January 2013 - Posts - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

January 2013 - Posts

  • Cost Breakdown of My Favorite Recipes

    I love to cook. (I do admit to having the local Chinese restaurant on speed dial, however). One of the big benefits of cooking at home is how much money you save over either convenience foods or said Chinese delivery.

    While I've never calculated the cost-per-serving of any of my favorite recipes, I do know that several of the recipes that I most often put into my cooking rotation are fairly cost-effective. Here are two of my favorite cheap recipes, and a basic idea of how much each ingredient costs:

    1. Chicken Tikka Masala

    Image courtesy of kelly sue

    This is a new favorite after our neighbors served us this tasty goodness for New Year's. 


    • 3 whole (to 4) Chicken Breasts

    Currently $1.87 per pound at our local grocery. 3 whole breasts is about 1.5 pounds, so approximately $2.81

    • Kosher Salt
    • Ground Coriander
    • Cumin, To Taste

    I already have all three of these in my spice cabinet. So even though it's not free, I'm calling it that.

    • 1/2 cup Plain Yogurt

    Our favorite yogurt is the Greek Gods variety, which is a pretty hefty $4 per 24 oz.

    • 6 Tablespoons Butter

    I can generally find a pound of butter for approximately $2.00

    • 1 whole Large Onion

    You can get a pound of onions for about $1.29

    • 4 cloves Garlic

    This is generally about $1.60 per pound.

    • 1 piece (approximately 2 Inches) Chunk Fresh Ginger

    About $2 per pound, if I can get it on special

    • Garam Masala

    This is the expensive part. This spice concoction cost nearly $6

    • 1 can (28 Ounce) Diced Tomatoes


    • Sugar

    I have this on hand, so we're calling it free.

    • 1-1/2 cup Heavy Cream

    1 quart generally sets me back about $2

    • 2 cups Basmati Rice

    About $4 for a five pound bag.

    Total:  $26.70

    Cost per serving (6 servings): $4.45

    Okay, so the cost on this is not nearly as good as I thought it would be, but to be fair, once you've invested in the rice and the garam masala spice, it makes each subsequent cooking (of which our household has many) much cheaper.


    2. Tortilla Soup (Found in the Fix-It and Forget It Lightly Cookbook)

    Image courtesy of Collin Harvey

    • 2 uncooked boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

    $1.87 per pound, and this would be about 1 pound of chicken

    • one 16-oz can fat-free refried beans

    Generally, about $0.75


    • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn

    $1 for a bag of frozen corn

    • 3/4 cup chunky salsa

    About $1.50 for a jar of salsa

    • 1/4 water
    • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

    $2 for a 2-cup package

    • 1 bag tortilla chips

    $2 for my favorite brand of cheapy chips

    Total: $9.62

    Cost per serving (7 servings): $1.37 (This is such a fan favorite in our house, it should probably be considered 4 servings, rather than 7. But even with gorging ourselves, it still comes out to $2.41 per serving)

    If you're curious about how the recipe goes together, put everything but the cheese and the chips in the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 or more hours. Add the cheese and stir to melt. Crush some chips in each bowl, and ladle the soup on top.

    What are your favorite go-to recipes? Are they splurges or money savers?

  • Dried Beans: A Conspiracy From the Bean Lobby?

    Photographic proof of the worldwide bean conspiracy courtesy of cookbookman17

    About once every two or three years, I'll find myself in the bean aisle of the supermarket. Looking from the canned beans to the dried ones, I'll once again conclude that the lower price and sodium content in the dried beans means I really ought to be soaking my own instead of wasting my money on cans.

    I'll take the beans home, follow the quick soak directions (which still takes a good three hours), and find myself eating crunchy beans and rice, or crunchy black bean chili, or crunchy seven bean soup at something like 11 o'clock at night, because of course I never leave myself enough time for the soaking.

