ABCmouse–Biggest Sale Ever!

The summer slide is a real thing, my friends. Even for those in Pre-K. It’s so important to keep kids engaged during the summer months so they can hit the ground running come Back-to-School time. One of our favorite ways to do this is through ABCmouse .com.

In honor of the biggest sale I’ve ever seen them run, I’m bringing back this review from when we first started using it in 2013. We’ve kept our subscription since because the kids love it, as parents we’re happy with the educational material, and the content grows with our children. Now through July 4th, you can get a one-year subscription for $45. That’s less than HALF of what I usually pay!


ABCmouse.com

ABCmouse .com is an educational website for kids ages 2-7.  Kids play various games and puzzles to learn things like math, science, geography, and literacy.  Award-winning teachers and curriculum writers have written a great curriculum called the Learning Path that is easy (and fun for kids) to follow. In our age-range, we sing along to songs, color pictures, read along with books, do puzzles and play fun games like popping bubbles with appropriate letter sounds.

There are features beyond the Learning Path itself. One that I love is their Lesson Builder for parents that allows you to pick the lessons you want your child to complete.  If your child is having a themed week at daycare or you’re an active stay-at-home mom creating your own educational curriculum for your children, you can pick lessons to match your week’s theme.  Another use for it is if you have a child who is struggling in a specific area, you can highlight lessons that will target the learning goal you want them to focus on as they play.

Before you even get started, you go through “Mouse and Pointer,” a fun tutorial that teaches kids how to use a mouse.  It’s really simple; they just click on pictures as they pop up on the screen, but it was essential for us to be able to enjoy all of the other activities.

After the little one’s completed a lesson, they earn tickets which enable them to “buy” prizes to decorate their virtual space.  They have their own room and yard as well as a classroom.  They can visit the farm and the zoo, as well as the theater which has fun songs for each individual letter. (Our current favorite feature is taking care of our virtual pets!)

I was also really glad that the entire site is ad-free.  No external links means I feel a little safer letting the little ones play.  We’ll be working our way through all the activities, printing out achievement certificates and hanging them on the fridge as we go!

Now through July 4, 2016, you can get a 12-month subscription to ABCmouse.com for only $45! That’s over 50% off!


ABCmouse.com

*This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting this blog, and I hope the savings serves you well on a program my family and I truly enjoy and get a lot of value from.*

 

Cross-Country RV Trip: Rent vs Buy

I never thought about this before! Rent vs buy an RV---which one is truly cheaper for a cross-country road trip?

One of our dreams is to take a cross-country RV trip with our family. Preferably, we’d take some of our extended family along. We’d want to take our time, especially since we have kids. While I’ve driven almost across the country in 3 days before, I know there’s an additional day of driving I didn’t do, and a lot of sights I didn’t see along the way. Plus, that was only a one-way trip.

With kids and all the extra time they take, it would be super cool if we could do two months. This is not in the cards for us this summer as the husband is taking a summer course that he actually has to take in the classroom as opposed to online, but maybe next year.

Rent vs Buy

We’ve done some research and found that on average, it would cost about $800 per week to rent an RV. That includes the actual cost of the rental plus mileage surcharges. It doesn’t include things like gas or insurance. (I’m pretty certain we’d be covered under our current auto insurance policy, though when the time comes I’ll have to double check because it is a larger vehicle than what we normally drive.)

Eight-hundred dollars per week over the course of eight weeks is $6,400. That’s a ton of money. Like way-more-than-our-rent money.

So we started looking into alternative options, like purchasing our own. We found some trailers for $6,400. While many of them need a little love, we’d get to have them for keeps. Investing a little extra to make them prettier doesn’t seem like too big of a deal, and some of them are livable as they are.

While the best option would be to pay in cold, hard cash, we were surprised to find that financing wasn’t such a bad choice, especially if you plan on making future summer road trips. For example, a 5-year loan on a $6,400 RV financed through PenFed would have a monthly payment of $124.18 per month and only incur $1,050.61 in interest if you assume a $0 down payment and pay it off as scheduled. That’s like paying for 1.31 extra weeks of renting, except you get to keep it for the long haul.

Which Way is Best?

The absolute best option would be to buy an RV or trailer in the $6,400 range in decent condition with cash.

