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Have You Considered Buying Family Gifts for Christmas?

With the holidays quickly approaching, it is time to start thinking about gifts. At least, that is what is on our children’s minds right now. From our perspective, trying to figure out the best way to approach Christmas gifts for the kids without killing our wallet is always a fun game. So, we are considering buying only a family gift this year instead of individual gifts. Here is our thought process and how we hope it might help us save some money on the holidays.

Costs

This may not be the most cost effective way for every family to approach Christmas gift giving. But for us, as a family of 7, the holidays can get pretty darn expensive. My spouse and I don’t usually get each other anything, which helps reduce our costs. But, if we did decide to swap gifts, that would just increase the overall cost of Christmas in our house.

The usual average that we spend per child is $40 – $50, which equates to approximately $200 – $250. This doesn’t include anything for us, but if we did, that would tack on another $80 – $100. This being said, what we spend is still a whole lot less than what the average American spends on Christmas gifts.

These studies show a few different figures for holiday gift giving. The majority of us plan to spend more than $1000 on gifts, or somewhere around $885 per person. That is insane!

For us, on the path to financial independence (FI), that is just not something we can justify. But, for those of you who do spend that much on Christmas gifts, then the family gift could really save you some serious cash.

Family Gift Options

In order to save some of our hard earned money, the option of just one family gift we can all enjoy sounds appealing. It also means less boxes, wrapping paper, tape and bows. After all, those cost money too!

A few of the options we are considering are:

ASTC Membership

This membership has a passport program that lets you use it at museums all over the United States, and in a very select few other countries. If you have a membership near you, then you can get into all of the other museums listed on the passport program for FREE. On top of that, once you buy the annual family membership, you get into that museum for free whenever you want too.

They also send out special events and discounts specifically for ASTC members that you wouldn’t otherwise get.

The membership can range in price depending upon where you live and which museum happens to be closest to you. For us, we have 3 in our immediate area to choose from. They range between $85 – $140 for the annual membership and cover all 7 of us. We purchased one last year to Marbles and go there quite often now. Since each visit to the museum would cost us $5 per person, no matter what, we make our money back in less than 4 visits. And this doesn’t include all of the other museums we have been able to use our membership at to get into for free. I really love this option!

Trusted Housesitters Mini-Vacation

We have used Trusted Housesitters for two trips now and it has saved us a ton of money. If we can find something close enough to us that might only be for a long weekend, then this may be the way to go. Since we get to stay for free when we travel through Trusted Housesitters, the only things we would have to pay for are the extras. We always pack food when we travel, so that cuts down on the costs. Ultimately, this option would still probably be the most expensive though. My best estimate on costs would be somewhere between $200 – $300.

Ping Pong Table

Getting a ping pong table for downstairs is something we have been considering for a while now. It is something fun that we could all end up partaking in, and can be done when the weather isn’t as nice.

I have been leaning towards one that converts into a pool table also, so that it would be multi-function. I have found quite a few used options that range from $75 – $200. Therefore, this might be one of the top runners also.

Family excitement

Ultimately, whatever we get the kids for Christmas, they almost immediately forget about. The toys end up on the floor, or broken. The video games get old and then they are bored. They just don’t have the staying power. And, it really divides our family since they are all off doing separate things.

We continually try to find ways to unite us and keep our communication at a high level for more family unity. So the idea of getting one big family gift instead of a bunch of smaller individual ones appeals to us on all levels.

Plus, if the gift is something we can all do together, or enjoy together, then it creates more overall family excitement. Since the holidays are supposed to be a time to celebrate family and those you love, this idea just makes more obvious sense to us.

takeaway

Overall, it appears that it will cost us less money to buy one family gift for us to enjoy versus individual gifts for everybody. Plus, the family gift will be something we can all enjoy together to create more unity in our family, as opposed to separate us. Since we are always searching for ways to save ourselves more money and create more family cohesion, this seems like a win-win to us.

Have you considered buying a family gift instead of individual Christmas gifts? If so, what was your thought process behind the decision?

