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Are You Or Your Spouse Spending Out Of Control? If you’ve ever been at a store and have been tempted by an end cap of sale goods or grabbed a few lower priced items near the register, you’ve impulse purchased. According to Harvard Business School Professor Gerald Zaltman, 95% of our purchase decision making takes […]

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Stay Motivated Paying Off Debt And Reaching Savings Goals Using Coloring Charts If you have a lot of debt, it can be difficult to stay motivated to pay it off over a long period. Savings goals are also difficult to hit unless you’re seeing the progress. An estimated 65% of the human population are visual […]

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Pay Off Your Debt In Easy Managable Steps

Getting out of debt is difficult and not particularly fun. You may even be under the misconception that some debt you have is “good” debt and everyone has monthly payments.

What if I told you this simply isn’t true?

Hundreds of people started out right where you are but now live a debt-free lifestyle with less stress and worry.

In order to build wealth, you need to be able to harness the power of your paycheck. The first stop along the wealth-building pathway is to pay off your current debt.

If you like the idea of getting out of debt but are concerned that you don’t make enough money to make a dent, I’m here to tell you that anyone can get out of debt as long as they have a plan.

Follow these easy steps to get in control of your money, pay off debt, and build your family’s wealth.

Step 1:  Face Your Debt

I’m going to use some behavioral psychology for a minute.  If you put a half-hearted effort into something, you’re likely to get a half result.  

People who accomplish things usually put all their attention and effort into that one thing.  In order to pass a class, you have to focus on that class, study, and understand the topics.

Getting yourself out of debt is the same.  If you don’t want to continue to repeat the same cycle of spending more than you have, you must focus and understand why it is happening.  

Vow For No More Debt

I want you to do something for me.  

Go find a mirror.  It can even be your phone’s selfie camera.  I don’t care.

Look at yourself and say “I will get out of debt NOW!”  

Vow to stop living beyond your means and mean it.  Make this promise to yourself.

Promises to yourself are the most important kind.  If you can’t even keep your own word, how is anyone else supposed to trust when you promise things to them?

Tally Your Debt Amount

Another important part of facing your debt is knowing how much you actually have.  Not a guestimate or an “idea” of how much; the actual number.

Write all debt down. You can’t dig yourself out debt until you know exactly how much you have.  

During your debt payoff time, you need to stop accruing additional debt.  This means no credit card usage right now.

Subscribe to get this FREE Debt Realization Printable.
Step 2: Use The Sprinting Cheetah Method To Pay Off Debt

Ok, so my background as a zookeeper influenced me on this.  

Do you know how cheetahs can go from 0 to 60mph in 3 seconds?  That’s how fast I want you to pay down your debt.

No “I’ll do it later.”  

Guess what?

Later always comes and you’ve still not hit the ground running.  

I want you to start off committed and chasing after the end goal – being debt free.  

To do this, you need to optimize every penny to tackle debt.  

To get to top Sprinting Cheetah debt payoff speed, you’ll need to incorporate the following:

All four of these action points, when combined together, will maximize your debt payoff speed from 0 to 60mph. Most of them can be done with little effect on your day to day life.

1) Trim Spending On Items You Can Do Without 
  • If you have multiple streaming service subscriptions, evaluate whether you need all of them.  Same goes for any memberships to gyms and monthly box programs.
  • Decide if you love it and you do get value from the subscription, then keep it but if you don’t, it’s time for it to go.  
2) Negotiate Everything  

If you have a good credit score and history of paying on time, call up your credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate.  

Use the length of your relationship and history of being a good customer to your advantage.

  • Remember: Getting clients is expensive!  Companies spend millions of dollars on advertising. It’s cheaper for them to keep you as a client rather than trying to get a new one who pays a slightly higher interest rate.  

Credit card rates aren’t the only thing you can negotiate.  Look into student loan payment rates and any services you use at your house.  This can include utilities and insurance.

Many companies offer new customers great introductory deals.  Call them up and mention how money is tight but you’d like to stick with their company. Ask them what they can do to lower your bill so you don’t have to switch to their competitor who is offering a great deal to new customers.  

Most of the time they’re going to offer you something. If they don’t, end the call and call back another time. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get the same customer service representative.

If you’re still getting nowhere, it may make sense to actually switch to the competitor for their introductory deal as long as you aren’t going to have to pay an early cancelation fee with your current plan.  

3) Sell Items You No Longer Need

Most Americans have a lot of stuff.  

Take a look at all of the storage unit buildings around.  The storage unit industry makes $38 billion dollars every year!  Yes, BILLIONS to store stuff people aren’t using.

Funny thing is that I never see people at the units accessing their stored items….  

Platforms like Facebook Marketplace, LetGo app, and Craigslist make it super easy to find someone who wants what you have.  

The place people get hung up on with selling is that they expect to get close to what they paid for it.  

This just isn’t going to happen. Even if you hardly used the item, the chances of you getting anywhere near what you paid for are slim.

Instead, realize that you no longer need the item and sell it at a price that someone will pay.  

  • If you aren’t sure what price to list your item, do a search for similar items and take note of their condition.  Always lower the price if it hasn’t sold after a week.

You’d be surprised what people will buy used.  I once moved into a house that had a pile of leftover bricks in the corner of the backyard.  These bricks probably hadn’t been touched in years.

I listed them on Craigslist (with a crummy photo) at a super cheap price and made sure to say that they would have to haul the bricks away without help.  My inbox was overflowing with interested people!

I’ve found baby items and electronics tend to sell the quickest so perhaps start with those.

4) Pick Up A Side Job

To really kick your debt payoff into a full cheetah sprint, an extra source of income is a must.  

The great thing is that your side job doesn’t have to be this formal, time-consuming hassle.  You could offer to do side-jobs on NextDoor app or walk a neighbor’s dogs.

These types of side jobs give you a ton of flexibility to schedule around your life.  Other jobs, such as waitressing, may allow for you to pick up solely weekend or holiday shifts.

Choosing Between the Debt Snowball and Debt Avalanche

The Debt Snowball (Dave Ramsey’s method) and the Debt Avalanche are two of the more popular methods of debt paydown.

Both methods will have you finish paying off your debt around the same time so it’s more of how your mind works.

Debt Snowball Explained

With the Debt Snowball, you list all of your debts individually from smallest to largest. The interest rates on the debt don’t matter.

You pay minimum payments on all debts except the smallest balance. You put any extra money towards that smallest debt until it’s paid.

Once its paid, the money that was going towards the smallest debt now all goes toward the second smallest. Your freed up money snowballs so by the time you get to the largest debt, you have a lot of freed up money to attack it.

The psychology behind this method is that by paying off the smallest debts first, you feel like you’re accomplishing something which fuels you to continue going.

The small debts act as a positive reinforcer and build up momentum as you get to the more daunting larger debts. This is a behavior-based plan since it was your behavior that got you into debt in the first place.

Debt Avalanche Explained

With the Debt Avalanche, you list all of your debts individually by interest rates. The highest interest rates are at the top of the list regardless of the amount of debt.

You then pay minimums on everything except the debt with the highest interest rate. Like the snowball, once a debt is paid off you use that money to go towards the next debt on the list.

This method is more logic based. If you pay off the higher interest rates first, you’ll end up paying less in interest overall.

Step 3:  Create A Spending Plan

No one likes creating a budget.  Budgets sound restrictive and like they’re going to nag you about the $8 you spent on a burrito.  

Spending plans allow you to spend.  That’s what money is there for; saving, spending, or giving.  I’d argue that allocating money towards saving or giving IS spending it.  

Once you’ve faced your debt and you’re cheetah sprinting towards debt payoff, it’s time to make sure you know where all of your money should be spent.  

You’ll still need to set limits to how much you can spend in each category, but this needs to be guilt-free. You will not stick to it if you feel guilty about spending money.  

Sure, your savings account will grow faster if you instead put that $8 in your savings account but satisfaction and quality of life matters as well.

While paying down debt, I wouldn’t allocate hundreds of dollars towards eating out and fun money, but a small amount will make sticking to your plan easier.  

Step 4:  Reassess The Plan Every Few Months

Let me tell you right now, you won’t get this right the first try.  It will take a few months to get your spending plan to the proper levels in each category.  

Guess what?  That’s completely normal.  You haven’t failed.

Getting your money under control takes a change in your mindset.   You may think you can live with cutting out 90% of your eating out when in reality, perhaps you can only cut out 75%.  

As long as the money is available in your spending plan, it’s alright. Move allocations around until you find something that works.  