Short of that, it would come down to if we thought this was something we were going to do again. Even if we plan on only taking one additional, shorter trip of two weeks, financing would still put us ahead financially. If, however, the two month trip was the only time we’d use the RV or trailer in the next ten years, renting may be a better bet.

Have you ever been on an RV trip before? How did you handle the rent vs. buy debate? Where did you go? Here are some of my top to-see destinations when we finally make this happen.

 

This post is in collaboration with PenFed Credit Union.

 

Student’s Guide to Saving Money During College

I'm definitely going to use some of these methods to save money during college. Didn't even think of the third one!

Life as a student has a lot of perks like schedule flexibility and free time. However, having lots of disposable income is usually not a part of student life. So this is the ideal time for learning how to manage your money. You’ve probably already gotten the advice to start a budget, so here are a few suggestions for areas of a typical student’s budget that could stand a little cutting.

Food and Drink

When it comes to saving money as a student, there are two big ways you can cut spending. Learn to cook a few simple meals, and cut back on the nights out. Cooking at home is infinitely cheaper than paying for your school’s exorbitant meal plan or eating take-out. Shop the outsides of your grocery store for fresh fruits, veggies and meats. Avoid the stuff that comes in boxes. Since you’re cooking in your dorm or your apartment, invite your friends over to eat with you instead of going out. Have them bring the beer. Problem solved.

Entertainment

It is easy to spend a lot of money on entertainment without realizing it, especially if you live in an urban area. Conversely, in cities, there are also usually an abundance of free events to keep you busy if you know where to look. Start looking on campus where there are frequently free movie nights and other events put on for students. Expanding your social life off campus gives you a taste of the city you live in, and there are often cheap and free events out there in the community. Check the local entertainment weekly papers for events listings.

Fixed Expenses

Your fixed expenses are your monthly bills like your cell phone bill, your car insurance premium, and things of that nature. To cut expenses and save money, try shopping around for new service providers. It is easy to get a few different car insurance quotes online through insurance company websites, and adjusting your cell phone bill with your current provider or switching to a new cell phone service altogether can save you hundreds of dollars a year. It’s well worth the trouble to spend an hour between classes doing some research.

Increase Your Income

The other way to save some money is to increase your income. Taking a part-time job gives you valuable work experience, builds your resume, and forces you to learn to manage your time more efficiently. Look on campus for work-study jobs or in the local community for something that interests you. If you are an upperclassman, think about tutoring for classes you’ve already taken. You can tutor on campus or online, and you can earn significant money doing so. Even an extra hundred dollars per month makes a difference when you are a student.

Living on a shoestring budget is part of being a student, but you can make yourself a little more comfortable by getting your budget under control. Decrease your fixed expenses by finding new service providers or adjusting your service contract. Save money on food and entertainment by cooking at home and looking for cheap or free entertainment. Lastly, up your income with a part-time job – just a few hours of tutoring per week can net you an extra hundred dollars per month. If living on the cheap starts to get you down, just remember, being a student doesn’t last forever, so enjoy the good parts while you can.

 

 

This awesome post on living the college life without going broke is contributed by an outside writer.

The Simple Path to Wealth can Change Your Life

The Simple Path to Wealth is amazing! I learned how to invest without losing my mind!

The year was 2008. Since the previous summer, I had been hearing news of the housing bubble burst. Since I wasn’t a homeowner and worked in a specialized field, I didn’t pay much attention.

I was working at a job where I truly made a difference in the world. I was transforming the lives of others on a daily basis. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.

I held a part-time job on top of it to help pay the bills. Because in 2008, making a difference in the world didn’t typically pay well.

It was at that part-time job that the panic started rolling in. In the break room, there were boisterous conversations about investments slipping. People who were far closer to retirement than I were losing their life’s savings. The company was employee-owned, so those stocks were slipping, too.

After a few weeks of this, I stopped going to the break room. Instead, on my break I went to the ATM in our store and started taking $600 out of my savings account at a time. (That was the daily max.) I knew it was FDIC-insured, but would that hold any meaning if the whole world went to hell?

I stuffed that money under my mattress like it was the 1930s. A habit I no longer practice. Had I stayed in school traditionally, I would have graduated with my peers around this same time, and struggled to find a job that would realistically allow me to pay off all of the student debt I had incurred.

This experience led me to believe that the stock market was a stupid option. Your life savings could be wiped out right when you needed it the most.

