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My Healthy Dish: How To Teach Your Kids About Budgeting At The Farmer’s Market - YouTube

Aside from cooking, if there’s one important lesson I learned from my parents it would have to be about budgeting. I grew up in a large family of 6, and we enjoyed delicious home cooked Vietnamese dishes, so I’ve had my fair share of trips to the Asian market to pick out the dinner ingredients. We couldn’t always get the pre-packaged American snacks from the commercials, but now that I think about it, learning those lessons about budgeting for our family really came in handy for me now that I’m a parent- way more handy than any fun snacks or juice boxes would have been!

With twin tweens, a hungry husband, and now my parents in my household, budgeting is still important when it comes to food, except now it seems easier. My parents might have taught me how to balance a checkbook, but those days are long gone because now I’ve been using Mint to balance everything and track my spending. I love how my expenses are automatically categorized and I can even set goals for saving. Times have changed since I was young!

Although the menus and where we shop may be different than when I was growing up, I still want to teach my daughters about budgeting, and one place that is perfect for those lessons is the Farmer’s Market. Just like how I learned about budgeting when I was accompanying my mom to the market, my kids not only learning about budgeting- they’re also understanding how to eat healthy on a budget!

To help get your family started, here are my tips about how to use the farmer’s market to teach your kids about budgeting:

1) Set a food budget

Establishing a budget is usually one of the first steps when it comes to saving money, which I shared that in my last post about how to eat healthy on a budget. This tip goes both for parents and children. By starting with a budget, your children will understand the importance of this first step. I would suggest to be open about the budget and let them know how much you are allotted to spend at the farmer’s market, and that you are asking for their help to stay on budget. One extra perk of being honest about your farmer’s market budget is that kids are usually pretty good police when it comes to staying on track!

2) Write a grocery list together

When your kids write out the grocery list, they will realize that this is also an important step in budgeting. This step also gives a sense of ownership to your child because they feel empowered to make healthy choices. Allow them to choose some of their favorites, but also include some of your necessities so that they can help you complete your list. I found it helpful to have your kids take note of what foods are local and in season so they have realistic expectations of what to find at the market. It’s no fun if your child expects to get nectarines in the winter, but on the flip side, it can be so rewarding to have your kids wait for that special time when their favorite fruit is in season! It’s also important to help them understand that this is just a list to start from, and depending on the variety available at the market, they might have to be flexible. That is a whole other lesson in itself!

3) Load up their wallet with cash

Most of my spending is on a card, which makes using Mint so easy, but when it comes to learning about budget and money, cash is easier for kids. First, that’s how they learn about money and math in school, so it’s a great way to connect what’s learned in the classroom to the real world. Second, it’s a tangible way to see their budget in action- once the money is gone, then their budget is spent! I suggest giving your child a wallet with the budget broken down into various denominations and coins, so that they can have different options to pay with.

4) Do a walkthrough together first

Your child may get excited at the first sight of strawberries they see in the market, but when you’re dealing with a budget, it’s important to shop around to get the best value. Do a walk through of the whole market together and take note of the items on the grocery list, how much the foods cost, what kind of varieties, and even ask for some taste tests! Then, loop it back with your kids to see what they think about where their dollars should go, and what foods come home with them.

5) Allow your kids to handle the transactions

Your kids have the cash, so give them the power to use it and make decisions with your support. For farmer’s market first timers, it would be helpful to first model to your child about how to buy food and talk through each step. Show them how to pick the best produce, and if the vegetables are by the pound, demonstrate how to weigh it out. Use a calculator to add it up, or ask the farmers if they can give a price before you complete your purchase. But since we’re dealing with budget, always make sure to bring the learning back to the budget. Ask questions to help them relate the money in their wallet to their grocery list and the actual costs in the market. As a parent, you may know all the answers, but your child will learn so much more if you give them the opportunity to think things through and make a few mistakes along the way. Questions like, “If we buy this much, will we have enough for something else?” or “How many of that can you buy without going over budget?” can be helpful to make those connections.

Once your children have the hang of how the farmer’s market transactions happen, let them do the work while you take a back seat. Let them ask for help, but leave the rest to them. When it comes time to checking out, let them pay with the wallet, and while that may take longer than other customers, farmers are usually friendly and supportive when they see a young person involved in the process.

After your farmer’s market trip, spend a moment with your kids to reflect on the trip and the budget to close it up. Did you run out of money or do you have any left? Do you need to change your budget for the next trip? What are ways that you can save money next time? Based on the current spending, how much budget would you need for the month? This reflective part about spending is usually something that children aren’t involved in, but reflecting on my spending has helped me stay on track of my budget immensely. While I have tools like Mint to help reflect on my budget, our kids need us to help understand budgeting first, and trips to the farmer’s market has helped my girls so much!

The post How To Teach Your Kids About Budgeting At The Farmer’s Market appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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There’s a specific conversation I frequently have with people around my age. As they get closer to middle adulthood and look back on everything they’ve learned about money, they start to wonder – why didn’t they teach us this stuff in school? 

For whatever reason, the American education system is sorely lacking when it comes to personal finance education. You can easily enter adulthood without ever learning how to set up a budget, open a retirement account or build a respectable credit score. If school is supposed to set you up for success as an adult, that seems like a glaring blind spot. 

That’s why it falls to parents to teach their kids about money. Here are some important topics to cover, and how to teach them lessons that will actually stick. 

Share Your Mistakes 

I grew up in a household where my parents were honest about money. They didn’t mind talking about how much they earned, how much they spent or most importantly, how much they owed. I probably learned as much from their failures as I did from their successes. 