    At that point, I usually conclude that I'm doing something wrong with the bean soaking (specifically that I should be doing the long soak method instead), and that I'm not capable of planning far enough ahead to really utilize dried beans. I go back to buying the canned variety for another two or three years.

    This pattern continued unabated until last week, when I once again decided that I needed to be buying dried beans. Dried black beans, to be specific.

    So, after a late meal on Wednesday of cruncy black beans and rice, I decided it was time for me to finally try the long soak method. I bought another bag of beans, planned a delicious black bean soup dinner for Monday night, and set those bad boys to soak starting around 6 pm on Sunday evening.

    At 6 pm on Monday evening, at which point our dinner guests had arrived and the soup was simmering and waiting for the beans, I drained my well soaked bounty and started pouring them into the stock pot.

    Where they clinked on the bottom.

    Yes, even after a 24-hour soak, my black beans were still crunchy.

    I had to make a quick run to the grocery store (which, if you're keeping score at home, makes my third grocery trip in two days--and fourth if you count my wallet misadventure) so that I could get some canned beans of the proper consistency.

    The truth is abundantly clear: dried beans are not actually edible. I believe they are some kind of tough pebble that bean growers somehow create in the bean-growing process. The bean lobby has figured out a way to market this waste product as a food source, by convincing people that it's possible to cook them. And when cooking doesn't work out, everyone simply assumes that they soaked it wrong or not long enough.

    While I have heard some apocryphal stories about home cooks making dried beans in pressure cookers, I have decided that those stories are simply propaganda attempting to show that dried beans are useful for something other than mosaic art projects.

    For me, I now know that it's worth the money to buy beans at the proper consistency in time for dinner. Because the alternative is just picking crunchy bean pebbles out of your soup.

  • Embarrassing Grocery Store Moments


    Yesterday, I decided to stop by the grocery store on my way home from teaching Hebrew school. I had a list with a grand total of 5 items on it:

    Apple juice


    Half and half



    But Hebrew school is done at noon, and I reached the grocery at the optimal poor-decision due to hunger timeframe. So despite the fact that I should have been able to get in and out of the store in less than 20 minutes, I spent 45 minutes filling a grocery cart with such absolute necessities as dates, bottles of soda, a carton of ice cream, and other items that seemed like a good idea at the time.

    It wasn't until I reached the checkout line that the real embarrassment set in. When the cashier informed me of my total ($115 and change, making it officially the most expensive five-item grocery stop in history), I realized that my wallet, which should have been in my purse, was not, in fact, there.

    What was really embarrassing was that I knew exactly where my wallet was. I had taken it out of my purse in order to use my credit card for an internet purchase, and the wallet was still sitting, minding its own business, on our desk. Which I would have realized at any point before I reached the cashier had I not be wandering around in a cloud of hunger.

    While it is always embarrassing to realize that you don't have your wallet at the checkout, I feel that there is a special embarrassment for those who know exactly where the wallet is. It's almost better for it to be missing, at least humiliation-wise.

    The cashier was very nice about it and told me it happened all the time. She suspended the sale and told me they'd hold my cart until I made it back with a method of payment. Since I was shopping right by our synagogue, I was a good 20 minutes away from home, thereby completely negating the convenience of my stopping at that particular grocery store.

    I returned within less than an hour, shame faced, and paid for my groceries.

    I was still hungry.

    Of course, that's not the end of this story.

    I had forgotten something on my list yesterday, and somehow managed to miss purchasing it in my widespread hunger-induced grocery grab. While planning dinner for tonight, I realized that I could not make the black bean soup without the garlic.

    I mentioned to J this morning that I was heading back to the store, and he asked me to also pick up a comb for him, as he had misplaced his.

    While checking out of Target with the smallest order I have ever managed to purchase from that store, the cashier said exactly what I was thinking:

    "Really? Garlic and a comb?"

    Sigh. Yes, it is the weirdest combination you can possibly think of.

  • Improving Our Energy Efficiency

    Yesterday, we received this tidbit of good news in the mail:

    Not that I need the validation, but getting a "Great Job" from my utility company was quite a nice little boost.