But I was at a loss as to how to build wealth on a modest income. A savings account would lose value thanks to inflation no matter how much I saved. CDs were nowhere near what they used to be before the Recession, and the odds on winning the lottery were dismal at best.

Also, as someone who has lived a significant portion of their life in Pittsburgh, I had little faith in my modest pension.

Then someone commented on my blog.

There was this new commenter on my blog in the early days. I hadn’t quite been at this a year when the mysterious jlcollinsnh showed up. He always had insightful things to say, and seemed to appreciate frugality in much the same way I did.

I clicked through to visit his site. “Oh, no,” I thought. “Another investing blog.”

I figured I owed it to him to at least check it out. So I read.

And I was amazed.

He addressed every last one of my concerns, and took the mystery out of investing in the stock market. He made it understandable, evaluated the risks and explained how to mitigate them. I didn’t often have super valuable comments of my own to add to the conversation, but I read and read and learned and learned. It was the beginning of my pivotal mind shift on how to build wealth.

The commenter writes a book.

Last year, JL Collins asked if I’d be willing to be a reader for his book. He was kind enough to label me “smart,” but smart enough himself to know that I knew little enough about investing to represent the mass populace.

The book was amazing. It took all the things I had learned on his blog, and added some value-packed info to boot. It made the entire prospect of investing to build true wealth and financial independence simple. In fact, that’s the title: The Simple Path to Wealth.

The Simple Path to Wealth drops. Here’s how it addressed my concerns.

This past weekend, the book became available to the public. You can, and I’d recommend should, pick it up on Amazon.

There’s a lot to learn from this simple method, but here are the ways JL Collins’ work has clarified my personal perspective and approach to investing.

The stock market’s not safe.

While inherently true, the stock market also historically moves up. The ride comes with its ups and downs, but even after a “down” period, you’re still likely to have more money than you invested 20 years ago.

The stock market’s complicated.

It can be. But it doesn’t have to be. Collins reviews an easy strategy to diversify by investing in just one fund: VTSAX. It’s Vanguard’s index fund. What that means is that it is invested in the market as a whole, so you investment will near match the standard index of the entire market. Since trying to beat the market is a dangerous and commonly unsuccessful endeavor, you’re likely to come out far further ahead than taking on a complicated investment strategy.

The diversification comes from the fact that when you’re investing in the whole market, you’re inherently investing across sectors.

Not everyone can get VTSAX conveniently. Collins knows this and makes recommendations for those who:

  • Can’t afford to buy into VTSAX at this point in time.
  • Don’t have Vanguard funds available through their 401(k).
  • Live outside the US.
  • Want to invest in bonds, too.

I don’t want my whole life to be about money.

I know this sounds weird coming from a personal finance blogger, but I do truly feel there’s more to life than money. That financial wealth should be secondary. I think wise money management can make doing the things that truly matter in life way easier, and that financial knowledge can help the masses lead a less stressed out life. Hence I write. I want to provide a means to make other people’s lives easier since I was once in a place where money was a major hindrance to everything else I wanted to do with my time here on Earth.

JL Collins’ daughter was/is much like me. She knew this all was important, but didn’t want to spend her life thinking about it. That’s why he started his blog and, ultimately, wrote this book. He wanted to give her simple advice to follow that would make all those financial decisions less taxing while still providing her with a path to achieve financial wealth.

He did a bang up job. I’m sure his daughter appreciates his work, and I appreciate the fact that she prompted it. Because there’s so many people out there with the same perspective: they want to be wise with their money, but they want the entire thing to be easy enough that they don’t have to spend their lives constantly dwelling on it.

If you’re anything like I was after the Recession, anything like Collins’ daughter, or simply someone who is already thick into investing but sick of the complexities and time it takes, read this book . It can truly be life-changing.

Leverage Your Honeymoon with Your Wedding Spending

You're going to be spending a ton of money on your wedding; use that spend to leverage a free honeymoon.

The average cost of a wedding in the US is $26,444. If that number sounds a little bit bonkers, that’s because the numbers are skewed by big spenders. In all reality, most couples spend less than $10,000 on their big day.

But $10,000 is still a nice chunk of change. Your wedding day is a big deal, but you should not let it put you in debt. That’s not a fun way to start out marital finances. There are tons of ways to cut down on costs so that you can have a gorgeous wedding that you can afford:

Even after you’ve cut costs as far as they can go, it’s likely that you’ll still end up spending at least a few grand on your event. If you can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

If you’re going to spend a couple grand anyways, though, I’m all about strategizing it so you can save a ton on another massive wedding expense: the honeymoon.