Sticking With Debt Payoff

The above steps can be gone through fast or slow. It all depends on where you are in your journey.

Unsurprisingly, committing completely and implementing the Sprinting Cheetah Method will maximize your debt payoff and get you debt free quicker.

Keep in mind that it’s alright to reassess your spending plan and put more money into certain categories if you’re finding it too limiting. The main goal is to set up your plan so that you stick with it.

Let me know where you are at in your debt payoff journey in the comments below.

Related Articles:

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How To Pay Off Debt No Matter Your Income

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The Best Options For College Savings

You have 18 years once your child is born until they’re heading off to college.  Nothing like that ticking clock to start a flood of anxiety.

While a college degree isn’t necessary, it’s not as optional as it was in the past.  There’s not a guarantee of a good long-term job. Most people in our generation have never worked a job with a pension offering.

Despite your stance, a college education is still an asset in today’s economy.  Many jobs list a bachelor’s degree as a must. That doesn’t mean you need to jump into debt though.

You most likely won’t need a fancy private college with name recognition except for some very specific jobs. Most graduates would be well served attending their local state school.

Even if you go to the local school or do community college, college is expensive so it’s best to start saving early and often. Especially since the average household debt in the United States is $135,000.

Where Should You Save Money For College?

Deciding where to put the money you’re saving for college can be a tricky question. There are so many options out there and even more options within each type of savings plan.

Some people say not to bother saving for college at all while others recommend a regular savings account. Others even recommend saving in your own retirement so that way if your child decides not to attend college, you get to keep the tax free growth.

Don’t worry! By the time you’re done with this article, you’ll feel a lot better about all the options available to you. If nothing else, just remember that it’s better to make ANY decision to save rather than to save nothing.

529 Plans Are The Best For College Savings Choosing A 529 Plan

There are two types of 529 plans: College Savings Plans and Prepaid Tuition Plans. This section is going to be covering the College Savings Plan option. You can find my thoughts on Prepaid Tuition Plans later in the article.

The first step of picking your 529 plan is to see if your state offers income tax breaks for using their 529 plan. If they do and their fees are low and they have a good choice of mutual funds, it will make the most sense to stick with your state’s plan.

Contributions aren’t only limited to the state’s residents though. If you live in a state without state 529 plan tax incentives, you may find that New York’s, or any other state’s, 529 plan is a better option. This nifty comparison tool will help you compare 529 plans.

Tip: To save on fees, choose a Direct Sold 529 plan instead of Advisor or Broker sold plans.

Contributing To A 529 Plan

The great thing about a 529 plan is that they don’t have an income limit contribution cutoff. This means that anyone can open a 529 plan regardless of how much they earn.

To avoid gift tax consequences, single taxpayers can contribute up to $14k a year or $70k lump sum to count for 5 years.  Married couples can contribute $28k a year or $140k lump sum to cover 5 years of contributions.

Total 529 plan contributions are set by each state. Some go up to $380,000. One great thing is that there isn’t an age limit on usage.

Keep in mind, the money can only be withdrawn without taxes for qualified education expenses that include tuition, room & board, books, and other supplies and fees.  So if there was any leftover money in your child’s 529 plan, you could leave it in the plan to help with future grandkids’ tuitions.

What Are The 529 Plan Options If Your Child Doesn’t Go To College?

This is probably the biggest reason I hear when people mention they aren’t saving money for their child’s college. They don’t want the money to be locked into an account that only allows educational expenses to be paid in case their child doesn’t go to college.

If your child doesn’t go to college, all isn’t lost! There are a few options you can mull over.

Options For A 529 Plan If You Have Leftover Money: 1) Remove The Money From The 529 Plan

The simplest option isn’t always the best.

Money spent on non-qualified expenses are subject to a 10% penalty on earnings in addition to your normal income tax rate on gains.  This isn’t the best way to use the money since it’s heavily taxed but it is an option.

2) Choose A Different Beneficiary

The original beneficiary doesn’t have to be the person who uses the entirety of the 529 plan. The account owner can transfer it to a different sibling or relative. Or they can choose to hold onto it for future grandkids to use.

Can you imagine how many grandkids you could send to college if you left that money to grow for another 20 plus years? Thats a pretty cool legacy to leave for your family.

4) Use Your 529 Plan For Trade School

Not everyone is cut out for the traditional 4 year college experience. Trade schools are becoming more popular. They’re usually 2 years with an apprenticeship at the end. In many trades, the pay is very good and outsource-proof.

If you have a child who would rather become skilled trades people rather than attend a 4 year college, check that the program has a Federal School Code so that you can use your 529 funds.

5) Pay For K-12 Education

A recent change in the law now allows 529 plan funds to be used for K-12 education. The restriction is that you can only use it to pay up to $10,000 per year for tuition.  

This is helpful information to know when your child is younger. If your state has a tax deduction, you could filter $10,000 each year through your state’s 529 plan, snag the tax benefit, and pay for private school.

6) Roll The 529 Plan Into An ABLE Account

If your child has become disabled and you had been saving in a 529 plan, you may roll up to $15,000 of it into an ABLE account.

This account is for people disabled before age 26 to save and pay for disability-related expenses but still qualify for government benefits.

7) Win Scholarships

If your child wins a scholarship, you’re able to take out the equivalent amount from the 529 plan without incurring the 10% penalty for unqualified withdrawals.

You’ll still need to pay income taxes on any of the gain amounts though so it may be better to leave the money alone to cover books or board.

529 Plan’s Effect On Financial Aid

Did you know that the government expects you to contribute money towards your child’s college whether you saved or not? The amount may be higher than you expect!

The Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines the Effective Family Contribution (EFC) which is the amount parents are expected to cover for college every year.  Hop on over to get an idea of how much your EFC may be. That way you can plan now how much you’re aiming to save.

These 529 plans are considered assets of the parents.  No more than 5.64% of parental assets will be expected to cover costs but they factor in 20% of the student’s assets.

Qualified plan withdrawals from a parental owned 529 plan are excluded from federal income tax and don’t have to be reported on next year’s income on the FAFSA.

To run a scenario:

If you have $50,000 saved in a parent-owned 529 plan, only $2,820 maximum would be added to the EFC.

This is why it makes more sense to save money instead of trying to make yourself look like you have nothing on the FAFSA.

What About Grandparent Owned 529 Plans?

Grandparent–owned 529 plans work a little different on the FAFSA.  The amount withdrawn is added to your base income on the FAFSA for the following year. This makes it look like you made a lot more income and will increase your EFC.

It’s perhaps best to use any grandparent-owned 529 plans the child’s final year of college when you will no longer be filling out the FAFSA.  

You can also look into rolling the grandparent’s 529 plan into yours.  Some states allow a transfer of the plan’s owners without the recapture of the state income tax credits.  

If the grandparents aren’t contributing for tax benefits, it’s easiest for grandparents to contribute directly to the parent owned plan.

The Remaining College Savings Options

As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of 529 plans. The tax-free growth is amazing. They’re essentially Roth IRAs for college savings but you don’t have to be 59 1/2 to use the money.

The remaining college savings options will work well for certain situations. They aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution by any means. I don’t even necessarily recommend all of these options but wanted to list them to give a complete picture.

1) Coverdell ESA Plans For Education Savings

A Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) is very similar to a 529 plan. It uses after-tax dollars and the savings grows tax-free.

The Upside Of An ESA
  • A great benefit of the Education Savings Account is that it is more flexible. You can pay for uniforms, tutors, and other related expenses in K-12 education instead of solely tuition.
ESA Downside
  • You can only contribute $2,000 a year maximum to an ESA. This is a large difference from the $14,000 a year you can contribute to a 529 plan.
  • Also, the contribution eligibility for an ESA phases out if your income is $190,000 or higher.  
Coverdell Education Savings Account Effects On Financial Aid

The effect of money saved in an ESA has the same effect on financial aid as a 529 plan. If the account is in the parent’s name then only 5.64% of the asset amount will be added to the Effective Family Contribution.

2) Roth IRA To Pay For College

The people I’ve heard advocating for this savings method argue that it’s a good option in case their child decides not to go to college.

This way, the parents get to keep the tax-free growth for themselves.

Can A Child Have Their Own Roth IRA?

If your child is earning an income, the equivalent amount earned up to $5,500 can be put into the Roth IRA starting at any age.

Once 18, your child gets to be in charge of the account. This isn’t a good way to save for college because there aren’t withdrawals without penalty until the account holder is 59 ½.