My parents are immigrants and had never seen a credit card before they moved to America. Entranced by the shiny plastic, they signed up for several, not realizing how easy it would be to rack up a balance. It wasn’t long before they racked up a balance that took them more than a decade to pay off. 

After my parents learned their lesson, they always taught me to avoid putting more on a credit card than I could afford to comfortably pay off. Seeing how credit card debt affected them spurred me to pay off my student loans quickly and avoid other forms of debt.  

I remember hearing conversations about their credit card balance and how they regretted taking on so much high-interest debt. I wasn’t old enough to grasp the specifics, but one thing was clear – they had made mistakes, and now they were suffering the consequences. 

Don’t be scared to share your personal finance mistakes with your kids. If you put off saving for retirement and playing catch up, tell them about your experience and how you’re fixing it. They’ll learn best from your personal example. 

Explain the Value of Compound Interest 

One of the most important savings lessons anyone can learn is how compound interest builds wealth.  

Compound interest is the concept of interest building on interest. When you save or invest money, you earn interest on your contributions. That interest will then be added to the principal, where it will earn more interest.  

You can do this by opening a high-yield savings account for your child, preferably one that earns at least 1% in interest. Every once in a while, pull up their account statement to show how much interest they’ve earned. When they’re old enough, you can encourage them to use that money to open a retirement account. 

Show Them How to Budget 

Like any life skill, budgeting takes a while to master. The earlier your child starts practicing, the better they’ll be at making hard decisions as an adult. 

You can do this during a family vacation or field trip. Give your kids a set amount at the beginning of the trip and tell them what they’ll be responsible for buying, like extra snacks or souvenirs. Letting them choose their own purchases will teach them how to allocate resources wisely.  

Before the trip, you can explain what prices might be like and how to make decisions. If you’re giving them $30 and each toy costs $15-$20, explain how they can probably only afford one big toy or a couple small ones, but not everything.  

Let Your Kids Make Mistakes 

Credit expert and father Matt Schulz advises parents to let kids make their own money mistakes, even if they can prevent it. 

“I’m a big believer in letting a kid experience buyers remorse,” he said. “Let them use their money to buy something they really want but that you know they’re going to forget about two days later. That can help them think twice before they buy the next thing.” 

Chuck Jaffe, host of the “Money Life” radio show, witnessed this first-hand when his daughters were six and four years old. They were at an outdoor-themed chain restaurant when the girls spotted a toy in the restaurant gift shop, a puppet named Timber the Talking Tree.  

Jaffe explained that they could each afford the toy, but it would empty their bank accounts. The girls each received a weekly allowance and were allowed to spend money however they chose. Jaffe told them they could share the toy and save some money, but they didn’t want to do that. So they each bought the toy. 

Three weeks later, they stopped playing with it. What’s worse, it took them almost three months to rebuild their bank accounts to where they would be if the girls had just shared the toy. 

Jaffe said this lesson has stuck with his daughters. Now in their twenties, they still decide on big purchases by asking themselves, “Is this going to be like Timber?” 

Teach Them to Give 

With online and mobile advertising, your kids are bombarded with images and links of products they want. Without proper guidance, they can easily end up spending their allowance on material goods as quickly as they receive it. 

If your kids get an allowance, encourage them to donate part of it to charities and causes they care about. It could be the shelter where you adopted the family dog or a charity that works in your neighborhood. 

Giving away money also reminds kids how lucky they are and how much they have. It’s important to teach your child the value of a credit score, but it’s also good for them to see how giving away $5 makes an impact on the world. 

If you and your spouse give to charity, explain why it’s so important to you. Your child might even want to start their own fundraiser. 

 

The post How to Teach Your Kids About Money appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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This might come as a surprise, but most of the money nerds I know did not grow up in families where money lessons were prudently taught while going to the supermarket. Nor did our parents sit us down to show us how to balance a checkbook, or to explain how interest fees on a credit card work. We grew up learning about money by figuring things out as we go, and making mistakes along the way.

And while it’s obvious why it’s important to teach kids about money at an early age — financially literate kids become money-savvy adults, and the stakes are low when you make blunders when you’re young — financial literacy has yet to make its way into our education system’s curriculum.

Since financial literacy still isn’t taught in schools, we need to look toward other resources and programs to teach our kids about money. Here are a handful of apps and games that I wish existed when I was a kid:

Cash Crunch Junior

This series of games for kids was created by Paul Vasey, who was a financial educator himself. Cash Crunch Junior  is a board game for kids ages 5 to 12, and teaches important financial concepts such as needs versus wants and opportunity costs. Kids also learn basic math skills such as adding and subtracting, budgeting, and the value of saving. It’s far more fun to learn about money when you’re in a team setting and interacting with others.

Cost: $35

Savings Spree

A winner of several awards, Savings Spree is a financial literacy app that helps kids learn how their daily, short-term decisions can lead to long-term benefits. The premise is simple: kids can choose to either save or spend their money. Players have the option to either do the following with their money: save for short-term wish list items, such as a bike; spend more wisely; donate their beans; or invest it.

With this app, kids can learn valuable lessons using virtual money. If they make a regrettable choice, they aren’t risking any real cash. Despite the fun factor, kids can learn money basics, appreciate the importance of making wise decisions in the here and now, and develop a positive relationship with their money.

Cost: $5.99

Renegade Buggies

Created by the National Center for Families Learning, which is a non-profit whose mission is to eradicate poverty through education, and sponsored by Dollar General, Renegade Buddies is a fun game designed to teach kids how to save money.