    J and I can't take all the credit for this (and in fact, I personally cannot take ANY credit for this, as J is the king of the thermostat in our house). Our house is small and pretty efficient, at least on the ground floor.

    However, we have made one change between last winter and this one. (Again, I'm using "we" rather loosely here. I had next to nothing to do with it.) (Okay, completely nothing to do with it).

    You see, our upper floor was always, in J's words, "wicked hot and cold."

    We're not the type to just crank the thermostat to make our bedrooms more comfortable. We looked into adding window A/C units, but we have these tiny little Mr. Magoo windows (seriously, from the outside it looks like our house is squinting), so that was not an option--although adding a space heater might have been the order of the day by the time we reached this winter.

    J decided to call in some HVAC professionals to see why it was that our upper floor enjoyed a different climate from the first floor.

    Apparently, we had a furnace and A/C more than robust enough to handle a house our size and age. The problem was delivery--the ducting leading to the second floor simply wasn't big enough.

    Two separate HVAC guys proposed basically the same impressive solution: Knock holes in our walls and a floor in order to run bigger ducting up to the top floor. In addition, one of the two guys wanted to provide us with a separate thermostat upstairs so we could have extra control.

    The estimate for doing the kind of home improvement that makes you wonder if it would make more sense just to move: $10,000.

    This is where J swooped in to save the day with engineering skills. I'll let him tell it in his own words: 

    "My cheap solution was to have an HVAC guy install a sheet metal scoop at the entrance to our undersized upstairs feeding duct line to force more of the conditioned air upstairs. While I was at it, I had him seal up all the exposed ducting joints throughout the house to cut down on leaks and send more of the conditioned air where we want it to go."

    Total bill: $350.

    Having a thrifty engineer husband: Priceless

  • Frugal Tips That Annoy the Heck Out of Me


    Couponrific photo courtesy of expert couponers Julie & Heidi from West Linn & Gillette, USA

    This morning at the gym, I was perusing AARP magazine (I read it for the articles! Really!), when I came across a piece by Jeff Yeager, the self-proclaimed Ultimate Cheapskate. Now, Mr. Yeager offered some great advice to the readers on ways to reduce spending. But I still found myself getting annoyed with his article, as I often do with articles dealing with frugality, in that some of his advice will not work in anything resembling the real world. So, even though I myself have been guilty of writing these kinds of frugality articles, I have decided to share with you the frugal tips that drive me most crazy:

    1. Drive less. Okay, I am a committed environmentalist, a runner, and one who truly enjoys running what errands I can on foot. However, this advice is completely insane for most people.

    First of all, without driving, getting my son to school would be next to impossible, considering he can't walk that far and the main drag that his school is on is not exactly bicycle friendly.

    Secondly, unless you work at a job wherein it's okay to arrive sweaty and gross, riding a bike or walking to work is really not that feasible. It's also not necessarily safe. When we moved to Lafayette, J was thrilled to be about a mile from work because it meant he could finally bike to work. Except he can't, because even though it's only a mile away, it's a mile of heavy traffic with no bike lanes. We all like J very much here at Chez Mensch, and we'd prefer he didn't get clipped by a semi on his way to work.

    Third, walking, riding a bike, or even taking public transportation really increases the amount of time you need to spend commuting. I personally already feel as though my days are not getting their allotted 24 hours, let alone adding to my regular travel time.

    Finally, my big problem with this advice is that very few people will see any kind of real change in their finances by driving less unless they actually give up a car. I admire those people who are able to do this, but that's just not feasible for the majority of Americans. We live in a car-centric society. Even if you run errands once a week on foot, you're not really going to notice a huge difference in your wallet.

    What I'd prefer to see: Articles giving very specific advice on how to improve mileage and maintenance on cars, as well as specific ideas for how to start car pools. It's not enough just to tell us to drive less. Give us ideas of how to do it, or, barring that, give us ideas on how to make driving less expensive.

