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Your money how to pack light and make your holiday cheaper

(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)By Chris TaylorNEW YORK Dec 22 As people enter the holiday rush and head to their vacations, odds are they are laden with multiple heavy bags. And you know what that means: Get the credit card ready for some cruel and unusual punishment. Virtually every airline now charges for checked bags on domestic flights - usually $25 for the first one, $35 for the next, with additional fees for baggage that exceeds weight limits. Even JetBlue finally caved. The only way to game the system nowadays is to adopt a carry-on only lifestyle. Learn to pack light, and you could save hundreds of dollars a year. To do that right, you will need to talk to Alexandra Jimenez. The Los Angeles native and author of "Pack Light Stylishly" ( has been traveling the world for years - Reuters reached her on the phone in Mexico - with nothing but a carry-on. Here are her best tips for downsizing your life, and saving a ton of money in the this site: How did you become such a guru on the issue of packing light?A: I have been on the road since 2008, and I just got tired of lugging around heavy bags all the time. I became obsessed with the idea of packing as light as possible. When I saw other travelers with small bags, I would interview them about how they did it.

Q: What is one of your secrets?A: The most effective one is the use of packing cubes. They are organizational tools that are used to compress your stuff, kind of like sleeping-bag cases do. They take big bulky things and make them smaller, so they are the first step in minimizing your suitcase. Q: What about reducing volume overall?

A: The next step is to downsize your weight as well as your size. To do that, you need to pack the right kind of fabrics. Especially in winter, most people pack big, chunky clothing items that take up most of a suitcase. But these days, there are thin, lightweight materials that can be just as warm or warmer. Fitness-type fabrics, like the kind that runners wear, are great for that. Savvy travelers also wear a lot of merino wool, which is very thin but a terrific insulator. Q: What do hardcore travelers know about packing that the rest of us do not?A: One of our biggest secrets is that we re-wear clothing. If you are going on a weeklong trip, you don't need seven tops and seven bottoms. You just need a few items that are extremely versatile and don't need to be constantly washed. Jeans are great for that.

Q: What are a few things most travelers get wrong about packing?A: For women, it's shoes. You don't need 10 pairs; you need three pairs at most, which go with everything. People also go crazy with toiletries, bringing things like Costco-sized shampoo bottles. Just bring small-size travel containers that conform to federal travel regulations. People also forget to simply check the weather forecast at their destinations. You don't have to pack for five different climates if it is going to be the same weather all week. Finally, people tend to pack according to some travel fantasy about what they think they will do, rather than what they actually do. So they pack outfits for multiple five-star dinners in Paris, when in reality they just wear their favorite comfortable outfit all week long. Q: How much money can people save if they learn these skills?A: Even occasional travelers could save hundreds a year, and frequent travelers even more than that. After all, it defeats the purpose of finding amazing flight deals, if you are going spend $50 or more on checked bags every single time. But packing light is not just about avoiding baggage fees. It actually makes your trip much more enjoyable, because you aren't dragging around all these heavy bags anymore. It changed my life.

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Your money lessons on life, and money, at summer camp

Feb 12 Parents who are about to write big checks for summer camp deposits may want to pause and consider if they've made the best choice of camp so their kids have a great social experience - but don't get over-indulged. That's one of the messages in a new financial guide to raising kids, "The Opposite of Spoiled," by the New York Times's "Your Money" columnist, Ron Lieber. Among all the ways parents spend money on their kids, Lieber says summer camp provides a great opportunity to reinforce some solid values. Pick the wrong kind of camp, and you wind up spoiling your kids more, he says. Reuters spoke with Lieber about how to make sure you end up on the right side of the this site: How do you find a camp that suits your family's values?A: Certainly ask around in your community. Resist the idea of going where all the other kids are going. You can also talk to camp consultants. Then take a look around on visiting day. How are the people dressed? What do they look like? What cars are they driving? And ask yourself: Are these the sorts of people who are demonstrating the kinds of values you have in your life?

Q: You mostly refer to overnight camp in your book because it puts children in a completely new and separate environment. Do kids get the same financial lessons at day camp?A: There are all sorts of things you can accomplish with day camp. I think of day camp as the outdoor variety at the local park - every community has a version of this - and not the high-end day camp with the heated swimming pool and air-conditioning everywhere. Q: What do you think of specialty camps - for drama or sports - that focus intensely on one interest rather than just general fun?A: For children with true passion who are pursuing it because they really love art or coding, that's something worth investing in - if it's really coming from the child.

One hint is that they are asking to do it. The context of the choices is useful to present in financial terms. They might institute a form of symbolic deprivation. Maybe it will be $3,000 for the summer, and the child can decide what's important to him or her. It forces kids to make trade-offs. Q: Should you tell your children how much summer camp costs, or does that put too much pressure on them?

A: Tell them when they're able to do the math. But if there are sacrifices that the families have to make, it's worth bringing the kids in on that so they can be part of picking the trade-offs. Maybe they'd like to not go out to dinner to afford to go to a special camp. Q: Summer camp is usually a moneyless micro-society, so what can kids actually learn about money?A: One of the nice things about camp is that everyone comes in with the same sets of things. Some may have slightly different clothes, but if you bring too much, they send it back. Nobody gets special food or has a special lunch unless they have allergies. It's not a way to learn about having less money, it's a way to learn about having less stuff - less of the regular urban or suburban upper-middle-class existence. Kids don't really need all of that stuff that surrounds them the other 10 months of the year. They don't need their own bathroom, they don't even need a door on the bathroom. They don't need electronic entertainment. They need one another and their imaginations. Those lessons are the ones that they carry with them. It helps give them perspective.