Should You Use Your Own Retirement To Pay For College?

Unless you’re wealthy through other means, you shouldn’t use your own Roth IRA to save for your child’s college, even if you’ll be 59 ½ when they attend.  

If your income is $189,000 for couples ($120,000 individual) you aren’t eligible to contribute directly to a roth IRA.  You could go through the Backdoor Roth loophole of an after tax traditional IRA contribution and roll it immediately to a Roth IRA .

With a Roth IRA, you’re able to take out the principle at any age. As long as you only take out the principle, and not gains, you won’t incur any penalty. You are removing that money from the market though so this will significantly stunt your compounded returns.

You should never sacrifice your retirement savings to pay for a child’s college. Your child can choose a less expensive school to attend or apply to more scholarships.  There aren’t scholarships or loans for retirement.

Roth IRA Effects On Financial Aid

Retirement accounts aren’t considered assets on the FAFSA. Its assets won’t hurt your chances at aid eligibility.    

If you take money out of a Roth IRA to pay for college, that money is reported as untaxed income the following year. This is weighted more heavily on the FAFSA and affects your EFC.

3) Other Savings Accounts, Money Market Accounts, CDs

Savings accounts, money market accounts, and Certificates of Deposit (CDs) are options banks offer for you to stash money away. The main problem is that the annual percentage yield (APY) is generally pretty low.

If you put college savings into a regular savings account, your money will be losing worth.  Every year inflation goes up 3% so if your money isn’t making at least 3%, it’s technially going down in value.  That same dollar’s buying power is worth less than it was the year prior.

Savings accounts typically have a 1% APY.  Money Market accounts have mid-2% APY. Some CDs have around a 3% APY but they have a 5-year term. If you took out the money from the CD before that term limit was up, you’d lose most of the yield you had earned up to that point.

Savings accounts are great for holding your liquid Emergency Fund but terrible for anything you want to have long term growth.

4) Are UTMA/UGMA Accounts Better Options?

UTMA stands for the Uniform Transfer To Minors Act and UGMA is the Uniform Gift To Minors Act.

Both accounts are custodial accounts that takes advantage of the child’s most likely lower tax rate. (Unless you have a child running a very successful business or a YouTube channel whiz.)

Any type of transfer into the account is permanent. Theres no take-backsies.

The UTMA allows most any kind of asset, including real estate to be transferred to the minor child.

The UGMA mainly allows money gifts such as mutual funds, insurance policies, and balance transfers.

Benefits Of A UTMA/UGMA Account
  • Before the child is 18, their only restrictions are that the money has to be used to benefit the child.
  • In these accounts, the first $1,050 of money is untaxed and the second $1,050 of money is taxed at the child’s tax rate. Typically your child’s tax rate will be significantly lower than the parents’.
Downsides Of A UTMA/UGMA Account Number 1 Downside
  • There is no reversing of asset transfers! No matter what. No matter if grandma gifted your child $100,000 but now he’s into drugs. No matter if your child ran away and never wants to speak to you again.
  • The child gets full control of the money at age 18 to 21 (depending on the state) so you can’t determine how they spend it. Even if you saved this money for college and they decide they aren’t going to college. Guess what? They get to keep everything in that account.
Another Downside
  • More than $2,100 of income in a UTMA/UGMA is taxed at the higher of the tax rates (parents’ or child’s). With these accounts, you don’t get the benefit of tax-free growth.
UTMA/UGMA Effect On Financial Aid

If the account is in your child’s name, it is counted as their asset. On the FAFSA, a child’s non-retirement assets are assessed at 20% to go towards the EFC.

To get around this, you can set up the account in your own name so it’s counted as a parental asset. This will forego the benefits of being taxed at the child’s income tax rate though.

5) College Education Trust

You’d need to discuss setting up an education trust with your lawyer. Someone would a lot of wealth would consider this option.

The benefits are that you can set up specific guidelines the beneficiaries have to meet in order to get their tuition paid for.

The downside is that the beneficiaries will probably need to pay income tax on any earnings. This would be reported as income on the FAFSA.

Does this matter? Not likely since your chance for getting need-based financial aid when you have an education trust is probably low.

6) Real Estate To Pay For College

This is becoming popular amongst families with investment properties. They say they don’t save specifically for college because they have an investment property earmarked for each child.

Their intention is to give that property to their child when they turn 18. If the child intends to go to college, they’ll need to sell it to pay for school. If they decide college isn’t for them, they now have an investment property to live in or continue to rent out.

Coach Carson has an interesting real estate article describing how he’s doing that for his children.

You’ll have to decide if this is something you’re comfortable with. Real estate investing is less passive than index fund investing so make sure you have researched the market extensively. At this point in my life, real estate investing leverages too much risk for me to feel comfortable jumping in.

7) Is Pre-Paid College Tuition A Good Deal?

The last college savings option I want to discuss is pre-paid tuition. It sounds like a great deal. You’re locking in today’s tuition rates for the future!

How it works is that you pay today’s tuition rate for an in-state public university. You have to know that your child will be attending an in-state university for this to even remotely make sense.

While this sounds like an excellent deal on the surface, let’s run the numbers.

Pre-Paid Tuition Plan Worth In The Future

The 10-year historic rate of college tuition increase has been 5%.  If you had put the money you’re pre-paying into a 529 plan and picked an S&P index fund, your returns would average between 8-10%.  That’s the long term return average for the S&P 500.

If you decided to contribute $200 a month from the time your child was 1 year old to 18 years old, you would have contributed $40,800 in that time period.

If you follow the 5% rate of tuition increase, the growth on that money would be $24,317 for a total of $65,117. This is the estimated worth of the pre-paid college tuition plan by the time your child is 18.

Your contributions are twice as much as the growth you’ll earn in the pre-paid tuition plan. This growth is the amount you’re saving by locking in tuition.

Worth Of The Same Money In A 529 Plan

If you instead invested the same $200 into a 529 plan with low cost index funds, you’d have a very different picture.

If those index funds got a return rate of 8%, your $40,800 contribution would have a growth of $46,680 bringing the total value to $87,480.

You can see that you’re about 50-50 when it comes to contributions vs growth.

If the average rate of return was 10%, that same contribution would have a growth of $66,237 bringing the total to $107,037.

If you can get 10% growth then your growth is a little less than twice as much as your contributions. You can see how great tax-free growth is once it gets going.

By doing the pre-paid tuition, you’re forfeiting between $22,262 – $41,920 in tax–free growth!

What About Other College Costs?

Remember:  The pre-paid tuition plan ONLY covers tuition.  You still need to pay for books and room & board.  

If 5% of the 529 plan growth accounts for the average increase in tuition, then you still have an additional 3-5% growth.  This 3-5% difference in growth in a 529 plan should cover ALL of the college costs for that same in-state school.

Plus, you’re not tied down to only applying to those schools in case an out of state school offers a better scholarship package.  With a prepaid tuition plan, if your child decides to go out of state you’ll get a return on your money but it won’t be the full plan value.

Speaking of scholarships, the amount of an awarded scholarship can be withdrawn from the 529 plan tax-free.  That way, if your child earned a lot of scholarships you aren’t stuck with too much money in the 529 plan.

Overall Best Way To Save

A 529 plan is going to be the best way to save for college for the vast majority of people. It offers the best return on investment compared to the other options.

It has tax free growth and with all of the options, you’ll have no problem finding a plan with the mix of investments you want. Even better if your state offers tax incentives for contributing to your state’s plan.

The other savings options will work better for people in more unique or specific situations. If you’re wanting a quick and simple way to start..

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An Unbiased Review Of Financial Peace University

I’m one of those people who loves reading about money.  How to save, invest, budget; all of it. Last Christmas, I asked for Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University for my husband and I to go through together.  He tentatively agreed and we went through this past March.

My main reason for wanting to go through it was to get my husband on board and more involved with financial goals.  Up to this point, he basically would go along with things I’d bring up but there wasn’t any long-term buy in.

I wanted us to become closer through finances instead of it being a wedge between us.  Having financial goals are what keep couples on the same page and sticking to their budget.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read the full disclosure policy for more info.

Don’t have time for a class?

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What Is Financial Peace University?

Financial Peace University (FPU) is a classroom style program that uses group discussions, videos, and a book to walk you through paying off debt and building wealth. It is the brain child of Dave Ramsey who is a well-known christian and hater of debt. He has his own radio show and is the author of many financial books.

Financial Peace University had a revamp in 2019.  It used to be 12 weeks but is now only 9 weeks long.  There are two additional 6-lesson courses online about teaching kids about money and leaving a legacy.   

