Holiday Travel on a Budget

Holiday Travel on a Budget

online safety for kids

‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,’ (as the song goes) and that means we have holiday decorating, lots of shopping, to-do’s that go on for miles, holiday menus to plan, parties, and some will be planning their holiday travel on a budget to visit their friends and loved ones. If you are one of the lucky ones who will be singing that tune called ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ this holiday season, you might also be wondering how you can afford it.

Traveling during the holidays to visit friends, relatives and loved ones can be super expensive, and sometimes just that extra dose of stress that we don’t need during this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to this magical season, but I also think it’s important to be prepared and plan accordingly to stick to our family budget while we have fun at the same time.

If your family will be traveling for the holidays, here are some helpful tips to make it an unforgettable holiday that you will want to ‘remember’ instead of ‘forget.’

online safety for kids
online safety for kids

1. Book Last Minute

This might sound strange, but it’s already December and a little too late to be thinking about booking your last-minute travel plans in advance. The good news is that it might be better for your wallet.  A local hotel owner or Bed & Breakfast, will be much more likely to agree to a discount if they are unlikely to sell the last bed to someone else. Or, while they may not drop the price, perhaps you can persuade them to upgrade your room or throw in a free spa experience that every mom can use this time of year. 

The same goes for booking flights, rental cars, and tickets for special attractions at your destination of choice. I know friends who have found last-minute $300 flights from NYC to Paris for the holidays, while others have been upgraded to a Mercedes convertible rental car for the same price as a minivan. Winning! So it can be done!

2. Take Advantage of Apps

Gone are the days of sorting through individual hotel or airport websites. Now, aggregator apps can do most of the work for you. Find your lodging through Hipmunk https://www.hipmunk.com/, which searches hundreds of major travel sites. Figure out your fuel coast with Gasbuddy’s trip calculator  https://www.gasbuddy.com/. And find the best airline deals and the best times to fly and buy with Hopper https://www.hopper.com/.

3. Think of Your Trip as a Gift in Itself

If you have older kids and teens, they should be able to appreciate that a family trip during the holidays costs money and can really be considered a gift in its own right. Help your kids understand the gift of travel, and allow them to plan a portion of your vacation and pick one special activity each. If possible, try to spend a day doing each child’s special outing of their choice. Another option is to gift kids souvenir money instead, (in the currency of your destination if traveling abroad) and don’t put any restrictions on how they spend it.

4. Consider Gift-Giving in a New Way:

Let’s be real.  Chances are you won’t have a lot of room in your carry-on luggage to bring gifts if you will be opting for air travel, or you may not even have enough room if traveling by car. You can always try gift-giving on the go! Simply draw a family member’s name and shop for them while you’re traveling. 

Try to focus on smaller, stocking-stuffer type gifts and gift your kids with one smaller gift each day during your trip, instead of giving all gifts on Christmas morning. Small toys, crafts, goodies, and games they’ll use during your travels, are excellent ideas.  For those celebrating Hanukkah, this ‘new’ system will feel even easier to implement. 

5. Ship Your Presents

If you can’t get around buying everyone on your list a smaller gift, then thank goodness for‘Santa’s Magic Sleigh.’ Instead of paying annoying baggage fees or renting a semi-truck to hold all of your stuff, take advantage of free shipping deals as soon as possible to send the presents to your destination. Your suitcases will be smiling, and your kids won’t be sitting on the floor of your car trying to find a place to sit for the road trip.

6. Use Gift Cards and Points

Cardpool https://www.cardpool.com/ and Raise https://www.raise.com/ are great sites for finding discounted gift cards with leftover cash on them. Buy several and use them to pay for your flight, hotel, rental car or a few restaurant meals while you’re on the road. 

