Category Archives: money

Why you should buy a Toll Transponder in Florida, Colorado, California, etc.

If you are a frequent traveler like I am and renting cars everywhere you go, you are probably heading to places that have toll roads, and if your extended family lives in a state that has tolls galore, be sure to look into toll transponders and buy one.  California has a monthly fee – I used to travel there a lot and got one, but the $2.00 a month minimum charge is a turn off, if you are traveling infrequently.

Regarding transponders, I can speak for Colorado, California, and Florida.   If you go more than once a year to a place that has toll roads, and there are no fees (Colorado and Florida have no minimums or fees), it’s wise to get a transponder or look into the rules for the toll roads where you go.  Here is what I discovered:

For the past few years we travel to and from central Florida a lot and each time e went, the rental care companies got super rich off of us-  even if we used the toll roads for 2 out of our 5 day rental, we got charged $3.95 per day no matter what IF we used even one toll road – this is maxed at like $20.00 generally but that adds up.  Plus you pay all your tolls too!  So, at $20 per trip (convenience charge), it is better to just buy your own transponder at Walgreens, Turnpike Service Centers, or Publix stores.  You reload them, add your rental vehicles as you rent them, and you can also share the transponder among family members and friends.  So, it can go in any vehicle in the state.  In Florida and Colorado, there are no monthly minimums or service charges, making the transponder a must have!   And, in Colorado, your toll rates are discounted if you have the E-470 pass, so it is certainly worth having, just get the one that you can move from vehicle to vehicle, unless you live there, of course.

Happy traveling!

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Paper Planes movie review

paperplanes2We reviewed the movie, Paper Planes, and it was a treat!  This uplifting family film, starring Sam Worthington (Avatar, Wrath of the Titans) and Ed Oxenbould (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), just received the Common Sense “Great for Families” Seal of Approval for kids 10+ and called it “an inspired look at what creativity really means, and what winning ought to be about”. You can read another review for the movie here and see others’ reviews. You can read all about the movie, what it is about, and based on below (see more).

The movie is set in Australia, produced by Entertainment one, and on the review version we received, we could not turn captions on, so if you watch this movie, I highly recommend captions for the kids.  Sometimes it is hard to make out words even when it’s English – British and Australian accents are tough for kiddos to make out at times.  The recommended age for kids watching this movie is 10 and older, but I think 7 and up (based on maturity) is fine too.

paperplanesMy girls were just making paper planes and flying them today to see how high theirs would go.  Inspired by the movie, they love making creations and seeing how high and how far theirs can go. They both liked the movie, but the kids under age 7 were getting distracted easily – the movie is inspiring, but if your attention span is short, you may not stay engaged.  I would definitely recommend this for kids, ages 7 and up.  Our 5 and 6 year-old kids in attendance started running off and playing 30 minutes into the film.  We had 5 kids in attendance at our screening of differing ages.

Great movie, inspirational, and only 96 minutes long. I loved the actors, even the child antagonist. It is a good movie,with many lessons to be learned – it will make your eyes water, and it’s a unique concept – paper planes, you can get it on DVD now.

*Disclaimer: I was given a review copy of the movie for an honest review of this film.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

Continue reading Paper Planes movie review

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Saving for kids’ college is easy with Capital One 360 #FinancialPeace


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It’s hard to save for the small ticket items, much less for college tuition, but Capital One makes it easy.  On-line banking or investing has never been so easy, so convenient, and so rewarding.  And if you act now, you can take advantage of all the Black Friday deals that Capital One offers.

If you save as little as $50 a month per kid when they are young, by the time they are even applying for colleges, you should have enough for them to pay tuition, or supplement financial aid if necessary.  Saving for college does not have to be hard or overwhelming, and you can earn various interest rates depending on the products you choose.  Capital One has various products, and they reward you just for opening an account.  If you think that $199 TV is a good deal for Black Friday, ask yourself, who will give you money just for opening an account and saving money?  Yes, Capital One will.

