Top 10 Cheapest Activities to do with the Kids this Summer

summer funSummer vacation is a time for fun and gives everyone the opportunity to relax and spend time with his or her family. Many are presented with the question of what summer activities can be done on a budget. In fact, several fun activities can be done without spending a lot of money. Some of the best activities are actually free. Here are the top 10 cheapest activities to do with the kids this summer.

1. Family Game Night

A game night is a fun inexpensive activity to do with the kids. All you have to do is gather a few games together and make the set up extra special. Also, prepare some delicious snacks that you do not usually serve. This can make the event extra special even though you are not spending a lot of money.

2. Picnic

During the summer, a picnic is a great thing to do with your children. Not only will you get to spend quality time with the kids but also they will have the opportunity to spend some time outdoors.

3. Beach Day

Planning a day at the beach will ensure a day of fun in the sun. All you need are a few beach towels, swimsuits and beach toys. Your children will definitely have a great time and enjoy having fun in the ocean. Just be sure to keep an eye on them.

4. Bake a Cake

Kids love sweets so they will love making their own cake. Baking with your children gives you the opportunity to spend time with them and have fun. They will enjoy frosting and decorating the cake once it is finished.

5. Hiking Trip

If your family enjoys the outdoors and enjoys staying active, take a hike. In every city, there are safe trails to follow if there are no parks nearby. During a hike, you and your children will get the chance to enjoy nature, pick flowers and learn about some new species. A hiking trip can be both fun and educational.

6. Throw a Dance Party

If you and your family are fond of dancing host a dancing party. All you have to do is turn on some music, prepare a few snacks and beverages and designate a dance floor. This is a high energy activity that will keep your children entertained for a while.

7. Plan a Museum Trip

Just because school is not in session does not mean that an educational trip is out of the question. Several museums have days when admission fees are reduced or waived so check your local museums for these dates.

8. Have a Studio Day

Children love to draw and paint so why not throw a studio day. Lay out a variety of paints, brushes, crayons and canvases and allow them to express themselves through art.

9. Take a Mini Road Trip

Taking a road is a free, aside from purchasing gas, and a fun inexpensive family activity. Road trips can be anything from visiting grandparents or an older sibling in college. Just be sure to keep the trip short.

10. Start a Garden

An affordable activity to do this summer is start a garden and have your children help. Gather or purchase some seeds and plant them with your kids. They will enjoy playing in the dirt and seeing the plants grow over the duration of the summer. Whether you have a green thumb or not this is a great activity that costs very little to do.

Overall, there are several inexpensive activities to do with the kids this summer. All you need is a little creativity. Whether you are planning a movie night or taking a hike in the great outdoors you and your kids will have fun together. You do not have to spend money in order to take part in an exiting activity.

photo by afgmatters

How to Save Money Buying Clothing

save money buying clothingClothing is one of those overlooked expenses because we tend to buy over a long period of time rather than all at once. It’s a major reason why people run up credit card bills to unsustainable levels. Over the course of a year a family can easily spend thousands of dollars on clothing.

After years of raising our kids, my wife and I have discovered that the best way to save money on clothing is by not being locked into buying from a single source or from a very narrow selection of stores. It’s not a matter of either buying cheap, or buying better quality that will last, but about identifying when to do either.

Buying the basics

This takes in a large swath of your clothing collection, and fortunately it’s also generally the least visible part of your wardrobe. For this reason you can be aggressive about saving money in this category.

Socks, underwear, tee-shirts, pajamas, sweat suits, etc

The big box discount retailers, like Target and Wal-Mart, are probably the best stores to buy these at, especially when you can get them on sale. There’s no point paying premium prices for any of these because it’s extremely unlikely you’ll have any of them one year from now. The best quality socks and underwear probably won’t last much longer than the cheapest ones you can buy, and you probably won’t want them when they’re that old any way. Think throw-away here, because that’s what you’ll be doing soon enough.

Romp around clothes

We all have clothing we wear just to hang around the house or when we’re working at home. None of it needs to be designer quality with designer prices. You can get some really good knock around clothes at thrift shops for not a lot of moneyâ”in fact substantially less even than what you’d pay at the big box discounters. For three, four or five dollars you can buy a shirt or a pair of pants, some of them designer quality (but of course, used) and wear them until they wear out. You’re not trying to make a fashion statement, you’re just looking for clothes to hang out in when no one is looking.

Clothing for young children

When our kids were young (especially in elementary school and earlier) we bought their clothes either at the big box discounters or at thrift stores. Here’s the thingâ”when kids are young two things are happening: they’re staining/tearing/shredding their clothes, or they’re growing out of themâ”usually in a few months. There’s no point in paying high prices for clothing that will be put through that kind of routine. Once again, think throw-away, because that’s exactly what will happen.

Your operating clothing inventoryâ

This is that portion of your wardrobe that you need for your public face. Think business casual, or going out clothes. You’re not going for formal wear, but it has to be as step above complete casual.

Work clothes

The work wardrobe today is commonly business casual. That means something less than dresses and three piece business suits, but more than weekend wear. You want to look good and have decent quality clothing, but it also needs to be comfortable and practical. And since you work at least five days per week, it’s totally predictable that you’ll need to recycle your work wardrobe on a regular basis. That makes a strong case for shopping at moderately priced retailers, like Kohl’s and JC Penny. The clothes have to be average quality or better, but at the same time with the understanding that you probably will discard them in a year or two. That makes a strong case against buying them a premium retailers.

