Pregnant? Save Money by Avoiding These Financial Traps

If you are a woman, one of the most exciting times in your life is when you are pregnant and anticipating the birth of your first child.  You may fantasize about your baby, eager for the birth so that you can finally hold and care for your child.  Unfortunately, there are several companies that tap into this joy and attempt to profit from it.  (I should know because I spent money on each one and regretted two of three of them!)

While you may want to know as much about your baby as possible and feel as close to him or her before the baby is born, save yourself money by avoiding these gimmicks that likely aren’t worth your cold, hard cash:

Intelligender: Early Gender Test – This test says it will tell you the gender of your baby as early as 10 weeks, which is 10 weeks earlier than your 20 week ultrasound where you typically discover the baby’s sex.  I must confess, I fell for this not once, but twice and used it with my last two children.  And guess what?  Both times it said my girls were going to be boys.  If you want to spend nearly $30 on this kit, go ahead for a bit of fun, but even though the site says it has a 90% accuracy rating, in my experience, it was a 0% accuracy rating.

Prenatal Listening System – This system has you tie a monitor on your stomach so you can presumably listen to your baby’s heartbeat in utero.  I bought one of these with my first child and never heard anything more than my own heartbeat!  As it turns out, if your baby is turned so his back is against the wall of your stomach, you will not be able to hear anything; even my doctor sometimes had trouble finding his heartbeat.  I sold this and didn’t even try with my last two children.

3D/4D Ultrasounds – Most moms and dads know the frustration of looking at a typical ultrasound and just taking a guess at what your child looks like.  However, a 3D/4D ultrasound fills out your baby’s features and lets you see them in detail.  Of the three things I say you can avoid in pregnancy, this is the one that I would say might be worth spending money on if you have the extra cash.  These ultrasounds are done ideally between 28 and 32 weeks and can run from $125 to $250 depending what services you get.  I got one of these with each of my children, and it did make me feel closer to them because I could get a good idea what they looked like.  I saw my son sucking his thumb, which he did often after he was born, and I saw that my first daughter had a full head of hair.  I saw my second daughter yawn, stretch and play with her toes.

Impending motherhood is an exciting time, but sometimes the best thing to do to save money and frustration is just to sit back and enjoy your pregnancy.  Soon, you will be holding your new baby in your arms and won’t need devices to make you feel closer to your baby.


Saving Money by Cutting Back Credit Card Debt

This is a guest post from the folks at

I was watching a football game and it made me think of my credit card. (No, I ordered pizza and beer and paid cash, no credit. Yes, I deal with personal financial issues all the time. And even if you aren’t a great fan of football, you can learn about how to deal with your credit card debt). Pro football is exciting, with special teams for offense, defense, kick-off and other special teams. There is a lot of strategy and planning that goes into making a good team. Then there is a lot of training to make the execution work. Finally, the team needs drive and determination to become a winner.

Well, I realized that all those are true for us, when looking at our credit cards and financial situation. We need to follow those same three steps:

  1. Planning (creating a budget, emergency fund, retirement account, buying a house and taking a mortgage, building our credit),
  2. Training (maintaining our budget, and learning to control our debts)
  3. Execution with drive and determination (sticking to our plan).

I also realized that not every team is a winner. Some teams do have a better overall record (Hey, I like the Patriots), but teams vary from season to season. The same is true for us. Sometimes we have a good year, with raises and bonuses. And sometimes we have unexpected expenses (medical, emergency repairs) or a loss of income.

There is no one game plan. We all have different situations. For some, it is easy and for others it is difficult. Follow the tips below for a:

  1. Good Financial Situation – Easy Credit Card solutions
  2. Tough Situations – Hard solutions

Good Financial Situation

If you have good credit, equity in your house, a positive cash flow, but you ran up some credit card debt, then use some of these tips:

  1. Plan a Budget: Keep track of your expenses.
  2. Tackle your debt. Don’t make minimum payments and drag out your debt for years.
  3. Make good habits and block out bad ones. Bad spending habits make you run up debt. Use cash and lay off the credit card.
  4. Follow practical, easy budgeting tips on how to save money and if possible, earn more money.
  5. Take out a low interest personal loan or a cash-out mortgage refinance loan.

Tough Financial Situation – Credit Card Debt

If your credit is bad, you have trouble making your monthly payments, or you are late in some of your payments, then you need to keep looking for solutions.  Credit card debt does not just disappear. Your creditors will either pursue the debt or sell it off to a collection agency, which can be very aggressive.

