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Budget Friendly Date Night Ideas!

9 Sep

Taking your special someone out on the town for the evening can quickly become expensive!  Even dinner and a movie can leave your wallet begging for mercy!  Here are some ideas to still spend quality time together while leaving your budget intact.

 Change it up — Make it a day time date, weekday date and search for specials and discounts:

  • Fancy restaurants often are cheaper during the day, and even run lunch-time specials to increase crowds.  Enjoy the fancy new hot spot during a Saturday brunch – miss the crowds and the larger price tag.
  • Along with movie matinees, think about theater tickets or other day time performances that offer lower prices for day time shows.
  • Also consider shifting your date night to an off-weekend night to get lower cost or free admission to places that cater to weekend crowds.  Many museums offer weekly or monthly free days, and fewer people will allow you to actually hear your date’s thoughts on the latest exhibit.
  • Look into if your city offers ‘restaurant weeks’ that highlight local cuisine and often features a cheaper, price-fixed menu.  It can be a great way to try a new restaurant without breaking the bank!
  • Sign up for sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and other online coupon offerings.  Many days will feature local restaurants giving 50 percent discounts on cuisine for the day.

Forget the movies – head outdoors:

  • Take advantage of nice weather!  Head outdoors and soak in the fresh air – major bonus?  It’s absolutely free!
  • Go for a long stroll or bike ride at a local park.
  • Better yet, pack a picnic and end your stroll when you find a good place to relax.
  • Watch local listings for outdoor concerts, movies or performances.  They are usually free!  Just bring a blanket and some snacks, and you’re set for the evening.

Stay in – it’s always cheaper and can be just as fun!

  • After a long work week, sometimes nothing sounds better than curling up in PJs at home.  That doesn’t have to be the end of date night.  In fact, many inexpensive date nights start by staying home!
  • Pull out supplies from the pantry or stop by the deli on the way home, and make dinner together.  It doesn’t have to be fancy – or it can be – but either way, it’s almost certainly going to be cheaper than going out, or even carry out.
  • Rent a movie, play a board game or bust out the cards!  Stay clear of TV, your own books or turning in early.  Relax together by doing something you never make time for during the week! 

Think outside the traditional date-night box:

  • Visit your local library and check out a video.
  • Start a two-person book club, and meet at a coffee shop weekly to discuss.
  • Drive around to neighborhoods where you’d love to live.
  • Take a driving day-trip to parts unknown, stopping wherever you’d like along the way.
  • Make it a Saturday morning date to the Farmer’s Market – vow to buy something you’ve never had or go home and make something with the groceries.


For those of us married with kids, hiring a sitter adds to the cost of a date night and sometimes asking grandparents to take the kids too often wears thin very quickly.  So here’s a couple no/low-cost alternatives:

  • Take turns with another couple with children that get along with yours.  You watch their kids for their date night and then you have a date night and they watch your kids.  There is no cost to this and your kids have friends to play with while you enjoy your date!  Win-Win 🙂 
  • If you have a hobby/service (i.e. baking, knitting, vegetable garden, handyman work, etc) see if you can trade a friend/trusted neighbor to sit your kid(s) for a couple of hours for some home-made baked good, etc.

For more financial tips on how to save on date-night excursions, here are a few articles from national news sources for reference:

 ABC News:

Recession dating 101: Cheap Date Ideas

 Marie Claire:

50 Cheap Dates

 Shape Magazine:

Recession Proof Your Love Life: Cheap Date Ideas


Back to School Savings Tips

25 Aug

Sharpen your pencils and break out the binders: A new school year has begun. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, parents will spend an average of more than $600 per child to prepare for the upcoming school year. However, with a few tweaks, this number can be slashed without sacrificing anything your child needs.


