What I’ve Learned from My Dog About My Finances Ahead of Having My First Child (By Guest Blogger, Jacob Evans of Dollar Diligence)

I do not have a child, which you probably inferred from the title of this article.

Do I want one? Yes.

Am I ready for one? I think so.

Whether I really am or not, I can tell you this, my dog has helped me prepare mentally
and financially for my first child when me and my wife are ready for one.

Mentally by helping me learn patience and what it’s like to have a 24/7 responsibility. I
had to stay patient when my dog was a puppy and wasn’t potty-trained (it was very
hard) and I always had to consider how my dog would be fed and walked every day.

Financially by teaching me to consider the future and start preparing for it. For
example, I knew my dog had a predisposition for hip problems and certain diseases. I
knew if I had to pay for these alone that I would have to pay for a big bill so I went
ahead and bought pet insurance.

I have actually already started planning for my first child by starting to save for his or her
education. I know first-hand how bad student loan debt can be, and if graduates today
have over $27,000, then I can’t even imagine how high it will be when my child
graduates. I hope to help my child avoid student loans altogether if possible.

Below, I will talk to you about how my pup has helped me plan for the finances that lie
ahead of having a child because you know, you can never be TOO prepared ahead of
time.

Devoting Attention to the Dog

One of the many things that I learned and that will help me once I do have a child is that
I must devote time to my dog. If I do not, my dog will not thrive and he will eventually
start to destroy my home in an effort to get my attention. It is important that I make sure
I take time to walk my dog and even play with him out in the backyard because if I do
not, he will be hyper and rambunctious the entire night.

While a young child may not be as rambunctious as a dog without play or a child may
not chew up your furniture, you do need to devote time to your child and work on
training them. Your child will only thrive if he or she has one on one time with his or her
parent. You will need to learn to set time aside and so will I. I cannot be consumed in
my work or in myself all day and neglect to provide my baby with the attention that he or
she needs.

Having a dog has opened my eyes to how much I do focus on myself and how much
change will need to occur when I do decide to have a child with my wife. Of course, I will
move mountains to make time for my child, but having a dog has helped me realize just
how short the days can be.

Providing for the Dog in More Ways Than One

When it comes to a dog, you cannot just purchase or adopt one and then be done with
it. They do not take care of themselves and a child will not be ready to take care of
himself or herself for a while either.

Owning a dog comes with a lot of responsibility. For example, you will need to provide
food and water for the dog. I cannot just avoid feeding and hydrating my pup because I
am pressed for time. I NEED to make sure that he has enough food and water to
sustain him while I am away from the house. In addition, when he runs out of food, I
need to be able to go out and purchase him more.

Another thing to think about is insurance. Though it’s hard to tell if it’s worth it or not, I
have purchased insurance for my pet because I do not even want to think about what
could happen if my pup was hit by a car and we could not afford the care needed. I
have made sure to purchase a policy that protects my dog in events like that, so that he
can visit the vet when needed and I do not have to worry about emptying everyone’s
piggy bank to make it happen.

Lastly, entertainment is another expense on the list. While I will need to provide much
more entertainment to a child over the course of their life, a dog is not much different. In
fact, whenever I want to take my dog out to the dog park to play fetch, we have to drive
10 minutes one way, which also means I need to use gas to do so. These entertainment
trips may seem small and inexpensive, but over time they start to add up.

A Pet Prepares You for a Child

If you have not realized it by now, a pet can truly prepare you for a child. Just like a dog
needs food, water, insurance, shelter, and entertainment, so does a child. As you take
care of your pet, try to think of ways these actions would apply similarly in a situation
with a child. I know my dog has allowed me to open my mind and see how much work,
time, and devotion it takes to raise a child.

Jacob runs a personal finance blog called Dollar Diligence where he tracks his journey
to financial freedom. For more advice and articles, you can find him on Twitter.

