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Tracking Baby Expenses

Baby Expenses Series Will Continues Next Week

If you’ve been following the blog this year, then you know we’re expecting our first kid this summer. I’ve decided to track the baby expenses on Couple Money as we’re going through this process and some wonderful bloggers have decided to join in the fun. It’s been quiet on the blog front with the series, but it doesn’t mean that I’m finished with it. We’ve been fortunate that the monthly OB visits have been uneventful, but behind the scenes we’re preparing for the new addition to our family. That means I have more topics to cover in the weeks and months ahead for Couple Money.

Next week I’ll look into diapering options and I’ll run the numbers for total costs during a typical baby’s first year. Please share your take and own figures – my goal is to make this series as useful as possible for parents.

If you haven’t caught all of them, here’s a list of post from the series so far:

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 fun, 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.

Personal Finance Carnivals

There were some wonderful carnivals and if you haven’t seen them yet, please check them out:

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.

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.

Have a wonderful weekend with your family!

Photo Credit: Elle (a couple of toys our friends gave us for our daughter)

Always on the Look Out for Good Deals

It may take a bit of time, but you can sometimes find some wonderful deals on the web on things you need and things you want.

One of my favorite guest posts on Couple Money came from Jim on how to cut expenses for a newlywed couple. He mentioned specifically the benefits of using deal sites and even how to sell online for extra cash:

Use online sites that offer tips and coupons for saving money. Many sites are specifically designed to let you in on local deals and ways that you can bring down your monthly budget – from food items to dog food to other household needs.

The Internet is an infinitely helpful tool that can offer huge savings. There’s the other option of using web sites like Craigslist to sell your unwanted items. Newlyweds are often inundated with tons of useless gifts and selling them online is a quick way to get some short-term extra cash.

GoTo Meeting Deal

What is GoToMeeting? It’s software that allows you to have web conferences and remote sharing. It’s a handy way for businesses to collaborate. Looking for a deal on GoToMeeting? Use this GoToMeeting coupon link to save 20% and get a 30 day free trial on this great program. I’ve used it to join in on several webinars and it has always been easy for me. If you have your own business or you work online quite a bit, this is a very handy tool to use.

Speaking of handy tools, DealTaker is a site where you can hunt for deals on gifts, tech stuff, and travel.

Other Deals and Contests for This Week

There are some great contests going on this week:

Finding Online and in Store Deals

What are some of your favorite places to track down a deal? If you’re on the hunt for a big purchase, how long do you usually take to find the best deal?

Photo Credit: superstrikertwo

Be Prepared for A Natural Diaster

Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and tornadoes are a few of the natural disasters that have been in the news the past year.  Although technology has aided in the warnings of some threats, too often the loss of valuables and property is accompanied with loss of life.

It is not possible to always know when a disaster will hit your area, but advance preparation can aid in surviving one.  Living in Southern California, the most likely natural disasters will be earthquake, flooding, mudslides, wildfires and maybe even a tsunami.

Your risks may be for hurricanes or tornadoes in addition to some of the others listed.  By preparing for the various possible emergencies, you and your family will know what to do when one occurs.

Emergency Kit

In case the disaster restricts the ability to get water, food and other essentials it is important to pack an emergency kit.  A standard recommendation is to have supplies to last a minimum of three days.  Remember to include food and water for any pets as well.

Other common kit essentials are batteries, flashlights, radio, first aid kit, clothing, and blankets.  You’ll want to keep the kit stored where it can be easily accessed in a emergency.  If you live in a tornado-prone area, you might store the kit in an underground shelter.  If evacuation is more likely a good storage location would be a car trunk.

Rotate items regularly to ensure freshness and usability.  Check expiration dates and replace as needed to avoid ending up in the dark because of old batteries.

Emergency Plan

Have a plan for the actual emergency.  When we had to evacuate due to wildfires a few years ago, there was a moment of panic due to lack of a plan. Include the following elements:

  • Meeting Place: Identify where the family should meet or where loved ones can find you. Make sure everyone has the phone number and address memorized.
  • List of Essentials: In addition to the kit, there may be items you want to take if possible whether it is because of sentiment or monetary value.  In addition to family pictures, don’t forget documents that would be difficult or time-consuming to replace such as licenses, passports and certificates.
  • Research: Disasters do happen when people are away from home.  Make sure you know the evacuation plan for schools, workplaces and other locations that family members frequent.

Keep informed on what’s going on if the threat is known in advance.  Check the status frequently on television, radio or the internet.  Make sure your phone numbers are registered for reverse 911 even if they are not land lines.

Spending a little time getting ready for a natural disaster can result in a better outcome for you and your family.  Are you prepared?

Photo: Attribution Some rights reserved by U.S. Geological Survey

Home Equity Lines of Credit – Something to Consider?

Recently a relative of mine decided to convert a portion of her home into a small rental unit. The goal was to earn some extra money while renting out the space to someone she knew. Unfortunately it hasn’t turned out as well as planned.

