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Author: Shanah Bell

I am a Holistic Health Advisor with a Master's Degree in Nutrition. My partner is a Chef and we have a blended family with 5 children.

As a single parent of 2, I was able to still make things work while financially struggling with the help of food stamps. I was also one of the early children diagnosed with Celiac Disease in the US,which has driven my lifelong pursuit of using food for optimal health.

We focus on teaching people, and creating dishes, to help people learn how to make food that is:
- Quick
- Easy
- Delicious
- Nutrient Dense
- Budget Friendly

How Can You Help Reduce Food Costs by Foraging

With the cost of everything rising dramatically since COVID, food costs are definitely no different. In fact, the average cost of groceries has risen exponentially since 2020. While the average increase annually over the past 20 years has been 2%, in the past year alone it has been over 11%. That’s ridiculous! So, to help counteract that huge rate of inflation a little bit, a lot of people have started to reduce food costs by foraging. And we are no different.

reduce food costs by foraging best practices

If you do decide you want to embark upon a foraging trial to help reduce food costs, there are some best practices to follow. These practices help keep you and your family safe, as well as help replenish the environment you are foraging in.

  1. Know what you are picking before you pick anything
  2. Don’t take more than you plan to consume before the food can go bad
  3. Only collect foods when they are in abundance
  4. Leave plenty of food behind for the animals and to regenerate
  5. Don’t pick rare species, as it may be illegal
  6. Get permission to forage on someone’s land before doing so
  7. Don’t pick anything near highways and roads, as they are typically fairly contaminated

What to forage

Choosing what to forage will be very specific to you. What you and your family like, will have a huge impact on what you choose to forage. Another big factor will be what is available near where you live, or within driving distance. And the last big factor will be what season it is. Certain plants, berries, fruits, nuts, mushrooms, etc. can only be found during certain times of year.

For us, personally, our big focus tends to be in the fungi family. We have a lot of edible species that grow wild around us, so we take full advantage. Overall, here are some of our favorite things to go out and forage for:

  • Chicken of the Woods (Mushroom)
  • Hen of the Woods (Mushroom)
  • Lion’s Mane (Mushroom)
  • Chanterelle (Mushroom)
  • Shaggy Stalked Bolete
  • Wild Dill
  • Wild Green Onions
  • Burdock
  • Purslane
  • Dandelion
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries

For us, we are lucky in that we live in the piedmont area of North Carolina that gets a lot of rain and has tons of foliage regularly. If you aren’t sure what might be available near you, there are plenty of foraging groups you can get involved with. Most of these are on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. But, one of the best sources I have found to take with me when I forage has been the Wild Remedies book. It not only gives me a wide variety of plant life to look for, but also scientific identifiers to make it easier to not choose the wrong species on accident. And, as a bonus, it gives me some delicious ways to cook what we’ve foraged.

where to forage

Once you’ve nailed down what you plan to forage for, then you just need to figure out where the best spots are. A lot of the crowdsourcing groups can help with this. We are a part of a couple of them that post where they find some of their foraging bounty and when. If you aren’t sure where to start though, there is a great website, Falling Fruit, that gives a ton of in depth information about specific species, when and where to find them. It can be a bit difficult to weed through though, so be patient. Here is another good source of information to find some more sources that may be more local to you, as well.

We typically forage at some local parks and hiking trails that aren’t too far away, as well as our own yard since we follow organic practices. One thing I want to caution you about is choosing what you are foraging wisely. A lot of less wild spots will spray herbicides and pesticides regularly, which you don’t want to ingest. And if you are foraging near a roadside, you are bound to get highly contaminated food instead of clean sources. So, the further you can get away from the beaten path, the better.

And when you are foraging, make sure you leave an ample amount of your “prey” behind so that it can feed the wild habitat it thrives in, as well as regenerate. This is especially true of the fungi and algaes. If you take all of them, instead of leaving some, you are diminishing the crop down to nothing and directly impacting the environment negatively.

reduce your food costs by foraging summary

Ultimately, foraging is a great way to reduce your food costs and increase your diet’s biodiversity. Plus, you’ll be getting outside to get some exercise and fresh air, which is also great for your health. We’ve been able to reduce how much fresh fruit, mushrooms and herbs we’ve had to buy from the store vastly. And by doing so, we’ve cut our food costs, because these things can get pretty pricey. Plus, they taste so much better when they are freshly picked. So it’s a win-win all the way around.

Have you ever tried foraging to help reduce your food costs? If so, what has been the best thing you’ve found so far?

How to Increase Your Income by Diversifying Your Skill Set

With the rate of inflation not getting any better anytime soon, one of the only ways to get ahead is to earn more. While there may be many different ways to do this, there is one way that works so much better than everything else. At least, in my opinion. In order to increase your income at a faster rate than inflation, it’s important to learn how to diversify your skill set.

WHY Should you DIVERSIFY?

First and foremost, when you learn a new skill you’re already diversifying. You do this by going outside of your comfort zone, and by doing so you become much more effective at problem-solving.

Therefore, diversifying is what can help increase your income fairly fast. And at the same time it also helps increase your problem-solving skills. These two happen to have a direct correlation to each other, coincidentally.

