Wide Open Wallet

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Archive for the ‘kids’ Category

We don’t spend our money on that

In the corner of our local pizza place they have a candy machine.  It’s the kind that has a crane arm that you can control and it goes down and grabs a few pieces of candy and drops them in the hole.  For 25 cents your kids gets to move the crane around and eat a tootsie roll and a piece of laffy taffy.   Hardly a bargain, but never the less most parents fork over the quarter after a few pleads.

A few weeks ago a little girl asked her dad if she could get some candy.  His response is the reason for this post.  He said “No, we can’t aff…  We don’t spend our money on that.”

Ha! I love it.

He started to say “We can’t afford it.” but stopped himself.  He stopped himself because it’s simply not true.  He could afford to spend a quarter if he really wanted to.  I mean, if they had diamond rings in the machine, I’m sure he could put together $.25.  “We don’t spend our money on that” is a better response for several reasons.  For one, it’s more accurate.  It also teaches the daughter a little something in the process.  It shows her that her parents make conscious choices with their money.  They don’t blindly spend until their last dollar is spent.

The “We can’t afford it” answer comes from a place of weakness. It leaves a “poor me” taste in your mouth.  Especially when you are a little kid.  His daughter watched several other kids slide their quarters into the machine and get a nickel’s worth of candy.  They could afford it, but she can’t. She might wonder what else other people can afford that she can’t.   She certainly doesn’t know that it’s just a quick answer to a complicated situation.

The “We don’t spend our money that” answer comes from a place of strength.  It simply comes down to choices.  We choose this, they choose that.  It doesn’t make you feel like a victim.  It lets you feel like a regular member of society.  Just like everyone else.

pic by: yomi995

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  • Filed under: kids, life
  • I was listening to the news this morning on the radio while I was getting ready and they had a quick story about a Realtor in our area.   When he sells a house he gives 25% of his commission to the local school where the house was sold.

    That’s genius!!

    Think about it.  First off, most deals that Realtors offer are to the seller, but right now finding houses to sell isn’t the problem, it’s finding people to buy them.  So offering deals to sellers isn’t going to help your business. As a Realtor in this market you need to find incentives for buyers to come to you over the hundreds of other Realtors in the area.  But what do you offer someone who is already getting your services for free?  Well, you offer something to their new community.  It’s fantastic.

    If you have 5 Realtors to choose from and one is offering 25% of his commission to the school your children will be attending next year, which one would you choose?  The choice is pretty clear.  Plus the more school aged kids they have, the more they will value the offer.  The more kids they have, the bigger house they need.  Bigger houses are more expensive.  Expensive houses offer more commission.

    So this Realtor not only offers something of additional value to people who already get his services for free, he also targets the buyers who will make him the most money.

    Plus 25% of his commission is a significant amount of money, especially to a struggling school.  It gets him all kinds of attention (I mean, here I am blogging about it.) and goodwill from the communities.

    I love it!

    pic by: Hassan abdel-rahman

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    The best $3.00 I ever spent

    When I was 20 I needed a new alarm clock.  I went down to Walmart and bought the cheapest one they had. It was $3.  It’s black with big red numbers.  It doesn’t do anything fancy at all… it tells time and has an alarm.  That’s it.  It’s honestly not much bigger than a deck of cards.   I remember the purchase very clearly.  I remember the packaging it came in (cardboard bottom with a clear plastic dome, and the price tag.  I wasn’t sure I could trust a $3 alarm clock and figured it would break fairly soon.

    But here we are 12 years later…

    I realized this because my 3 year old son is learning to tell time.  And by “learning to tell time” I mean being able to tell the hour on a digital clock and getting a faint understanding that certain things happen at a certain time.  The “certain thing” that I’m hitting hard is that 7 am is morning time and he isn’t allowed to get out of bed until 7:00.  So I did the same thing I did with my daughter, I covered up the minutes on the clock in his room.  So no more getting out of bed at 6:37 and then again at 6:47 and then again at 6:57.  Only 7:00.  But as I was pointing out the hour to him I thought back to when I was teaching my now 7 year old the same thing.  It dawned on me that I’ve had that alarm clock my entire adult life, pretty much.

    That little $3 alarm clock is 12 years old and still going strong.  It’s woken me up for about 5 different jobs, including one where I had to be there at 4:30 in the morning.  (We had a real love/ hate relationship going back then.)   It’s moved with me across the country, twice.  And now has taught both my kids how to tell when it’s time to get up.

