How To Protect Your Child From Identity Theft

This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

More than 1 million children were victims of identity theft or fraud last year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. ONE MILLION last year alone and two-thirds of those victims were 7 years old or younger. I was shocked to learn these statistics, mostly because I hadn’t really heard much about child identity theft. Why is so little said about this important topic if it’s so prevalent? I wanted to share some information today in hopes that it would help shine a light on this digital safety concern.

How does child identity theft happen?

Every day, more and more social security numbers for children are sold on the dark web. As parents we try to safeguard our children’s social security numbers (like we do our own) but they still can end up in the wrong hands when we provide them to places that request them like schools, sports, and camps. Personally, I always ask if it’s necessary to write down my child’s social security number in the space provided on forms and, more often than not, I’m told not to worry about it. I wish those places would just remove that request from their forms if it’s not needed!

Why is child identity theft such a growing problem?

Child identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes and such an issue because this type of theft can go undetected for years. Parents tend to check their credit often but do not think to do so for their child’s credit because they know their child hasn’t taken out loans, gotten credit cards, or done anything else that would impact their credit. It’s not until the child becomes a young adult and attempts to apply for a car loan or tries to open a credit card and gets denied that they even look at their credit. If someone else used their identity they have to deal with unravelling years and years of defaulted accounts. On top of that, tracking down the person who used their social security number can be an impossible task all those years later.

What can parents do to protect their children?

One of the best things that parents can do for their child’s future financial well-being is monitor their credit now, while their child is young. Parents can get copies of their child’s credit report but that will only detect some types of identity fraud and doesn’t help avoid the headache-inducing frustration of trying to stop identity theft if it’s discovered. Thankfully, there are services like Identron that do all the work for you.

What is Identron?

The Identron identity protection plans offered by Identity Protection Planning are hands down the most comprehensive plans, especially when it comes to family coverage, on the market. Identron monitors your family’s personal information in many ways and also makes sure that none of your personal information is being sold on the dark web. All the plans are bottom line a 1-million-dollar insurance policy and have US based identity recovery experts available to help in the event they are needed. You can see all the plans here but the benefits Identron plans offer include:

As parents it is our job to protect our kids and, nowadays, this includes safeguarding their identities. The Identron plans give parents peace-of-mind knowing that they are protecting their child’s identity from theives who seek to use the child’s personal information for their own benefit.

Teaching Teens To Make Smart Money Choices

This article was sponsored by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001. All opinions are those of the author.

Earlier this week I had the privilege of attending Chicago’s FutureSmart event. This event, part of a series of events in cities across the country, was hosted by MassMutual in partnership with local NBA teams and actor/author Hill Harper to help bring financial education to middle school and high school students. Chicago’s event was held at the iconic United Center and, as I stood in the middle of the court waiting for students to fill the seats, I thought about my own money journey.

I had been raised in an upper middle class family in the Chicago suburbs and, for the most part, had a great childhood. But, while I had a good childhood, there was one thing that wasn’t really discussed as I was growing up and that was money.Yes, I was taught basic concepts like saving money, but it didn’t go beyond that. We could afford to attend sporting events, take vacations, and had all our needs and most of our wants taken care of. I saw my dad making the money and my mom spending it and it often seemed like money was unlimited. There was never a time when I heard “we can’t afford that” and, though as a kid that seemed great, I’d learn years later that things weren’t always as financially easy on my parents as it looked.

But before that giant money secret was learned I continued the patterns of spending I had seen modeled growing up and ruined my credit before I even turned 25. I was left with an empty bank account and nothing to show for it but a wardrobe filled with the latest fashions that would soon be out of date. My mindset about money had to change and I had to learn how to handle the little I had in a more mature way. It has taken almost a decade to shift my mindset and become a better steward of the money I make and I feel like talking about money growing up may have saved me from making some of these mistakes and given me the skills to handle money as a young adult. (Not to say my parents were to blame because they aren’t- I was an adult. However I think having more knowledge about financial issues may have been beneficial.)

Because of my history with money, I am an advocate of financial education for kids so when MassMutual asked me to partner with them it was an enthusiastic “yes!”. Though I believe financial education has to start in the home, just 43 percent of parents describe themselves as ‘well prepared’ for money conversations (and some might be struggling to make smart money choices themselves). That is why it is vital that schools and the community take a role in this teaching as well. By the time adolescents reach middle school, they have already developed the capacity to understand complex economic concepts, make financial judgments, and assign value to purchases and brands. Yet the majority of today’s schoolchildren are not receiving the personal finance education they need to navigate the modern financial world. According to MassMutual, only 1 in 4 millennials in the US can correctly answer basic financial wellness questions. This is a problem.

I love the FutureSmart program because it gets kids excited to learn financial concepts. Hill Harper (most well-known for his roles in CSI: NY and The Good Doctor) spent about an hour talking with students from Chicago Public Schools. I could immediately tell that he was passionate about teaching financial literacy to these kids. Along with sharing his story, teens were also given five money smart challenges which were: to learn about financial concepts, create a blueprint and plan their life, talk with their family about money, think before they spend, and to open a student savings account.

In addition to Harper, kids heard from Bill Wennington, a retired Bulls basketball player. The two talked about saving money and the importance of education. They also spoke about the many dreams of teens wanting to be ball players when they grow up and the realities of professional sports. To encourage continued education, they pointed out that most basketball players are bankrupt within five years of retiring and that the top CEOs in our country make a lot more than basketball players do.

Teens also enjoyed the antics of Benny the Bull, a DJ playing the hottest tracks, and performances from the IncrediBulls and the Bulls Flippers Trampoline Team. Learning about money was never this fun when I was younger!

What I love most of all about this FutureSmart program though, is that this wasn’t just a one time thing for these students. The FutureSmart program is continued in the classrooms for the rest of the year so the teens that attended the event can continue to learn money smart skills.

The program is bigger than just these live events, too. MassMutual has a goal to reach 2 million students and their families by 2020. Along with these live events they host, they offer FutureSmart classroom and digital curriculums along with the FutureSmart app for today’s busy student.The digital course is available for FREE to teachers and school staff and makes learning about money fun for youth.

You can learn more about the FutureSmart program here. If you have a middle school student I encourage you to talk to your child’s school about this program. Financial literacy is so important and this program makes it easy to teach kids money smart concepts!

Do you discuss money topics in your home?


Help Kids Learn How To Handle Money Wisely

This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

When I was growing up I wasn’t taught much about money and, as a result, I struggled with money issues through my college and early adult years. Because of this, it’s really important to me that my boys learn how to handle money. I don’t want them going through the same money struggles that I did! From saving it to spending it wisely, the earlier that children learn how to be smart with their money the better off they will be.

One financial learning tool I discovered is The Piggy Bank Book, a resource designed to help kids slow down, filter out the noise, and figure out what they really want. By tracking their money, your child will be encouraged to save and take pride in what they’ve accomplished.

It only takes five minutes a week to work through the ledger pages, and it will have a life long impact on how your child spends money.

Spending time working with the Piggy Bank Book will teach your child to thoughtfully purchase instead of mindlessly consume. They will develop a healthy spending habit to take with them into adulthood.

To get The Piggy Bank Book into as many little hands as possible they are running a Kickstarter. Join me in raising money to make sure that children learn the skills they need to make them financially responsible adults. Find more details and pledge to help here.


One Way To Earn Extra Money For Holiday Shopping

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

The holiday season is quickly approaching and we all know what that means… extra expenses! Between gifts, donating to charity, food, entertaining friends & family, and decorations this is, by far, the most expensive season of the year. No matter how many times you convince yourself to try to put money aside for the holiday budget, life gets in the way and that doesn’t always happen. If you are looking for ways to increase your holiday budget I have a simple and fun idea to earn some extra cash!

We all love to share our opinions, so why not get paid while doing it? Focus Pointe Global is a National Marketing Research Company with 18 facilities, with two located here in Chicago! They host paid focus groups, in-person interviews, taste tests, online communities and more for companies to better understand their target customers. By participating in these opportunities, you are able to share your opinions and experiences to improve products and even try new products before they are on the market. The best part is that you get paid for participating! Signing up for a focus group is quick and simple at Here, you can register and fill out details for your profile. The information from your profile will be used to help match you to a study on a topic that’s relevant to you.

