Teaching Moment… Back to School Budgeting

KIDS AND MONEYOur daughter is headed to 5th grade this year, and this summer has been a great opportunity to ratchet up her role in the back-to-school finances.

Currently our school budget category has about $ 450 in it.  We deposit $10-20.00 a week into the category whenever we have a chance.  This is an ongoing budget category because inevitably there are purchases that come up throughout the year.  This fund covers school fees (yes, public schools have them), clothes, shoes, and school supplies.

The first budgeting opportunity was giving her the responsibility of looking at the school supply lists in July and combining all supplies required into one master list (if you take French, you need additional items; if you take Spanish, something else is required, and so on).  She did that at the start of July which allowed us to go to OfficeMax and get a bunch of supplies for .25 a piece when they started early-bird sales.  We focused only on the items with deep discounts and weren’t tempted by the full-priced items.  Still time for other sales!

A word on school supplies… or maybe more than a word.  When your kid is in Kindergarten if the teacher says you need a Bic pen in blue, by God, you will cross the earth to make sure you buy a Bic pen, lest your child’s blue pen be different than another kid’s pen.  By 5th grade, that is all out the window.  If the teacher wants Pink Pearl erasers, no way am I turning my back on Office Depot brand erasers for .01 as a loss leader.  Ditto on the markers.  If it is a reasonable-quality brand, we are going to live on the edge and get the ones on sale for .25.

Also, can we talk about #2 pencils?  How many #2 pencils do you think a 10 year old could use in roughly 9 months.  Now, about 1/2 the  school day consists of non-pencil using activities like lunch, band, PE, etc.  I would love for you to put your guess in the comments.  Is it anywhere near…. wait for it…. 79 pencils?!?!?!  We should have started sharpening these babies weeks ago! (Note for parents of small kids… start hoarding Ticonderoga pencils immediately)!

Another finance area for her to get involved was to see the amount we had budgeted for school needs and make some decisions about “optional” items like a new backpack and new lunch bag.  I supported her wish for something a little more grown-up and let her look through some catalogs.  She opted to get both items new for next year, knowing that choice may require some economizing down the road. Perhaps by being on top of the school supply sales we created more wiggle room for these “optional” items.

You may want to save on back to school because you have to… funds are tight and perhaps you are working Dave Ramsey’s steps.  On the other hand, you may not need to save on school supplies, but this could be a space to teach your kids about financial decision making in an area that concerns them directly.  My husband and I always say it’s important for kids to have some “skin in the game.”  Now is the time to have money experiences when the stakes are low.  Today’s backpack or Air Jordan decision is tomorrow’s decision about credit cards and college loans.  I’ll let you know how our purchases work out.  How is the back-to-school budgeting at your house?

Side note… if you are hoping to catch information on school supply sales I recommend the blog Hip2Save.

 

 

 

 

Versatile Blogger Award – Thanks Vic!

wpid-versatile-blogger-awardThanks to Vic over at Dad is Cheap for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  If you are new to his blog I can tell you that I have been inspired by Vic’s commitment to his family.  He and his wife work as a partnership to do what is right for their family to thrive.

These are the copy/pasted rules for the Versatile Blogger Award-

1.  Acknowledge the person who nominated you by thanking them and posting a link to their blog.
2.  Share 10 interesting things about yourself.
3.  Nominate 10 more bloggers

Ten facts…

I have always been motivated to earn money.  As I kid I was always looking to mow the lawn or wash the car.  In high school as soon as I turned 16 I applied for a job at a dance apparel store at the mall.  This was in the glory days of leotards and leg warmers and shiny spandex tights!

I have never been to Great America, or any other theme park.

When we were Gazelle Intense about paying off our mortgage our daughter, then about 5 years old, thought that every balding man was Dave Ramsey.

I love throwing kid’s birthday parties.  I’m all about the theme party.

My husband makes the world’s best nachos.