School Supply Scavenger Hunt:

  • Before you hit the stores for crayons and glue, have your kids search your house for supplies that may have gone unused inside junk drawers, craft boxes, office drawers and even in their own rooms.
  • Make a game of it! Set a timer, and the person that finds the most supplies wins!
  • You will be surprised how many supplies you have around your house that can be directly applied to the needs outlined on school supply lists.


On the discount hunt – from supplies to clothing:

  • Shop back-to-school sales, and watch carefully for one-day sales or even sales that only last several hours. Print out coupons or watch for mailers offering more discounts.
  • Don’t forget “dollar stores” – they can be a great place for basics like pens, crayons, markers, notebooks, etc.
  • Better yet, hold off until after school has started, (around Labor Day) and cash in on even deeper discounts as stores try to move out back-t0-school merchandise to make room for fall products or fashion.
  • Shop throughout the year for staples you’ll need every year. See a deep discount on computer paper or three-ring notebooks? Grab them then and stockpile before the rush.


Don’t confuse needs and wants:

  • Go into shopping with a complete, and firm, list of needs. Stick to your list, and your budget.
  • Purchase only supplies needed, or set a strict limit for each child on fun extras they desire.
  • Use this time to first clean out their closets and drawers, having them try on everything to see what still fits and what needs to be replaced.
  • Create a list of clothing needs, and see what you can skip until later in the season.
  • Reuse items from last year – like backpacks and lunchboxes, if still in good, working order.


Save money post back-to-school rush:

  • After the school year routine has settled in, make sure you’re still looking for ways to save.
  • Pack lunches with non-perishable items. If you’re child doesn’t eat all the lunch, repack the non-perishable items for use the next day.
  • Set out a jar for loose coins, contributions from your children, and other extra money to pay for school fees and other extracurricular costs. Not only with this fund help pay for unplanned expenses, it will also show your children how to save up for needed expenses.
  • Couldn’t bear to buy the latest sneakers in time for school? Use this desire to teach your child budgeting: Have them work for, and save, an allowance to be used towards the purchase of whatever item they desired. This delayed gratification, and willingness to save for a budgeted item, can teach them a lot about future financial decisions.


For more financial tips on how to save on back-to-school expenses, here are a few articles from national news sources for reference: 


10 tips for back-to-school shopping savings


5 ways to cut back-t0-school costs 

Huffington Post:

Back to school Budgeting Tips

Protect Your Finances While On Vacation

27 Jun
Credit cards

Image via Wikipedia

Protect your finances while you’re on vacation!

As we enter prime vacation time, be sure you take the steps before you leave town and again once you’re at your fun-filled destination to protect your finances while you’re having fun.   (I also take these steps when I travel on business.)

Lighten your load:

Only take the credit cards and debit cards you plan to use with you on vacation.  Take a backup credit card, however, in case something happens to your main card.  Leave the rest at home.  And, leave your checkbook at home.  If you won’t use them, why carry them?

Take enough cash for each day’s activities.  Leave the rest locked in a hotel room safe.

Let others know your plans.  Make a quick call to the bank and credit card companies that will see heavy use during the vacation.  This will prevent companies from suspecting fraud when it’s really vacation spending, and it will also alert them if activity does not correspond with your plans.

Make copies of your itinerary, your passport data page and important financial papers.  Give the copies to a trusted friend or family member to serve as a reference if needed.

Be aware.  When in crowds, keep your wallet in your front pocket, with your hand covering it.  Only take a purse if necessary, and leave it in the hotel safe when it isn’t necessary.

Never leave anything unattended in airports, shopping areas or other high-traffic areas.

Only use secure internet connections when checking sites that require any passwords, especially financial sites.  If using a public computer (ie. at library or hotel business center), be sure to erase the browser history when you’re done!

For more financial tips on how to protect your finances while on vacations, here are a few articles from national news sources for reference:

Bankrate: 15 ways to protect your money on vacation

MarketWatch: Protect yourself from identity theft on vacation

FoxBusiness: Staying Safe from ID Theft on Vacation

Couponing? It’s worth the time – here’s how to get started!