Since many of you live in the Chicago area, I wanted to share some that are coming up soon. See what works for you and click the links below to apply!

Week of November 14th in Chicago:

  • It may be the season of giving, but don’t forget to take a minute to put yourself first! With this study on Health & Beauty they are looking for people ages 25-60 for a Paid Focus Group on Skin Health. You can earn $75 for 1 hour of your time, and if selected for a 90-minute breakout session, you can earn an additional $70. Find out if you qualify here:
  • With this study on Caffeinated Beverages, you can earn $75 for only 1 hour of your time and an additional $70 if you are chosen for a 90-minute breakout session. If you are between the ages of 25-54, sign up here:
  • Grocery shopping is definitely a big part of the holidays. If you are between the ages of 25-59, come and participate in this study! You can earn $75 for 1 hour, and if selected for a 90-minute breakout session, you can earn an additional $70! Apply here:

Week of November 28th in Chicago:

  • Focus Pointe Chicago is also looking for Moms ages 18-34, of babies ages 4-24 months, for a Paid Focus Group on Baby Food.  You could earn $75 for 1 hour of your time. Some participants may be asked to stay an additional 90 minutes and get compensated an extra $70.  Sign up here:

Have you ever participated in a focus group before? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

10 Tips For Saving Money On Kid’s Clothes

One of my favorite things to do is shop for kid’s clothes and I love finding great deals on things that make them look even cuter than they already are. Clothes purchases can be a large portion of your budget if you let them so I wanted to share ten of my favorite ways to save money on your kid’s wardrobe.

1) Shop garage sales during the warmer months (and use my tips below to get the best bargain)

I’ve been amazed at some of the deals I’ve scored at garage sales because people just want to get rid of their stuff. The best deal I found was outfits for a quarter! If you find a great sale with nice clothes but they are a little too pricey you can do one of two things. You can ask the person what day/time their sale ends and go back right before they are closing to get a better deal or you can give them your phone number and ask them to call you if they still have clothes leftover at the end of their sale. People are more likely to give you a bargain if the alternative is giving them away or putting them back in their basement for another year. Another way to save money is to ask for a discount on their prices if you are buying a number of items.

2) Shop the end of season clearance racks

The end of season clearance is the best way to score some great deals on brand new clothes. You will take a chance guessing on what size your child will be the following season so I’d buy one extra size up. Your child will either have clothes that fit or clothes that are a bit big and can be worn two seasons. I’d also suggest purchasing things that aren’t super trendy if your kids are older since trends change. Stick with basics for them like tshirts, athletic wear and pajamas.

3) Find clothes for free

If you are really in a bind trying to get clothes for your children, Freecycle is a great place to look. When I first had the boys we were struggling financially and I got the majority of their clothes from people giving them away for free. The majority of the clothes were wearable and some were even name brand (which didn’t matter that much at that point- I was just happy to have clothes for them).

4) Check local thrift stores

Thrift stores can be hit or miss. My favorite is Savers because I’ve found quality clothes at good prices there and they give back to charity. Goodwill is another well-known thrift store that I like to shop at and some even have clothes with tags on them. Our local Goodwill gets items donated from Target that they resell at a steep discount.

5) Get hand-me-downs from family 

If you have family with children of the same gender you can always ask for hand-me-downs. We were lucky enough to get some hand-me-downs of my nephews who was about a year older than Jacob. Make sure to check if they will want them back and if so, mark the tags of the items so you know which ones are theirs.

6) Use an online consignment site

There is nothing better than being able to shop from the comfort of your couch. I love selling on Swap and also just recently learned about Vinted Kids. Both sites I’ve worked with in the past and you can see my reviews here- Swap and Vinted Kids.

7) Swap with friends

If you are in a local parenting group you can always see if anyone is up for participating in a clothing swap. Everyone can donate clothes to the swap that their children have grown out of and then you can get the items you need. To make it fair for everyone, one item has to be donated to the group for every item taken. My local moms group has bins for younger children that they pass around.

8) Check the outlet malls

I was surprised to find that outlet stores have the same on trend items and seasonal offerings that their main stores do, just at a fraction of the price. Before shopping at a store in your local mall check out their outlet location to see if you can find what you are looking for there.

9) Buy basics for cheap at the big box stores

The best places to shop for basics are Walmart and Target. I love buying plain sweatpants and sweatshirts for the boys at Walmart because they are usually less than $5 each. I make sure to keep a set for each of them in the car in case of cold evenings or when they need a change of clothes due to spills.

10) Shop at discount stores

Discount stores like TJ Maxx, Ross Dress for Less and Marshalls often sell name brand items at amazing prices. They usually have a great selection as well which makes shopping easy.

What are your tips for saving on your children’s clothes?



Get Paid To Participate In Focus Groups Or Test Products

The following is a sponsored post from Focus Pointe Global that I’m sharing in hopes that it can help someone :)

For moms, it can be tough to make extra money and, as expenses pile up, opportunities can be really hard to come by. One way to earn extra money is by registering to participate in focus groups. One of the top companies conducting opinion research is Focus Pointe Global, a national company with 2 locations in the Chicago area – Downtown, and in Oak Brook, IL. They have an interactive website for their panel members at, where you can quickly register and fill out your profile. Participating in a focus group or product test is a fun and easy way to earn some extra spending money – from $75 to $250 for only a couple of hours of your time talking about topics such as children, pets, food products, and more!

See below for upcoming studies and check out or add them on Facebook at Focus Pointe Chicago for more upcoming studies!

Week of September 21st:

* Topic: Skin Care. Respondents: Nurses and others working in the Medical Field. Incentive: $250. Duration: 2 Hours. Link:

* Topic: Education. Respondents: Parents of Students in 11th/12th grade, Students in 11th/12th grade. Incentive: $100. Duration: 2 Hours. Link:


Week of September 28th:

* Topic: Beverages. Respondents: Men and Women ages 25-55. Incentive: $100. Duration: 90 Minutes. Link:

* Topic: Pet Food. Respondents: Pet owners Ages 21-65. Incentive: $70. Duration: 1 Hour. Link:

Illinois Residents: Reclaim Your Money

(Disclosure: This post is sponsored but all thoughts are my own.)

Have you ever found money in a pocket of your coat, or the bottom of your purse, that you had forgotten was there? Isn’t that a great feeling?

Now imagine for a minute that it was $10, $100 or even $1,000! Wouldn’t that be amazing? There are hundreds of people every day that get that surprise when they discover money through the Illinois Treasurer’s I-Cash program. The program, founded in 1999, helps Illinois residents recover their unclaimed assets.

The state is currently safeguarding more than $2 billion in cash and 20 million shares of stock and mutual funds that need to be returned. These assets are transferred to the Treasury after banks, government agencies, and other companies become unable to return them to their rightful owners. The I-Cash website is a free and easy way for people to discover if they have cash or other assets to recover.

As soon as I heard about this program I looked up my last name in the database. I didn’t find anything but I did find some money that was a family member’s marked “accounts payable” and another family member had $100 from an insurance company that was owed to her. I then looked up my mom’s name and found she had $10 owed to her marked “Misc Intangible Property”.  When I told my mom she said she’d probably spend the money on a few of her favorite coffee drinks. (Hopefully she’d treat me to one, too!)

With more than 13 million names in the I-Cash database, one in four Illinois adults who search the website discover property to claim. The average claim is about $1000, while the highest claim was more than $8 million in 2012. $8 MILLION dollars to one person. Could you have hundreds or even thousands owed to you? You never know until you check!





Discover it Miles® Card: Summer Travel

Thank you Discover for sponsoring this post! Click here to learn more about the amazing rewards and benefits of the Discover it Miles® credit card.

Summer is a time for leisure and a worry free life.  As a family we love traveling in the warmer months, exploring quaint little towns and large cities alike. We go on quite a bit of road trips to towns within a few hours of Chicago and also have enjoyed traveling to the Caribbean.

No matter where you go or what you do with your family the goal is to have fun. In today’s world, traveling brings worries of losing your credit cards and being stranded in unfamiliar locations. Nothing can ruin a vacation faster than being broke.

