financial responsiblity-teens and young adults, life skills, money, parenting, Parenting teens and young adults, stay at home mom, teaching financial responsibility, Uncategorized, wants and needs

Wants vs. Needs-Cutting the Food Budget

 

Wants Vs Needs Food budgetHello Fellow Parents,

I don’t know about you, but I’m here trying to make the best of my incarceration bonus time at home.  During the day, I change into my day pajamas and make the lengthy commute to my day computer.  When I am thoroughly sick of my work location, I retrace my steps.  I end the day in my reclining office chair with my night pajamas and my tablet.  The days are starting to run together.  I fear that I will work on a Saturday because I think it is still Friday.  Can anyone relate?

I’ve been trying to think of topics that would be helpful to discuss with your kids while so many people are spending extra time at home.  The topic today is very basic, but I think it might be time to bring it up again no matter whether your children are in grade school, middle school, high school or young adults.

Wants versus needs is a relevant discussion at any age.  It is especially relevant now with the current state of our economy.  Parents may need to make choices which will affect their dependent children and young adults.  I am writing to help get the conversation started which is the first step in making necessary budget cuts.

It’s painful to disappoint our children, teenagers and even young adults, but while we are going through periods of (hopefully temporary) unemployment, some tough decisions will need to be made.  The following list is a good place to start the discussion (only #1 will be discussed in this post):

  Basic Needs Wants
1 Healthy Food & Water Eating (or drinking) out, extravagant grocery purchases
2 Shelter Entertainment
3 Utilities Cell phone with Data Plan
4 Clothing New, designer clothing
5 Personal Care-haircuts, etc. Personal care-professional mani/pedi, color treatments
6 Transportation expenses Car-sometimes (with insurance, gas, repairs)
7 Basic Educational Expenses Private School Tuition
8 Debt Payments-existing Extracurricular and enrichment activities
9 Internet-sometimes Internet-sometimes
10   Subscriptions
11   Vacations
12   Gifts
  Other topics to be discussed in subsequent posts

 The basic needs require no discussion as I think we are all familiar with them.  It’s worth a family discussion to pull together and figure out where costs can be cut, if necessary.  I was a stay at home mom for many years.  I offer you my many years of personal experience in extreme cost cutting while still living an abundant life.  I have trained my whole life for this!

Grocery shopping is a discretionary expense where we can cut a lot of “fat” from the budget, quite literally!  Just for an experiment, take a look at your last couple of grocery receipts, and add up the amount that was spent on beverages.  Include pop, coffee, tea, milk, juice, alcohol, bottled water, sugared powdered drink mixes and anything else I may have forgotten.  If all those items were stricken from the shopping list, you would still have plain old tap water.  Sound exciting?  Not exactly, but right now this discussion is about differentiating between wants and needs!   Next, add up anything that would be eaten as a snack outside of a regular meal.  Include chips, dips, desserts, pastries, snack bars, pudding, sugary yogurts, candy, nuts and anything else you see on your receipt that I didn’t think of.  How much would you save if you cut out all of them?  Next item under scrutiny is meat.  How much was spent on meat?   Can you cut out some meat and replace with beans for protein?  Can you buy less expensive cuts that are just as good after marinating?  How about cereal and other breakfast items?  A big container of oatmeal is a much more economical alternative than sugary cereal. Donuts and pastries are not an actual food group.    How is this a family discussion, you ask?  Well, once you have figured out what areas can be cut out of your food budget, add in a few of your family’s most important luxury items to your next shopping trip.  If you keep a bag of apples on hand, no one will go hungry, but they may decide that they were not actually hungry enough to eat an apple!   Also important is meal planning, leftover management, and where you shop.  You can get a lot more food at Aldi than you can at Whole Foods.  Buying generic, at least sometimes, shopping sales and clipping coupons will go a long way as well. Buying a large sized yogurt and adding your own fruit is more economical than buying individual serving sized containers.  Since most of us have nowhere to go right now, why pay extra for convenience?