I have a degree in English, but now my knowledge of children’s literature is far greater than what I remember about Chaucer and Shakespeare.

I don’t understand Swiss cheese.  Or beer.

I have never had a school loan.  Thanks Mom and Dad!

I am thankful that my husband and I have continuously improved how we manage our finances throughout our 20+ years of marriage.

I wouldn’t have a blog if it weren’t for my daughter, who started her own when she was in 2nd grade!

I am tagging…

101 Ways to Cook Rice and Beans

Planet Krystal

Finally Acting Our Wage

Budget Brain Consulting

We Sold Our House

Adventures of a Fiscally Fit Chica

Thanks, Vic!  That was fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chance Encounter

dfbb2bab2fe032d4f537560224c6ffabToday my daughter and I were at the car dealer for an oil change.  We had just stopped at the library for some books to entertain us, and I was reading Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook “Jerusalem.”  All of his books are beautiful, inspiring, and have recipes that work.  I digress…

An older woman came over to inquire about the delicious looking recipes.  She told me she was 84 (could have passed for 72 in my opinion) and she had been married to a man who was both a pharmacist and a medical doctor.  Ottolenghi’s recipes are based heavily on Mediterranean ingredients, and that got my new friend dispensing advice on healthful living.  Her thoughts:

  • Why does the YMCA have vending machines that are filled with chips and snacks?
  • Get rid of the salt shaker; her husband promoted garlic powder and onion powder
  • Follow a Mediterranean style of eating – lots of veg
  • Sugar – be careful
  • Buy Trader Joes frozen zucchini and eggplant for an easy veg side
  • The food of her European ancestors killed them (carb heavy, fat heavy, rich)
  • If you can’t grow your own herbs, it is worth it to pay for them in the grocery store.  They are cheap compared to the pharmaceuticals you need for Diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.

When I have a chance encounter like this, I try to really hear what the person is saying.  I do believe that there are people who come into our lives that we have something to learn from.  We bought that zucchini and eggplant from TJs, and I am reading a little about Mediterranean eating.  I think it could be a sustainable way of eating, especially as I teeter on the mid-life changes in my body.

Working and Unconscious Spending

Free-Downloads-Vector-Vintage-Stove-GraphicsFairy-redWith summer comes a break from employment for me because I work in a school.  This past year I worked more hours, and I am thinking about how that affected my behavior with our money.

All along we have been staying debt-free and working a budget, but even within that I can see an increase in ‘buying to get through the week’ kind of behavior – unconscious spending.  I can tell I haven’t been as mindful with money when I am afraid to see what the grocery spending looks like when I run a report in Quicken.  I haven’t run one in a long time, but did so tonight.  It was better than I expected, but lots of room for improvement.  When I get lax with our shopping and meal planning, it generally costs us about an additional 100.00 a month.

It’s easy to get in the mindset of picking up convenience items at the store, and saying ‘yes’ to impulse purchases, when you are so busy.  Yet, that isn’t really how I want to spend the money I go to work to earn.  What I dislike even more than the expenditure, is the unconscious part of the spending.  Unconscious spending to me means those expenditures where I say, “Looks good, I’ll pick one up.  Why not.”  Conscious spending is when I might deviate from my plan, but I do so with intention and joy (and a definite plan to use the item soon).

If any persons think some of the maxims too rigidly economical, let them inquire how the largest fortunes among us have been made.  They will find thousands and millions have been accumulated by a scrupulous attention to sums ‘infinitely more minute than sixty cents.’

-The American Frugal Housewife, 1832

Meccas for unconscious spending:  Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Fresh Market  All danger zones!  I don’t belong to Costco but I suspect that it also belongs on the list.