When you learn a new skill you are increasing the thickness of the myelin sheathing in your brain. This white matter protects the large system of nerves that run through your brain, which is what sends all communications to every part of your body. By increasing the thickness, you’re increasing how fast, and accurate, messages travel in your brain. This increases your overall cognitive ability and, therefore, your problem-solving skills become that much stronger. By doing this, you increase your potential value as an employee, which then directly correlates to increasing your income.

INCREASE YOUR INCOME

If you’re already happy with your job, learning new skills is the next step forward. By doing just this one thing, you set yourself up to earn more money.

You can do this by now being able to potentially perform another possible job function. Or can perform your job at a higher level, and both of these increase your overall worth. This increases your value and therefore your worth.

Some of the best skills to look at incorporating to gain the highest rate of return are:

  • Accounting
  • Bookkeeping
  • Currency Exchange Trading
  • Customer Relations
  • Data Analysis
  • Digital Marketing
  • Excel
  • Graphic Design
  • HTML/CSS Coding
  • JavaScript
  • Mobile App Development
  • Networking
  • PowerPoint
  • Public Speaking
  • Python
  • Real Estate Investing
  • Social Media Management
  • Video Creation
  • Website Development
  • Writing

THE ALTERNATIVE

If you aren’t as happy in your current job, then another way to diversify your skill set is to take on side hustles. Whether you work a primary job or multiple side hustle types of jobs, adding in another can only help increase your income. By incorporating side hustles, you’re not only increasing your skill set but also diversifying your income stream.

By doing both of these you end up creating more overall financial security for yourself. I have found this to be extremely helpful because things change all the time. So by not putting all of our eggs in one basket, there’s a much better chance that major changes at a primary job, or the market, won’t affect our financial bottom line as much.

Some of my favorite side hustles are:

  • Accounting/Bookkeeping – Quickbooks is what I have been using since the 1990s, but Freshbooks is another great option.
  • Airbnb & Airbnb Experiences – these are great options if you have extra space or a specific talent to share.
  • Buying and selling electronics – some of my kids have been doing this for years and made some pretty good money.
  • Real Estate Investing – buy and holds, land, lending trusts, fix and flips, etc.
  • Rover – this can include boarding dogs, doggy daycare, dog walking, drop-in’s for dogs and/or cats.
  • Selling at Consignment Sales – while you might not make a ton of money doing it, it’s still a pretty great side hustle.
  • Surveys – such as America Consumer Opinion, Pinecone Surveys, Survey Junkie, and Swagbucks.
  • Uber and Uber Eats – these can be done on your own schedule, which is great for those of us with a hectic lifestyle.
  • Writing a book or Freelance Writing – this can even create passive income, which is a huge bonus.

Increase your income summary

By learning new skills you increase your diversity, which in turn increases your problem-solving skills. And when you increase your problem-solving skills, you have a much better chance of increasing your income because you’ve become a more valuable player at your job. Or you can use these increased problem-solving skills to embark upon some side hustles instead.

Either way, you’re only setting yourself up to be a better version of you in the future and also increase your income at the same time. This sounds like a major win-win to me!

What are some of the best ways you have found to ultimately increase your income?

4 Ways to Maximize Retirement Account Benefits

No matter what age you are, retirement is something that should be in the back of your mind. Even if you’re younger and just starting out in the workforce, or almost at the retirement finish line. What you choose to do now can greatly affect your financial future. In this vein, there are 5 fantastic ways to maximize your retirement account benefits.

#1. MAXIMUM CONTRIBUTIONS to retirement account

If you have the means to do so, maximizing the contributions to your retirement accounts can really help boost you to a new level during retirement. Heck, this can even help you retire early, should you so desire. Here is the basic breakdown of the maximum you can contribute in 2022, according to the new IRS rules:

  • $20,500 for 401(k), 403 (b), Thrift Savings Plan & some 457 plans
  • $6,000 for IRA’s
  • $1,000 for catch up contributions over the age of 50
  • $27,000 for catch up contributions over the age of 50 if you have the government’s Thrift Savings Plan

The IRS increased some of the contribution limits going into 2022, which they have been consistently doing in past years as well. This continual increase should help a lot of Americans save more faster. But this only helps if you can contribute the full amount.

If you aren’t in a position to contribute the maximum amount currently, then you will first need to work on fine tuning your budget.

#2. TAKING ADVANTAGE OF MATCHING

If you do have the benefit of working for somebody else AND they offer to match for retirement contributions, then this is something you should fully take advantage of. Every company is structured differently, and it is completely up to each company how they decide to offer matching, if they do at all. So, you’ll need to reach out to your HR personnel to find out what your company currently offers.

However, here are some of the most common ways you might run across a matching option:

  1. $.50 on the dollar for the first 3-5% you contribute
  2. 2.7% of your pay, on average
  3. 100% match up to the first 3-5% you contribute

#3. SEP IRA

A SEP IRA is a great way to contribute to a retirement account when you are self-employed. This type of account is similar to an IRA, except that you can contribute more to it than a Roth IRA or Traditional IRA.

Currently, if you open a SEP IRA, you can contribute up to 25% of your income or $61,000, whichever one happens to be less. Not only that but you won’t be taxed on anything until you begin withdrawing funds in retirement. So this can be a really great way to maximize the benefits of retirement and save more along the way.