    2. The Latte Factor. This one annoys me so much I've already written about it here and here. This idea was coined by David Bach, who showed that small expenses add up. Specifically, he claims that if you buy a $5 latte five days a week for 50 weeks of the year, you're wasting $1250.

    He's not wrong about that--it's just missing the point. Yes, spending a little money on something every day will add up to big bucks over time. But the sort of people who are actually reading frugality advice have already given up their small daily luxuries. I've never seen anyone who spends $5 every day on a cup of coffee also clip coupons, give up their car, and hang out their laundry rather than use a dryer. People who are spending money every day on a small luxury are probably also spending money regularly on big luxuries, which are a heck of a lot easier to cut out than the small ones.

    Also, it's incredibly frustrating to click on a link that says "try this one tip to save $1000 per year!" and find that it's just another incarnation of the Latte factor. We get it, okay! Small amounts add up.

    What I'd prefer to see: More behavioral economics-based ideas on how to make saving easier. It's hard to think of small amounts as being worth much of anything. In fact, studies have shown that we are more likely to spend four $5 bills rather than one $20. So it can be very difficult to rewire our thinking to make the small amounts worth saving. I'd love to see some concrete suggestions for doing just that. It's a heck of a lot more helpful than just saying "stop buying expensive coffee and bank that money instead!"

    3. Downsize. Now, I am absolutely a proponent of small home living. Our first house was only 1180 square feet, and our current home is only slightly larger at 1600 square feet. And that's just fine by me. Less house means less for me to clean (poorly), less to heat and cool, and fewer rooms where I could lose a two-year-old who is running away from the prospect of a bath.

    But let's say you already live in a 4500 square foot house and you're having trouble making ends meet. Does telling you to sell the house and downsize really help at all, especially in this housing market? Add to that the fact that moving is not free, even if you have a friend with a pickup truck and a free weekend, and this advice becomes basically useless. Downsizing is not something that is going to reduce immediate costs.

    What I'd prefer to see: People who bought more house than they can afford need specific advice on ways they can cut expenses. For example, I never see anyone advising McMansion owners to shut off parts of their homes, just like impoverished gentry used to do with the old homestead in the early 20th century. Making what you own more affordable is going to be much more helpful than saying "Sorry, you should have bought a smaller house!"

    4. Buy a car that gets better gas mileage. This one really gets under my skin, because it's become such a holy grail among car buyers that they completely ignore every other aspect of car ownership. Yes, excellent mileage is a great goal, but if you have to spend $20,000 in order to improve the price at the gas pump, something is seriously wrong. Also, driving a Prius like a jerk (that is, lots of starts and stops, heavy on the brake, lots of wide open throttle) is going to be worse for the environment/your wallet than driving a Ford Fusion responsibly.

    What I'd prefer to see: Real suggestions about good quality cars that are inexpensive to buy and maintain. You can find this information on car blogs, so I see it because my husband has an intravenous Jalopnik feed, but you don't see such information among money folks. Instead, you get throwaway advice like "buy a car with good gas mileage." Also, better advice on how to drive in order to (responsibly) maximize gas mileage would be truly helpful.

    I'm just as guilty as the next finance writer for suggesting glib one-sentence advice for improving finances. The problem is that so much of what we write is of the Top 10 list variety, and there really is only so much you can say in that short a space. But once you've gotten far enough into frugality that you are regularly reading frugal tips, then most of this glibness is completely useless.

    What tips do you hate reading over and over again?

  • I'm Starting to Think RedBox Does This on Purpose


    Photo of the deceptively easy method of renting movies courtesy of IlliniGradResearch


    I may have mentioned before that I am extremely bad at returning borrowed items on time. This applies to library books, movie rentals, the book I borrowed from a friend who then relocated to New England, and, on at least one occasion, a rental car.

    It is for this reason that I have not entirely embraced the RedBox phenomenon. I love how easy it is to rent movies from them. I just stink at returning them.