Right now, with Capital One 360’s Black Friday Sale, the rewards are even sweeter.  This is the time to sign up, get a bonus, and start thinking about financial peace of mind.  Whether your needs are for college savings, savings accounts for kids, a checking account, or investing, check out all tat Capital One 360 has to offer.  Capital One 360 products are designed to save consumers time and money. From online to an easy to use mobile app, Capital One 360 is with customers 24/7. Capital One 360 Checking and 360 Savings are fee-free and earn interest (varies based on product). Capital One 360 offers remote deposit capture with Capital One 360’s CheckMate tool and make savings a snap with the Automatic Savings Plan.  Here are some deals for Black Friday (ends 12/1/2014) at Capital One 360- check it out until 12/1/2014 (see below).  New accounts receive bonus money – who just gives you money so you can save money?  Capital One.   All accounts include a bonus, and if you refer friends and family, you earn $40, and they earn rewards for just signing up too!  Here are the bonus offers for Black Friday:

Product Offer Details
ShareBuilder Up to $1,250 bonus (tiered offer)
  • Must be a new ShareBuilder customer
Home Loans $1,250 off closing costs
  • Must sign up for the loan during the sale period
360 Checking $100 bonus
  • Must make a $500 minimum initial deposit and make five transactions
  • Must be new to 360 Checking
360 Savings $100 bonus
  • Must make a $1,000 minimum initial deposit
  • Must be new to 360 Savings
Refer a Friend $40 bonus per successful referral
  • For someone to receive the referral bonus, they must be a current customer
  • Their friend must meet the minimum initial deposit requirements
  • Applies to all accounts

This holiday season, save a little or a lot, and start the road to financial peace of mind.  Saving money for college, for whatever your needs are has never been so easy, convenient, and most of all, rewarding.  We have savings accounts for all of us and our kids at Capital One 360, and we also have a checking account which is convenient to use.  I deposit checks from my mobile device while I am on the go.  Their rates of interest on savings and checkings accounts are competitive.  And through Sharebuilder, you can also trade and invest in stocks, funds, and other products.  You can even open a kids’ brokerage account and trade for them – all before they are even in high school!  Happy saving, and happy holidays to you all!

Disclaimer: I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and compensated for this post.  The content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Frontier Airlines Changes effective April 28, 2014

Thanks for the notice, Frontier… or not!  Here we go again.  The discount airline is now skimping and turning European on us.  But, I am not so sure the European airline model works in a country like ours that is so widespread from coast to coast.

I wrote about FRONTIER a couple of years back when Frontier first sent out some mass changes including charging for sodas, and bags.  Now, take it a step further.  All seats are either $3 or $5, but the last row is free.  Oh, thanks!  I also wrote another FRONTIER post a long time ago when they were previously owned by another company and were not assigning seats to us lowly Economy travelers.  Well, all that is out the airplane window now.  Now, you have to join some club and still pay $20 per carry on bag.  This would be for bags that go into the overhead compartment.  Otherwise, it is $25.  Even if you book on frontier.com, it is still $25!  You are still allowed one personal item.  Gee, thanks, Frontier.  No judgment on how big that “personal item” should be, right?  Wait for it… wait for it… there is.  The guidelines are on their website.  Make sure you measure before you go!  Also, you still pay for checked bags.  Annoyed yet?  It gets better.

Their entire program is overhauled and now, you do not even get a calendar when you try to book to use up those pesky miles/points you have built up over the years.  Yep!  You just get an error message that there is nothing available.  Try again and again, but their website is more frustrating than ever.  If flying the “friendly” skies wasn’t bad enough, another airline bites the dust.  The sad part for me is that they are still Denver-based and I live in Denver, so my choices are down to SOUTHWEST, SOUTHWEST, and SOUTHWEST.  That about sums it up for me.

Some more information for you to consider is in-flight meal/beverages.  They charge for everything and the TV isn’t free either.  Southwest has teamed up with Direct TV to give you some limited free TV  – super nice when you have kids in tow.  Buckle up folks, and enjoy the wild ride as you turn over your money with all the hidden charges and fees.  Sure, you may able to get a cheap flight to Omaha or a destination you can drive to, but be prepared to pay for everything – every single thing including choosing a seat.  Since normal seats are $3 per seat and some up front are $5, calculate that per person and then double it for a round trip.  And remember, deregulation of the Airline industry in the 70s permitted you, the consumer, one very important thing- CHOICE!  It’s time to exercise that choice.  In a free economy, all we have is our voice.  Exercise it and take your business elsewhere if you do not like this.  You are not tied to travel with them. Of course, I can’t say that I like very many airlines anyway.  Don’t even get me started on United – they are the worst airline I have ever flown and hope to never fly again.