So, I am contemplating this summer how to find that balance come fall between minding the food expenses and not running around all weekend with coupons and grocery store flyers.  Your input is welcome!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearing Out

We started the summer off with an impressive burst of motivation to have a rummage sale.  DD was a huge help and went through every box of toys and kid books, and clothes too!  We hit the stage where it’s pretty clear what toys are with us for the duration and which could be better served with a new friend.

noexif_IMG_5920_privateThings we found helpful in making the rummage a success were:

  • Having pre-printed Avery price tags.  They were inexpensive and what kid doesn’t love to put stickers on things!
  • We lacked a hanging clothes rack, but we found people were willing to go through bins on a table that were labeled by size.
  • We also found it worthwhile to bag like items together in a Ziploc and sell them as a bundle.  Within the first 20 minutes all of our Melissa and Doug wooden toy food was gone.

Our 4 hour sale netted us about 100.00.  From that $100 I paid our daughter a flat rate for labor and a 10% commission on sales.

It feels great to have things like her old bike out of the garage.  The longer it sits around the more likely it is to become broken or rusty.  I’d rather price it reasonably and have someone using it.

We used the cash from the rummage to buy some portable folding chairs that we need for an event later this summer.  It felt great to meet a future expense with items taking up room in our basement.

I did break a cardinal rule of having a garage sale… I brought three boxes of stuff back inside the house.  I labeled the bins and hope to have a rummage with the rest of it at my mom’s house that has great street traffic.  I put the bins in my laundry room so I won’t forget my plan!

Got $10 and Time?

Mr. Saver is Head Gardener in our home.  He was researching shrubs and trees and came across a wonderful, economical resource at the Arbor Day Foundation.  The Arbor Day Foundation sells an enormous variety of evergreens, fruit and nut trees, shrubs, and flowering trees, many of them priced from $ 4.00 to $ 19.00.  Who needs Monrovia at the garden center?!

Of course, there is a catch.  The plants are small, many from 6″ to 3 feet.  So, you need to be both frugal and patient to make this work.  There is also a “tree wizard” which will help you select the best trees for your growing conditions.

I was drawn to the “American Beech”  – its “beech nuts” serve as an important food for wild turkeys, foxes, and porcupines!  It grows 70 feet tall, has fall color, and you get all that for the low low price of $ 9.00!

Note – they only ship in spring and fall.  This is not a sponsored post – just sharing!

 

 

From Prudent to Extravagant in 40 Minutes

Now, you know we plan ahead for kid expenses, whether it be school fees or summer activities, we are thinking and budgeting in advance.  .  . (most of the time).

Our daughter sure grew this year, and surprise! her bike is ridiculously small.  We tried to drum up a used bike from friends — no luck.  Thought about a bike from Target or Amazon, but we’re not real comfortable with assembling a bike with so many gears.  That brought us to the local bike shop.  Are you seeing dollar signs?  Wait, it gets worse!

My husband and I previewed the offerings at the bike shop alone to avoid possible kid disappointment.  We thought we could aim for an entry-level TREK 24″ wheel bike.  I brought her to the shop and the clerk was about the same height as our daughter.  Turns out she is ready for an adult-sized bike, and not even the smallest adult frame!  Dollar signs!

While she was testing the bikes out I was, of course, texting Mr. Saver: “Adult bike… $ 400-500, not 300. as we planned! ”  The upside is that this bike should work for her for a long time unless she hits 6 ft tall.  I advised her that she can buy her next bike because this one should last until she is 35!

mcdonalds-grimaceWe hone in on one model, only to find out the entry-level adult Trek comes in one color:  charcoal gray.  This is a moment where your parental resolve is tested.  Naturally, there is a purple bike, with better components, and it is teetering close to $500.  The clerk calls the bike “Grimace” purple.

So, for Mother’s Day, mom bought a $ 500 bike for daughter.  Quintessential parenting moment.  We have been out biking together every night when the weather cooperates.  Her bike is much nicer than mine and I may be a bit jealous of her slick looking Bontrager puncture resistant tires.  We paid in full for it… I would never finance a bike even if it were the last Grimace-purple bike in town!

Trek 7.2