    I wonder when Walmart’s cheapest alarm clock will give up the ghost?  Do you have anything that you have gotten way more than it’s value out of?

    pic by: wan fauzan

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    Picture time again

    Every year at this time I go through the same set of arguments with myself.  My son’s birthday is in February and every year I have to decide whether or not to take him to get his pictures taken by an actual photographer.  (Here’s last years post about it).  It seems like such a waste of money, and yet somehow I feel guilty about not taking him.

    Since he has been 3 for 3 months I figured that I’m at the point where I have to take him or skip it.  If I wait much longer he is going to be closer to 4.  So yesterday I found a coupon at Sears with no sitting fee and buy one get one free sheets.  I figured that was a good deal.  My best memory is that sheets are $7.99, and I don’t need a ton, two or three sheets should be plenty.  So I figure I can get out of there for less than $20.


    Either I’m crazy or prices have gone way up.  It was $16.99 for a sheet, and the buy one get one free is for the same pose only.  So if I want 3 different poses, which I did, then I had to buy 3 $16.99 sheets.  I spent $55.  Was it worth it?  I don’t know, not right now.  But they are nice to have and when the kids are grown I’m going to treasure all their pictures.  Will it be worth it then?  Probably.

    But man he was cute.  He’s pretty shy and the photographer lady was kinda freaking him out.  He just stood there with a totally blank face.  He would do whatever she told him, put your hands in your pockets, sit down, look this way, ect… but he would not smile.  It was hilarious.  But somehow he does have smiles in his pictures.  And I know that in the background I’m giving an over the top reaction to a stranger tickling me with a stuffed frog.  haha.

    One thing that I cannot believe is how much they expect you to spend on pictures.  It’s insane!  I sit down at the little table with the photographer and she starts explaining all the packages.  The first one was $350!  My mind kind of glazed over after that, so I’m not sure what the others were.  Here I was planning on spending $20 and she is talking $350.  I don’t think so lady.  Luckily I don’t have that much family, I’m just getting them for myself.  One 5×7 of each cute pose is good enough.

    How much do you spend on professional pictures of your kids?

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  • Filed under: kids
  • A new semester

    I signed up for classes for the fall.  Blah.  I’m taking Business Ethics and Math Analysis (some business math class).  Sounds thrilling doesn’t it?  Tuition was $525 (in-state at the local community college).  It’s more than last year.  Last year was $440 for two classes.  So it’s gone up 20%.   That’s quite a bit.  And of of the classes is only offered as a four day a week class, they don’t have it on Tuesday/Thursday, or Monday/Wednesday schedule like every other class I’ve ever taken.  Which means I have go to school every day.  Not looking forward to that!

    But the good news is that my school has an on campus preschool.  The kids can go when they are 3.  My daughter went there when she was 3 and loved it.  So I’ve been waiting to be able to send my son.  It’s great because it means I can take classes during the day now.  Which leaves more family time at night, and I think my son will really get a lot out of being around other kids.  We really don’t have a sitter, so he’s pretty much never been away from my husband and I.  I think a little separation will be good for him.

    The preschool costs $2.50 an hour and he will be there 10 hours a week.  $100 a month for part time preschool is ridiculously cheap.  I’m thrilled with it.  Any place else would cost at least twice that.  But even this has gone up a lot.  4 years ago it was $1.60 an hour.  But I’m not complaining.  Having him right on campus for half price of a regular preschool is worth every penny.

    So total costs for this semester will be:

    Tuition: $525
    Books: $150 (estimated $75 per class)
    Gas: $190 (estimated $2 per gallon)
    Preschool: $400
    Total: $1,265

    pic by: striatic

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    Reward for Good Grades

    How much to reward good grades is a subject of much debate.  But I think good grades should be rewarded one way or another.  I always make sure to point it out if we are doing something because my daughter gets good grades.

    For example, when we went to Disneyland in January my daughter missed 4 days of school.  I made sure she knew that we couldn’t have done that if she didn’t have such great grades.  I went on and on about how if she was having trouble in school we couldn’t have let her miss days to go Disneyland.  I tried hard to not make it sound like Disneyland was the reward for good grades.  (I certainly can’t keep up that standard!)  But instead tried to show her that her good grades gave us the opportunity to go to Disneyland.  It’s a subtle difference, but I think she understood.