    And now, I'm starting to think that RedBox is also out to get me.

    Case in point: on Sunday evening, I had to head to our nearby pharmacy to pick up a couple of things. Since I was already going there, J asked me to pick up specific movie from RedBox that shall remain nameless here because I'm a little embarrassed about how much I enjoyed it. (Suffice it to say, it was an offensive comedy that involved CGI.)

    Then, LO refused to go to bed at a decent hour on Sunday night, meaning J and I were unable to watch said offensive comedy, because it would be just like our child to decide he wanted to start talking after hearing dialogue that would make a sailor blush.

    Already, I was a little annoyed at RedBox, because my $1.29 movie rental had already doubled, and I was not getting anything like double the enjoyment out of it.

    Thankfully, LO drifted off to sleep before 8 on Monday night, so J and I were able to enjoy our ridiculous movie without worrying about what it would do to our child's developing brain functions.

    I had intended to return the movie yesterday during the day, but completely forgot about it. (See above re: my ability to return things.) Luckily, my writing group was meeting last night, so I had another opportunity to return the film on my way to the meeting.

    Unfortunately, the closest RedBox box was not accepting returns.

    This is not the first time I've encountered this particular problem. Granted, I don't rent from RedBox that often, but it's starting to seem like their business model is based on being closed to returns.

    Since I had only left myself enough time to drop off the movie, not stop by the closest RedBox, see that it wasn't accepting returns, jump up and down and curse like the immature procrastinator that I am, get back in my car, and drive along to the next nearest RedBox box which was in the opposite direction of my meeting, I held onto the movie for another night.

    I've now paid three times the price for this movie rental and I still only got one viewing's enjoyment out of it. (And I'm still embarrassed about which movie it was).

    Fie upon you RedBox. A pox on all your houses!

  • Emily Just Quits Jobs She Doesn't Like

    I'm a bit of a career butterfly. After only 11+ years in the job market post-college, I have held the following jobs:

    • Giant Eagle bakery employee (position held for two days--I couldn't handle the hours from 12:30-9:30 am because I generally turn into a pumpkin as of 9:30 pm. I don't know what I was thinking with this one)
    • Barnes & Noble bookseller (position held off and on for four years)
    • Administrative Assistant for Graeter's Ice Cream of Columbus (position held for 9 months, during which time it became abundantly clear that I am not cut out for office work)
    • AmeriCorps Volunteer working in the art room of a Boys & Girls Club (position held for 9 months because the volunteer program [which did pay a teeny little bit but required additional employment at B&N] folded due to lack of funding)
    • Art Director at the Boys & Girls Club (position held for about a year, until I was promoted, which helped me to understand that I generally would prefer not to be promoted)
    • Program Director at the Boys & Girls Club (position held for about six months, at which point I decided to go back to school to become an English teacher)
    • High school English teacher (position held continuously for four years, which means it is officially the longest running gig I've ever held, and had we not moved to Lafayette when I was seven months pregnant with LO, I likely would still be teaching)
    • Freelance blogger (position held a little over two years)

    Back in 2001, when I first took that disastrous bakery job and quickly left it, many of my friends were having similar employment woes. My dear friend Erika wanted to quit a similar McJob that was taking so much out of her that she was having trouble finding time to look for more suitable employment. Her parents were concerned about Erika throwing away even the pittance she was earning there and tried to dissuade her. "But Emily just quits jobs she doesn't like!" she replied. (I'm not sure if that line of reasoning actually convinced her parents, but she did indeed quit that job fairly quickly.)

    Erika's characterization of my career stamina has been a bit of a running joke in my family. Yes, I quit my first post-college job after two days. (In point of fact, I actually arrived to my first day of work 20 minutes early. I was a half hour late my second day. I called in sick [although it would have been more honest to call in tired] on my third day, and quit on day four. Seriously, considering the fact that I laid down for a nap on my friend Ike's driveway at 3:00 in the morning on the night of my senior prom because I simply couldn't keep my eyes open another moment, I have no idea where I got the idea that I could handle an overnight shift).