One card that helps people avoid this hassle is the new Discover it Miles® Card. Besides giving you rewards for travel, Discover has a great 24/7 protection plan and awesome benefits. The Discover it Miles® card features include a no annual fee and miles that never expire. Fly any airline, any time. Just buy a ticket and use miles to credit your statement. My wife loves to plan ahead so having reward miles is great for anyone who loves to plan a perfect vacation.

So take time to travel, see the great sites and tourist attractions. As an introductory offer, Discover it Miles card members will now receive double the amount of miles they’ve earned at the end of their first year – with no spending cap. That gives travelers using the Discover it Miles card the opportunity to determine for themselves the amount of bonus miles they receive in that first year. And even better, Discover It Miles card members can redeem miles at any amount for cash, or as a statement credit toward their travel purchases, including commercial airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, commuter transportation and taxicabs. As a Father that loves to spoil his kids during travel I like the ability to cash in the rewards and get them prizes.

Discover is ranked “highest in customer satisfaction with credit card companies” by J.D. Power. With all the benefits and protection it is clear to see why. There are no fees on foreign transactions which is a big deal and gives members the opportunity to discover little towns or big cities anywhere.

Discover can be used anywhere, and even visits to smaller places, like water parks and zoos, can earn you rewards. Buying gas to travel will not seems so expensive while using Discover either. Summer activities will be fun and you will feel confident when using your Discover card.

It is 80 degrees out today. Take a 10 minute ice cream break with the family or take an overnight getaway. Enjoy the fun the summer brings. Keep up with our family and discover what adventures we find.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Two Websites Moms Can Use To Make Hundreds Online

Whether you are looking to make a full time income, or just want to make enough to have some fun money, the internet has a lot to offer. The majority of our family’s income comes from the online work we do specifically related to blogging and social media but since I realize that blogging isn’t for everyone, I wanted to share two of the non-blogging related sites I use to make money. While you aren’t going to become a millionaire, I definitely think using these two sites can benefit your family’s finances.

1. Sell your kid’s stuff on I’ve talked about this site before on the blog (read my review here) and I have to say that this is by far my favorite non-blog related way to make money.  Not only do I make enough to cover a couple of utility bills every month with the money I earn from swap, but I also get to clear out all the outgrown clothes and shoes that are crowding up the boy’s closet. I haven’t even started sending in toys my boys don’t play with anymore so I expect the income I make from the site to go up even more once I start doing that. They also accept maternity clothes and will soon be accepting women’s clothing so it might be a way to easily sell all your clothes you don’t want anymore.

2. Search using Skip google and use the Swagbucks search tool. Doing so will give you the chance to get “bucks” which you can exchange for gift cards, paypal cash and a variety of other things. You can also get “bucks” for watching videos, taking surveys, shopping online, and more. While this site makes me less than brings in, I love that using this tool is so easy. I have earned a few hundred in gift cards doing something that took only a little bit of extra time.

Have any questions about either of these sites? I’m happy to answer any you may have so you can get started making money today!



How To Make Money Pet Sitting With DogVacay

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.)

There is nothing better than getting paid to do something you are passionate about. If you love animals, and have been looking for a creative way to earn money, I have something really exciting to share about today. You can work as a dog sitter and get paid to cuddle with cute puppies! Seriously.

One service I recently learned about is called DogVacay. DogVacay is an online community that connects dog owners with over 20,000 vetted and insured pet sitters across North America. All reservations include free pet insurance, 24/7 customer support, and daily photo updated of the pets enjoying a “Vacay” of their own. Pet owners can finally travel with peace of mind — at prices half the price of the local kennel!

Here’s how it all works for those who want to use the service for their pets:

  • Simply type in your zip code and find a PAWesome sitter in your neighborhood.
  • Schedule a meet ‘n greet to meet your Host, then book your pup’s Vacay and pay online.
  • You can now travel knowing your pup is having the time of his life in a loving home with one on one attention!
  • Receive photo “pup”dates showing how much fun your pup is having, and rest assured knowing each Vacay is covered with free pet insurance and 24/7 customer care.
Want to become a host on the DogVacay site? Hosting pups on DogVacay is a low stress, flexible way to do what you love and earn a little money at the same time. It’s easy, simply create a free profile, set your own rates, decide which dogs to take and when to take them. DogVacay does the rest!

Such an easy way to earn some extra money to pay for school, travel or put some money in savings! If you use the service, let me know how you liked it. I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below :)

Realizing That Cheap Isn’t Always The Best Option

My motto used to be “whatever is cheapest” when it came to expenses. I’d go to the grocery store and get the cheapest cut of meat, I’d shop at stores that sold $5 shirts and I chose restaurants for date nights by what was the most inexpensive or that I had a coupon for. This motto even extended into things that were important, like the cost of my health insurance.

When it was open enrollment time at my job I would look at all my options and pick whichever one was cheapest. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t the best option or didn’t provide the best coverage for my needs. I just focused on which option had the smallest out of pocket deductible.

Then suddenly, when I turned 30, I started realizing that “whatever is cheapest” was a horrible motto. I realized that I did not want the cheapest cut of steak that was hard to chew. I realized that shirts that were only $5 were a waste of my hard earned money and spending more on quality clothes just made sense. I also realized, that when it was time for date night, I wanted to enjoy the {very} rare treat of going out without kids and go to places that were not so kid-friendly while I had the chance.

This realization also was clear when it came time to review my health insurance policy. As a mom it was my job to make sure that I had the coverage I needed. I started taking time to go through each option, weigh the pros and cons, and consider what was best for my family beyond just how much each plan cost at first glance.

The two major options were to go with a low deductible but higher payment per paycheck or to go with a high deductible but lower payment per check. In the past I always went with the low deductible because the large four digit deductible scared me. That was a lot of money to have to come up with at one time and not a possibility in my 20s.

A couple years ago, I actually did the math and realized that I paid so much in the monthly payments out of fear of the high deductible, that I ended up spending almost as much as the deductible would have been. It was broken up into bi-weekly payments instead of a big chunk of money but, in the end, the totals were similar. The downside was that we used our health insurance so little and now that money I made in payments is gone and if I had went with the other option I would still have that money.

I realized that it just made financial sense to go with the high deductible. I had been spending more money each month than I needed to and it was just basically disappearing. In the end I chose a plan with a low bi-weekly payment but a much higher deductible and put money aside in a savings account each month to pay the deductible if needed.

How much time do you spend comparing your policies? The 2014 Aflac Open Enrollment Survey found that 41 percent of employees spent 15 minutes or less researching their benefit options during the 2013 open enrollment season; and nearly a quarter (24 percent) spent five minutes or less. Turns out those were costly mistakes because Aflac discovered nearly 42% of workers waste up to $750 each year on their insurance benefits.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

How To Save Money On Your Heating Bills This Winter

Thanks to Direct Energy for sponsoring this post.

It is snowing in parts of the Chicago area this morning. SNOWING! On October 4th! That combined with reports that this winter is going to be even colder than last winter does not make me very happy.

To be honest, we keep our house very warm in winter. Like 80 degrees warm. Last winter’s heating bill was crazy and I’ve vowed that this winter is not going to be like that. We need to curb spending in this area so I’ve come up with a few ways we are going to do that.

First, we are going to turn the thermostat down a bit. This is a given. We just have to wear more clothes in the house, including heavy socks so our feet stay warm on the hardwood floors.

Moving into a home with a fireplace means that we will be able to rely on the warmth of the wood burning fireplace in the winter time. Having a fire going on the days we are home all day means that the room we spend most of our time in will stay warmer throughout the day. I’m also excited for family game nights, drinking hot cocoa with a cozy fire going.

When I was growing up I remember we had this long “snake” in front of doors to keep out the drafts. I plan to make one for our back slider in our home so the cold air doesn’t get in or the hot air escape. Here is a great tutorial I found online to make one.

Our home also has new insulation in the attic to keep the heat from escaping through the roof. This costs money up front but over time will save you money on your heating bills. If you have skylights make sure the heat isn’t escaping from them, too! We have a plastic wrap covering the skylight area which lets sunlight in but keeps the heat from rising.

