on 04/16/13

When I was a kid, vacation meant four kids crammed into the back seat of a sedan, poking and elbowing one another while counting the miles between rest stops.

Things have changed dramatically since then. But even with onboard DVDs, spacious minivans, air travel, cruises and theme parks, family vacations can be either delightful or disastrous. It all depends on the care you devote to research and planning.

Time and money. Quality is more important than quantity. Instead of trying to stretch your available cash over the time you can be away, consider the money you have to spend first. Then divide by a reasonable daily budget to determine how many days you can be gone.

Involve the kids. One reader allowed her teenage daughter to plan their vacation with the money they had to spend over the cost of overnight accommodations. “Our spendthrift daughter became Ms. Frugality because she wanted to parasail,” the reader recalls. “She had us fix meals in our room, and watched the expenses like a hawk. And we parasailed! It was the best vacation ever. As a bonus we went home with cash in our pockets and the priceless accomplishment of teaching our child the value of money.”

Theme-park strategy. Set on a visit to an amusement park? You can find deals and discounts on the Internet says Robert Niles, editor and founder of Birnbaum Guides Walt Disney World for Kids 2013 (Disney Editions 2012) gets rave reviews from readers of this column. “We visit several times a year for what many people spend on a single trip, and we do it with four kids!” reports one family.

Camping. If you’re careful, camping can be nearly as affordable as staying at home provided you have the equipment or can borrow it. Visit the National Park Service website, , to search affordable destinations within the National Park Service. Many campgrounds now require reservations so don’t wait until the last minute. Expect to pay about $20 on average per night for a camp site.

Living history museums. There are at least 2,000 living-history museums around the country where the past seems as real as the present. Start with a virtual visit where you can “tour” many of these wonderful attractions online. Go to, the site of The Association for Living History Farms and Agricultural Museums. Jamestown Settlement and Washington County History Society (, Henry Ford Museum ( and Conner Prairie ( are just a few of the living history museums that make learning fun for visitors of any age.

Group travel. Vacationing with another family can cut the costs on rentals, food and transportation. This is an especially good choice for single-parent families who agree to pool their energy and resources. Make sure you discuss expectations and budgets ahead of time.

To this day my favorite childhood memories revolve around family vacations. Just being together was so much fun it made all the poking and elbowing that went on in the backseat worth it. Now that I have my own family, I’m more convinced than ever: There’s just nothing like a family vacation!


Tear Down Attitudes of Entitlement

My financial schooling was subtle growing up. My parents bought items when they could afford it – not relying on credit. They paid a bill when it came and didn’t wait for the “due date.” In teaching my own children I wish I could say “yup, I did that…”, but to be honest – they did it themselves. They both are frugal in their spending – not feeling compelled to wear the latest fashion or drive the fanciest car. And for the past few years, they’ve even cut their own hair. (Even when I’ve offered to pay for it.) They appreciate what they have – and are building their savings accounts while putting themselves through college. I am so proud of them. Somehow they got it and I feel it’s so imbedded in them, they will carry it forward for the rest of their lives. Mary Hunt discusses the dangers to avoid in this slippery path of entitlement.

How to Tear Down Attitudes of Entitlement –
From Mary Hunt’s Everyday Cheapskate

It is strangely ironic that the freedoms and affluence we enjoy in our society are the very things that stand to ruin our children if not addressed early and effectively.

The consumer-credit industry is doing all it can to get your kids to fall for the buy-now, pay-later lifestyle. If you do nothing to intervene, statistics indicate that your child is headed for a life that will be severely impacted not by credit—credit is not the problem here—but by the debt it can create.

How to Tear Down Attitudes of Entitlement

When the following three characteristics occur at the same time in the heart and mind of a child, they create a kind of “perfect storm” that has all the likelihood of creating a disastrous situation:

1. attitudes of entitlement
2. financial ignorance
3. glamour of easy spending

For our debt-proofing purposes, “entitlement” is that demanding attitude that says, “I deserve it now even if I haven’t earned it or cannot pay for it.” Some call it the gimmes, others the I-wants. No matter what you call it, this attitude is running rampant, and not only among kids. Entitlement affects kids and adults alike.

Entitlement is subtle. It creeps into our lives when we compare our lifestyles and possessions to those of the people we respect and want to be like. It shows up in new parents who throw all caution to the wind when it comes to nursery furnishings and “mandatory” equipment. It shows up in two-income families who, because they work so hard, feel they deserve to have nice things. It shows up in adults who feel compelled to conform to society’s relentless ratcheting up of standards.

