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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Disciplining Children

We think more in terms of discipline, not punishment.

I believe in lots of tools in the "parenting toolbox". No one response works in all situations with every kid and everytime. You have to mix it up. As a matter of fact, I tell DD (9-yrs old), "There will be consequences to your actions. I don't know exactly what it will be yet but it will be something and you will NOT like it."

Anti-social behavior (swearing, talking back, slamming, hitting, etc) is a sign the child needs MORE time with me, not less. I usually don't use time-outs or being sent to their room or denial of family fun for those offenses. Instead they usually have to do more, like help me load the pick-up truck with stuff to haul to the dump, etc. Whatever it is, we do it together and the project will have visible results.

Be creative. I like a little bit of surprise in the disciplines I select. With one mouthy teenager, we painted one wall of her bedroom Pepto-Bismal pink (she hates pink) and told her if she did it again we'd paint a second wall ... color to be determined (but guaranteed not to be pleasant). If she went an appropriate amount of time with good behavior, we'd re-paint the wall to cover it.

Model self-discipline. I have a child with RAD - reactive attachment disorder. One of the hallmarks of this psychological condition is that she doesn't easily trust adults, especially ones who don't seem to have control over their own emotions. For this reason, I have to be rather level-headed in how I respond to DD - even when there are times that I want throw a temper-tantrum of my own. With this in mind, it is perfectly reasonable - and very effective - to tell your child, "I need to take a moment to think of an appropriate disciplinary response to what you just did. I'll tell you my decision tomorrow morning."

Oh, did I mention? In case I wasn't clear above, you don't have to tell them ahead of time what the disciplinary response will be. For instance, let's say my DD sasses back to me. I'll give a warning. I'll say, "That was sassing when you respond to me with that tone of voice, that body language and that sarcastic kind of statement. That isn't allowed. The next time you behave like that, I will discipline you." She'll respond with, "What will you do?" And I say, "I haven't decided yet but it will be something that will help you to remember not to do it again." In other words, give a warning - it should be educational as to the behavior you want them to work on - but you don't have to tell them what the consequences will be. With my DD, she'd decide that the consequences were minor compared to being able to continue with her bad behavior. When she doesn't know exactly what the consequence will be, she can't easily make that decision.

Have perspective. A typical 7-yr old is going through a developmental growth spurt (not necessarily physically growing but brain development). This is the age when they begin to realize that they are social beings (have to live in a society) and there is right and wrong - aside from what Mom and Dad has always said is right or wrong. They develop a stronger sense of fairness and they start feeling social slights more deeply. This psychological development is profound. It is a bit of a shock to their system. With perspective you can see that a growing brain is quite demanding on a child. They need more sleep, thus an appropriate response is to rollback their bedtime for half an hour. (As in, "You're acting very tired. I think you need to start going to be earlier.")

One of the tools - especially with a child who is developing a conscience - is to have them work in service of others. Again, tell the child the behavior you want to HELP THEM CORRECT. Explain the social consequences of that behavior (she'll have fewer friends, etc.) Then go about helping that child be of serve to others as a way to modify their behavior. So, they might have to help plan, shop for, make and serve dinner every night for a week. He might need to think of a community service project - like collect canned food for the food pantry or collect unused books for the school library (HE has to think of a project).

Have a connection with the child. You like the child. You want to enjoy living with them. You want them to enjoy living in the family. The correction of the problem is a co-operative action. Sometimes have the child suggest ways that they can correct the behavior.

Sometimes pass the decision on the disciplinary action off to someone else (your hubby, for instance.) For instance, your child just sassed you and hubby walks up to the child and says, "No one treats MY WIFE that way!"

Keep in mind, younger children are concrete thinkers. Make the punishment tangible. For instance, correcting a bad habit (slamming doors) takes time. So, have the child start with 10 tokens in a jar (I get poker chips from the dollar store). Every time they are caught displaying the bad habit they have to remove one token (They do it, not you. They need the tactile sensation.) This makes them notice when they are doing the behavior. It makes them more aware of it. Then at the end of the week (day, month, hour - whatever seems reasonable), they get something for every token they have remaining in the jar. For instance, if they have 5 tokens left they might get to spend $5 on a something in the toy department (money is very motivating to my DD). Then keep repeating the session (week, month, hour) until they have completely eliminated the habit.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A vision for America

I've been reading a lot of books lately about the formation of the USA and some of more recent history. Consequently, some of those themes have been showing up in my dreams. This is my long tortured way of avoiding the phrase, "I have a dream ..." But I DO have a vision for this country. Unfortunately, I'm probably alone in my point of view.

