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11/29/16 Children , Debt # ,

How I’m Trying to Rein Christmas Spending

How I’m Trying to Rein Christmas Spending

Every year around Thanksgiving, I vow to buy fewer Christmas gifts and rein in my Christmas spending. I’m rarely successful.

I try to spend only cash, but that usually doesn’t work and I end up facing a big credit card bill in January. It’s not something I want to do again and again.

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, especially with a child (our daughter is now 12) and seeing her light up on Christmas morning as she opens her gifts. But seeing many of her gifts unused a month later always gets me to thinking about how we’ve got to buy her fewer gifts next year. Continue reading

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10/07/16 Children , Work

Taking a Day Off From Work Shouldn’t be a Hassle

Taking a Day Off From Work Shouldn’t be a Hassle

I’ve never been a workaholic. I’m all for getting work done and doing my best at it to give clients excellent stories as a freelance writer and editor. But when it comes time to take a day off from work or the weekend off and relax, I’m ready for the time to re-energize.

That may be one of the reasons why I’m not rich. Or why the three websites I run about personal finances don’t have the awesome readership and advertising numbers that I’m aiming for.

I bring all of this up because of something I heard from one of the keynote speakers at a conference I attended last month for personal finance bloggers. Part of his message was: Take a day off. Or two or even three days off if you can. It was a much better message than what another speaker offered.

After years of working to build his website — which is one of the top PF sites and is among his many successful endeavors — and missing some valuable time with his children so he could grow his business, he came to the conclusion that taking a day off from work each week was important.

This didn’t seem like much of a revelation to me.

But I got the sense that to many of the 500 or more people in the ballroom listening to him, it was an insightful idea worth trying. Continue reading

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08/22/16 Children , Travel , Work # ,

Money Lessons from a Summer Off

Money Lessons from a Summer Off

 

School is back in session in many areas of the country, giving parents everywhere a reason to celebrate the end of summer.

As a freelancer who works from home, I’m about as ecstatic as you can get that my daughter is going back to school — though probably not as much as this guy:

I’m not doing cartwheels yet, or even rolling around on a shopping cart, but not having a child burst into my home office and ask to watch TV, play with the iPod, say how bored she is, or fix herself a sugary snack in the kitchen is enough of a time reward that I can get back to writing for my websites.

I did manage to get some work done for my clients — I tried to work from 9 a.m. to noon on most weekdays during the summer — but now I’m looking forward to writing for my websites after giving them most of the summer off.

It was a fun 10 weeks. We took a few in-state vacations, and I learned a few money lessons along the way: Continue reading

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01/22/16 Children , Travel # , , ,

2 Worthwhile Splurges at Disneyland

2 Worthwhile Splurges at Disneyland

 

My family recently went on a short trip to Disneyland with another family, enjoying all the Magic Kingdom in Anaheim, Calif., has to offer and all of the expenses that come with it. We saved money in a number of areas, but there were two areas where I thought the splurge was worthwhile.

Even if we hadn’t saved money by staying at a hotel a mile away from Disneyland, or used credit card reward points for a free night, or drove instead of flew the 400 miles from home, or only went for two days — I still would have thought it was worth the extra money to do two things that were high on my list for a Disneyland visit.

For an extra $275, my family of three got dinner and front-row seats to the popular World of Color show at Disneyland California Adventure Park, or DCA, and lunch at the Blue Bayou restaurant in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.

It was an expensive addition to our trip, especially when you consider that it only added up to three more hours of fun — two hours at DCA for dinner and the show, and about one hour at lunch.

Paying for a unique Disneyland experience

I thought both were worth the cost, mainly for a reason I’ve written about before: Fun experiences that you and your children will remember for years are worth the extra cost — if you can afford them. I’m not suggesting that anyone go into debt for such things, but to save and find other ways to pay for whatever extras they think are worthwhile.

A better view for World of Color, as I wrote at another personal finance site I own, was important to me because my wife and I took our daughter, now 11, to see it three years ago but we sat so far at the back of the crowd that we couldn’t see it too well and left early. Continue reading

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11/10/15 Children # , , ,

Best Math Apps for Kids

Best Math Apps for Kids

Math was never my strong point in school. I eventually learned some good personal finance habits, but my math skills didn’t progress much beyond algebra. If only I had a smartphone and some math apps back then.

My daughter, who is now in 6th grade, is much better at math than I was at her age. Her teachers have done an excellent job in the classroom, and every once in awhile we go to a math app for help with homework.

I’m often on the lookout for great math apps to help make her math homework easier, and if possible, a little fun. Below are some math apps I’ve checked into, though we haven’t used all of them.

BrainPOP

This website has come recommended by my daughter’s teachers and is also used at her school.  I signed her up for a subscription this year ($11 per month) and I’m trying to get her to use the math app part of the site, which also offers lessons in English, social studies, science, health, engineering, and the arts.

The cartoon videos are fun and informative, featuring a guy and a robot. Some of the site’s content is free, such as this video on how to compare prices.

Zap Zap Math app

This math app teaches math through games, most aimed at K-6 grades. The app is free to download and doesn’t contain in-app purchases or ads.

While games can be great motivators, it’s up to you as a parent to decide if the games are really helping your child learn math. My guess is that most children will become bored by them eventually, since there is only so far you can go with them and the memorization of multiplication tables, for example, may eventually becoming boring. Continue reading

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Hi, I'm Aaron Crowe. Welcome to CashSmarter. I'm a personal finance freelance writer who enjoys spending my money wisely and using minimalism to make my money last longer while increasing income.