If you speak English in your home, your kids are not likely to come out speaking Italian. Kids learn everything through observation and imitation. And they don’t miss a thing. Kids are shaped at the very beginning of life by the way their parents live. They are ever-attentive witnesses of grown-up behaviors. They take their cues from what they see and hear. 

Want your kids to grow up with healthy attitudes about money? Start living the way you want them to become. Let your kids regularly catch you in the act of living financially responsible lives and you’ll be on your way to raising financially responsible kids.

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You really cannot start too early modeling healthy money attitudes for your kids. Here are 20 ways you can start right now to raise financially responsible kids even if yours are still toddlers, excerpted from my book, Raising Financially Responsible Kids, which remains my most favorite of all because it’s about my kids and the plan we created. Read more

A recent column brought a flood of messages to my inbox, most of them with the same message that goes something like this: I want to save, I need to save, but I don’t have any money to save! How can I even get started when I am so close to the edge?  

First, let’s review: When it comes to saving money, we Americans are a pathetic lot. Here we are blessed with the highest per capita income on the face of the earth yet most recent data shows we’re saving 3.1 percent of our disposable income. Because that’s an average, that means a whole lot of you have nothing saved, nothing to fall back on in the event of an emergency or unexpected expense. It feels like you’re just one paycheck away from being homeless and that’s a terrible way to live and one of the greatest contributors to our collective stress.

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While not wishing to throw you into a panic, I really need to get tough on this. You must start saving! You have to see yourself as more important than your creditors. Get in line in front of them and pay yourself first! Just do it. When you get your paycheck, your refund, birthday money… take the first part and stash it away.  Read more

Since Mother’s Day is less than two weeks away and since I have a feeling you’re as surprised by that as I am and since I’m a mom and most of you are moms or know a mom or have a mother figure in your life–I’ve taken the liberty of assuming you might appreciate some help with coming up with an awesome Mother’s Day gift or two. 

Whew!

I wouldn’t say I am the quintessential expert when it comes to selecting perfect Mother’s Day gifts, but I know what I like and think I may not be too far off from what most moms would also enjoy.

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First, I love to cook so anything for my kitchen like a new gadget or improved implement like a shiny new whisk would delight me no end. Next, I enjoy technology, electronic devices and all the accessories that go along with them. I love fine fragrances and cool hair products. Ditto for quality makeup and fashion wear. 

And so, with myself in mind, I’ve come up with 19 great gift ideas ranging in price from $6 to $480.  I would be tickled to open up any one of these item on Mother’s Day.     Read more

We Americans are bent on spending and that is supposed to be a good thing. It drives our economy. When spending is down the outlook is bleak. When it’s up, economic-types are giddy with joy. And now it seems our spending is too much of a good thing because Americans on average are saving only a pittance, while more than half are saving nothing at all. In fact, those Americans are not saving at a greater rate than they  have not saved in the past 74 years and I mean to the tune of negative 1%.

I understand -30 F. with wind chill factor . But -1% savings? I’m no math wizard but that sounds like a person robs bank and then fails to save any of the loot. Apparently it means you don’t save money you never had in the first place. Or you spend all you have plus the money you had managed to save.

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Whatever the terminology and statistics that back it up, failing to save is at the least stupid and at the most quite dangerous. I know, we live in a world with plenty of plastic and big companies telling us not to worry about emergencies. That’s why God created credit cards we’re told–to be there when things go wrong and we’ve failed to prepare adequately. Read more

 

It’s been seven years since I became a bread maker. I read a book, gave it a try and found immediate success. A year later, I wrote this follow-up I can’t really take much credit for this thing I love so much–turning out amazing loaves of bread on a whim. I owe any success I have achieved to Jeff and Zoe–creators and authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Here’s the routine: Once every other week I dump basic ingredients into a big square plastic container that has a lid, and fits nicely into my refrigerator. I stir it up, set the lid in place and walk away. That takes 15 minutes at the most. Two hours later (or when I remember), I set the container in the refrigerator. Done.

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Homemade loaves of bread using the 5-Minute Artisan Bread method.

Whenever I want a loaf of bread (like every morning), I reach into the container, pull off a wad of dough, shape it, let it rest while I take a shower, then pop it into a hot oven. In about 25 minutes, there it is: a beautiful, rustic, amazing loaf of bread–the kind I would expect to see in the finest French bakery. Truly, I spend no more than five minutes per day, overall, doing this. And the cost? Less than 50 cents a loaf. Have you priced good bread in the supermarket lately? I’m seeing $4 and more per loaf! Read more

 

The Wall Street Journal has estimated the annual yield from garage sales to be around $2 billion. Isn’t it about time for you to claim your share of that jackpot?

It’s spring and I can’t think of a better time to clean out the drawers, closets and disaster areas that your family members are always complaining about. You need to turn that clutter into cash.

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The first thing you need to do is choose the dates. Check all kinds of calendars to make sure your sale won’t hit the same weekend as a community event, holiday weekend or Aunt Ethel’s 80th birthday party. Assume that no matter what time of day you select to open your sale, people will show up at 6:00am. That’s just the way it is, so be prepared. Those early birds are the pros, so be ready.

Next, choose the location and remember that a tidy sales area will be key to your success. And don’t forget to check local ordinances. Some cities require a permit to hold a garage sale. Police officers in your driveway probably won’t attract the kind of customers you’re looking for. Find out the rules ahead of time. Read more

 

Dear Cheapskate: My wife and I are having a disagreement. I want to lease a new car now because ours is old and paying for repairs is like flushing money down the drain. She wants to keep it until we can afford to buy a better car. I hate car trouble and think peace of mind is something to be considered. I’m sure we can afford the payment but she’s not. What should we do? James R., Alabama

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Dear James: I’d rather shove toothpicks under by fingernails than ever lease a new car again, which is a story for another time but enough about me. Here’s my advice to you: Do whatever you must to keep the old car running for now. But  for the next 12 months live as though you are making $300 monthly lease payments–but make those payments to yourselves. Don’t even think about being late, just as if you were under a stern leasing contract. At the end of a year will have two things: A good idea of your comfort zone for big lease payments and $3,600 cash. Now you’ve got options. You can sell the clunker and together with the cash buy a better used car or you can make a down payment on a newer car. To me buying a car is far better than jumping into a lease where you will spend a fortune and have nothing, not even a car, to show for it at the end of the lease period.

Thanks for writing and for calling me “Cheapskate.” I love that because, as you may know, I used to be a world-class spendthrift and that nearly ruined my life. Learning to live frugally turned my life around so I wear that cheapskate moniker with pride and joy.  Read more

 

To the person drowning in debt, a debt-consolidation loan looks a lot like a lifesaver. But reaching for it without knowing exactly what it’s made of could be a serious mistake.

The way it’s supposed to work: You pay off all your small high-interest consumer debts with the proceeds of a new low-interest loan whose payment is less than the total of the smaller payments.

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In theory, consolidation is a terrific solution for a burdensome debt situation. In reality, it can force you into even more treacherous waters. Read more