In tough economy times, it is equally tough to find good deals on travel, and traveling shouldn’t have to be this hard or miserable.  While the discount model may work overseas where flights cross-country are 2 hours long, and cost 20 Euros round trip, it is tougher here in a country where we are so spread out we have no choice but to fly from city to city (often in the same state).   Good luck finding what works for you, and just say no to airlines that mistreat you, or that do not fit that mold.

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Are You feeling the squeeze?

You don’t have to look far to find middle aged Americans or even those in their 60s caring for parents and their kids at the same time. It is estimated that many baby boomers are supporting their adult children, or children in college while at the same time flying all over the country or driving across the State they live in to care for their parents. And, in some instances, baby boomers are caring for aging parents, kids, grand kids, each other, and all while trying to support everyone financially. It was bound to happen. For better or worse, technology is better, modern medicine is better and people are living longer but living longer means they may need assisted or skilled care, or worse, around the clock care. Meanwhile, our generation (Generation X) generally waited to marry and may still have very young kids at home, and we are facing the same situations with our parents in their 60s or 70s. Baby boomers refer to us as the selfish generation – generation “me”. Sure, we are notorious for trying to find balance whereas our parents’ generation the lines were a little more clear- mom stayed home most likely, cooked, cleaned, and took care of the home. Mom may have even sacrificed a lot to raise us and save money. Dad went out and earned the dough and saved it all for our college. And good or bad, the lines are blurred for Generation X or Generation “Me” – mom and dad are both taking care of the kids, sometimes dad is doing it more and better than mom. Dads are cooking, cleaning, working, changing diapers, and so are moms. We save a bit here and there, we do our best but we also don’t sacrifice ourselves or deprive ourselves of things we need so our kids can go to college. If we are a selfish generation then good for us I say because we as women and moms are in better shape, eating healthier or trying to, and we have our work and careers, social lives plus our families and I think we are lucky because we get our cake and get to eat it too! We may be spread a little thin, but we do the best we can do with all facets of our lives and that is okay. And, we do not hoard our money for things to come or things that may never be- we have not lived through the depression so we try to live within our means, save, set up accounts for our kids and our retirement, we try to look for good deals but we spend when it is needed and do so willingly and generously.

So, who says our generation is selfish? Who says we don’t care about others? We may not be taking care of multiple generations of family but we could be on our way! Recently, I felt the squeeze and in a big way and I am sure my brother (my only sibling) felt it too. In effect, when something happens to our parents or our children, there is a ripple effect and it is felt by us all – it can even have an effect our extended family too- aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws especially if they are trying to help. With smaller families these days, you almost need a village to raise not just your children but also help with care of our elders. Certainly, our generation may not be as sandwiched as the Baby Boomers have been in this decade but we are well on our way and with medicare dwindling and social programs in general, who will take care of us?

Since April, my brother and I have responded in some way to help our folks. Sure, they didn’t ask – they didn’t have to. My brother is a newlywed and his honeymoon was cut short by the first incident 2 months ago. I have young kids at home, ages 5 and 3, and that is also rather tough to balance. I wrote about it here and you can read more about what happened. But, I write this post now because just when we thought my dad was on the mend and recovering and we all settled back into our routine, just like that! Mom was in the hospital with a fractured femur. And, almost three weeks after that incident (exactly 2 months after dad’s incident), they are still not out of the woods yet. Broken bones take time to heal – surgeries of that magnitude take time to heal and even then, there is about a year or more that you have to watch that injury and take care of it. All in all, just like I want to do with my kids on most days, I felt like I wanted to wrap my parents up in this protective bubble and move them closer to me for my own selfish reasons, so I can see them daily, take over their lives, and help them and of course, my ulterior motive: make it easier on me too! Because remember, we are also the generation who thinks anything is possible and so what if we have to spend money on it – we can do it! We are also the generation who thinks money is not important but life is. So, why can’t I just wrap my parents up, bring them closer to me, and then I can have my cake and eat it too? Because, simply put, it’s just not that easy. Like our kids who will need to make their own decisions one day despite how much we want them to just stay in the little protective bubble-wrapped world we have created for them, our parents have been independent since we all left for college and they want to do their own thing too. After all, they have made the decisions for all these years and we have to be respectful and mindful of that, all the while feeling frustrated that we have NO CONTROL – absolutely NONE over them and the situations that will fold no matter what we do or say.