#4. WHERE YOU LIVE

When you’ve finally decided it’s time to retire, choose where you live wisely. Even if you don’t think it matters, it really does. The biggest determining factor here are that 37 states that do NOT tax social security income. Yes, you heard me correctly!

This means that if you want more bang for your buck when you retire then you should seriously consider where you live.

Don’t just look at which states are social security income friendly though. You will want to take a look at the property taxes, state and local taxes and taxes on other retirement income. These aspects are crucial to the overall equation in order to maximize your benefits in retirement.

maximize retirement account benefits summary

Overall, there are a few fantastic ways to maximize your retirement account benefits, no matter what your company offers. You may choose to maximize your contributions which will directly impact your company’s matching. Or, if you’re self employed, you may open a SEP IRA and put in as much as you’re legally allowed each year. No matter which of those two options you choose, where you live now and in the future does matter. This is something to keep in mind in order to keep more of your hard earned money and hopefully be able to enjoy retirement to the fullest.

What are some of the best ways you’ve found to maximize your retirement account benefits?

21 Awesome Ways Children Can Earn Money

Making money as a child was a lot trickier for people in my generation than it is for kids today. But, because of the strides people in my generation made, it is so much easier for kids today. And because of these strides in evolution, children can earn money with much less effort today.

Along with my children being able to make money at a much younger age, I also want my children to be more financially savvy with their money. These two things go hand in hand when it comes to how I teach them about work and finances. Therefore, I have introduced them to as many different ways to earn money at a young age as possible. This helps them diversify, but also see the things they really like to do to earn money.

children can earn money in-person and online

Earning money in person isn’t quite what it was when I was a kid, but there are still plenty of opportunities. But, that’s not they only way for them to earn money these days. There are also a ton of ways for them to earn money online, which might end up being an even better fit for your individual child. However, not all of these suggestions will be appropriate for all ages.

  1. Babysit – Babysitting is something I started doing at the age of 12. And parents are always in need of good babysitters. If you have any friends or family that could use your child as a babysitter, just to try it out, this is a great way to start.
  2. Create a yard sale – Have your kids help you go through their old clothes, shoes, and toys. Then, have them set up a yard sale and run it, while you oversee. They can keep whatever money they make.
  3. Employ your kids – If you are self-employed and have any tasks your children can help you with, then you can pay them to do so. My younger kids help with things like shredding mail and picking up dog poop. Anything that’s business related counts.
  4. Organize people’s stuff – If any of your kids have an eye for organizing, then this may be a viable money earning opportunity for them. This is another one you’d have to oversee, of course.
  5. Peer product flipper – One of my kids likes to flip candy, shoes and trading cards at school. This is a really good way that children can earn money if your child has a good eye for a deal.
  6. Selling t-shirts – Designing and selling t-shirts all in one fail swoop is extremely simple to do today. Some of my kids love to create designs, so this is a good way for them to make some money on their hobby. A few good websites to check out that cater to this market are: CafePress, Shopify, Teespring and Zazzle.
  7. Walk dogs – Walking dogs is something that most kids love doing, and most adults could probably do more of. So this activity could be a threefold option to spend more time together, get some exercise and earn money at the same time.
  8. Wash cars – All of us need our cars washed, probably more often than not. Not only can you pay them to wash your car, but they can help with your friends, family and neighbors also, if they are willing.
  9. Water plants – Helping your child find families that are vacationing, work long hours, or are elderly that need help taking care of their plants is another great option.
  10. Yard work – Yard work is something that a lot of families would love help with. This option is another one that gives them some good exercise while earning money.
  11. App tester – There are quite a few places your child can begin earning money playing with app. Two of the best places to get started are TesterWork and UberTesters.
  12. Create games – Similar to being an app tester, your child could get paid to create games. If this sounds like something your child might like, then it may be time to investigate creating their own game and monetize it.
  13. Create illustrations – If your child likes to create illustrations, then this is a fantastic option for them. All they need is a decent illustrating tablet and intuitive software (Clip Studio Paint Pro is a good one). A great website to have them set up a portfolio on is Deviantart.
  14. Make crafts or jewelry – If your child loves to create jewelry and crafts, then selling them online may be a great way for them to make money as a kid. The most popular website for things of this nature currently is Etsy.
  15. Making music. If your child has a musical ear, then this may just be the money-making genre for them. One of the best places to get started is Soundtrap.
  16. Make YouTube videos. Kids can be product testers and make videos of them testing out products from different companies. Even if your kid just wants to make videos talking about particular subjects (video games, how-to-videos, etc.), they can place ads in their videos to start generating income. As a parent, however, you should be closely monitoring them.
  17. Selling digital goods. Creating an eBook or a course is a great way to begin selling digital goods with very little overhead.
  18. Sell their old stuff online. There are many different platforms for your kids to sell their old stuff online. Some of our favorites are Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Poshmark.
  19. Start taking photographs. Taking photographs can be a great way to put your child’s hobby to good use. Some of the best sites they can check out are: EyeEm, Foap, Pexels and Scoopshot.
  20. Streaming. If your child is already big into watching streamed live content, then it may be time for them to start creating their own. Live streaming through Twitch is a great way to get them started.
  21. Take online surveys – Since the kids are on their devices more often than not, they might as well be making some money and have fun at the same time. Some good online survey sites to check out are: MyPoints and Swagbucks.

how children can earn money summary

Overall, there are so many different ways children can earn money these days that it could make ones head spin. I personally prefer for our kids to try all of the in-person options first because it gives them more social skills also. Which is a huge bonus. But, going through the list of all the money earning opportunities have helped us as parents see where our kids interests and skills lie. Which has ultimately helped us learn more about what they might really thrive at as adults in the work world. And this knowledge will only help them more financially in the future also. Even bigger bonus!