Another way I’ve been learning about to keep the heating bill down is to install a smart thermostat, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat. Smart thermostats offer you climate control, the convenience of programming away from home, and more. I’d love to be able to turn the thermostat down while I’m out and then when I’m on my way home, turn the heat back up all from my smartphone. Their 24 or 36 month Comfort & Control Plans provide a fixed rate price stability and you get a Nest Learning Thermostat (a $249 value) at no cost to you.

Want to know more about Direct Energy and the Nest Learning Thermostat? You can learn all about it and enter for a chance to win one of five Nest Thermostats here.

How To Use To Sell Clothes Your Children Have Outgrown

Disclosure: This post was written in exchange for trying out their service in which I was sent some clothing from the site. All other use of the site was done on my own and fees paid for by myself. All thoughts are my own as always.

(Update 7/29/17- I NO LONGER RECOMMEND SELLING ON SWAP.COM. They changed the % people can make off of their sales again and it’s ridiculously low. Items that are $10 or less only give the seller a profit of 20% of that. Seeing as most items I’ve sold have been in this price bracket, I would have only netted 20% of the selling price had this been in place. (For example, selling something for $9 previously would have netted me about $6.50 after all their fees. Under their new payouts I would have only received $1.80 from a $9 sale) Plus now they have a lot of other things you could get dinged for which they give you a fine for and take that out of your overall payout. I’m really dissapointed because I really LOVED selling on swap and recommended it to everyone but now I can’t.)

(Update 9/4/16- Terms of service have changed at as of 9/1. This post refers to their old pricing model which had made me quite a bit of money and I recommended to every one. I have loved this service for the past couple years but I am not sure if I’d recommend it anymore with the new changes they have in place. Since this post gets many views daily still, I’m testing out their new terms (on my own) and will update this post in a few months with my thoughts on if I still recommend it. Swap has raised the amount they take from sales and their price to send items in but my biggest concern is their sureprice model which lowers the amount you are selling your items for automatically after 60 days. Their “suresell” rates previously have been ridiculous with what they had offered to buy it for (though you never had to accept it- you could keep the item for sale) so I’m not sure if their sureprice rate (which you can’t opt out of) will be similar or will be higher. If they lower rates to a lot lower than you have on there it might not be worth it. They say it’s to help sell your items faster but I’d rather get the best price possible than sell for super cheap like I’d get at a garage sale or the local Once Upon A Child.)

I’ve tried many things over the years to get rid of the clothes my children have outgrown, all of which have taken a lot of time or made me no money. Countless hours were spent tagging items for group sales and then spent lugging the items to the sale. Selling on ebay, craigslist and Facebook garage sale type groups included a lot of time spent taking pictures and grouping items in lots, corresponding with buyers and paying shipping fees. Consignment shops offered me very little or they were only taking certain seasons of clothes. Donating is great and I love being able to help others but it doesn’t help me buy clothes to replace those they’ve outgrown.

I kept researching online because I knew there had to be something better. There is. I’m happy to be working with to share about their service and have spent my own money so that I can share about the selling process with you as well. I read a lot of blog posts about people buying from but couldn’t find much about using the site to sell clothes so I’m focusing on the selling process for this post.

I was allowed to pick out some clothes which I received free of charge to share my honest opinions about the service. Once I received them I was encouraged because I could see the site was legit and the clothes were as they were shown to be online. The site also has a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all items.

I decided to try the selling process when I received one of’s newsletters and saw that there was a code for free shipping. I ordered a box and sent some clothes in. The clothes can be sold or swapped for other items you need.

A few days later I received an email that my clothes were listed online. This is my favorite part about the service since they photograph AND post each item (or set) for me. Once they put the items online I got to go in and price my items. I priced my items for more than I’d get at a garage sale but for less than what they’d be at a consignment shop.

I should note here that you can send in other baby/kid/maternity items, including toys, sports gear, books, decor and more. If you don’t have a code for free shipping you will have to pay a small fee to send in your items (about $9/large box) but this includes shipping to the warehouse, the people at photographing/listing your items, 9 months of free storage and then all details of selling your item. There is a fee when your items sell as well but overall, even once shipping and the selling fee are taken into account, I still am making much more than I’d make at a garage sale and there is very little work on my end. In the past month I’ve sent a couple more boxes in and have sold 16 items and made $59 so far. Most sales I’ve made have actually been done while I’ve been sleeping or working. It’s such an easy process!

Another cool thing about the service is that offers a “sure sell guarantee” which means anything they accept that isn’t sold or swapped in 45 days, they will buy from you. My items have only been listed for a month so I haven’t discovered what they offer yet but they say it’s up to 30% of the item’s average new retail value. You are also free to ship back to yourself or continue listing on the site for free for a 9 month period.

Have you used to sell your children’s old things? I’d love to hear about your experience!

10 Mistakes To Avoid When Saving For Retirement

The following is a guest post from the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council.

Whether you’re a working mom or stay-at-home with the kids, saving for retirement can often be put on the back burner. Between staying on budget and wanting to build college funds, finding a little extra to invest in your retirement can be a daunting task. Moms are usually the driving force in the household when things need to get done. Here are some tips for moms to avoid these common retirement planning mistakes when they’re considering their financial future.

Biggest mistakes when saving for retirement:

1.Waiting to save.

Start saving early so your money has time to grow. If you’re worried about sticking to your budget, start small. Even $20 a week can go a long way over time, and when your budget allows, contribute more.

2. Failing to plan.

It is important to understand expenses for the type of lifestyle you want, so you can save enough money. Figure out what your retirement goals are, and start planning your retirement finances now. There are helpful interactive calculators that can help you determine how much you will need in retirement.

3. Saving for college before retirement.

Moms want the best for their children, but there are many factors when deciding which savings take priority. Consider this: Your kids have access to loans and scholarships to help pay for college, but if you don’t save enough money for retirement, you may not be able to afford your expenses.* You could also have separate savings for college and retirement, and contribute to both. Even if you’re contributing less to each than you would like, the longer the money is in the account, the more the interest will accumulate.

4. Retiring with a lot of debt.

Find a way to pay down or pay off consumer, student loan, and mortgage debt before you retire. These recurring payments will be harder to make when you’re on a fixed income.

5. Relying on Social Security.

Your Social Security benefits are a valuable source of income during retirement, but with an average benefit of just $1,237,** it is unlikely that Social Security will be able to cover all your retirement expenses. Before you retire, visit to find out what benefits you should plan for.

6. Failing to research options to increase your savings.

The key to growing your retirement fund is balancing risk and reward. Look into different options and how they could fit your retirement goals. If you want a low-risk option, check out fixed indexed annuities (FIAs) at Market-driven options like mutual funds or securities have higher risk, but also the potential to really increase your savings. You can research a variety of retirement plans here.

7. Individualizing your accounts.

If financial assets are in one account under one name, it may be hard to access those funds in the event of a family death. Having joint retirement accounts will protect you, your family, and your finances in the event of an unexpected death.***

8. Using your retirement funds before retiring.

Let the money in your retirement fund grow, and if you need money earlier, consider other sources. It is harder to save the closer you get to retirement, and many retirement accounts have steep penalties for withdrawing early.

9. Failure to plan for taxes.

Keep in mind that you will still have to pay taxes after leaving the workforce. Plan ahead so you’ll have enough money to pay your taxes as well as enjoy your retirement.

10. Depending on a specific retirement age.

You may plan to work until you’re 65, but sometimes unexpected circumstances alter your retirement plans. That is why it is important to start saving for retirement early, so you won’t be short of your retirement goals if you are unable to work earlier than expected.


*Source: US News & World Report

**Source: Social Security Administration

***Source: USA Today

Saving Money At The Grocery Store

(Disclosure: This is a compensated post but all thoughts are my own.)

I wrote a couple weeks ago about how I was cutting down on expenses to save money. I had a list of 8 things I was doing in the month of January and one of them was to eat less fast food and more of the leftovers we had in the fridge. Trying to pinch every penny, I have been looking into saving on food even more. Ideally I’d love to find out how to provide my family with quality food but just find a more cost efficient way to do so.