Tween/teen clothing

Tweens and teens can blow through clothing almost as quickly as younger children but there’s an added element: peer pressure. You want to buy better clothing than you can get at discount retailers, but at the same time to recognize that styles change rapidly in this age group, so once again, none of these clothes will remain in your teen’s inventory for very long. The moderately priced retailers are, on balance, the best places to shop. Yes, your teen will probably want to get her clothing at high end stores, but if there’s a budget concern you’ll have to go down a step to keep up.

Friday/Saturday night wear

This is the clothing you’d wear to go out on a Friday or Saturday night, or to visit family or friends. It isn’t business casual, but it’s generally nicer than casual-casual. You’ll want these to look nice, but you probably won’t wear them nearly as much as your work clothesâ”which is to say that you won’t have to replace them nearly as fast. This once again points to moderately priced retailers.

The higher end part of your wardrobe

There are parts of your wardrobe that you’ll want to last longer, and that will mean better quality and the higher prices that go with them.

Suits for special occasions

Everyone needs to have an outfit or two that can be worn to the occasional wedding or funeral. While business casual is completely accepted nearly everywhere else, these are the few remaining events where formal is still the expected norm. Since these events tend to be few and far betweenâ”and since you’ll want to put your best foot forward when you’re thereâ”it can warrant spending extra at a premium retailer for a good outfit that will not only last many years but also look good in the meantime.

Clothing for important work/business events

 There are events related to work that require something more than business casual (but generally less than true formal). Those events can include visits by company higher-ups, meetings with important clients, or major corporate functions. These are usually high profile events where looking your best is important to your job and for that reason higher end clothing may be required. Again, since you need to look good but you won’t be buying these clothes often, paying a little more for better clothes at high end retailers may be the way to go.

Winter coats

For an adult, a good winter coat can look good and work well for many years, so it can actually be more cost effective to buy one that will last rather than a series of cheaper ones that have to be replaced every couple of years. Good winter coats don’t generally go out of style, and that can justify paying a higher price for better quality.

You can save money buying quality clothingâ”if it’s the kind of clothing that can be expected to last for many years. But you can also save money by buying at the least expensive level the clothing that naturally won’t be expected to last more than a year or two, and sometimes just a few months.
What methods do you use to limit your clothing budgetâ”especially if you have children?

photo by wonderlane

Top 10 Mother’s Day Gifts under $25

mother's day giftsMother’s Day is around the corner so you know what that means: a new frugal gift guide for Mother’s Day!  No need to shop around this year, I did all the work for you!  I scoured the internet and came up with the top ten Mother’s Day gifts all under $25.  Don’t break the bank this year.  Instead, buy her one of the following frugal gifts and I guarantee she will be one happy momma!

1. Digital Instant Read Thermometer

Don’t you just love it when technology makes life easier?  If your Mom is a cook, this gift is for her.  With a digital instant read thermometer, you can check the temperature of your food with the push of a button.  No more waiting around, know the temperature instantly!  With large numbers, this thermometer is a breeze to read.  Also, you can change it from reading in Fahrenheit to Celsius if you so choose.

2. Personalized “Mom” Mug

Nothing shows your appreciate like a custom “Mom” mug.  With endless varieties online, you’re sure to find something that your Mom will truly enjoy.  The benefit of this gift is that it’s something that will stay with her for years to come.  She can always look at the mug and remember how much you appreciate her.  This one is a winner in my book.

3. Starbuck’s Gift Card

I don’t know a single Mom that does not like Starbucks.  I swear, Starbucks must have mind control, because their coffee is good but not that good!  Either way, people and especially Moms love Starbucks coffee.  Grab a $25 gift card for your Mom and tell her how much you appreciate her and what she did for your life.

4. Personalized Hand in hand Family Frame

These are the  epitome  of cute.  A mom who values her family will most likely cry when she opens this present.  While it’s a thoughtful present, your Mom will enjoy and use this gift for many many years to come.  Heck, she may even placed it on the kitchen sill.

5. I-Pad Case for the Tech Mom

For the tech moms out there who use I-Pads, grab her an I-Pad case for Mother’s Day. As long as you know her tastes in terms of colors and design, you won’t have a hard time finding a case that your Mom will use and not throw away!

6. Assorted Candle Set

What Mom doesn’t like candles?  Grab her a colorful candle set with a range of scents and watch as your Mom bursts with excitement.  I’m a guy so I have no idea why Moms love candles so much.  All I know if that you can’t go wrong with this gift!

7. Flowering Tea Set

Wanna be unique this year and avoid the cliche flowers purchase?  Then get you Mother a flowering tea set.  All you do is place one of the selected beautiful flowers into your tea set and wham, you have yourself a great tasting tea that also looks good!  The flowers are hand-picked and quality is guaranteed. This takes home the gold for most creative gift for Mother’s Day this year.

8. Neem and Coconut Treatment Oil

This is another unique gift idea.  As you know, summer is upon us and that means damaged hair for the Moms!  Get her some neem and coconut oil and she will be super happy.  This oil is renown for repairing damaged hair from the sun and stimulating additional  follicle  growth.

9. Face Peel

For the beauty  conscious  Moms, a face peel set can be a wonderful gift.  Let’s be honest, Moms are too busy to hit the spa.  Instead, give her the spa treatment at home with a face peel.  Face peels are great for sensitive skin and diminishing wrinkles.