In one of my dreams a new Libertarian President was elected. In his (yes, his - that was how the dream went) inauguration speech he started with ...

~ "We are going to get serious on this war on terror. That is why I want every able, law-abiding citizen of this United States to obtain a firearm, train with it, and carry it with them at all times.

~ I challenge Congress to pass the Fair Tax THIS YEAR. If you don't know what that is, here is the website . Until the Fair Tax is passed - and ALL other personal federal income taxes eliminated - books that explain the Fair Tax will be tax deductible.

~ Starting immediately, I am eliminating non-essential federal departments, especially those that aren't directly addressed in the Constitutional. I am putting on notice the employees of the Department of Education that they will be out of work by the end of the year. Yes, this might cause a rise in unemployment but I have confidence that many talented people employed by the federal government have the ability to get other jobs or start a small business. The US government is NOT a jobs program. Employees of the Small Business Administration, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health & Human Services, the FCC, the FDA and the Department of Agriculture, take note. Your turn will be coming soon.

~ If you are a member of the US Army, you will be given the option to transfer to another branch of the military, the reserves, border enforcement or the National Guard. The US Constitution is clear that we are not to have a standing army on US soil and I intend to make sure that is the case. Yes, that will mean there will be many more base closings and some areas of the country will feel the loss. I have confidence in the American people that they will recover AND they will find much better ways to use those army bases than the federal government ever could.

~ STOP turning to the US government - or any government - to solve your problems. If your home floods and you don't have flood insurance, do not rebuild in the same location with the assumption that FEMA will bail you out. If you make bad business decisions, we won't come to your rescue. If a commercial operation spills oil on one of our coasts, THEY will solve the problem, not me. I'm not a drilling expert. My presence will only cause an extra burden on the community that is hard at work to get the job done. I will not be visiting any disaster area. Yes, I care about the disaster and I trust the people closest to that community to run the operation without my interference.

~ With this in mind, the American people will need to volunteer more and, if the see fit, direct their money to fund programs that matter to them. If you think it is shame that college students will no longer receive federal grants or loans, then start a micro-lending service to help college students buy textbooks. If you think the federal government needs to keep Head Start, then sponsor a child's tuition at your local preschool. If you think the federal government needs to continue to fund drug treatment programs, then re-write your will to fund a program in your area.

~ Speaking of drug treatment programs, if you are in a US prison for drug possession, I am signing your pardon right now. (Pauses to sign.) If you manufacture, grow, import, transport or sell illegal drugs, we'll deal with you in the first 100 days. Be warned, you probably won't get a presidential pardon, though. However, your businesses just might get taxed. Feel free to start manufacturing hemp products. (Pauses to sign a presidential order.) The same goes with prostitution and gambling. Expect big changes soon. No, I don't want the USA to become drugged out, promiscuous and dive into poverty due to their gambling activities. However, I believe that making those activities illegal is NOT making the level of activity we have now to be lower. I firmly believe that the American people who don't do those kinds of illegal activities will continue to not do those activities, no matter what the law says.

~ The staff at the White House will be cut significantly. If you write to me, please do not expect a reply. If you ask for a Christmas card, a birthday card or an anniversary card, I am informing you now that one is not coming. However, you are welcome to come and tour the White House. It is the country's house, not mine. Severe restrictions on who can visit and when they can visit will be lifted.

~ In the next several days, I will be signing several presidential orders - to reverse many presidential orders from previous administrations. The federal bureaucracy is much too large. Federal bureaucrats are not elected into their position, many are not appointed or approved by Congress nor do they change when a new administration comes to Washington; yet these are people who are making LAWS - yes, laws - that impose a huge burden on the American people. Many of these bureaucracies have been established by presidential order and, thus, will be eliminated the same way.

~ Hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies consider your special tax deductions that have been contributing to the dramatic increase of health care costs to be very short lived. Under the new Fair Tax, you won't have those deductions anymore. If you are an employee who is getting your medical insurance through your employer, start NOW to research individual plans. Your employer will no longer be able to deduct that benefit from their taxes so they will probably stop offering those plans. Your health insurance shouldn't be dependent on your employment status anyway. That only limits your options in starting up your own business. You NEED to be independent."

That's about all. Somewhere along this time, I woke up and started to gasp for breath.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Financial Myths and Truths

Disclaimer: These are my own, non-expert opinions based on years of experience, observation and the school of hard-knocks.