I checked out the Illinois Farm Families blog to learn more about healthy eating and shopping for food. Some of the posts were written by moms I know so I knew I could trust what they wrote. I was really interested in food labeling since food that is “better for you” is often more expensive. I wanted to see if I was really getting what I paid for.

The first article I came upon was called Five Misleading Food Labels and had one key line that stuck out to me:

I know that if I was comparing two products next to each other I’d probably choose the one that was labeled “no _____” on it but the one next to it could be free of whatever the other label claimed as well. No reason to pay extra for the one with a special label if they both are free from the same thing.

The next article I read was from a mom who toured the Dean’s Plant. From this article I discovered that the milk in my grocery store’s dairy case is all the same. Why am I paying more for a gallon of milk labeled “Dean’s” when it is just the same as the milk that is sold under the store’s label. Yay for saving money on something we buy tons of!

Another thing I read about was a store that I’d consider a “discount” food store and all of the guidelines they have about freshness (read the article here). It made me rethink where I get my groceries and the fact that I can find quality food for cheaper prices. I will be checking out all of my local grocery stores and seeing where I can find good deals while still maintaining the quality of food that I want.

So excited to be able to cut our food budget down. What other tips do you have for me when it comes to saving money at the grocery store?

8 Ways My Family Is Saving Money This Month

This year we are trying to save as much money as we can. We’ve spent the past couple of weeks changing some spending habits and brainstorming creative ways to cut costs without feeling like we are going without. I thought some of these ideas may help another family so I wanted to share them with you all and if you have more ideas I’d love for you to leave a comment below so I can try some new ideas out next month.

1) Turn the heat down. We turned the heat down two degrees and are snuggling under more blankets and pulling out the slippers. Since we keep it so warm in our home I hope to turn down the temp by a couple more degrees next month.

2) Cut out the expensive coffee drinks. {Okay, so this month it’s more like drink less of them instead of cut them out completely…one step at a time here…} I still like Iced Coffee so I’ve been drinking International Delight coffee I can buy from the grocery store. It’s not the same as my favorite Starbucks drinks but it is only $3 or $4 for a whole carton as opposed to $5+ for one drink.

3) Enjoy more time at home. We’d love to go to the movies and see Frozen but we are waiting until it comes out on DVD. We are also enjoying family night in our tv room playing board games instead of going places that cost money.

4) Ask for discounts on monthly costs. Check to see if there are discounts or specials you can get from your utility companies or any other companies you pay monthly. Our cable company was running a special for digital cable and we are getting the same amount of channels, faster internet and saving over $30 per month just by switching our modem. Over the course of a year that is an extra $360 we will have saved just on one of our expenses.

5) Save on gas by driving less. I work from home but Sinisa drives an hour to work and back every day. We can’t do anything about the money spent on gas to work but we have been trying to limit driving to places we need to go and combining errands together in the same trips.

6) Eat less fast food and more leftovers. Fast food and quick meals are a big expense for us (not to mention an unhealthy habit). Working so much it’s so easy to have Sinisa grab something on his way home but I’ve been keeping our money goal in mind and finding food in our pantry and fridge to eat. I am horrible about having leftovers in my fridge and letting them go to waste as well so I’ve been making it a point to eat leftovers whenever I can.

7) Turn lights off when not in the room. This is something I always heard when I was a kid and a rule that was so easy to break unintentionally. Not sure how much money it will save us but every little bit helps right?

8) Stay out of stores and off Amazon. Somehow I always manage to go into Target with a short list and come out with a cart full. I’ve always been a shopper and the only way I can guarantee I won’t buy anything I don’t need is if I stay out of the stores. This might sound extreme but if Sinisa can go to the store and get what we need and I don’t have to then why tempt myself with Target’s dollar section or that delicious looking dessert in the bakery section? When I do go into the store the key will be sticking to my list.


Stretch Your Holiday Budget

I am excited to be working with Coinstar this holiday season to share how you can stretch your budget without having to sell anything or get a second job. Wondering what it is? Search your home for coins! I couldn’t believe the change I found in the washing machine, on my closet floor, and under the couch!

In a recent survey, Coinstar found that, on average, consumers estimate they have a little more than $26 in spare change, but according to Coinstar’s nationwide kiosk data, the average amount that customers convert to a NO FEE eCertificate and/or gift card when they cash in their coins is $56 – more than double what survey respondents thought. Check out some of the other findings of the survey:

My family and I recently went to try out the Coinstar machine to see how easy it was to convert the change we’d found to usable money (because, really, who wants to hand a cashier a baggie of coins at the register with a line of people behind you?)

I love the Coinstar offers so many options for what we can do with our coins. We had the choice to turn them into cash, deposit them directly to our Paypal account, donate them to charity with their Coins that Count™ program, reload a prepaid debit card, or turn them into a gift card or e-certificate. I was surprised to find out that some of the options were even free to do!

We decided to turn our change into a Starbucks e-certificate because I love my Iced Caramel Macchiatos. I was worried at how the e-certificate worked because it was just a receipt with a card number and barcode but when I handed it over in the drive-thru the barista knew just what to do with it.

Want to find a Coinstar near you? Find the Kiosk locator here. How much money do you have lying around your home?

(Disclosure: As stated above, this is a sponsored post. I received compensation but all thoughts are my own.)

Make Money Online With Swagbucks {70 Bonus Sign-Up Points}

There is nothing better than earning money doing things you already do, like searching the internet. I’m partnering with Swagbucks to share about a great way you can earn money online. I use Swagbucks when I have to search {instead of Google} and I have earned over $100 in gift cards to Target just by using this site.

If you aren’t a member yet I encourage you to join! Enter the code “maketime4mom” when you sign up this month and you’ll get 70 points just for signing up (in addition to the 30 you get as you complete your profile). Earn more points by searching, filling out surveys, watching videos, answering polls and more.

You can redeem your points for thousands of rewards including PayPal cash and gift cards to Amazon, Walmart, Build-A-Bear, Nike and more! The reward store has something for everyone.

Sign up here and make sure to enter the special code above when you are registering by clicking the text that reads “I have a sign up code”. Please note, I’ll get points for referring you if you use my code.

What will you redeem your points for?

10 Unconventional Ways to Save Money‏

When we think of ultimate frugality, many unreasonable money-saving tactics come to mind. However, there are small, innovative steps you can incorporate into your lifestyle that can yield great results. Some of these tips are optimal for moderate savers who want to save without going to great lengths. The more extreme ideas are geared towards intense savers, looking for the next new way to cut back. The list below details 10 unconventional ways, including going to  professionals-in-training for services, freezing your stuff, and unplugging your appliances.

1. Go to Professionals-in-Training for Services

When it comes to services like hair trims, massages, or oral hygiene, there are plenty of students in training who provide them for a discounted price.Research local cosmetology institutions, dental schools, and other training centers and inquire about being a volunteer for student training purposes.

Typically these appointments are done with professional supervision, so the chance of you leaving unsatisfied is minimized, and you can walk away feeling good that you’ve helped a student get hands-on practice in their field.

2. Vow to Go On A Spending Fast

A spending fast, a term coined by Anna of And Then We Saved, is an extreme way of paying off debt, with guaranteed results. You can do your spending fast for whatever length of time you want, but the suggested length is a year. A spending fast cuts out any spending on leisure activities and wants. The idea is to cut these areas of your life solely to save money, only spending on necessary expenses such as utilities, doctor co-pays, gas, medicine, etc.Try it for a year and see how much you save (Anna paid off nearly $24K in debt in just 15 months).

3. Potty Train Your Cat

Potty train your fluffy little feline by training it to use the toilet instead of a litter box.

According to, the average cost of litter for one cat is $110 a year, which means that for the average domestic cat, whose life span is 15 years, you can save about $1,650.

You can purchase a kit on how to teach your cat to use the toilet for $20-$30.

4. Get Sponsored

Nowadays getting sponsored is easier than ever with crowdfunding. Using popular websites like Go Fund Me or Kickstarter, you can create a platform in which you can ask for money. Some examples of things you might ask for funding include a sick relative’s hospital bills, a business idea, or a personal goal of your own.One couple, Dave Kerpen and Carrie Fisher even took things a step further by using their marketing strategy to get a venue (courtesy of a baseball stadium), flowers (from 1-800-Flowers), and every single one of their wedding items for free. They put together their $100,000 dream wedding with the help of 25 different sponsors.

