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by Katie Tegtmeyer on Flickr - not my sister       My youngest sister will be having a baby soon. We were discussing wills recently, and she wisely brought up the question of how to choose a guardian for your child. I gave her some basic tips in an email, but I thought it would make a good topic for a post. This is an expansion of the advice I gave my sister.

What Is a Legal Guardian? Why Should I Choose One?

       A legal guardian is an adult who is designated to care for your child if both you and your spouse die or become incapacitated. If you don’t choose one, the courts will choose one for you.

       You shouldn’t assume that family will automatically get custody of your child. Unless you have a named guardian in your will, a judge will choose the guardian for your child. While the courts look most favorably upon choosing family members, they are free to pick anyone they choose. If they can’t find someone who is capable and qualified, your child could end up in foster care. If that’s not reason enough to designate a guardian, I don’t know what is.

       It’s also wise to name an alternate guardian in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to accept the responsibility. This can be easily handled in your will.

Choosing the Right Guardian

       The first thing you must realize is that you won’t find a perfect guardian for your child. Your job is to find the best guardian you can – not a perfect one. Start by making a list of all the possibilities. Then discuss each possibility with your spouse. Here are a few factors to consider when narrowing down your list:

  • Do the person’s religious values, beliefs, and parenting style & technique closely match yours?
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  • Will the person be able to manage the responsibility of caring for your child? (financially, physically, and emotionally)
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  • Is your child comfortable with the person?
  •  

  • Does the person have other children? Will your child fit in well with the family?
  •  

  • Does the person live close to you, or would your child have to move far away? (changing schools, losing friends, etc. in the process)


Should I Choose a Different Person to Manage My Estate?

       Hopefully, you’ll leave behind an estate that can help cover the costs of raising your child. If you do, you must decide if you want the legal guardian to also be the manager of those funds or if you should pick someone else. Having one person do both keeps things simple and makes it easier for the guardian. However, there are cases where you might want to pick a different person.

       Clearly, if the person you’ve chosen as your child’s legal guardian is not good at managing their own finances, you probably don’t want them to manage your child’s inheritance either. (Although, if this is the case, why would you pick them to be the guardian?!)

       You might also select a different person to be the trustee so you can keep them involved in your child’s life. Your parents could be a good example. They might be too old to raise your child, but by choosing them to be the trustee you can keep them involved in your child’s life without the day-to-day responsibilities.

       In either case, you’ll want to make sure that both the legal guardian and the trustee can work together well. Any complications could make a difficult situation worse.

Get the Person’s OK Before Signing Your Will

       Finally – and this should be obvious – make sure you’ve discussed this with the person you’d like to select as your child’s legal guardian. You don’t want them to be caught by surprise after your funeral. It would be quite foolish to pick someone without discussing it with them first.

       This is also a good way to narrow down your final list. One person may decline the responsibility. Another may be more than happy to take on this role. This makes your choice much easier.

Your Thoughts

       What advice would you give to my sister as she goes through the process of choosing a legal guardian? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Provident Planning is a partner in GRABBBR, Giveaway Reaching All Bible Based Blog Readers. This is my featured GRABBBR blog post. By leaving a comment on this post, you will gain 5 ENTRY POINTS and may win cash or prizes.

Discussion is encouraged! However, only 1 comment per person will be counted towards GRABBBR, so please, no spam. For more information about GRABBBR, including how to gain additional entry points, visit the official GRABBBR page.

       ”What do you want to do?”

       ”I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

       ”Whatever you want to do…”

       So goes the familiar refrain when my wife and I decide we should do something interesting for the evening or weekend. Unless one of us has a really great idea, we never seem to have a strong enough preference to break free from our normal, predictable activities and try something different. Enter the Boredom Buster™!

The Boredom Buster

What Is It?