Its premise is as follows: You zip around the city on a buggy, grabbing items along the way. You’re also tasked with collecting coupons and coins. The objective? To get the best deal on products in your shopping cart. When trying to shop for the best deal, you’ll have to factor in your coupons and the value of each item against the price.

Cost: Free

Buy It Right

Kids naturally want to mimic the grownups around them. How often have you seen a child push a mini shopping cart around a market, dropping items into it? Buy It Right gives young ones the satisfaction of making a purchase and teaches them money basics. Replete with a handy calculator and play money, players can set prices on items, buy and sell, and learn how to best use and value money.

Cost: $29.99

FamZoo

A highly rated and reviewed platform that’s designed for kids of all ages, FamZoo has two major features: prepaid cards, and a robust family finance app. Parents can assign chores and tasks to their kids, and designate rewards. Kids, in turn, can set up different saving accounts based on goals and what’s important to them. Kids can also split up their earnings. A further incentive to save for the kids? Parents can decide to boost savings by paying an “interest rate.”

With the prepaid card, parents control the accounts and decide on the money rules. Family members can move money among the accounts, and set up alerts. You can also track and reimburse family members for expenses.

Cost: $5.99 a month. (If you opt to pre-pay, it’s $30 a year.)

iAllowance

If you’d like a simpler app that focuses on chores and rewards, you might want to check out iAllowance. An App Store favorite, it assigns chores to kids and sets payments to allowances on autopay. Kids can also earn rewards that you set up, such as an ice cream treat, a special trip to the arcade, or an extra hour playing video games.

Cost: $2.99

Pay Day

A board game classic, both kids and parents can play this game in which players earn income, pay their bills, and make deals on property. All players are given the same amount of money when they begin. Players can also take out a small loan, which they must pay back.

Each round is pretty quick — about 15 minutes or so — so this could easily be played during the busy school week. While Pay Day was created back in the ‘70s, and there have been several updated versions, this throwback game can still teach kids what really goes into being a grown up and earning a paycheck.

Cost: $18.99

There’s no better time to teach your kids financial literacy than now. With the slew of resources available for youth these days, including apps and games, it’s easier than ever for parents to help their kids learn basic money management skills.

The post Top Games and Apps That Will Help Your Kid Learn About Money appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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It’s always time for a vacation and having kids doesn’t mean they have be a stretch on your wallet. No matter what type of family fun you’re looking for, there are some great ways to save money. If frugal family fun is your goal, then these tips will help steer you in the right direction. Your whole family deserves a trip and you can make memories that will last forever.

Set A Budget From The Start

Step #1 of planning a vacation is setting a budget. This helps determine your location and how long you’ll be vacationing. Obviously, longer vacations can equate to more money spent. Like most expenditures, how much you spend on travel is highly personal. To be fiscally responsible, start putting money aside each month and save towards your end goal: your vacation dates. On average, our family spends 5% of our yearly income on travel.

Enjoy The Splendor Of National Parks

Luckily, some of the most beautiful destinations are the most budget-friendly family vacation options. National Parks captivate visitors of all ages. Be inspired by Yellowstone’s geysers or take in the breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon. They offer lodging options that range from campsites to inns. Look for senior discounts if you’re planning a multi-generational family vacation.

Avoid Popular Tourist Destinations

Popular tourist attractions and cities can add to your overall cost. Travelers find that food, lodging and attraction prices are much more costly in popular tourist destinations. Instead, search for destinations that are slightly off the beaten path. In many cases, like Florida, beaches and attractions are located within a few hours of each other. So you’ll save money if you stay a bit further away.

Book Your Vacation During Low Seasons

Every destination has a “high season” when they’re busy and “low season” when they’re less busy. You can pinch a penny when avoid the high peak seasons. Hotel and flights tend to be cheaper. This is a great way to experience popular family travel destinations without the crowds too. For us, it means that sometimes we’re pulling our kids out of school to travel on obscure dates. If you can swing that, do it!

Use Coupon Website To Save On Food

There are some great coupon websites that allow you to purchase vouchers for a variety of things from restaurant gift cards, to local and nearby businesses. While you are planning the details of your upcoming adventure type in the zip code of your destination and see what kinds of deals pop up. You will be able to plan your cheapest meals and even find fun, nearby and affordable places to check out.

Make It A Road Trip

Unless you have airline points to spend, it’s almost always cheaper to travel, as a family, by car. You can also avoid having to rent a vehicle at your destination. Plan your route ahead of time and look for some fun stops along the way. If you’ve got young kids, it’s great because you can travel at your own pace. Take some snacks and entertainment for the car to ensure the journey is part of the vacation!

Consider Renting A House vs. Traditional Hotels

Larger families need more space than a traditional hotel room and booking multiple rooms can quickly increase the cost of your vacation. An alternative and economical option is renting a house. Services, like Airbnb, make it easy to search for exactly what you’re looking for. You book, pay and communicate directly with the owner of the property. Renting a home with a full kitchen can also help you save money on eating out. Score a unique place to stay and experience a destination like a local.

Pay For Everything Ahead Of Time

An awesome way that families have been saving money is booking all-inclusive vacations. The catch is having to pay for everything upfront. Many travelers find that it’s less stressful when they’re vacationing. Traditionally, your room, food, amenities and activities are included. There are many all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and cruises are a popular option.

Buyer beware though, avoid the “add-ons” that aren’t included. They can easily break your budget. Instead, after you’ve paid for the inclusive part of your vacation, consider making sub-category budgets that you can save for.

Go Local For A Staycation

Taking a staycation is always a great option if you can’t afford to go away. Vacationing in a local spot—less than a day’s drive away—will help you save on gas, mileage, and an extra night at a hotel.

