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Love Drop in July: Felicity

love drop join

Every month, I receive information from the Love Drop Network about a family in need of some support. They’re deserving families who could use a break. Here’s the Love Drop family for July:

This month we’re coming together to help out the Withrow family – Jon and Amanda and their two children. Their four-year-old daughter Felicity was diagnosed with brain cancer just a few months ago.

Felicity had immediate surgery and is currently undergoing aggressive radiation treatments for the remaining portion of the tumor, which has left the family with a huge amount of medical bills. Let’s raise at least $5,000 to help them with the cost of radiation therapy, especially with upcoming expenses from a new baby on the way!

Where Your Money Goes

For the entire month of July, we’ll be giving money, gifts and services to the Withrow family to help in three main areas: (1) medical expenses for Felicity’s treatment, (2) clothes and supplies for the new baby, and (3) prayers for the other kids at the hospital. Along the way we hope that people will also help out by coming up with cool things to give that will help them spend time and have fun as a family, as we’ve done for our other families. And by the way, if anyone could swing it (or part of it), their *dream* gift would be a new bedroom suite with a king-size bed. Just throwing it out there . . . you never know what you’re gonna get. :)

heartWhy We’re Helping This Family

In just the past few months, the Withrow family has gone from perfectly “normal” to experiencing the unthinkable – first when Felicity was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and then shortly after, when her 24-year-old uncle Chad, the life and spirit of her family, passed away from heatstroke while working outside. In addition, Amanda is pregnant with their third child, which is due sometime during Felicity’s treatments.

The emotional weight of these three situations is incredible, and the financial stresses are huge, but through it all the Withrow’s continue to care for others. In fact, when Amanda gets back from the hospital each day, she tells others about all the kids they met there, and asks for prayers and love for them as well. If you’ve ever had a child in the hospital, you know how valuable a loving community can be. This month, let’s become that community for them.

How You Can Get Involved

If you want to get involved and help the Withrow family and others, please sign up for membership to donate $1,$5, or even $20/month. When your donation is combined with other contributions, some wonderful results happen. You can also make a one time contribution.

Love Drop is a great project and I can’t wait to see what the team is up to next!

 

Breastfeeding or Formula? Looking at the Costs

bottle feed baby

There are definitely many opinions to breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, but that’s a discussion for a parenting site. I want to look at the costs associated with each of the feed options. Each family has to decide what will work best for them. I’d like to share tips on keeping costs down for whichever method you choose. Hopefully parents who have already gone through the process will share their advice and experience.

Breastfeeding Costs

A huge advantage of breastfeeding your child from a financial standpoint is that the food is relatively free (moms have to feed themselves well).

Breastfeeding Supplies

While breastfeeding is the cheapest option, it doesn’t always means it’s free. Depending on what you choose, there are some additional expenses you can have.

  • Breastpump – $65-$275
  • Boppy Pillow – $35
  • Nursing Bras – $15 – $30
  • Nursing Pads – $10 (60pk)
  • Nipple ointment – $10
  • Nursing Bottles (set) – $30 -$45
  • Disposable bottle liners (100)-$10

As you can see, there is a lot of wiggle room with breastfeeding supplies. Not every mom wants to or needs to buy a breast pump. Some moms just exclusively breastfeed while others use bottles with expressed milk. You have to look at your lifestyle and see what is practical for your family.

How many of you just breastfeed and how many of you use a breast-pump to help with feeding? Which breast-pump do you use? We’re still debating which one to get. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Formula Costs

There are 3 types of baby formula that you can choose from:

  • Ready-to-use formula
  • Liquid concentrate formula
  • Powdered formula

Each of these have their own benefits. From what I’ve read and seen, powered formula is the most popular and cheapest option.

Formula Supplies

Here are some supplies associated with formula feeding.

  • Baby Formula Supply -$25-$40/can
  • Bottles (set) – $30-$45
  • Disposable bottle liners (100 ct) – $10

The biggest expense with formula feeding is the recurring expense of the formula. Using sites like Baby Cheapskate and Amazon Mom can be helpful in keeping costs manageable.

Of course, the big debate with formula feeding is which formula to use. Brand name versus store brands can have a huge difference in price. As with diapers, one way you can save is to go ahead and sign up with the formula companies to occasionally receive discounts ( Enfamil,Similac,and Nestle). Don’t be afraid to ask your pediatrician for samples. You can see what works best for your family.

Should you avoid store brands or are name brands a rip off? I checked online with the Mayo Clinic to get some answers:

All infant formulas sold in the United States must meet the nutrient standards set by the FDA. Although manufacturers may vary in their formula recipes, the FDA requires that all formulas contain the minimum recommended amount — and no more than the maximum amount — of nutrients that infants need.

Parents also have to weigh the benefits of the different bottles that are out there. What brands do you use for your baby?