Myth: If you're deep in debt, then pay off the debt with the highest interest rate.

Truth: Actually, pay-off debts with small balances first. That 'early win' can be really motivating and can provide instant financial relief.

Myth: If you have lots of credit card debt, the first thing to do is pay off the debt with the highest interest rate or the few debts with small balances.

Truth: Actually the FIRST thing to do is START SAVING MONEY REGULARLY. If you're in lots of credit card debt, as soon as a financial emergency strikes (and it will), the temptation to solve the problem by charging to the credit card again will be too great and the cycle will continue.

Myth: But I can't save money! We're living paycheck to paycheck. Our budget is really, really tight. I can't eek out even one penny.

Truth: People can and do live on less than what you're making now. Spend a week (or better - a month) writing down every single penny you spend and what you spend it on. You'll probably find that areas where you can cut back.

Myth: Okay, so I guess I could save some money by reducing the grocery budget and using coupons.

Truth: Hmmm, coupons. Coupons usually don't help me. I find more savings by carefully comparing prices and acquiring food at places that don't even accept coupons. Often I can buy the same thing for less than the brand-name item WITH a coupon. As far as reducing the grocery budget as a first step, that is usually NOT where families waste the most money. Think of it. No matter what, we still need to eat. A clamping down on the budget tends to make us feel 'poor' so don't start by clamping down on the one budget area which will be most noticed and cause the most discomfort. Instead look at budget areas that you consider "fixed expenses": taxes, mortgage, utilities, insurances, medical expenses, non-food disposable purchases (TP, paper towels, cleaning products, etc), clothing and entertainment.

Myth: Taxes? I love that huge refund every year. We use it to pay off debt or go on vacation.

Truth: You're going to stop that cycle, right? I know it is scary but stop giving the government use of YOUR MONEY (they take enough as it is) and change your withholding to where you'll OWE a bit in April. Remember, you're going to be setting money aside on a regular basis so you'll have the money to pay the bill when taxes come due.

Myth: But my spouse won't go along with this. We argue about money all the time.

Truth: Arguments about money are rarely about finances - usually money problems are a symptom of something else going on. If your relationship / marriage is otherwise sound, then START the conversation by deciding on your shared values, priorities and goals. Once you have that list, where you'll spend you money - and your time - will become very clear. If your relationship is shaky, get professional help to work on that area first.

Myth: But living on a budget is so hard. I hate feeling poor. I want to spend my money the way I want.

Truth: A budget is actually a spending plan; it is deciding AHEAD OF TIME what you want to spend your time and money doing. Keep those values, priorities and goals in mind! And I hate feeling poor, too, which is why knowing where my money is going helps give me a sense of security. I like having a choice! I like knowing that my car won't get re-possessed, that my phone will ring because friends are calling - NOT collection agents, that my home will be my home until I decide otherwise, and that, if my boss really p!sses me off, I can quit.

Myth: We're doing everything right but we're still struggling.

Truth: This is going to sound mystical and way-out-there, I know, but you have to open the door for a better financial situation to come into your life. Even when you feel like you have nothing, donate something to charity. And make it more than you expect and something really, really good. Sometimes all we need to do is make room. Plus, realize that we live in an abundant society. What goes out the door will come back three-fold. The point: Stop struggling.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

5 Keys to Frugality

* Patience really is a virtue.

We tend to live microwave lifestyles where every whim is a 'need' and we want instant gratification. Even those of us who are learned at being frugal will benefit from slowing down and being even more patient. Do you need to see the latest movie release? Can we make it home to prepare a decent snack there instead of stop at a fast food drive-in? Can't we do without the car for a few days while we save up for a repair? Must the kids see Disneyland this year instead of next? Even taking asprin for a headache is a means of 'instant relief' when just laying down for a nap might be just as effective.

I am constantly reminded - CONSTANTLY - of how my impatience wastes money. Start noticing how patience would have benefitted you and you will also see new ways to save.

* Be prepared.

This is the flip-side to the patience axiom. If I have dinner pre-planned and waiting for me at home, I'm less likely to cave into an eating out urge. If I washed, ironed and hemmed my nice pair of slacks, I'm less likely to race to the store because "I have nothing to wear." If I do the small repair on the roof today, I am less likely to have to pay for a major roof replacement (and other damage) later. Just saving money "for no reason at all" is a way to be prepared.