Our family find this fun and less stressful. I love to explore the quirky parts of my state and the best small towns. Ask yourself: What attraction do people come to see when they visit your state? Where do your friends vacation in your state? Historical landmarks, natural attractions, national monuments and state parks are a great option.  There are treasures right around the corner from home, just waiting to be explored.

As a bonus, you can score in-state resident discounts. Check out your local visitors bureau or historical society for plenty of ideas for awesome things to do in your neck of the woods.

Connect With Nature And Try Camping

Camp spots are traditionally free to $50 per night, making it an excellent budget-friendly family vacation option. It may not be for everyone, but it’s far cheaper than paying for hotel. Many campgrounds offer nice clean bathrooms and showers. If you’re new to camping, test it out ahead of time at a local campground. If you’re not a fan, just pack up and head home. It’s definitely an adventure, but campers love it.

Always Check For Discounts

Many travelers are entitled to discounts and you just need to research as part of your planing. AAA members, service members and veterans might qualify for discounts. Even some historical sites offer educator discounts. You might be surprised at just how much you can save. It just takes a little effort to uncover these discounts – call ahead, look online and connect with the local visitors bureau.

Getaway Quickly With A Last-Minute Vacation

If your family has a flexible schedule, look at last-minute vacation deals. It’s great if you’re adventurous and you’re not in love with a particular destination. Cruises and resorts are known for offering last-minute vacation packages. I suggest following several of your bucket-list family travel destinations on social media. Many times, these offers happen so quickly that they aren’t even published to websites. Sometimes, it’s as easy as calling to book.

Wherever your family vacation takes you, know that you’re investing in a lifetime of memories. That’s a priceless opportunity that the whole family can appreciate.

About The Author:

Kimberly is the founder of Savvy Mama Lifestyle where she shares travel tips for millennial families families. She’s a mom of two busy boys and believes that travel is one of the best gifts you can give your kids. 

The post How To Plan A Budget-Friendly Family Vacation appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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If your child is old enough to understand the concept of money, you’ve probably considered giving them a weekly or monthly allowance. Until they grow old enough to apply for a job, an allowance is really the only way to give them real world experience in money management. 

But how do you decide the right amount? Should an allowance be given freely or tied to chores? How much control should you exert over the purchases they make? Is it even a good idea to give an allowance in the first place? 

During my years working as a personal finance writer, I’ve met plenty of financial experts with children. Here’s how some of them approach the topic of allowances when it comes to their own kids. 

The Case for an Allowance 

The experts agree – giving your kids an allowance helps them practice money management skills and learn about budgeting – but the best way to implement an allowance, and how much to give, is still a topic of debate.  

Cindy Scott of Smart Family Money started giving her son and daughter an allowance when they were five and seven, respectively. Several years later, they’re using the money for fun things like Pokemon cards, Legos and video games. Scott still pays for books and hobbies, like art supplies for her daughter, baseball equipment for her son and anything else that teaches them a skill. 

Scott said that since making financial mistakes is a part of growing up, she lets them spend their allowance on whatever they want. She can already see them becoming more cost-conscious and wary. 

“If they want something, I’ll say, ‘Sure, you can get that with your own money,’” Scott said. “It’s funny how often they decide they don’t want it anymore.” 

Financial coach Kelsa Dickey of Fiscal Fitness Phoenix believes that an allowance teaches kids financial behaviors they don’t learn in schools. It’s not enough to explain to your child why saving for big goals is important – they need the opportunity to do it themselves. 

“If your teenage daughter spends her allowance on something today and can’t go to the movies this weekend with friends, while we know it’s not the end of the world, it will very much feel like that to her,” Dickey said. “But it’s a less painful lesson than learning it after you’ve spent your mortgage payment money for something else.” 

How to Structure an Allowance 

Personal finance writer Miranda Marquit of Planting Money Seeds has been giving her 17 year-old son an allowance since he was four or five. Now that he’s almost an adult, he uses the money to pay for gas, school lunches and discretionary items. 

“It’s not enough money for him to go out to lunch all the time, or do all the things he wants to do,” she said. “If he wants to make extra money, he does odd jobs for others or sells hand warmers that he makes.” 

Marquit doesn’t tie the allowance to chores because she believes chores are something everyone has to do in a family. She wants her son to help out because he lives in the house, not because he’ll get paid for it.  

Catherine Alford has a similar approach to chores with her twin children. She wants them to understand that money only comes when you work for it. They each have a regular list of chores they do for free, but have the opportunity to earn money when they do extra errands outside of that. Alford gives them a quarter each time, which they can use for toys and games.  

How Much to Give 

Deciding how much to give your kids is tricky. A rule of thumb is to divide their age by half and use that as a benchmark. A 10 year-old would get $5 a week, which would increase to $5.50 a week when they turn 11. A survey from app RoosterMoney found that the average five year-old received $4.21 a week and a 12 year-old got $8.95 a week. 

You can also ask other parents with similar aged children how much they receive. It’s good to give them enough to do something, but not enough to do anything they want. The allowance should teach them how to make hard choices with their money. 

Some parents also try to designate how their kids use an allowance, allocating it between spending, saving and donating. Spending money is for everyday items like a new movie or video game, while saving is for long-term goals like buying a car. They can donate money anytime they see a fundraiser, a person in need or a cause they want to support. 

How to Distribute an Allowance 

If you have small children, cash is the best way to go because it feels tangible and real. They can put it in a piggy bank, in a purse or in their school bag. Younger children also may have trouble conceptualizing the idea of credit and digital funds. 

Older kids are more inclined to shop online and on their phones, so they need access to a debit card. Many banks allow children with checking accounts to get debit cards as young as 13.  