How to Save Money By Paying Attention to Student Debt

If you’re planning to go to college, student debt might be one of your most pressing concerns. It’s not always avoidable — after all, college is a requirement for many professions, and many low-income people attend college to try and raise themselves out of their socioeconomic status.

College can be a great way to find better job prospects, which means it can be a good return on investment. But if you’re looking to save money through college, it’s important to extend that savings to your student debt. When you’re choosing the college or degree you strive toward, use this state-by-state analysis of student debt for a better understanding of your financial state in college. Read more

How Much Does Having a Child Cost and How To Cut Costs

Deciding to have a child is a very big, life altering decision. It not only affects your everyday life but your finances too.

The average amount that it costs to raise a child annually varies from between $12,000 – 13,000, and it goes up each year with inflation.

But, there are more expenses incurred in the 1st year of having a child. How much does it cost for that 1st year and how can you cut costs?

CHILD BIRTH

The most expensive part of having a baby is the actual birth process. The costs completely depend on:

  1. Vaginal birth or c-section
  2. Insured or not
  3. How much your insurance covers
  4. Which state you live in

While these are a lot of different variables, here are the average costs in each category:

  • Vaginal birth with insurance –  $4,900 – $10,700
  • Vaginal birth WITHOUT insurance – $9,015 – $19,800
  • C-Section with insurance – $7,500 – $15,000
  • C-Section WITHOUT insurance – $12,600 – $28,500

Total range of just giving birth – $4,900 – $28,500

This is a pretty wide spread and should give you a whole lot to think about right out of the gate.

HOUSING

Buying a home can have a pretty large price tag, especially for things that you might not have even thought about. First and foremost is the down payment. This can vary depending on which type of loan you qualify for, but the average amount required for a down payment is 10%.  However, most banks prefer you to put down at least 20% in order to forgo the mandatory PMI. Just something to keep in mind before you decide to purchase a home.

While there may be more up front costs buying a home, it could still potentially cost you less overall. Owning usually gives you more space for the same amount, or less money as renting a smaller place. Plus, you get the equity if you own and you don’t if you rent.

As an added bonus, once your house is paid off, it will then be considered an asset. One that could potentially help you as you get older and start thinking about retirement.

The buy vs. rent decision is a very personal one. So if you aren’t sure which one is the best for your family, then check out this rent vs. buy calculator. Hopefully, it will help you on your path to cutting costs.

FOOD

Food costs can be one of the biggest parts of a monthly budget. While you may not think it will directly affect you immediately, it certainly can. Because with a new baby is in the house, the food costs will go up.

The 3 major things affecting this are:

  1. Breastfeeding
  2. Formula
  3. Solid Food

1. BREASTFEEDING

Breastfeeding usually requires an extra 500 calories per day, just to account for the extra energy needed to produce the milk. A an average of 20% more than you were eating before, you should add an extra 20% into your food budget just for you.

If the average grocery bill for 2 is around $500, then that translates to approximately $250 per person. With the mother requiring 20% more food though, that will be an extra $50 which = $600 per year in increased food costs.

2. FORMULA

Formula feeding can vary with regard to costs depending on how much your child eats and which type of formula you use. But the average costs to formula feed are between $1,138 – $1,188 per year.

3. BABY FOOD

Baby food runs close to $1 per jar. Most babies eat anywhere from 2 – 5 jars a day, depending on their age. That means you could be spending an extra $2 -$5 a day.

That is an extra $60 – $150 per month and $720 – $1,800 per year! A great option to cut costs here is to buy a blender and make your own baby food.

CHILD CARE

Child care can be one of the biggest expenses, aside from the actual birth.

The average a married couple spends 10% of their budget on child care expenses alone. But if you happen to be a single parent, it’s even worse. The number now goes up to 36% of your budget.

This means the average cost of one child, under the age of 1, can be anywhere from $10,000 $20,000. This may be a good reason to think about staying home and working on side hustles instead, as an alternative option.