Why Your Wedding Can Be the Ideal Travel Hacking Opportunity

Plane tickets and hotel rooms, the things of honeymoons, are both things that can easily be travel hacked. (But only do it after asking yourself these very important questions.) In order to get the massive credit card bonuses needed to make your flight and accommodations super cheap or even free, though, you have to meet a card’s minimum spend.

When you’re planning your wedding, you just happen to be dropping money out of savings left and right. If you put that spending on a credit card first, and then pay your credit card statement in full before it is due, you should have an easy time of meeting those minimum spend requirements.

Then you get mega bonus points. Then you can do the romantic travel thing for cheap or free.

Strategize that Spend

Let’s look at an example. The PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card currently has a 20,000 point sign up bonus. In order to get those bonus points, you have to spend $2,500 on the card within the first three months of your account being open.

If you’re spending $4,000 on your wedding, that may seem like no problem. But you have to be careful. Not all wedding bills are due at the same time. You might have an initial $1,000 deposit on your venue with the other $1,000 not due until the night of the big party.

You may reserve your venue twelve months out, but you’re likely not looking at dresses until eight or nine months out. They may both make it into the three-month window, but odds are high that the spending will be more spread out.

There are two ways to approach this. Most of your wedding vendors aren’t going to complain if you prepay. If you do that, you’d likely be more capable of hitting the $2,500 minimum far in advance of your big day. You should only do this if you have the funds on hand to pay off your statement immediately, though. In full.

The other option would be to wait until three months before your big day to open the card. This is when most of your big bills are going to come due, whether a couple weeks before the wedding or the night of. You may even have some unexpected last-minute costs like a panicked dress alteration or the realization that you forgot to buy an aisle runner.

When to Take Your Honeymoon

If you use the prepay method, you should have enough time for your bonus points to post to your account so you can book reward travel immediately following your big day.

If you wait to put expenses on your card until your wedding day, though, you will have to wait a while to redeem your points. First, they will have to post to your account. Then, you’ll have to redeem them for available tickets. While some rewards programs will have blackout dates and issues with availability, with PenFed, you can purchase a ticket using your points based on the real market price.

Delayed gratification can really pay off, though. Instead of spending an insane amount of money to get away, you’ll have saved an insane amount of money just by putting your wedding spend on the right card.

 

 

This post is in collaboration with PenFed Credit Union.

 

 

 

Financially Savvy Saturdays Week 147

Welcome to Financially Savvy Saturdays, the best place to find awesome money related stories and opinions on the web! It’s created specifically for personal finance bloggers! We welcome all things money here. Whether you’ve written anything from how you spend next to nothing on groceries to your latest dividend income report, you’re invited to link-up.

If it ties into personal finance, we want to read it!

Financially Savvy Saturdays Blog Hop with Disease Called Debt and Broke Girl Rich

Femme Frugality - Financially Savvy Saturdays with Broke Girl Rich and Disease Called Debt

This week we’re pleased to welcome back Femme from Femme Frugality as our visiting co-host (and Financially Savvy Saturdays founder!) She writes about money saving for moms, dads, students, brides and Pittsburghers over at her blog.

Tweet about it. You can use #finsavsat when tweeting about the party!

Concerns about SEO? Recently many bloggers have decided to stop participating in events such as Carnivals. If you’re worried about how participating in this link-up could effect your SEO, we’d encourage you to check out this article.

Interested in co-hosting? Co-hosting is fun AND easy. If you’re interested, you can email us via brokeGIRLrich(at)gmail(dot)com or info(at)diseasecalleddebt(dot)com with any questions. Or if you’re ready to take the plunge, you can sign up on this Google doc.

If you’ve co-hosted before and enjoyed it, please consider doing it again! If you’re interested but nervous about getting involved, please email one of us, we love talking to new bloggers and would enjoy explaining how blog hops work and getting you more involved!

Feature of the Week

As this week’s visiting co-host, Femme has selected her favorite post from last week’s blog hop to be this week’s feature. Femme chose Possibility C by The Yachtless!

Possibility C

Click here to read this great post!

If you submit a post, you could be featured in next week’s party!