Entitlement is the standard message of marketing and advertising. Look carefully at everything that shows up in your mailbox this week. The message to keep up is relentless. The push for conformity creates attitudes of dissatisfaction and entitlement.

At every turn it seems something or someone is fanning the flames of entitlement in our lives—and our children’s lives too.

Attitudes of entitlement, both yours and your children’s, are an enemy that, if not dealt with, will surely sabotage your efforts to develop financial confidence in your kids.

A frugal lifestyle, where you live below your means, is the best environment in which to raise kids. When children observe their parents consuming carefully, making wise spending decisions, choosing not to buy the biggest and the best, and not living on credit, they begin to assimilate those values.

By telling your children, “We don’t choose to spend our money on that,” you send a positive message that you have money but make intelligent choices about how to spend it.

Clearly, attitudes of entitlement are a serious problem. But they are not terminal. Diligent parents who are willing to be consistent examples and limit setters will find success in tearing down attitudes that have the potential to do great harm.

Excerpted from Raising Financially Confident Kids by Mary Hunt (Revell, 2012).











Simplify in 2013

New year – new rules? Well, maybe not new – but something to work towards. Yes, call it a new year’s resolution or call it a feeling that you want to take charge of parts of your life that have been a little out of control.

I personally can go through spurts of being very money conscious and focusing on “wants versus needs.” Do I really “need” this to continue on or is it more of a luxury?

I’ve started reading the labels on clothes before I buy them. If it says “dry clean only” I hang it up again. I don’t need that extra cost continually adding to the price of the outfit.

There is a downfall though – the thinking process can be swayed. I’ve wanted a pair of black boots for years – I’ve seen other women wear these boots with a skirt and tights. Dang – it looks cute. But, I didn’t think I could wear it….until one day when my vulnerability was at a low –and I went boot shopping. I found a perfect pair – and they had back support! I sheepishly bought them and carried my huge box out to the car. Over the weekend I shopped clearance racks and found a skirt and tights – score! I utilized jewelry and a shirt from my existing wardrobe.

Putting the boots on was like a transformation – I’d wanted these for so long, it was like angels singing. Had I purchased these immediately when I first “wanted” them, I probably wouldn’t have had the same feeling. It was a careful decision and seriously, considered over a few years. So, in the end, I didn’t “need them” but did take thoughtful consideration – when years are involved, the want sometimes reverts closer to a need.


Gift Giving Doesn’t Have To Break The Bank

The holiday season can bring great joy – and frustration. It all depends how you approach it. In an effort to keep yourself sane – and your pocketbook within budget, try creating a gift that will have more meaning than a store-bought gift card. Mary Hunt has some excellent ideas.

One option I’ve used for my kids who have now moved out of the home is coupons. Coupons have been for their favorite macaroni salad, cupcakes, and also a coupon to do their laundry. This spreads out the gift giving throughout the year and can teach organization skills…for the child to remember where they put their coupons.

Reprinted from Mary Hunt’s Everyday Cheapskate

Replace Commercial with Consumables

Consumable gifts, as opposed to durable gifts, are meant to be used up—not stashed in a closet for the next yard sale. And that is what makes consumable gifts such a great idea.

It’s hard to go wrong giving a delicious, consumable gift.

No storage. Consumable gifts, because they are quickly eaten or used up, do not carry expectations that this gift must be displayed, used, adored and or maintained for the recipient’s lifetime. I hate feeling obligated in that way, and I will bet you do, too.

One size fits all. You do not have to wonder if your gift of homemade fudge will fit the recipient. Everyone loves a gift from an experienced cook.

Non-perceived value. There is something off-putting about trying to figure out if you are spending enough money to meet the recipient’s expectations by hitting some invisible spending target. That can zap all the joy from giving. With a consumable gift you will not worry about that—and neither will your recipient.

Allows a bit of decadence. While consumable gifts do not have to be food, most of the time they are. And usually they are nutritionally naughty. That is what makes them so great.

Saves money. While not necessary, most consumable gifts turn out to be homemade. And they usually come from the kitchen. You can spend only a few bucks and come up with a gift that is really fabulous. Try doing that at the mall.

Even with Hanukkah starting at the end of this week, and Christmas and New Years following close behind, there’s still time to make any number of wonderful things in your kitchen. If you do not have our ebooklet Gifts in a Jar, download yours now. It is all you need to make a wonderfully inexpensive gift for everyone on your list this holiday season.