TRANSPORTATION

A lot of families decide that they want to upgrade to a minivan or an SUV when they begin to think about having a child.

But, switching from a sedan to an SUV or a minivan can cost you up to 50% more. But that doesn’t even include the increased car insurance costs associated with switching to an SUV or a minivan. So keeping your older car, especially if it is paid off, can really help you cut costs.

HEALTHCARE

Adding a child to your healthcare plan will certainly increase your costs. So much so that the range can be anywhere from $250 – $400 extra per month or $3,000 – $4,800 more per year.

This doesn’t even include the higher deductible you will have due to the increased family size. Checking around for cheaper payments with a higher deductible, that covers preventative care visits, may be a good way to help cut costs.

CLOTHING & MISC

Babies require a lot of clothes because they grow so fast and they like to have accidents. The average cost for baby clothes runs around $60 per month, but this depends on your state and income level. However, this doesn’t include other things you need for them such as:

  • Bedding
  • Blankets
  • Books
  • Hairbrush
  • Haircuts
  • OTC medicine
  • Stuffed animals
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste

If you add an extra $40 into your monthly budget, this should help cover these extraneous expenses. This makes the total for this category an extra $100 per month or $1,200 per year.

overall costs

Let’s recap the added cost breakdown:

  • Child birth = $4,900 – $28,500
  • Housing = Variable
  • Food = $1,320 – $2,988
  • Child care = $10,000 – $20,000
  • Transportation = Variable
  • Healthcare = $3,000 – $4,800
  • Clothing & Misc = $1,200

That is a grand total (on average) of $20,420 – $57,488!

Even though having a child could potentially cost you this much, it doesn’t necessarily have to. Proper planning and forethought are key to helping you cut costs when you have a child.

How much do your children cost you extra a year? Where have you found to cut costs?

HVAC Issues That Can Spike Energy Bills

Expensive heating and cooling bills are one of the most common complaints of homeownership, especially in seasonally extreme weather. It’s estimated that about half the energy used in a typical household goes to heating and cooling the home. Therefore, making good decisions regarding your HVAC system can save you a lot of money annually. Below are the four most common HVAC issues that can spike your energy bills, along with some suggested solutions. Read more

How a Zone Control System Will Save You Money

Energy efficiency is an important issue for many homeowners. If you’re not careful, your monthly electric bill can skyrocket, forcing you to choose between paying more and reducing your air conditioning or heating usage. Fortunately, there are solutions for homeowners who want to enjoy comfortable temperatures without worrying about how much they will owe each month. If you haven’t heard of a zoned air conditioning system, read on to learn how this option can save you money and make your home more energy efficient. Read more

How We Bought Two New Used Cars With Cash

We have been hitting the road towards debt freedom pretty hard for the past three years now. The car loan on one of our cars was the last big thing we had to get rid of before we could start throwing more at the mortgage. How to get rid of the car loan faster was something that had been vexing me since the beginning of the year. I was getting close to an answer to pay it off faster, when it suddenly happened. We were finally able to get rid of the last car loan, and buy two new used cars, with cash only. This was a miracle! Read more

5 Ways to Be Frugal On Your Wedding, But Not Look Cheap

There are only a handful of things that a person usually experience once in their life. One of which is getting married – well, ideally. Your wedding day is your special day, and that can easily make the event astronomically expensive. On average, an American couple will spend around $22,000 for their wedding. That includes the expenses for ceremony, reception, dress, and everything else that comes with exchanging vows, But it does not have to be.

If you have money to blow, go ahead and and have the works, but if you dont , being frugal can go a long way. It is not being cheap, but being practical. Marriage is not about the immaculate church, nor the glamour of the dress but the start of having a family. Meaning money can be better spent on buying a house, and eventually, childcare. The average starter home in America is $250,000. Most lenders want 5% down, which is about $12,500. You could use that as a down payment.

If that was a bit eyeopening, let’s take a look at how you can save on your wedding. Read more