Attending Financial Peace University

The main 9 week course can be done online or you can find a local group. We ended up finding a local group because we wanted the in-person community and accountability.  

Another plus is that many of them offered childcare during the classes so we didn’t need to find our own. I made sure to email them ahead of time to confirm.

The watch-at-home feature is great for couples where one spouse travels a lot or works on the weekends.  There were some week-day evening classes in our area. Many of the class locations were at a church but there were a few alternative locations.  One location I thought was interesting was at a crossfit gym.

Financial Peace University kit
What Do You Get With The Financial Peace University Course?

Included in the course is the Every Dollar Plus app and 1 year access to Financial Peace Membership, which is their online forum.  

Every Dollar is Dave Ramsey’s super simple budgeting app. Every Dollar basic is free for everyone but the Plus costs extra since it connects your bank account to the app. You can drag and drop transactions that show up in your checking account into the categories you set up in the budgeting app.

The cost of Financial Peace University is $129 total.  A year’s worth of access to their online community is $99 and Every Dollar Plus is $99. Add in 9 weeks of in-person classes, 2 additional courses, and access to special live-stream videos:  it’s a significant discount than if you were purchasing everything a la carte.

Finding A Group And Attending A Class

When you’re trying to find your group to attend, I suggest reaching out to the coordinators to see what they’re style is.  If you need daycare then you’re already emailing them anyways.

Some groups are very boisterous and they share a lot of financial info like how much debt you have, how much have you paid off, etc.  Other groups are more private. You still have a good discussion but if you’d rather not share numbers then that type of group may be better for you.

Other groups have you watch the videos at home and come in only for the discussion portion.  That cuts down the time of the class significantly. Each video is 30-45 minutes long so the class was 90 minutes on average.

The videos are made up of Dave Ramsey, his daughter and author Rachel Cruze, and author Chris Hogan. They also follow the paths of people’s individual stories of how they got out of debt.

Nine weeks of class was a sufficient amount of time.  The videos were engaging and really had a lot of information.  You follow along in the book and then have a group discussion with everyone.  

The groups are very flexible.  That’s what’s so great about having access to the online videos.  If you aren’t able to make the group one week, you can watch it online and be caught up for the next week.  

The 7 Baby Steps

The course follows Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps and uses the Debt Snowball to pay down debt.

Step 0: No More Debt!

Not an official baby step but it’s what gets people to start the steps. Make a commitment to never taking on more debt. Be “sick and tired of being sick & tired.”

Tip: Cash envelopes are a life saver when you’re starting out budgeting!

Step 1: Save $1000 As A Starter Emergency Fund.

This isn’t enough for a true emergency but the point is to have a little amount to tide you over until you get to Step 3. At this beginning stage it’s important to make a budget and stick to it!

Step 2: Pay Off Debt

Use the Debt Snowball to pay off all your debt except for your house. This shouldn’t take more than 2 years. If it seems like it may take longer, then your expenses should be evaluated. It may make sense to sell your expensive car or take on a second job.

Debt Snowball:

List all of your debts (except mortgage) smallest to largest irrespective of their interest rates. Note: this isn’t by categories (ex. student loans vs credit cards). It’s by each individual debt.

Pay minimum payments on everything except for the little one. Put all extra money towards the smallest until it’s paid off, then use that money to “snowball” into the second smallest debt, and so on.

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Step 3: Save Your Emergency Fund

Beef up your emergency fund to 3-6 months of your expenses. This is your real emergency fund. It can be left in a money market account but should not be invested. You need easy access to it in an emergency.

Step 4: Retirement Savings

Save 15% of your income for retirement. Order of importance:

  • Save in company 401k up to your match. Choose Roth 401k if available.
  • If investment options in Roth 401k are good then put entire 15% in there. If options aren’t great or no Roth option, then after the company match put money into a Roth IRA if you’re eligible.
  • If you’re income is too high for a Roth IRA then do a backdoor Roth IRA.
  • If you’re still not at 15% after maxing all of these options, you can choose to contribute to your HSA plan or save extra into a regular brokerage account.
Step 5: Save For Kid’s College.

Use a Coverdell ESA or a college 529 plan. The growth is tax-free as long as it’s used for approved educational expenses.

Avoid using a Roth IRA or doing a pre-paid college plan for college savings.

Step 6: Pay Off Your Home Early.

Dave recommends taking out no more than a 15 year fixed rate mortgage with payments that are less than 25% of your take home pay.

Now that you’re out of debt and saving for retirement and kid’s college, any extra money can go towards paying off your house early. Average home payoff is in 7 years. You’ll be completely debt free at this point!

Step 7: Building Wealth And Giving

You’re completely out of debt so at this point you max out all retirement savings vehicles (401k, IRA, HSA). Extra can be invested into the stock market and saved for purchasing income properties without debt.

It’s also important to give and be generous with your wealth at this point.

Financial Peace University Lessons The lessons were as follows:

Week 1:  Baby Step 1 – Build your starter emergency fund

Week 2:  Baby Step 2 – Using the Debt Snowball to pay off all debts (except the house)

Week 3:  Baby Step 3 – Build your fully-funded emergency fund

Week 4:  Baby Steps 4,5,6,7 – Looking towards your future and wealth building

Week 5:  Buyer Beware – About negotiating and having power over purchases

Week 6:  Insurance – What kind you need and coverage

Week 7:  Retirement Planning – How to invest and plan for retirement.

Week 8:  Real Estate & Mortgages – Buying a house the financially sound way

Week 9:  Giving – Gratitude & Contentment

These two courses are a bonus and not done with the groups:  

Additional Course: Teaching Kids About Money (6 lessons, online only)

Additional Course:  Legacy (6 lessons, online only)

Potential Criticisms Debt Snowball

The debt snowball focuses on paying minimum payments on all debt except for the one with the smallest balance. All extra money goes towards paying off the smallest debt, regardless of the interest rate.

Some people take issue with this because they say you should pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. Mathmatically, they’re correct but the majority of debt payoff is behavior based.

Humans need that small “win” of paying off debt to keep going strong. You build up momentum as you head towards larger daunting debt. The smaller debts paid off end up being positive reinforcement along the way.

Tip: Budget Planners make budgeting and paying down debt a breeze.

Paying Off The Mortgage

In Baby Step 6, Dave recommends putting all extra money towards paying off your house early. This is after you’re saving 15% of your income into retirement and putting money toward’s your kid’s college fund.

Some people in the financial world are in strong opposition of this. They say that if your mortgage rate is 4% and the stock market is doing 8% then it makes more sense to invest the extra in the stock market. Also, without a mortgage you won’t get the tax credit.

While this may technically be true, it doesn’t factor in risk. It works out great if you’re able to keep the same job for 30 years and have no periods of unemployment.

That isn’t today’s reality. Companies outsource or downsize all the time. It’s easier to build wealth and not be as stressed if you know you have a place to live irrespective of your job.

Also with the new tax law changes, deducting mortgage interest isn’t as appealing as it once was. Even before the law changed, you were essentially trading $10,000 of interest in order to get a $2,500 tax credit which doesn’t make financial sense.

Saving For Kid’s College

There are many people who question saving money for their kids to attend college. It shouldn’t come at the expense of your own retirement but by the time you get to Baby Step 5, it should be a possibility to save something.

With the rising college costs and astronomical student loan debts, some parents are abandoning the entire college system. Others say that they themselves didn’t have help from their parents so they aren’t going to offer their own kids any handouts.

The fact is, in the future a college education will still be important. I don’t think it can realistically continue to rise as fast as it has been but I doubt it’s going to decrease in half.

As a parent, I agree that it is my responsibility to take care of my child and for us that means the option of higher education. That doesn’t mean I’ll be saving for an expensive private college price tag though. Many state schools are excellent and affordable. There are many other options to help pay for school as well.

I plan on guiding my son early on in his high school years in order for him to have the best chance at scholarships to cover the gap between what we have saved and the actual cost.

Chrisitan Influences

Dave Ramsey is a christian and runs his business in that light. Theres some scripture and talk of God in Financial Peace University but its not ostracizing. People of all religious or non-religious backgrounds would probably feel comfortable since it’s not presented in an offensive way.

We’re FPU Graduates!
Overall Review Of Financial Peace University

The best thing about this course is that it got my husband and I on the same page.  We set financial goals together so we have a plan. It’s inspiring to have a goal that you’re both working towards.  It makes going to work have more meaning than the accumulation of “stuff.” The group discussions allowed people to ask questions without judgement.  Everyone was in the same boat. No one felt embarrassed that they had debt. It was very inclusive.