7. Let Santa Know

A recent study by HomeAway has shown that 84% of families will spend the holidays together. But traveling to be with family can have its difficulties. Kids worry that Santa won’t find them, which causes unnecessary stress during a festive vacation. Check out: Message from Santa!https://apps.apple.com/us/app/a-call-from-santa/id933921849! They have solved this problem for parents. Just download the app with your iPhone and let your child leave Santa a voicemail telling him where you’ll be for the holidays and Santa will find you!. This app also comes with a lot of different cool features such as personal video messages from Santa, a phone call from Santa, and even send a text message and he’ll reply instantly! Even Santa needs to take a break once in a while from the elves.

8. Pack Snacks

We all know the minute you get everyone in the car for a road trip, someone is going to get the munchies. If you start filling up on snacks at every gas station or pit-stop, you’re going to run low on travel funds quickly.  Instead of buying those unhealthy snacks like chips, candy, and soda at convenience store prices, make sure to pack your snacks before you hit the road. Bring popcorn, pretzels, juice packs, bottled water etc., so everyone can snack healthy and be less cranky at a fraction of the price.

9. Be Flexible

The secret is out! We all know that flying or driving on Christmas Day, can be a great budget-saver. Not only does it reduce stress, but it means cheaper flights and fewer gas-depleting traffic jams! Entertain the idea of traveling on this day if possible, and give your loved ones a ‘Christmas Miracle’ when you ring their doorbell on Christmas Day!

10. Buy Less Stuff

Even though we may not want to hear it, in order to save money…you have to buy less stuff. Always remember, the most important thing about the holidays is spending quality time with our friends, family and loved ones. No amount of gifts, decorations, or fancy hotels will ever replace that. Your presence alone will be the most memorable gift you could ever give.

Enjoy the holidays this year, while implementing these ten budget-friendly holiday travel tips. When you do, you’ll enjoy the holidays and your much-needed family vacation!

Safe Travels.

Help Your Kids Be Prepared for Accidents!

At the park or playing ball – your kids can be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.   Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.

Paying Off Debt & Losing Weight – There’s No Debate

If you check out people’s New Year’s resolutions, I can almost guarantee that two of them come up at the top of the list—getting out of debt and losing weight. But before you start to think I’m talking about making a different resolution this long before the New Year, I want to point out that there’s actually a lot of similarity in these two goals. 

What does it take to lose weight? 

  • Motivation 
  • Watch what you eat 
  • Develop better habits 
  • Hold yourself accountable 
  • Get the support that you need 
  • Exercise 
  • And eat less than you can burn off 

What does it take to get out of debt? 

  • Motivation 
  • Watch what you buy 
  • Develop better spending/saving habits 
  • Have a good support system 
  • Work extra 
  • And spend less than you make 

It’s basically the same concepts, right? Let’s look at some of the other similarities.

 

It’s Not Going to Happen Overnight  

Anyone who thinks they’re going to lose a ton of weight or pay off all their credit cards in a short time span is being totally unrealistic. Your current financial woes were caused by years of overspending and credit card use. The same is true for your weight—it came from years of poor eating habits and a lack of exercise. So, don’t expect to fix everything all at once. 

Instead, set small goals for yourself. If you need to lose twenty pounds, set a goal of 1-2 pounds per week and work towards meeting that goal. If you need to pay off $10,000 worth of credit card debt, set monthly goals for setting aside the needed amount of money to reach that goal in a reasonable time. This could take a while. Don’t rush it.

The Two Struggles Can Actually Go Hand-in-Hand

One of the biggest expenses for a lot of families is fast food and eating out at restaurants. A fast food meal for one can cost almost $10 and many sandwiches at sit-down restaurants start at the same amount. Added to the problem is the food isn’t that healthy for you. 

Instead, you can save hundreds of dollars a month by not eating out and instead cooking your own meals at home. Then, you can also control the portion size and the healthiness of the food which can, in turn, help you to lose weight.

You’re Going to Have Setbacks

With paying off debt and losing weight, many people get depressed by setbacks and let themselves fall back into some of the older traps. You know how it goes, right? You don’t hit your weight goal, so you get mopey and decide “What’s the point?”. 