13 Jun

With the rise of grocery prices and the increase in popularity of sites like Groupon and shows like “Extreme Couponing”, more consumers are looking to cash in on available coupons to help lower the grocery bill.  It takes time to get organized, and many say it can prove to provide significant reductions to the weekly grocery bill.  So here’s some tips to get started and save some money!

 Get organized

  • The thought of sifting through mountains of papers, or juggling stacks of coupons at the register, can be overwhelming.
  • Start by finding a binder with pockets or a baseball card holder-type pages, and organize your coupons as you clip. Put all like items together and label as you go.
  • Buy multiple newspapers to be able to get multiple coupons. And, sign up at the manufacturer’s website to have coupons sent directly to your email.
  • As you place items into your cart that will use a coupon, pull those coupons and place in a separate folder. That way, you will be able to quickly hand all your coupons to the cashier when it’s time.

 Go slow

  • Show like “Extreme Couponing” can set unrealistic expectations for couponing. Start where you can. Clip a few coupons for items you know you need, and use them on your next trip.
  • If you save $5 the first trip, that’s $5 more you have for another need in your life. As you learn the couponing system, you will start saving more.

 Other ways to save on your grocery bill

  • Make a meal plan for the week.  Plan meals around what is on sale. Grocery stores have sales just like any other retailer. Have tacos when the ground beef is on sale. Save your plans for pork chops until they go on special.
  • Skip convenience foods – anything packaged individually, pre-made meals, etc. These items usually are both less healthy and higher priced per ounce than other items.
  • Stick to your budget. If you’ve budgeted $100 for the week – weekly treats may have to wait until another week.
  • Use all leftovers. Last night’s left over mashed potatoes can help make tonight’s Shepherd’s Pie. And using up every scrap of food, instead of wasting it, isn’t just economical, it’s socially responsible

Ways to Save Money on Groceries!

1 Jun
Example of an American grocery store aisle.

Image via Wikipedia

Let’s face it – EVERYTHING is more expensive these days – gas, food, utilities, entertainment, travel, etc.  So read the following article on ways to save money at the grocery store. 
One of the things we do in our house is plan meals – so with the groceries we just bought, my wife will write a list of the meals/entrees she will make and stick that list to the fridge and cross it off the list as she’s cooked it…this way we help ensure the food is used and not rotting in the veggies crisper.  Also, when we buy fruit, snacks, etc for our daughters we make sure it’s something we won’t mind eating as well, so if they get sick of it, we can have it for our snacks.  It always pains me to see food go bad, so we really try to just buy what we need/will eat.  Regardless of the super sale price…bananas or whatever that go bad and uneaten is a big waste of money!  So, be wise, shop smart and strive to save!

10 Ways to Save Money on Food Shopping

How to eat cheap – but healthfully – despite rising grocery costs.
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

We’re paying more these days not only at the gas pump but also at the grocery store. Blame it on rising oil prices, disappointing crop yields, global warming, and/or the weak dollar. Robert Earl, director of nutrition policy for the Grocery Manufacturer Association, says there are many factors affecting food prices.

What it all means is that shoppers are looking for ways to save money when they’re food shopping without sacrificing nutrition. WebMD asked some experts for tips and strategies on saving money on your grocery bill while still eating healthfully. 

Planning Can Help You Save Money on Food

Planning ahead is the most important step to getting more bang for your buck at the grocery store, says Katherine Tallmadge, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

“Take inventory of what you have on hand so you don’t overbuy, create a detailed shopping list based on your needs and weekly menu plan, and take into account how you plan on using leftovers,” she says.

Have a light snack before you go shopping, and stick to your grocery list to help avoid impulse purchases or costly mistakes like falling for the displays at the end of the aisles.

Before you plan your weekly menu, check the ads to see what’s on sale and use coupons to take advantage of sales and money-saving coupons. You can even sign up online to receive coupons and email alerts from your favorite grocers.

