Archives For March 2009

This is a guest post by John M. Box, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Education, JA Worldwide. I meant to post this last week while I was on vacation but never got to it. Anyway, I think Junior Achievement is an important program so I’m happy to help them spread the word. This is the first installment of what I hope will be a weekly series for the next month or so. Stay tuned…

Finding the time and energy to make your children’s school lunches interesting, healthy and inexpensive is a challenge that many parents face. By planning ahead, shopping smart and communicating with your children, you can save money and also teach your kids a valuable lesson about saving.

Communicate with Your Children

No matter how healthy or seemingly delicious a lunch may be, if you aren’t communicating with your kids about what they enjoy, you could be wasting incalculable amounts of money on items they aren’t eating at lunch. This by no means gives them total access to everything on the grocery store shelves, but by providing options and getting children involved in the conversation, you ensure that you’re feeding them what they need AND want.

Plan Ahead

After discussing lunch items with your kids, make a shopping list and stick to it. If this means getting a neighbor or sitter to watch your kids while you shop to avoid checkout line tantrums, do it. By setting a weekly lunch budget, making a list and sticking to it, you’ll know exactly how much you’re spending and can look for ways to possibly save even more. Instead of buying snack packs of their favorite chips or crackers, buy in bulk and portion out in baggies every Sunday evening. This is a great activity to involve your children in and then explain why you’re doing it. Who says they can only learn at school?

Shop Smart

Even those shoppers with the best intentions and extensive lists can be thrown by a flashy display or “big” sale. It’s important to be well-informed and be an investigative shopper. Be prepared to change your mind, as long as the sale items are really that. Instead of looking at the flashy price tag, look at the smaller price per unit/ounce also on the tag. That’s where you’ll be able to see real savings. The most important thing to keep in mind though is whether or not your kids will consume it.

If you already keep track of your grocery budget, hopefully you’ll begin to see that number dwindle as you take the above steps. Share with your children how much you are saving thanks to your diligence. Next, discuss a way to use the money to reward you both. Whether this is on a new toy, a special dinner or a deposit into a special college savings account for your children, by showing them the direct rewards that can come from saving, you can help instill this habit in them while they’re young.

Stay connected with the latest news going on with Junior Achievement by becoming a fan of the JA Worldwide Facebook page. Find ways to volunteer, stay connected, share your JA story and learn about the latest JA happenings all over the globe. For up to the minute news, follow JA on Twitter at @JAworldwide.

About Junior Achievement® (JA)

Junior Achievement is the world’s largest organization dedicated to inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy. Through a dedicated volunteer network, Junior Achievement provides in-school and after-school programs for students which focus on three key content areas: work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. Today, 137 individual area operations reach more than four million students in the United States, with an additional five million students served by operations in 123 other countries worldwide. For more information, visit

I saw this on YouTube and thought it was worth sharing. Allan’s a good guy.

Allan’s book is out now. Check it out here*.

* Affiliate Link

How Can We Fix GM?

March 30, 2009

Front page in today’s Wall Street Journal is the following headline:

Government Forces Out Wagoner at GM

One question:

Shouldn’t they also force out the union?

The union must except part of the blame too. Afterall, they were the ones building crappy products over the years while Toyota and Honda were building quality cars and taking away business from GM. And, while they were building these crappy products, they were striking at every opportunity to demand higher pay and better benefits. You can’t ignore the fact that GM’s retiree benefits costs are way out of line compared to the Toyota and Honda. Those imbedded costs make it very difficult for a company to make money over the long-run.

In my opinion, in order to fix GM, this is what needs to be done:

1. Get rid of the union.

2. Reduce retiree benefits. How? I don’t know. I just know that they need to be reduced.

3. Give employees ownership in the company. When the company does well, they do well. I’m not sure how it could be done but maybe even allow employees to elect their leaders or give employees board seats. Make employees owners.

4. Build cars that PEOPLE WANT to buy! The ONLY GM products that I would consider buying right now are the Buick Enclave, the new Buick LaCrosse, the Chevy Malibu and possibly the Cadillac brand.

