Eric Braun
Grows on Trees
Parents face many factors when deciding whether — and where — to send a kid to summer camp. Do the dates work with your family’s travel plans for the summer? Will your child miss out on a lot of sports or other activities at home? Will she make friends at camp?Will you choose a camp that focuses on sports, religion, outdoor activities, academics or something else? And of course, one of the most important factors is … What will it cost?Here’s something else to think about, and it... more
Tax breaks for Minnesota families
Parents face many factors when deciding whether — and where — to send a kid to summer camp.Do the dates work with your family’s travel plans for the summer? Will your child miss out on a lot of sports or other activities at home? Will she make friends at camp?Will you choose a camp that focuses on sports, religion, outdoor activities,... more
Hello from Future You
What if you could peer into the mirror and see your future self peering back? It’s you, but you have wrinkles, bags under your eyes, gray hair. How startling would it be? More important, how would this sight change you?This isn’t speculative fiction. It’s something a team of researchers cooked up as a way to help young people make better... more
The earlier the better
When our two sons, who are now 15 and 13, were getting old enough to start thinking seriously about money (a few years ago), they asked some really interesting questions.They ran the gamut from careers (could they get rich as writers?), advertising (young kids have a hard time telling the difference between ads and entertainment),... more
A guide to teacher gifting
What’s that heavy weight you’re carrying over your shoulder? A big bag of gifts — or your holiday stress?Wow, it’s heavy this year. And why not? There’s plenty to stress about: Who will get mad if you don’t split up your family visiting time just perfectly? Will everything ship in time? Should you let Grandpa give the kids more... more
Buying a car
Like me, you may think of the car-buying process as something like grocery shopping at a box store on a Sunday afternoon, only worse. You know it’s going to be painful, but you grit your teeth and get it over with. Sure, you go home with what you need afterwards, but they didn’t have everything you wanted, and you probably spent more... more
Helping kids help others
Most of us want our kids to be generous and thoughtful, and we want them to have a broad view of the world. So why not encourage them to donate some of their money or allowance to a worthy cause?Figuring out how much to give — and who to give it to — is good practice for kids learning to be smart and deliberate with money.The... more
Apps for saving easily
The New York Times headline said, “Apps That Make Saving as Effortless as Spending.”So, of course, even though I don’t consider myself a very big spender, I couldn’t resist clicking. What’s not to like about effortless saving? On my journey of chasing the click bait, I learned a few things about both saving and... more
How to actually save more
A recent morning after a harsh storm, I came outside to find a huge branch had fallen out of a tree and into our yard.By “huge branch,” I mean it was thicker than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s thigh and longer than a minivan. Somehow, we’d all slept through the massive snap and crash it surely made. (Those sounds must’ve blended in... more
Don’t let toddlerhood break your piggybank
Now that I’m a few years out of the woods, it’s pretty easy to wax nostalgic about the toddler years.I even get a little jealous when I hear about someone’s early morning toddler dance parties (even if they occur at 5 a.m. sharp) or when I see a heavy-lidded dad pushing a stroller to the park on a Sunday morning when any reasonable... more
Four fun ways to cut costs as a family
Saving money as a family fun activity? It sounds suspicious, I know.After all, “saving” isn’t the first thing you think of when you’re looking for fun things to do with your offspring. But you can have a good time together while also getting the whole gang on board with cutting costs. Try any of these as a family project. With older... more
Our giant family grocery bill
But he was waiting to hear from friends who were planning to get together. Even when I added the extra temptation of getting burgers on the way (usually a slam dunk to get our kids to hang out with us), he still said no. Like many teens, he suffers from FOMO — fear of missing out. That left me alone with my FOGO — fear of... more
Spring cleaning for your credit score
Dreading spring cleaning this year? Here’s an idea: Instead of scrubbing, scouring and laundering, consider polishing your credit score instead.Your credit score is a number between 350 (very high risk) and 850 (very low risk) that lenders look at to determine how much of a credit risk you are. Your rate has to be really low in... more
A flood of marketing
Ever think about the sheer volume of marketing our kids are  exposed to? Me neither, most of the time. But the other day, I stumbled across (OK, I was on Twitter) a comprehensive study of media use by young people (tinyurl.com/study-mn). Among other things, I learned that kids age 8 to 12 average about six hours of “... more
What do you want to be?
Like most parents, sometimes I get to feeling anxious about money.And sometimes this anxiety gets tangled up with angst about my career choice. I mean, sure, I like what I do. But writer/editor isn’t the most lucrative of careers. Would I be happier if I were making tons of money as a podiatrist or a high-powered corporate lawyer? Or... more
7 affordable winter activities
We had that nice, long, warm fall. Remember? Shorts and T-shirts in November! So it feels a bit, well, complainy, to complain about the cold now. But it is cold! I don’t like it. When that jerk Jack Frost is out prowling the neighborhood, many of us feel tempted to set up camp in front of the TV or on the sofa with a book. But, deep down... more
Special-needs trusts
The responsibilities and choices that come with parenting a child with a severe disability or developmental delay are intense, immediate and pressing. Saving for your young child’s future may seem like one thing you can put off for now. Unfortunately, it isn’t something you should ignore: Someday your child with special needs... more
7 ways to raise an entrepreneur
Recently, one of the young girls on my block  rang my doorbell. She was selling homemade cupcakes. The price was reasonable, the treats looked delightful and my neighbor was beaming with obvious pride. Of course, I bought a few.Half an hour later, her sister rang the doorbell. She was selling homemade dog treats. These things... more
Your off-the-grid savings guide
We all know Facebook isn’t famous for filling our lives with intelligent ideas. So imagine my surprise and delight the other day when I came across an FB advertisement for a device called the Bluapple that promised to save me $640 per year on groceries. Finally! All those hours spent on Facebook — liking family photos of people... more
Mom, how much money do we have?
