Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ideas for a Family Beach Vacation

Next to nothing on this planet is better than a family beach getaway, whether it's at a luxurious vacation resort, or an ordinary campground on the beachfront. Even though many people enjoy traveling to vacation spots outside of the U.S., there is plenty to see and do inside of our country. Depending on where you’ve been and what you have on your bucket list, your vacation destination may be close to your own backyard or in a far away exotic place.

Here are some locations where one can relax and enjoy a family vacation.

A Caribbean Beach Vacation

1.  Families travel to Jamaica or the Dominican Republic for an all inclusive vacation with water sports and kids clubs.

2.  At several resorts the children programs are exceptional, with independent leaders and activities for most of the different age groups.

3.  Swimming pool complexes - many resorts have water parks.

4.  The prices could be high, however they will likely dip from May through December.
Hurricane time is during these months as well, even though many major resorts offer you weather guarantees.

A Beach Vacation in Mexico

Even though vacationers head down to Mexico and do what they want at a condominium or modest hotel, seaside vacations at just about all inclusive resorts continue to be the ultimate way to go for families.

The Riviera Maya, which is about one hour south of Cancun, has the 2nd largest barrier reef on the planet.  In addition, it has numerous activities for families to investigate outside of the resort.  You are able to rent a car, grab a taxi, as well as use the public bus.

A Beach Vacation in Hawaii

When you head to Hawaii, you shouldn't be expecting to find your typical all inclusive accommodations within the Aloha state. Hawaii is well known for lush extravagance resorts, like the Grand Wailea on Maui, or the places on the Big Island's Kohala Coast.

To get less expensive alternatives in Hawaii, the Waikiki Seaside area is spectacular, a good time for the whole family, and provides a number of different lodging options. 

Tybee Island is not a well known vacation spot but, this eclectic little island can keep up with some of the best resorts in or out of out country and it’s it fantastic spot located in the United States.

Tybee Island is a little barrier island about a 20 minute drive east of downtown Savannah Georgia. It’s often referred to as the gem of the south or Savannahs best kept secret. Although small in size, Tybee Island is big on events, activities and places to see. And, since it’s such a quick drive from historic downtown Savannah, many travelers rent a beach front spot on Tybee and plan day trips to Savannah.

If your not a traveler that enjoys being confined to a home or condo but, would prefer a vacation in the great outdoors, Tybee is the spot. On the North end of Tybee campers can find the River End Campground with cabins, RV Spots and camping facilities for the outdoors person.

With tons of options available for you and your family, getaway ideas on a beach are definitely something to look forward to.  There are numerous beaches available; all you need to do is select the one that suits both your needs and your price range.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Mom's Home Improvement Guide

When I bought my house nine years ago, my son was about to turn three and I reveled in the security of owning my slice of the American dream. Being a single mom was (and is!) both challenging and rewarding, but I knew that having a house to call my own was the best thing that ever happened to my son and me.

My house was ten years old when I bought it, and it was in excellent condition. Still, as time passed, a variety of issues cropped up. I think my way of handling (or not handling) home improvements is fairly typical for single women who own their own homes. Hopefully, my experiences will help you navigate the waters of home improvement. Here's what I've learned:

1. You can go places with a good book and a toolbox. The Christmas of the year I moved in, my sister and brother-in-law gave me a toolbox filled with the basics: screwdrivers, wrenches, a hammer, nails, nuts and bolts, and so forth. They also gave me a book on basic home repairs. Their gift literally provided me with the tools I needed, but it also gave me confidence that I could tackle minor home improvement projects. My advice: invest in some tools and use a book or online sources to guide you through the routine maintenance that your house requires.

2. Ask for advice. As a single woman who is now 49 years old and has limited knowledge of more complex home improvement issues, I'm always afraid that I'll be taken advantage by a repair company. When my air conditioner conked out on a 100-plus degree day, for example, I had no way of knowing if I really needed a new unit. I've learned to call on neighbors, family members, and friends - whose collective knowledge exceeds mine - to get their impressions. They've steered me in the right direction on a number of occasions.

3. Keep tabs on the neighbors. All of the houses in my immediate vicinity were built by the same builder at roughly the same time. Getting to know my neighbors and talking to them about home improvement has helped me get a sense of what to plan for. For example, two years ago I began to see that the houses around me were starting to get new roofs. Although I didn't have a leaky roof, a few months ago I decided to re-roof. I wanted to be proactive so I didn't get stuck with the expense of drywall repairs in addition to the cost of a new roof.

4. Ask for referrals, and then check them yourself. Through my neighbors' referrals, I've been able to find a superb roofer, an impeccable exterior house painter, and a terrific tile guy. But I don't just rely on their word. I always - repeat, always - check with my state's contractor licensing board to verify their licenses and with the Better Business Bureau to check on past complaints. I get all estimates in writing, and ask for proof of insurance.