Healthy Food Is Cheaper Food

Eating healthier foods can actually save you money, according to a 2002 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The researchers found that when families went on weight loss diets, they not only lost weight but reduced their food budgets.

The savings came from reducing portion sizes and from buying fewer of the high-calorie foods that tend to increase the amount spent at the grocery store, according to authors of the yearlong study. People tend to spend a lot on those “extras” — foods that add calories but little nutritional value, like sodas, bakery items, and chips.

You can get more for your money if you consider the nutritional value of food for the price.  For example, sodas and flavored drinks deliver mostly empty calories and could easily be replaced with less expensive sparkling water with a splash of a 100% fruit juice like cranberry.

“When my clients start eating more healthfully, their grocery bills plummet,” says Tallmadge, author of the book Diet Simple.

 She recommends comparing food prices based on the number of servings you’ll get, along with the food’s nutritional contribution. For example, a pound of peaches yields three to four servings. So when you divide the cost per pound, the cost is usually quite reasonable.

“The ideal food is nutrient-dense, not calorie-dense, and the least expensive may be fresh, frozen or canned,” Tallmadge says.

And if you’re craving something sweet?

“Save money by passing on calorie-dense cakes and cookies; instead, opt for seasonal fruit,” says American Dietetic Association president Connie Diekman, RD. “Fruit is fat-free, high in nutrients and fiber, and a natural energizer.”

Look for sales or coupons for light ice cream or nonfat frozen yogurt to enjoy with your fruit, and you have a delicious, fat-free, low-calorie dessert.

Here are 10 simple strategies to beat the rising cost of food and help your grocery dollars go further:

1. Buy produce in season. Check the food section in your newspaper to find the best buys for the week, based on fresh produce in season. Food in season is usually priced to sell. During the summer months, corn on the cob can cost as little as 10 cents an ear; at other times of the year, it may cost 10 times as much. Also, shop your local farmers’ market for great deals on local produce; the prices won’t include shipping costs.

2. Use sales and coupons. Planning meals around what’s on sale can lower your grocery bills, especially if you also use coupons (make sure they’re for item you would buy anyway). Sunday newspapers are full of coupons and sales circulars to get you started. It’s also a good idea to stock up on staples when they’re on sale. “Buy one, get one free” is basically a technique to get you to buy twice as much as you need at half the price. At some markets, though, the product rings up half-price — so you don’t have to buy more than one to get the savings. Use your freezer to store sale items that can be used at a later date.

3. Brown-bag it.  Making lunch and taking it with you is a great money-saver and an excellent use of leftovers for meals at work, school, or wherever your destination. “Packing your lunch not only saves you money, but you can control all the ingredients so they are healthy and low in calories,” says Diekman, who is nutrition director at Washington University. Pack a simple sandwich, salad, soup, wrap, and/or a hearty snack of cheese. Use freezer packs and containers to keep food at the proper temperature unless you have access to a refrigerator.

4. Think frozen, canned, or dried. Next time you’re gathering ingredients for a recipe, try using frozen, canned, or dried foods. They may be less expensive than fresh, yet are equally nutritious. Produce is typically frozen, canned, or dried at the peak of ripeness, when nutrients are plentiful. Fish and poultry are often flash-frozen to minimize freezer damage and retain freshness. With frozen foods, you can use only the amount you need, reseal the package, and return it to the freezer. If it’s properly stored, there’s no waste. Canned foods are often sitting in a bath of juice, syrup, or salty water, and usually require rinsing. Dried fruits are concentrated in flavor and a great substitute for fresh fruit. Also consider using powdered or evaporated versions of milk in soups, casseroles, mashed potatoes, or desserts. Buy the form that gives you the best price for your needs. 