10. Babycakes Waffle Maker

This gift is one that will keep on giving.  This waffle maker was designed especially for kids.  Now your children will be able to give your Mom the special breakfast treatment in bed.  The surface is non-stick and super easy to use.  This gift is one for a Mom that likes to be spoiled.

photo by rberteig

Stewardship, Your Kids, and the 4 Little Pigs

kids and financesParables and stories are great way to teach basic money principals to kids and adults alike. Today, we’re going to address basic money questions you might have as a parent such as:

  • Should allowance be something children are given, or should it be earned?
  • What do I do about the child who spends everything all at once? And what about the kid who won’t spend anything at all?
  • How can I tell if and when my child is ready for a new responsibility?

Regardless of where you are at with your personal finances, you can begin teaching your children good money habits by applying the one, simple practice of wise stewardship.

Stewardship is a big word that sounds a little outdated, but the concept is both timeless and wise. As a financial advisor, it forms the  foundation  for what I pass on to my financial planning clients, my coaching clients, and my family.

Its root word is keeper,  meaning one who cares for and manages people and things.

Do you remember the story of The Three Little Pigs? It tells the tale of 3 brothers who were sent off into the world. Imagine that their parents gave them each an equal share of money, and told them to invest wisely!

1.           The first little pig had a grand time and spent all his money on video games and candy. Because he had nothing left to build his house with, he used the left-over straw that blew across the road.

2.           The second little pig managed to control himself a little better and had money left to buy some wood for his house. But things cost much more than he realized, and in the end all he could afford was a big pile of sticks.

3.           The third little pig realized that a house was a pretty important investment. He used almost all the money he had to invest in bricks and mortar and built his house accordingly.

Along came the big bad wolf, who dearly loved to eat little pigs. When he saw the flimsy house built of straw, he smiled and said, “Let me in, Let me in, or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!”

“Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!” replied the first pig.

And as the story goes, the wolf huffed and he puffed and he blew the house down. The first little pig shrieked and ran next door to his brother’s.

Now the wolf followed and the same thing happened again. The house of sticks was little better than the straw, and the same thing happened again, only now we have two little pigs running for their lives.

Terrified of the wolf, they go to their brother’s small house of bricks. He invited them inside where it was warm and cozy. No sooner had he shut the door then the Big Bad Wolf came knocking.

Let me in, let me in! Or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!â

And this time, the third little pig was able to reply, Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin,❠with absolute certainty, because he had built his house the hard way. Sure enough, that old wolf huffed, and he puffed, and he blew and he blew. But that house of bricks did not fall down.

When planning for the financial future of your family, you want to rely on timeless principals based in certainty, not luck.

The principal of WISE STEWARDSHIPS dictates that the better we take care of something ⓠmoney, relationships, bicycles, toys ⓠthe better chance we have of getting more of that thing or something better. Teach your children to be the keeper❠of their money. Teach them to do the hard❠thing first and invest wisely like the third little pig. Apply the following 3 tips to help build the foundation of wise stewardship in your family.

1. Teach kids to take care of what they already have if they want something more.

  • When I want to know whether or not one of my employees can handle a big client, I take a look at how he takes care of his small clients.
  • Start out with small things and see how that goes before challenging them with bigger things.
  • Teach your child: If you want to earn the right to have a car, show me how you take care of your bike. If you want the responsibility of a dog, show me how you take care of your goldfish.â

2.  Do not give allowance like it’s an entitlement.

  • Harder tasks are worth more money. Easier tasks are worth less.
  • Consider age-appropriate chores when assigning monetary value.
  • Giving children money they don’t first have to earn sends the wrong message. It teaches them that financing a lifestyle is normal, when in truth it leads to debt, stress, and the wolf at your door.
  • Doing the hard work of building something you want for yourself leads to self-reliance, responsibility, and a feeling of well-being.
  • Help them decide on a formula such as 70%, 20%, 10%.
  • This will allow them to set aside an amount for spending on short-term items such as movies or treats.
  • Long term goals such as big ticket items.
  • And an amount that teaches the power of giving first. This might go towards a community cause such as a food shelter, a charity, tithe at church, or youth group.

3. Teach your kids how to SPEND, SAVE, and SHARE.

You can have some fun here designing your own special piggy-bank, divided into 3 sections. Or maybe you will have three separate banks to remind you of the parable of the 3 little pigs!

Teaching your child how to care for what they have by doing the hard work now will provide a sound foundation for financial success in the future. What a lasting gift that is for our kids!

What are your family’s money challenges? How does stewardship play a role in your life? Drop me a line with your money questions or stories â“ I’d love to hear from you!

(For more advice and actionable challenges on how you can apply the principals of wise stewardship and hard/easy   in your everyday life, get a copy of Beau’s book, The RichLife, 10 Investments for True Wealth at Beau Henderson is a financial advisor, author, coach, radio personality, and CEO of RichLife Advisors. He has helped over 3,000 clients to not just improve their relationship with money, but to live the life of their dreams. Grab your copy of The RichLife, 10 Investments for True Wealth, and start making investments in your RichLife today! )

Why You Need a Retirement Plan and How to Create a Sturdy One

retirement planningWhether you are just starting out in the professional world or have been working for many years, retirement planning shouldn’t be something that is pushed aside and deemed unimportant. You have only one shot at securing your financial future, so the earlier you start the better.

Even though it is common knowledge that starting to save for retirement as early as possible is the best practice, some still ask, Do I really need a retirement savings plan at all?❠One reason the answer to that question is an emphatic YES❠is that you never know what the future will bring and unexpected and sudden circumstances may arise. For instance, people assume they will be able to continue working as long as they need to live; however, as we age sudden medical issues can creep out of nowhere changing long-term plans. Without a retirement savings plan to fall back on, we could be left without a means to maintain our lifestyle.