This is a good time to look for special teams and different debt relief options.  Here are some tips to getting out of a credit card debt even if you are in a tough situation:

  1. Research your debt relief options. Get free consultations. You can get a free consultation from a credit counseling service or debt settlement company.
  2. If you need a lot of blocking to get down the field, then look into a credit counseling service.
  3. If you are deep in debt, and facing financial difficulty, then you will need more specialized help. Consider a debt settlement company (but don’t pay any upfront fees).

Credit Card Debt – Touchdown

You too can deal with your credit card debt. This is true if all you need is a little better management of your personal finances or even if you are struggling to make your minimum payments.

Remember to follow the steps of good planning, training, determination.  You can successfully run the right plays and march down the field to score a real touchdown.

Having a Baby? Save Your Money and Skip Buying These Items

If you are going to have a baby soon and are a first time parent, you may be overwhelmed by all of the baby paraphernalia out there.  What is necessary and what will not be useful?  With all of the marketing, manufacturers can convince you that most items are a necessity.

Here is a list of items you will likely find unnecessary:

  1. Pee pee teepees:  To prevent the new baby boy in your life from spraying you and himself when you change his diaper.  As a mother of a once baby boy, I can tell you that we were only sprayed once, and I doubt the pee pee teepee would have saved us.  Instead, learn to change the diaper as quickly as possible.
  2. Diaper Genie:  We have diapered three children, and never required a diaper genie.  We simple kept a small garbage can under our bathroom sink cabinet (lined with a plastic grocery store bag), and put the dirty diapers there.  Every night we take out the garbage.  Occassionally the odor is too strong, and then we just take it out immediately.
  3. Wipe warmer:  This keeps your wipes warm so baby is never exposed to room temperature baby wipes.  If you keep your home warm in the winter, there is really no need for one of these.
  4. Baby bathrobe and slippers:  Are these pint-size bathrobes adorable beyond belief?  Absolutely, but they are also impractical.  Instead, buy a nice hooded towel; it will last much longer and be more useful.
  5. A full wardrobe:  Those teeny, tiny size 0-3 month clothes are ridiculously cute, but many babies will outgrow them quickly.  My babies were all big (9 to 10 pounds), and they could never wear 0-3 month clothing for longer than the first 6 weeks.  Often, they just stayed in sleep and play clothing.  If you receive an abundance of baby clothes, you might consider exchanging them for larger sizes the baby will be able to wear for a longer period of time.
  6. A full crib set:  We may have grown up with soft bumpers around us as we slept in our cribs, but that is a big no-no now.  To reduce the risk of SIDS, put your baby to bed with just a sheet covering the mattress and skip the cute comforter and bumpers.  If you need bumpers in case baby’s leg or arm gets stuck between the slats, consider investing in a breathable, mesh bumper that protects baby but is still safe to help prevent against SIDS.
  7. Baby socks:  You may need a few when your baby goes out, but if your baby is anything like mine were, he will be kicking his feet so much that socks never stay on anyway.

As a first time parent, preparing for baby’s arrival can be both exciting and overwhelming.  Just remember that you don’t need to go overboard to care for your baby.  Stick to the basics, and buy things as you need them.   Ask the moms around you, and they will also share what products they loved and what ones were a waste of money.

Have the Wedding You Want—Don’t Worry So Much about the Guests

We are in the midst of wedding season; and if you are like most people, you will probably have at least one wedding to attend this summer.

When you get to midlife, you will have attended many, many weddings, and you will have seen everything from $40,000 weddings to $5,000 budget weddings.  While you may have enjoyed attending the weddings, my guess is that you probably don’t remember much about them.

If you are the one planning your wedding, read the above paragraph carefully—most people don’t care about the fine details of your wedding.  Most guests care about the food and the party.  That’s it.

I know it sounds harsh, but that is the way it is.  Serve them good food that is hot and served shortly after the reception begins (instead of two or three hours after they arrive while they sit waiting for you to finish your photos) and have good music to dance to that is not so loud they can’t hear one another, and most guests are happy.

Often, many of the expenses the wedding couple incurs are completely unnecessary.  Consider the following:

-Napkins with the couple’s name printed on them.  Sure, it is a nice touch, but let’s be honest, no one is going to save the napkins as a keepsake of your wedding.  They will use the napkins as they were intended to be used and throw them in the trash afterwards.  This is an easy expense to reduce by buying basic napkins without the personalization.