What are some of the best ways you have found that your children can earn money on their own?

4 Ways to Create a Budget Without a Fight

I don’t know about you, but we are always trying to do better with our finances. One of the best ways we’ve found to do this is by creating a budget together. And having a weekly budget meeting where we discuss every aspect of our budget helps keep us on track and speaking the same financial language. Just these few things have really helped us in our financial journey towards getting out of debt and, hopefully, retiring early.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we always see eye to eye on everything in our budget. Therefore, here are 4 ways to create a budget without a fight.

#1. DETERMINing YOUR WHY

Determining the main underlying reason why you both want to create a budget is extremely important. While you and your spouse may not be on the same page regarding every aspect of finances, discussing your main reason WHY can really help get you more in sync. Ultimately, if you don’t have a strong reason to create a budget in the first place, then there really isn’t any point in doing so. And it may just cause undue stress on your relationship instead.

When it comes to most common reasons why couples choose to begin a budget, here they are:

  • Debt pay off
  • Build an emergency fund
  • Save to retire early
  • Fund travel
  • Home improvements
  • Purchase a house
  • Grow a family

While you and your spouse’s WHY may not fit into these categories, it really doesn’t matter what it is. As long as you both have on and discuss it in depth. You and your partner’s WHY will become your driving force to not only create a budget, but stick to it.

#2. CREATe THE VISION

Once you have determined both of your WHY‘s, then it’s time to discuss the best action plan to get to each of your goals. This can be both together, as a couple, and also separately. After all, you can’t do everything together all the time!

At this point, some great questions to pose are:

  • What is the ideal timeline for both of your goals to be reached?
  • How much do you both ideally want to save each month?
  • How much can you actually save a month with your current income?
  • Where are areas that you feel you both can cut back on?
  • What areas does your partner think you can both cut back on?

These questions are great jumping off points to create your budget because they are setting the foundation for all future budgetary discussions and goals.

#3. BUDGET CATEGORIES

The next step in this process is setting up the budget categories. Categories really help you see, on a monthly basis, what you are ACTUALLY spending on things, as opposed to what you THINK you are spending. Most of the time, what we think we are spending on things ends up being completely different than what we are actually spending. Therefore, this is a very important piece to any budget.

The categories I suggest to start with are:

  • Income
  • Recurring Expenses
  • Automobiles/Transportation
  • Food/Drinks
  • Household
  • Travel
  • Clothing
  • Gifts
  • Luxury
  • Savings
  • Investments
  • Misc.

These are the basic categories that we use, personally. However, if you want to break them down further to really dig into what you are spending on every little thing, then I highly suggest that also.

#4. BUDGET COMPROMISE

Once the budget categories are set up, then it’s time to determine how much of your income goes into which category. This can actually be the most difficult part of the whole process because it’s the most in depth. And due to this, it can create the most friction among couples. So going into it with an open mind and patience is really key to making your household budget a success.

The first year you do this can be the most difficult because you don’t have as much past data to pull from. While part of it is a guessing game, most of the big categories can be fairly easy to determine. These categories usually include:

  • Income
  • Recurring Expenses
  • Automobiles/Transportation

Once you have these categories figured out, you’ll need to take what’s left of your income and and divvy it up among the remaining categories. This can be much easier said than done though!

You and your partner should discuss how each of you thinks the remaining dollars should be appropriated. And this is where disagreements can come into play. So talk through each category calmly and in as much depth as possible to come to the best budgetary compromise on spending.

Create a BUDGET without a fight summary

My partner and I may not be on the same page with everything all the time (and who is, really?). However, we both respect each other’s point of view. We also both want to be financially independent by the time our youngest leaves the house, so we have a major goal.

Therefore, we talk weekly about our budget and change things accordingly when we feel like we are off track, if things change, or if one of us voices a concern. Sometimes, we decide that we want to pivot and reallocate our funds to one category more than another. This works well for us because we communicate well with each other. And we’re always careful to be respectful of each other’s opinions about where we would like to see the budget going.

Ultimately, good clear communication is the most important part when trying to create a budget without a fight.

What are some of the best ways you have found to create a budget without a fight with your partner?

5 Ways to Save Money on Gas

While it’s been a great relief to finally be on the tail end of the COVID pandemic, the cost of everything seems to have increased exponentially. And the price of gas at the pump is no exception. How much gas has jumped here is astronomical and fairly ridiculous. But, where we live, you simply have to have a car to get around because our public transportation is spotty, at best. Due to that, I’ve found some of the best ways to save money on gas to stretch my dollar further.

#1. TIME OF DAY

The most important tip, in my opinion, is to be very aware of when during the day you fill-up.