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Dear Jack: The Jurassic World Hero Mashers/Fireworks Scandal

5 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack: The Jurassic World Hero Mashers/Fireworks Scandal

Dear Jack,

Two weekends ago, Mommy budgeted us $20 to spend on fireworks for 4th of July. However, Nonna had just visited and given you one of my old Lego moon rover vehicles (still intact from 1990), as well as a $2 bill that you were eager to spend along with the three dollars’ worth in quarters you already had in your wallet.

I decided to make a father-and-son afternoon out of the event. First, I made you go to Goodwill with me to pick up a couple $5 short sleeve shirts I needed for the summer.

Dear Jack: The Jurassic World Hero Mashers/Fireworks Scandal

After I was all set, we drove down to the big tent and checked out the inventory. I explained to you that we would let all the neighbors spend the big bucks. As for us, we were just there to buy the fun stuff.

Of course, I was scheming with the budget, too. I let you pick out several items, which only totaled $13. That included a Poopy Puppy, a ladybug, a tank, smoke bombs, some Mega Snaps, and a sword.

Dear Jack: The Jurassic World Hero Mashers/Fireworks Scandal

That left $7 from the fireworks budget, combined with your $2 bill and $3 in quarters, making a total of $12. I surprised you by taking you to Toys “R” Us.

The thing you wanted most was a Jurassic World Hero Mashers T-Rex set, which was on clearance for $15; it normally sold for about $23.

Dear Jack: The Jurassic World Hero Mashers/Fireworks Scandal

I pitched in a few dollars to cover the small difference as well as tax. From there, we drove about 10 minutes down the Interstate to go see the new Ninja Turtles movie. Three times during that short drive, you proclaimed with much excitement:

“Daddy, I love this toy. It’s the coolest!”

That made me quite proud of my scheme.

Dear Jack: The Jurassic World Hero Mashers/Fireworks Scandal

You ended up liking your Jurassic World Hero Mashers set so much like you actually sold some of your older toys you haven’t played with since we moved in our new house a year and a half ago.

With that money, you schemed with Mommy online and realized you basically could buy 4 more of the dinosaurs!

So next Tuesday, you’ll have a special package arriving. I will surely come home to see to see a T-Rex’s head on a pterodactyl’s body.

Sometimes it’s just good to scheme.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: The Jurassic Park Hero Mashers/Fireworks Scandal

I’ve Now Owned My 2004 Honda Element for a Decade; Looking to Trade It In

I’ve Now Owned My 2004 Honda Element for a Decade; Looking to Trade It In Now

It was a decade ago, in January 2006, that I got my first real job out of college. And 10 years later, I’m still at the same place; which is unusual these days, especially for a Millennial like me.

Just a couple of weeks after I got hired, it just so worked out that I was able to get my dream car: a Honda Element.

It’s been a wonderful decade. I’ve had no mechanical issues with it. It’s been faithful.

My Element was the car that my wife and I took our first date in.

It’s the car that I’ve carried our son to and from day care/pre-school each day for the past 5 years.

I’ll always remember the first time I ever asked him a question and he legitimately answered me; it was as I was placing him in his car seat in my Honda element when picked him up from school one day.

I asked him what he did that day at school that day.

To my amazement, he answered me, “I played.”

My 2004 Honda Element has been a great car. I still love my car and I wish they still made Honda Elements.

However, we have another child on the way, due in April. The plan is to trade in my Element for a new car by the time she arrives.

By “new car,” I mean “slightly used” car. I personally fundamentally can’t see myself buying a brand new car when I can get a better value by letting someone else “drive off” the warranty; and therefore, much of the price for me, as I will be the 2nd owner.

I’m looking for a Honda Fit that has between 30,000 and (up to) 60,000 miles on it. That puts us in the budget range we are prepared for.

A week ago at Darrell Waltrip Honda, they evaluated my 2004 Element being worth $5000 as a trade-in. (It has 153,000 miles on it.)

I’ve Now Owned My 2004 Honda Element for a Decade; Looking to Trade It In

My wife and I are planning to trade it in for a “slightly used” Honda Fit. While Fits are smaller than Elements, Fits have 5 seat belts whereas Elements only have 4.