    In addition, I left my reasonably well-paid administrative assistant job to go back to shilling books for $8.25/hour.

    Finally, I applied for a promotion with the Boys & Girls Club that greatly increased my salary, only to leave after six months to become an impoverished grad student.

    There's really no other way to put it: I really do just quit jobs I don't like.

    I've actually been extraordinarily lucky. My parents have always been around to help me when my finances and my career ideals didn't meet. I've also had squirrel-like tendencies from birth, so I always used steady employment as an opportunity for me to build another cushion against my next resignation letter. And after all this time, I finally found not one, but two careers that I was well-suited for--teaching and blogging.

    It's a little odd to look back on my oddly peripatetic career path. On the one hand, I do feel as though my employment history is a little embarrassing. In the same amount of time that I wracked up 8 different modes of employment, J has had (count them) TWO jobs. Both of them real careers that draw on his college degree and that offer things like 401(k) matching and health benefits.

    On the other hand, I am glad that I have had so many opportunities to find what kind of work I can do best and will make me feel fulfilled. Having had so many different employment experiences--rather than heading straight into a career post-college--helped me to understand that some of the issues my co-workers thought were just local problems were in fact something you'd find in any employment. I know that much of what anyone might not like about any particular job are likely things most people just won't enjoy about working.

    So, despite my non-linear employment/career history, I'm not ashamed of just quitting jobs that I don't like. It's not necessarily a method of career planning that I would recommend to others (and here's hoping LO takes after his father more than me in this regard). But, it's worked for me. The last six and a half years have shown me that I'm capable of sustaining a job long term.

    It just took the better part of a decade for me to get there.

  • I Don't Mind Paying Taxes

    Much to my surprise, a recent article that I wrote for one of my regular clients seems to have touched a very very raw nerve.

    The article is a fairly simple one. After the fiscal cliff compromise to end the Bush-era tax cuts on those who singly make $400,000 or jointly make $450,000 per year, I was really curious as to who is in that particular income bracket. I don't know anyone making that kind of money, and I'm not even sure what professions offer those kinds of salaries. So, I decided to do a short article on who brings in $400,000 per year.

    In fact, I found it fairly difficult to find good information on the subject. My usual go-to source for salary information--the Department of Labor Statistics--was not searchable for income, and even most top 10 articles about high-earning professions seem to top out at about $200,000. I'm now realizing that is because often people earning that kind of dough are probably self-employed/small business owners. It's harder to generalize their salary expectations.

    In any case, my very simple piece that listed four professions (the President, CEOs, surgeons and specialists, and Wall Street bankers and lawyers) that can expect to see their taxes go up on every dollar they earn over $400,000 seems to have set off a firestorm. Commenters on both sides of the spectrum are calling each other lazy good-for-nothings. Atlas Shrugged (both positively and negatively) has been referenced multiple times. People have shown a basic lack of understanding of the progressive tax rate and have referred to government as thugs and those on welfare as leeches. In short, it's been pretty vitriolic.

    If you're a long time reader of this blog, you probably can't help but notice that I have some liberal tendencies. But I try very hard to see things from multiple points of view. The conservative and/or wealthy commenters who are very resentful of having to pay more because of their success aren't wrong for feeling that way, and I certainly recognize that fact. I remember the first time I got a paycheck that I actually needed to use for rent. I was horrified at the amount that was taken out for taxes, and every time I collected my paycheck back then, I thought over and over again that I would be able to live much more comfortably if I saw every penny of my earnings.

    As I've gotten older, my paychecks have gotten bigger, as has the chunk that Uncle Sam takes. There are times when it's annoying or a hardship.