We do have a couple of rules for participation. Those who don’t follow the rules will have their link taken down and won’t have the chance to be featured.

1. Your post must be written in the past seven days, related to personal finance and not be solely a giveaway.

2. Be sure to include a link to one of your hosts by copying and pasting the html in one of the boxes below into your linked up post. You have the option of the button or a text link.

3. Follow your hosts. You can follow brokeGIRLrich on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, OR by subscribing to her RSS feed and A Disease Called Debt on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, OR by subscribing to her RSS feed. Also, you can follow Femme Frugality on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest OR by subscribing to her RSS feed.

4. Comment on at least one post before and after you that have joined the party.

5. HAVE FUN!

Please copy and paste this button into the post you link up:

Disease Called Debt

OR copy and paste this code for a text link:

 <em>*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on <a href="http://brokegirlrich.com/financially-savvy-saturdays-147" rel="nofollow">brokeGIRLrich</a>, <a href="http://diseasecalleddebt.com/financially-savvy-saturdays-147" rel="nofollow">A Disease Called Debt</a> and <a href="http://femmefrugality.com/financially-savvy-saturdays-week-147" rel="nofollow">Femme Frugality</a>*</em>

Two Easy Ways Beginners Can Get Started Investing

I really want to get started with investing! These two methods are easy enough for me!

If you’ve been thinking about investing but you haven’t started yet, don’t put it off any longer. Putting money aside into investments can provide you with added income for retirement in the future. Plus, of course, the sooner you start, the sooner you can take advantage of compounding interest. Furthermore, the idea that investments are too risky might be holding you back when in reality, they can hold the potential to help build your wealth if you educate yourself about them prior to getting started.

If you are thinking about getting started investing, here two vehicles to help you kickstart the process.

Your 401K

Many employers offer a 401K plan, so if yours does, too, you should consider taking advantage of it. But like any investment, you need to know what you are getting into before you sign up.

When you sign up for a 401K plan, your employer will ask what percentage, or dollar amount, of your paycheck you want to contribute. This percentage is held out from each paycheck, before taxes unless you elect to sign up for a Roth plan, and deposited into an account on your behalf. Additionally, some employers will also contribute to your account up to a certain percentage to “match” your contributions. This will help your account grow faster, so if this benefit is offered, you should take it.

A nice feature of these accounts is that you get to decide how that money is invested, but there are usually fewer options than an IRA. This gives you control over your investment growth and risk, but makes it easy for beginners as they are less likely to be overwhelmed with too many choices.

When choosing an investment strategy, it is generally recommended to diversify by placing some of your money into higher-risk, higher-return investments and some into lower-risk, lower-return investments. The idea is that when one investment experiences losses, another might still be gaining so your investment continues to grow. This is also why some people choose to invest in index funds.

Mutual Funds

Opening a brokerage account through a company such as Prudential or Vanguard, or many others, will allow you to invest in mutual funds. Mutual funds are made up of a group of funds from many investors who invest in stocks, bonds, and other assets. The goal is to produce capital gains and income for those who invest in the mutual fund.

The advantage of choosing mutual funds as a beginning investor is that you don’t have to invest large sums of money. In fact, some companies allow you to open an account with as little as $500. Plus, any gains or losses in the funds are shared among all of the investors so the risk is lower than some other investment options. If you are considering opening such an account, make sure to ask about the associated fees so you don’t have any unexpected bills eating up your gains.

Investing in your future is a great thing to do. Don’t be shy if you are a beginner; even the most seasoned investors were beginners at some point, so you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. The best thing you can do before buying into any type of investment is to learn about it by reading and asking questions so you know exactly how the investment works and what to expect.

Do you have any tips for beginners looking to get started investing?

This post is contributed by Kayla, a personal finance blogger in her mid-20s who loves to write about money topics of all kinds.

The One Car Family Experiment

Dream of cutting costs by becoming a one car family? Experiment with us! See what worked, what didn't and how to fix it.

We have more than one vehicle in our family. During our entire relationship, my husband and I have never been without at least one car loan.

That’s stupid, right? We could save SO much money if we became a one car family. On financing, insurance, maintenance…the list goes on.

One of our vehicles, the one that’s actually paid off, has been giving us a lot of trouble lately. Like my-head-wants-to-explode-because-of-the-mechanic-bill problems. Last week, we had to take it in for a five-day long session while they fixed hundreds of dollars worth of additional problems.

