I enjoyed the time spent driving Yoyo to/back from school

She will ask a lot questions on the way to school, as the iPhone/iPad/work takes over my spare time these days, I did not get a lot quality time with Yoyo alone. Driving her to school and take her back to home provide good opportunities for communications. She will usually have a lot of questions on the way to school, probably because her mind is more active. She will ask questions on everything, e.g., cars, planet, plants, flowers, some of which I can not answer, and I will tell her to ask teachers. Sometimes she will say “grown ups don’t know everything, but teachers do”.

On the way to home, sometimes she will talk about things at school. Not always. Sometimes she will say “just sit there”. Obvious she was kidding, as I knew they do a lot things at school, and Serenity is busy most of the time. She will talk more sometimes before sleep.

Teach the right thing
Serenity likes to be the roles in the story these days. Here is what she usual says: I want to be everyone on this book except the one does not look nice. So today when she says this: I want to be everyone on this book because everyone is pretty. I was pleasantly surprised. Now I reflected a bit I know her teachers have told the kids the right thing :-)

Kids Summer Camp in St. Louis Area

It’s finally spring time here, which also means summer is around the corner. And we need to get kids into summer camp, instead of let them glue to Netflix or iPads all day :-)

There are quite a few summer camps in the area, some are almost full time (like regular semester), some are more short. And I recall YMCA has some discount a few months ago for early registrations (early Feb), don’t know if they still have it.

There is also a kids summer camp at St. Louis Community College Meramec. There is this Missouri Science Camp, which is being held at Rolla, MO, where I went to graduate school.

I know Ladue News has a nice summary for the summer camps, but I could not find it online. IndependentSchools (the association of private schools in St. Louis) has a good list too.

Small changes coming to collegeFund app

I was listening/reading two stories on the college debt (source: NPR) and the financial well beings of millennials (source: fortune/cnn), which lead to to add some new features to the collegeFund app. The app was essentially a college savings (529 plan) and I did not thought too much of this college debt problem at the time the app was conceived 3.5 years ago. At the time I opened 529 plan for my daughter, and started put some money into it.

A lot has changed in my personal finance and to the economy in general. Now I felt for a lot of people, college debt is like a mortgage, it’s just something they have to bear with, and manage while go on with their lives. Btw, I saw another good resource for college debt here.

I just updated the app, submitted to the app store, it’s under review now. Here is the screenshot. Let me know if you have any questions. Email me at minjie dot xu AT gmail dot com.


(Update 05-10-2014) I made couple more updates to fix bugs I introduced when adding this “debt free” tab/screen. It’s mostly settled now. I am thinking other enhancements, along with myNestEgg app.

Redeem British Airways Avios Points for Free Flights

From my limited experience BA Avios points are difficult to redeem for international flights, esp. from where I live STL to PVG Shanghai. But I also heard BA miles is very efficient for the US domestic flights, the trick is also to find them. So here is how I did recently, for one way STL to LGA (New York). I used AA advantage account to search award flights first (note AA is the BA partner in the US), and I saw some openings. Then I go to BA site, search the same date, I got the award seats.

I have not done round trip or multi-stop in this case. This is something I will try next time.

(Update 04-20-2014) Today I booked the round trip ticket for STL to CLL (College Station, Texas), it costs 36,000 points plus $20 for 2 tickets. This is compared to 22,500 points + $7.50 for three STL to LGA (New York) tickets. It’s a bit more expensive for the round trip tickets, even considering breaking it into 2 legs, it’s 9,000 points per leg.

Also, I noticed the points guy has some good stuff (this one and this one) about redeeming BA Avois points.

Exchange Euro into US dollar

I have a need to exchange some euro into US dollars. I did some research online as I recall previously I did not have very good experience on this. Saw a few articles (such as this MSN one, and this independentTraveller one). They are relevant but not totally applicable, I think they are more geared toward international travelers. Anyway, I compared 3 banks in St. Louis area, Bank of America (BoA), Regions, and US bank. On April 4 Friday, the rate I got was 1.2943, 1.27xx, and 1.18xx. The rate at US bank was a bit low, which is contrary to the results from the previous MSN article:

“…Among the 15 largest U.S. banks, the exchange rates ranged from 1.3000 at Citibank to 1.4400 at U.S. Bank…”

I eventually went to back to the BoA I checked out in the morning. And finished transaction.

PS, the previous experience I mentioned was due to the fee charged. They usually waive fees once the balance is over certain amount. This is true in most places including China.