Grocery Shopping: Is it Eating Up Your Cash?

Saving money on groceries

Food. You can't live without it, but it sure can be expensive.

It's also a time suck, especially because the grocery stores spend so much time playing bait-and-switch with us, requiring Inspector-Clouseau-level skills to find, for example, the pine nuts.

For those who have been following my tales on GRS, it should come as no surprise The Husband does the grocery shopping, at least the bulk of it. I tend to suffer from sensory overload in the grocery store (the cereal aisle is paralyzing to me) and often will come home with $300 worth of … well, not much. So early on The Husband took it over. Recently, he was under the weather and the kids and I lasted as long as we could with the provisions we had, but the realization finally came that we needed to do what The Husband calls The Big Shopping. My daughter and I went together, and at the end of the travail, she turned to me and said, “How does Dad do this every week?” Whoever does the grocery shopping in your household, give them a hug.

Continue reading...
More about...Food

Lessons From Your Summer Job: “Date the ice cream guy”

Caregiver playing with baby

Ah, summer employment. Those heady teenage years when you worked from June through August, doing what no adult in their right mind would do, for a wage no adult would agree to, all the while hoping to meet the boy of your dreams. Heaven, right?

Well, not exactly. Even with the rosy glow of nostalgia attached, I still remember many of my summer jobs as just plain hard work.

Continue reading...
More about...Side Hustles

Community supported agriculture and tour budget: Is it worth it?

Fresh vegtables and pasta in a photo illustration

We joined a CSA this year, our first time venturing into the realm of Community Supported Agriculture. I have been intrigued with the concept for several years, as I have friends who rave about their weekly boxes of fresh veggies from a local farm. A special deal popped up in my Facebook feed in late winter and I decided to do it.

We shelled out $475 ($450 for the CSA and $25 one-time delivery fee). The reason I finally took the plunge is because the CSA was coming from a farm in Salem, Connecticut, (about 30 miles from my home) but was being delivered to a farm in our town (about a 7 minute drive up the road). So the convenience factor weighed heavily in the decision.

The $450 applies to a season that started the last week in May and will run through November. That's 25 weeks, equaling an expense of $18 a week. The box of vegetables provides about 5-10 lbs of produce a week. From May through October we typically shop for veggies and fruits at our local farmers' markets (we are blessed with several near our home), where we easily spend around $40 a week. The CSA does not include fruit.

Continue reading...
More about...Frugality

In Case Of Emergency: The College Credit Card

credit card image

My favorite scene in the 1985 movie “The Sure Thing” is when John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga are stranded in the middle of nowhere, cold and hungry, and it starts to torrentially pour. Seeking shelter in a locked trailer, John bangs incessantly on the padlock with a stone, while Daphne reaches into her bag looking for lock-picking tools and pulls out … a credit card.

“I have a credit card. I have a credit card,” she says. “Oh. But my dad told me specifically that I can only use it in case of an emergency.” Stopping with the rock raised in his hand, rain pouring off his face, John replies, “Well, maybe one will come up.”

Cut to the two of them having dinner at a beautiful bed and breakfast inn, she eating salmon while he tucks into veal, warm and dry and cozy.

Continue reading...
More about...Debt

Retirement Strategies: How are you Doing?

Woman reads book in hammock

Ah, retirement strategies. Either a dream or a worry, but either way, you need them.

Dreaming of retirement is part of the evolution of life. As a 20-something, you spend time envisioning the amazing career you'll have and the important work you'll do. As a 50-something, what you picture is a hammock, an ice-cold beer, and a good book. You picture retirement.

For years, The Husband has laughed about the retirees who snag the earliest oil change and dentist appointments simply because they are so used to getting up at the crack of dawn every day of their working lives. So in retirement, they keep the schedule. Not me. I. Am. Sleeping. In. My vision of retirement consists entirely of not having the alarm go off every morning. Never. Not for any reason.<

Continue reading...
More about...Investing, Planning

Father Knows Finances

Financial advice from fathers

The world celebrated Father's Day on Sunday (or is it just an American thing?) and it got me thinking: What's the best financial advice your dad ever gave you? My father was never big on dishing out guidance, although when I was in college he did tell me it was always a good idea to nurse a beer rather than chug it.

When it came to money, I only remember two things:

When I got married, my father told me to keep an envelope in our safe-deposit box at the bank with a few hundred dollars in small bills, “just in case.” We did it.

Continue reading...
More about...Retirement

The High Cost of Summer

The high cost of summer vacation

“No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks.” And for many parents, no more child care for eight hours a day. Summertime — every child's dream season — can be every working parent's nightmare.

Think about it: From late August or early September through mid-June, working parents have the luxury of public education to make sure their children are cared for, watched over, intellectually stimulated and exercised. Yes, it's education. Yes, your taxes pay for it. But it's also child care (and up to two meals a day).

As any working parent who played the house of cards known as child care when the kids were too young for school knows, it takes tremendous time, effort and lots of money to make sure your child is cared for — well cared for — while you are at work. And it eats a significant chunk of your pay.

Continue reading...

More about...Budgeting, Taxes

Our kids’ data usage is killing us

A photo illustration of data charges and urban landscape

The first rule of Data Club is don't go over your monthly data allotment.

The second rule of Data Club is if you do go over, only go over a little.

The third rule of Data Club is hope Dad doesn't notice we've gone over our data allotment because he will be mad and will give us a talking-to. Ah, data. The modern-day parents' nightmare. In my parents' day, we had a phone bill, and that paid for the phone. One phone. In the house, attached to the wall. A decade or two later came the cable bill, which paid for that giant box on the top of the TV that allowed us to endlessly watch the same seven movies on what was then called Home Box Office. Those were good times.

Continue reading...
More about...Budgeting

Lemonade’s Life Lessons

Summer is the season to learn about money

I love this time of year. School's out, the days are long, the sunshine is warm. And the kids need cash.

These days, they have jobs. Real jobs. The 18-year-old works at a local coffee shop and babysits. She is accumulating cash for college. The 15-year-old is excited to start work at a local farmstand selling fresh veggies to mini-van-driving suburban moms. It is fun and exciting to see them start their working lives, searching for employment, applying, and then being good drones. Banking their earnings, saving for the expenses they know will come up. Those money-making roots were laid a long time ago, at a lemonade stand on the corner. In October of 2003, when I was roaming the aisles of a major toy retailer, I ended up in the far, far back corner, the ultra-clearance corner, the modern-day retailers' version of the Island of Misfit Toys. I found a battered box that contained an adorable lemonade stand, bright yellow, with an awning. It was marked down from $39.99 to eight bucks. I bought it, stuck it in the attic for Christmas, and promptly forgot all about it.

Continue reading...
More about...Uncategorized

Senior Discounts: Adding to Those Happy Golden Years

photo illustration

I turned 53 on Tuesday. My daughter made me breakfast. My husband gave me roses. AARP sent me another membership solicitation. It all adds up to one thing: senior discounts.

Like many, when the AARP pitch arrives in the mail, I ditch it. I'M NOT OLD, I say to anyone who is listening (usually just the dog). Just this season on the Netflix series Frankie and Grace, one of the characters — who is in her 70s — noted that she refused to join AARP because  it means admitting she was all done. “There's an article in the newsletter on how to get over that,” another character rebuts.

I mean, what is old? I have some decent longevity in my genetic pool, so let's figure I make it to 90. That would have made me middle-aged at 45! I appeal that decision! And honestly at 53, I feel pretty good. It's hard for me to remember how old I am, except for when I see photos of my 25-year-old self and I remember that skin.

Continue reading...
More about...Frugality