    That said, last weekend we went on an official reward outing.  We went to see Disney on Ice, just my daughter and I.  We got dressed up very fancy and had a night on the town just the two of us.  It was a lot of fun.  During the week I had taken her to Target and let her pick out a new dress.  Any dress she wanted.  They had all the Easter dresses on display she had plenty of extra fancy dresses to pick from.   She picked this one.   It’s really cute on her.  I think she made an excellent choice.   She also got some new shoes to go with her dress.  She wanted these, which admittedly did look nicer with the dress, but I got her these ones.  I had executive powers on the shoe choice because I really needed her to get something she can wear all summer.  It’s one thing to buy a dress she is only going to wear twice (we have a wedding this summer).  But shoes too… that’s where I draw the line.

    I didn’t calculate every dollar.  But I would say the whole night cost about $80.  That includes, the tickets, her dress, and parking.  It’s a lot, I admit.  But it’s not something we do all the time.  She wanted to go see that show and I felt a reward was in order for her awesome grades this year.  I know she’s only in first grade, but I figure making a big deal out of good grades won’t hurt anything.  Not everyone gets straight A’s, even in first grade.

    pic by: Hythe Eye

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  • Filed under: kids
  • A grown-up life

    My daughter came and plopped on the couch next to me the other night and asked, “So how do you get started on a grown-up life?”  She’s 7.  I don’t know why she is so worried about having a grown-up life but she is.

    Man… the possibilities here.  I know I don’t want to screw this up.  The answers I give to this question will come back to haunt me.  Whether that is good or bad is up to me right this second.  Ahhh… the pressure!

    Sigh.   Think think think.  Definitely mention college.  Definitely mention getting a job.  Don’t mention living with a boyfriend or getting married or anything like that.  Hmm…

    “Well… ” I start.  “First thing you need to do is finish high school.  Then you can get a job, like work at a store, or in a restaurant or something like that, or anything you want.  You can live here, and work and go to college.  Then when you are finished with college you can get a job doing whatever you went to school to learn how to do.  Then you can get an apartment either by yourself or maybe with a friend.  You can save up your money and buy a house.”

    “And then I can get married?”  she asked.

    “Yes, and then you can get married.”

    “So get a job, save up for a house, buy a car, and then get married.”

    “Well, you will probably save up for a car before you buy a house.”

    “Yes!” she exclaims and then runs out of the room.  Apparently she just wanted to know when she could buy a car and get married.

    Looking back I should have stressed getting good grades a little more.  Impressed upon her that if she gets good grades she can go to school for free.  Oh well… there will be time for that I suppose.

    pic by: fotographics.ca

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  • Filed under: kids
  • If you have kids then I’m sure you are aware that funding for the current school year has been cut.  It’s a shame.  Teachers are being laid off and displacing kids in the middle of the year.  Programs that the kids have been enjoying all year are now being taken away.  It’s sad.  I hate it.

    But there are some ways to give money to your local school without dipping further into your budget.  If you follow the 5 ideas I’ve listed here you could earn $80 a school year for your child’s school.  Imagine what an impact that would be if all the kids did the same.  If there are 30 kids per class, 4 classes per grade, and 7 grades (K-6); that equals $67,200 per year!!  That would make a HUGE impact on our kid’s education.

    Box Tops for Education

    The Box Top for education from General Mills gives money directly to individual classrooms.  I love this program because the money goes to my daughter’s teacher for use in her classroom how ever she sees fit.

    How it works:  The tops of the boxes of a ton of General Mills products have a graphic on the top that says “Box Tops for Education”. Cut that off and send it to school with your child.  Each box top is worth a dime to the school.  You can also shop through Box Top Marketplace and earn extra money for your school.  Just visit the website where you are going to do your shopping through the link on Box Top Marketplace and the store will donate a stated percentage to your school.

    The Impact:  If each child brought in 10 box tops a month that would be $30 a month to use in their classroom.  You can look on their website and see how much your school as earned so far this year.  My daughter’s school has earned over $4,000 so far this year.  Good for them!


    How it works:  If you have Target card and use it at Target or Target.com they will donate 1% of your purchase to the school you have enrolled in their program.

    The Impact:  If each child’s family bought $30 a month on their Target card the classroom would receive about $8 a month.