-Monogrammed candy.  The candy with a wrapper that contains your names, wedding date and picture is cute, but again, unnecessary for the same reasons listed above for napkins.

-Cameras on the table to take pictures.  At some weddings, every table has a camera, and the wedding guests are to take pictures of themselves.  (A more expensive version of this is the photo booth you can rent for the reception.)  The idea is that you can get candid shots of guests that your wedding photographer may not have had time to take.  Instead, what you get is a picture of your friends making silly faces or a camera with only one or two pictures taken and the rest blank.

-Expensive wedding favors.  I attended one wedding where the mother (my aunt) shared that the couple went deeply into debt for the wedding because they wanted a wedding to remember.  They gave each guest three tulip bulbs to plant so guests could remember their wedding.  I don’t know how much they spent on these, but ours sat outside for quite some time before they ever got planted.  They were a gift, quite frankly, we didn’t want or need.

Every bride and groom thinks there wedding is special and the best experience ever.  On another blog I read, they were discussing wedding expenses, and one commenter actually wrote, “Our wedding was the best wedding ever. . .people will remember the day forever.”  As someone who has attended well over 20 weddings, most of them are a blur.

Your guests will not remember your wedding forever; you will.  So have the wedding you would like, and don’t worry so much about all of those small, keepsake momentos and gifts for your guests that they honestly do not care about.  Save money there and reduce your wedding costs or use the money in a way you will enjoy.


Inexpensive Mother’s Day Gifts

Mother’s Day is right around the corner! You forgot didn’t you? Well have no fear! In today’s post I’ll share some money saving ideas for inexpensive Mother’s Day gifts so you don’t show up empty-handed.

1. Flowers. What mom wouldn’t love a beautiful bouquet of flowers? You don’t have to spend a fortune either. You can order flowers online and have them shipped right to your mom’s front door for as little as $30 to $50.

2.  A Family Portrait. Get the whole family together and have a professional portrait taken.  It won’t cost much if you split the cost.  Another option is to gather a bunch of old pictures and make them into a personalized photo album.

3.  Home Movies on DVD.  If your mom has old home movies laying around on VHS or 8mm tape you can have them transferred to dvd so she can enjoy watching old memories whenever she wants.

4.  Have her grandchildren make her something. It could be as simple as a card made with construction paper, crayons, glitter, and glue.   Or it could be a do it yourself project like the ones offered at Home Depot.  I take my kids to Home Depot on the first Saturday of each month for the Kids Workshop.  This month they made little planters with pretty flowers for their mom.

5.  Burn a CD of her favorite tunes.  You can download free legal MP3 songs and then burn them onto a CD so your mom can listen to them at home or on the road.

6.  Make her dinner at home.   How many thousands of meals did your mom cook for you while you were growing up?  Well guess what…now it’s your turn!   Grab a cookbook and some groceries and prepare a homemade meal for your mom.  She deserves it!

Do you have any more suggestions for inexpensive Mother’s Day gifts?

How to Lower Home Insurance Premiums

This is a guest post.

The world of insurance can be complicated and expensive for those who don’t do their research, or for those who chance upon the wrong brokers. The average Home Insurance premium is rising; largely due to costly renewals and fraudulent claims. Counter this effect by applying a few practices before committing to a policy.

Thanks to the internet there are hundreds of cheap home insurance quotes immediately at your disposal. Buy your policy online and enjoy the discounts often associated with online purchases. It’s also much easier to browse for a quote on line before you commit to the actual – talking it through with the broker – stage.

The insurance business does now gear itself towards the consumer with hundreds of uniquely tailored policies rather than the generic policies of yesteryear. This is why it’s important to tailor your policy to your exacting needs.

Home Insurance broadly constitutes two main areas: Buildings Insurance and Contents Insurance. Get the right balance of the two and look for features that suit your needs. Perhaps you rent rather than own. Maybe you own expensive a specialist collection that you wish to insure individually. Get a policy where you pay for what you need and don’t pay for what you’ll never use.

In straightforward terms, lower your premium by decreasing the risk on your property. The essence of an insurance companies business is to assess the risk you possess and set the premium accordingly. Install approved security: lights, locks and alarms. Don’t smoke – as well as being a health benefit it decreases your fire risk.

