5 Reasons to Give Kids an Allowance

At the foundation of your children’s financial intelligence should be this undeniable truth: It is not the amount of money you have, but what you do with it that matters. This is true for a child managing a five-dollar-a-week allowance or a corporate executive with a five-thousand dollar-a-week salary.

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For many years of my life I didn’t know this truth. On the contrary, I believed that more money was the answer. I was convinced that if we just made more money, won the lottery, or received some unexpected inheritance, all of our money problems would vanish. But the more we made the worse our problems became. Because I didn’t know how to manage what we had, more would have never been enough. We didn’t save, we didn’t give, we didn’t plan, and we had no idea where all the money went.

Unless your children learn simple, wise money management techniques, more money will never be enough.

The simplest way to get started building financial intelligence into your kids’ minds and hearts is by putting them on an allowance and then requiring them to suffer or enjoy the consequences of their financial decision.

An allowance teaches kids about real life

Nothing beats an allowance for a hands-on course in values. Having their own money teaches them about responsibility, consequences, saving and charity.

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Our Best Inexpensive: A Review

Before I bring up the subject of my email inbox, I need to tell you again how much I love to hear from my readers! Every letter, note and message is affirmation that I’m not speaking to an empty room. I love your tips, stories, questions, corrections and even the occasional argument.

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Now about my inbox—it fills almost faster than I can read. So far I’ve managed to keep up with the reading part but responding personally to every message has become impossible. So I create file folders for varying subjects. When a folder gets full I know it’s time to address that subject in an upcoming post.

Today I’m cleaning out the folder labeled “Best Inexpensive?” where hundreds of messages land that go something like this:  “Please tell me again exactly which sewing machine (vacuum, carpet cleaner, spot remover and so on) that was you’ve picked as the best inexpensive option out there.”

So, for all of you who asked, here you go!

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Make Every Day Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving so much I would say it vies for first place in my favorite holiday lineup. I love and adore a classic Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings. I love the fall weather which always accompanies the day. I love the fact that Thanksgiving ushers in the winter holidays, offering me a front row seat on the very best time of the year. I love all of those things. What I don’t love is the idea that Thanksgiving is the one day of the year that we give thanks. Gratitude is too important in our lives to be considered briefly en masse on this, the last Thursday of November.

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Giving thanks and counting our blessings is good for us. It reminds us of the positive things in life. Gratitude turns bad things into good things, and reminds us to thank others.

Just imagine what might happen if our annual single-day tradition of giving thanks were to become a daily routine? Medical professionals suggest we would be rewarded with better health, as medical research reveals more about the strong connection between gratitude and good health.

And just as strong is the belief that stress can make us sick. It’s linked to heart disease and cancer. Shockingly, stress is responsible for up to 90 percent of all doctor visits. Just think about the financial costs associated with stress-related maladies. The antidote for stress is gratitude, as it calms our minds and lowers our blood pressure. Then, we are able to see our circumstances in a fresh, new light.

Even in the face of tremendous loss or tragedy, it’s possible to feel gratitude. Adversity can actually boost feelings of gratitude, a phenomenon that many of us experienced immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, as we saw the tremendous loss in light of what we still possessed.

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Best Inexpensive Instant Pot, Smart TV and Recipe for Vinyl Siding Cleaner, Too

Dear Mary: I have always valued your comments about various products and can honestly say that I have never been disappointed in anything I bought after reading your recommendations.

Have you done any research on the Instant Pot Multi-Functional pressure cookers? With Christmas around the corner I was thinking that might be a good gift. Thank you so much. Conni

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Dear Conni: Thank you for your kind words and your trust. That means the world to me.

Yes I am very familiar with Instant Pot, a single electric appliance that functions as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, saute/browning, yogurt maker, steamer and warmer—seven appliances in one! What makes Instant Pot so amazing is that is has a micro processor (think: computer) and comes with 14 built-in programs that offer adjustable cooking modes, up to 24 hours of delayed cooking and automatic keep warm for up to 10 hours, to name a few. Instant Pot has all of the features we wished our slow cookers and pressure cookers had.

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This appliance can turn out perfectly poached eggs in 2-3 minutes, baked potatoes in 12 minutes. I don’t want to get too dramatic here, but I really believe that Instant Pot has the power to change a home cook’s life.

I can’t say too many good things about Instant Pot and agree with you that an Instant Pot would make a wonderful gift for a very lucky foodie on your Christmas list.

While there are a number of different Instant Pot models, my pick for the best inexpensive option is Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi Functional Pressure Cooker 6 QT/1000W. It is sweet! About $120. 