Although aging may be beyond your control, one game changer that you have the upper hand in is changing your mind about retirement. As you continue to work, you may realize that you actually do want to retire at a certain age in order to fulfill your life goals of traveling or having more time for your loved ones. For whatever the reason that you want to retire, you will need retirement savings to support your desired lifestyle.

The best thing about this is that creating a retirement plan doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming; here are three ways to create a sturdy plan.

  • Years to retirement:  Calculate the years to your retirement. Determine the age you would like to retire and define the timeframe. You should also estimate how long your retirement years could last (30 or more years in some cases). There are plenty of online calculators you can use for this exercise.
  • Know your risk tolerance:  It is crucial that everyone knows his or her tolerance for risk. By knowing your risk level, you will be able to choose the investments that are right for you and your financial goals. You should pick investments that are personalized to your needs and where you are in life.
  • Contribution amount:  After you figure out the age you want to retire the years your retirement could last and your risk tolerance, you will need to determine how much you should set aside each year to reach your retirement goals. If you decide to contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement plan and your employer offers a match, you should contribute at least enough to receive the full company offering.

Hopefully after reading this, you are now convinced that having a retirement plan is necessary for every individual no matter what stage they are in life. Whether you are only 15 years away or four decades away from the typical retirement age, it’s never too late or too early to start saving. Every dollar that goes towards your retirement counts, so start a retirement plan now to take control of your financial future.

(This has been a guest post by Scott Holsopple.  He is the president and CEO of Smart401k, offering easy-to-use, cost effective 401(k) advice and solutions for the everyday investor. His advice has been featured on various news outlets, including FOX Business, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.)

photo by 05com

Are you Frugal or Cheap? Find Out With This Test

frugal or cheapFrugal and cheap.  Those are two words that people interchange in daily conversations.  Speaking from a general sense, frugal is more respectable than being cheap.  When I think of a cheap person I think about someone who takes towels home from hotels. On the other hand, I envision a frugal person buying name brand clothes at discounted retailers.

But what does the Dictionary say about these two types of people?

Frugal-  economical  in  use  or  expenditure;  prudently  saving  or sparing;  not  wasteful

Cheap-  embarrassingly stingy

I’ll be honest folks, I’ve been called both.  And let me tell you, it’s never fun to be considered the “cheap guy.”  Thankfully I’ve changed from my cheap ways and I’m much more value focused and not just on the price.

So, how would you know if you are frugal or cheap?  Moolanomy came out with a frugal vs. cheap test a while back which inspired this post.  Take out a sheet of paper and a pencil and answer these 12 short questions:


1- When you fill up for gas, what do you do?

1. I go to the most expensive gas station.  Must be better quality right?

2. I shoot for the name  brands  but look around for the best prices

3. I fill up at the cheapest gas station regardless of brand

4. Why fill up, I can run on fumes for another two days


2- What car do you drive?

1. Why buy when you can lease?

2. I’m always on the lookout for next year’s model

3. Used is the only way to go, I never buy brand new

4. I take the bus, it’s better for the environment


3- When Christmas rolls around, what do you do for gifts?

1. I want to impress everyone so you get the latest tech toys recommended by MSN

2. I buy reasonably priced gifts from their lists

3. I buy gift cards for everyone

4. I don’t buy anyone anything and hope no one notices


4- When you want to update your wardrobe, what do you do?

1. Time to hit good ole’ Nordstroms

2. I buy off-brands and maybe one brand name item

3. I space out the purchasing over a couple months and shop at Ross and TJ MAXX

4. I never shop for new clothes.  That’s what Goodwill is for


5- When you grocery shop, what do you do?

1. I head to Whole Foods and buy whatever I want.  Grass fed beef anyone?

2. I go to one grocery store and bring my coupon book

3. In one trip, I go to multiple discounted grocery stores

4. I take food from work for my meals


6- While walking you see a quarter on the ground.  What’s your next move?

1. You snicker and keep on walking

2. I pick it up and then toss it because it’s dirty

3. I pick it up and put it in my wallet for later

4. I pick it up and start looking for other coins on the ground


7- What do you use for showers?

1. I have designer shampoo and conditioner

2. I buy high quality products but always look for the sale

3. I buy whatever is on sale

4. Who needs product?  I use water and a bar of soap


8- Where do you invest your money?

1. Uhhh what does the word “invest” mean…

2. I invest in the latest hot stock or mutual fund

3. I invest through a wide range of mutual funds and ETFs

4. I can’t afford to eat because I invest so much


9- What do you usually do with your tax refund?

1. I hot the closest casino and lose it all

2.  Get the latest and greatest TV of course!

3. I invest it

4. I let is sit in cash gaining zero interest


10- What do you usually tip at restaurants?

1. 20% plus, waitresses rely on the tips for income!

2. I tip based on performance

3. Average service gets no more than 15%

4. I don’t tip, that’s just ridiculous


11- When it’s time to change your oil, what do you do?

1. Take my car to the nearest dealer

2. I get my oil changed at an independent mechanic shop

3. I change my own oil with the cheapest oil out there

4. I skip oil changes and hope my car keeps running


12- A friend asks you to borrow some money.  What’s your response?

1. I whip out your wallet and ask your friend how much he/she needs

2. I ask what the money is for and then agree on a payment plan

3. I write down how much I’m lending and make my friend sign a contract

4. I tell my friend to hit the road


Drum-roll please!  How did you score?