Build a no claims bonus by not claiming when you don’t need to – just as you would with your car insurance. Combine your Building Insurance and your Contents Insurance on the same policy, thus demanding a better deal from the broker. Set your voluntary excess as high as you can whilst still being realistic about what you can afford.

Lowering your Home Insurance premium is completely achievable by shopping around for the right company, and furthermore by decreasing your risk to the insurer through lowering your risk status.

The 3 Stages of Foreclosures

There are countless Americans who dream of buying a foreclosed home for a fraction of its true value. Some want to quickly flip it for a profit. Others want to buy it as investment and rent it out for recurring income. Still others are just looking for a good deal on a house they can raise their own family in for years to come.

Whatever their reason, they all get the same sparkle in their eye when they imagine themselves buying a dream house for pennies on the dollar.

If you’re thinking of jumping into the game, there are 3 stages of foreclosure in which you can step up to the plate.

1. When a home-owner starts missing their mortgage payments they enter the “pre-foreclosure” stage. The key is to get an updated list of pre-foreclosure properties and act fast before the competition gets there first. You can negotiate with the owner and/or the lender to work out an equitable arrangement for all parties.

2. If a home doesn’t sell in the pre-foreclosure stage and the homeowner is unable to come up with the money to pay off the missed payments, late charges, and interest, the home will be sold at a public auction. Keep in mind that competition can be fierce and you may be going up against seasoned investors. Be sure to do your homework carefully and don’t let yourself get carried away or you’ll end up bidding more than a property is worth.

3. When a foreclosure property doesn’t sell at auction, ownership is transferred back to the lender. These are called “real estate owned” properties. Lenders hate REOs and they usually want to unload them as fast as possible. Most of the time they just hand them off to local real estate agents to deal with, but if you act fast you can make an offer directly to the bank. They may be willing to make a deal just to get it off their books faster.

No matter what stage of the foreclosure process you decide to enter, timing is key. Having access to reliable and up to date foreclosure home listings can mean the difference between hitting the jackpot and coming up empty.

3 Simple Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill

People are constantly asking me for ideas on how they can cut their expenses and lower their bills. They always expect some profound response that will change their lives forever. But the truth is most of my suggestions are simple and require very little sacrifice. Individually they seem almost insignificant but when put together they can have a tremendous financial impact.

Let’s use your electric bill as an example. Do you know how much you paid for electricity last month? Was it too much?

Well if you’re like most people you’re wasting a ridiculous amount of electricity and you can cut a hefty slice out of that bill by making a few minor changes to your routine. Here are 3 simple ways to lower your electric bill:

1. Turn things off when you’re not using them. Its common sense right? When you leave a room turn out the light. Do you really need the TV, the computer, and the cd player going all at the same time? Simply being aware of your wasteful habits can help you change them.

2. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). They may cost more upfront but CFLs pay for themselves in no time. They use 75% less energy than a standard bulb and last 10 times as long. The average CFL will save you about $30 over its lifetime.

3. Stamp out energy leak by unplugging unused appliances. Did you know that most appliances use energy even when they’re turned off? Add up all of the televisions, stereos, computers, microwaves, and cell phone charges sitting around your house and you’ll be shocked at how much power is being wasted.

These 3 simple tips will cost you next to nothing, but they can save you hundreds of dollars per year by lowering your electric bill.

How to Save When You Are Trying to Lose Weight

Spring is nearly here, which means that soon we will be discarding heavy jackets and coats in favor of short sleeve t-shirts and shorts.   If your New Year’s Resolutions have fallen flat, you still have time to drop some weight and get in shape before the summer season.  However, doing so doesn’t have to cost a bundle.  There are plenty of ways to save money when trying to lose weight.

What Weight Loss Plan to Choose

Generally, you will spend the most money if you choose a weight loss plan that requires you to buy their food.  You will have to pay for all of their prepackaged food plus enrollment and/or meeting fees.  Instead, choose a weight loss plan that teaches you how to eat right using food that you choose and prepare.

Also, depending on your personality, you may want to consider an online weight loss plan.  For instance, Weight Watchers offers members the option of coming to a meeting weekly or of following the plan online.  However, the online plan is nearly 50% cheaper than the meeting option.  If you don’t need the supportive environment of a weekly meeting, you could save quite a bit of money following the plan on your own at home.

What Food to Buy

Despite what marketing executives would like us to believe, you don’t have to buy any expensive food or special weight loss foods.  In fact, the foods that are best for your body are often some of the cheapest.  Buying basic produce such as carrots, celery, apples, pears, and bananas, you could pay less than $2 per pound, especially if you buy them in bulk.  In addition, healthy carbs such as oatmeal and barley are also low cost.