If your children are between the age of piggy banks and debit cards, you can use a service like FamZoo which provides a prepaid card for kids that parents can load electronically.  

Talk to your kid about what makes the most sense. If your child is mostly buying physical items, then cash might work better. If they’re starting to transition to online shopping, a card is probably more practical. If they get a debit card, show them how to check their balance, avoid overdraft fees and watch out for fraud.  

Avoid being a helicopter parents when it comes to your child’s allowance. If you see them buying a video game at Best Buy when it’s $5 cheaper on Amazon, don’t lecture them.  Be a good example of frugality and they’ll learn from your example over time. 

 

The post How to Know How Much Allowance You Should Be Giving Your Kid appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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When Christina Rodriguez divorced four years ago, she had no idea how she was going to make ends meet. After all, during her marriage, she earned $38,000 per year as a visual designer, and even with her husband’s income, the couple lived paycheck-to-paycheck and accumulated tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Rodriguez’s share of credit card debt was $10,000. 

“Here I was struggling with two incomes, and now I was on one income,” says the 35-year-old mom of two. “It was scary.” 

Like so many people, Rodriguez stayed awake at night, worried what she might do should she need to replace her car, especially if her credit were poor because of her debt burden. She spent her energy juggling bills and minimum credit card payments, barely staying afloat.  

“I realized, ‘I can’t live like this. My children don’t deserve to live their life like this’,” Rodriguez says. “It was about figuring out how I could get to a place where I would truly feel free.” 

Fast-forward four short years, and Rodriguez is debt-free, invested $22,000 in a home purchase and remodel, counts $7,000 in cash savings, and has increased her annual income from $38,000 to $128,000. 

Themes of Rodriguez’s success story: 

  • Cut back all extra expenses and focus on paying off debt. At the time of her breakup, Rodriguez had $10,000 in credit card debt. She also had a new, tricked out Chevy Malibu and regularly got her hair and nails done. “That was a huge part of my identity,” she says. “But it wasn’t more important than my kids having food on the table.” 
  • Think big! You can only cut so many costs, but your income potential is infinite. “I realized I was taking on jobs that paid $300 or $400. Why wasn’t I taking on jobs that paid $3,000 or $4,000?” she says. “When I realized my time and skills are valuable — that is when everything changed for me.” 
  • Put a dollar value on your time. Rodriguez’s income ballooned when she stopped taking low-paid side gigs, and started investing without guilt in child care and housekeeping.  
  • Splurge on experiences, not possessions. Christina could easily afford to upgrade her Nissan Rogue, but chooses instead to travel with her kids. “My daughter says: ‘More meetings means more vacations!’” Rodriguez says.  
  • Focus on setting up a life within her control. Rodriguez’s worries included rent increases, job instability, financial instability, depending on her kids’ dad, and a long commute which took her away from her children during the week. “I realized that the kids could only depend on me,” she says. Her focus on home ownership, high earning and self-employed income and a job close to home helped her regain power.  

At the time, her budget breakdown was: 

  • Rent $825 
  • Car payment $450 
  • Car insurance $155 
  • Electric $130 
  • Internet $65 
  • Phone $125 
  • Childcare $250 (her half) 
  • Plus food, gas, entertainment etc 
  • Credit card minimum payments $125  
  • Nails and hair $75  
  • Subscription services $8 
  • Cable TV $149 monthly 
  • Private school tuition $480 monthly 

Upon her divorce, Rodriguez cut her cable, subscription services, nails and hair, and downgraded to less expensive car.  

She then focused on both paying off debt and earning. Rodriguez got a new job where she earned $45,000 per year, and also built up her side business doing freelance graphic design work, carefully selecting jobs that paid a high hourly fee, and helped her reach her goals. “I only work side jobs that meet a specific goal financial goal, because if I was going to dedicate time away from my kids it has to be with purpose,” she says. 

A couple years ago, Rodriguez saved up $15,000, quit her full-time job, and focused narrowly on building her design portfolio. Then, a local health care company near her Kissemmee, Fla., reached out via LinkedIn, and offered her a new job. Today, Rodriguez earns $77,000 salary, plus an annual bonus of $5,000, and last year her side business grossed $46,000, bringing her income to $128,000.   

One of the biggest changes Rodriguez made with her new financial status is buying a 2,300-square-foot home in a gated community. She also purchased a 20-year, $250,000 term life insurance policy, and focuses on travel. She is looking forward to a trip to Paris soon, and she and her grade-school-aged son and daughter are 5 states into their goal of visiting all 50 before the kids graduate.  

Rodriguez also hires a housekeeper twice per month — without any guilt at all.  

Today, Rodriguez’s budget: 

  • Mortgage, taxes and insurance $1471 
  • HOA $216 
  • Car payment $311 
  • Car insurance $155 
  • Electric $100 
  • Water $49 
  • Internet and cable $125 
  • Phone $120 
  • Disney annual passes $138 
  • Childcare $340 
  • Life insurance $38 
  • Cleaning service $140 

Says Rodriguez: “I’m still really frugal. But living a budgeted life works for me. I know where every penny goes and that allows for more opportunities, to make more memories. It also allows me to spend without buyer’s remorse. I think the best feeling though comes from teaching my kids about smart financial decisions like my parents did with me.”

The post How to Create an Amazing Life on a Single Mom Budget appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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The other week, while I was digging up weeds during my volunteership at the botanical garden, my 19-year-old colleague turned to me and asked, “Jackie, what would you tell your 20-year-old self?”

