Saving Money on Kids Clothing

baby-clothes-my-personal-finance-journeyThe following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Jeff.  Jeff writes about reducing waste, saving money and building freedom at his website, Sustainable Life Blog.

Just over a year and a half ago, my wife and I welcomed our first addition – a daughter. Since then, we have really enjoyed having her around and have been looking for ways to cut costs. People say that kids are expensive, and I’m not sure that is true, but the can be very expensive.

Since birth, our daughter has grown about 18″ and added on about 18 lbs, which as you can guess has meant she’s grown pretty fast. It’s a bit cold in Wyoming, so she can’t walk around with just a diaper on and we figured we’d need clothing. I didn’t realize how much we’d need and how soon, so quickly my wife & I came up with some strategies to get clothing for cheaper.

Hand Me Downs

This is the most popular one, and worked well for us. My wife’s sister had a child that’s 14 months older than ours, and she just sent us all of her kids clothing over in boxes as her kid got too small for it. We (my wife) sorted it by size, and we stored it away until we needed it and then put it in the drawer and shipped the old stuff back to my sister in law.

Used Clothing Store

Near us, there’s a store called Once Upon A Child (which I’m pretty sure is a franchise) and they have gently used children’s clothing of all sizes as well. While we don’t frequent this store because we get so much from our sister in law, we have not really needed much. Everything we have gotten from them has been top-notch though. Not only do they have clothing, they have all kinds of different baby and little kid stuff – toys, games, cribs, you name it and it’s all there.

Goodwill/Thrift Store

We occasionally check goodwill when the other two options have been exhausted and we still don’t have quite what we need (this has not happened often though). There’s always something there, and typically if your goodwill is large and fairly active, there will be a good price on it. I typically do a bit of my shopping there when we are there looking for things for our daughter as well. There’s nothing like saving a ton of money and killing two birds with one stone.

I think in about 2 years, we have probably spent less than $50 on new baby clothing, and many of those purchases were things that we didn’t even need to buy – they were more of impulse buys that we thought were really cute. I have also not yet found a future parent that has not been totally inundated with other baby clothes from people whose kids are older and have decided not to have any more kids. They don’t need the clothing, and new parents want it, so it’s made for a perfect exchange for years.

There really is no need to pay – simply ask friends and family who have kids first, then branch out to friends or try Craigslist if you don’t think you’ve got enough. Kids go through clothing typically faster than they can wear it out at this age, so you don’t have to worry about something you get being totally beat up.

How about you all? Do you have kids? If so, how have you saved on baby gear?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy

3 Tips for Securing Student Loan Forgiveness

The following is a guest post by Nate Matherson. Enjoy! 

If you’ve got a student loan, chances are you feel trapped under a pretty big amount of debt.  Sure, getting a college education is wonderful, but incurring the debt associated with such can seem like a huge burden. Fortunately, there are some opportunities for securing student loan forgiveness.  In fact, in 2013, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau stated that over 25% of Americans are eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, but not many are taking advantage of this opportunity.

Not only is this loan forgiveness program available but there are also other ways to secure student loan forgiveness. Today we will take a look at 3 tips for securing student loan forgiveness:

  1. Obama Student Loan Forgiveness Program

Take the time to learn about the five various repayment plans offered under Obama’s Student Loan Forgiveness Program. The plans to pay attention to regarding securing student loan forgiveness are the Income Contingent, Income Based, and Pay As You Earn. These plans are designed to forgive the remaining payments accrued at the end of 20 to 25 years if you’ve paid consistently throughout the years. Each of these three plans have different factors, so be sure to check into each one to see what would be most valuable to you. What’s great about these plans is that they allow you to pay less each month than the Standard Repayment Plan, saving you money now and in the long run. For example, the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) plan is based on 10 percent of your income, which most people can afford and in some cases. This amount may even be as low as $0 each month if you make just a small amount of money.