The point system is simple.  All you gotta do is give yourself 1 point for a #1 answer, 2 points for a #2 answer, 3 points for a #3 answer and 4 points for a #4 answer.

And here’s a breakdown of your score:

48= You’re cheap and you should be ashamed of yourself!

36-47= Congrats, you’re frugal and should give yourself a pat on the back 🙂

24-35= You’ve got some work to do.  Time to get back to the basics

12-23= Boy oh boy, you’re not doing too hot.  You should shred your credit cards and follow a budget again


What did I score?

I scored a 38.  What does this mean?  I guess this makes me frugal!  I probably didn’t need a quiz to tell me that but I always need some affirmation.

Take some time and take this test.  When you’re done please comment below and share if you;re frugal or just plain cheap!

25 Christmas Gifts Under $25 That Don’t Suck

christmas giftsThis is a frugal blog, so of course I have to write an article about top frugal Christmas gift ideas!  This post will be a little different though.  Instead of giving you general ideas, I have handpicked 25 totally awesome gift ideas that don’t suck.  Inspiration for this post comes from Phil over at PT Money.  Check out his list of 30 gift ideas, he’s got some good ones 🙂

Many of these gifts are things that could be extremely useful and handy to have around the house.  I found myself writing down many of these gifts for my own list this year!  I think you’ll like these ideas.  Many of these could even be stocking-stuffers depending on your family’s price range for Christmas.

1. Coffee Mug Warmer- At my work, I’m always battling the temperature of my coffee.  Working in the construction industry, our trailers are cold during the winter so coffee doesn’t stay warm for long.  A coffee mug warmer solves this issue!  If you know someone who works at a desk, this mug warmer will keep coffee or any other liquid warm for hours on end.  (Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer for $7.99)


2. Electric Kettle- This is the fastest way to boiling water these days.  Who really wants to wait forever for the stove to get hot.  Not only is it fast, but extremely portable and safe to place on sensitive surfaces. (Proctor Silex Electric Kettle for $14.36)


3. 1 Year Magazine Subscription- When’s the last time you sat down and read a magazine?  It’s probably been a while huh?  Well, chances are that someone would love this gift!  You can get a vast array of 1 year magazine subscriptions and can choose a topic depending on the person’s likes. (1 Year Subscription of Popular Science for $12.00)


4. LED Book Light- This is the perfect gift for an avid reader in the family.  No more dim lights, no more squinting of the eyes.  An LED book light solves all these issues!  It creates a cool background drop as if the actual pages are glowing! (LightWedge LED Book Light for $22.99)


5. USB Car Charger- Never go without power.  I’m a huge fan of USB car chargers myself.  They are a great tool to ensure you are not tapped out of cell phone battery life or other personal devices.  A loved one would love this gift and most likely use it on a regular basis. (Kensington USB Charger for $9.99)


6. Brimmed Beanie- Traditional beanies are out, brimmed beanies are in!  A brimmed beanie is a stylish look for the girls and is sure to attract some welcomed attention. These are especially popular on the ski slopes!  (Dakine Brimmed Beanie for $22.00)


7. Chocolate Gift Set- Who doesn’t like a chocolate gift set?  With a various assortment of chocolates, a chocolate gift set will make anyone very happy.  It’s also a great gift during the holidays, as you can get themed boxes.  (Desk Caddy Chocolate Gift Set for $24.99)


8. Scarf Wrap- I’ve been seeing these around here in San Diego.  I know that San Diego is considered a pretty trendy city, so that must mean something right?  Any woman in your life will love this accessory to be added to a growing closet.  This wrap comes in many different colors so you can be sure to get one that will make someone very happy. (Pashmina Scarf Wrap for $8.99)


9. Moleskine Journal- A quality moleskin journal will last you a very long time for all of your  journalism  needs.  Renown artists and thinkers have used moleskin journals, and for good reason!  With a sturdy frame and only the highest materials used, this is a great gift for the writer in the family.  (Moleskine Notebook for $12.21)


10. Micro Fleece Blanket- A fleece blanket is one that everyone loves.  Whether it’s used to snuggle next to the fire place or to warm you while reading a book, you can’t go wrong with a new fleece blanket.  So comfortable and so affordable, it’s a clear winner.  (All Seasons Micro Fleece for $22.94)


11. Yoga Mat- Invest in someone’s health for 2012!  A yoga mat is great for yoga if the person does that but they are also useful for doing lifting exercises and stretching.  You can’t go wrong with a yoga mat that will last you years to come.  (Wai Lana Yogi Mat for $23.56)


12. Thinker Book Ends- I gotta say, these are the coolest book ends I have ever seen!  Not only are they classy, but they are sturdy!  These can be a great addition to an office where a touch of “elegance” is required.  Once you own these, you will never buy another set of book ends again.  (The Thinker Bookends for $15.97)


13. Gourmet Tea Set- As much as a coffee nut that I am, I would also love a gourmet tea set as a gift for Christmas.  With an assortment of flavors, a gourmet tea set will keep any tea drinker busy for months to come.  (Ceylon Tea Chest for $19.99)


14. Learn to Knit Kit- I guess this is all the rage these days  among  celebrities.  If the celebrities are doing it, this will be a hit as a Christmas present.  Plus, who doesn’t want to learn how to knit and make their own clothes? (Lion Learn to Knit Kit for $22.71)


15. Bear Grylls Knife- If you’re a guy, how could you not want this gift? This knife screams “cool.”  Well it does if you know who Bear Grylls is!  It’s a high quality product and sure to impress any guy in the family.  (Bear Grylls Knife Set for $20.33)