Whelp. I leaned in, gave her my wise, older sister face, and responded, “I’d probably tell myself to floss more, always get a full night’s rest, and also to open an IRA retirement account.” I then proceeded to explain to her the magic of compound interest.

Not the most exciting advice. But what would you expect from a money nerd?

There’s quite a bit of money know-how I would impart to a younger version of myself. Financial literacy certainly wasn’t taught in schools when I was growing up, and my family never talked about money. And like many, I learned about money on my own — and made mistakes along the way. Here are a series of money lessons I wish I could’ve taught my younger self:

Childhood: Know the importance of saving

One year for Christmas I received four piggy banks. Regardless if it was a coicidence or an act of serendipity, it motivted me at a young age to save any spare change into these respective piggy banks. And yet every spring, at the annual community fiesta, I proceeded to spend every dime. I didn’t really understand that if I saved for a bit longer, I could get larger items.

Jackie Koski Cummings taught her daughter to always save something. Back when her child was in elementary school, the financial literacy advocate taught her to spend half her allowance and save the other half.

“The savings added up so that she could buy something bigger on her wish list that she would not have been able to get with just one week’s allowance,” says Koski Cummings, a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and author of Money Letters 2 My Daughter. “Back then it was video games that she loved saving up for. Now that she is an adult she always saves part of her salary. These days instead of a piggy bank, it’s through investing apps or her online savings account.”

Teen: Learn how a debit card works

I can’t recall exactly how I learned to budget. I do remember opening my first bank account with a community credit union. And this was back before there were money management apps, so I had to balance my checkbook with an old-fashioned register. I didn’t really know what I was doing and suffered an overdraft fee a handful of times.

“For older children, helping them set up their own checking account and giving them access to a debit card could definitely provide some useful lessons, especially if it’s their own money,” says Matt Becker, CFP® and founder of Mom and Dad Money. “It gives them an opportunity to manage their money in the same way as they’ll have to manage it as an adult and to build those skills, but with less risk since you will presumably be providing some guidance.”

Early adulthood: Know what you’re getting into with student loans

When I was preparing to attend college, I just assumed taking out debt was the norm and that once I graduated, I would be paying them off. However, I didn’t really know the details: What my interest rate was, how long I had until I needed to start my payments, the loan duration, and exactly how big a commitment it was. Also, I didn’t know what the consequences would be if I couldn’t make my loan payments.

When you’re 18, taking out a $10k plus loan is a big deal. I’m surprised that I took the plunge simply because I assumed all my peers were taking out loans for schooling, too.

Early adulthood: Don’t judge a credit card by its shiny exterior

Full admission: I chose my first credit card purely because it had a cute design of Bambi, from the Disney movie. Oh, and because I wanted in on the Disney rewards points. I didn’t even bother to look at the credit card terms, fees, and other pretty significant details.

Come to think of it, I didn’t really know what was on a credit report, or the different parts of a credit score. Luckily, I was not a huge spender and never incurred interest fees. Regardless, it was a major fail. “Unfortunately, many kids get to college or beyond before they figure this out because no one even stopped to explain it to them,” explains Andrew Herring, founder of Wealthy Nickel.

Jackie Koski Cummings taught her now-grown daughter about credit scores and how important good credit would be when she got older. Her daughter had understood the basic credit score formula since she was in high school but held off on actually getting a credit card until she was 24.

“She simply did not want to get in debt or end up charging more than she could pay when the bill was due,” says Koski Cummings. “She makes payments on her card before it’s due just to make sure she doesn’t have the balance creep up too fast. The best part is that she helped a lot of her millennial friends understand their credit as well.”

Early Adulthood: Open an IRA

To this day, I kick myself over the fact that I didn’t open a retirement account sooner. I actually opened a Roth IRA when I was 21. However, I only put in $100 and let it sit for a few years before rolling it over to a rollover IRA account. I do regret not contributing money on the regular. Even if I squirreled away $10 each week, at a 7 percent interest rate that’s compounded annually, I would have nearly $13,700 in my account. Not too shabby!

Instead, I went through long periods where I didn’t put any money into my IRA. And for whatever reason, I didn’t contribute to an employer-sponsored 401(k), despite there being a small company match.

Adulthood: Get in the habit of giving

My good friend Devin donates a portion of his tax refund every year toward a handful of his favorite charities. During the majority of my early adulthood, I was so focused on being frugal that I really didn’t make cash donations a priority. I was able to afford to give about a $100 a month to a local homeless shelter. Nowadays I make a greater priority of giving to others — either by donating to non-profit organizations, supporting friends’ projects, or frequenting businesses whose values jive with mine.

“I think the best way parents can instill a heart for giving to others in their children is to teach by example,” says Andrew Herring, founder of Wealth Nickel. “When we are writing a check to a cause we care about, we tell our kids what we are doing and why, and how others who are less fortunate need our help. That often prompts additional questions from our 3-year-old, which opens up the conversation to talk about giving even more.”

Adulthood: Explore your relationship with money

I didn’t really understand what it meant to have a relationship with money until I hit my 20s. It was ingrained in me that to have money meant you were either inherently shrewd or corrupt. So we ignore our behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs about money until the damage is done.

“Money is generally such a taboo topic in our culture that people are afraid to ask questions or even really think about it, which leads to poor decisions,” says Becker. “If you can get clear about why money is important to you and how you’re using it to express your values, you’ll be in a much better position to pass on positive lessons to your children.”

I wish my parents sat down and had actual conversations about money. “One of the best things you can do for your children is to simply make money conversations a normal, stress-free part of your relationship,” says Becker. “If your children are comfortable thinking and talking about money, it’s much more likely that they’ll be able to make good decisions when the time comes.”