    If you have trouble using credit cards responsibly then please skip this one.  It’s not worth giving your child’s school 1% of your shopping trip if you are then going to pay 17% in interest.  If that makes you feel guilty just send a few dollars to the school and call it even.


    How it works:  Save up your plastic shopping bags and the school can recycle them at Walmart for money.  The school can earn $5.00 for every 60 bags turned in.  They do not have to be Walmart bags, I don’t believe.  All bags must be dropped off by March 31, 2009.

    The Impact:  If each child earned $5 through plastic bag recycling the classroom would receive $150. Not to mention all the bags saved from landfills.

    Campbell’s Labels for Education

    How it works:  Similar to the Box Top program, you cut off the label of Campbell’s products and turn them in for money.  I looked on their website and couldn’t determine how much the labels are worth.  Quite a bit of their site was down so maybe I missed it.  If anyone out there knows, please share.

    The Impact: Let’s just say for argument’s sake that each child could earn $.50 a month from this program.  That gives $15 a month to the school per classroom.


    Other grocery stores besides Albertson’s also participate in similar programs.  Check with your school to see if the store you shop at has a program.

    How it works:  You are given a number that identifies your preferred school.  Then when you shop up to 4  percent of your total is donated to your school.  You just have to remember to give the cashier the number of your school.  Some stores will link your loyalty card to your school and keep track of it that way.

    The Impact: If each child earned $6 a month from this program the classroom would get $180 a month.  I don’t know what up to 4% really means, so I estimated an average of 2%.  Then I guessed an average of $75 per week at the grocery store.

    Pic by: Liz Marie

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  • Filed under: kids
  • Essential Baby Items

    There’s been a lot of baby talk in the personal finance blogsphere lately.  I don’t really know why.  But never one to let the talk of babies pass me by I can’t help but contribute.  Four Pillars recently made a list of essential baby items.  The mother in me will not let me pass this by.  Must. Join. In.

    The bottom line when it comes to baby stuff is that the cheap stuff might not be as cute, but it’s just as good.  The standards they have in place when it comes to baby equipment are very high.  Even the lower end stuff is going to be just as safe as the high end stuff.   So when in doubt, go cheaper.

    1. Car seat:  At first you will probably want an infant car seat.  Those are the ones with the handle that you can snap in and out of the car.  Totally essential if you ask me.  Life is so much easier when you can set your baby down for a second, or move them into the house when they fall asleep in the car.  And I know babies with acid reflux often sleep much better in their infant seat.

    When they out grow the infant seat you will need a regular car seat.  For our son, we went middle of the road for our car seat and I like it a lot.  For my daughter, I bought the cheapest car seat on the market cause I was broke back then.  It worked just fine.  It’s not as cozy, but I have no doubts it’s just as safe.

    2. Clothes/ blankets:  Do not buy these.  You will be given more clothes and blankets than you will know what to do with.  Seriously.  In the rare event you are ready to pop and no one you know has given you clothes then go buy about 10 onsies and some socks.  Maybe some cozy, elastic top pants if it’s chilly.  Your baby will out grow clothes weekly for a while.  Save your money on the cute stuff for now.

    3. Crib: Not being a fan of the family bed, I can’t live without a crib.  I got a lower end crib when my daughter was born and both my kids used it.  It got about 5 years worth of use and is still going strong.  You don’t need a $400 crib.  You just don’t.  Also, get 4 or 5 sets of sheets and some water proof pads.

    4. Bottles:  Again, you don’t need the expensive ones.  My son was a little picky about which nipple he liked and we ended up switching to a new brand at about 6 months old.  Since you don’t know what your baby is going to like it’s better not to go out and buy $50 worth of expensive bottles.

    5. Pacifiers:  If you plan on using them then buy a few different brands.  Babies can be very picky about them.  My daughter loved her paci and didn’t care about the kind.  My son could take it or leave it, but if he wanted it there was only one brand that would do.

    6. Gripe Water:  You know, the drops that help the gas bubbles move through.  My son was colicky and this stuff helped tremendously.  One of his first nights home my husband went out at 2 am to buy some.  For $3 it’s worth having some on hand ahead of time.  Generic works just fine.   If you don’t end up needing it then you wasted $3, sorry.  But if you do, you will send me a hand written thank you letter.  :)

    7. Diaper Bag:  You will need one of these if you plan to leave the house ever.  Go ahead and get something cute, but don’t spend a fortune.  It will get ruined no matter how hard you try.  The things that will be put into this bag will gross you out.  Don’t make yourself put a dirty diaper or puke cloth into a $200 bag.  Buy cheap so you can replace it often.