    But I ultimately don't mind that I pay taxes. Yes, the government mismanages money and uses my tax dollars for things that I hate. But our government also works remarkably well, when you compare it to the alternatives. I have decent roads to drive on and decent schools to send my kid to and decent programs to help him and other babies with delays and so on. I know that I can expect that the infrastructure of our society will generally work pretty well. It's not perfect, but looking for perfect in conjunction with anything created by humans is a fool's errand.

    And now that I'm no longer working for $8.25 an hour at Barnes & Noble, like I was all those years ago, I don't really feel the bite of taxes like I did when I was struggling to make rent. I make only moderately decent money right now as a part-time at-home freelance blogger. The money I earn comes directly to me, which means I need to set tax money aside myself or else I'll be scrambling come tax time. Even though I manually transfer 35% of every paycheck over to a savings account, I still don't mind paying taxes. I see it as so much better than the alternative.

    I know that it is difficult to see your hard-earned money go to something you despise. I know that it's really tough to live under a political system that you distrust and that seems pretty darn incompetent, for all intents and purposes. But I really do wish that everyone on both sides of the debate who is getting spittle-flecked with rage on my (and other) forums would take a moment to look at the alternatives out there. No, we may not be perfect, or anywhere in the same zip code as perfect. But we've got it pretty good compared to other places I could mention.

    Ultimately, I'd love for the level of our debate to be toned down a notch or 17. Disagreement does not denote evil. I should not wince every time I get a new comment from either end of the spectrum. We're all people and we're all Americans. Surely we can find something in common to agree on.

    Even if it's just that Atlas Shrugged is a really really long book.

  • Saying No to Jimmy Fallon

    You may remember the commercial last year starring Jimmy Fallon and an adorable baby girl who did not want 50% more cash back from her credit card.

    The tiny child had mastered both the word NO and the ability to throw cheerios and a guitar (although those last two might have been aided by special effects).

    For quite some time, my dad has been saying that LO really ought to be on those commercials, as he's just as cute as the nationally televised baby. (Granted, Grandpa might be a tad biased).

    Recently, LO has shown that he has learned a new trick which will also be helpful when the credit card commerical casting director comes calling:

    Namely and to wit, LO has started saying NO to things that should elicit assent. (This is hardly revolutionary for a toddler, but it's still surprising the first few times you hear it.)

    Yesterday, my mother called and asked to speak to LO. LO does not really talk on the phone, prefering to listen intently while grinning. But when Mom asked him if he wanted to go to Disney World and meet Mickey Mouse, his response was unequivocal:

    "NO!" he said, and he handed the phone back to me.

    I told my mother not to worry. LO was just getting ready for his closeup.

  • Allowance and Chores


    Photo courtesy of Huckdavis


    If you want to start a flame war on any parenting website, post a strong opinion about whether a kid's allowance should be tied to household chores. For some reason, this particular subject can get parents, experts, and passing trolls frothing at the mouth.

    I've been thinking about this a little bit lately, even though LO is still too young for either end of the allowance/chore equation. You see, he's gotten to the age wherein he loves doing whatever I do. When I'm unloading the dishwasher, he hands me items to put away. When I make the bed, he pulls the covers to the side (and generally off the bed, but we're focusing on establishing the habit). When I'm folding clothes, he mashes some up and throws them in the laundry basket for me. In short, now--while he's enjoying himself with it--is a great time to start getting him used to doing some household chores.

    In another year or so, I'm also going to start giving him an allowance.

    I suspect that I will not connect these two things. My feeling is that we need to keep our house clean and tidy for intrinsic rather than extrinsic reasons.

    But I don't know about tying cold hard cash to extra chores around the house. I'd love for him to take care of stuff like dusting (partially because I hate doing it myself), and I'd be willing to pay for the service (since I've considered paying a professional to do it anyway), but it gets back to the intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation.

    So I thought I'd throw it out there to the Dollar Stretcher community. How do you handle allowances? How do you handle chores? Is there any possibility that I might raise a child who thinks that clothes wash themselves?

    Any insight would be appreciated!

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