How to Save on Exercise

A key component of any weight loss plan is to also include exercise.   However, you don’t have to join a gym and pay a monthly fee.  There are several low cost fitness options:

-Follow an exercise DVD.  You can buy these at a steep discount on a site such as eBay.

-Play outside with the kids.  On nice spring days, take your kids out for a walk.  Challenge them to a race or play a game of tag.  You’ll feel like a kid again, and you will also be burning calories.  If it is a rainy day and you are stuck inside, put on some music and dance around with your kids.  They will appreciate your silliness, and the whole family will get some much needed exercise.

-Buy a piece of exercise equipment you love.  If you like walking on a treadmill or using an elliptical, for instance, ask around to see if anyone you know is looking to get rid of one.  Chances are you could get it at an excellent price this way.  Another alternative is to check Craigslist.  Don’t be afraid to haggle with sellers.

Losing weight will improve your health and make you feel better about yourself, especially in the summer months when there is not a sweater or jacket to hide behind.  Losing weight doesn’t have to be expensive.  Stick to low cost options, and you can drop the pounds without hurting your wallet.

Save Money This Summer By Starting To Be More Fuel-Efficient Today

This is a guest post.

If you’ve turned on the news recently, you probably are well aware that the average price of gas is steadily increasing – and that it can be expected to hit some record highs across much of the country this summer. The increase in gas can be largely attributed to heightened demand, OPEC restrictions, and geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East, and analysts are already speculating that it could play a decisive role in November’s presidential election.

But regardless of the role gas prices may play in this fall’s political debates, there’s no question that they will impact every consumer on an individual level. Many Americans are already planning to cancel summer driving trips and cut back on recreational automobile usage. Yet even if you simply drive to and from work every day, there’s still a good chance that you wallet will feel the gas squeeze to some degree. What are you doing to cut down on your gas consumption? And, perhaps more appropriately, what can you do as summer arrives and prices begin to approach their peak?

To answer these questions, here are a few strategies to keep in mind:

-Integrate driving trips. Instead of coming home from work, leaving again to pick the kids up from school, coming home, and then leaving once more to run errands, you can combine all your driving tasks to save both time and gas. All it takes is having some foresight and making a plan.

-Find cheap local gas. Driving five miles out of your way to save 10 cents on gas is not likely to be financially prudent. But if there’s a gas station that’s cheaper than your normal one – even marginally so – and if this station is located near your regular driving routes, making the switch might be well worth it in the long run. You can use sites like to scout out the cheapest gas deals in your local area.

-Save money while exercising. If you’re upset by high gas prices and frustrated that you don’t have enough time to work out, you may be able to kill two birds with one stone by running or biking to work instead of commuting by car. If your job is too far away or not conducive to showing up sweaty, you can still start the practice of running to the grocery store on the weekend instead of driving. Warmer summer weather, after all, provides few excuses to abstain from outdoor exercise.

-Use public transit when possible. In most situations the cost of public transit is cheaper than that of driving and maintaining a car, and this is especially the case when gas prices are high. If you have transit options in your area, taking advantage of them even a couple times a week can translate into gas savings over time.

-Upgrade to a gas-efficient car. If you’re looking to save money this summer, the cost of upgrading to a gas-efficient car will certainly be far greater than the expense posed by rising gas prices. But if you’ve been contemplating getting a new car anyways, this spring is the perfect time to make that purchase before summer gas prices hit. Moreover, if you file late taxes you may be able to get some rebates by purchasing a more efficient car.

-Carpool to work. By carpooling with a co-worker to the office you can effectively cut your weekly gas consumption in half. Additionally, many cities have high-occupancy expressway lanes designed specifically for carpoolers. Since traffic usually moves faster in these lanes, you can burn less gas idling in rush hour and save even more in the process.

-Commute at off-peak times. On a similar note, switching up you commuting schedule can have similarly beneficial effects on your wasted gas, total consumption, and aggregate costs. Working from home a day or two a week, if possible, can likely be even more advantageous.

Following one or more of these strategies can hopefully help you cut back on those forthcoming (and substantial) summer gas costs. While it is impossible for many of us to stop using our cars and buying gas altogether, it is certainly possible to reduce this practice and, in the process, chip away at the resulting cost burden.

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