5. Get Permanent Makeup

According to one estimate, the average woman shells out $14,000 on makeup in her lifetime. We know. That’s nuts right? However, if you don’t want to shop exclusively the clearance section at the drugstore, you could always opt to get permanent makeup done. This technique is done by permanently pigmenting one’s eyelids, lips, and face. Procedures range from $200 to $800, and you would be risking allergic reaction and infection embarking down this journey. However, if you’re sure you’ll love one look for the rest of your life, the risk might be worth it.

6. Invest in a Cool Roof Option

Air conditioning constitutes nearly twenty percent of all electricity consumed in the U.S., so think about how much of your electricity bill is spent on cooling your home! Slash that in half, by simply opting for a white roof, and depending on your state’s policies, you may get a rebate and other incentives to install cool roof coatings. Head to EnergyStar to see the available cool roof options to choose from.

7. Shop Your Own Stash (Or Someone Else’s)

If you have a cluttered closet or makeup collection, weed out the things you never use, and rediscover old favorites. Make a commitment to cut back on buying new purchases. Other options include having a swap party — you and your 10 closest friends can bring in your unwanted items, or you can shop someone else’s closet. Check out your local Craigslist page and shopping the free section, or Freecycle, a grassroots movement of people who are giving away their little-used possessions for free

8. Freeze Your Stuff

Using your freezer, you can extend the life of many of your items. For example, wax candles burn longer when they’re frozen, and batteries are extended by 5 percent if alkaline, and 90 percent if nickel-metal hydride.Many seeds also last longer and germinate better when frozen, and even pantyhose is less likely to tear when frozen. Lastly, you can extend the shelf life of popcorn, spices, and coffee when frozen.

9. Take a Navy Shower

This method was introduced by the Navy, who invented it to make water rations last as long as possible.

Turn the water on just long enough to wet your body, then turn it off and soap up. After you’re nice and lathered, turn the water back on to rinse.This method uses a mere 11 gallons of water compared to the 60 gallons used in a typical shower!

10. Unplug Your Appliances

Standby electricity loss occurs when you leave items plugged in that you aren’t using.

For example, when you leave your house in the morning, the lamps, clocks, and phone chargers are probably still plugged in.Now, would you believe that standby electricity makes up about 5 percent of our electricity use?If you’re ready to save on your utilities, start by looking at this chart to see the average amount of power used by your plugged in devices.

(Guest post courtesy of Alex Matjancec, co-founder of, an independent resource that helps consumers make smarter banking and money decisions.)

6 Great Ways to Ensure You Save for Your Kids

With an uncertain economic future ahead, it is smart to budget and save for your children. The cost of their living expenses and education will continue to rise, so make sure you plan ahead by following a few tips.

Start Saving Early

You can start saving even when your child is a newborn. Set up a savings account in his or her name, and start contributing what you are able to. Even if it’s just a few dollars per month, over the years of your child’s life, this money will accrue interest. Some online savings accounts offer higher interest rates than traditional banks.  When your child is young, put any monetary gifts that he or she receives into the savings account.

College Savings Plans

Description: college

Image via Flickr by CollegeDegrees360

Many parents hope to pay for college expenses for their children, so you may want to look into a 529 savings plan. Many investors encourage parents to utilize this type of plan, since it accrues interest without taxes, and you won’t have to pay taxes on it as long as your child does use it to pay for tuition. There are a lot of options for flexibility, so this is a great option for those who plan to help with education.

Reduce Interest Rates

If you have a high interest rate on your mortgage, you can also save money by refinancing for a lower rate. Currently, rates are at all-time lows, so check out the different options available through AmeriSave on SlideShare and talk to an expert who will help you decide what is best. They pride themselves on high levels of customer service and ease of use.

Spend Less on the Next Child


Image via Flickr by docentjoyce

As your family continues to grow, save gently used items from the previous children. On average, a family might spend about $12,370 on a second child, but you can drastically reduce that amount by reusing clothing, bottles, high chairs, and other expensive essentials. You can also try to find and buy used items instead of buying brand new.

DIY and Cheaper Options

When your children are young, look at ways you can save money on the basics for them. Baby food costs around $1 per jar, but you can make your own with fresh foods and a food processor. You can store baby food in the freezer, which can save you hundreds of dollars over the first year. You might be tempted to spend less at a time on diapers by buying smaller packages, but do your research and determine a price per diaper. Then you can stock up when you find them on sale and save a lot of money.

Watch Your Family Budget

The last way to save for your children is to set up a reasonable budget and stick to it. Make sure all family members are on board, and utilize online tools to track spending and cut costs. If you find one area of spending that is difficult to cut back on, try to cut back in another area.

These tools will help you and your family prepare for the future, and rest easy knowing that you are doing the best you can to provide for your children.

(Guest post by Amanda.)

8 Tips To Save Money At The Zoo {And Brookfield Zoo Pictures}

We are lucky to have two large zoos and a handful of small ones in the Chicago area. Our favorite is Brookfield Zoo. Here are some of my favorite pictures from our first zoo trip of the summer (and ways we saved money while there):

Money Saving Tip #1: Brookfield Zoo has a dinosaur exhibit so instead of paying a lot in the gift shop for a souvenir, we picked up these dinosaur hats for just a couple dollars at Target.


Money Saving Tip #2: Pack a cooler with drinks and food. We packed our drinks, snacks and the boys lunches. My mom and I ate food from a snack shack at the zoo and we splurged on ice cream since it was so hot outside.


Money Saving Trip #3: Check into joining your local zoo, especially if you plan on going there often or are going to pay for attractions anyways. Our membership includes 4 tickets to the dino exhibit, 4 tickets to ride the tram, 4 tickets to the dolphin show, unlimited access to the Children’s area, free parking and guest passes. Once you pay for parking, it’s often cheaper to get a membership! Plus, zoo memberships often get you a discount on food and souvenirs.

Other ways to save?

#4: Look for coupons online.

#5: Check to see if your local library has any passes to local attractions (here in Chicago they do).

#6: If you are going to be purchasing a drink, look for refillable cups.

#7: Check to see if your zoo has free admission days.

#8: Enjoy a free show. A lot of times you can see zookeepers feeding animals or talking about animals around the park. These talks are free. Check the schedule at your local zoo.

How do you save money at the zoo?

3 Things Parents Must Teach Their Kids About Managing Money

(The following is a guest post. I’m sharing because I think they are great tips!)

As a father of five teenagers, it feels like all I do every day is teach my kids lessons. These lessons span a wide range of topics – from “how to treat others,” to “being a team player,” to “exude confidence not cockiness.” It has taken me years to determine the most important lessons pertaining to personal money management, which is one of the most important skills they need to learn.

With all the issues facing teenagers today, why do I say this? Three reasons:

1. Schools teach them absolutely nothing about personal money management.
2. The example set by our society is to spend more than they make (in other words, debt is good).
3. It is one of the most important skills they need to take into adulthood.

It is imperative to set the right example for your children when it comes to money management. In my book, “Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School? 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By” (, I discuss these lessons in a simple, memorable manner.

Here are what I consider every parent’s three “must teach” principles:

• Always live below your means. If you want to manage your money successfully, this is one of the most important principles to follow. And, this is where most Americans have gone, and will continue to go, wrong. People want to have everything … now. They just can’t wait until they can afford it. But you must wait until you can afford something before you buy it. If you make a habit of purchasing things you can’t afford, you will quickly begin a downward spiral that will continue until you go bankrupt. Plus, you’ll enjoy your purchase all the more.

If you always live below your means, you will always have extra money to save and invest. Over the years, your money will grow and you will find yourself with significant financial security. Keep in mind that living below your means doesn’t mean living badly. It means you prioritize your spending and focus on what is most important to you. It means “living smartly.”

• Develop a written budget and evaluate it every single month. People think this is painful but it’s actually quite simple. And it must be done. You can’t manage something you’re not tracking. And the concept is clear – more money must come in every month than goes out! I have a simple budgeting process that takes a half-hour every month and allows for the three most important parts to be completed: developing, tracking and analyzing. The analysis part is so important. Where did you spend too much? Where didn’t you spend as much? What else do you need to include next month? What is in your emergency fund? What are your financial goals for the next 12 months? And remember, you will always have tradeoffs!