Recently, my friend Jennifer was talking with her 7-year-old son, Jackson, about his allowance. She was introducing the spend-some, save-some, donate-some system, and he was excited about this step toward being a more responsible big kid. Jennifer said the conversation was breezy yet earnest as they talked about what he liked to use... more
Test stress
Aimee Jackson of St. Louis Park remembers exactly when school stopped being fun for her son. “It was right around third grade when he started getting testing anxiety,” she said. “He had taken standardized tests earlier, but it seemed like in third grade the teachers started emphasizing test prep and test day directly to the kids.”... more
The best $50 party
My boys are 13 and 11, which means I’ve thrown roughly two dozen birthday parties over the past decade or so (no wonder I’m so tired). I’ve never been a skilled party-giver, but nor am I a fool. In those years of experience, I’ve learned a thing or two about birthday parties. And so, if some cruel twist of fate were to subject... more
Financial SPF 10 for families
Believe me, I know how it happens. You’re in a hurry. You’re only going to be in the sun for a little while, no big deal. Besides, you’ve exposed your precious hide to the elements before, and nothing bad happened. It’s hard to get worked up about consequences that might be waiting in the future. (And of course as soon as you... more
Camping: splurge or save?
When friends visit from out of state during the winter and complain about the weather, I don’t try to convince them they’re wrong. Minnesotans know winter here can be more than tolerable if you embrace it by getting outside and skiing, running or even fat-tire biking. But it’s a rare outsider who can be convinced of that while... more
Resell that old baby stuff
A couple weeks ago, we had some friends over for dinner. Their younger son came, too, and our boys were charged with entertaining him while the grownups hung out doing grownup things. The guys rose to the challenge by digging through their bins and shelves for toys that a younger dude might be interested in. That turned... more
You break it, you buy it?
Picture this: You call your 7-year-old for dinner, and she comes running into the dining room, even though she knows your house rule is no running inside — and drops your iPhone on the floor. Boom, cracked screen. Or how about this: While emptying the dishwasher, your 10-year-old gets a little hyper and puts all his weight on the open... more
Top 10 to-do's for new parents
When you have a newborn in the house, who wants to spend their limited non-baby attention span on financial planning? Answer: Nobody. Unless you’re a financial-planning geek, in which case you’ve got this wrapped up already. Go ahead and watch Better Call Saul and sleep soundly tonight. Well, maybe not soundly — you’ve got that... more
Mindful family spending
Most of us try to be mindful about how we spend our money. We compare prices, and we evaluate things like ingredients, features and benefits. As parents, we’re not only being prudent stewards of our family’s finances, we’re also setting an example for our kids. That’s why it makes sense to take mindful spending to a higher level:... more
Save some green in 2015
You know how New Year’s budget-tightening advice goes. You hear you should make coffee at home instead of stopping at the coffee shop — the one where the barista greets you with your very own personalized joke-of-the-day — and you can save about $3,700 a year. But of course you miss your daily joke, and it’s a scramble to make your... more
Avoiding tech-gift pitfalls
One of the biggest sources of holiday stress, at least for me, is gift giving — especially when it comes to kids. As parents, we want to make our children happy, but we don’t want to spend a million dollars doing it. Many of us are also wary of overindulging our budding consumers. Shouldn’t our kids experience a healthy dose of... more
How to raise savvy consumers
In 1977, when I was in first grade, all I wanted for Christmas was a pair of Zips tennis shoes. The commercial that ran during Saturday-morning cartoons (tinyurl.com/zips1977) was brilliant. It opened with a boy lacing up a pair of bright orange Zips on his front steps and an announcer saying in a weighty voice, “When you put on a... more
Saving for college doesn't have to be daunting!
What happens when you start to think of sending your little one off to college? If you’re like most parents I know, your thoughts quickly flit from Pomp and Circumstance — and I can’t wait to see where she ends up! — to a sick, empty feeling in your stomach that comes from thinking about the cost.Paying for college. The mere idea... more
Don't spend a bundle on Baby
All parents want what’s best for their kids, and we feel guilty when we skimp on them, even if money’s tight. But new parents are especially vulnerable. They’re stressed out, sleep-deprived, bubbling with hormones, and they’re pretty sure they’re making lots of mistakes. Who could blame them for spending big on the deluxe crib-... more
Making allowance work
The other night, my 13-year-old came up to me while I was working at the computer. “I have done the math,” he said. “And you owe me $92.”Whoa, what? He was right. Last week I’d borrowed $40 when I needed cash. The other $52 was because my wife and I had forgotten to pay his allowance of $13 for four weeks running. Sure, it... more