  1. Teachers can get loan forgiveness

If you’re a teacher, there is a way that you can secure student loan forgiveness.  There are certain states that have what are considered “underserved areas”. If you are willing to teach in these areas, you may be eligible for principal reduction of $5,000 to $17,500, as well as forgiveness of the rest after 10 years. This is a great avenue for teachers to get the bulk of their student loans forgiven.

  1. Work in healthcare

Healthcare professionals have options to have their loans forgiven, as they essentially exchange their service for the balance on the loans. The National Health Service Corps and NURSE Corps are programs that help with student loan debt, along with the Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program. This program offers up to $40,000 in loan forgiveness if you’re a doctor, psychiatrist, or dentist willing to work with Native Americans in underprivileged areas. There are other plans that will help with those willing to serve in underprivileged areas as well.

Having trouble paying back student loans is quite common, so if you are struggling or if you’re finishing up college and want to know your options, take some time to research them. There are workable solutions for you so that you don’t have to stress about the situation. After all, you don’t want to get behind in payments or default, as this will hurt your credit. Take advantage of the helpful student loan forgiveness programs available to you.  Keep in mind, however, that any portion of your student loans that are forgiven are still susceptible to taxes.

How Much and How to Save for Home Repairs and Maintenance

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Melissa Batai.  Melissa is a freelance writer who covers topics ranging from personal finance to business to organics to food.  She blogs at Mom’s Plans where she shares her family’s journey to healthier living and paying down debt.

My husband and I previously lived in an area where both home prices and annual property taxes were well outside our financial means, so we always rented.  When we moved to a new area of the country, we could finally afford a home, so, last year, my husband and I, both in our 40s, finally made the leap to home ownership.

We’ve now lived in our home for 13 months, and we’ve learned a lot, especially about the importance of saving for home repairs and maintenance.


Home Repairs—It All Has to Break at Once

The home we purchased is 18 years old.  We knew buying the place that it had its original central air conditioning unit, and with a lifespan of 15 to 20 years, we’d likely have to replace the unit sometime.  Since we live in Arizona, surviving without central air is not an option.  At $4,000 to $6,000 for a replacement, this home improvement is not a cheap one.

However, that was the only home repair we knew would be coming up soon; the rest of the house passed inspection with flying colors.

Since we moved in, we’ve had several issues that have come up.

The hot water heater burst the first week that we moved in–$560.  This went undetected for a few days, so the water leaked into our pantry.  The previous owners had given us a homeowner’s warranty, so part of the cost of repairing the hot water heater was covered, but we still had a significant amount to pay out of pocket.  In addition, the realtor nicely sent over her contractor to open up the drywall and dry the wet interior.  Unfortunately, he never came back to fix the job, so we still have a large hole in our drywall in the pantry and will need to get that fixed at some point.

Air conditioner repair/maintenance–$200.  Our first summer here, we didn’t have any trouble with the air conditioning.  This summer, I noticed that our air seemed to be running more often and that it wasn’t as cool in the house.  In July, our electric bill was $120 more than usual, so I called a repairman.  He replaced two pounds of Freon and charged us $200.

Yep, the air conditioner is about ready to give up the ghost, but it will probably bleed us to death financially first.

Home repair tools–$200.  Since we always rented, we had to buy basic home repair tools like a ladder, saw, leaf blower (we don’t have leaves but little pieces that drop from our trees and can’t be raked up because our “lawn” is not grass but rocks), etc.  My husband discovered that one of our trees was growing into our cement fence, so he had to buy tools to cut down the tree before the tree could push the cement blocks out of place, causing a more expensive repair.

We’ve also had other cosmetic issues that we’ve put off but that will need attention at some point:

Broken doorbell.  The doorbell worked during the home inspection, but it hasn’t worked since then.

Broken window treatments.  The previous owners left us two blinds that fall down if you try to pull them up.  They need to be replaced, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Patio paint.  The whole house’s exterior was repainted before we bought it.  Our outdoor patio has a roof over it.  The previous owners painted the cement ceiling that people can see above the patio.  In the 13 months that we’ve lived here, huge patches of paint have come off the ceiling.