       This handy device is the door to inspiration and variety. Simply choose the location (indoors or outdoors) and time requirement (short or long) and draw a slip of paper. Then do whatever is written down. Here are some sample ideas my wife and I came up with one evening on the couch:

Indoor – Short

  • Play a card game
  • Sort through a closet to find Goodwill donations
  • Play some music together
  • Learn five words in a different language
  • Learn a magic trick

Indoor – Long

  • Make soft pretzels & some sauces
  • Paint a picture
  • Watch a movie
  • Create our own mystery dinner (theme, plot, etc.)
  • Make something on Instructables.com

Outdoor – Short

  • Go for a walk
  • Make and fly paper airplanes
  • Learn to juggle
  • Follow an ant
  • Watch the clouds float by

Outdoor – Long

  • Weave a basket
  • Make dorodango balls
  • Start a fire without matches or a lighter
  • Play tennis
  • Go on a hike

       We have many more activities in our Boredom Buster, but this short list can get your juices flowing. As you can see, our categories are quite arbitrary. Some “short” activities could take a long time, and some “outdoor” activies could be done indoors. It’s not important the you get it exactly right. It just helps to keep you from pulling three or four times to find something feasible.

       Want to make your own Boredom Buster? Here’s how:

  1. Find a container. Anything will do.
  2. Divide it into four or five sections if you like. Label them
  3. Write down a list of ideas. Search the Internet for “things to do” if you need some prompts.
  4. Cut up your ideas so they’re on individual slips of paper.
  5. Organize your ideas into categories. Fold up the papers and put them in your jar.

       That’s all there is to it. Just pull out an idea the next time you’re bored or can’t decide what to do.

       Special Tip for Parents: This is a great way to occupy your kids when they complain about being bored. Add some rules to the Boredom Buster like “You must do whatever activity you pull out (if possible).”. Make sure you stick a few chores in the mix!

How Does This Relate to Personal Finance?

       I’ve found that boredom can lead to overspending. At a loss for creative ideas of things to do, we tend to think of activities we have to pay for. Most of those activities require some driving (meaning more money). And the funny thing is that we don’t feel any more satisfied or fulfilled after doing something like that than we do when we pull something from the Boredom Buster that doesn’t cost anything or is very cheap.

       Most of the ideas in our Boredom Buster are frugal activities (or can be with some creativity). This means we can find something interesting to do without resorting to the common movie, dining out, or recreational activity (bowling, mini golf, sports events, etc.). Some of the ideas we have in our Boredom Buster cost money but not nearly as much as the traditional choices. Using this technique saves us money over time and expands our minds/skillset/creativity/etc. I figure if it works for us, it can work for you!

Your Thoughts

       What do you think of this idea? How do you handle those “I’m bored” moments? What would you put in your Boredom Buster? Share your thoughts in the comments!

       Last month, I posted an update about how my wife and I are raising a cow for beef. This is a summary of our activity and costs for month 10. As always, let’s first check Bambi’s growth. Here he is at nine months old:


Bambi - 9 Months Old


       And here he is at ten months old:


Bambi - 10 Months Old


       Last time we checked Bambi’s weight (a few weeks ago), he was about 600 pounds. If he keeps growing at his current rate, he should be about 900-1000 pounds by November when he’ll be 15 months old. This is when we’re planning to send him to the butcher, but we might have to do it in October. It depends on the weather and when we can find a friend who’s ready to send their steer to the butcher.

Costs & Time

       Since we don’t have a fenced-in pasture to let Bambi graze on, I have to move him around from place to place using a stake in the ground. This means it takes me more time to take care of Bambi than it would for someone who has a fenced-in pasture. If I didn’t have to move him around and refill his water bucket three or four times a day, it would probably take less than 5 minutes a day to raise him. As it is now, I spend about 20 minutes a day (not all at once though…usually 10 minutes in the morning and the rest throughout the day).

       The only thing I’m worried about is how I’ll be able to handle moving him as he gets bigger. He’s not too difficult to move if it’s only a short distance and he can see where I’ve put his grain. If I have to take him around the corner of a building or to a spot that’s farther away, he can get a bit antsy. Again, we only had to buy feed this month. He did eat a bit of hay while we were gone camping since we left him in the barn to make it easy for Michelle’s mom to care for him. We still have a good bit left though.