Opportunities are won when we are in a position to jump on them. Think of the current times. So many big ticket items are at bargain prices right now. If we were out of debt and had loads of money in the bank, we'd be in a position to snap up these deals. However, if we're one of the many who are 'in a hole' and needing to liquidate, then those opportunities are lost to us.

* You can't buy a lifestyle.

I see people do this all the time. Signing up for a gym membership doesn't make us healthier. Buying a truck-load of camping equipment doesn't make us 'outdoorsy'. Buying adorable baby clothes and toys doesn't make us better parents. Graduating from a pricy private college doesn't make us well-eduated. And buying the latest item to hit Target doesn't make us stylish.
We tend to seek qualities by what we buy instead of what we do.

The other day DD and I were walking through a street fair. On the sidewalk were two guy playing music to earn money. Their equipment was nothing more than a few metal pots and over-turned plastic buckets. I turned to DD, who has be bugging me for drum lessons instead of piano, and said, "See. If you really want to play drums you don't need the fancy equipment." She just smirked. In reality, what DD wants is the cool drum set, not to play the drums. I want her to learn not to try to buy a lifestyle.

* Be clear on your values, priorities and goals.

Yes, you can have it all IF you know what "it" is. I know a couple who dropped out of college just before graduating. They decided that what they really wanted out of life was to be married and raise their children in the same small town where they grew up. They determined that a college degree wasn't going to do anything to help them achieve those goals, so they dropped out. To this day - with their children grown - they haven't regretted it. However, if your biggest priority in life is to travel the world helping people by providing much needed medical treatment, then an advanced college degree would be the answer for you.

Once we know what we value most, we can make much better decisions about how we spend our time and resources. I may adore a closet full of gorgeous new clothes, but if my main goal is to travel the world, I might decide to save my money for airplane tickets instead.

* The quality of your decisions in the past affects the quality of your decisions in the future.

This is the companion axiom to the statement above about priorities, values and goals. It also ties into the concept of being prepared. If you to be a doctor, you'll probaby have to decision to attend medical school. If you want to snap up great property deals during an economic depression, you have to save up some money and eliminate debt during a housing boom.

As in all things in life, there are exceptions to every rule, but that axiom has to do with the quality of your decisions. Yes, you could probably practice medicine in some third-world country without a doctorate, but is that the quality of the decision you intended?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Casual goals

I don't know WHY this works, all I know is that it does ... create a casual goal.

Most of us have a hard time designing a goal and sticking to it because we think of it as something we have to work on all the time. Instead, I set a casual goal and let my progress be driven by my subconscious.

Step 1: Design your goal.

The goal must be realistic and be dependent on your abilities instead of luck or something out of your control. For instance, you can try the goal, "I'll win the big lottery" but I doubt it will work. Similarly a goal of "I'll inherit a million dollars" would be dependent on someone else doing something. A realistic goal would be "I'll have $5000 in my savings account".

Step 2: Set a deadline.

The deadline must be a specific, do-able date. Don't make it a moving target. For instance, "in 6 weeks" is a moving target. Every time you see that goal your subconscious will push out the deadline another 6 weeks. A specific deadline is a date as in 12/31/07.

Step 3: Write it down.

Simply write down your goal someplace where you will be able to revisit it occasionally. For instance, write down, "I will have $5000 in my savings account by 12/31/07" on the top of your budget booklet or on the top of your check register. The place doesn't have to be anyplace special but you do need to be able to find the goal again later. You do NOT have to decide HOW you're going to accomplish that goal.

Step 4: Allow the goal go into auto-drive.

Relax. Once you've written down the goal, let it be. Remind yourself of the goal periodically but don't stress over it. Don't consciously do anything to force the goal to happen. Of course, when an opportunity comes along to further your way toward the goal, take advantage of it.I believe one of the reasons this system works is because we subconsciously become aware of the opportunities that come our way. Once we start tuning in on the possibilities, we slightly change the way we operate. I liken this system to changing stations on the radio. When we turn the knob we start hearing static. Our opportunities are hidden somewhere in that static and we start to hear key phrases that encourage us to listen a little more carefully and to stop and dial in the station a little more clearly.

Step 5: Revisit the goal periodically.

We have to remind ourselves of the goal so our subconscious can work on it. If we don't other priorities and urgencies take over. This is also a good time to evaluate if this is still your goal. If it isn't, give up on it.