Filling up when it’s cooler outside ultimately costs you less money overall. This is due to the fact that there is less evaporation of gasoline fumes while fueling, so less loss. Therefore, shoot to fuel up in the morning or later at night, whenever possible.

Also, filling up early morning (and I mean EARLY) or late evening can sometimes net you lower fuel prices. Gas station prices can fluctuate during the day when refueling trucks show up. So if you go during off-hours, and when it’s cooler, you are more likely to get lower gas prices per gallon and retain more of the fuel you’re paying for.

As another caveat, do your best not to get gas from a gas station if a refueling truck is there. When the refueling trucks pump new gasoline into the tanks they disturb the sediment at the bottom of the tank. This is “gunk” that you don’t want in your tank because it reduces your gas mileage.

#2. LOCATION

Just like everything else in life, not all things are created equally. And gas stations are no exception to this rule. Gas prices can vary widely depending on which part of town you’re in at the time. For example, gas on the south and southeast parts of town are much much cheaper than the north side of town where I live. Sometimes they can fluctuate up to a $1.00 a gallon in difference. Which is absolutely crazy!

Therefore, get to know your home base better. Learn where better gas prices usually are. Once you do that, it makes it easier to save on gas if you hit those stations regularly. However, it may include some planning on your part, depending upon where you live.

#3. ROUTE planning

With regards to planning routes, this can be another important part of the puzzle. Planning where you need to go for the day, and maximizing your time and gas money is important.

Map out the routes in your head, or on your map app on your phone, and figure out the best time of day and route to get it all done at once. This way you won’t have to waste time, gas, and wear and tear on your vehicle going back and forth between home and these different places.

By planning your route out to spend the least amount of time, and miles, on the road, the further your gas will go and the less money you’ll ultimately be spending.

#4. APPS

Another great way to save on gas is with apps. There are two that I have been using for a while now. One much longer than the other, but both have helped me out a ton.

GET UPSIDE

The Get Upside app is one of my favorite gas apps. This app is expanding to offer more deals than just gas, which is awesome. However, how they operate is by giving rebates on gas, groceries, and restaurants.

As soon as you pull up the app, it pulls up a map of where you are and all of the participating stores on the map in relation to you. These are stores that they have an agreement with. Basically, it’s marketing for the stores to get you to shop with them versus their competitors. When you filter out all of the other stores and just look for gas stations, the prices you see will be the price of gas at each station after the rebate, not before. So this is a good thing to keep in mind.

All of the money saved goes into your Get Upside account until you cash it out. You can cash out at any time, but I usually wait until I have at least $20 in rewards. The way you can get the money out is either by PayPal or by choosing one of their many digital gift card options. I typically choose Amazon so that I can just use it for any of our many Amazon purchases.

GAS BUDDY

This is my second favorite gas app, which I’ve been using this one for years now. Since I found Get Upside, I haven’t been using it as often, I must confess. But, it still helps me out when I’m out of my home area a lot, so I keep it in my back pocket.

Gas Buddy is a free app, that works by tracking location and shows the best gas prices in the vicinity. You can search by city, zip code or by hitting the “Find Gas Near Me” button in the middle of the home page. This pulls up a map of where you are and shows you all of the gas stations nearby, with their prices listed.

You can also report gas prices when you are at a gas station. This is to confirm that the prices they are showing are correct. When you do this, you will get “points” that you can use to enter their daily drawing for a $100 gas gift card. While I haven’t won one of the gift cards yet, it doesn’t hurt to keep trying!

#5. REWARDS CARDS

Most of the gas companies also have rewards cards with perks for using them. I currently have a BP Rewards card and an Exxon/Mobile Rewards card.

The easiest ways to get these is by grabbing one of the applications at a station when you are there or by downloading their app.  These are not credit cards, but are solely rewards cards. Depending upon the card, and how often you have used it, the rewards can vary. I have been able to get anywhere from $.02 to $.13 off of each gallon of gas, per purchase. And these can be partnered with either of the aforementioned gas apps to help you save even more money. Which is an awesome bonus!

Save money on gas summary

Overall, even though gas is crazy expensive right now, there are ways to save money and stretch your dollar. By being cognizant of the time of day you refuel, location, route planning, using apps,  and partnering with rewards cards you can really help maximize your gas mileage and reduce costs. And by doing so, enjoy your summer travel just a little bit more.

What are some of the best ways you’ve found to save money on gas this year?

7 Ways to Help Your Teen Build Credit

When it comes to having teenagers, there are a lot of things we as parents need to teach them. And nowhere is this more important than when it comes to to their financial education. Teaching our teens about money, finances, credit scores, etc. is extremely important to do before they leave the nest. There are many different ways we can go about this, of course. But, one of the most important things I feel that we can teach our teens is what a credit score is and how it impacts every aspect of their future financial lives. Therefore, before they leave the nest to fly on their own, helping a teen build credit is high up on my list of important lessons.

1. Get a job

One of the first things I told my teens when they turned 16 was that getting a job would be a good first step into the adult world. Not only does this give them some idea of what to expect in the work world, but it also gives them a first taste of managing their own finances usually. As a bonus, getting a job helps a teen begin to build their own credit.