The next thing you know, you have a carton of Ben and Jerry’s in your lap and the whole diet is out the window. The same goes for debt. You could be moving along at a good clip for a few months and then get hit with a major medical bill out of nowhere. If you look at this as a roadblock to your success, you could spiral out of control and just give up. Instead, see it as just a speedbump on the path—something that will slow you down but not stop you.

There’s No Debating the Discipline Needed to Meet Your Goals

There’s a lot of similarities when it comes to paying off your debts and losing weight. But one of the biggest is the sense of satisfaction and overall happiness you’ll have if you succeed at both. Living a healthy and debt-free lifestyle should be at the top of every family’s “To Do” list.

Help Your Kids Be Prepared for Accidents!

At the park or playing ball – your kids can be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.  

Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.

Signs Your Child is Ready to Learn About Money

Signs Your Child is Ready to Learn About Money

Signs Your Child is Ready to Learn About Money - PreparaMom

One skill so many parents wish they’d taught their kids is money management. I think it’s never too soon to talk to your kids about this. That doesn’t mean they will comprehend everything right away. 

No kid is going to understand escrow or compound interest. (Many adults don’t even know what this is about.) But kids are smart these days. 

 

Kids Learn About Money Management First by Observing Your Day to Day Purchases

Children hear and see things, absorbing everything like a sponge. But the fact is, almost 80% of Americans are living in debt, so I want to make sure my kid doesn’t grow up to be part of that statistic.

I’ve heard from quite a few parents about why they haven’t talked to their kids about money. Their reasoning is that they don’t know how or when to bring it up. 

 

Opportunities to Teach Your Kids About Money Are All Around You

The thing is, kids know a lot more than you might think. For instance, they already know that mommy and/or daddy has to leave the house most days to go to work. 

They know that we go to the store and come back home with new things. They see that we have these cards and bills in our purses and wallets that we give to people at the store. So, they’re already picking up on most of the realities of money without having it spelled out for them.

 

Three signs that your children are ready for the “money talk” include:

 

1. They can count. 

 

Counting numbers abstractly and counting money are two different concepts. But once they begin to understand numbers and how to count things, it’s a good sign they can understand money. That means you might want to let them do simple tasks like count out money when you are at the cash register or counting back your change.

 

2. They’re asking to buy toys. 

 

When you go to the store, it can be really annoying when your kids start asking you to buy them things. (On a side note, does anyone else dread going to the store with their kids because all they want is for you to buy them stuff?) But this is also a great time to talk with your kids about the difference between something you need, something you want and how to delay gratification by saving up for your purchases.

 

3. They’re paying attention to purchases and how you handle money at the store. 

 

This would be a great time to just talk about the general concept of money and debit cards. You might also want to explain to them about credit cards and how it can be dangerous to buy lots of stuff using these.

 

Discussing Money with Your Kids Is So Important

Talking to your kids about money is one of the most important talks you’ll have. But it’s a big step that will put them on the right path for financial literacy and independence. There’s so many tools and resources that can help you with this topic we’ve included a few links that may help:

Resource Links

https://www.parents.com/parenting/money/family-finances/teaching-kids-about-money-an-age-by-age-guide/

https://howtoadult.com/kids-developmentally-ready-count-money-4591.html

https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2015/01/16/what-your-child-should-know-about-money-by-key-ages

Teach Your Kids the Healthy Habit of Being Prepared!

Bumps, bruises and owies – oh my! Parenthood is never boring. Childhood isn’t without its accidents. Be prepared with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.  Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.

Is a Debt Free Life Possible?

Is a Debt Free Life Possible?

Is a Debt Free Life Possible? - PreparaMom

One of the biggest dreams for a lot of us out there is the idea of becoming 100% debt free in life. Imagine that: no credit card bills or car payment, no worrying if you are going to make it to the next paycheck. Is such a dream even possible?

 

I am 100% proof that it is!

 

But before you start thinking that I’m going to sell you on some “get-rich-quick” scheme that is going to take care of all your money woes, let me set your mind at ease. The real question for you should be “How committed are you to getting out of debt and (most importantly) STAYING out of debt?”