My initial reaction was horror. How the heck were we going to survive? We had appointments and classes and all kinds of things to do, especially since the school year was wrapping up.

I took a deep breath, and decided to treat this like an experiment. This could actually be a blessing in disguise. If we could make it through the week, maybe we could just ditch that car without replacing it or sinking any more money into repairs. With the money we’d be saving on insurance, we could pay our remaining car note off in no time flat, and then use the extra money leftover every month to pay for our next vehicle in cash.

Plus, we’d be improving our carbon footprint in a big way. I’m so into it that I’m signed up for Tesla’s newsletters, but they have yet to send me one with a RSP that I can read without LOLing.

This could actually be a really good thing, if the test run worked out properly.

The Results of the One Car Family Experiment

During the course of the week, we had to get our kiddo to school, hit up baseball practice, go to various therapies, get the husband to his night classes, get him some new shoes as his were more than beat, and get to a doctor’s appointment. On top of it all, I got sick (yes, again,) and had to see my own PCP at the last minute.

On top of all of that, I had to get to work. While I work for myself as a freelancer, I don’t really work from home. I’m lucky enough to have a friend that lets me use their place and internet connection to type and edit words on a screen while they’re at their 9-5. It provides me with quiet solitude while my own home, full of young children, provides chaos. My friend’s place is not in my neighborhood, so I typically commute. In the second car.

The unexpected hiccup that we came up against was my own doctor’s appointment. I could only get in half an hour before the other, conflicting family medical appointment, and to get between the two offices we had to cross downtown. So I was dropped off at mine and had to wait until the husband could come back and get me.

It was inconvenient, but not really that tragic. I walked a mile to go get some lunch and he just picked me up there. I checked bus schedules, but nothing could have gotten me to my appointment on-time, and him picking me up was much quicker than waiting for the next bus home.

The bad part was my work. Over the course of the week, I only got to my friend’s place for a couple of hours over the entire five days. I did meet all deadlines by working at night, but I typically like to be ahead of the game. Being ahead mitigates emergencies. Like when the car breaks down.

Because of the surprising lack of public transport in our neighborhood, getting to my friend’s place would’ve taken hours. Those are hours I don’t have with all of my familial obligations. If I have to choose between getting my kid or husband to school while working nights or working days while they’re stranded, I’m going to choose night hours.

But that’s not really good for my health. Besides the mental burden of going all day knowing there’s a pile of work waiting for you after everyone’s in bed, my sleep got all out of whack. While the arrangement served as barely functional for a week, overall I have to mark it as a failure. That type of schedule is not sustainable for us on a long-term basis.

My heart is a little bit broken. I really want to save the planet. If Stephen Hawking says we’re all going to have to hop in space ships within 100 years and only the rich will get a ticket to ride, I want to do everything I can to help make that nightmare a fallacy.

Plus I’d like to save some cash.

But what to do when it isn’t functional?

Ways We Could Become a One Car Family

Plan better. Public transport may be inconvenient, but if we completely revamped our schedule and I was cool spending hours commuting, we might be able to make it work. Though it would remain terribly inconvenient. I’ll be mapping this out more in the near future to see if we could make the dream a reality. I still don’t know what we’d do about emergencies like last-minute doctor’s appointments, though. Or me going into work on the rare occasion where I still work my old day job.

Move to a different neighborhood. Perhaps one that was more of a central hub for buses so I wouldn’t have to transfer so much.

Move to a new apartment. Theoretically, I could work at home, but our internet doesn’t reach any of the rooms that have doors to close out the ruckus. If we moved to another apartment with thinner walls, this problem could be potentially alleviated. I would likely not be as productive since everyone would know where I was hiding, but maybe the routine would eventually get everyone used to it. The problem with this is that rents have inflated a lot since we first moved into this place, so it likely wouldn’t be a cash-positive move.

Get a new modem. This is the most likely one to happen. Maybe if we got a more powerful modem we wouldn’t even have to move to a new apartment.

Buy a house in the burbs. This is our goal for the next couple of years, anyways. Counterintuitively, moving to the suburbs may cut down our needs for more than one vehicle depending on if the husband is location independent or not after he graduates and how close the new place is to a park’n’ride. We plan on adding one bedroom above our current living situation, and in our area most houses have some type of basement. I don’t care if it’s finished or not; I can set up shop away from everyone else with a layout like that.