5. Save on protein foods. When possible, substitute inexpensive, vegetarian sources such as beans, eggs, tofu, and legumes for more expensive meat, fish, or poultry. Eat vegetarian once a week or more to increase your consumption of healthy plant foods while saving money.  Eggs are an excellent, inexpensive source of protein that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You could also try using a smaller portion of meat, fish, or poultry and extending the dish with whole grains, beans, eggs, and/or vegetables. 

When you do buy meat, choose smaller portions of lean cuts. For example, lean cuts of beef are those that include the terms “loin” or “round.” (You can tenderize lean cuts of meat mechanically or by marinating it.) You can also buy a whole chicken and cut it up instead of paying the butcher to do it for you, or buy the cheaper “family pack” and portion it into airtight freezer bags.

6. Waste not, want not. Before you toss perishable food into your grocery cart, think about exactly how you’ll use it. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans generate roughly 30 million tons of food waste each year. Using leftover vegetables, poultry, or meat in soups, stews, salads, and casseroles minimizes cost and demonstrates your creativity in the kitchen. For example, have a roasted chicken for dinner one night, and use the leftovers for dinner the next night. Try topping a bed of fresh greens with vegetables, fruits, and slices of leftover chicken. Add a loaf of whole-grain bread, and presto! You’ve got a nutritious meal in minutes. You can also eat leftovers for breakfast or take them with you for lunch. 

7. Go generic. Consider buying store brands instead of pricier national brands. “All food manufacturers follow standards to provide safe food and beverage products of high quality,” says Earl. Many grocery companies buy national-brand products made to their specifications and simply put their own label on the products. Read the ingredient list on the label to be sure you’re getting the most for your money. Ingredients are listed in order by weight. So when you’re buying canned tomatoes, look for a product that lists tomatoes, not water, as the first ingredient. Also look for simpler versions of your favorite foods. For example, buy oatmeal or simple flaked or puffed cereals that contain fewer additives and are less expensive (and often healthier) than fancier cereals.

8. Buy prepackaged only if you need it. Unless you have a coupon or the item is on sale, buying prepackaged, sliced, or washed products comes with a higher price tag. Still, people living alone may find that smaller sizes of perishable products or bags of prepared produce eliminate waste and fit their needs best, despite the extra cost.  You can also save money (and boost nutrition) by passing up the aisles with processed foods, cookies, snack foods and soda.

9. Buy and cook in bulk. Joining a bulk shopping club, like Sam’s, Costco, or BJ’s, can be cost-effective if you frequent the club regularly. Bulk purchases can be a great way to save money — as long as they get used. You might also look in your community for shopping cooperatives that sell food in bulk at a substantial savings. Cooking in bulk can save both money and time, says Tallmadge. “Prepare food in bulk and freeze into family-sized portions, which saves time in the kitchen,” she suggests. For example, making a big batch of tomato sauce will less expensive (and probably tastier) than buying some.

10. Plant a garden. For benefits that go beyond cost savings, plant your own produce. There’s nothing better than a summer-fresh tomato from the garden. Tomatoes even grow well in containers if you don’t have space for a garden, and some neighborhoods offer community gardening spaces. Start small, and see how easy it is to grow fresh herbs or a few simple vegetables. And if you invest a little time in freezing or canning your harvest, you can enjoy summer’s bounty all year long.

Free or Almost Free Entertainment & Family Fun

26 Apr

Are you on a tight budget, but still want to have some family fun or an evening with your spouse?  Well, take a look at the following article from AmericanBaby.Com.

My followers know I’m a huge fan of the public library.  Free story time, kid/family concerts and other family oriented events!  Some cities also provide free passes to museums, zoo, etc. through the library.  And of course, there is a wonderful selection of books, movies on DVD and music on CDs.  So, check out the listing of activities and events at your local public library and request the books, CDs and DVDs that you and your family will enjoy (for free).