Now that you’ve had a chance to evaluate and cut your grocery budget, now you can look at how much is spent eating out.  I recommend downloading your bank statement and credit card statements for the past few months.  If you download everything into an Excel format, it will be easy to see how much was spent on restaurant meals, coffee, bars, etc.  You might be absolutely stunned when you see the numbers in front of you in black and white.  Does your family eat out twice per week, or 8-9 times per month?  How much would save if you ate all your meals at home?  What if, instead, you splurged once or twice per month with moderately priced meals?  Could pizza night out turn into frozen pizza night  at home (feel free to splurge on the electricity to bake it) with a movie in your very own, virus -free living room with your delicious hot, almost free popcorn with real, actual butter?  How much was spent on coffee, craft beer and wine tastings?  How much could be saved if those indulgences turned into occasional treats rather than daily or weekly occurrences?  Open the restaurant discussion with your kids.  What if they could only choose one or two special meals per month?  Where would they choose?  There’s no reason that their carryout choice must be the same as yours.

Take this as an opportunity to talk to your kids about money. They’re resilient.  It’s not like they don’t already know something is amiss.    There is no shame in having to make cuts when necessary.  The biggest mistake would be denying that financial sacrifices need to be made and jeopardizing the long-term welfare of your family.

Let me know whether you did this exercise and how much money you found in your budget that could be used on fixed budget items such as rent or mortgage.  In addition to freeing up resources in the budget, this activity should also contribute to the health and wellness of your family.  Happy hunting!

 

 

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An Accountant’s Nightmare

contract cat

I was working from home and I remembered that my 1099 tax forms were due.  TODAY.  It was January 31, the last day they could be postmarked without receiving a penalty.  The deadline had totally slipped my mind until the afternoon.  I managed to quickly transport the entire box of forms to the library where I met up with one of my co-workers.  All we needed to do was validate, stuff and transport them to the post office by the end of the day.  Somehow, the time just kept passing closer and closer to the deadline and I knew that we were going to miss it entirely. For some unexplained reason, we hadn’t even begun the task.   The absolute WORST part was not knowing how much the penalty was going to be!  Some of you may not realize that Accountants are programmed to think in terms of economic gains and losses, and this was no exception.  Just when the post office was ready to close for the day and we sat paralyzed with an entire box of unprocessed tax forms, I heard the sound of a meowing cat hurling its body into the door. As I slowly shifted into consciousness, I realized the cat noise was coming from my bedroom, not the library.   I had never been so ecstatic to get woken up by a yowling feline as I was when I realized my nightmare was not reality!

So, you say you’re not an Accountant but you are a parent?  Let me spin it a different way.  You have a teen in high school.  You keep thinking of all of things you need to show them before they go away to college or out into the world on their own.  There is so much to teach that you don’t know where to start, so you keep putting it off. Besides, it’s so much easier just to do it yourself!   Before you know it, it is the August after high school graduation and your lesson plan is not complete.  Learn from the Accountant and don’t miss the important deadlines.  The cat will not be able to save you from real-life penalties such as unnecessary college debt and anxiety related to lack of preparation.

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Inside The Mind Of The Launch Lady

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mother love, parenting, Parenting humor, Parenting teens and young adults, parenting young adults, Uncategorized

A Mother With a Soul

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I woke up very early this morning and decided to get up in order to work on a very definite project. Unfortunately, as is often my experience, accomplishing certain things on the computer is like walking on scorching coals through the deepest chambers of hell. It didn’t take long for me to abort my intended project and pick up a book. At least I am confident in my ability to turn a page without outside intervention. Today’s selection was “Chicken Soup for the Soul; Like Mother, Like Daughter”. I sometimes wonder whether the mission of the Launch Lady makes her appear to be devoid of a soul. If there is any correlation between a soul and leaking eyes then I do, indeed, have one.

What an amazing way to start the day. I read about six stories and was touched by each and every one. My emotions ran the gamut from “I remember how hard I tried to be like THAT mom” to “Someday, maybe even soon, MY little girls might become moms”. I became a mom nearly 25 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the scariest thing in the world to assume the responsibility for this brand new little “creature” whose total dependence was almost entirely entrusted to me. My firstborn was everything I could have hoped for. She was beautiful, smart, loving and she accomplished all of the milestones with textbook precision.   After a couple years, I was feeling remotely successful and maybe a little cocky. I thought, “maybe I should do this again, but only once because I only have two hands”! My second bundle of joy was just as awesome as the first but I was much more relaxed in the way I handled her. I remember sitting her infant self on the table at a dinner with extended family. Each time someone spoke, I would pivot her body in their direction so she could listen to them speak. She was my obliging little puppet. She was very different from her sister in every possible way. While number one was sleeping from 8pm to 6am at age one, number two woke me up every night for ten years. While she was my infant puppet, I was her decade long jack-in-the-box; popping out of bed each time she cried for me at night or showed up at my bedside!