Now she’s stuck with a place that needs work done to get it properly finished and since she is limited in funds, she’s looking at getting a loan to cover these expenses. The good news is that it doesn’t look to be huge, but it is more than what she currently has in savings.

She’s thinking about getting a HELOC as a possible option.

Home Equity Line of Credit: A Great Option?

As the name suggests, a home equity lines of credit (or HELOC) is a line of credit based on the equity you’ve accumulated with your property. Some borrowers use HELOCs to consolidate their debts and pay them off faster. Others use it for home improvement projects.

Lenders calculate equity based on what your home is worth and what you owe on the mortgage loan.

How a HELOC is Calculated

Banks are more careful with how they calculate HELOCs, but it’s still possible to open an account if you have a good or excellent credit report. Let’s say you have a home that is appraised at $200,000. Your mortgage on it is currently $130,000. You could qualify to borrow as much as $30,000.

For one bank that loan amount would be broken down at $206.25/month at 8.25% for 3 years.

Checking Wells Fargo, the lender offers this advice on how much to request for a HELOC:

To improve your ability to qualify for a Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit, your loan or line of credit amount plus your current mortgage balance should not exceed 80.00% of your home’s value — your Combined Loan to Value ratio (CLTV).

It’s a buffer for them, and believe it or not, you. Should your property value drop too much, it can be a huge problem.

Don’t Get Burned

Both HELs and HELOCs use your house as collateral. That’s a risky proposition,though, because if you can’t make payments on all of the lenders, technically any of them can foreclose on your home. Lenders also have the ability to reduce your line of credit as well, so please be careful.

Not knowing my relative’s financial state, I can’t say if this is a good option for her or not. If she asks for more help from me, I’m going to suggest that she look at the cold, hard numbers before she signs up for either option.

Thoughts on Home Equity Loans & Home Equity Lines of Credit

Have you ever had to get a HELOC to cover a renovation or repair? Have you used a HELOC as an emergency fund? How did it work out for you?

Photo Credit: Images_of_Money

Tips and Ideas to Get Ready for Your Road Trip

Update: This post was included in the Best of Money Carnival over at Sustainable Personal Finance!

Summer is quickly approaching and for some couples and families it’s vacation season. Flying to your destination may not be feasible, but that doesn’t mean that a long and hectic road trip is on your agenda. Driving may be a great way to enjoy your vacation – as long as you’re prepared.

Deciding on the Destination

First up is deciding on where to go for your next road trip. If you’re not quite sure of where you want to go or you’re looking for things to do, here are some wonderful sites:

I love trying out different cities and seeing what they have to offer. This fall we’re planning on going to Chicago, so I’m using some of these sites to get some places to check out.

Preparing Your Car for Your Road Trip

The last thing you want to worry about is your car breaking down and costing you an arm and a leg to repair. We prefer renting a car for our longer trips, but if that’s not your plan then make sure you’re ready.

  • Make sure your fluids are taken care of. Double check your motor fluid levels, windshield wiper fluid, transmission, and your engine coolant.
  • Check to see if your tires are properly inflated. Under-inflated tires can increase tire wear, increase your chances of being in an accident, and increase your gasoline costs.
  • Prepare for emergencies. If you haven’t already, make sure your emergency kit is ready and it’s packed in your trunk. To make it easier to prepare for road problems, there are some pre-made emergency car kits to get you started.

Planning for Stops

If you plan it correctly, driving to your destination can be a wonderful adventure in itself.

  • If you need it, get your maps ready. Having a GPS is handy, but I still like having a physical map in my hand. We’re driven through locations where we lost signal and it’s frustrating. If you have a kids it’s a great way for them to get familiar with an area and to learn to read maps.
  • Find the right spots to grab a bite. Don’t just stop at a fast food chain. Discover new spots by using sites like RoadFood. It’ll break up the long drive and you may discover a new favorite meal.

Keeping Your Gas Costs Down

There are ways you can keep your gasoline expenses lower this summer.

  • Be consistent with your driving speed. Don’t have a lead foot when driving. Stop and go driving decreases your fuel efficiency. Try to maintain your speed when you’re driving on the highway. Try to use cruise control when it you can to help you be steady with speed.
  • Keep your car light. Less weight means better mileage, so remove any junk in your trunk. Having a heavy load can take its toll as you drive around town.
  • Take advantage of your smartphone. Check apps like GasBuddy and AAA TripTik Mobile can help you find the best gas prices locally. I remember one gas station was ridiculously higher than another station less than a mile away. since it was closer to the exit, most people stopped at the pricier station which was a rip-off.

These tips have saved us some money at the gas pump. I hope they can help you too.

Thoughts on Road Trips

I’m hoping we can a weekend trip or two in before the baby arrives. I love the beach and the weather has been gorgeous lately. How many of you go on road trips for your getaways? What are some tips that you have for those traveling? If you’re  parent, do you have tips on keeping everyone sane?

Photo Credit: kevindooley