Plus, my car is mainly used just for commuting Monday through Friday; we always drive my wife’s Honda Accord on the weekends and on road trips.

Basically, I’m just looking for a newer, slightly smaller version of what I already have, but also with another passenger seat, as well as cruise control. The way I see it, a Honda Fit is what I’m looking for; a quirky commuter car that will hold its value, like my Element has.

My research has shown me that Honda Fits definitely hold their value.

Because my wife and I are faithful Dave Ramsey followers, we already have the cash in the bank to pay for our “new” car. It’s not that we make more money than the average household in Nashville, because we don’t; that’s not why we are able to pay cash.

It’s instead because we have live by a strict budget where every dollar has its place, so that we tell our money where to go… instead of our money telling us where to go.

We are not in a desperate situation where we have to hurry up and by a car. We obviously will not be making payments on it or paying interest. When the time is right and the perfect Honda Fit presents itself, we shall strike.

The money will be paid. The car will be purchased. Sale complete.

Our plan from there is to eventually trade in my wife’s 2006 Honda Accord for possibly a “slightly used” Honda CR-V.

I am happy about moving forward with a newer vehicle and I am happy for whoever ends up with my Honda Element next. Ole “Jedi” has been good to me.

As for now, a decade later, it’s a year of change and new beginnings.

Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

5 years.

Dear Jack,

We just got back from your “destination birthday party” in Destin, Florida. Instead of having a party back home in Tennessee, the 3 of us (technically 4, if you count Baby Holly or Logan in the womb) decided to take a family vacation to celebrate your 5th birthday. To make things extra special for you, Lexus let us drive a Lexus GX for the trip!

Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

Over the next week or so, I’ll be writing plenty more about your destination birthday party. But as for today, I should mention one of the overall themes our 4 ½ day vacation.

As we were leaving Tennessee, I Instagrammed a picture of you with the stuffed animals you chose to bring on the trip.

Jack is bringing a few of his friends along for the ride.

          Jack is bringing a few of his friends along for the ride.

In the likeness of the 1985 movie Brewster’s Millions, you felt the need to spend all $100’s worth of your gift cards you received as birthday presents before we left Florida.

Mommy and I put the additional cash and checks that you received into your savings account, but as the $100 in gift cards, we decided it was fair to let you manage how it was spent.

After all, it was your birthday party and birthday weekend. Mommy and I wanted it to truly be a big deal to you.

So as soon as we arrived in Destin, we stopped at a Barnes & Noble where you spent your first $15; on a “Shark Week” shark.

I Instagrammed that event as well:

And the beginning of the birthday money spending begins...

 And the beginning of the birthday money spending begins…

We took you to Target to let you possibly spend some of your remaining $85. While Mommy looked around for stuff she needed, I hung out with you for nearly an hour in the toy aisle; serving as your budget manager.

I helped explain to you how much things cost and how much remaining birthday money you would have if you bought that item.

For example, you were interested in a Power Ranger gun that you had seen on their show… but it cost $27!

You ended up buying a $13 Play-Doh ice cream shop. And boy did you have fun with that once we got back to the resort!

However, that was the only item you spent your $100 on that wasn’t a stuffed animal.

You later bought a baby shark while we were on the dolphin cruise. And then a baby penguin when we visited the Gulfarium. Then several more stuffed animals throughout the course of our trip…

Of course, we reminded you that you didn’t have to spend all $100 on the trip. But again, it was your birthday, so we wanted it to be your decision on how you spent the money; since it wasn’t cash that Mommy and I would have put in your savings account without you knowing it.

Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

We reminded you had enough money to buy anything at all you wanted… even a brand-new bike!

However, the reality of it is that as a 5 year-old boy whose parents both work full time, there’s not a lot of time for you to ride your bike; especially since how weekends are often filled with running errands, like buying groceries and getting maintenance done on our cars.

When I considered which toys you actually spend the most time playing with, it’s not the plastic ones so much.

Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

Granted, you love building Legos and you love your massive Hot Wheels and Thomas the Train collections… but ultimately, your exhaustive stuffed animal collection gets the most play time.