I’d recommend this course to all couples, no matter where you are in your life.  Dave Ramsey is a christian so he does reference God throughout the videos but it isn’t an in-your-face style.  Someone who isn’t very religious would feel comfortable attending. You don’t have to be in massive debt in order to find benefit from this.  They cover all the way from saving your first $1,000 up through teaching your children and leaving a legacy as a millionaire.

Don’t forget!

Pick up everything you need to start budgeting and getting out of debt.

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Review Of Financial Peace University For Getting Out Of Debt

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How To Travel The World On A Budget

Travel expenses can quickly add up. Between transportation, all your meals, and sight seeing, your budget can be broken easily. These 5 travel bloggers share their best budget travel tips regarding places to visit on a budget, keeping transportation costs low, and how to eat on a budget.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read the full disclosure policy for more info.

The Best Tips For Saving Money While Traveling

Pro Tip: Don’t forget your essential travel accessories!

Yaz Purnell the author at The Wallet Moth says: Tip #1:

Always ask for local recommendations for restaurants. One of the best ways to save money when traveling is to ask the staff at your hotel or a local tour guide where they personally go out to eat in the evenings. You’ll get a great insight into local cuisine cooked for locals (very different from the places that cook for tourists), and you’ll be paying much cheaper local prices, too.

Tip #2

Use public transport if it’s safe to do so. When you’re in a new city, catching the train or a bus can feel really intimidating, and it often seems easier to just jump in a taxi. Using public transport can save you so much money though! I’d always recommend you do your research in your next destination’s layout and public transport network, so you know how to get to where you need to be without having to spend all your money on taxis.

Lilia Griffin the writer over at Blue-Vagabond says: Tip:

It depends on the person, but basically have only one large restaurant meal a day. Eat a simple breakfast at your room in the hotel/Air B&B, snacks during lunchtime (also makes you less tired while traveling), and then a restaurant for dinner – that’s where you spend most of your budget.

Hannah Canavan from Adventure Family Travel says: Tip:

Get a hotel with breakfast included and fill up/ take a little doggy bag for your day so that you can save money on food! Also check out what the main attractions are and then get public transport to them instead of booking expensive tours.

Traveling With Kids Tip:

Pack snacks from home so you’re not caught out in expensive airports or cafes!

Sophie & Paul who travel in a camper van over at Vegan On Board say: Tip #1:

We record our expenses as we go, so we can see what we are spending money on and where we can make savings. On our first 3 month road trip we found we spent a lot of money on coffee and eating out so we cut down on that. We are very lucky that travelling in a van means we always have a kitchen with us!

Tip #2:

We also love volunteering networks such as WWOOF and Workaway for finding places to stay where you can receive free food and accomodation in exchange for helping out on a project. It’s also a fantastic way of meeting locals, immersing in their culture and giving back to the community.

Erin Rodriguez from Vegan Family Travels says: Traveling With Kids Tip #1:

Have the kids buy their own souvenirs. My kids save their allowance. When we are on vacation, they are in charge of buying their own souvenirs. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

Traveling With Kids Tip #2:

Make them a travel book with postcards. I buy them a postcard for each destination we go to. (This is the only souvenir I buy for them.) They put these in photo albums then have at home to remember there trip. It’s a cheap and easy souvenir any where you are.

Cairngorms National Park
The Best Places To Travel To On A Budget

It’s well known that some places are a lot more expensive to travel to than others. Some of these suggestions may be surprising, but if you get a good flight deal to the destination, you can still keep costs down by staying away from the tourist traps.

Get these travel books for additional budget travel tips.

Yaz says: World:

Thailand, for sure. It is an extremely popular tourist destination, but there are still a plethora of budget-friendly options for travelers. Personally, I loved heading up into Northern Thailand to Chiang Mai and Pai for breathtaking scenery, friendly locals, and non-stop street-food options for a fantastic experience that fit will within my budget.

Lilia Says: USA:

Hawaii – the variety of fruits is amazing!  

World:

Israel! Delicious bread, hummus, tahini, and vegetables in ridiculous prices (inexpensive).

Hannah says: USA:

Disney on a budget with our three children; I love discovering hacks for budget travel with kids so doing the ultimate kids’ family experience on a shoestring would be perfect!

World:

Bali, Indonesia. The weather is stunning, the people are wonderful, the food is out of this world. There is gorgeous natural beauty and it is so cheap! Plus we lived there for 8 months so I’m biased.

Sophie & Paul say: World:

We travel a lot in Europe, and Portugal is one of our favourite budget destinations. It’s got such incredible nature that you can enjoy for free. We love going to buy fruits and veggies in the local markets. You can come back with bags full of oranges, lemons, fresh herbs and salads for just a fraction of what it would cost in our home country the UK. Portugal is also a great place for foraging for free food which we love to cook with in our campervan.

Erin says: USA:

San Diego. We can drive there for no flight cost. Stay at a VRBO on or near the beach to reduce meal costs by making them at home. Hang out at the beach all day for low entertainment costs.

Waterfall in the Scottish Highlands
Recommended Budget Food Items Or Snacks While Traveling

Food can easily be one of the most expensive parts of a trip. Sometimes you don’t have access to a fridge and you end up eating out all meals of the day. These tips will help you plan ahead and keep your food budget while traveling manageable.

Tip: Snacks purchased ahead of time are less expensive than touristy areas.

Yaz says:

It depends where you are. In Asia there are loads of local markets where you can buy huge fresh mangoes and giant bunches of bananas for the equivalent of maybe $0.10, so stocking up on fresh fruit is the obvious answer. If you’re travelling within your own country, I’d recommend stocking up on cheap breakfast bars to keep you going until you can have a more filling main meal.

Lilia says:

I stick to popcorn and seasonal fruit.

Hannah enjoys:

Fruit, plus pasta salads and filling foods like avocado, falafel and hummus. Plus some plain chocolate as a treat!

Sophie & Paul say:

We try and avoid plastic packaging as much as possible so we make all our own snacks on the road. Apple rings and nuts keep us fuelled when we are on a hike. If we want an extra special snack to keep us going then we love a piece (or two!) of our vegan campfire brownie!

Erin enjoys:

Granola bars… anything I can easily carry in my bag to avoid hungry meltdowns from adults and kids.

I hope that these tips have given you ideas for traveling less expensively. I’d love to hear in the comments where you’ve been and ways you’ve saved on travel. Happy traveling!

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Steps For Getting Your Child To Eat A Variety Of Vegetables

Getting your child to eat vegetables and other unfamiliar foods is tough. It can cause a lot of struggle at mealtimes. These following steps are intended to help you transition a child of any age over to being more accepting and adventurous when it comes to new foods, especially vegetables.

This post may contain affiliate links.  Please read the full disclosure policy for more info.

When To Start Baby’s First Foods

It’s between you and your pediatrician as to when they recommend starting solids.  A baby’s first food needs to be soft. Typically first foods are puréed completely with little texture.

Baby led weaning is becoming more common as well. This involves giving baby much of the same food you’re eating but with appropriate softness and sizing.

Baby’s gag reflex is triggered further forward in their mouth the younger they are. Up until 4-6 months old, this includes a tongue thrust motion that isn’t compatible with eating solid food. Once a little older, baby may not have teeth yet but they’re strong gums are more than enough to chew softer chunks.

Tip: These baby feeding supplies are essential.

First Foods: Skip The Rice Cereal

Whether you breastfeed or formula feed, usually a suggestion from a well–meaning person is to start your baby on rice cereal. For our parents and grandparents, this was the typical first food. Nowadays it’s being recommended less and less.

Rice cereal is nutritionally devoid. It is usually made from white rice that has had hull removed. This hull has a lot of vitamins. The hull also takes longer to digest and prevents a blood sugar spike.

With white rice, you get that spike. Manufacturers add in synthetic vitamins to try and make up for the lack of nutrition. Many of these synthetic vitamins do not absorb as readily as vitamins found in real food.

Rice Cereal Contains Arsenic

Rice readily absorbs many heavy metals from the soil.  Even with organic versions, pesticide runoff contaminates the soil. High arsenic levels are found in rice grown on land that use to be used for cotton crops. Cotton production uses the highest levels of pesticides for any crop.

All of these heavy metals accumulate in the soil. So even if pesticides haven’t been used at that location for years, the rice has some of the highest arsenic levels due to the soil. Heavy metal toxicity causes serious damage to a body. It takes a lot less arsenic to cause damage in a baby vs adult.