I’m also all about coupons & discounts when it comes to dining out.  So, register for Groupon and Living Social in your city and also check out Restaurant.Com for deep discounts at your local establishments.  Also, if you or your family have a few favorite places to eat that you go to regularly, sign up for their email distribution of special offers, birthday discounts, etc!  In fact, some casual family friendly options (i.e. Which Wich and Luby’s) have kids eat free nights!

Another great option to dining out with friends is to take turns hosting a pot luck every 1-3 months.  Make it even more interesting by making each one themed by cuisine!  This way everyone makes just one dish, but gets to enjoy a lot of home-made food along with good company, conversations and laughs.  Heck, bring out the old board games and relive your youth!  Relax, enjoy and have fun!

Movie night a t home!  Pick a favorite movie you have on DVD or can borrow from the library/Redbox/Netflix, etc.  Make it fun by having an indoor picnic.  My daughters loves these “Friday Family Fun” nights that we have occasionally to relax on a Friday evening and a simple indoor picnic is usually less clean up than dinner at the dining room table!

Need time without the kids, whether it be a date night or running some major errands or getting a project done at home?  Set up a reciprocal babysitting swap with neighbors or your kid’s friends parents.  My wife and I starting doing this about once a month with a couple of friends and it works out great!  The families know each other so both the kids and parents are totally comfortable!

Last, but not least, enjoy mother nature – whether it be your own backyard or a park, be it bike riding, a walk, hike, throwing a frisbee around, etc.  Also, check out your community pools this summer for some great cool down activities in the water!

American Baby

Find Free (or Almost Free) Entertainment

Dust off your library card. “My kids love our town library’s storytime and sing-along hours,” says Christina D’Angelo Bolduc, mom of 3-year-old Matthew and 18-month-old Joshua, in Wrentham, Massachusetts. “Plus, the library provides free passes to local children’s museums, zoos, and kid-centric classes.” And it goes without saying, you’ll also save a boatload on books. “We take out at least ten board books at once and then swap them for a pile of new ones when we’re sick of reading them over and over,” says Kate Ashford, mom of 19-month-old Lila, in New York City.
Saved About $12 per week

Dine out on a dime. Type “Kids Eat Free” and your zip code into any search engine to find local restaurants that offer discounts for the booster-seat set. “I order a salad and a glass of wine, my daughters get free make-your-own-pizzas and drinks, and the bill is $12!” says Anne Macomber, a mom of two in Denver.
Saved About $20 per week

Share the sitting. Ask a girlfriend to swap off watching each other’s kids on Saturday nights, so you each get two date nights in exchange for two babysitting nights every month. Or form a babysitting co-op with a group of families: “Every hour you use costs you a point per kid, and every hour you sit gains you a point; one mom earns an extra five points per month by tracking it all,” explains Macomber, who coordinates a co-op with six friends. “If you get stuck for a sitter, you can offer double points as an incentive.” (To learn how to set up a co-op, try the 60-day free trial at
Saved About $20 per week

Join Netflix. “For $10 a month, we watch unlimited movies, TV shows, and yoga videos, which we do together three times a week,” Petersik says. “So we’re saving on the cineplex, the cable bill, and the yoga studio, and enjoying quality time together too.”
Saved About $10 per week

Find cheap recreation. Boston mom Deirdre Habershaw, knows she can keep her 14-month-old daughter Madelyn happy with a quick ride on the city’s subway. “My ticket costs two bucks,” Habershaw says. “Madelyn rides for free and has a blast!” Think of ways you can satisfy your child’s interests for next to nothing: A stroll through a pet store saves you on zoo admission, and a walk by the firehouse or a construction zone will entertain vehicle-obsessed tots, gratis.
Saved About $10 per week

Turn your home into a social hub. Habershaw throws inexpensive dinner parties for friends after Madelyn goes to bed; Petersik counters invitations to pricey restaurants by offering to host her friends for a cheapo cocktail hour or home-cooked meal. You can also save money by ordering in from your fave eatery rather than actually going to the restaurant (where the waitress is there to remind you about dessert and all those not-so-free refills!).
Saved About $20 per week

Too Young to Learn About Finances? Never!