While learning these money lessons at a younger age would’ve saved me some grief, the best teacher is life itself. And as they say, hindsight is 20/20. If you have kids, you might want to consider incorporating some of these lessons in your day-to-day. That way that can grow up into money-savvy adults who can pass knowledge down to their children, just like you have.

The post What I Wish I Knew About Money Throughout the Years appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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From the Mint team: Mint may be compensated if you click on the links to our issuer partners’ offers that appear in this article, including Chase. Our partners do not endorse, review or approve the content. Any links to Mint Partners were added after the creation of the posting.  Mint Partners had no influence on the creation, direction or focus of this article unless otherwise specifically stated.

If you love home improvement, tinkering, building, or creating, you probably spend at least a few dollars on your hobbies, passions, and projects. When you head to the store or shop online, having a good credit card can help you earn rewards, protect your purchase, and save on interest costs. Depending on what you look for in a card, one of these may be a perfect fit your do-it-yourself projects. Follow along to learn more about these top five credit cards for DIYers. 

Citi Double Cash 

If you prefer cash back rewards, Citi’s Double Cash credit card is a great choice. With this credit card, you earn 1% cash back on each purchase and another 1% when you pay your bill. That’s the equivalent of 2% cash back on every purchase. This card has no annual fee. 

There is no limit to what you can earn. Cashback is redeemed as a check or statement credit. With a statement credit, you can redeem your rewards to lower your credit card bill. Depending on how much you spend on DIY projects, that 2% can add up fast. 

As with all credit cards, you don’t pay any interest if you pay it off in full by the statement due date. If you currently carry any balances on other credit cards, you can transfer it into Double Cash with 0% APR for 18 months if you complete the balance transfer within 4 months of opening a new account. Balance transfers cost 3% ($5 minimum), but if you can pay off the balance by the end of the 18-months, it may end up saving you money. 

Chase Sapphire Preferred 

Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the most popular travel rewards credit cards today. It offers 2x points per dollar on restaurant and travel purchases and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. It also comes with added Purchase Protection, a valuable insurance for DIYers. 

Visa Signature cards offer $500 per claim for theft or damage to new purchases for the first 90 days with a lifetime limit of $50,000 per cardholder. If your DIY projects include electronics or fragile items, this projection could come in very handy! The card also extends the manufacturer’s warranties by an additional year on eligible purchases. 

The card charges a $95 per year annual fee, but it’s easy to get more value back when you use it for regular purchases. The card currently comes with a 50,000-point bonus worth at least $625 toward free travel to get you started on the right foot. Spend $4,000 in the first 3 months to earn the signup bonus. 

Citi Premier 

The Citi Premier card offers excellent purchase protections that any DIYer should consider. Those include purchase protection of up to $10,000 per item and an extended manufacturer’s warranty for up to 24 months where eligible. With this level of protection, you can probably skip the expensive product insurance at checkout. This card has your back. 

It offers 3x points per dollar on travel and gas station purchases, 2x points per dollar on restaurants and qualifying entertainment purchases, and 1x point per dollar everywhere else. Citi ThankYou points are good for travel and other redemption options. The card has a $95 annual fee, which is waived the first year. 

New cardholders can earn a 50,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after opening a new account. That’s worth $625 toward airfare when booked through Citi’s ThankYou Travel Center. 

Chase Freedom Unlimited 

Chase Freedom Unlimited combines rewards and benefits that make it excellent for a DIY household. Earn 1.5% cash back on each purchase with no limit to what you can earn. If you also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card above (or any other Ultimate Rewards earning card), you can transfer cash back to points at a 1 cent = 1 point rate for travel rewards. 

The card currently offers a 15-month introductory period with 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers. That means you can finance your big DIY project for over a year without paying any interest charges. 

Start with a $150 bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months after opening a new account. The card also comes with purchase protection and extended warranty protection. With no annual fee, there’s little not to like about this excellent rewards card. 

Bank of America Cash Rewards 

Bank of America Cash Rewards lets you choose your favorite category for 3% cash back rewards. Choose from gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings. If you love DIY, you’ll probably want to go with the online shopping or home improvement category to get the best results. 

The card gives you 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% everywhere else. The 2% and 3% bonus categories are limited to the first $2,500 in combined quarterly purchases across those categories. 

The card comes with 12-months at 0% APR for new cardholders and a $150 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days after opening a new account. It offers purchase protection and extended warranty benefits and comes with no annual fee 

 

The post Credit Card Reviews: Best Home Improvement Rewards Credit Cards appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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When you talk to travelers who have had life-changing experiences many times trips to Indonesia, Japan or Thailand are at the center of their stories. Asia is a magical place and has so much to offer travelers; rich culture, amazing food, and a strange union of the ancient and modern worlds that is hard to describe until you experience it yourself.

The first step to planning your trip to Asia is deciding where to go and how adventurous you are going to be. Do you want to zip around Tokyo on the subway bathed in the glow of neon lights, or take a small boat out to the Gili Islands and wake up in small thatch roof hut on a white sand beach?

Both are amazing experiences, but since most travelers have a limited amount of time (1-2 weeks) I suggest selecting one destination and really taking it in.

After a 12-18 hour flight, jetlag, and the general sensory overload that you get when arriving in a new country, giving yourself enough time to get acclimated before diving in can make a big difference in how much you enjoy the rest of your trip.

Photo Credit: Michael Satterfield Getting There:

If you are traveling from the US like I did, the largest expense that deters many travelers is the cost of the flight. With roundtrip flights ranging between $1,000-$2,000 to popular destinations like Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Bali, it can be a real barrier to those longing to travel across the Pacific. However, there are several ways you can save, the first and most obvious, is to travel in the offseason. I have found that ticket prices are often the cheapest from September-November to most major airports in Asia, even popular tropical destinations like Bali have great deals in the offseason and still have 80° temperatures.