16. Rhinestone Watch- Be super frugal this Christmas and get someone you love a watch that is flashy yet doesn’t put a dent into your wallet.  A rhinestone watch is a great gift for the “diva” in your life. (XOXO Accent Watch for $19.99)


17. Key Rack- Have you ever wanted a place to put your keys that wasn’t on top of a fancy table?  And how many times have you lost your keys because you placed them in a new location.  Well, a key rack next to the front door would solve these problems.  This gift is both useful and trendy depending on the brand that you buy.  You can even try to match the existing decorations of the person’s house. (4 Hook Key Rack for $6.44)


18. A Book- Yes, you know those things that have physical pages?  Books!  Books are great gifts as almost everyone enjoys sitting down and reading.  Instead of getting a person a book you know they’d enjoy, think outside the box and get something that might be totally new to them! (Freakonomics for $10.87)


19. Balance Ball- A balance ball is a gift that keeps on giving once it’s received.  Balance balls are awesome for sit-ups, stretching and comfortable sitting.  It would be a great gift for someone active in the family.  With a variety of colors you can make sure you make the person happy. (TKO Balance Ball for $16.63)


20. Flashlight Grille Tongs- Grilling in the dark is no fun.  Thankfully someone solved this problem!  These tongs have mini flashlights on the end of the tongs so you don’t have to worry about cooking in the dark anymore.  For the grill master in the family, these would make someone’s day. (Ultimate Flashlight Tongs for $19.99)


21. Holiday Coffee Beans- Holiday coffee warms my heart.  Special beans are grown just for the Christmas occasion.  The beauty of this gift is that it’s a consumable and sure to please someone you know.  You can buy big bags or a bunch of little bags in various flavors. (Bean Coffee Company Holiday Pack for $24.46)


22. Toiletry Bag- A fully loaded toiletry bag is a gift that I personally would just love!  I’m always running out of toiletries, so a new toiletry set would be a great gift.  For the traveler in your life, this gift is a must have this Christmas. (Leather Toiletry Kit for $21.95)


23. Expensive Golf Balls- Back when I used to play golf, I loved receiving golf balls during Christmas.  The best part was that people typically bought fancy golf balls.  Looking back they  probably  were no different than average golf balls, but who really cares!  A golfer in the family will really appreciate this gift. (36 pack of Intech Beta Ti Golf Balls for $23.77)


24. Oil Mister- Would you like to mist instead of pour?  With an il mister you can create your own unique concoction of oils and smells.  Also, a mister prevents too much oil coming out on your fresh salad.  A great gift for the aspiring cook in the family. (Prepara Oil Mister for $17.14)


25. Gardening Set- This is something that my Mom would just love!  With basic gardening tools, a set will provide a gardener with brand new tools to work away at those stubborn weeds in the yard. (4 Piece gardening Set for $14.76)


Did I miss something?  If you have a creative Christmas gift idea that would actually be useful, please share with us below!



The Bible and Finance: The Story of the Rich Young Man

rich young rulerThe Biblical story of the rich young man is one of the more misunderstood and misinterpreted stories of the Gospels. It appears in the Gospel of Matthew 19:16â“30, the Gospel of Mark 10:17â“31 and the Gospel of Luke 18:18â“30. It leaves a lot of Christian confused about whether or not their wealth is a sign of their sinfulness or a blessing from God.

For the sake of clarity, I will use the story taken from Matthew’s Gospel.

In the story, a rich young man approaches Jesus and asks him (16) Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?â

After reminding him that only God knows what is good, Jesus commands him to follow the commandments and lists off several. The rich young man states that he has kept all of them since he was a little child.

Jesus then says that he lacks one thing. He gives the rich young man a command.

(21) If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.â

The young man then leaves sadly, because of his (22) “because he had great wealth.”

Jesus then says one of the more oft quoted verses, and most misunderstood, in the Bible.

(24) “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.â

People throughout history have used this verse to make the case for Christian poverty, i.e. the notion that Christians cannot walk faithfully with God if they have any wealth. This idea was the foundation for Christian monasticism and was also heavily advocated by Russian literary genius Leo Tolstoy in his classic novel, Anna Karenina.

Indeed, the story seems to imply that rich people cannot go to Heaven. This belief, however, falls flat after some general observations in other areas of the Bible and in the story.

There are innumerable examples of godly men in Scripture who have owned wealth. The first patriarch, was a very wealthy man, and God never criticized him for it or required him to sell off his livestock. Joseph became the second greatest man in Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh. Jacob and Isaac both owned large flocks, which in ancient times was a source and indication of wealth.


Possessions does not disqualify a holy life

Job was, by all estimations, the richest man who ever lived, and was rewarded for his integrity with even greater wealth.

The man who buried Jesus’ body, Joseph of Arimathea, was rich enough to afford to own a brand new tomb to place him in.

It would be erroneous to claim that the mere possession of wealth disqualifies someone from salvation because nowhere in Scripture does it name poverty as a godly qualify. There is no specific amount a Christian is “supposed to own.” Romans 1:17 does not say “The righteous will live in poverty.” Rather, it says, “The righteous will live by faith.”

Christianity teaches that nothing, including wealth, can come first before God or should become an idol. The story, therefore, is not a condemnation of wealth, but of the worship of wealth as an idol. You don’t have to be rich in order to idolize wealth.