Mimic Nature: Breast Milk Is Sweet

Take a cue from nature. Breast milk contains a high concentration of lactose. Lactose is a sugar and tastes sweet. Breast milk also contains a lot of fat.

The flavors of breast milk change based on what the mother has eaten. This gives breastfed babies a slight leg up when it comes to their age of first tasting complex flavors, spices, fruits, and vegetables. This doesn’t mean that formula fed babies can’t learn to love more complex flavors. They just aren’t use to it yet since formula will typically taste the same every bottle.

The natural sweetness of breastmilk predisposes babies to like sweeter tasting solid food. This can be used to the parent’s advantage when adding in new foods.

Start Your Baby On Vegetables

Steam frozen vegetables and mush with avocado. I start with peas and cauliflower. Cauliflower is pretty neutral and peas have a slight sweetness. Avocado is a healthy fat full of vitamins. It doesn’t have a strong taste which doesn’t overwhelm baby’s palate.  They’re use to drinking high fat milk and my son took to eating this quickly. If your child doesn’t like it immediately, keep offering it frequently. Their taste buds will adjust.

Investigating chickpea pasta and banana.

Tip: These baby food supplies make creating your own baby food super easy.

Use Sweeter Vegetables To Your Advantage

Sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets are sweet vegetables and are a perfect lead-in. These can be bought fresh or frozen and steamed. If I make a larger amount of food I’ll break it into smaller portions. Each portion I’ll flavor slightly different and put in a 4 oz jelly jar to freeze.

Add In Spices (Not Spicy)

If I’m using sweet potatoes, one portion might have cinnamon, another rosemary or thyme. I stay salt-free. If you prefer not to make your own baby food, choose store–bought baby food with no added sugar that also features some vegetables. They can be mashed as smooth or chunky as your baby will eat as long as the size of the chunks aren’t choking hazards.

Combine Fruits With Vegetables

Smoothies are an effortless way to add greens into baby’s diet. An overripe spotted banana will cover the taste of greens in a smoothie. Blend frozen fruit with banana and whatever greens you have on hand. I’ve used romaine, spinach, kale, and Swiss chard. Add more water if it’s too thick.

I place smoothies into a straw cup for my baby. Smoothies turn brown as they oxidize so I prefer to give these fresh. I end up drinking most of the smoothie I make. Keeps me healthy as well.

Offer Fresh Vegetable Juice

The saying “Blend your fruits, juice your vegetables” can be used here. Fruit has a high sugar content. When you juice fruit you get a blood sugar spike. Fruit needs the fiber to slow down the digestion process and prevent the spike.

Vegetables can be juiced without getting that spike.  You don’t have to juice but if you do, it’s a nice concentration of vegetables. An easy juice blend is greens, celery, carrots, apple, and lemon. The majority of the juice is from greens and celery with only one apple and ½ a lemon.

If that combo isn’t sweet enough, add in more apple. You can slowly start decreasing the amount of fruit as they get use to drinking it.  Juicing produces a concentrated flavor that really young babies may not be ready for.

Use Pasta As A Healthy Option

Use different types of pasta like lentil and chickpea.  Pasta is a staple in our house. The shapes are small and perfect for self-feeding.  Grocery stores today have many types of pasta. Instead of white pasta try wheat, brown rice, chickpea, black bean, green lentil, red lentil, or adzuki bean pasta.  Each will have a different texture and taste.

These pastas are child approved!

Create Sauces For Pasta

Since pasta is such a hit, use that to create vegetable packed sauces.  The great thing about sauce is it can be blended so that you can’t see the individual ingredients anymore.  Your child probably will not notice cooked carrots blended into marinara. Spinach and chickpeas can also be blended effortlessly.

Involve Your Child

Involving your child can do wonders with their willingness to try new foods.  If they grocery shop with you, let them pick out one vegetable they want to try that week.  If it’s an ingredient you’ve never used before then find a recipe together that sounds tasty.  Curate curiosity in the kitchen and involve them as much as possible, even if it’s only to rinse lettuce.

What little kid doesn’t like buttons?  It seems that children have a tracking device to find buttons to press.  Use this to get the child excited about using the blender and juicer.

If age appropriate, they can help chop and prepare the produce.  Young kids can dump a bowl of frozen berries into a blender easily. The point is, let them get involved and give them autonomy to make choices.  Let them choose what type of smoothie they want today.

My little one checking the ingredients on his food pouch.
Don’t Snack: Stick To Planned Meal Times

When I’m out at a store, over half of the children I see tend to be eating something.  Usually small crackers or cereal. They’re being pushed along, mindlessly eating. If you ate bits of food all day, you wouldn’t be hungry for actual meals.

Our household follows three meals a day and 1 snack.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack around 3PM. My child can of course have water to drink any time he wants but finger foods are limited to meal times.  

Breakfast is usually oatmeal, a smoothie, or bagel with avocado. Lunch is pasta with sauce, puree, or some of what I’m eating. Sometimes all 3 if he’s hungry.  His snack is when he wakes from napping. We may make vegetable juice, another smoothie, or some fresh fruit. Dinner is our family meal.

Eat As A Family

Our child eats with my husband and me at the table.  He gets whatever we are having that night that is child safe.  Dinners are where we have the most variety.

When our son sees both his dad and mom at the table eating the same food he’s being offered, he warms up to it quickly.  It’s biological that our children look to their parents and mimic. Him seeing us eat the food tells him that it is safe to eat.

There was one evening when our son was 8 months old.  My husband and I were eating Indian curry. We had puree and some pasta for our son. He refused to eat any of his food and kept reaching out towards our plates of curry. We relented and gave him some.  He loved it! Lentil curry is now one of his favorite foods.

Watch The Meal’s Salt And Spice Content

I love spice.  Much to my husband’s dismay, whenever I cooked food early on in our marriage his eyes would start tearing up from the heat.  I’ve since mellowed out how much spice I add to a dish.

Now with a child eating it, I include even less heat. I add normal amounts of herbs and spices but will limit the salt and heat inducing spices.  I’ll add those after the food is served so that it isn’t too much sodium or heat for my son.

Creating Healthy Habits: The Trap Of Dessert

I often hear about parents telling their kids that if they don’t eat their vegetables then they can’t have dessert.  While this initially sounds like a good way to get them to eat their veggies, the problem is in the long term. Do this frequently and you’re teaching your child that vegetables are bad or taste gross.  You have to bribe them in order to make them sound appealing.

It isn’t wise to leverage dessert for compliance. Instead, take an approach where dessert is fruit only.  Dessert isn’t supposed to be equivalent to a second meal’s worth of calories and a sugar rush.  If you start having choices of fruit as the option for dessert, then you satisfy any sweets craving but it’s much healthier.

Don’t Give Up: Keep Offering The Same Foods Many Times

If you’re starting with an older child or your baby doesn’t seem to enjoy a particular food, that doesn’t mean to stop offering it.  Overly sweet, salty, and greasy foods are biologically addictive. Taste buds need time to adjust and appreciate produce.

When I first gave my son avocado, he hated it.  As soon as it touched his tongue he started gagging like he was going to vomit. Mind you, no avocado actually made it into his mouth. How could he not like avocado? Avocado is a food group in our family.  It took 13 additional tries of avocado before he started eating it.

I didn’t continue to only offer it plain. He got some mashed in potatoes, mixed with salsa for guacamole, as avocado pesto sauce for pasta, with peas mixed in, on a piece of bagel.  You get the idea.

Don’t let one, or even 12, dislikes of a food indicate you should give up. His taste buds adjusted and now he gets excited when he sees an avocado. He’ll eat guacamole by the spoonful.

Don’t Make A Separate Meal

Make it easy on yourself.  Dinner is what’s for dinner.  Everyone in the family is eating what is made and must take at least one bite of everything.  There’s no negotiating because there are no other options.

Concluding Tips

Getting your child to accept a variety of tastes, flavors, and textures take time and consistency. If you methodically introduce food items repeatedly, your child’s taste buds will have time to adjust.

Try to eat as many meals together as you can to encourage the trying of new food items. Avoid bribing your child with sweets or offering to prepare a separate requested meal.

By slowly incorporating these tips, you’ll get your child eating a wider variety of vegetables without mealtimes being a battle.

Share with me in the comments ways you’ve had success getting your child eating vegetables.

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Successfully Get Your Child To Love Vegetables

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A month’s worth of budget friendly plant based meals.