  • Feed – $40.00
  •        

  • Time – 11 hours



       And here are our total costs over the past ten months:

  • Cost of Bambi – Free!
  •        

  • Castration & Dehorning – $16.00
  •        

  • Milk Replacer – $45.54
  •        

  • Miscellaneous – $46.87
  •        

  • Feed – $321.84
  •        

  • Hay – $88.00
  •        

  • Straw – $20.00
  •        

  • Medicine – $5.00
  •        

  • Total Spent – $543.25
  •        

  • Time – 94 hours



       Ten months in and we’ve spent a total of $543.25 and 94 hours raising a cow for beef. As a financial experiment, time is going to be the killer here. Right now we’re running less than a dollar per pound (though he wouldn’t yield 600 pounds of beef right now). Add in a reasonable amount for my time and the costs don’t look so good. It’d be at least $1,200 so far, and that’s figuring on minimum wage.

       That’s it for this month. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. And make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning if you’re interested in knowing what it takes to raise a cow for beef!

       Welcome to the third edition of the Christian Finance Carnival! If you want to find out more, make sure you check Money Help for Christian’s page about the Christian Finance Carnival. This edition covers articles published in May 2010. Since summer started this past Monday, I decided to add a few pictures highlighting some of my favorite things about summer.

  • Money Help For Christians – Craig shares Bible and Money Lessons From One Year of Blogging and says, “Over the last year I’ve learned a lot about the Bible and money. In this post I share some of those lessons.”
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  • Provident Planning – I’d like to share Preaching Christ Crucified with you all. Too often we fail to emphasize that Christ accomplished everything on the Cross. Yes, we must live changed lives, obey His commands, and do good works. But we are not saved by these. We need to remember that truth at all times.

  • Waterskiing (photo by Igor Bespamyatnov on Flickr)
    Ahhh…waterskiing. One of my favorite things to do in the summer!


  • Bible Money Matters – Peter presents Devotional: The Source Of Happiness saying, “What is the true source of happiness?”
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  • Personal Finance by the Book – Joe Plemon asks Which Comes First: Earning or Saving? and says, “Proverbs 21:20 strongly implies that we should live on less than we earn. But what if our earnings are quite meager? Should we achieve a ‘living wage’ before trying to save? This post examines that question.”

  • Roasting Marshmallows (photo by ninahale on Flickr)
    Summertime means campfires with friends. And campfires mean roasting marshmallows (alone or for s’mores) and usually some ice cream. Good times!


  • Matt about Money – Matt Bell discusses The Master(’s) Principle which covers the benefits of patience.
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  • One Money Design – Jason Price presents Money Margin: It is No Mirage! and says, “We could all use a little more money margin in our lives, right? Margin isn’t impossible if you learn to manage money based on God’s financial principles.”

  • Kayaking (photo by davichi on Flickr)
    My wife and I like to go kayaking in the summer. We’re blessed to have a nice creek near our house and several other local options that we haven’t explored yet.



           Be sure to check out next month’s edition of the Christian Finance Carnival, which should be up on July 14th over at Christian Personal Finance.

           Finding free things to do can seem daunting, but opportunities abound all around you. Here are some ideas on how to find free things to do in your area. As a bonus for Lancaster County residents (this is where I live), I’ve included links to make it easy to find free things to do.

    Check Your Local Resources

           If you’re looking for events or even just some ideas, your local resources will be a great first stop. Look for county, city, and community websites and publications that offer a calendar of events. Possible resources include newspapers, government agencies, schools, radio stations, churches, libraries, museums, recreation centers, parks, tourism websites, volunteer organizations, and so on.

           Some groups offer online calendars that are updated regularly. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to sort out the free things to do. If not, you’ll have to sort through your options to find the free things. If you’re a family, make this a group effort to find something everyone is interested in.

           The links for Lancaster County residents are below. The rest of this article is just a list of ideas (93 ideas to be exact!) for things to do. Most are free or at least very cheap (unless you make them expensive). You won’t like everything on these lists, but you’ll probably find at least one thing you’d like to do. Enjoy!

    Links for Lancaster County residents:


    Get Outside

    • Take a walk
    •  

    • Take a Hike
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    • Go birdwatching
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    • Go stargazing
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    • Just go outside and sit
    •  

    • Go to a park
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    • Take a walking tour (of your neighborhood or city)
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    • Garden or landscape
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    • Forage for wild foods (Be careful! Be sure you know what you’re picking!)