When you look closer at the story, it is obvious that the young man who approaches Jesus is clearly there because he knows that his wealth will not save him. In the other Gospels, he is described as a “certain ruler.” Mark’s Gospel even states that the man “ran up to him (Jesus) and fell on his knees before him,” implying that the prospect of damnation had been tormenting him for some time.


Be ready to surrender all

Additionally, the commandments Jesus lists are all ones which deal with morality, not spirituality; honor thy father and mother, thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery.

Jesus intentionally avoids the first two commandments, which deal with man’s relationship with God.
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall make for yourself no graven images.

Jesus words must also be read correctly. He didn’t say “you have too much wealth so you need to get rid of it, because only poor people can be saved.” He said that the young man “lacked” one thing, and it had nothing to do with money, per se. He lacked faith and total devotion to God.

His command that the young man sell all of possessions to the poor was done to demonstrate how Christians must be willing to surrender everything at any point if God calls them to (I emphasize the “if” because not everyone necessarily is called to do so). In Matthew 8, Jesus makes the exact same ultimatum with another man, except it deals with death and burial. The man wants to bury his father, but Jesus tells him to “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Up until that point, the rich young man had relied on a very worldly attitude; if I do something, I can save myself. He asks “What good thing must I do…” as though all that is needed is for him to perform a deed to receive eternal life.

What Jesus did here was put him to the same test God put to Abraham when he commanded him to sacrifice Isaac; to surrender his wealth would have forced the young man to trust and obey God totally.

By placing his devotion to him ahead of what they held most dear to his heart, Abraham passed his test and was spared the horrible prospect of killing his own son.

The young man failed, because he was not willing to give up his money in order to follow Jesus, and therefore gain eternal life. This is what made Jesus so distraught as he sees the man leave; how can someone prefer money to eternal life?

Who knows? Jesus might have rescinded the command had the young man immediately obeyed, much like the angel who held back Abraham’s hand from slaying Isaac.

The story, however, does not end there. Jesus’ disciples ask “how then can be saved.”

Jesus answers, (26) With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.â

He then goes on to give the heart of the message; notice nowhere in it does he mention money.

(29) “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

This is the message of the Gospel; those who follow Jesus might not have to give up everything, but they must be willing to if necessary.

Thus, the story isn’t necessarily about finances, wealth or poverty, but about our priorities.

Root of Riches Review With Book + $350 Giveaway!

root of richesRoot of Riches.  Pretty catchy title isn’t it?  I know it caught my attention!

A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview Chuck Bentley, the author of Root of Riches.  Chuck is also the CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, an organization with a mission to touch people’s lives through the combination of personal finance and Biblical principles.

Before we get too deep into this review, I just want to say how big of an impact Root of Riches made on my life.  It has transformed the way I look at finances and has shed some much needed light on scripture related to money.  Because of this book, I know see the world differently and see money differently.

If you’re looking for a way to get involved with Crown, they have an awesome blog as well as Facebook community.  I highly encourage you to check Crown Financial ministries out and get plugged into their resources.


Book Give-Away and Free Budgeting Credits!

I support what Crown is doing so much that I’m willing to give away a brand new copy of the book with over $350 worth of Mvelope budgeting credits!  I hope this goes to someone that could use the help with a great budgeting resource.  OK, so how do you enter?  You have four options!

-Subscribe to my email list by going here (you will get my free 7 day e-course on how to retire a millionaire!)

-Become a fan on my Facebook page

-Follow me on Twitter

-Join my Linkedin group “Personal Finance For Everyone”


Remember, whatever you do, make sure you comment below this article and let me now what you did!  Each action will get you one point for a maximum of 4 points!  Good luck and may the best reader win!


Now the review!

(FYI, I was not compensated for this review.)

Boy, was I challenged reading Root of Riches!  Chuck doesn’t hold back in this book and I felt as if he was sitting next to me asking me if I was going to apply what I just learned!  It’s especially convicting when Chuck’s words are grounded in scripture.  It’s so easy to write someone off if they are only talking from experiences in their life.  Chuck sticks to the Bible and does not go on a detour.

At the core, Root of Riches is about just that: roots!  Chuck has created this fantastic visual of a tree and the roots below in the soil.  He goes on to explain how there are two types of tress with two very different types of roots.  One is the “me tree” and other is a “he tree.”


Me Tree, He Tree

Chuck’s definition of a “me tree”:

-Focus is on earthly treasures

-Roots have not been redeemed

-Worldly belief system void of Jesus

-Selfish and out for itself


Chuck’s definition of a “he tree”:

-Redeemed through Christ

-Has a heavenly worldview

-Outpouring of good fruit

-Jesus is at its core


Complete Transformation

Yes, did you know that God compares us to trees in the Bible?  It goes back all the way to the garden of Eden.  There was the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  One was amazing and pure,  while  the other  brought  despair and destruction.  Jesus later compares us to trees again and tells his disciples that they need to be producing good fruit.  The two trees share a bodily similarity but are extremely different at the core.

It doesn’t stop there though.  Chuck keeps going and encourages the reader to dig deeper, down to the “roots.”  Chuck explains that we should be completely transformed by God, seeing the world through a brand new set of eyes.  No longer should our desire be to get rich, but it should be to help others instead.  Chuck also talks about how “true riches” are not the fancy cars and big houses.  True riches are things like worshiping the Lord, serving in the church, sharing the gospel, and the blessings of family.  With Jesus at the core, it doesn’t matter how big your bank account is!


Non-Negotiable Pillars

To sum up his writing and not write a 2,000+ page book, Chuck introduces the reader to three non-negotiable points that every human needs to live by.