I love eating healthy. Even better if it’s quick and cheap! What I don’t like is sifting through thousands of recipes only to find out the recipe is complicated or takes a lot longer than I wanted.

Don’t worry:

I’ve done the sifting for you!

You’ll have enough recipes to last an entire month’s worth of weekday dinners. Probably even a few lunches with leftovers. YUM!

Bonus:

They’re all entirely vegan, plant based, easy to make, and budget friendly.

Once you find some recipes below that you want to try, check out my post on how to successfully meal plan so that you aren’t tempted to order take-out mid week. The struggle is real, y’all!

1) Roasted Pumpkin Coconut Curry

Alicia at Eat Your Way Clean created this recipe involving fresh roasted pumpkin and Thai red curry paste. Zucchini adds extra veggies and coconut milk makes it creamy.

Photo Credit: Eat Your Way Clean
2) Ratatouille

Nora from A Clean Bake did her take on this French staple. While it may look complicated, it is actually really easy since you’re basically slicing tomato, eggplant, zucchini, and onion into rounds then covering with tomato sauce. Check out her recipe here.

Photo Credit: A Clean Bake
3) Pot Pie

Melissa from Vegan Huggs recipe makes pot pies easy and accessible. Pre-made pie crusts and frozen vegetables equals a quick weekday meal.

Photo Credit: Vegan Huggs
4) Eggplant Meatballs Spaghetti

Emese and Nandy from My Pure Plants have a unique take on meatless meatballs using eggplant and marjoram. Their recipe can be baked oil free to keep calories down. If you plan ahead, you can roast the eggplant a day ahead of time to really cut down on dinner prep.

Photo Credit: My Pure Plants
5) Soba Noodle Salad with Creamy Peanut Dressing

Tilly from TillyEats whips up a fast and healthy cold noodle salad. Perfect for the hot weather and packed full of veggies. Her recipe uses quick cooking soba noodles and fresh veggies. The peanut butter dressing contains ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.

Photo Credit: TillyEats
6) Slow Cooker Chili

Elena from Happy Kitchen.Rocks keeps prep work to the minimum. Combine everything into a slow cooker and you have a delicious dinner 8 hrs later. Her recipe is high in protein, vegetables, and…..oh yeah…..flavor!

Photo Credit: Happy Kitchen.Rocks
7) Aloo Gobi

Jamie and Laura from I Believe I Can Fry recreate dishes they come across during their travels and life. This recipe is lots of potatoes and cauliflower covered in a healthy tomato spiced curry.

Photo Credit: I Believe I Can Fry 8) Creamy Tomato Soup

Bintu from From A Pantry has created a creamy tomato soup recipe that is nice and flavorful. It can be made via regular stovetop or pressure cooker for extra speed. Using canned tomatoes keeps prep time drastically down. You basically combine all the ingredients, cook, and blend.

Photo Credit: From A Pantry
9) Mediterranean Rice

Courtney and Chris from Know Your Produce have a simple rice recipe that can be made in 20 minutes. Have leftover rice (or quinoa) from last night’s dinner? Sauté it with veggies in a skillet for a delicious family meal.

Photo Credit: Know Your Produce
10) Creamy Garlic Pasta

Gwen from Delightful Adventures created a creamy vegan garlic sauce using silken tofu. Her sauce recipe can be made ahead of time so the only thing you need to prepare is pasta.

Photo Credit: Delightful Adventures
11) 30 Minute Curry

Stacey from Stacey Homemaker has a curry recipe that can be completed in 30 minutes flat! Add in whatever veggies you like. It’ll go great with the Thai red curry paste and coconut milk that’s in the sauce.

Photo Credit: Stacey Homemaker
12) Tangy Slow Cooker Stew

Camilla from Fab Food 4 All uses chestnut mushrooms instead of beef for that hearty earthy flavor. Her recipe uses balsamic vinegar and soy sauce to give that tangy Worcestershire taste. Aside from chopping up some vegetables, the slow cooker does most of the work.

Photo Credit: Fab Food 4 All
13) Baked Manicotti

Rebecca from Strength & Sunshine does her take to veganize this comfort food. Her recipe is soy free and uses store bought ingredients to keep assembly time to slightly longer than it takes to boil noodles.

Photo Credit: Strength & Sunshine
14) Eggplant and Zucchini Curry

María from The Cookware Geek has a curry recipe that takes 30 minutes from prep to serve. Turmeric gives it that lovely yellow hue. A comforting curry using fresh from the garden produce.

Photo Credit: The Cookware Geek
15) Lazy Falafel

Rhian from Rhian’s Recipes deconstructs the falafel sandwich. Her recipe uses the ingredients of the falafel without all the fuss. It’s all cooked in a single skillet so even cleanup is a breeze.

Photo Credit: Rhian’s Recipes
16) Spanish Beans with Tomatoes

Kate from Veggie Desserts creates far more than just desserts. Her recipe is a low calorie Spanish bean stew thats ready in 20 minutes.

Photo Credit: Veggie Desserts
17) Busy Person Fried Rice

Throwing in one of my own budget recipes. I use leftover rice and frozen vegetables to make this as easy and quick as possible. Although simple, my family requests it frequently.

Photo Credit: Plantsonify
18) Nut Free Mac & Cheese

Emese and Nandi from My Pure Plants made a cheese sauce without the typical cashews. Their recipe uses sunflower seeds and vegetables to create the sauce. Optional mushroom eggplant topping for an extra dose of veggies.

Photo Credit: My Pure Plants
19) Hearty Mushroom Stew

Gwen from Delightful Adventures has a stew recipe that can easily be made via stove top or pressure cooker. This stew is full of comforting veggies.

Photo Credit: Delightful Adventures
20) Creamy Coconut Korma

Diana from Little Sunny Kitchen has a healthy take on the usually cream filled korma. Her recipe uses coconut milk, tomatoes, and butter beans as main ingredients. You could also add other vegetables like potatoes.

Photo Credit: Creamy Coconut Korma
21) Shepherd’s Pie

Kate from Veggie Desserts has a vegan take on shepherd’s pie that only takes 30 minutes. The base of her recipe is mushrooms and lentils with smashed new potatoes on top.

Photo Credit: Veggie Desserts
More Meal Tips

With all of these recipes, you now have over a month’s worth of easy plant based dinners. If you want to save even more time, I suggest trying to cook food in batches and freezing the extra.

By planning out your meals at the beginning of the week and advance preparation, you’re more likely to stick to your plan. This will save you a lot of money by not eating out or buying impulse grocery purchases.

Let me know your favorite recipes in the comments.

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Cheap Vegan Plant-Based Meals

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Going to College Without Debt

Student loans cripple your future savings power. Graduating college is already one of the most expensive times in your life between getting an apartment, graduation, moving, and transportation. Paying off thousands in student loan debt leaves many people living paycheck to paycheck.

This millennial mamma learned the hard way regarding going to college. While my student loan debt wasn’t as large as many people’s, it was significant and set my retirement savings and ability to build wealth back a few years.

I’ve learned from my mistakes and will implement these options when it comes time for my son to go to school. College isn’t the path for everyone but if you do decide to go, there are many other options besides the traditional student loan route. It is possible to go to college debt free if you plan ahead and are open to untraditional options.

1) Earn College Credits In High School

Take electives at community college or take APs that will transfer. Some school districts have partnerships with the local community college for dual enrollment. By the time of high school graduation, you could already have an associates degree. These college courses are discounted or free in some areas.

AP classes are another option for getting credits in high school. Depending on the college, students who received a 5 on their AP exam may have those general elective credits count for their degree. If you have a lot of credits that will transfer you may be able to complete your bachelors in 2-3 years.

2) Apply for A LOT of Scholarships

Make applying for scholarships your part time job. I’m not talking about applying for 5-20 scholarships. Apply to 1,000 or more. Even if you only have 80% of the qualities they’re looking for in an applicant, it doesn’t hurt to apply.

Look at local companies in your area when finding scholarships. Many of the smaller local scholarships aren’t marketed as widely and take a little more digging to find. Check the places your parents work as well since they will sometimes have one for employees families only.

Scholarships of a lower monetary value usually have fewer applicants since people think it’s not worth the effort. If a $500 scholarship only takes 20 minutes to apply for and you get it, that’s a great return on investment. Far more than you make spending that same time at a retail job.

The PSAT Matters For Scholarships

Most people think of the PSAT as the practice for the SAT. They also think that it doesn’t matter and may not even do preparation for it. Besides, it’s the SAT that matters, right?