 

In our case, it took us about 3 years to get rid of our debt. That was three very long, very tiring, and very painful years that saw stress on top of stress piling up.

 

Every week, it seemed like we just wanted to throw up our hands and call it quits on the plan because it was so hard to say no to things like social gatherings, vacations, eating out, and shopping sprees. But in the end, we managed to stay the course and rid ourselves of $120,000 of consumer debt.

 

How did we pull off this miracle paying off debt? Here’s what we did that you can do too:

 

1. Get clear on every cent that comes in and goes out.

 

That means create a detailed budget so that you know exactly how much you are spending. Don’t just check your checking account. The real culprits are how much you are racking up on credit cards for nonessential items each month.

 

2. Once you know just how much is coming in, you need to axe every single expenditure that is not essential.

 

So, what qualifies as non-essential? Cable TV, subscriptions like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and yes, even, those regular lattes at Starbucks.

 

3. Work extra.

 

This may sound painful, but you can’t just cut money going out. You are going to have to add money coming in. If you are working hourly, pick up as many extra hours as you can. If not, look for a second job or some other way to bring in secondary income. This doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment; just until you get a handle on your finances and get yourself out of debt.

 

4. The two biggest areas you can cut out, for most people, is eating out and going on vacations.

 

Instead, eat for much less by cooking at home and then save your money with a nice staycation.

 

5. Essentially, every single penny that comes in goes to pay off the essential bills.

 

After you cover your essentials, any money that is left over goes towards paying off the debt.

There should be no exceptions to this.

 

The bottom line is that you have to learn to live below your means and resist the temptations that crop up all the time to buy things that you don’t absolutely need.

 

We did this, day-in-and-day-out, for three years. It sucked (big time)! But it has been so worth it because now we get to enjoy our hard-earned money instead of saying goodbye to it every payday and handing it over to the creditors before anything else. This is also a HUGE lesson that we are trying to impart to our children so that they can start off on the right foot with money management.

 

Be Prepared with Exactly What You Need!

 

Bumps, bruises and owies – oh my! Parenthood is never boring. Don’t find yourself needing first aid supplies only to stop at the closest store and pay more than you need. Be prepared with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.  Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.

3 Fun Ways to Start Talking to Your Kids About Money

3 Fun Ways to Start Talking to Your Kids About Money

3 Fun Ways to Start Talking to Your Kids About Money - PreparaMom

If you think back to your childhood and imagine the one thing you wish you had been taught as a kid, I’m going to bet that money management is going to come up near the top of the list.

 

After the “birds and the bees” talk, this can be one of the toughest things to explain to your kids. The hardest part about teaching money skills to kids, I think, is taking the extra time and effort out of our already busy schedule to talk to them and show them things about it while also being consistent with it. (Consistency is one of those things that we all have to work on, but when it comes to money that’s especially true.)

 

If money management skills are something you haven’t already started, it can be done with three really super simple things.

 

1. Play Money

 

One of the very first things we did when the kids were around four and six was we started playing the Monopoly board game with them.  There are lots of variations on Monopoly right now, including some specifically made for little kids, but the core concept is always the same.

It introduces the concept of collecting money and buying “houses” as well as having to pay rent. This makes learning about money fun and competitive. Nowadays, there are plenty of board games that make learning about money fun and easy, including one called Act Your Wage from money guru Dave Ramsey.

 

2. Piggy Banks

3 Fun Ways to Start Talking to Your Kids About Money - PreparaMom

Another thing we did early on was to buy the kids their own set of piggy banks. Like with any new “toys,” they loved them and couldn’t wait to start putting money into them.

We had “Spend, Save, and Give” banks and explained to them what each was for. The spend and save banks are pretty obvious. It’s important for your kids to decide how much of their money they want to spend and how much they want to save and to see that their decisions with money have consequences.

But the “Give” bank is also important because it encourages your child to set aside money to share with charity groups. There are a lot of different piggy banks you can buy out there, or you can make this a little more personalized by having them create their own.

