Personal Finance Sites

I set out a few years ago trying to make sense of the options in my 401k plan and stumbled up the Boglehead forum. From there I found MrMoneyMustache.com, and in a mommy’s facebook group saw a recommendation for The Wealthy Barber.

I recommend:

The Wealthy Barber

mrmoneymustache.com

bogleheads.org

Others:

Dave Ramsey–listened to CDs from friends once and took the course through our church

LearnVest–I really liked this when it started out. It was geared towards women and had a good clear voice. They pivoted to be more inclusive and I’m less inclined to it now. Although, they have pretty clear cut pricing for CFPs so if i want that service, I might use them.

Advertisements

Flights With Baby or Toddler

Currently these are my thoughts based on several international trips with our now two-year-old (one child only). Our typical trip is 3 legs (2 transfers) and between 20 to 26 hours long. Some trips have gone better than others, but thankfully, all long trips eventually come to an end. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

Pre-trip:

– There is a ridiculous book called A Day at the Airport by Richard Scarry. I think reading it with my son before the trip was great for getting him familiar with the airport.

– If you require a special meal, don’t forget to request it with the booking or over the phone at least a couple of days before your departure date.

Input and Output (Feeding and Diapers):

– Extra diapers and changes of clothes for baby as well as extra shirts for the adults. The younger the child, the more extras to bring. (Think blowout diaper on a flight and extra clothes for the adult that needs to take care of “business.”)

– If you are bringing milk/liquids onboard (this is allowed, just let security know that you have liquids for a child and take them out at security), do not pack them in milk bottles or sippy cups. Put the liquids in a screw-top water bottle with a small ice pack in a lunch bag. I used to carry milk in insulated sippy cups but stopped because they would leak milk when the air pressure decreased on the airplane. I pour the milk into the sippy cup/bottle when needed. Do not depend on the plane for milk for your baby, they often run out on long flights (ask me how I know ;)).

– Bring a small bottle of liquid dish detergent and small brush (optional). You can fill any small bottle with your regular detergent. This makes it easy to clean bottles/cups/pacifiers in any airplane or airport bathroom.

– Food pouches are great for feeding while traveling and work great for ear-popping during takeoff/landing. Also, pack snacks that your child is familiar with and will eat. Flights are not good times to introduce new foods. I also am sure to pack enough snacks for the hungry adult companions.

– Pack a bib. I don’t, and I regret it every time.

Comfort and Ear-Popping/Ear Pain:

– If planning to nurse during take-off wait for the pilot to say the magic words, “Flight attendants, prepare for takeoff.” This happens when the plane is next in line for takeoff. Sometimes the message varies, “Flight attendants take your seats for takeoff.” I can’t count the number of times I messed up the timing and baby was done feeding while we were still waiting on the tarmac. I stopped trying to nurse during take-off because my son seemed fine and saved my energy for the landing instead.

– Chewing and swallowing helps ease ear pain. The methods I use are 1. Sippy cup (with milk, juice, or water) 2. Applesauce food pouch 3. Fruit snacks 4. Soothie/Pacifier. In a pinch, a small moistened towel would work also.

– If my son indicates that his ears hurt, I give him a small massage in addition to having him chew or suck on something. I gently pull down and outwards on his earlobes and rub his cheeks (near his ears) and temples with my thumbs. I have heard of people blowing into their children’s ears, or putting hot water-soaked paper towels in cups and putting the cup over their children’s ears but I have not tried these two methods.

– When traveling internationally, I always carry age-appropriate ibuprofen for everyone; ibuprofen in suspension when he was under 12 months old and chewable ibuprofen now that he is a toddler. This stuff can be hard to find overseas (or just when you need it) and is a life-saver.

– Baby carrier. Our son would sleep long hours in the baby carrier while on the plane. We were never able to use the bassinets in the plane either because they were unavailable, dirty, or not well attached to the wall. We stopped bringing the carrier along at age 1.5 when he stopped wanting to be carried in it.

– I made-up a nifty way to attach a car seat to my carry-on luggage using a $2 bungee cord from Home Depot. Makes carry a car seat a breeze.

Entertainment:

– I hate crayola markers for flights. I got the fancy color wonder paper and markers for the last trip and the markers were rolling off the tray table every couple of mins because they are perfectly round. I prefer a real pen (ballpoint without a cap) and a small notepad. My son is not really interested in writing/drawing yet but he loves telling me what to draw.