Thoughts on Breastfeeding Versus Formula

I’m definitely calling on all you parenting experts :) What feeding route did you decide to take with your family? What were some of the benefits and difficulties that you’ve faced with feeding? How did you overcome them? What sites did you use to get the best deals on your feeding supplies?

Join In the Baby Expenses Series

Are you a parent or a parent to be with some helpful advice or stories? Please go ahead and join in on the Baby Expense Series, there are 4 ways you can be a part of it:

  1. Leave your tips in the comment section. I  love reviewing thoughtful comments from readers. Some topics have several ‘right’ answers and I think sharing different view points can be helpful.
  2. Submit your stories for future posts. As you know, baby and expenses can cover a variety of topics. If you have a short story or some tips you want to share, please submit them. If you’re a blogger, please share your site’s address with the email so I can credit you if you want.
  3. Write a blog post about your experience. Please include a link in your bio for your site and if you have a relevant post on your site, please link to it in your post.
  4. Share you favorite posts with friends. If you have a favorite post, please share them with your friends who are expecting. I’ve included share buttons for Facebook and Twitter to make it easier and you can always email them your favorite posts as well. If you think it’s a great for them, please encourage your friends to sign up and receive updates through RSS or directly to their inbox. It’s free and an easy way for them to keep up with the latest posts on Couple Money.

Photo Credit: pfly

Net Worth Review: June 2011

cash and net worth

It’s the beginning of the month, which means it’s time to examine last month’s finances and see how it’s affected our net worth. It’s a great exercise to help us see where we’re doing well and what we can improve on.

Our Spending Habits in June

So happy to see that our expenses went down a tad in June. Here are our 3 biggest expenses last month:

  • Home (Mortgages, Extra Payments, HOA Fees, etc): $1,140.75
  • Food (Groceries, Restaurants, Etc): $392.98
  • Bills/Utilities: $216.58

I’m happy that our food bill decreased again this month as we’re trying to limit how many times we eat out and try to have more meals at home.

Checking & Savings

Big news this past month was getting our tax return (finally) and having that automatically deposited into savings. It’s a nice bump and it helped us reach our baby fund goal for the year. We want to increase savings to cover baby expenses that we expect to incur during the rest of the year.

One expected expense is the hospital bill for when the baby arrives. We received an estimate from the OB/GYN for their costs and we got an estimate for the hospital portion. Supposedly we’ll pay the hospital and doctor and my husband will get a large portion of that reimbursed.

Retirement Accounts

We’re still not planning on making any changes to our retirement contributions this year. We really want to focus on more immediate goals of getting ready for the baby. I can’t anticipate the future, but I believe once we have some idea of how we’re going to handle our finances as parents, we’ll look at our retirement accounts and contributions.

My husband’s 401(k) has steadily been going up and it’s bumped up our assets a bit this month. We need to consolidate his accounts, though, and move over some money into a Roth IRA for him some time in the next couple of months.

Our Cars

Both cars seem to be doing well. We’ve had no repairs to do this month, which is nice. We’re still working on building our car replacement fund for the next vehicle. We hope to get a car sometime next year. I believe the VW can handle until then, so we can sell it for additional funds.

In case you’re wondering how I calculate the vehicles’ values, I used Kelly Blue Book. Every quarter I’ll update the values to account for depreciation.

Student Loans

Nothing exciting or new, we’re just chugging along with the student loan payments. Payments have been automated so it’s been relatively easy to keep up with them; we just confirm payments have been made each month. We switched the payments from the end of the month to the middle of the month to break the expenses between our deposits.

House and Mortgage

The mortgage payments are chugging along. As part of our usual routine, our automated extra principal payment (now $175) was sent in on the 15th of the month. When deciding on how much we were going to send in to our lender, our main focus was creating something sustainable and had some impact with the mortgage.

Here’s where we stand today with the mortgage:

  • Total Loan Amount: $110,515.51
  • Interest Rate: 5.00%
  • Loan Term: 30 years, fixed rate

Our goal is to pay off our mortgage way before we retire.  Right now our timeline is about 15 years, instead of 30 years. Once accomplished, we’d love to be able to direct that money into other interests and goals of ours down the road.

Monthly Summary

So glad that we improved and we’re working closer to becoming debt free. Here’s our net worth from the spreadsheet:

Net Worth (as of June 30, 2011): $56,630.81 (+$4,241.37)

Your Net Worth Update

How are you doing with your finances? How are you doing in 2011 so far?

Photo Credit: sushi♥ina

 

Infamous 2 Review

infamous 2 review

In case you didn’t know, besides personal finance, one of my interest is video games.  My husband and I both enjoy them and yes, we do have all three consoles. Last year when we went to E3, it was a dream come true and I loved walking around and trying out the games and gadgets.