25 Apr

Do you think preschool age is too young to learn about financial concepts?  I don’t!  It all starts with basic math and identifying money (coins and bills) and then grasping the concept of value, earning/saving and spending money.  Check out this article from the New York Times:

Your Money

Too Young for Finance? Think Again

Matthew Orr/The New York Times

Ron Lieber interviewed Sesame Street and Elmo about improving the next generation’s financial habits at an earlier age. Watch the video »

Published: April 15, 2011

One of the best things about being around preschool-age children is that they are a blank slate awaiting your imprint. All of the big questions come up before first grade — God and death, jail and fairies — and most 4-year-olds will believe pretty much any answer you give them.

Talking Money With Elmo

Post Your Children’s Reaction to Elmo’s Money Videos


Sit your child (or grandchildren or nieces or nephews or special friends) down and play the videos for them. What questions do they ask?

Your Money
Your Money

Ron Lieber writes the Your Money column, which appears in The Times on Saturdays.

Ron Lieber’s Columns »

A page from the book “Pretty Penny Sets Up Shop,” by Devon Kinch.

Sesame Workshop


Until recently, however, few people made much effort to get children this age to think hard about money. Why go all pecuniary on a child who has barely mastered counting?

In the wake of the financial crisis, however, and the realization that individuals share at least some blame for the bubbles, a number of people and organizations have taken up the cause of helping the next generation of grown-ups form better habits at an earlier age.

The JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy recently expanded its target age group to include the pre-kindergarten set. A new book called “Pretty Penny Sets Up Shop” tells the story of a young girl who sets up a “small mall” in her grandmother’s attic to pay for her grandmother’s surprise party.

And then there’s Sesame Street, which has a broader reach than any nonprofit group, publisher or even the Head Start program. This week, Sesame entered the fray, too, with a series of videos and other material aimed at teaching its audience about spending, saving and sharing.

There is no definitive proof that any of this will make a lasting impact. “It would be 20 years before we would know the results,” said Laura Levine, JumpStart’s executive director, who served on Sesame Street’s advisory panel.

But the beauty of watching young children absorb these lessons and answering their questions is that it can make you more aware of the financial examples you set. Every shopping trip and holiday gift can become a teaching moment about hard choices, patience and generosity.

So here are how the lessons break down:

SAVE The title of Sesame Street’s package of videos also serves to sum up its component parts: “For Me, For You, For Later.” The literal representation of it are the three labels that come with the DVD in a kit that you can pick up free at any PNC Bank, which is Sesame Street’s partner in the project. You can also download the labels and other print materials on the Web; I’ve linked to the Sesame and PNC sites from the online version of this column.

The three labels read “Spending,” “Saving” and “Sharing.” Children are supposed to affix them to three clear plastic jars where they can drop their coins and bills.

None of this is particularly new. In fact, a company called Snigglezoo Entertainment has been using puppets called the Money Mammals for years. They sing about the virtues of saving, sharing and spending, the very same terms that Sesame Street uses.

John Lanza, Snigglezoo’s self-described chief mammal, said he was still processing the similarities and declined to comment further. Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president for outreach and educational practices, said it had been aware of Snigglezoo’s (and many other) trademarks around the terms and noted that the words were in wide use. Nevertheless, she added that Sesame used the words in a unique way for its own specific purposes.

But only Sesame has Elmo, and millions of children are very likely to try to mimic his behavior. In the video, he’s trying to save $5 to buy a “stupendous” ball from a street vendor. At one point, he turns down ice cream so he doesn’t lose ground on reaching his ultimate goal.

This moment goes by in a flash, but it is a crucial one. It isn’t easy for a child (Elmo is perpetually 3 1/2 years old) to give up something pleasurable in the moment in exchange for something bigger and better later on.