One of the most important things for me was to make sure that they grew up to be independent.   In doing so, I hope that they were given the proper balance of love and responsibility. I’m not really sure how I did but thankfully, there are two of them so they can laugh with each other about all of the different ways I tried to achieve compliance from them. Everyone knows that the darn “things” don’t come with manuals. Once you think you have found the perfect blueprint for successful parenting, the next child comes along and shatters that confidence.

Regardless of what I did, they have both proven, in very different ways, that I can count on them to be independent. Conversely, I know that I have given them the love that they need. There are many faces of love. Sometimes love is giving and sometimes love is teaching. Often, showing love involves using the word “No”. What I know for sure is that I am best at giving the kind that encourages them to spread their wings and fly.  Number two was married last month and number one will be married soon enough. Every time I see them achieving a “grown up” milestone, my heart swells with pride and overflows with love. Too often these days, like when reading poignant stories about mothers and daughters, my eyes begin to overflow as well. Every sentimental exchange is prefaced with “Mom, you’re not going to cry, are you?” No, my dear girls, I will try to keep my vision from clouding so I can savor every moment of watching you experience the very same things that you etched into my heart and soul as priceless memories!

Adulting, financial responsiblity-teens and young adults, life skills, parenting, Parenting teens and young adults, parenting young adults, Uncategorized

The Devil: An Unlikely Teacher

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I just finished reading the book “Outwitting The Devil” which was originally written in 1938 by Napoleon Hill. Because of the controversial material that was presented, the manuscript was withheld from publication until long after Napoleon’s death.  The book was finally released by the Napoleon Hill Foundation in 2011 and it was annotated by Sharon Lechter.   I found the book fascinating and filled with information that is just as thought provoking today as it was 80 years ago when it was written!   I will focus on passages that I found most relevant to our children. The Devil’s claim is that the religious systems as well as the educational systems work together to cause our children to drift and to discourage them from thinking for themselves.

The book is primarily a question and answer series in which Napoleon queries the Devil on a wide range of topics that are relevant to living a successful life.  It does not matter whether Napoleon is speaking to THE Devil, or whether he has cleverly arranged his collection of personal wisdom into an attention grabbing two-way dialogue; you will find much food for thought. Though some of the information is duplicated in Hill’s more famous book, “Think and Grow Rich”, it is important enough to endure the redundancy.

I do not write to undermine the efforts and expertise of excellent teachers in either the academic or religious arenas.  I am sure that most would acknowledge that they do not like the constraints that they must adhere to while influencing America’s youth.  As a parent looking to the past, I see how I could’ve helped my children focus more on some of the core truths of life.  I can’t change what I did or didn’t do,

Following are direct quotes from either Mr. Hill or his Devil. My commentary is found in the bullet points.

“…Parents owe their children everything they can give them in the way of knowledge.  Beyond that, parents often spoil their offspring by a false sense of duty which prompts them to indulge their children instead of forcing them to seek and gain knowledge at first hand.”**

  • Today, I am reflecting on the “launching” of my second and final daughter. My feelings vacillate between guilt and exhilaration. Her imminent relocation causes me a mixture of sadness, excitement and victory.  The prevailing emotions are the excitement that her future will bring and the victory that this phase of my parenting has been completed successfully.  While I do feel a bit of guilt for my part in thrusting her into the great unknown, I know that she will learn far more outside of my care than she would ever learn from her safe place at home.  I pledge to always share the knowledge of my experience with her even while she is learning to navigate life without me.

“…Unearned gifts of every nature may become a curse instead of a blessing*

  • This point makes me think of this week’s news story about the 30-year-old man who is being evicted from his parents’ home. I’m sure that his parents never imagined that the “unearned gift” of physically sheltering their grown son would turn into a contentious and public legal battle.