5. Don't put your head in the sand. There has been more than one occasion when I've chosen not to deal with a home improvement issue, and I've always regretted it. I knew, for example, that the exterior of my fireplace had some dry rot. Unfortunately, by letting it go for so long it cost me much more than if I would have dealt with it immediately. Beside the additional expense you may face later, maintaining and improving your home can increase it's value.

6. Make a list. This last bit of advice is basic, but critical. Start and keep a home improvement list. As a single mom, it's all too easy to get caught up in the hectic pace of daily life and let routine home maintenance fall by the wayside. I divide my home improvement list into three sections: one for items that need attention in the next three months; one for home improvement projects for the coming year; and one that maps out what I want to accomplish with the house over the next five years. The short- and medium-term lists keep me motivated, while my long-term list helps me save the money needed for the big-ticket items.

Scrapbook Your Memorable Moments

From day to day it doesn’t seem like too much is changing in our lives but before we know it children are growing up and we wonder where all of that time has gone. Pictures are a wonderful way to preserve the memories of events that have taken place in our lives. As we get older we tend to treasure these memories more than ever.

Children often forget a large portion of their early childhood so they love to look at pictures from that period of time. It is fun to be told about the various activities taking place in those pictures. Of course people will laugh at the clothing and the hairstyles from that time because trends certainly do change.

One of the best ways to preserve your memories is to place those photos into a scrapbook. Too many people are very disappointed to find their photos have become damaged or destroyed due to the way in which they were stored. Scrapbooking allows you to be very creative with your photos as well. You can add fun borders, stickers, write captions, and even make pages of a particular theme.

Offering a scrapbook of photos for people to look at makes them more appealing too than just filling up the pages of a photo album. If you don’t think you are very creative you will be able to take advantage of the various types of scrapbooking kits available with all the supplies you need. You can also purchase pre-made templates and then just insert the photos you want.

If you aren’t sure what type of look you want for your scrapbook pages you can take a look at what other people have done. This can help you come up with your own ideas or you can copy one from a scrapbooking book. The key is to have fun with the project so you can enjoy looking at the pictures you have placed in it. There is no right or wrong layout so relax and let your thoughts for it flow freely.

It is important to use quality supplies for scrapbooking though as you don’t want your efforts to be wasted. Make sure you only use a scrapbook and adhesives that are acid free. This will prevent the photos from turning yellowish as they age in your scrapbook. You can buy these items online or from a local craft store for a very reasonable price. Many individuals belong to scrapbooking clubs too and so you can gather with other people on a regular basis to work on your projects.

With the popularity of the internet, many people stay in touch through e-mail and sharing files. You can create an online scrapbook to preserve your memories instead of one in a physical book. You will find hundreds of sites offering free online scrapbooking materials. Everyone will love looking at the memories you have preserved with your online scrapbook and they can access it on their computer from anywhere in the world.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Retirement Planning

When you first plan on staying home with your children, probably the first thing you do is take a look and see if you can afford it. You cut back on cable TV, buy older cars, lose retirement benefits…

Whoops! Most moms don't seem to be thinking about what being a stay-at-home mom does for her retirement package. The years spent not working have a huge impact, however, when you decide to retire, so you need to plan now.

Let's start by looking at what you're losing for your retirement. No 401(k) with your employer contributing towards it. No pension, although those are getting scarce in most jobs anyhow. Less money available to put towards retirement. You aren't putting money into Social Security, so your benefits will be lower.

Ouch. Being a stay-at-home mom means you lose a lot for your retirement. Socially, the stay-at-home mom, as you may already know, is not as valued by most or by our government as the working mother. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prepare for your own retirement. It means more sacrifices, as you'll have to put more money aside, but better to provide your own retirement than be a burden.

You will want to consider having your spouse contribute towards a Spousal IRA. You may want to talk to a professional to determine the best type of IRA. According to the IRS website, up to $3000 may be contributed to a spousal IRA in a given year, assuming you are married and filing a joint return. See for more information on IRAs.

Of course, it's hard for most families to come up with $3000 a year to be put towards retirement. Saving while working is relatively easy; it can come out of the paycheck before you ever see it, so it doesn't hurt much. You need to figure out a monthly dollar amount you can contribute, so that it goes throughout the year. Don't hurt your family doing this, of course, but if you can find a way to get a little money put aside so you can have a decent retirement, do so.

Those who want only to be stay-at-home moms may resist the notion of finding a job, whether it be part time or working at home, but it is another option to keep money going towards your retirement. It assures you that some money is going toward Social Security, and gives you a little extra money to put towards your retirement. Once the kids are in school, a highly flexible job can keep your skills sharp, too.

For others, a home business is an option. You don't have to go the direct sales route, although it is certainly a popular way to start a home business with less risk. You can start a website on something you love, sell crafts you've made… perhaps something you love to do could be a small home business for you.

You are the only one who can decide which sacrifices you can make to ensure that you have a financially secure retirement. Take the time now to think about your future.