How Much Should You Save for Home Repairs

According to US News, “On average, homeowners will spend between 1 to 4 percent of a home’s value annually on maintenance and repairs, which tend to increase as the house ages.”  That means if you bought a $200,000 home, you should be setting aside $2,000 to $8,000 annually for repairs, which is no small chunk of change.

However, most people don’t do that, and I can understand why.  That’s a lot of money to set aside for an emergency that may, or may not, happen this year.

“‘People know that if they ignore maintenance checks at the 30,000-mile mark on their car or don’t go to their dentist, they could have more serious and more expensive issues to contend with, but we don’t always give our homes the same preventative checks,’ says David Lupberger, a veteran contractor and principal at remodeling and contracting consultancy Remodel Force.  ‘The mindset is, if it’s not leaking or smoking, I have time’” (US News).

Considering “just 38 percent of Americans said they could cover an unexpected emergency room visit or even a $500 car repair with cash on hand in a checking or savings account” (CNBC), many, many of us are not saving for unexpected home repairs.


Why You Should Save 1 to 4% Per Year

When we’re talking so much money, why should you save 1 to 4% of your home’s purchase price per year?  The answer is simple.  Fairly easy repairs, like replacing a water heater, may only cost as much as 1% of your home’s purchase price, but other repairs, like a new roof, can cost much, much more.

If you save 1 to 4% per year, that will allow you to have cash for basic repairs while still saving for bigger repairs that will occur later, like replacing the air conditioning or heating or the roof.


How to Start Saving for Home Repairs and Maintenance

Let’s be honest, when it comes to home repairs it’s not a matter of IF a home repair will come up, but WHEN.

But many people can’t get beyond the sticker shock of saving 1 to 4% per year, especially if it means $2,000 to $8,000 or more annually!  However, there are strategies you can use to make it easier to save.

Save what you can.  If your budget is tight, like so many people’s, focus on what you can do.  Set aside a dollar amount to put into savings.  Right now, for my husband and I, that means setting aside $50 a month for home repairs.  Yes, that’s only $600 per year, but it’s better than saving nothing.  Start where you’re at.

Make your savings automatic.  Once you decide on an amount to set aside every month, make your savings automatic.  Set up automatic withdrawal from your checking account to a designated account so you don’t even have to think about saving the money.

Increase your savings with each raise you get.  As you earn more money, set aside a portion of the earnings to go to your home repair/maintenance fund.  Maybe this year, you can only save $50 a month, but maybe after a raise next year, you can bump that amount up to $75 a month.  Keep doing this year after year, and you’ll be well on your way to saving 1 to 4% of your home’s purchase price for repairs.

Bank unexpected money.  Rather than blowing your tax refund (if you get one) or any unexpected rebates or reimbursements that you get, put some or all of that money in your home repair/maintenance fund.

Invest the money.  You don’t want to invest your home repair/maintenance money in the stocks, but you could invest it in mutual funds or a checking or savings account that pays a higher rate of interest, especially as the amount you have grows.  By doing this, the money is still liquid, but you are earning more interest.

How about you all? Do you have a home repair/maintenance fund?  If so, what percentage of your home’s purchase price do you set aside per year? 

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy of

Why Is Share Trading Profitable?

The following is a guest post. Enjoy! 

Share trading can be extremely profitable if you have a game plan and know what you are doing.  In addition, it is important to have a sound and fundamental strategy.  When one uses the term trading stocks they should thing of buying and selling securities within the stock market.

In today’s environment the trader has been equipped with the latest and greatest share trading platforms which allow he/she to take advantage of trading opportunities that traders in the past did not have access to.  Prior to on-line trading the best way for a trader to receive information and research a stock was to interact with a broker via the telephone.  Today the stock trader has the ability to research stocks both fundamentally as well as technically at the touch of a key stroke.

