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One last time: Leave the TV off and live smartly

January 15, 2005

STEVE SMITH

This is my last "Family Time" column.

Now before you get out either the champagne or the Kleenex, you

should know that I'll still be writing for the Daily Pilot. You'll

find out more about that role in the days to come.

There aren't really any final words. We are fortunate to live in a

part of the state where the importance of strong family ties is a

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priority, even if we do hear too many sad stories about divorce,

abuse or neglect.

I have no doubt that family stories will work their way into some

future stories.

But for now, it's over.

Strong families are one of America's most important assets. It's

true that we're not always doing the best possible job, but the whole

nature of parenting has changed, even since Cay and I began this

journey over 14 years ago. Today's parents have more challenges than

parents who raised their kids 20 years ago.

So in parting, I want to offer an edited version of my unsolicited

advice to parents on what you can do to strengthen your family.

* Live close to work. Last year, the Automobile Club of Southern

California estimated that it cost 59 cents a mile to operate a 2003

SUV. Some cars that were not gas-guzzlers were slightly less, but not

much. The cost of gasoline is only part of the story. Add payments,

insurance, tolls, maintenance, repairs, citations and, perhaps most

important, all of the goodies that commuters treat themselves with

every week and you have a very expensive habit.

If you commute, do the math. Calculate an honest cost of driving

to your job. If you're like most commuters, you can find a job close

to home with a significant pay cut and never notice the difference in

your lifestyle. In addition, you'll have a lot more family time and a

lot less stress.

* Pay cash for everything. Credit card usage forces you to live

beyond your means. Credit card usage forces you to work more. Working

more causes you to spend less time with your family.

If you are one of the millions of American families that finds

itself using credit cards as a routine way of living, you must

develop a plan to stop. If you're only making the minimum monthly

payments on your card(s), figure out a way to pay more each month. It

may mean that you have to drive past Starbucks from now on or eat at

home instead of going to Mi Casa, but it beats being a slave to a

credit card company.

Oh, and if you buy something on sale with a credit card, you're

not buying it on sale.

* Buy what you need, not what you want. America's prosperity has

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