For instance, I once made a goal to install a hot tub in my backyard. As I progressed along, I decided, while a hot tub would be a nicety, that really wasn't something I wanted to work on at that time. Other home improvements were much more important to me and I had an alternative access to a hot tub that meant I didn't have to out-right own one.

However, I have used this technique several times to get where I wanted in life. I do recommend having only one goal at a time otherwise it gets confusing and takes too much effort.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Step Down to Savings - Part II

When the co-worker recovered from seeing how much they were spending per month on food, he denied they could save almost all of that money just by not eating out. He said, "We still have to buy food!" I pointed out that they were already buying groceries, the cost of which was largely not included in our calculations, and that part of their budget was about average for a family of two.

He then objected, "But we have tried to stop eating out and were miserable. We soon got back into our old habit." I told him that they had set themselves up for failure by trying to go 'cold turkey' on the eating out. I suggested that they instead take small steps to change their habits.

First of all, they could save some money by getting food 'to-go' more frequently. Even if they ate dinner in a park before going home, they'd be saving on the full tip (a small tip for the hostess who assembles the to go order is fine). Additionally, the food would already be in a boxed container so it would be easier to save a portion for a later lunch. Plus even when they did eat out, they could not order an appetizer or drink. They could share a drink or get just water. And, since all that restaurant food was high calorie and large serving size, they could save money further by ordering off the appetizer menu or by splitting an entree.

The second step would be gear down on the places where they went. Instead of sit down restaurants, look for less expensive options. This didn't leave them eating every day at fast food joints, though. They could opt for healthier ethnic restaurants instead or places where you order at the counter. As above, ordering at the counter and bussing your own table saves on the tip. It is also easier to order more simply (just a bowl of soup, for instance) when a waiter isn't hovering over you. And once again, you can skip on the drink if you've bought individually packaged drinks at the grocery store and have them sitting in the car.

The next step would be to explore the options in the grocery store more fully. Where we live, some grocery stores practically ARE restaurants in themselves. Their deli sections offer lots more than sliced meats and fried chicken. Some grocery stores have pretty good sushi, fresh salads and properly portioned HOT entrees. Stopping at the grocery store and/or doing other errands while waiting for the traffic to die down was just as effective as stopping at a restaurant for killing time. As a matter of fact, it probably got them home sooner.

But that's the point, they usually got home so late, they barely had time to relax before going to bed. This kept them up later, making it hard to get up early enough to leisurely prepare for work in the morning. Instead, the morning was a rush and they ended up squarely in the worst of the commute hours. By slowly contracting the amount of time they took getting dinner (waiting to get seated at the restaurant, waiting to order, waiting for their food to arrive, waiting for the check, etc), they ended up being at home where they wanted to be and their lives became more relaxed.

After the grocery store deli section, it was time to explore more of the store. I suggested they start with buying a few frozen foods to keep on hand at home to fill out their meals. They could still buy a hot entree to-go from a restaurant or at a walk-up counter, then take it home and prepare the side dishes from the groceries they already bought. This helped transition them into preparing food in the kitchen AND getting used to doing dishes.

Next they would start experimenting with their own recipes, perhaps trying to duplicate their favorite restaurant foods or trying a few recommendations from friends. At this point, I suggested they get into the habit of inviting friends to dine with them in their home instead of eating out. This makes the evening more relaxing, less rushed, and more conducive to a lifestyle that included a baby later on. It also upped their culinary skills. For some reason, when we start to cook at home, a steady diet of restaurant food doesn't seem that appealling.

But should they stop there? Not necessarily. They really needed to scale back on their grocery budget. Highly processed foods are still expensive. So once they got used to grocery shopping more often, they could become more practiced at shopping smarter. That might start with using coupons and comparing prices. They could compare frozen foods to canned or fresh of the same item. They could do more cooking with basic ingredients instead of relying on foods that were already combined for them. They could get out of the ritzy, high-end grocery stores and buy the same basics at lower priced, less esthetically designed grocery stores. They could do a little bulk buying, if it saved them money. At the same time this transitioned them into acquiring the proper tools to cook at home and organize their storage space for all the groceries.

And they could go even lower. They could limit their shopping at 'first tier' grocery stores and start shopping at other markets: farmers markets, roadside stands, grocery outlet type stores, farm shares (CSA: Community Supports Agriculture), Angel Food Ministries, and direct from wholesalers. This would take more effort but it also ties them more solidly into their local community and got them eating healthier.

Lower still, I encouraged them to start growing their own food then considering preserving the harvest. Again, they'd have to start slowly and increase their garden as they increased in experience. They might even become interested, somehow, in managing to raise meat animals. Since they lived on a small suburban lot, this would be a long-shot but it could be done with some imagination.