If you need evidence of this, pop some corn, grab the family, flip on YouTube and search for the (absolutely hysterical) marshmallow tests. Researchers put the confection in front of small children and tell them they can have one now if they’d like, though if they leave it on the table they can have two later on. Then, they leave the room and flip the switch on the camera to see what the children do.

Many devour the marshmallow before the tester even leaves the room, but that doesn’t have to be a permanent condition.

“I think there is a lot about this process that is a learned skill,” said Russell N. James III, who teaches in the financial planning division at Texas Tech University. “It’s like soccer or other physical skills, where you can coach them. And you want to give them opportunities where they can exercise those skills.”

That’s where the piggy banks and the jars come in. And when Mr. James’s 6-year-old daughter coveted the Nook e-reader that her older sister got for Christmas, he told her that if she did not touch the holiday money she had received from her grandparents for 30 days he would give her the rest of the money she needed for the Nook.

“A year would be too long,” he said. “Because you want them to practice a lot and do it several times under different circumstances.”

SPEND This is the easy part for children, at least at first glance. What’s much harder, however, is determining what different things are worth.

Sesame Street takes a couple of stabs at this in the public service announcements that accompany its main video, where Beth Kobliner, author of “Get a Financial Life” (Fireside, 2009) and an occasional contributor to The New York Times, appears alongside Elmo. In one segment, Elmo has to decide between two apples and one mango for the same price.

In another, various children decide between larger sizes of six paints and smaller sizes of 12 for the same price or bigger packages of plain pencils and smaller packages of colored ones.

The “Pretty Penny” book has a slightly more sophisticated take on this. Penny must decide how much to sell her various items for in the mall, and she manages to do it without any help from grown-ups.

No preschooler I know could pull this off, but the book’s author, Devon Kinch, said the actual prices were less important than the idea of relative value. “The prices are just talking points for parents to jump in and talk about these ideas,” she said. “Some things can be fixed, and others are slightly damaged or new. It’s a conversation-starter.”

SHARE Designating one jar or part of the piggy bank for “sharing” instead of “giving,” is a smart twist, as it builds on play date and preschool skills that many children are already learning.

Some parents may worry about teaching charity so soon, lest their offspring be frightened by exposure to deprivation and poverty before they are ready to place it all in context.

It’s not such a leap to share money with those in your community, however, whether it’s donating to the local zoo or passing it along to your house of worship. In one of the Sesame Street segments, a child buys food for cats that a local animal rescue service is caring for.

Sharing with friends in need is a fine idea, too, though Sesame’s depiction of this is rather odd. Cookie Monster, who even in 2011 still has trouble with impulse control, ends up eating the dollar he was planning to spend on cookies. So Elmo hands over a dollar.

Cookie hardly seems like the most worthy recipient of a disciplined saver’s largess, though the Sesame staff seem to think that young viewers will treat this as some kind of inside joke. “He plays the role of a typical preschooler who may be having a really hard time with the question of why he can’t have something right now,” said Gary Knell, Sesame Workshop’s president and chief executive. “They sort of get the message that, ‘Gee, I don’t really want to be like him. But I can laugh at him.’ ”

EARN The Sesame video package introduces the idea that there are lots of ways to make a little bit of money on the side if you’re industrious. Elmo earns a few bucks by folding clothes and helping Luis fix a broken ice cream machine.

The “Pretty Penny” book ties all these themes together in a particularly linear package. With no money saved, Penny must earn the money she needs to spend on a special occasion to share with her grandmother. This was no accident, said Ms. Kinch, the author, who has struggled with debt in the past and carefully picked the topic for what will be a four-book series.

“They are constant themes in everyone’s life: Do you have it? Do you need it? How do you get it and what do you do with it?” she said. “It is impossible to teach one of the money themes without overlapping another one.”

A version of this article appeared in print on April 16, 2011, on page B1 of the New York edition.