    Get Creative

    • Cook something new
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    • Write poetry
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    • Read a book
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    • Paint or draw
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    • Bake some bread
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    • Make something with your hands (woodcraft, knit/crochet, crafts, etc.)
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    • Take digital photographs
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    • Create some graphic art
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    • Start a blog
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    • Try origami
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    • Watch a classic, foreign, or independent film
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    • Make your own movie
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    • Stock up on homemade greeting & holiday cards
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    • Write a journal
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    • Play some music
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    • Listen to some music (really listen)
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    • Read some poetry
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    • Act out a play
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    • Write a play
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    • Make up a game


    Get Smart

    • Go to the library
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    • Learn a new skill for your career
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    • Take a free community class or workshop
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    • Read a newspaper
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    • Watch an educational video or show
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    • Memorize Bible verses
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    • Do some puzzles (crossword, sudoku, jigsaw, etc.)
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    • Learn a new language (or just 10 words in a new language)
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    • Refresh your brain on school subjects you’ve forgotten
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    • Visit a museum or zoo
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    • Learn auto, home, or appliance maintenance & repair skills
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    • Study the basics of a new subject
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    • Read about something you’ve always wanted to do & learn how
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    • Learn to play a new musical instrument


    Get Personal

    • Play a board or card game together
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    • Write a letter to an old friend, your parents, or a relative
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    • Go meet your neighbors (combine with baking cookies)
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    • Take time to be intimate with your spouse
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    • Call someone and keep in touch
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    • Study and research your genealogy
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    • Talk about your goals with your spouse/family
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    • Join an interest group (like a book club)
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    • Write a letter to your future descendants
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    • Play with your pet(s)
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    • Host a potluck & movie night with your friends
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    • Go to church
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    • Pray and read the Bible together
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    • Clean up your neighborhood (with your neighbors!)


    Get Organized

    • Clean out a closet or a room
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    • Plan your next vacation
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    • Make or buy Christmas gifts
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    • Work on your will & estate documents
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    • Clean your whole house (inside or out)
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    • Have a yard sale (get rid of stuff you don’t use & make some money!)
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    • Scan your old pictures and documents, then organize them in folders on your computer
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    • Organize your financial papers
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    • Review your budget & net worth (and look for savings)
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    • Create a to-do list (with deadlines, next actions, and categories)
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    • Inspect your house for maintenance tasks that need to be done (make a list)
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    • Sort through your books, CDs, DVDs, etc. and get rid of what you don’t want
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    • Create an emergency information binder (health & financial records, account #’s & passwords, etc.)
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    • Clean off your desk, refrigerator, or table (wherever you pile stuff)
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    • Cook some meals in advance and freeze them
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    • Rearrange your furniture


    Get Active

    • Play some Frisbee
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    • Join a community sports team
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    • Exercise
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    • Go for a bike ride
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    • Play football, soccer, or catch
    •  

    • Learn yoga or tai chi
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    • Take martial arts lessons (the first one is often free!)
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    • Go swimming (at a friend’s house or in a stream/creek/river/pond/ocean/etc.)


    Give Back

    • Volunteer your time
    •  

    • Help out an elderly or disabled neighbor or friend
    •  

    • Take a nap (give back to yourself)
    •  

    • Donate some stuff to charity (combine with organization activities!)
    •  

    • Be a friend to the needy and the outcast (spend time & develop a relationship)
    •  

    • Help out with a church project
    •  

    • Plant a tree
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    • Gather the recycling for your neighborhood (if you don’t have a service)
    •  

    • Write a how-to or knowledge article for Instructables, Wikipedia, etc.
    •  

    • Make a useful video for YouTube
    •  

    • Help out with an open-source software project (if you know or want to learn programming)
    •  

    • Hold a fundraiser for a charity


    Share Your Ideas

           The best ideas are the ones you come up with yourself. If you’ve got a good idea on how to find free things to do or just know some free things anyone can do, share them in the comments below!

    sweet iced tea in a mason jar by House of Sims on Flickr       Cut me and I’m likely to bleed sweet tea. My wife can testify that we almost always have a gallon pitcher of sweet tea in our refrigerator. Earlier in our marriage, she would have said this was completely my fault. But she says I have her hooked now – at least to my version of sweet tea. She doesn’t like the manufactured brands anymore. I can’t blame her. Lipton brewed tea is just about the only manufactured tea I can tolerate – and then only just.