Several years ago, I received this wonderful note from Susan, a DPL member. She shared how changing Christmas from commercial to consumables was transformative for her family.

We have friends who, having no children to use up their spare cash, generally buy themselves all the things they want throughout the year. Consequently, when Christmas arrives, they already have all the things we might have bought them as presents. A couple of years ago, having racked our brains for what to buy, and being on a bit of a budget ourselves, we decided that we would make Christmas baskets for our friends. Each basket contained a homemade cake, homemade biscuits, jam, pickles, all with personalized labels made on our home computer.

Our friends were so delighted with their homemade gifts, appreciating the time and effort that went into it rather than the cost, that we decided to repeat the “Homemade Christmas” the following year with our visiting family members. Everyone who participated had plenty of fun trying to keep the making of the presents a secret, and we amazed each other with our cunning and ingenuity. It took away a lot of the commerciality of Christmas and replaced it with a real family spirit. Susan N., England












Journal in a Jar

A gift that takes minimal funds but will be giving for years to come – below, Mary Hunt explains how to create a “journal in a jar.” Stories from your loved ones that can be captured and shared with generations to come will have considerably more meaning than a sweater or glass object that requires dusting. At times its that little nudge that someone needs to start recording and reliving. Why not get started today?

Give the Legacy of a Life History

If you’re looking for a unique gift—one that will have a great deal of meaning for both you and your recipient—I have an idea. It’s called “Journal in a Jar.”

The idea is to assemble in a glass canning jar (or a box or other creative container) everything your recipient needs to write the story of his or her life: journal and pens, or fancy computer paper and a notebook. Possibly the most fun element of this gift is the year’s worth of specific questions that will act as daily idea starters for your recipient’s journal writing.

Questions like: Why was your name chosen for you? What was happening in the world when you were born? What is your personal secret to happiness? You can include as many questions or prompts as you like, however 365 insures a very complete journal that touches on all areas of a person’s life.

Once you’ve completed packaging the gift, you will want to add a tag or card that explains what this is and how the recipient will use it. Recipe for Your Life History. The purpose of this gift is to help you preserve a written account of your life. Instructions: Combine a generous slice of your life history, a dash of nostalgia, several cups of facts and feelings and [the number you come up with] deliciously interesting questions. Draw one slip of paper each day until all are gone. Paste or write the question at the top of a blank page. Fill in your answer. Enjoy the memories that celebrate something very important … You!

Not just a great gift idea for parents and grandparents, this is an idea for kids, too. Kids will love: Draw a picture of your favorite pet or animal. Draw a picture of your favorite thing to do in the summertime. Draw a picture of your favorite place to go. Draw a picture of your favorite thing to do with Grandma or Grandpa.

For an older child or teen: Tell about your favorite pet—what kind of animal is it? When did you get him/her? Tell about your hardest day at school. What is your favorite band?

Adapt your questions and prompts so the result will be more detailed and the answers more complete and specific. Make it fun by including questions you know will make the person laugh because the answers are so hilarious. Add a nice blank journal with plenty of pages. Attach one or more nice pens.

To help you get going I have posted hundreds of questions and prompts for all age groups—as young as 5 and as old as 105 at my website, Copy and paste these and add your own unique questions, too. Print, cut apart and drop them into the jar or other container.

Like other gift jar ideas from my Gifts in a Jar ebooklet, Journal in a Jar is not a gift you can make on Christmas Eve. You need to get started now. And while you’re at it, make one for yourself. Your finished journal will be your life history and a legacy for your children.







Clean That Closet!

I admit – I’m one of “them.” I have clothes in my closet that I anticipated wearing – yet they sit in my closet with the price tag on, like being at a junior high school dance and left to sit on the sideline.

There are options to clean out the closet of items you realize you will never wear. You can donate items to a local thrift store, have a garage sale, give it to a friend/family or work with a consignment store to try and sell it. There is not right or wrong way to handle it. There are options if you are looking for a tax deduction or money in your pocket. Do what works best for you. Mary Hunt, from Everyday Cheapskate, does a great job explaining what to expect if you go the consignment store route. Happy Closet Cleaning!

Second Hand Clothes, First-Class Style

Consignment shopping is an excellent way to purchase kids and baby clothes, often brand new and for less than one-third of the retail price. And most cities now have specialty consignment shops for babies, children and teens.