Wrong!

The PSAT is the National Merit Scholarship qualifying test. That means if you don’t do well on this test, your chance for a National Merit Scholarship is gone. The top scores become National Merit Finalists and are awarded scholarships. The PSAT score cutoff for National Merit varies depending on which state you live in.

PSAT scores are also used as a qualifier for the National Hispanic Recognition Program which looks great on college applications.

3) Negotiate With Financial Aid

Call the financial aid department before accepting admission into a school to see if they can do better. As students send back rejections to a school, financial aid packages that were set aside for those students no longer need to be held for them.

Tell the financial aid office how much you love their school and would love to attend. Respectfully explain how a different school offered a better aid package but you would prefer to attend their school if they can match it. I’d estimate you have a 50%-50% chance of this working.

4) Work A Part Time Job

Work while in school. Get a job with the school for maximum schedule flexibility. Research has shown that students who work part time while in school have higher GPAs. The benefit drops off if they work more than 20 hrs a week though. Having a job while taking classes makes the student better at scheduling their time. There’s no room for procrastination when you have a full time class and part time work schedule.

Getting a job on campus has other benefits as well. The scheduling is more flexible and accommodating to taking classes. A job as a Resident Assistant may not require much effort aside from being on duty some nights. During the time you’re on duty you can usually get class work done. Being an RA could take care of room and board costs.

On campus jobs allow the school faculty to see you under different circumstances.  They could see how hard of a worker you are and be more likely to choose you for research positions or internships. You’ll be shown in a different context than the hundreds of other faces they see in lecture hall. It’s a perfect opportunity to impress them.

5) Get A Useful Degree

I can’t stress this enough. Really think about what job you can get with your degree. While you may like studying history or English, it’s not going to be worth taking out $70k in student loan debt if career prospects are $50k/ year jobs.

If you are interested in a field with low paying prospects, get your major in something more marketable and minor in your passion. Then you can create your own pathway to your chosen field but aren’t limited by your specified degree.

6) Save In A 529 Plan

A 529 plan is a tax free savings account.  After tax dollars can be contributed and all of the earnings are tax free as long as they’re used for approved educational expenses. Think of it like an educational Roth IRA but you don’t have to wait until you’re 59 ½ to access it.  

Looking back at all of the toys I received as a child, I wish about half of that had been saved and put into a 529 plan. Gifts as small as $50 would have time to triple over 18 years to $164.  Factor in larger numbers and you’re talking about some serious growth.

Some states even offer state tax benefits for contributing to a 529 plan.  If you don’t live in one of these states, it is worth checking out a highly rated plan in a different state to contribute to.  

If you hadn’t planned on saving money for you child to go to college, keep in mind that each family will be assigned an EFC amount based on a calculation from the government. This is the Expected Family Contribution number that all college aid is based off of. Use this calculator to see what yours will be. So regardless of whether you saved, the government is going to expect you to be able to contribute that much before offering need-based help.

7) Avoid Student Loans

You’ve probably heard about the student loan crisis. Currently, there is over $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. The few loan forgiveness programs have not been paying off loans like promised either.

Better options are to go to school part time or consider trade school. Part time school allows you to have a full time job that cash flows the courses you’re taking. If you followed suggestion #1, you may even have a lot of credits out of the way.

Trade schools are a great option as well. Most require two years of education. Some have a paid apprenticeship afterwards before becoming fully licensed in the trade. These schools cost far less than a 4 year college, take less time, and are fairly outsource-proof. A 529 plan can be used to pay for trade school if they have a Federal School Code.

8) Join The Military

This is a great option for an expensive degree like a doctor or lawyer. Check out the Army or Navy for JAG info. ROTC and military academies are other options.

For an undergraduate degree there are a few ways to do it. You can join the reserves and go to school full time. You can also enlist and do school part time/online using the GI Bill. If you already have a bachelors degree and join, you can use the GI Bill to get a masters degree.

9) Find Paid Internships

Similar to suggestion #4, a paid internship is an income that helps cover the cost of school. Many internships happen over the summer but sometimes they’re offered during the school year. This is a good option if you’re close by since there’s less competition during the school year.

A great place to find internships is your school’s student services department. Department bulletin boards may sometimes post about internships for that major. Reaching out to a department head or favorite professor are good leads.

10) Partner With A Company

Partner with a company that will pay for your school as a part of their benefits package. Nursing is an in-demand career that some hospitals are helping pay for schooling. Pharmacy school hopefuls should check out this program.

If you’re looking at getting into the tech side, there are many jobs that don’t require a computer science degree. Some coding bootcamps offer job guarantees that are worth looking into.

Overall Thoughts

While college is expensive, there are still many ways to lessen the financial burden. If you still need to take out student loans, I caution you to keep the amount low and in line with what is realistic to pay off in the field you’ll be entering.

For many job sectors, the name of the college doesn’t matter as long as you have the degree. Going to a less expensive school combined with the above tips can get you through college without debt.

I’d love to know in the comments how you paid for your college.

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Attending College for Free

The post 10 Ways To Go To College Debt Free appeared first on Plantsonify.

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4 Steps For Becoming Successful

So many of us go through life without truly paying attention to what is going on around us.  We go to school because that’s how you get a “good job.” We get married, buy a house, and have 2 kids.  The same societal expectations that our parents and grandparents have been passed on to us, usually without ever questioning.

Our generation has seen a big change with this thinking.  As millenials, the promise of a good job after college didn’t manifest for many.  Large student loan debts and increasing housing prices has brought a lot of people to life-hack and go about things in nontraditional ways.  

Going down a path that is unfamiliar to our parents and grandparents can leave you feeling lost and like a failure.  I’ve found that unfamiliar paths open up possibilities for those who are open minded.

People who are “overnight successes” have years of foundational work behind them.  They were forward thinking enough and had a plan in place to manifest what they wanted to achieve.

1) Define Your Goals For Your Life

Are you living the life you have envisioned? If not, what life do you envision for yourself? Write down three or four specific life goals.  Specificity is key for the next steps.

If your goal is to be healthy, what about health are you wanting to achieve?  Is it eating more vegetables, running a marathon, or losing 20 lbs? If your goal is to get a promotion, what is the promotion or promotions you want to get?  Or what type of entrepreneur do you want to be?

Financial goals are also good to have.  Are you interested in early retirement or financial independence?  Or is your biggest goal right now to get out of debt? Don’t forget the fun stuff too like travel and volunteer work. Make sure your goals encompass all sides of your life.

2) Step Backwards From The End Goal

With each goal, start from the end goal and work your way backwards in time to the very beginning. Here are possible steps for someone who’d like to be financially independent.

One example:

Goal:  Be Financially Independent

To be financially independent I will need to…

  • Have $2 million at retirement age 65

To have $2 million at retirement I will need to…

  • Save $2k monthly for 30 years

To save $2k monthly I will need to…

  • Increase my income an extra $500/month since I already can save $1.5k/month

To increase my income by $500/month I will need to…

  • Pick up a side hustle or get a certification to get a better job or renegotiate my salary, etc.

You get the idea.  You’re writing down the exact steps that need to be taken.  It’s a shaping plan to the successful completion of the goal.

3) Be Creative To Achieve Your Goals

There aren’t blueprints for goals.  Everyone’s shaping plans will be different. In the above example, some people may not be able to save anything yet because they have outstanding debts.  Their plans will involve paying off those debts first before saving up money.

If a goal seems unattainable, think outside the box.  A person whose goal is mortgage-free home ownership may implement house hacking or Air BnB to help pay off their mortgage.  Someone who wants to go to medical school but can’t fathom the idea of $200k in school debt may join the military to pay for their degree.  

4) Locate Yourself On Your Shaping Plan

Once the shaping plan is plotted, identify where you are on it.  Post your goals and steps somewhere you’ll see them daily.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Chinese proverb

Just like how interest compounds in the stock market, invest in yourself and do a little bit every day. When you’re successful after following your shaping plan, you’ll know how it feels to be an “overnight success” as well.  

Concluding Thoughts

Writing out your goals and making a plan will put you ahead of most people. Few rarely put in the time to work towards their goals and end up staying dreamers their entire life.

By having a clear plan that you’re working towards as a visual daily reminder, you’re far more likely to continue progressing. The difference between someone who is a success versus failure is that the successfull person kept going despite their prior failures.

Let me know some of the goals you’re working on in the comments.

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Achieving Financial And Life Goals

The post How To Set And Achieve Financial Goals To Have Your Dream Life appeared first on Plantsonify.

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