If the offseason isn’t an option, you can also save on flights if you are willing to do a little more logistical planning. Flights from cities like San Fransico, Los Angeles, and Vancouver often are much less expensive than flying from other major US cities, and it is likely that your flight will connect through one of these three cities anyways on the way to your destination in Asia. I have booked round trip flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo for around $400 when a flight from Dallas would cost over $1,200 because of the additional flight from Dallas to Los Angeles. Booking on a domestic carrier like Southwest for less than $100 each way (Southwest is great for this since they give you two checked bags) to and from Los Angeles saved me around $500. Sure, mixing and matching your airlines can be a bit of a pain, but an extra $500 can go a long way on your trip. This same strategy to save once you arrive in Asia by booking with regional airlines like Air Asia, which also opens up shopping alternative airports for your destination.

Photo Credit: Michael Satterfield Where to Stay:

While there are standard hotels and resorts all across Asia, a great budget-friendly option is staying at hostels which can range from basic dormitory type rooms to well-appointed private rooms which are more like a traditional hotel. It is recommended that you book ahead for popular destinations. Don’t let the name “hostel” dissuade you, many of these properties would be better described as boutique hotels with dormitories and have some amazing amenities with prices ranging from under $5 a night for a dormitory room to well over $100 a night for private rooms. Pricing often depends on the country and season, Hostelworld.com is a great resource for booking hostels and hotels and lets you sort by guest ratings, price, and other categories.

Another alternative to traditional hotels is Airbnb which is operating in most Asian countries and offers incredible value for travelers looking for a little more space. I used Airbnb on my last long term trip to Tokyo, having an apartment with a kitchen, laundry, and workspace made the trip much more enjoyable and saved me over $400 when compared to booking at a major chain.

Photo Credit: Michael Satterfield Getting Around:

Something many travelers don’t correctly budget for is in-country travel, depending on where you are public transportation, taxis, rental cars/scooters, and pedestrian options can vary wildly. When planning your trip, research the best way to see the city you are in, from renting bicycles in Kyoto to riding the trains in Hong Kong be sure to know how you will be getting around and roughly what it will cost. Also, if you plan on using ride-sharing services, make sure your provider of choice is available in your destination, last year Uber left many Asian markets leaving only regional services that you aren’t likely to have on your phone.

Staying Connected:

While I am on the subject of apps, staying connected in Asia doesn’t need to be restricted to wifi. If your mobile phone provider doesn’t have a built-in international plan roaming program there are a few options. First, call your cell phone provider and see if they have an add on for the destination(s) you are planning to visit. Many times these fees are $5-$10 a day which can add up very quickly. After a trip where I racked up $70 a week in added charges, I started using local SIM cards on my longer trips. These SIM cards are generally less than $20 a month provides limited amounts of data, SMS, and calling services which will at least keep you connected without blowing your budget. These temporary local plans can vary depending on the country and carrier so some research before you arrive to know which provider to will work best for you. SIM cards are often sold at airports, major hotel gift shops, and of course cell phone stores.

Since I do travel so much, having access to my apps for booking travel, banking, and using maps are essential, I switched to a carrier that not only includes coverage for phone, SMS, and data in over 200 countries, but they also give me access to free in-flight wifi on most major airlines. This switch has saved me over $1,000 a year in roaming fees, so if you are going to be traveling a lot you might want to shop cell phone service providers.

Exploring different parts of Asia has created some of my fondest memories, from cycling around Kyoto with my best friend to seeing the sunrise over Mount Bromo, traveling, learning, and connecting with different people and cultures has defiantly changed me. Every time I travel back I get to experience something completely different and return home with photos, stories, and new friends. If you are looking for help to plan your own adventure to Asia, Mint can help you map out your plan to saving for the perfect life-changing experience abroad.

The post How to Save for a Trip to Asia appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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We know you love Mint, and Mint loves you right back. That’s why we’ve brought a refreshed look and feel that features a sleek design, added benefits, and a simplified view of what’s important with your money.

This month, Mint is rolling out a new app experience for Android users, one that iOS users have been enjoying since the Fall. Featuring exclusive data-driven Mintsights to help existing (and new!) users effortlessly stay on top of their savings, expenses and budgets. The refreshed app will intelligently use all of your financial data to unlock powerful money insights and money-saving offers and will be available to all Mint users in the coming months.

We heard from customers that they wanted to learn more about how to take their financial information and apply actionable steps to help them reach their goals.

Well, guess what? We listened and now Android MintSights, and soon to be iOS MintSights, will use machine learning technology to deliver predictive money-saving offers and actionable insights based on your personal financial history. This means you’ll see specific insights, recommendations and offers that will help you take your financial success to the next level.

We’re excited to introduce you to the new Mintsights feature – the tool will grow with you over time to help you save more money and find outstanding offers from our trusted partners. Mint is the only app that can help unlock powerful money insights and money-saving offers personalized to your unique situation at your fingertips. Seeing your profile in one place is helpful – receiving personalized insights and offers is even better!

Additionally, the updated design will reorganize your financial data, ultimately cutting down on steps you must take to find information and elevating the most important information for your finances.

Current Mint users will continue to enjoy existing features including bill tracking, budgeting, savings, investments, and checking your credit scores. First-time users will access the new features at Mint.com or download the mobile app.

Now, let’s take the app for a spin!

The post Understand Your Money Better with MintSights™ appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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