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A Homemade Christmas Gift You’d Actually Love to Receive

Gifting friends, family, co-workers teachers and others with a jar of your own signature hand and body lotion this Christmas will definitely put you on the map. It’s that good.

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Not particularly crafty? No worries. If you can assemble, empty, stir and mix well, you’ve got what it takes to make dozens of these gifts start to finish in a single evening. And the best part? About $3.50 per gift, depending on where you buy the ingredients and containers.

Here’s the routine: Purchase the specific ingredients, mix them together, divide between your choice of small containers, apply a label or gift tag, embellish with a ribbon and there you go. Done and in no time flat.

To make this lovely hand and body lotion you’ll need:

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Frugal Food Shopping 101

As food costs continue to soar, it’s a good time to revisit the basics of frugal food shopping. Follow these tips and provided you don’t end up buying twice as much, you really will see your food costs plummet.

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GO WITH CASH ONLY. Shopping with cash—only cash—is one of the best ways to make a severe grocery budget work. If you have the discipline of a superhero, good for you. Use your credit card. If you’re like everyone else in the world, take cash out of the ATM and don’t let yourself spend a penny more. If you’re out of cash and you have 10 days of the month to go, it’s time to start raiding your pantry. You might have an odd menu for a few days, and so what? It won’t kill you.

PLAN IT OUT. Find recipes that fit your budget—recipes, as in cooking and preparing meals from ingredients. With very little cooking background, anyone can learn to make great soups and casseroles. Deciding on recipes and planning meals in advance will become your financial lifesaver.

SKIP PACKAGED ITEMS. You pay a big premium for packaged items like salad kits, meals in a bag, fruit snacks, pre-sliced produce, chips or vegetables that come in a steam bag. Anything that has been processed and packaged comes with an additional markup. Peeling potatoes, slicing apples and chopping lettuce might take extra time, but you will be rewarded well for the effort. And you’ll end up with a fresher, tastier result.

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Your Best Thanksgiving Feast Ever—Healthy, Delicious and … Cheap!

If there’s one thing we should be thankful for this Thanksgiving, it’s this: Turkey is cheap! And the rest of the Thanksgiving dinner can be, too.

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The secret to enjoying a traditional feast without overspending is to know a few tricks. I sat down with two highly respected professionals—a butcher and a personal chef. What I learned from John Smith, professional butcher and author of Confessions of a Butcher: Eat Steak on a Hamburger Budget and Save $$$ and personal chef, Liz Tarditi, pretty much blew a hole in everything I thought I knew about buying, thawing and preparing a turkey.

TRICK #1: GET THE BEST TURKEY

Choosing the best turkey is easier said than done unless you fully understand the difference between a store brand or name brand bird. Just because a turkey is more expensive does not make it any better, says John. All that means is that it has a lot of advertising built into its price.

What customers don’t know is that one turkey processor will slap many different labels on his crop of birds. The turkeys are all the same, only the labels are different. This is a rule you can count on, according to John the Butcher: “Always go with the cheapest turkey and you’ll never go wrong. I’ve sold tens of thousands of store brand turkeys to very happy customers.”

EC: Fresh or frozen?

JS: First, let me define a “fresh” turkey. According to the people who make the laws, turkeys can be called “fresh” even though the moisture in the bird is frozen! If you press very firmly on the bird the meat is not frozen. The turkey processors have it down to a science. They bring the temperature of the “fresh” birds down to the very legal limit before sending them off to the store two weeks before Thanksgiving.

Frozen turkeys, on the other hand, are quick-frozen immediately upon butchering. So the freshest turkey is really a frozen turkey. The freezing process has no noticeable effect on the quality of the bird.

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Chromebook Laptops Better Than Ever—Cheaper, Too!

Only a few months ago, I told you about what was happening in the world of Chromebook—a laptop computer that runs Chrome OS as its operating system and is designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet. That in fact, Chromebooks had just (and for the first time in the U.S.) outsold Apple’s range of Macs.

111716image1Chromebooks have become so popular, manufacturers are competing like crazy to expand functionality while at the same time lower the price. You know who wins that game, right? Consumers—and just in time for Christmas!

If you go online or walk into a store’s electronics department to purchase a Chromebook, prepare to be hit with a serious case of FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt. That’s because there are hundreds of Chromebooks from which to choose; from dozens of manufacturers with hundreds of options. But not to worry. I do not expect you to slog through all of this technical stuff to figure out your best inexpensive option. It’s my job to do the hard work so you won’t have to!

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