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Let's Talk Babies!

Family Finance

These are trying financial times. It seems like every time you turn on the news or read the paper it is just more bad news about the economy. The suffering goes far beyond wall street and hits the average family where it hurts most, they pocket book. Most families these days are doing what they can to save a few dollars here and there. For some it is just good planning for others it is necessary because of financial struggles.

Saving money on your family’s grocery bill can make a huge difference. Food prices are rising faster than your paycheck so find a few ways to save some money the next time you head to the grocery store can be a big help with the family budget.

Here are a few tips to think about the next time you head to the grocery store.

  • Shop on a full stomach. If you are hungry when you go to the grocery store you are much more likely to buy more than you need, especially expensive snack foods.
  • Shop with a list. Trying to remember what you need at the grocery store can be a challenge without a list and often times results in buying more than you need.
  • Shop alone. Having your spouse or the kids along tends to result in more stuff in the grocery cart than you intended.
  • Know your grocery store and how grocery stores work. Knowing the layout of your store can not only make your trip more efficient it can also make it cheaper as you can avoid those areas of the store where the most display items are. Stores put up displays of high profile, high cost items in areas where they are most likely to catch your eye. If you know the store is doing this it is easier to avoid.
  • Buy store or generic brands when possible. For the most part these no-name brands are just as good as the name brand but will cost you much less.
  • Use coupons or store discount cards. Some stores even print the amount you saved at the bottom of the receipt. You’ll feel good knowing you saved some extra money.
  • Check the unit price and buy in bulk when it is cost effective for your family.
  • Make fewer trips to the grocery store. Try to go only once a week instead of stopping by several times a week. You are more likely to pick up extras that you don’t really need when you shop more frequently.

Making a few changes to the way you shop and what you buy can make a big difference on the bottom line of your next grocery bill. Saving money on your family budget is a good thing no matter what the economy is doing, but in trying financial times it is even more important.

What tricks do you use to help save money on your family’s grocery bill?

It seems like everyday the news is filled with more stories that impact our pocket books.  Gas prices are high, the stock market is down, unemployment is up, food prices are skyrocketing, etc, etc, etc.  A trip to the grocery store now costs more, you need to budget more for gas for your upcoming family vacations, and the list goes on.

Staying afloat in trying financial times comes down to planning ahead, budgeting, and making your money count.  Little things like grouping your errands so you don’t have to travel all the way across town several times a week, eating at home with your family versus eating out, planning ahead for meals so you don’t have to make so many trips to the grocery store.

Clipping coupons is a big way to help reduce that growing grocery bill.  Finding coupons for the things you need and use has become so much easier with the advent of online coupon websites.  Here is a list of some useful coupon sites.  You can print and use coupons from these sites.

To name a few….

Managing the family budget may have become a little more difficult lately but with the help of a few handy resources, like online coupons sources, you can make that dollar stretch a little further.

The average cost of an adoption in the United States is $10,000 to $20,000.  Some do cost much more and some cost less.  The cost of the adoption will be influenced by the agency you work with, your state laws, whether your adoption is local or international, and the age of the child you are adopting.

Making the decision to adopt is a big one.  Some couples choose to adopt because they are experiencing infertility and adoption is their only chance to start a family, others are looking to add to their existing family and either can’t or don’t want to have more children of their own, while other couples choose adoption because they feel a need to help children.  No matter what brings you to the decision to adopt it is a good option for starting or growing your family.

Due to the expense of adoption many families must consider all their options in terms of financing. Most families don’t have the funds necessary just sitting in a bank account some where!  Here in the United States there are many avenues a family can go down in order to get assistance with the financial burdens of adoption.  I encourage you to talk to an adoption planner or counselor if you are planning an adoption to figure out what financial assistance may be available to you.

Here are a few of the assistance programs commonly available:

  • Employee Benefits: Many employers now offer adoption assistance as part of their employee benefits package.  Review your benefits package and talk with your manager or human resources representative to find out more about what is available, who is eligible, and what you have to do to take advantage of this benefit.
  • Federal Tax Credit: There is a tax credit of up to $10,000 available under the United States federal tax law if you make under $190,000.  Contact the IRS or a tax accountant to find out more about this credit.
  • State Tax Credit: Many states also offer a tax credit.  Contact your local tax office or a tax accountant to find out if your state offers a tax credit.
  • Military Benefits: In most cases the US Military will reimburse up to $2000 for adoption expenses for active duty military personnel.  If you are in the military talk with your Commanding Officer about your eligibility.
  • Dependency Exemption and Child Tax Credit: These are not specific adoption benefits, however, for parents trying to figure out the finances of adoption the available dependency exemptions and child tax credits at both the federal and state levels may give you the added money you are looking for.
  • Adoption Loans: Many large insurance companies and financial institutions now offer adoption loans.  These can be great ways to come up with the money necessary to finalize the adoption and can then be paid off with tax benefits or employer benefits you receive after the adoption.
  • Private Grants: Some organizations offer private grants for families seeking to adopt, particularly those more socio-economically challenged families.  To find out more about available private grants contact the National Adoption Foundation at 203-791-3811.