 Why aren’t children taught definiteness of purpose in the public schools?”*

  • According to the Devil, school is a place to memorize facts and earn credits. I appreciate the opportunities for the education I was given.  However, many of the facts that I memorized and subsequently forgot have not helped me in my daily pursuit of living.  (Note to math haters: I do still use algebra).  It has taken me many years past my formal education to hone in on my definite purpose.  Definiteness of purpose can be found though reading and participating in a variety of activities.  We can help our children find theirs by looking for their natural gifts and guiding them towards pursuits that harmonize with those gifts.

Ideas are the beginning of all human achievement.  Teach all students how to recognize practical ideas that may be of benefit in helping them acquire whatever they demand of life”.  **

  • Never stop yourself or your child from imagining. Every conceivable invention that is used to make our lives easier began as an idea in the mind of someone.  Google Maps, FaceTime, cell phones, personal computers, and televisions are used by most of us each day.  What if the parents of the inventors of these items had squelched their ideas?  Try to nurture fresh new ideas with “how can you” rather than “you cannot”.

“Teach the student the basic motives by which all people are influenced and show how to use these motives in acquiring the necessities and the luxuries of life.”**

  • Everyone needs to learn how to sell. Even though every person is not a professionally trained salesperson, we all have something to sell each day.  As an employment candidate, we need to use a resume’ to sell ourselves as the best candidate for a job. As a person looking to choose a mate, what do we have to offer that another potential suitor might not?  As a parent, we may try to sell the idea that choosing broccoli over chips is good for the body.  If your child doesn’t know what to study in school, encourage him to study salesmanship.

 “Teach children the difference between temporary defeat and failure, and show them how to search for the seed of an equivalent advantage which comes with every defeat.”**

  • I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. It is not always easy to tell what the reason may be, but I always try to learn the lesson.  Every mistake I have made has planted inside me an inexorable seed of wisdom.  The value of this wisdom is far greater than if I had simply done everything I was told just because I was told to do so.
  • I would also want my children to understand that failure comes in more than one form.  The failure to try is far worse than trying something new and not succeeding.  Risk aversion can cheat us out of living our best life by not allowing us to take the next step forward.

“Teach children to reach decisions promptly and to change them, if at all, slowly and with reluctance, and never without a definite reason.”**

  • This one is still difficult for me personally. I am a proponent of the “Love and Logic” philosophy of parenting. https://www.loveandlogic.com    The premise is that a child should be given lots of opportunities to make decisions from the time they are young and then allow the consequences to be the teacher when the stakes are minimal.  This habit of making every day small decisions will provide confidence to make the big decisions when also armed with pertinent information, thought and sometimes collaborative discussion.

 “Teach children the true nature of the Golden Rule, and above all show them that through the operation of this principle, everything they do to and for another they do also to and for themselves.”**

  • This quote reminds me of a complementary quote from the late Zig Ziglar. “You can have everything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want.” The other thing that comes up for me is that when I went back to college as an adult about 10 years ago, I took multiple classes on religion and philosophy.  I can’t tell you all of the theories and distinctions between each philosopher.  My take away was that regardless of the philosophical or religious message, it all boiled down to the Golden Rule to treat others the way we wish to be treated.

“Teach children the danger of believing anything merely because their parents, religious instructor, or someone else said it is so.”**

  • My personal motto it “trust but verify”. I, like many people, always believed what my parents and those in authority taught me was absolute truth.  What I have since realized is that what I was taught was their truth as they believed at the time.

“Teach children that their only real limitations are those which they set up or permit others to establish in their own minds.”**

  • I can relate to this one. I have gone through life with self-imposed limits up until this point.  These limits are firmly entrenched over a lifetime.  Sometimes I look at others and wonder how they got to be where they are and have what they have.  Did they have more advantages and more connections than me?   That is quite possibly the truth. But it is not the complete truth.  What I may have lacked in personal advantage I have made up for in stubborn persistence.  Every day, I work to free myself from my prison of perception.  My daughter, recently armed with her business degree, will be moving very soon to a town that doesn’t have an abundant variety of jobs. I encourage her to refuse to be limited by the help wanted ads to find her livelihood. I implore her to speak her truth and immerse herself in her passion. Though the non-profit she is interested in is not local, I do not want her to assume that she cannot find a way to contribute to the cause that is so important to her.