2. open a checking account

Once your teen has a job, opening a checking account for them is the next best step to help them build credit. Most banks won’t let a child open a checking account on their own, so you’ll need to be a co-signer on the account until they are 18. This is also helpful when it comes to monitoring their spending, as it gives you a way to see everything that’s happening with their money. And it gives you good talking points to discuss with them about budgeting, when they get off track. Which my teens have done more times than I’d like to admit!

3. open a savings account

Whether your teen has a job and/or checking account, they can still get a savings account. We started savings accounts for our kids when they were much younger, just to put money into for them that relatives gave them for holidays. Having a savings account is a good way for them to watch a nest egg grow. And we have found it’s also a good place to put excess money they earn from their jobs is a savings account. This has helped rein in and regulate their excess spending on random junk they don’t need and help them save for bigger goals at the same time.

4. Open a Roth ira

When our kids started working for me, I opened Roth IRA accounts for them. These types of accounts can only be funded by earned income. So they can’t be opened until your teens have earned income that will be taxed. But, once they have some earned income to work with, you can open a custodial Roth IRA for them that will roll over directly into their name solely once they turn 18. This not only gives them a good first taste into investing, at much lower risk than when they do it as an adult, but also helps your teen build credit.

5. get a prepaid credit card

The next option is to help them get a prepaid credit card in their own name. Typically, you’ll have to be a co-signer on the account, as with all of the other accounts. But, with these types of credit cards you determine how much is put on the card to begin with, so that is all they have to spend. This works out really well if they have a job already also. You can tell your teen to set aside $100 – $500 to put onto the prepaid card and then use this card for all of their purchases. This way they are building credit while only spending the money they already have.

6. credit card authorized user

As another option to the prepaid credit card, you can add your teen to one or more of your existing credit cards as an authorized user. I did this for my two older teens just recently with one of the credit cards we never use that also has a high credit limit. I chose to put them on this one since we don’t use it because it’s easier for me to track who is spending what. Plus, since it has a really high limit, it helps boost their credit that much faster due to the amount of credit used versus the credit available. So far, they’ve both been paying off what they spend before the bill even closes, which is awesome!

7. teach them about credit scores

After all of these other options, the most important thing to teach them about is their credit score. Since they are trying to build credit, understanding how their credit score impacts their financial future is integral to overall financial health. If they have any of the aforementioned accounts opened, they can begin to see how their saving and spending are affecting their credit score. Which is a fantastic way to give them an early taste of how the whole system currently works. And don’t forget to show them how to pull their annual credit report each year so they can run through it for any discrepancies.

Teen building credit summary

Overall, there are a lot of great ways to start helping your teen build their credit score early on. While I don’t use the prepaid credit card method, I have used every other option to help my teens build their credit now. And, they’ve been doing awesome so far with the learning curve. So my hope is that by the time they are out on their own, they won’t have nearly as many issues as a lot of young adults do with their first taste of financial independence.

What are your favorite ways to help your teen build credit early?

How to Make Homemade Craft Coffee on a Budget

If you’re like me, you love a good cup of craft coffee. But I really hate the price tag that’s associated with them when I’m out. So, I’ve been working hard to create my own craft coffee on a budget at home. This way I don’t have to spend nearly as much money, I can make them anytime I want to, and the ingredients are better. This is what I call a triple whammy! In order to do this effectively though, I’ve found a few tools that are necessary to have in my craft coffee arsenal.

1. FRENCH PRESS

I used to be an drip coffee maker kind of person, since that’s what I grew up with. But, I learned fairly quickly that the coffee those produce don’t taste nearly as good as that from a French press. Since I’ve found this, it changed the way I make and drink my coffee.

There are a few different ways you can go with the French Press. When I first got started, I went with a more budget friendly Bodum French Press. This one only cost me $30 at the time and worked fantastically well for my initial foray into homemade craft coffee. I more recently moved into the more expensive Frieling Double-walled Stainless Steel French Press. I bought this one for $100 but had a 20% off coupon, so it came in at $80 instead. And, it has a lifetime warranty and won’t break if you drop it. Even though the French press appears to be the most expensive part of making homemade coffee, it is totally worth it.

2. TEA KETTLE

If you don’t already have a tea kettle, this is the next thing you’ll need. It’s necessary for the French press, and if you want to add delicious homemade teas to your culinary repertoire also. While tea kettles can range widely in price, I was able to find one for un $15, which also matches my kitchen perfectly. you will need one for delicious homemade coffee.

No matter which tea kettle you go with, make sure it holds enough water for your French press.

3. GOOD COFFEE BEANS

Since everyone has different flavor preferences, the coffee beans are going to be indicative of that. I personally, like espresso beans for a more full-bodied flavor. No matter which beans you go with, you’ll want to go with whole beans instead of ground. First of all, they are cheaper than grounds. Second of all, the grind for a French press needs to be a larger espresso grind instead of what you normally run across in previously ground coffee.

Plus, if you are using already ground beans, the oils start to oxidize faster. This means you are losing flavor in your coffee, as well as potentially getting a more acidic roast.

Therefore, I suggest either getting a small coffee grinder to grind the beans each day, or by the bag, which is what I normally do. If you don’t have the time for that, or want to save money and not purchase a grinder , grind them at the store with the espresso grind. Then store the ground coffee in the cool, dark cabinet to slow and/or stop the oxidation process.