Considering the financial burden of adoption can be overwhelming for some families.  Knowing all the financial assistance available to you can make going down the road to adoption a little easier.  Talk with your adoption counselor, a local adoption agency, or a financial planner to determine what assistance if available to you and how you can take advantage of it.

Did you adopt?  How did you come up with the necessary funds?  What options did you find that you weren’t aware of?

There are many reasons that you may want to take a look at your family finances.  The current state of the economy, of course, has many of us evaluating our spending and saving habits.  Perhaps you are planning on staying home with your baby and need to take another look at your budget to make sure you can manage it.  On the other hand you may be returning to work and will need to add that big expense of daycare.  It is always a good idea to make a little time now and then to take a look at your budget, including spending and saving habits, and make a few little adjustments so your budget meets your current and upcoming needs.  

Here are a few tips to help you get in the saving mode and keep that family budget in line.

  • Log your spending.  This will help you see where you can trim some excess spending and will also give you an idea where most of your money is going. 
  • Pay yourself first.  Include yourself in your monthly budget.  Determine what you want, ie retirement, vacation fund, college fund, etc.  Set up savings accounts or investment accounts with automatic transfers from your checking account or pay check. 
  • Stagger your savings due dates.  If you have money going into several savings and investment accounts stagger the automatic withdrawal dates so that all the money doesn't come out at once.
  • Make paying down debt a priority.  Being out of debt will make all the rest a lot easier so making it a priority early on will allow you to become debt free sooner.
  • When you finish paying off a loan or a credit card take the money that you normally would have paid to that bill and put it in a savings account.  You will see that this builds up a nice little cushion for you and will help you avoid going back into debt.
  • Open a couple of savings accounts.  Open one where the money will be fairly accessible and another where you can't touch the money (at least not easily).
  • Save your loose change.  Some banks offer a "keep the change" type thing where the change from your purchases will be automatically transfered to your savings account.  Of course, the good old change jar works too.
  • Determine your families needs and make a budget.  Stick to the budget.  If you want to make a big ticket purchase force yourself to save for it instead of purchasing it on credit. 
  • Re-evaluate your budget on a regular basis and make the necessary adjustments as your needs change.
  • Teach your children about money early.  It is a great gift to give your child and will make dealing with money a lot easier for them later in life.

If you aren't sure how to get started consider talking to a financial planner, particularly if you aren't sure how to get started with your savings and investments.   

The decision of whether to stay home with your baby or to return to work is a hard one and one that has many variables to consider (most of which are out of your control).  Stay at home moms are often pitted against working moms in the media, as if there is some battle between the two, as if one choice is really better than the other.  But the decision is a very personal one and the choice you make will be the right one for you. 

When trying to decide whether to stay home or return to work the mother and her partner must look at many factors.  Here are just a few of the things to consider when making this very important decision. 

  • What option would I prefer?  You need to ask yourself this question first because it may eliminate a lot of the other questions.  If you don’t want to stay home, if returning to work is important to you than you don’t need to give it much more thought. 
  • What option does my partner prefer?  Talk about your differences of opinion and work together to meet at a decision what makes both of you feel comfortable.   
  • What is our financial situation?  Together with your partner you will need to take a very detailed look at your budget, at what you bring in now versus what you will bring in after the baby (assuming both staying home and returning to work).  Determine what the budget tells you.  If you can afford to stay home and really want to stay home then this is a viable option for you. 
  • Do you want to stay home full time or part time?  If you want to stay home full time and can afford, great.  If you want to stay home only part time, either for financial or personal reasons, you will need to determine what your options are.  Talk to your employer about the part time options available for your position, what that would entail and what difference it would make in your pay and benefits. 
  • If you return to work full time after the baby is born what daycare options are available to you?  This is important to research as part of this decision as it may sway you one way or the other if you are still on the fence.  Look at the options available to you, what the costs of the various options are, and how those costs fit into your budget.   

As I stated earlier the decision to stay home or return to work is a very personal one.  You don’t always have a say since many women find themselves in a personal or financial situation that requires them to return to work, such as single moms.  If you have a choice be sure to consider all aspects of the decision carefully before making your choice.  You may find that when you ask yourself the question “Do I want to continue working?” the answer is a resounding yes.  Talk to your partner, this is a decision you need to make together.   

This will be a hard decision to make, particularly if the budget is tight but you really want to stay home.  It is important to contemplate this subject early and do as much research as you can so you can feel comfortable with the ultimate decision. 

What did you do to decide if you would stay home or return to work after your baby?  What part of the decision did you find hardest?  Are you happy with the choice you made?