“Teach children that all schoolhouses and all textbooks are elementary implements which may be helpful in the development of their minds, but that the only school of real value is the great University of Life wherein one has the privilege of learning from experience,”**

  • I went back to college in my forties to complete my formal education. What I realized as an adult student was that no matter how much I learned, it was merely the tip of the iceberg.  When I finally finished my formal education, I just knew I was done learning. Following a few years of stagnation, I discovered the folly of my thinking.  My more mature and wiser self realizes that learning is truly a lifelong pursuit. My classroom learning days may be over, but I choose to learn until the end of my time.   Thinking is a gift which, when done consistently, can propel one towards their definite major purpose. Provide situations to imbed this worthy gift into your children.

The points I have chosen were few compared to what I found in the book.  I didn’t intend to regurgitate as much as I did directly from the book, but it was so hard to choose since there were so many relevant points!  While our current educational system may not have the flexibility to incorporate the suggested changes, parents have the power to introduce them into daily life. Consider private schooling or home schooling.  Ultimately, we all have the primary control to shape the minds of our own children.

*Direct quote from Napoleon Hill

**Direct quote from Napoleon Hill’s Devil

 

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Complete College in Four Years and Save a Lot of Money

Graduation 2018

Proud mom alert: since this is graduation weekend AND Mother’s Day, the Launch Lady is beaming with pride and brimming with gratitude.  I bring you good news!  College can, indeed, be completed in four years.  One of the pictured individuals could have completed it in 3, but they chose to accept an extended internship and take a lighter load in year 4 (he knows who he is).     The other one graduated from community college before transferring to University of Illinois (she knows who she is).     I have known one of them since the day of her birth, and have had the privilege of watching the other one grow over the last 5 years.   Is there a secret ingredient to completing college on schedule?   Well, following are a few of the behaviors I witnessed and the observations that I have made:

Planning begins in high school   If your local high school has dual credit or Advanced Placement courses, encourage your teen to take advantage of them.  It’s an awesome opportunity to begin college with one or more semesters already completed, tuition free!

Become involved in extracurricular and civic activities.  Not only does this provide excellent networking opportunities, but it helps create a well-rounded student.  Another bonus is that the experience enriches and provides interest to the content of scholarship applications.

Apply relentlessly for scholarships.  Both received multiple scholarships.  Setting a goal of applying at least once per week greatly increases the odds of winning.  There is plenty of free money to be awarded and it is not all need based.   Scholarship applications are not a waste of time even if they do not win.  The ubiquitous essays are good practice for selling oneself; much like the skills that will be needed to write a cover letter and resume.

Start by taking the prerequisites first at a local community college.  Work closely with counselors to determine which ones will most likely transfer.  Tuition will be lower and room and board free since they will probably still be living at home.

Maximize the classes taken each semester.   Some colleges charge a fixed price for full time students.  As a result, you can take 18 credits for the same price as 12 credits.   A consistent 16 credits per semester will achieve a 4-year graduation goal.   It may be worth it to forfeit the part time job during school if it can save another full year of tuition, room and board.

Apply for and accept summer internships that are relevant to college major.  Not only will it contribute a good sum towards tuition, but it can also provide spending money during the academic year.  It may also turn into a full time job after graduation.  The very least is that it looks good on a resume and can provide an industry specific reference.

Don’t feel that college has to be done right after high school.   Full time employment is sometimes a good idea for the high school graduate who doesn’t know what they want.  That is better than stretching out college far past the traditionally allotted time to compensate for changing majors. There are plenty of opportunities for adult learners and they can be done in conjunction with a full time job.  I know many who have benefited from this option, including myself.   Many companies offer phenomenal tuition benefits to those who are motivated to go to school while working.

I am very grateful to have a daughter who was motivated to get through college within 4 years and I am sure his parents feel the same way.    I’d like to think that I helped in some way, but the key ingredient I offered was accountability.     One of my greatest gifts is to share in the victory of one of my children.  College is over, kids.  Time to set some new goals; as soon as you get through the wedding and honeymoon!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms as well as those who fill the role of a mom!