 

3. Chore Chart

 

Finally, we started a chore chart where our kids are able to earn $0.25 for each chore they complete. Now, we aren’t talking about paying them that much for cutting the grass or weed-eating the flower-beds. These are simple things that I knew they were capable of doing like picking up their toys and putting away clutter.

At the end of the day, it was very exciting for them to receive the quarters and then put them into their piggy banks. This teaches them that money isn’t something you are given, but rather something you have to earn.

3 Fun Ways to Teach Kids About Money - PreparaMom

Getting the Process Started Is Important

The most important thing, though, is to just start. The younger you begin, the better, so they get used to it and understand that “parents aren’t made out of money” and “money really does not grow on trees.”

 

More Tools and Tips for Teaching Money

We have a few links that may help you to get started teaching money principles to your children:

https://www.mint.com/ultimate-resources-for-teaching-kids-about-money

https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/how-to-teach-kids-about-money

https://www.ignitespot.com/financial-literacy-guide-for-kids

https://www.kiplinger.com/article/saving/T065-C032-S014-my-10-best-financial-literacy-apps-for-kids.html

 

Be Prepared for the Unexpected!

Bumps, bruises and owies – oh my! Parenthood is never boring. Be prepared with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.  Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.

5 Tips to Keep Your Holiday Shopping in Check

5 Tips to Keep Your Holiday Shopping in Check

What is a budget’s worst enemy?

The Holiday Season!

Hopefully you are prepared with extra funds set aside for this time of year because from now on until the end of the year, everywhere you look, there will be some kind of a sale.

Some kind of advertisement that lures you in to thinking that you absolutely must have it.

Marketing experts are sneaky sneaky.  They know how to push through to your weakness.  

But whatever you do, don’t give in to it!

If you know you tend to overspend AND you know that you can’t afford to, this information is…

 

FOR YOU!

I get it.  I love sales.  I love getting a bargain.  I love deals! And with online shopping so readily available, it makes it impossible to not be tempted to buy something all in the convenience of your own home.

And if you don’t stay disciplined, you will find yourself putting a way bigger dent on your bank account than you can really afford to.

Let me help you with some ways to do that.

Follow these tips to make sure you stay on track and prevent yourself from going on a shopping frenzy only to wake up one morning after the holidays are over and see how much money you overspent.

  1.  Make a list.  Write down all the people you would like to purchase gifts for and as you come across             sales, buy with them in mind only.  I know how tempting it is to want to purchase things for yourself       but YOU MUST RESIST the urge to do this.
  2. Be realistic.  You know exactly how much money you are capable of spending.  Take that amount and      drill it into your head and don’t spend more than that.  If it helps, keep a note on your phone with              that amount and deduct from it any amount you buy in gifts.  That way, you have a real time running      total.
  3. Find an accountability partner.  Once you determine this amount, tell someone who you can trust to        keep you accountable to stick to your number.  Someone you can call to talk you out of it when you            are tempted to purchase something you shouldn’t.
  4. Be clear.  It’s super easy to get distracted from our shopping list when we come across something             that we would like for ourselves.  But let’s be clear and honest with yourself and before you decide to       buy something, ask yourself the question, “Is this a need or a want?”  “Am I going to die if I don’t             purchase this thing right now?” If the answer is “no”, then you don’t need it. You have to remember       that you have a whole list of people to buy for so if it’s a want, it can wait until after the holidays               when you have accumulated some extra funds to spend
  5. Stick to the plan.  Resist temptation.  Fight the urge. Quickly buy the presents as soon as you can and      stay away from the stores or online shopping.  There will always be sales on stuff. And hey, if you end      up with extra money after buying everyone their gifts, then treat yourself to something with the                remaining amount.

If you know you always spend too much money during this season and end up resenting yourself for it later, then do yourself a favor and be in control of it this year.

It’s awesome to be the person that has tons of gifts to share. But guess what, it’s not so awesome when you’re the person that had to rack up a huge bill because of it.

It just is not worth it.

So remember, know your limits and stick to it!

You will thank me for it after the holidays are over and you still have money in the bank to pay the bills.