• Save and invest 50 percent of every salary increase. This is an easy principle that requires a little discipline. Think about it; you were living on your old salary before you got a raise. You can have the best of both worlds. You’re still going to live better, but why not invest some for your future? Most people don’t do this because they get behind in the first place. They start by spending more money than they make in the first place. You just can’t do that. If you employ this principle, you will be shocked at how well you do financially over time.

Ninety-five percent of adults don’t follow these principles because they’ve been told that debt is OK and they’re trying to keep up with the Joneses (who, by the way, are bankrupt)! I’ve told my teenagers (and my nephews who are in their 20’s), if they always follow these three basic principles, they will become extremely adept at personal money management.

Take the time to talk with your children about all the issues that confront them. Especially, take the time to discuss the issue of personal money management. From experience, we all know that it is an issue that has caused much pain to our generation.

    About the author:

Cary Siegel is a retired business executive. After earning his MBA from the University of Chicago, he began his career in brand management with Kraft and went on to lead several companies in marketing and sales. He wrote “Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School? 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By,” for his five teenage children. Following his personal money management principles allowed him to retire at the age of 45. Siegel is a popular speaker on both marketing and personal money management. 

The True Cost Of Halloween {Infographic}

Saving For College {It’s Never Too Early To Start}

This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2012. For more posts about Saving & Investing see Saving and Investing Roundup. This is a guest post written by my dad, Bill, who does this for a living so he really knows what he is talking about!

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the tuition component of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 8% per year, on average, from 1979 to 2001. This means that children born today will face college costs that are 3 to 4 times current prices by the time they matriculate.

Parents should expect to pay at least half to two-thirds of their children’s college costs through a combination of savings, current income, and loans. Gift aid from the government, the colleges and universities, and private scholarships accounts for only about a third of total college costs.

Accordingly, it is very important that parents start saving for their children’s education as soon as possible, even as early as the day the child is born. Time is one of your most valuable assets. The sooner you start saving for college, the more time your money will have to grow.

If you start saving early enough, even a modest weekly or monthly investment can grow to a significant college fund by the time the child matriculates. For example, saving $50 a month from birth would yield about $20,000 by the time the child turns 17, assuming a 7% return on investment. Saving $200 a month would yield almost $80,000.

It is less expensive to save for college than to borrow. Either way, you’re setting aside a portion of your income to pay for college. But when you save, the money earns interest, while when you borrow, you’re paying the interest. Paying for college before your child matriculates definitely costs much less than paying for college afterward. Saving $200 a month for ten years at 7% interest would yield $34,818.89. Borrowing the same amount at 6.8% interest with a ten year term would require payments of $400.70 a month. At 8.5% interest the payments increase to $431.70 a month. (If your return on investment is 4% instead of 7%, you’d accumulate $29,548.13. Borrowing this amount at 6.8% interest would entail monthly payments of $340.04; at 8.5% interest the monthly payments would be $366.35. If your return on investment is 10%, you’d accumulate $41,310.40, corresponding to monthly payments of $475.40 at 6.8% and $512.19 at 8.5%.) So if you elect to borrow instead of saving, you will be paying 1.7 to 2.6 times as much per month.

Even if college is just a year or two away, it is never too late to start saving. There are tax benefits to saving in a college savings plan or prepaid tuition plan, and every dollar you save is a dollar less you’ll need to borrow. For additional information visit my website.

Tips To Make Working From Home Work For You

Women's Money Week 2012 Participant

This post is a part of Women’s Money Week 2012. For more posts about entrepreneurship and making money , see

Working from home sounds like a great idea to many because it is a flexible job where one can be their own boss but it does require a lot of time, effort and self-discipline. I spend about 60-80 hours a week working from home between my business, my blog, and my part-time job, along with being a mom to two little boys which is my most important job of all. I wanted to share 6 tips on how I {try} to make it work in hopes that it will help some of you who are considering working from home.

Keep a to-do list and a calendar: Whether kept electronically or written down on paper and pen, keeping yourself scheduled and your tasks written down is probably the biggest thing that you can do to keep yourself sane and get anything accomplished. There are so many methods on how to keep a calendar and to-do list that you really just have to test different ones out and figure out what works for you. Personally, I like to use two different items. I have my planner where I keep all of my meetings, appointments, and events and also keep track of all my children’s school activities, therapies, and playdates. I then have a separate to-do notebook where I have one sheet for every two days to keep track of what needs to be done when. This is where I list phone calls I need to make, posts I need to write, emails I need to send, and the like.

Schedule your “work” time: Along the lines of the first tip, it’s important to schedule yourself and then stick to your schedule {as best you can with children and other last minute things that come up}. When you work from home it’s so easy to accept invitations from friends or lengthy phone calls but if you are scheduled to work you need to tell that person that you are working and find another time to go out to lunch or call your friend to chit-chat for an hour. When I make my schedule I don’t do it down to the minute, but instead have hour chunks of time that I focus on tasks. My suggestion is to try and switch tasks frequently so you are more productive and attentive to the task you are working on.

Create a space for working: When working from home it’s important to have a space dedicated to business. It could be a room, a small portion of a room, or even a desk in the closet. Whatever you can find to call your “office”. I have an upstairs loft that I work in most of the time but when my family is upstairs I will sometimes sneak down to the TV room to relax on the couch while I work. Having a space for working will help you keep organized and focused on your work and will keep you from getting sidetracked on the laundry, the dirty dishes, and the rest of the household chores.

Work when you can, where you can: I’d love to work Monday through Friday during the day and relax with my family at night and on the weekends but it’s just not possible during this time of my life. My schedule varies weekly and I work many weekends. I take advantage of naptime, bedtime, and Sinisa’s days off to work. I get work done in the car while I’m sitting in the preschool pickup line, at the pool while my son is having water therapy, and while my kids are eating lunch. You just have to be creative with your time and squeeze in emails and work whenever you can.

Realize you can’t do it all: There may come a time when you can’t do everything yourself and you may need to ask for help or let something go. It’s okay. You just have to decide what is important to you and what’s not as important and what you need to do as opposed to what you can pass on to someone else. For me, my family and friends and my blog/job are the most important and I decided that my “domestic” duties weren’t as important. Many of the household jobs could be done by someone else unlike my job as mother and blogger/business owner. I realize I can’t be the perfect homemaker and that’s okay with me. Sinisa likes to cook so most of the time he is the one who makes dinner. You can also hire people to help with the aspects of business you don’t know much about or don’t have time to do. Living Your Moment, a business I co-own, was created to help support mom business owners. We grow Twitter and Facebook accounts, run blog review campaigns, and provide many other services for business owners so they can focus on running their businesses.

Make time for yourself and your family: Amidst all the working, don’t forget to take care of yourself and spend time with your family. Do something for yourself every day whether it’s taking time to read a book, pamper yourself, or exercise. If you aren’t well, your business will suffer. Making time for your family is also important. Carve out time to spend with them each day. Cuddle with your little ones on the couch while watching a movie, play a game, or spend time in the kitchen making dinner together.

I hope I have given you some ideas on how to make working from home work for you. If you work from home and have other ideas of what works for you I would love for you to leave a comment below.

Women’s Money Week Intro & $100 In Gift Card Giveaways

Women's Money Week 2012 Participant

I’m excited to be participating in Women’s Money Week 2012, a week were over 100 women bloggers will come together to share their knowledge on financial topics that affect women. This week is about encouraging women to speak up about money, take control of their finances, and reshape their financial futures. Women’s Money Week is a first annual event running from March 5th-11th, 2012 — coinciding with International Women’s Day.

Here are the topics that will be covered each day:

  • Monday:  Entrepreneurship / Making Money
  • Tuesday:  Relationships & Money
  • Wednesday:  Saving & Investing
  • Thursday:  Budgeting
  • Friday:  Money in Your 20s/30s/40s/50s/Retirement
  • Saturday:  Debt
  • Sunday:  Goals / Taking Action

*Find more information about Women’s Money Week and see all the blogs participating here.*

Giveaway Information:

To kick off Women’s Money Week they’re giving away $25 Amazon gift cards to 4 lucky commenters who comment on Monday’s posts over on the Women’s Money Week website. To be entered to win just leave a relevant comment on any (or all) of the posts that appear in the category  Entrepreneurship and Making Money. Find more details here.