Some of my favorite games are action based role-playing games (RPG). They include titles like Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and Infamous. I enjoy getting immersed into a story/universe and I’m a big fan of the renegade/paragon set up that allows you to affect the story line.

Last month, Infamous 2 came out and we decided to buy it. Usually we wait until the titles are used, but we enjoyed the first so much and went for it the first week. (By the way, I felt the same way for The Force Unleashed and bought the sequel opening week – very disappointed at how short it was).

What I Enjoyed About Infamous 2

I wanted to just briefly share what I enjoyed about the game, in case you’re on the fence on whether to buy it or not.

Storyline

While I thought they did a great job on the first game, I felt that the story line was more cohesive and dramatic in the sequel. Not giving away endings, but both paths lead to some significant consequences.

Characters

Zeke is better developed in the sequel. I didn’t understand how he and Cole were ever close in the first game. They more than made up for that problem in this sequel with better dialogue. Zeke came across as more intelligent and sympathetic.

Gameplay/Abilities

While I didn’t like all the new abilities, having so many options is a huge plus and they really had me changing up Cole’s powers based on the missions I went on.

What I Disliked About Infamous 2

No game is perfect, so here’s what I didn’t like about Infamous 2.

Missions

Some of the missions felt extremely long and repetitive. I also hated overcharge – not completely sure why. Maybe it’s because they reminded me of the satellite up-link missions from the original game.

Monsters

Along the same lines as the missions, I felt like some monsters were more annoying than challenging.

Thoughts on Infamous 2 and Video Games

Overall, I’d rate this as a ‘buy’ game. It’s fun and I can play it again and again. How about you? What are some of your favorite video games titles that came out this year? Which ones are you looking forward to getting in the next few months?

Personal Finance Posts to Catch Up On

If you have some free time this weekend and want some tips and information for your finances, be sure to read some of these wonderful posts. There are some handy tips this week to help you out.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. I also recommend checking out my blogroll to pick up some great personal finance blogs to follow. Please also let me know what are some of your favorite blogs that you enjoy reading on a regular basis.

Married Food Posts

Marroed Food, my blog on enjoying good meals as families, is coming along well. It’s been a really fun month and I noticed a bump in traffic in the last couple of weeks. Here are some of the most popular posts on Married Food in June.

I really enjoyed Wojo’s article on including your spouse in the kitchen. Cooking seems more enjoyable with some company :)

I know many of your have a long weekend ahead, so have fun and please be safe with your family!

Photo Credit: popculturegeek.com

4 Government Cutbacks that Directly Impact You

cutting back

Even though the economy is in recovery, most government budgets for the new fiscal year required cutbacks to public services.  It was no longer possible to try making ends meet with hiring freezes, deferred maintenance or moving funds from one department to another.

The alternative to reducing budgets is increasing tax revenues.  Most people feel it isn’t a good option during a recession and shaky recovery.  Instead governments had to scrutinize their budgets for ways to reduce expenses with the least amount of pain for all residents.

The budget problems brought overgenerous government pensions and benefits to light and hopefully, reform.  It also results in reduction in services provide to citizens.  Here’s a list of common cutbacks you might experience.

Library Access

Since the recession started, libraries have been a resource for inexpensive to free CDs, DVDs, computers and of course, books.  It is ironic that libraries across the country have been fighting for budget dollars when their services are experiencing high utilization.

A neighboring city to me has closed it’s only branch location resulting in one library to serve over 140,000 people.  Fortunately, my city council overruled the mayor’s proposed budget cutback of library hours to 2-3 days of service a week.

Parks

Local, state and federal parks have all experienced budget cuts.  Oklahoma has shut down seven state parks while California is slotted to close 70 state parks after already severely cutting back hours and services for 60 parks over the past two years.

The result will be increased costs when (and if) these parks are reopened for repairs as well as public safety concerns.  Unsupervised parks will now become attractive to transients and those with criminal intent.

Teachers

Detroit is planning to shut down 70 schools this year on top of 59 that were already closed last year.  California issued over 19,000 pink slips to teachers this Spring and 30,000 last year.

Many of the teachers will keep their jobs due to turnover, retirements and reduced budget cuts.  However, the number of kids in our school system is not being reduced by the same margin.  The result could be larger classroom sizes, fewer classroom aides, fewer activities and/or supplies.

Government Offices

My local DMV office became much more crowded after the state instituted furlough days in 2009 to save money.  All state offices were closed every other Friday.  The impact was not only difficult for the employees who lost income, but the residents dealing with reduced access and busier locations on non-furlough days.

Other states and cities also instituted furlough days or reduced hours.  This keeps people from being able to access services, pay bills and get help at their convenience.  It can lead to lost productivity as workers have to take time off to handle business because evening hours were eliminated.

Have you experienced any cutbacks in public services?

Photo Credit: James Bowe