           You see, I’ve never been one who likes water. I know it’s cheap and I know it’s healthy, but I’ve just never liked it. You could say I’m a “water snob”, though you’ll never catch me drinking Fiji bottled water. I just like my water to be cold and non-chlorinated with no funny tastes or smells. Our tap water doesn’t make the grade (plus it’s full of nitrates), so I tend to live on sweet tea. (This could have repercussions for my health though – diabetes, anyone?)

           But in terms of cost, sweet tea is much cheaper than soft drinks. It’s much healthier, too. Even with my version (which is fairly sweet), you’ll still be getting less sugar than you would in a soft drink. Before you tout diet soft drinks (which are still expensive), remember you can use artificial sweeteners in your sweet tea. I’d never use artificial sweetener in my sweet tea since I hate the taste, but it is an option. Some people forgo the sweetener altogether (artificial or not), but I’m not sure how they do that. Bleh…

           A gallon of sweet tea costs me just under $1.00 to make. That’s 50-70% cheaper than most soft drinks if you’re buying a 2 liter bottle. It’d be even cheaper if you’re comparing cans or 20 ounce bottles. Twenty ounces of sweet tea costs $0.16 and twelve will cost you just over $0.09. It’s quick and easy, too. It only takes me about 3 minutes of hands-on time to make a gallon. Here’s how I do it.

    Paul’s Not-So-Top-Secret Sweet Tea Recipe

           Fill up a gallon pitcher nearly to the top (you want to leave some room for the sugar later). I use hot water from our tap because it duplicates the taste of sun tea but is faster. If you’re going to make sun tea, you can use cold water.

           Add 4 family size tea bags (I always use Lipton…my preference). Let it sit for a couple hours (longer if you’re making sun tea). It’s done when it looks like tea. Darker is stronger but that can mean bitter. However, it’s difficult to make your tea too bitter with this method. The water just doesn’t get hot enough for that to happen.

           Remove the tea bags. Add 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Stir until dissolved. Refrigerate until cold or pour over ice if you want to enjoy it immediately. No lemon, please. Serve in a Mason jar for added effect.

    I Need to Drink More Water

           Despite my fondness for sweet tea, I know I need to drink more water. It may not be bad on my wallet, but it’s not good for my health. I probably have a good risk of diabetes based on family history alone, and my sweet tea habit isn’t helping. Anyone else struggle with drinking water? Have any tips on how to start drinking more? Let me know in the comments!

           This is a guest post from the people at Lender 411.

           The largest investment many of us will ever make is the purchase of a home. Many people purchase this “product” at least once during their lifetime. This “product”, however, is often so expensive that only a small fraction of potential buyers can actually afford to buy it in full at any given time. Few future homeowners have $300,000 in cash in their hands. Most of us will likely earn far more money than this over our lifetime, but we don’t have access to it all at once. In the meantime, we need a place to live.

           A mortgage helps solve this problem. Banks, with access to large sums of money, agree to give you the $300,000 you need right now at a price. This price is what we call interest, and you may have heard it said that “interest is the price of money”. This is true in one sense, but in reality what you’re paying for is time. Remember, you will undoubtedly earn far more than $300,000 over the course of your career. The interest, the “price” that the bank charges you, is not buying you the actual $300,000 itself. You will eventually earn that either way. What you get is time. The bank gives you $300,000 and time, often 30 years or so, in which to earn this money. You ultimately give the bank $300,000 back plus the price of the time.

           Different banks charge different rates for their time, and of course, the amount of time you’re buying will differ from bank to bank as well and will depend on your personal situation. But at the core, this is how mortgages work.

           What’s the value of a mortgage refinance? Simply put, a refinance allows you to repurchase the time that you’ve bought from your bank at a different interest rate, one that is lower and more favorable to you. You can also extend the life of your loan, buying you additional time at this decreased rate. A refinance, then, is like purchasing additional time at a lower price. If you can find or arrange such a deal, a mortgage refinance can be immensely valuable.

           There’s the logic behind it. As you consider whether this financial step would benefit you, remember one thing. Time is a commodity. You can buy it from any financial institution. Educate yourself and learn what your options are. Find the lowest mortgage rates that are available to you, because the lowest rate will get you the best price on the time that you’ve purchased.