Do you think you could downgrade to a one-car family? Or even just eliminate your vehicle altogether? What would you need to do to make it happen?

 

 

 

How to Live Frugally in Spain

Dream of living abroad, but aren't rich? Moving to another country doesn't have to be expensive! Here's how to live frugally in Spain---from someone who's actually done it.



Will Peach is one the author of My Spanish Adventure, a site that documents his experiences living on the cheap in Spain. Take it away, Will!

Many people see the object of frugality as a road to freedom and travel. Forget that. You don’t have to be rich to see the world. In fact living abroad, experiencing new cultures and getting all the joy that travel brings is so much easier than most people think.

Take my story for example. Living and working in London, scraping by each month, I used to think that travel was nothing but an intangible wish. And that was despite working in the industry itself!

It wasn’t until I took a big chance in fact, because I arrived at a certain point of desperation in my life, that I came to such a realization. Informing my employers that I’d be leaving, that I wanted to go learn Spanish and live in Spain, was how the levees broke. Now, almost five months later, I’m still here and saving more money than I’ve ever been able to before.

How do I do it? Well, as I’m sure Femme Frugality would attest, it’s actually very simple. But aside from the obvious one of keeping my expenses lower than my income, there’s actually a lot more you can do to live frugally in Spain. What’s more is that you can also have an ace time doing so, too!

Travel on the Cheap: Couch Surfing

The first massive money saving tip that has helped to revolutionize my life abroad can actually extend to anywhere in the world.

In avoiding pricey hostel and hotel stays – specifically when I fly to and from my native UK – CouchSurfing.com (CS) has become a key tool in my arsenal of frugality. Signing up for free there has been the best expenditure of energy I’ve made in the past year.

During the past few months I’ve surfed couches in many different regions and cities in Spain including Madrid, Caceres, Merida, Malaga, Plasencia and also here in my city base of Granada. Not only have I saved money, but I’ve also made amazing friends along the way.

I’ve managed to save money on travel in and around the country too by linking up with other CS’ers online (the Spain and Granada group are very active) to car pool, share ticket costs and snag discounts on local deals.

No matter where you live it’s worth investigating CS!

Choose A Location Wisely

To keep up with my objective of achieving Spanish fluency before I reach 27, it was obvious that moving out here would be the most logical thing. A member of the EU (thanks to my British passport) I knew coming to Spain would be sensible as I wouldn’t have to pay the visa costs of somewhere possibly more attractive like Argentina or Chile.

The next smart move I made was to base myself in one of the cheaper areas of Spain. If I’d have gone to Madrid or Barcelona (and paid the 300-500 Euro apartment costs) straight off the bat, I would have struggled to keep afloat financially. That’s why I first chose Extremadura, and the provincial capital of Caceres, to live the first time I came here. In that location I knew I would pay only around 100-150 Euro in apartment costs, enabling me to live fairly comfortably without the risk of blowing everything all at once.

Returning the second time around, thanks to my increased income, I’ve chosen to live in Granada, Andalusia. Here I don’t pay too much more (175 Euro a month) for a shared apartment and I also get to know and explore a whole new region of Spain without having to worry too much about my finances.

Day-to-Day Living: Cutting Costs

One of the great things about Spain – and one that it absolutely spanks the UK on – is its great weather. Thanks to it my flatmates and I can avoid hefty heating bills by foregoing it altogether.

But that’s not the only area we can make quick and easy savings. We also save by sharing the costs of consumable goods like milk, cheese, tea and butter as well as cleaning products we use to keep the place in good shape. There’s no “I” in teamwork after all – and frugality is certainly something that falls in line with that philosophy.

Having said that, Granada is also a fantastic place to eat out on the cheap alone, thanks to the wonderful Spanish cultural staple of tapas. Here you can walk into a bar, order a drink and get a main meal (I’m talking bruschettas, sandwiches, burgers, steaks) completely for free.

Other ways in which I save on a day-to-day basis include buying a transport card (which lowers the cost of each individual bus fare), shopping for produce at fruterias (generally cheaper than supermarkets) and swapping going out time for Spanish learning time (enabling me to be able to suss out if I’m getting good deals on things in the future or not).