Presently, there are numerous trading platforms which offer the stock trader execution speed as well as a robust platform with numerous options.  The stock trader should do his/her homework to determine what trading options are best for them prior to executing their trades.  The term online stock order/trade is simply a set of instructions to either buy or sell a specific stock.  The trade is entered into what is called the stock order ticket.  The stock order ticket incorporates the action, the number of shares, the specified symbol to be traded, price and the length/duration of the trade.

Although there are many platforms presently available for share trading though trading organizations it is important that one has a general idea on the speed to which their orders are processed.  Many share traders today believe that they have a direct connection to the stock markets, however, this is the furthest from the truth.  Typically, when you execute a trade the order is sent via the internet directly to your broker who will then decide which stock market to send it to for execution.

As you can see share trade execution is extremely important and you want to be partnered with a broker that can process your trades at the drop of dime.  Trade execution is typically seamless but it does take time.  Also, prices can change abruptly, particularly in quick moving markets.  It is extremely important to understand the significant of order execution.  The longer it takes for your order to be placed the chance the trader can lose money on a transition.

There are a number of ways that a trader can develop a strategy focused on share trading.  You can evaluate individual stocks and use fundamental analysis and statistics such as earnings per share, and cash flow to determine the future value of a share price. You can also base your strategy off of historical price movements by using technical analysis.

In closing, a stock trader is at the mercy of the technology that he/she works with.  If the trader does his/her homework and knows the best tools to you to trade along with the fundamentals of share trading they are bound to be successful with hard work.



How to Build Credit as a College Student

College is amazing—lots of new experiences and new life changes. Even though you’ll be very busy, it is important to also understand that now is the best time to start building your credit for all the other financial changes that you’ll experience after college. From buying your first car to buying your first home, you want to build up your credit while you’re in college so you run into fewer difficulties when those important financial milestones come up.

Here are just a few ways to start building your credit now as a college student:

  1. Put utility bills and student loans in your name.

If you have bills in your name that require regular payments, this will count toward your overall credit score. Paying cable, gas, water, electricity, or cell phone? Put them in your name! If your roommate(s) are also trying to establish good credit for themselves, consider each of you having one bill with your name on it so that you each can start building up your credit now.

If you have student loans, putting them in your name can also help build your credit.

The most important thing here is that you pay your bills ON TIME. By putting these bills or loans in your name, it is important that the bills are paid on time or else your credit score will suffer.

While you’re at it, be sure to pay off the balance on each bill every month.  Carrying over a balance might incur some interest charges as well as look bad to creditors.

  1. Enroll in credit cards in your name:

Apply for your very own credit card in your name! Make sure you’re not applying for several all at once, and DO NOT under any circumstances agree to co-sign with your friends. If you co-sign on a friends’ card and they slip up by not paying a bill on time or they spend a lot more than they can afford, not only will your friends’ score suffer, but YOUR credit will also suffer.

The same goes for all your other bills in terms of how to maintain good credit with your new credit card:  pay your bills on time every month, and pay your balance in full.  Try to only use the card for emergencies or small purchases only in order to keep your spending in check and to be sure you can actually pay off the balance every month.

  1. Participate in the Good Grades Reward Program with Discover:

A great first credit card for a college student is the Discover it chrome for Students card because of their new Good Grades Reward Program. Basically, students with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 (or equivalent) or higher every year that they are enrolled in college for the first five years from the account opening can apply for this program and are eligible to receive a $20 Cashback Bonus. Also, Discover cards will allow you to view your FICO® Credit Score for free on your monthly statement. It will show you the past twelve months of scores as well as key indicators about why it has changed. This will allow you stay on top of knowing what your credit score is and what can affect it. $20 can go a long way when you’re in college, so just by getting good grades you can qualify to receive this great new bonus from Discover.

There are many ways to start building your credit early. By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to financial independence during college and beyond!

Disclosure: I am a paid brand Blogger for Discover Financial Services. My views are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Discover Products Inc. and its affiliates.