– We don’t watch much TV at home but my son gets to watch as many programs as he wants on the inflight entertainment system while we are on the plane.

– I pack a few small toys (cars and plastic dinosaurs) that are not his most beloved. There is a good risk that they might get lost, and I do not pack those for flights. Airports and airplanes are fascinating. Cups and straws and ice and other people are also interesting. We have been able to get away with packing just a few small toys when we travel.

– Books. On our last trip we brought a couple of lightweight Curious George titles.

– A small bottle of bubbles can be a lot of fun while waiting in the airport. Just remember to pack it in a ziploc bag because these make messy spills.

In a pinch:

– Juice = Milk

– Cups, straws, and ice can be the best toys. Also, any small paper scrap with a face drawn on it becomes a finger puppet.

– Adult’s clothing = Kids clothing (so pack adult clothes in your carry-on)

General travel thoughts:

– My son is particularly susceptible to coughing, diarrhea, and diaper rash when we travel. Perhaps it is the junk food we feed him and differences in climate (we typically visit hot humid islands to see our extended families there). Adding diaper rash cream to the “must carry” list of items and making it a point to use it prophylactically. (And praying he’ll be out of diapers before our next trip.)

– Also yogurt is great travel food. Good for the stomach, doesn’t spoil easily, and easy to find in most countries. Should make it a point to continue feeding yogurt while traveling.

– I haven’t found a good solution to jet lag and time zone differences. It typically takes us about a week to fully adjust back to our regular schedule. I try as much as possible to avoid starting back at work within 24 hours of returning from a big trip.

– Broken routines and rules. For this one, I typically just go with the flow while on vacation and then try and break any bad habits upon return.

Just remember:

If you were totally unprepared and had an edge-case outlier disaster, you would have a great vacation story to tell everyone when you got back.

Tokyo Thoughts

A few things we noticed on our recent trip to Tokyo:

– There are very few trash cans and when they appear, there are at least three groupings (bottles/cans, flammable, and non-flammable). Things are very clean.

– People do not eat in the street, or on the subways, or on the road. Even many 7-11 stores have an area to sit and eat.

– I wish I had taken a photo to remember the man whose job was to rake the path at the Meiji Jingu shrine. He had a flat wooden rake about two feet wide and he was going back and forth on the path. I think that I might classify that as my worst nightmare as a job, but I doubt he shares that feeling with me.

– Although we know Tokyo for the flashy lights and bullet trains, there are many many old cars (particularly well-kept Toyota Crown taxis), and old-looking apartment buildings.

– We still can’t makes sense of their address system

– Not very many skyscrapers; this is due to the earthquakes, but their cities spread far and wide. And as a sub-point, their subway system includes at least 12 different lines.

A few things we noticed ourselves doing upon our return:

– Walking on the left side instead of on the right

– Bowing a lot

– Craving Japanese food

Good Deals

Here are a few things that I’m glad to have found along the way.

  • Wondfo Pregnancy Tests: I don’t like things that are packaged in more plastic than necessary for no particular reason. Pregnancy tests do not need to be 6 inches long or have plastic covers. 20 of these Q-tip-sized individually-wrapped tests fit in a small padded envelope  — $11.99 for 20 test strips makes these as cheap as condoms (http://www.amazon.com/One-Step-Pregnancy-Test-Strips/dp/B001FYGQ5I/)
  • UTI test strips: Take a test if you suspect a UTI and save yourself the copay and a trip to the PCP if it is negative. — $12.25 for 50 test strips (http://www.amazon.com/Areta-Parameter-Urinalysis-Reagent-Strips/dp/B00D5UZMDC/)
  • Menstrual cups: $20-$40 each and they last forever
  • Public Library Online Book Request and Ebook Request: I am so happy I can get any book I want for FREE through my public library in physical for or ebook format to read on my iPhone.
  • Online coupon codes: Before I hit checkout at an online store I do a quick search for “StoreName Coupon” and often find coupons for 10% off or free shipping.
  • Dr. Bronners Castile Soap: My favorite use for this liquid soap is as a refill for foaming soap dispensers (mix 1 tablespoon of soap with 1 cup of water in a foaming soap dispenser). Someone did the math and it comes out to $0.21 per refill. Again, I hate buying extra plastic that contains mostly water, so this is a win-win. (http://busy-at-home.com/diy-foaming-handsoap/)
  • 16 Bean Soup: Grocery stores sell packages of dried 16-bean mixes. Soak and then boil with whatever aromatics you have on hand (garlic, onion, or bell pepper), season, and then serve. Make it guest-worthy with a container of feta and olives and crusty bread.