3. craft coffee on a budget accoutrements

One of the big perks about homemade craft coffee is that you can put whatever kind of accoutrements you want in there. Since there are so many choices these days, the sky is basically the limit. Some of my favorite options to have on hand for my craft coffee are:

Creamers:

  • Almond Milk
  • Cashew Milk
  • Coconut Creamer
  • Coconut Milk
  • Dairy Creamer
  • Golden Milk
  • Hemp Milk
  • Milk
  • Oat Milk
  • Rice Milk
  • Soy Milk

I prefer to use unsweetened coconut creamer because it adds just enough creaminess without the added sugar, so I can actually taste my coffee.

Flavorings:

  • Bitters
  • Carmel sauce
  • Chai tea
  • Essential oils
  • Honey
  • Hot chocolate
  • Peppermint chocolate
  • Vanilla

The sky is really the limit here. So get creative with what you might have on hand.

4. MINI WHISK

When it comes to making good homemade craft coffee on a budget, a mini whisk is a must. Luckily, we happen to have a plethora of kitchen tools lying around, so we had one on hand. Since we have different sized coffee mugs and travel mugs, I found that I really like this 3 piece set of whisks for a little over $5. It comes with a smaller 5.5″, a 7″ and a 9″ for those larger mugs. Plus, you can use them for cooking too, which really makes this a great purchase.

Typically, the mini whisk comes in handy with craft coffee to help get that frothy top at the end. Just add sweetener, creamer, and/or flavor additions to the cup first while the water is getting warmed up. I use the whisk to whisk everything together prior to pouring in the coffee. This helps create a creamier and frothier coffee drink than I would normally get otherwise.

HOMEMADE COFFEE on a budget SUMMARY

Overall, there are so many things you can do to create delicious homemade craft coffee on a budget, that it’s hard to tell where to stop. Most of us will have a lot of these items already on hand, but the biggest investment is probably going to be a French press if you don’t already have one. Once you have that, and a tea kettle, it’s time to get creative. And by getting creative at home with your coffee, you can save yourself a boatload of money on drinks that may even be better than what you’d get out at a coffee shop.

What are some of the best ways you’ve found to make homemade craft coffee on a budget?

How Can You Keep a Minor Car Accident from Costing You a Bundle?

If you’ve ever found yourself involved in a minor car accident, you know that it doesn’t necessarily feel so minor. Especially to your car or your wallet. But, a minor car accident doesn’t have to necessarily cost you a bundle, as long as to follow the proper protocol. As someone who’s been in more than her fair share of car accidents, I’ve got an inside line on how to get your car fixed and keep more money in your pocket. If you follow these steps, you should be good to get back on the road for little to no money out of pocket.

#1 Stay Put

Any time a car accident occurs, you should stop your car where the accident happened. This is true as long as it is safe to do so. If your car is blocking the flow of traffic it could be a major risk to other motorists. Since stopping at the scene of the accident is actually required by law, this practice should be followed whenever possible.

And keeping your vehicle in the exact position it landed in due to the accident makes recording the accident easier.

#2 Injury Assessment

Once you have exited your vehicle, begin performing an injury assessment on yourself and any other passengers in the car. In most cases, minor car accidents don’t result in many injuries, but you should never assume that you don’t have any. After an accident, it is normal for your adrenaline to be pumping and for you to not notice that you’re hurting. In fact, I’ve had quite a few spinal injuries from minor car accidents that I didn’t feel until the following day or two.

The things I typically check for after a minor car accident are:

  • Minor cuts or scrapes
  • Neck pain
  • Changes in vision
  • Changes in hearing
  • Pain or tingling in the legs, arms, and/or chest

If you have any of these, then your accident may not be as minor as you thought. You should immediately call 911 and ask for medical assistance.

#3 Contact Information Swap

After the first 2 steps have been completed, it’s time to swap contact information with the other parties involved in the accident. I’ve found that sometimes this can be easier said than done. Typically the times that have been more difficult to get information out of the other driver was when the driver was uninsured.

No matter what, it’s best you can to get all of the contact information possible and write it down in a secure place.

I recommend recording the following information about the other driver:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address (whenever possible)
  • Car Insurance company
  • Policy number
  • Driver’s license number and expiration date
  • Make, model, and year of their vehicle

I like to take a picture of the other driver’s license and insurance card, whenever possible. This way I ensure the information I have is correct.

#4 Take pictures

While I’m doing that, I take pictures of all cars involved and the damages for my own records. The things I do my best to make sure I include are:

  • My car
  • Specific damage to my car
  • The other driver’s car
  • Specific damage to the other driver’s car
  • The surrounding area
  • Witnesses near the accident
  • The positions of both cars
  • Any stoplights, stop signs, or traffic nearby
  • The weather conditions

All of these things can come be very helpful for both the police report and when dealing with the insurance companies.

#5 Police

And speaking of the police, now is the time to call them to get them dispatched to the scene. By calling the police, you are ensuring that there is a record of the accident on file. Plus the scene of the accident can be better secured. By having this documentation, it makes the insurance process much easier. And by doing so, you have a much better chance of getting the repairs needed to your car in a more expedient manner.

Where I live, we are in an at-fault state, which means that every car accident has a party at-fault. If you aren’t the at-fault party, then the other person’s insurance has to cover the cost of all repairs.  However, if you don’t file a report with the police in an at-fault state, your insurance will have to foot the bill.