Possibly the Most Powerful Frugal Tip

As readers of this blog will know, nothing is better for saving than increasing your level of income (or adding different streams.) Here in Spain, as native English speakers, you’re sitting on the potential goldmine that is your language.

Finding work as a private instructor or even in an institution isn’t hard at all. Start by posting some notices around town, writing ads on local websites and just talking to people saying you’re looking. After you get that first client things will quickly snowball and you’ll end up being recommended across town. You don’t have to worry about being certified in any manner, either. Most Spaniards are interested in conversation classes, so all you need to do is pitch up with a list of topics, talk and correct their errors.

Living Abroad Doesn’t Have to be Expensive

Living abroad and traveling, in terms of frugality, isn’t that different from what you’d do at home. The benefits however, especially for people like me, are ten-fold. Not only does this opportunity allow me to better know myself and what I want in the future, but it also opens my eyes to new possibilities.

So while a lot of these tips can be extended to any country, I would urge that you do try to live and work in a different culture at least once in your life.

Dive in and you’ll probably also notice it’s a lot easier to remain frugal and live cheaply in other countries than it is in say the UK or the USA.

The fact that people assume that living or working abroad is a pursuit solely reserved for the rich is ludicrous. Hopefully I’ve helped to show you that this isn’t the case at all.

Good luck and happy travels!

 

This post first appeared on January 17, 2012.

Father’s Day Gift Guide Under $20

On a budget, but still want to get dad something he'll love? Check out this Father's Day Gift Guide where everything is under $20.

This post contains affiliate links.

Father’s Day is just around the corner, and while it’s good to celebrate Dad, buying gifts should always be done within your budget. I’m not encouraging you to be chinsy. If you can afford something very expensive that would add value to his life, go for it. But if your budget is a little tighter, know that you’re not alone and that you can still get the father in your life something he’ll appreciate without draining  your bank account.

Here’s a Father’s Day Gift Guide for some inspiration. Keeping in mind that budgets may be tight, everything is under $20.

 MLB Watches

MLB San Diego Padres Men's Spirit Watch

Because this is ‘Murica and we love baseball.

Price: The majority of teams cost $19.99. For some weird reason, a few teams cost $24.99, like our beloved Pirates.

Where to get it: Bed Bath & Beyond

Why You’re So Awesome Personalized Book

Why You're So AwesomeThis is a super sweet sentimental gift for any dad. Have your kids fill in all 50 blanks, completing sentences like, “People seem to be impressed by your awesome ___________________.” And, “Your  _____________ should be studied by science.”

Price: $11.99

Where to get it: ModCloth

 

3-in-1 Soap for Men

Soap for Men - Cedar and CitrusSimplify his grooming routine with this 3-in-1 soap. It serves as shampoo, body wash and shaving “cream,” if you will. It’s all natural and smells manly.

Price: $6.95

Where to get it:  Thrive Market. This is a membership site, which is how their prices are so crazy low, but you get a free, 30-day trial to start so you can get this at the lower price without risk.

The Heroic Adventures of Super Dad Planner/Notebook

Super Dad Day Planner, Notebook, or Address BookTotally customizable with your own pic and <3(child’s name). Sure to make any dad feel good, and either document his journey or keep track of his Super Dad schedule.

Price: Starts at $16.00

Where to get it: Minted

Portable Lap Desk

Portable Lap Desk with Wrist Pad in Silver/BlackDid you know that using a laptop actively receiving a WiFi signal causes a decrease in sperm mobility and can even cause the sperm to no longer be viable? Well, now you do. If dad wants to be a dad again, or even just doesn’t want his computer messing with his reproductive parts, one way to cut back on the damage is using a lap desk. This one’s built for ergonomics FTW.

Price: $19.99

Where to get it: Bed Bath & Beyond

What Mon Mari Frugality Will Be Getting

Every year, we go with experiences for Father’s Day. The kids make some type of craft that costs us $0, and then we spend the day together. One year when I was not capable of leaving the house, he went on a Ducky Tour of the city with his offspring. Another year we all went to the zoo where dads get in for free on Father’s Day.

As our kids get older, this is getting admittedly more expensive. While we used to just have to pay for me or sometimes me and the husband to get in, now my kids are above the age where they get in everywhere for free. So we’re not in the $20 range anymore.

But if you would rather spend time together than give a gift, remember that spending time together can be the greatest gift. And there’s tons of ways to do that on the cheap.

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