My Dumpling Boy

I’ve been working on an experiment for the last 6 months or so, trying to figure out how to sneak the Chinese language back into my life and the lives of my son and husband. I speak Mandarin, but in a typical week probably spend 10 minutes or less speaking it. My husband speaks no Mandarin (except for maybe a few words from the list below). After six months of part-time persistence, our toddler has picked up a few words in Mandarin. Here’s a list:

Animals: 羊,牛,鸡,鸭,狗,猫,青蛙,兔子,松鼠,老虎,狮子

Food: 鸡蛋,牛奶,饼干,水,葡萄

Family: 妈妈,爸爸,爷爷,奶奶,公公,婆婆,哥哥,姐姐,弟弟,妹妹 (We have a book with all these words and he picks up words that have repetition better)

Body parts: 头,耳朵,鼻子,眼睛,嘴巴,口,牙齿,手

Random stuff: 牙刷,汽车,花,飞机,谢谢,晚安,睡觉

Somehow, the boy has figured out at his tender age that if he wants me to get him a cracker, he needs to ask me in Chinese. This is the key, argue many experts, to getting a child to be multilingual; require them to make requests and speak in the language you are trying to teach them. A friend of ours noticed that her daughter was saying words in Chinese, but with an American accent… so does my son. Trying not to let that discourage me too much, and man do I get silly happy when he makes an attempt at a tone and gets it half right.

Bryce Canyon In Snow, and Where We Live

I’ve been thinking about our physical location recently. We have moved perhaps five times in the last seven years. All of the moves happened in and around Boston, where my husband and I met, went to college, married, and thought we would move away from as soon as we were done with school. Instead, we found jobs, had a kid, bought a house, and kinda stayed because we were already here, but partially because we really do enjoy living here. But, if we could live anywhere, where would we live?

What amenities would we live close to? Public transportation. Public playground. A city, a REAL city.

Who would we move to be closer to? Family (though still far if we stay in the US). Friends. Perhaps the ones we traveled across the country to meet with last Thanksgiving.

What weather would you pick? Not too hot in the summer, not too many blizzards in the winter (I’m talking about you Boston).

What about food and cost of living? Yes, these are important factors. Access to an Asian supermarket is a must and we need to be able to afford daycare for Adam.

A country other than the USA perhaps? Not in the next few years.

Throughout these conversations I’ve realized how many of our friends in Boston we have only known a short while (many after moving to our latest location just less than a year ago), and how many of our close friends have moved away. With our son, I am painfully aware of how far away we live from all of our family. My dad traveled around the world to get here, and I have missed him since he left. Our last few days together were peppered with sentences that started with, “the next time you see Adam, he will be out of diapers/be able to speak full sentences…”

We visited Portland, OR for a day and spent most of it a Powell’s Bookstore. We are thinking of spending some time this winter in Austin. We’re happy living in Boston for now, but it is only still September.

Formula and Breast Pumps in China

I recently heard from a friend who was traveling back to China that she was going shopping for infant formula to bring back to China. With all the tainted milk and formula scandals in the recent years in China, her friends are scared to buy milk and formula. Every few months, she spends more than $60 in shipping costs and mails a pack of powdered infant formula to her friend to feed her baby.

Another thought; do more women breast feed in China now after all these scandals? Also, how socially acceptable is it for working Chinese women to breastfeed or pump breast milk?

I am really interested in this topic for many reasons. When I was in high school I worked for an American nutritionist at a Chinese orphanage feeding babies. Also, for a research project I also called up Chinese formula companies to ask for the nutritional information for their infant formulas which unlike in the US, are not listed on the packages (only the ingredients are listed). I was always treated with suspicion. Only a small number of companies were able to connect me to the people who knew the answers, and subset of the people who knew the answers were willing to tell me anything.

Another reason I’m interested in this now is that I am 35 weeks pregnant, and in Boston right now hospitals are banning formula samples from being distributed to new mothers. Everywhere online, people are saying “Breast is Best” and extended breastfeeding is making the cover of Time magazine.