Every morning when we get ready for school, you always choose 2 animals to take to school with you.

I get it. You don’t see them as toys, but as real animals that you enjoy taking care of. You love pretend that they are babies that you are in charge of.

Granted, that concept goes well with the fact you have a baby brother or sister on the way…

I recognize these stuffed animals serve as tools for your psychological and social development. They’re much more than just stuffed animals.

Dear Jack: What Happens When You Give $100 to a 5 Year-Old Boy for His Birthday?

So it doesn’t bother me that you spent $100 on stuffed animals (and a Play-Doh set) during your destination birthday party. I’m all for it.

I’m for whatever toys are going to help your development as a little boy. You spent most of your $100 on stuffed animals because in your currency, they hold more value than any other kind of toy.

Ultimately, a decade from now, it’s all the same anyway. Looking back, I’ll know that whether you spent your birthday money on stuffed animals or Power Rangers or Ninja Turtles, it made you happy as a boy on 5th birthday.

And that’s all that matters to me.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: 6 Months of Living in Our New House

4 years, 8 months.

h1

Dear Jack,

As they say… time flies when you’re having fun.

h2

That must be why it definitely doesn’t feel like we’ve been living in our new house for 6 months.

A week ago made 6 months that we began moving in our stuff and began sleeping there; but it took a solid week after that before it felt like we truly living there and not simply still moving in.

h3

As of today, I wanted to document what our house looked like at this point in history; so I walked around room to room, taking pictures.

h4

One of my proudest decisions in staging our house is that we purposely don’t have a TV downstairs in the living room. It’s important to me that conversation is not stolen in our house.

h5

If I could come up with a theme for our house, it would be this: Quality time.

That’s so important. We have to make the most of our time together despite our busy schedules as individuals.

h6

As you read this years from now, I want you to hear me say this once again:

We worked very hard to get into this house.

h7

It required paying off all our debts (including cars and student loans), then living by an extremely strict budget (including no smart phones), in order to start saving for the down payment on our house.

h8

Something that was very important to Mommy and me was to make sure we raise you (as well as any future siblings) in a good school system. To do that, we had to move to the “right” county: Williamson.

h9

We pour our lives into you. We want the best for you. Being able to live in this house makes me feel like our family is exactly where we need to be.

h10

Living in this house has truly made us happy, content, and at peace. Our quality of life has never been better.

h11

But again, this wasn’t handed to us.

h12

And it’s not simply about how much money you make, as much as it is how you manage the money you do make. We worked very hard to get here… and still do.

Love,

Daddy

h13

Lottery Commercials Don’t Target People Who Are Good Money Managers

What’s the first thing I’d do if I somehow ran into a very large amount of money?

Lottery Commericals Don't Target People Who Are Good Money Managers

You guessed it. I would immediately pay off the mortgage on our brand-new house. It would be quite the celebration!

Because I know that I’m paying nearly 100% interest for the 1st half of the life of that loan.

I wouldn’t care about a new car, or a boat, or a big trip. All I would care about would be paying off the mortgage.

Then… placing the rest in savings and investments.

From there, I might consider a family vacation or newer cars; but that would be my last priority.

Yet I’ve never seen a lottery ticket commercial or an injury lawyer commercial showing a winner who joyfully exclaims, “With the money I won… first, I immediately paid off the mortgage on my house, then put the rest in savings and investments, so that I’ll actually be making money for the rest of my life instead of losing it quickly just because I have more!”

Granted, that’s what I’d say.

But apparently, that’s not what the targeted audience for lottery ticket winners or injury lawsuit winners would do, based on what is portrayed in these commercials:

When I see these kinds of commercials, I know that the marketing department for the lottery and injury lawyers are not baiting people like me, who have learned the hard way by living in debt for years, but who finally became debt free after following the teachings of Dave Ramsey, and who are now focused on paying off a mortage ASAP, to better save and invest all future income from there.

Of course, I’m not against the lottery or injury lawyers; I see good in what they do.