    8.  Stroller:  You can get the “travel system” that has the infant car seat and the stroller that fit together.  I have mixed feelings about the stroller.  I guess you kinda need one cause there are times when you just can’t get around it.  On the other hand they are so expensive and it seems like you could get through life without one.  But either way, I had and used one with both kids so I guess they are essential.

    9. Pack and Play:  At first we used it in our room when our son was a newborn so he could be close.  Then we moved it downstairs and used it as a changing table, jail, laundry basket, toy collector, ect.  Once he outgrow that then we used it for the intended method of a crib when we traveled.  He finally outgrew it on our recent trip to Disneyland.

    Wait and see items:

    1. Boppy:  Had one, never used it.

    2. Bumper Pads:  You know, the soft things that go around the crib bars.  Newborns don’t really move around much so you won’t need them right away.  You will have a chance to see if you have a wiggly sleeper or not before you spend the cash.   I know those matching crib sets are adorable, but they aren’t worth the money.  Not by a long shot.

    3. High chair:  I so wanted the high chair that matched my swing.  So so wanted it.  But it cost twice as much as the generic high chair and I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the money.  I got the generic and never looked back.  It was so much easier to clean than the expensive one and really, once it’s covered in mashed carrots who cares if it has ducks on it or not.

    4. Jumperoo:  Love it!!  My son adored his jumperoo.  He would still like it if he could fit in it.  This was a must have with him.   But I don’t think this is an item you should buy before you know your baby.   Once you get to know them you will be able to tell if this is a toy they will like.  Besides, they won’t be using it for a while anyways.

    5. Swing:  Neither of my kids cared for the swing.  This is also an item I recommend waiting to buy until you have met your baby.   You will be able to tell if your baby needs item.  They are expensive and HUGE, so try to avoid buying if you can.

    Well, I think that’s the big stuff.  It’s by no means a comprehensive list.  Most items fall into the wait and see category.  Newborns don’t need very much.  They are happy as long as they are warm, dry, fed, and cuddled.

    pic by: normanack

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  • Filed under: kids
  • Big boy bed

    My son is turning 3 in a few weeks and he is still sleeping in a crib.  He needs a big boy bed and it’s reaching critical levels.  He looks like a giant laying in that tiny crib.  So we decided that we are getting him a big boy bed for his birthday.  I know it’s not the greatest gift in the world, but he just got a truckload of new toys for Christmas.  Plus, he really is excited about it.

    Despite the fact that I’ve had 3 years to plan for this event, I’ve done absolutely nothing.  The proper way to make this purchase would have been to research beds.  Find one that we like. And then save up for it. However, that takes time.  Time we don’t have because I had my Mommy blinders on and didn’t realize that my baby was growing up.  So we did the totally wrong thing and went shopping with no money.  Never a good idea.

    I had a general idea to spend about $200.  I had no idea where we were getting this money, but that’s besides the point.  First stop, Costco.  They had two twin mattresses.  One really cheap looking one for $259 and one decent looking one for $299.  Plus another $40 for the frame. Yikes.  While we are standing there we decide that if we are going to spend $300 on a bed we might as well get a full size for another $100 and then he won’t outgrow it.  And well, if he’s going to keep this mattress until he moves out then we should really get a higher quality one.  I mean, I’m already spending non existent money, might as well get what I want.  Ah, thankfully we left before we spent any money. (I really do understand how people get themselves in trouble with credit cards.)

    Second stop, a regular mattress store down the street.  We were actually just killing time because we were waiting to have lunch near there.  Anyways, they had a bunch of floor models marked down 50%.  SCORE! We found a twin bed for $150 and the frame was included.  Oh, I’m so excited.  It’s perfect.  I even have twin sheets already.  Which might not seem like a huge deal, but I could easily spend another $50 buying a couple of sets of full size sheets.  So that is money saved there too.

    But you know, even when I found the perfect bed at the right price I still had a hard time pulling the trigger.  I already had in my mind that we were going to buy a larger high quality mattress.  It was kind of a let down at first.  But now that I have to come and put those numbers into the budget, I know we made the right decision.

    pic by: eyeliam

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  • Filed under: kids, life
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