Anyway, after all the work missed and money spent on travel – flying 1800+ miles away to help my folks is not an easy task. It is also hard to leave the little ones because they miss momma. But, we in Generation X (the Me generation), well, we are used to being spread thin so what is taking on another set of issues or problems? It’s cake walk, right? Ummm… nah, it is hard and takes it toll on your health, on your family, and it effects relationships too. I am sure other Americans are feeling this squeeze and struggle too especially if their parents, like mine, did not really take care of themselves or seek medical care all these years. After all, they were taking care of all of us at the sacrifice of their own health and single family income only went so far as well just decided to sacrifice it all for the sake of the family. My advice for you if you are feeling the squeeze as well is to (1) first, take care of yourself and if that means scheduling a massage or some time out for yourself, do it; (2) help your folks as much as you can but remember to honor boundaries because in the end, especially if you live geographically separated, you have to honor that they are independent people who taught you the value of being independent as well and you have to (even if you cuss with frustration on the inside) honor their wishes and choices however poor you believe those choices to be; (3) be supportive but try not to appear to be taking over their affairs and unless they are medically incapable of making their own health and financial decisions, do not jump the gun because if they come around, recover, and find out you took over, that can be really bad for your relationship. I say all of this now, but I was a wreck two months ago when my dad was in the hospital and I failed to obey all of the above so I am writing this as a lesson to myself I guess as well.

The only other advice I can give you from my own experience is to make sure that you encourage them to get their financial and other affairs in order – a must do kit for all adults with or without children in our country includes: (1) Durable Power of Attorney (POA) for Healthcare that names someone or alternate agents you trust to make health care decisions in case of incapacitation. (2) Living Will that sets out the desires of life-saving and life-extending measures, and other special instructions in case of coma or other conditions. (3) Estate planning including a Will that disposes of your estate (the items that will not pass by contract or agreement) and sets out wishes to the appointed executor(s) on how to distribute funds and property. Also, a will is a must have for those who have children under 18 because in it, guardians you trust are appointed. As far as bank accounts, accounts with companies including 401K, IRAs, etc. should all have a designated Payable on Death (POD) beneficiary. That POD beneficiary should have alternates so the money does not go into your probate which gets taxed heavily. If you have a safe deposit box, make sure it is joint with someone else and have even a third person on it to prevent the contents of that going into probate. (4) Finally, as I recently learned, another important document to have is a Special Durable POA that names individuals (primary and/or alternate) to take care of financial affairs, obtain medical records and medical information on their behalf, and for any other purposes you want to set forth. This “Special or limited” durable power of attorney should list all the special powers that your agent has and for what period of time (it must have a start and stop date to be valid). Another item I recently learned is that this durable POA should also contain a HIPAA release in it so that you are in the clear with the medical community releasing items to your agent(s). This last item I discussed is very important in case you are NOT incapacitated but need your help in assembling documents or getting the financial house or property matters in order. If you have to renew it every 2 years or yearly, do it- it is worth it because it is so important to have, and for kids who live far away, this last Special Power of Attorney is a must because they will be making phone calls on your behalf and most hospitals, doctor’s offices, or banks will not honor a general POA.

I have learned a lot from this recent squeeze. A lot! I have shared some of my thoughts before in a a few posts I wrote: Because of the Sacrifices They Made and In an Instant and I have to say I am trying my best to not live in daily fear of what may happen next but it is so hard not to. It is so hard to not freak out every time the phone rings, or just at the thought of what is coming next. I try to not let it consume me but in the back of my mind, I am trying to prepare myself as well. These last two months have set the foundation but does anything really prepare you for the inevitable? ‘Til then, I suppose I welcome whatever “squeeze” God throws at me because I’d rather be squeezed in the middle and I’d rather juggle a lot than take on losing a very important ball or two in this juggling act I call life.

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