#6 Call insurance company

And speaking of insurance, it’s extremely important to report all accidents to them. In a lot of cases, if you don’t report the accident to your insurance company, they will automatically you are the at fault party and will therefore become responsible for all damages.

Personally, I like to call my insurance agent directly whenever I’m involved in an accident. This is the easiest and most direct way to get the ball rolling. Plus, my agent gives me advice as to whether or not he feels I should be filing a claim in the first place.

Since this is one of the things I pay my agent for, I always greatly appreciate the insight and assistance. If you have a relationship with a trusted insurance agent, I highly recommend giving them a call before you call your provider’s general claims line.

#7 Talk to witnesses

Lastly, whenever possible, it’s great to speak to anyone who may have witnessed the car accident. Witnesses can be extremely helpful when it comes to piecing the accident back together. So do your best to get a statement from everyone who saw the accident happen. When you do, it’s best to collect the following information from them:

  • Full Name
  • Contact Information
  • What they were doing at the time of the accident
  • Where they were in the relation to the accident
  • What they saw

These statements could be written or recorded on your phone, but should always be given to the police when they arrive for documentation.

Minor car Accident Summary

Overall, getting into a car accident of any magnitude isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. But, if you follow these basic steps that are laid out, it can really help. Streamlining the process and making sure your car and yourself are taken care of are the most important parts.

If you’ve ever found yourself in a minor car accident, what steps did you take to help move the process along and keep more money in your pocket?

Is a Gym Membership Really Worth It?

At the beginning of every new year, gym memberships soar. And while they have typically dropped off significantly by now, there are still plenty of gym goers all year long. As someone who has been a member of a few different gyms in my lifetime, I’m no stranger to the circuit. But, in all reality, is a gym membership really worth it for most of us?

Why?

First and foremost, you should be asking yourself why you want to join a gym. What do you think you will get out of it? Both in the short term and long term. Is this something you can realistically stick with as a routine, or do you have a history of new things fizzling out? And what is your main goal of joining a gym? Is it to lose weight, tone up, get rid of baby weight, look good for summer or a wedding? The list can be endless. But, no matter what your why is, you should first tease that out before making any commitment.

Gym membership Actual costs

A lot of gyms will get you in the door with extremely low advertised monthly rates. I’ve seen some as low as $5 per month, which is crazy! But, I’ve also learned that those rates don’t last for life, but a generally just temporary to get you in the door. Once they have you signed up and inside their domain, then it’s time to start throwing add-on’s at you.

A lot of these include fees for things such as:

  • Towels
  • Lockers
  • Sauna
  • Pool
  • Steam room
  • Personal training sessions
  • Dietary plan
  • Spin classes
  • Zumba/Dance classes
  • Private classes with smaller numbers

These additional costs can really add up over time. And even if they don’t, the average cost of a bare bones gym membership runs approximately $60 annually (depending upon where you live, of course). This equates to approximately $720 per year, which can easily be a week long vacation for us. And if this is something that I’m not sure I’m going to fully commit to, or have the time to do, then I certainly don’t want to throw a week long vacation away.

other options

It’s also entirely possible that your budget doesn’t have the extra wiggle room for this kind of extra fee. I know that mine didn’t for a large part of my adult life. So, instead of joining a gym, you could consider some other really great options that don’t cost anything (or very minimal) to participate in. Some of my favorite alternative options to a gym include:

  • Hiking (one of my long time favorite go-to’s)
  • Biking
  • Speed walking
  • Yoga
  • Trampoline (Yes, we have a big one for the kids but I’ve also used it for workouts)
  • Workout at home with free weights, jump ropes and a heavy bag

One of my regular workout options at home is to walk around the pool in the backyard with some free weights. I do different arm exercises while I weave around the many dogs that are with us for boarding or doggy daycare. The dogs love it too!

group environment

While I am typically very good at doing things all by myself, a lot of people need a bigger support system. This type of network can help to create positive change. This is where a gym membership can really shine if you fall into this camp.

People who work out at the same gym have a tendency to create gym relationships that assist with their individual goals. When we feel the societal pressure to be accountable to others, we have a higher rate of success, because we don’t want to fail those in our accountability groups.

In fact, just having somebody to be accountable to, increases our level of success by 65%, according to a study ran by the American Society of Training and Development. That’s huge! And if this is what you need to help you create the change you want, then figure out a way to make it work.

Gym Membership summary

Overall, whether a gym membership is worth it all depends on you. The biggest questions to ask yourself before signing on the dotted line are:

  • Do you have a strong why for wanting to join a gym?
  • Is this a long-term or short term why?
  • How much is it going to cost you monthly to join a gym?
  • Will your budget allow for this increased cost?
  • Are there FREE alternatives you could use instead?
  • Do you need a group or network in order to achieve success?

Once you have the answers to all of these questions, then the decision should be pretty clear.

For somebody with my crazy lifestyle and lack of any regular time, it is simply not worth it. I would be one of the 67% of the gym membership population who is paying for something that I’m not using. And since I don’t like setting my money on fire, I opt to use the free options available to me instead.

Have you joined a gym and found the costs to be exponentially worth it for you? If so, why?