The consignment process is simple. If you are a seller, the store sets its criteria for accepting merchandise, and sets the price—usually 50 percent of the new retail price.

Expect a consignment shop to have very high standards for what they will accept: Must be a current style, must be brought in clean and must have no visible wear, holes or stains. You can even bring in new items with tags still attached (you won’t believe all the new things in a consignment store). You bring your items to the store to be reviewed and submitted for sale (most stores have limited hours for this process, so call ahead).

Your items will be put on the sales floor and displayed for 30 to 60 days. Once sold, you will receive 30 to 50 percent of the purchase price depending on that store’s policy.

Most consignment shops have a process by which they reduce the sales price regularly until the item is sold or the time runs out. At that time you have the option of either picking up your items or agreeing to have the shop donate them to a charity.

Stores will often give you the choice of taking your proceeds outright or crediting it to your own store account. Most people discover that building their account to allow for shopping in the store is the best option. In this way, money rarely changes hands.

Have you ever paid a lot of money for an outfit only to find you don’t like it after all? Of course you have! Many times people are reluctant to part with clothes they paid a lot for and never wore for one reason or another. Consignment shopping solves the problem.

The first step is to let go of the guilt and get rid of the clothes. When you start buying your clothes at consignment stores, that guilt is never there. If you decide you don’t like something you bought, take it back and consign it. You didn’t pay much for it in the first place and you can use the money you get from consigning it to buy something else.

If you don’t have a consignment store in your town, check out the nearest big city the next time you’re there. Even if you make a trip once or twice a year to clean out your closet, it will be worth the effort.

These days there’s no reason you should feel compelled to spend a large percentage of your income on new clothes. Let your kids see all the great bargains at a consignment store. Even your teens will be impressed, provided you scout out the best stores ahead of time.







Learning From Your Financial Mistakes

Mary Hunt has compiled a great list of items that can help us re-evaluate mistakes we’ve all made – and have cost us money in the end. With “planning” and taking a second look at the whole picture we can take more control over our pocketbook and focus on our goals.

What Our Mistakes Teach Us

From Mary Hunt’s Everyday Cheapskate

Have you made any mistakes lately? Want to talk about it? Most people don’t. Can’t say that I blame them. It’s embarrassing. And when it’s a really dumb mistake, well that’s something you hope to never have to think about again. And that’s a mistake.

Mistakes are useful because they teach us what doesn’t work. But making the same mistake over and over again while expecting different results—well, that’s the definition of insanity!

I’ve accumulated a list of mistakes over many years. It’s like a trophy now—a specific compilation of things that I do not have to do again because I’ve proven they do not work.

It doesn’t work to be in a supermarket without a plan.

Walking into the grocery store without a plan (written list, coupons and cash) is a terrible mistake. I know me. Without my “crutches” I am a $200 mistake just waiting to happen. And if I’m hungry? Make that $300.

It doesn’t work to buy extended warranties on appliances.

Statistically, if an appliance is going to fail it will do so in the first 90 days (the product comes with a warranty to cover this time frame) or after five years (extended warranties aren’t that extended). For the record, a laptop computer is an exception to this mistake. Laptops fail routinely, trust me.

It doesn’t work to lease a car.

And it really doesn’t work to roll the shortfall and extra charges at the end of one auto lease into a new auto lease. To have repeated this mistake over and again for no less than 22 years straight was to come dangerously close to insanity.

It doesn’t work to buy a 7,000-gallon blow-up swimming pool.

Actually, I didn’t know such a thing existed so I can’t even argue it was something we needed. Standing there in the middle of the Home Show I managed to pull off the impulse purchase of the century (thankfully, this was in the last century). That was a mistake that just kept on giving lessons to be learned until the day several years later we begged Goodwill to just take it away. Please.

It doesn’t work to carry more than $100 cash.

Carrying a single $100 bill is for me a great deterrent for overspending. I don’t feel broke, but it’s a bill I hate to break. It is also the tipping point. Carrying more than $100 creates a feeling of excess that burns a hole in my wallet. The overage simply disappears.

It doesn’t work to live on credit.

When it comes to mistakes, depending on credit to bridge the gap between what you earn and what you spend is a big one. Debt is a terrible liar, insisting that while you don’t have the money today, you’ll have it next month. Or the next. Debt keeps you stuck in the past, always stealing from the future.

Debt is reversible, thankfully—provided you don’t do it over and over expecting that eventually, somehow you will get different results.

That would be insane.