5. Get management to think LONG-TERM instead of quarterly.

6. Pay management REASONABLE salaries and make pay transparent so that the owner-employees can see how much management is making and know WHY management is making what it is making. I think one of the biggest problems with corporate America is that the employees feel that they are simply being used in order to pay the managment big salaries.

Okay, keep in mind that the list you just read is MY OPINION. I’m sure your opinion will differ. I would like to know your opinion but please be respectful of mine. I promise to be respectful of your’s.

I had a nice break. It felt good to get away from blogging for a bit.

The first week I spent half of it with my mom, sister and her three boys. They left last Sunday and my wife took vacation the following week, which was also Spring Break for our boys. We took a family trip to San Antonio. If you have never been to San Antonio, I recommend you check it out. The Riverwalk is very nice. They do an awesome job of keeping it up. I was impressed.

While in San Antonio, we also visited Sea World. The park was very nice but I have to say that it seemed overpriced. The admission for our family was $267. I was shocked when the woman told me the total. BUT…as I walked around the park throughout the day I noticed that it was immaculate and they also had several shows. I’m sure all of that is not cheap to maintain. So, as the day wore on, the price seemed more reasonable.

We stayed at Hyatt Regency on the Riverwalk. It was a nice hotel but not nearly as nice as the Westin that my wife and I stayed at for our anniversary last August. We could have spent a lot less and stayed at a cheaper hotel that was away from the Riverwalk but we thought it would defeat the purpose of visiting San Antonio.

As far as eating out goes, on Wednesday night we ate at Paesanos. I highly recommend it! After dinner we went and listened to some Jazz at Jim Cullum’s Landing. I loved it but I’m not sure the rest of the family liked it as much as I did…lol. I did think it was cool when my oldest son asked me to pick up one of their CDs because he thought they were pretty good—a boy after my own heart.

Thursday night we had some fish ‘n’ chips at Waxy O’Connors. It was okay. Friday we had steaks at Saltgrass—one of our favorite places to eat. Now we are all on a diet.

It’s good to be back. I’ll be back to blogging tomorrow!

Vacation Update

March 23, 2009

I’m still going to be pretty much absent from this blog for one more week. The kids are on Spring Break this week and my wife is on vacation so that means my blogging time will be limited.

I did want to mention that I increased our 401(k) contribution percentage today. We still aren’t at the maximum contribution level but we are getting close. I can’t think of a better time to increase your 401(k) contribution amount than now.

DISCLAIMER: I have been friends with Ramit for several years now and AllFinancialMatters is mentioned in Ramit’s book.

Okay, let’s say you want to be rich but your financial life stinks. You want to make changes but don’t know where to start. There are thousands of personal finance books out there but you don’t know which one pick. Well, a great place to start in my opinion would be with Ramit Sethi’s new book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich*, which offers an easy-to-follow 6-week program for getting one’s finances in order.

The program is broken down into the following six weeks:

Week 1 Credit cards and credit reports

Week 2 Banking

Week 3 Opening a 401(k) or retirement plan

Week 4 Budgeting or spending plan

Week 5 Automation

Week 6 Investing

One thing I have always appreciated about Ramit’s blog was his no-nonsense writing style. Thankfully, he brought that same style to his book. I found the book to be insightful and very easy to read. Yes, I already knew most of the information presented in the book but this book was not written for me. Rather, it was written for those who may not normally read personal finance books.

Whenever I review a book, I always try to find something I don’t like about the book. I really couldn’t find anything I didn’t like about this book. It’s a book for beginners and it does an excellent job of filling that niche.

Anyway, I highly recommend this book for anyone who needs to get their financial life in shape or anyone who is starting out on the road of life. Ramit will help you get on the road to becoming rich.

* Affiliate Link

I just wanted to let everyone know that I’ll mostly be missing in action for the next two weeks. My family is coming down from Kansas this week and next week is my kids’ Spring Break. I’ll be limited in my posting ability.

I need a break.