But that's the beauty of Step Down to Savings. Go as low as you want to, get comfortable there, and if you don't want to step down any further, stop. Or, as what happens to me, I tend to step down a little bit too far then say, "Nope, this isn't for me" and instead of giving up completely, all I do is revert back to one step up which is where I was comfortable.

And the concept can be applied to almost anything in our lives. Do you want to break the la-tee-da coffee habit? Step down. Do you want to curb a clothes shopping addiction? Step down. Do you want to simply eat healthier? Step down. Take the change in tiny steps and you won't end up feeling deprived.

Oh, and the co-worker. Yes, his wife became a SAHM and last I heard they have three gorgeous children.

Step Down to Savings - Part I

A few years ago I was speaking with a co-worker who had been recently married. He and his wife were looking forward to starting a family but they had no clue how they could transition from a dual-income, child-free couple to a single income couple with a child and the wife as a SAHM. He said even on their dual income they weren't able to put much away in savings. Even if they had a child and his wife didn't become a SAHM, he said they wouldn't be able to afford daycare.

That is how the concept of "Step Down to Savings" was born.

I asked the co-worker a little bit more about their lifestyle. They didn't have unusual expenses but tended to live in a cycle of charging splurges to credit cards then struggling to pay them off. I also observed the co-worker's dining habits and those of his wife (also a co-worker). From what I could tell, they both ate almost every single meal away from home. He objected to my observation with the rebuttal that sometimes they get food 'to go' or were too tired to go anywhere so they stayed at home and ate leftovers from the 'doggie bags'. He did reveal that they do some grocery shopping (whew!) and considering all the eating out they did, their grocery budget was still about average for two people. I had to wonder what they were buying at the store.

The first step was to figure out exactly how much they were spending on food.

A short discussion revealed that, per person, breakfast was about $4 at the workplace cafeteria. They ate at work because usually they were too rushed to grab something before leaving home. Breakfast during the weekend was a mix of grabbing something simple that was already in the house or going out with friends. I figured if they ate at home on Saturday then went out with friends on Sunday, they still were averaging $4 per person, per meal.

Lunch during the week was almost always going out with co-workers and averaged $7 for him. His wife tended to eat at her desk so lunch was a either something brought from home or bought at the cafeteria. I averaged $4 for her. She also went out to eat, away from work, about once a week. We stayed at the $4 per person, per meal for her and $7 for him on the weekends since they tended to grab a hefty snack while running errands in lieu of a sit down lunch. Just grabbing a fruit smoothie while on the run was easily $4 to $5 for them - EACH. He was tall and very active so he did tend to eat much more than his very petit wife.

Dinner during the week usually meant that they stopped on the way home to allow traffic to die down. This became a sore point to my co-worker as he was sure they weren't spending THAT MUCH on dinner out, but he finally admitted that by the time we added in a side salad (they did eat rather healthy), a drink and the tip, the cost of dinner got up there. I didn't want to put him into shock, so we calculated $10 per person, per meal for dinner. On some evenings, they did tend to cook at home but those meals tended to contain highly processed foods that were quick to prepare or expensive cuts of meat (ie: BBQing steaks). On weekends and some weekdays, they tended to meet up with friends or go to various extra-curricular activities which meant more eating out.

So what do we have?

Breakfast - $4 per person, per meal. Two people ($8 a day). 7 days in a week = $56 a week.
Lunch - $7 per person, per meal. One person, him ($7 a day). 7 days a week = $49 a week.
Lunch - $4 per person, per meal. One person, her ($4 a day). 7 days a week = $28 a week.
Dinner - $10 per person, per meal. Two people ($20 a day). 7 days a week = $140 a week.

Per week = $56 + $49 + $28 + $140 = $273

There are 52 weeks in a year so their annual food cost was approximately (52 x $273): $14,196.

There are 12 months in a year so their monthly food cost was approx ($14,196 / 12): $1183.

I asked him if having an extra $1000 in his budget would help toward allowing his wife to quit her job. His eyes grew wide!

About Me

A little about the author ... I'm known as Cookie. I'm a long time frugal fanatic so when I shop, I prefer to save money. There is no reason to spend more than we have to! However, I also appreciate convenience and fine living. I strive to strike a balance between a nice lifestyle, simplicity and frugal living. I work hard for my money so I like to make my money work hard for me.