Family

How to Curb the Rising Costs of Parenting

Parenting is the most difficult yet rewarding job I’ve ever had in my life. It definitely hasn’t been easy on my pockets, either. And apparently, I’m not alone in my experiences. According to a recent report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost to raise a child born in 2013 will be $245,300. That’s the …

Nine Financial Questions to Discuss When Your First Child Is on the Way

In February 2005, Sarah and I were handed a completely unexpected piece of information. Sarah was pregnant and our first child was going to arrive late in the year. It was a life-changing moment. Sarah and I had several months to prepare, of course. Unfortunately, since we weren’t in the best financial shape at the …

Categories: Family

Are You Guilty of Financial Infidelity?

Finances and cheating are amount the most common reasons for divorce. And what happens when you merge the two? You get a case of financial infidelity, but there’s a twist: a third party doesn’t have to be present to cause a problem. In a nutshell, it’s the practice of concealing assets, debt obligations or conducting …

Categories: Family, Home and Life

Eight Strategies for Preparing Your Kids Early for an Inexpensive College Education (or Other Options)

It’s a worry that pops into the mind of most parents not too long after their child is born. College. How on earth are we going to pay for a great education for our child? Prices at top-tier schools like MIT have seen annual tuition jump to over $50,000 a year, with no end in …

Categories: Education, Family

Twenty Powerful Tips for Discussing Money Topics with Your Partner

Throughout our engagement and the first few years of our marriage, Sarah and I never really sat down and had a real conversation about money. We each just more or less followed the pattern we learned from our parents. We dealt with any shared issues that were absolutely required in the briefest way possible. Needless …

50 Free Activities For Kids

One of the most popular articles I’ve ever written for The Simple Dollar is 100 Things to Do During a Money-Free Weekend. In it, I touch upon the idea of a “money-free weekend” – one in which you consciously avoid the active spending of money – and then drop a long list of activities you …

Categories: Family, Frugality

8 Cheap Summer Projects for Kids

Last summer, my two oldest children embarked on a summer-long project that they ended up taking a ton of pride in. In fact, we expanded that summer project and are repeating it again this summer to their great enthusiasm. (What project was it? It’s the first one on this list.) We learned a few lessons …

Categories: Family, Frugality

Five Weekend Adventures That Teach Your Kids Frugality

Almost every weekend, particularly during the summer when I’m working at home and Sarah is on break from teaching, we plan some sort of family “adventure.” The goal of these “adventures” is to either visit some location or engage in some large project at home that will teach the children something useful. They might learn …

Categories: Family, Frugality

Some Thoughts on Marriage and Financial Problems

Sarah and I argue about politics sometimes. We have different perspectives on a lot of political issues and sometimes that will cause us to have rather vigorous debates on things. I tend to be more concerned about civil liberties than Sarah is, for example, and our different feelings on civil liberties and privacy caused us …

Categories: Family

3 Marriage-Saving Approaches to Take if Your Spouse’s Spending is Out of Control

This article was first posted at U.S. News and World Report Money. It’s a common story. One partner in a marriage realizes the value of financial responsibility and starts working in earnest to improve the couple’s financial situation. Meanwhile, the other partner hasn’t had that epiphany and prefers to continue old financial habits. Inevitably, these …

Categories: Family

Five Children’s Books That Teach Useful Money Tactics

This article was first published at U.S. News and World Report Money. As a proud parent of three children, I’ve read many, many, many children’s books over the last decade. Some were wonderful, while others were completely forgettable. Some taught valuable lessons, while others seemed to teach nothing at all. Over time, we used the …

Categories: Family

The Costs of Potty Training

I’m proud to say that our youngest child is potty trained. He occasionally has an accident in the night time, but he hasn’t had a daytime accident in a long time. We’ve taken three children through this process and I felt it was worthwhile to share some thoughts on what products were actually necessary for …

Categories: Family, Frugality

Rethinking Allowance: Taking Off the Training Wheels

As I mentioned recently, Sarah and I have noticed how our children’s relationship with their allowance has changed over the years. When we first started giving them an allowance, we used a simple strategy where they split their money up among several items – investing, charity, saving for a goal, and free spending. We only …

Categories: Family

Swinging for the Fences or Settling for a Single

Several different books I’ve read in the last few years – Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers being one – have argued that the best way (without an inherent genetic advantage) to become an “outlier” in a particular skill is to practice a tremendous amount. The number often used is 10,000 hours of practice. If you divide that …

Categories: Family, Getting Started

4 Steps to Take If You Loan Money to Friends or Family

This article first appeared at US News and World Report Money. A friend or a family member is struggling with a financial problem. That person comes to you and asks you to lend money to help them through their crisis. What do you do? This situation comes up quite often in tightly-knit families where there …

Categories: Debt Management, Family

A Few Thoughts on Couples and Spending

This past weekend, Sarah and I enjoyed a “getaway weekend” in the Amana Colonies with another couple that we’ve been friends with for many years. Whenever Sarah and I have a “getaway weekend,” we plan ahead for a budget for that trip, setting a soft limit on how much we’re going to spend on food …

Six Principles of a Marriage Without Money Fights

During the first three or four years of our marriage, Sarah and I regularly argued about money issues. It never seemed as though there was enough money to pay for everything and, of course, it must be the other person’s fault, so we’d argue. Now? I honestly can’t remember our last argument about money. We …

Categories: Family

Parenting, Permissiveness, and Money

Sarah and I have a laid-back policy when it comes to how our children spend their money. We regulate their allowance to a certain extent by requiring that they give a certain amount to charity and save some for the future (as discussed here). We also require that they put aside a little for a …

Categories: Family

The Challenge of the “Best” Choice

As I write this article, my three year old son is perched on my lap with my arms around him. He’s playing with one of his favorite toys, a Transformer that’s easy to transition from a fire truck to a robot, and he’s telling me stories about them. He’s happy and safe and secure sitting …

Categories: Family, Getting Started