1. I accept that both the cause and the solution to my money problems lie within my own heart.

Chuck brings up a great point about 1 Timothy 6:10, “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  Chuck explains that that verse is centered around the word love, not money.  This is an interesting take-away.  We should have transformed hearts and tackle money problems at the heart level.  If we are in love with these things of this world, we will never be truly rich in the Lord’s eyes.  This is huge and ground breaking for me personally.  I take scripture at face value sometimes and don’t dig deep enough.


2. I must align my beliefs with God’s Word to produce behaviors that will make me truly rich.  

It call comes down to our belief system.  We can have positive behavioral change according to Chuck but true transformation can’t happen unless our fundamental belief system changes.  Oftentimes you may wonder how other Christians are cheerful givers.  Chuck encourages you to look deep inside your heart and do some introspective meditation.  Cheerful gives really believe God’s word and it becomes something they “get” to do.  Once you align your beliefs with God’s Word,  generous  giving and  generous  living ill start to flow naturally.  Chuck drives home this message.


3.    I must act upon and apply spiritual truth in order to receive true riches.

Chuck brings up a great verse for this non-negotiable, “Now that you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” from John 13:17.  Chuck encourages everyone to stop treating the Word like a self-help book and more of a heart changer.  Chuck goes on to say that the more we act on spiritual truth, God will reveal himself more and more.  Yet, this does not mean financial riches specifically.  Again, remember, true riches might not be physical.  We should shift our focus toward heavenly riches and know that any type of financial pain here on Earth is nothing to worry about and that we have so much more to look forward to in the Lord’s presence in Heaven.

After reading Root of Riches, I came away with one overarching theme: our life is destined for ruin if we live it for ourselves.  God wants us to recognize that we need Him first and need Him far more than earthly riches. This will stick with me for the remaining of my life and is just one example of how this book has changed the way I look at finances.

To end this book review, I’d like to showcase an info graphic from Crown Ministries that I found to be very interesting.  Check it out!

root of riches


Hit up Amazon here to grab your copy today!  If you have read Root of Riches already, please comment below with your thoughts, I wanna hear from you!

When Financial Secrecy May Not be a Good Idea

financial secrecyOne of the areas of life we tend to be most secretive about is our finances. That’s a broad category of course, encompassing our income, expenses, assets, debt levels and credit standing. Now for obvious reasons we want to be secretive when it comes to giving out financial information as a matter of protecting our identityâ”that goes without saying. But the secrecy I’m talking about here deals with people, as in those closest to us.

It’s easy enough to see why we don’t want other people to know too much about our financial affairsâ”too much income and assets and other people might resent us; too much debt and poor credit and they might judge us. Who wouldn’t want to avoid that?

While we can argue the pros and cons as to how much of our financial lives we reveal to family and friends, there may be times when doing so is in our best interest.


As much as we might not like the idea of driving on a road that’s monitored by traffic cameras, it’s equally true that we tend to behave better when we do. So it is anytime others have sight of what it is we do. It’s called accountability, and it’s a way of keeping us on the straight and narrow.

At a minimum, we need to keep our spouses in the loop as to what we’re doing with our money. While this might be self-evident, in my experience in the mortgage business, I’d come across people who didn’t want their spouses to know a about a certain savings or investment account, or about a debt or even a collection of credit cards. There may be all sorts of logical sounding reasons for this practice, but it’s doubtful that it leads to a happy place.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.ââ”Proverbs 28:13

But beyond our spouses, there’s also an argument for having a close friend or family member (parent, sibling or adult child) aware of at least some aspects of our finances. By having someone else in the loop at least regarding the general state of our finances, we’re more likely to do the right thingsâ”or at least to stick to what it is we’ve declared to others we plan to do. It’s like have a second pair of eyes❠keeping watch over us.

When you have money problems

It’s ironic that the one time we most rebel against financial transparency is probably the time we most need to be open about it. Maybe we shouldn’t broadcast it to the world, but it’s generally better when a small number of people very close to us know what’s happening.

You should never go through a financial crisis alone; at a minimum you need trusted people to bounce ideas and strategies off of. In addition, when we’re going through troubles we’re not always thinking clearly, and that’s when an outside opinion becomes absolutely necessary.

Achieving savings, investment or debt payoff goals

If no one knows what our financial goals are it will be a lot easier for us to give up on them when the going gets tough. This is especially true if your goal is to pay off debt. Sometimes the pain of the effort can be offset by the greater pain that comes with disappointing people whose opinions really matter to us.

In general, financial goals are not always best accomplished in private. If you make a plan to begin saving money or to pay off debt, letting one or two others know what you’re doing is a way of making the plan official with an announcement. Think of it as an unwritten contract. Once that’s done, you’ll have greater incentive to follow through with the plan, if for no other reason than to show people you trust that you can be counted on.

In making your final arrangements

Grief and financial management are not compatible. Even though you commit your final arrangements to paper through a will, you still need to have at least one other person from outside your immediate family who will act as a point person at the time of your death to help your family cope with your loss. That person should have intimate knowledge of your finances beforehand.

Though we might think that our spouseâ”armed with a willâ”will be up to the task, that isn’t always true. Our immediate family may be too overcome with emotion to handle our financial affairs at the time of our death, to say nothing of dealing with banks, creditors, courts and tax authorities in the months that follow. Assigning beforehand a person that YOU trust to help settle your affairs can be one of the best provisions you can make for your loved ones.

How much of your finances do you keep hidden from close family and friends? Have you ever had problems because no one knew anything at all? Have you ever had problems because you revealed too much?