I’m just simply deconstructing some of the psychology involved in some of their marketing… the way I’ve pointed out in the past that fast food logos almost always include red and yellow as their main colors to try to make you slow down (like you do at a yellow light) and stop (like you do at a red light) for their restaurant.

Lottery Commericals Don't Target People Who Are Good Money Managers

It appears that lottery commercials are trying to make people think that if they regularly “invest” in lottery tickets, they will stand a decent chance of living the rock star (or rap star?) lifestyle, by blowing the money on depreciating liabilities, instead of assets that will hold their value; or in legitimate, profitable investments.

Perhaps this is what the advertisers want people to think when they their commercials:

“You deserve more money than you know how to manage, so once you win, spend your money on consumer items shown in this commercial, ones that immediately lose their value once you buy them, instead of ones that keep or gain value.”

Lottery Commericals Don't Target People Who Are Good Money Managers

Like I said, I’ve yet to see a lottery or lawsuit commercial that portrays the winner immediately paying off their mortgage with the money; then going on to save and invest the rest. I’ve never heard that even mentioned in one of these commercials, yet it’s the very first thing I would care about.

It really shouldn’t be that ironic.

So apparently, people who make lottery ticket commercials and injury lawyer commercials don’t have me in mind as a marketable demographic.

Maybe then it’s not that ironic that back in 1999 when I woke up in a hosptial after having been knocked unconscious after wrecking on a bike, and an injury lawyer was there as I opened my eyes, offering to help me “win the money I deserve,” I politely thanked him, but turned him down.

And for the record, I rarely buy a lottery ticket.

5 Impractical Ways To Save Your Family Money In 2013

January 1, 2013 at 1:17 am , by 

2 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

From first glance, we look like apretty normal American family. If people only knew…

As for this time around, I would like to focus on 5 impractical ways that our family saves money…

I’ve heard it said that Generation Y parents are predicted to become much like the penny-pinching generation who was our age during the Great Depression.

Well, I believe it. Here’s the how and the why.

These are 5 impractical ways we as a family save money:

1. We don’t pay for cable or satellite TV. Instead, we pay $7.99 a month for the Netflix streaming plan. We have unlimited access all the shows you love, like Thomas & Friends and Sesame Street; for Mommy and me, there’s Lost and The Office. That’s not even mentioning all the movies that are available.

2. We don’t pay for Internet on our phones. Since we’re already paying for wireless Internet for our house and because our jobs don’t directly depend on it, it’s difficult for us to justify paying even more for Internet so we can play Angry Birds on our phones while we’re bored. Because honestly, as your parents, we never have time to be bored. I wouldn’t mind that, though.

3. We hardly ever go out to eat. By hardly ever, I mean, on a bad month, about twice. While the documentaryFood Inc. conveys a message that a family of 4 can eat for less on McDonald’s Dollar Menu, that’s not accounting for the fact there won’t be leftovers the next day. Shunning restaurants saves money.

4. We don’t update our electronics or possessions that cost over $100. My iPod has a cracked screen and its charge only lasts about 2 days. The screen of our 2006 model TV is only 30 inches wide, yet the length of it is nearly just as long. Oh yeah, and it’s been struck by lightning, so parts of the screen are discolored. Mommy and I have had the same cell phones for well over 2 years, but because Verizon recently started charging an “activation fee” for their “free phones,” we decided to just keep our old ones. In other words, if it ain’t dead, don’t fix it.

5. We live by a strict weekly budget, on an Excel spreadsheet. Like financial guru Dave Ramsey says, “If you don’t tell your money where to go, it will tell you where to go.” It’s impractical to account for every dollar spent, but knowing that we are projected to reach “debt free” status in 2013, I don’t mind living an impractical lifestyle.

So what if we shun credit cards and cable TV like the plague, or perhaps more relevantly, like high-fructose corn syrup? Mommy and I are obsessed with telling our money where to go.

We’ve learned the hard way. Just a couple of years ago, our money was telling us where to go. As for 2013, Lord willing, we will finally be free of debt.

Somehow, becoming debt-free is one of the most practical things I can think of.

 

Love,

Daddy