LIFE Foundation’s “Insure Your Love Picture Mosaic”

As moms, we do everything we can to provide our children with a good life, filled with happiness and lots of opportunities. But when was the last time you stopped to think about how your family would manage without you? It’s not a pleasant thought to ponder, but if your family depends on you, it’s a topic you can’t afford to ignore.

The nonprofit LIFE Foundation sponsors Life Insurance Awareness Month in response to the growing problem of too many families not having adequate life insurance protection. According to the industry research group LIMRA, 11 million U.S. households with children under age 18 have no coverage.  Those families are just one illness or accident away from a financial crisis, and something needs to be done about it. That’s why LIFE has created the “Insure Your Love Picture Mosaic” in support of Life Insurance Awareness Month.

The “Insure Your Love Picture Mosaic” is designed to recognize and celebrate those who have made the responsible decision to protect their loved ones by owning life insurance, while also introducing them to a larger community of others who have made the same choice. People are encouraged to upload up to 20 photos of their loved ones, whose financial future has been safeguarded by their decision to purchase life insurance.

By adding your photos to the mosaic, you will also be helping out a great cause. For each photo uploaded, $1 will be donated to the LIFE Lessons Scholarship Program, which provides tuition assistance to students who have lost a parent and are struggling to achieve their dream of a college education.

(Disclosure: This is a compensated post and information provided is from the LIFE Foundation and MomSelect.)

Guest Post: Financial Planning For College

The following is a guest post written by my father. This is not a compensated post but I am letting him share here because he is so passionate about sharing this message with everyone. To find out more about this, or any other insurance product, you can call or email him (contact information below). It’s free to find out more information and get your questions answered and he’s really knowledgeable- and I’m not just saying that because he’s my dad! :)





FREEDOMFLEX ® is the plan that can make this a reality.

Our college planning services were designed for families such as yours, who desire a college education for their children. When coupled with Freedomflex, it provides death protection on the lives of the parent(s) in the event of premature death, while providing a tax deferred environment in which cash values accumulate. These cash values can be used as an emergency source of funds, to help repay college loans, or to help supplement your retirement benefits. The lender is approved under the Title IV provisions of the Higher Education Act, and has loaned millions of dollars to families for educational expenses. Members and their students have access to college/career profiles, scholarship searches, financial aid form reviews, counseling and advice on college related matters, and many other services. Overall, these services provide you with a systematic method of preparing for your children’s education.

FREEDOMFLEX® offers an exceptionally valuable service. The education services coupled with, the life insurance policy provides the following:

A cash accumulation account with competitive guaranteed and current interest rates with no minimums and no surrender charges. This account will allow you to shelter certain assets to qualify for the maximum amount in government grants and subsidized orunsubsidized loans. This account also provides a way to accumulate transition money for students to use after graduation for such things as clothing for job interviews or deposits for living expenses when they are on their own.

An option to redirect your non-insurance premium to an alternative cash accumulation vehicle that can experience a higher growth rate.

A death benefit to pay for college, or to pay off student loans used for college expenses, or to supplement family income in order to allow the student to stay in college if the parent dies.

A disability benefit to self complete the plan for both life insurance and savings features.

The plan provides continuous service long after high school graduation, throughout the entire college experience. In addition, the lender is approved under the Title IV provisions of theHigher Education Act and makes a commitment to you to lend you all the money you need to complete your student financial aid requirements. In the changing environment of today’s student financial aid arena, it is a valuable thing, knowing that your loans will be there. You have flexibility in your service, flexibility in your options, and the flexibility to determine what is best for you, with your plan.


For additional information, or to set up a FreedomFlex® plan with access to the college planning services, please contact Bill toll free at: 866-763-2196 or email: [email protected].

Insure that the money for college is there when it’s time, even if you aren’t…

Create a Child’s Wardrobe on a Budget

I am very excited to announce that today is my first time guest posting on a blog. You can find me sharing my tips on how to find cheap clothes for your children at the website ‘Saving Cents With Sense’ here. Thank you Melissa for giving me the opportunity to meet your readers :)

Create a Child’s Wardrobe on a Budget

My main goals for 2010

I am very excited to start this new year. I’m looking forward to my best year ever! (ok, I keep hearing that from everyone but it’s true!) I’m a very goal-oriented person so I always keep a goal list that I update a few times a year. Kind of like my bucket list , I guess. Since I have hundreds of goals on that list I decided to focus on a select number of them in 2010.

Goal #1- Read the whole Bible in 90 days. To find out more about this program you can go here or here. This challenge is listed first because it starts today. I am very excited to do this but am also nervous because it is a big task. I’ve never read the Bible all the way through, let alone in 90 days. I think it is an achievable goal this year because of two main things: 1) I’m doing it with other moms who will hold me accountable and 2) it’s only about 12 pages a day! Wow. Reading the Bible had always seemed like such a huge task and I would have guessed it would take 30-40 pages a day to read it in just 90 days, but 12? That’s easy. Ok, well maybe not easy, but manageable with two kids and a career. (Update: My sister just read the first day’s reading as I was typing this post and it took her less than 20 minutes…)

Goal #2- Save half of our income. This will probably be the hardest goal that I have set for myself. I have always been a “shopaholic” who can’t resist a good “deal” (check out my dad’s blog post about me) but I have decided that is going to change this year. Part of why we moved in with my dad was to save for a house and in the past six months we have only saved about $500. In my defense we did have to fix our two cars, but in reality we had an extra income these past few months so those repairs should have come from that. I am still working on a budget and hoping there is some spending money but if not I will just have to learn to live with less.

Goal #3- Keep my house “company ready” (though really it needs to get to that point before I can keep it there). It doesn’t have to be spotless but it would be nice to know that if someone happened to stop by my home I wouldn’t be embarrassed to let them in the door. And it would be even better if they could look in my closets, cupboards, etc and they would be organized, too. The first step towards this goal is to finish unpacking from our August move. Our two car garage is so filled with boxes that only one car can barely fit in. Eventually I would like to have a weekly cleaning list, too.

Goal #4- Work on my relationships. With Sinisa I would like to make couple time a priority since it’s rare we are both home without the boys being awake. With my mom I would like to work on communication. With my friends I would like to focus on seeing them once a week whether it’s at playdates or mom’s nights.

Goal #5- Become a “better” blogger. This includes blogging more often than I have in the past (I am aiming for 3-5 times a week), building relationships with other bloggers, reading and commenting on other blogs, and looking into how I can improve the look of my blog.

Goal #6- Do something for myself daily. This “something” could be as little as taking a nice, hot relaxing shower to getting a pedicure to scrapbooking. Just a daily thing to remind myself that I am special :)

What are your goals for 2010?

July 29, 2008

After my family birthday party yesterday my little sister stayed over night and then spent the day with me today and leaves tomorrow morning. I am so happy that I’m getting to spend time with her one on one because we don’t get a chance to do this often. I just wish that I could have taken her somewhere more exciting than the downtown of a suburb. It was fun. We walked around and ate at Coldstone Creamery (the apple pie ice cream is so good there). Having little money, a one and a half month old and a 12 year old really limited the choices of where we could go. Hopefully in the next couple of years my financial situation will improve and I will be able to find places to go and things to do that are a little more fun. That is if I go back to work. S doesn’t want me to return to work because he wants me to be a stay at home mom. As previously mentioned I had wanted to be a stay at home mom before so this isn’t just a man demonstrating a 1950’s mentality on a woman’s role. I can’t imagine getting out to do much of anything if I stay home. I kind of like the idea of staying home and taking care of my son and sitting online while he is sleeping but another part of me tells me I need adult interaction and places to go and these things will be harder to find if I don’t return to work. I have to decide soon because my maternity leave is almost over. I guess I have been putting it off because it is a hard decision to make. For now I will move away from this topic because it’s late and it puts too many thoughts in my head that I know I will think about when I’m trying to fall asleep.