Helping Your Teen Understand the Value of Money.

Teens love to spend money. They love to shop, go to the movies, or spend a day exploring a theme park with friends. They can't wait to take day trips to a concert or new attraction. But where exactly do they get all of this money? Do they know where it comes from, or does it seem to grow on trees?

In this modern day and age, teenagers are often provided with money as a simple commodity by family members. They get money as Christmas presents, and for our birthday. They get an automatic allowance at the end of each week, often regardless of work or behavior. So how are we surprised that teens no longer recognize the value of money?

teaching money value

Jobs.

Now, I'm sure there are other teenagers, like I was, who have gotten a job just to annoy their parents - but that's not very common! In order for teens to understand the value of their cash, they need to know where it comes from. Even if you make allowance contingent on doing a certain amount of work each week, that can help your teen realize that money requires work and dedication.

Taxes.

My parents did this with me when I was a teenager, and I hated it. However, it not only taught me money requires work, but it also taught me that our choices can affect that amount. If a teen does something inappropriate, they owe money. Every time I would do something rude to a sibling, I owed 5$ in fines. I'll tell you - I worked extra hard on the weeks I was grumpy, but otherwise behaved. Now, I am grateful for it because I understand exactly how things like tickets can affect us and how important it is to follow laws. To this day, I use this concept for purchases as well – if I know I’ll be losing money to a purchase, I make sure that I work harder and make that money back!

Budgeting.

Sit down with your teen and make a projected budget. Let your teen know how much they will have to make a month in order to live the lifestyle that they prefer.  While this may seem simple, it can be a real eye-opener. While you're at it, calculate how many hours they would have to work at minimum wage to make that much. It may just convince them that college or advanced education may be a necessary idea - or at least spur some research into careers that will sustain their desired cost of living.

Teaching a teen the value of money is surprisingly easy. You may find it difficult at times, but by taking a few extra minutes to go over a budget, or help fill out an application, you can easily help your teen build a respectful relationship with money and grow into a confident, independent adult!

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What Your Child Will Learn in Kindergarten

Kindergarten is an in-between year for children, and a very important one. We call it an in-between year because pre-school tends to be the nurturing environment all about transitioning your child from being home to being in a classroom, and first grade tends to hit the ground running with academics. Kindergarten is the year where your child learns what it means to keep a schedule, to have homework, to work and play well with others, and to learn the basics of each subject.

What Your Child Will Learn in Kindergarten

Life Skills

Kindergarten is where your child goes from being a dependent child to an independent kid, in many ways. Yes, they'll still need you in very obvious ways; but they'll start to develop of sense of schedule and structure to their days, and they won't need you to tell them when or how to do certain things anymore. Their teacher will help them to create and imbed a routine into their day to day that will do this. In addition, they'll learn the concept of “work and play”, and that they probably don't want to always to the “work” part, but they have to in order to get to the “play” part. They'll begin to develop friends and in many cases, people they don't really care for. They'll learn how to cope with all of these new people at the same time on a daily basis. Kindergarten is largely where they transition from being accommodated to, to accommodating their situation.

Creativity

They'll have done plenty of art and creative activities in pre-school, but kindergarten is where they're really encouraged to open up creatively in all their subjects. Many kids learn by seeing and doing, so you'll see them bring home lots of examples of that. Their budding personalities will tend toward some creative work over others, and that's ok, because that's what they're learning about themselves. The important thing is that they embrace creativity and the fact that in many circumstances, there's no right and no wrong when it comes down to it. They're free to be who they are in whatever creative capacity.

Foundations

First grade is where subjects really take off with academia, but kindergarten is largely about reading, writing and arithmetic. This is where the foundation for these subjects starts, as well as for the subjects that come later: history, science, language, reading, math, etcetera. Kindergarten is a springboard for future learning, and should really be an introductory time that sparks a child's interest to promote future educational efforts.

Most of all, kindergarten is the perfect time for you to come along side your child to help them learn and understand all that they're taking in. These years will go by so fast, anyway, that you'll want to do that just to soak in this beautiful time of curiosity and learning for your child.

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Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten

Going off to kindergarten can be a scary experience for a child. He or she will be in new surroundings with all new people. And kindergarten isn’t just all play. Teachers will introduce new skills to your child; you’ll want to make sure his or her first impression of “school” and learning is a positive one. Here are eight ways you can help your child prepare.

Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten

  1. Keep your child healthy. Numerous studies have shown that well-nourished, well-rested children learn the best. Even if your school does not require it, make sure your child has had a recent physical exam and is up to date on immunizations before starting kindergarten.

 

  1. Develop routines. Choose regular times for your child to wake up, go to bed, eat, play and sleep each day. When it comes time to go to kindergarten, your child will more easily accept this as just a new addition to his or her routine rather than a completely disruptive occurrence.

 

  1. Encourage socialization. A large part of your child’s day in kindergarten is spent working with other children, whether in play or collaborating on a project. While your child probably has a neighborhood friend or two, he or she may not have spent much, if any, time in groups of children. You might try enrolling your child in a group activity such as gymnastics, art, or a summer camp program. Playgrounds and pools are also good places for he or she to meet and interact other children. To help your child navigate these activities or outings successfully, encourage him or her to practice taking turns, sharing, and following simple directions. These outings will also help your child learn to separate from you more easily.

 

  1. Build self-awareness. Help your child memorize basic information about himself such as the spelling of his name, his age, birthday, address, and phone number. If possible, teach your child how to write his name using correct upper and lower case letters.

 

  1. Develop basic skills. Work with your child to help him or her recognize letters, numbers, colors, shapes and sizes. You can easily do this during every day activities. For example, you can ask your child to identify the colors of the foods he eats or help you count the number of items you put in your grocery cart.

 

  1. Make words a priority. Make reading a daily activity. Read to him as often as you can during the day. You can read books to him but you can increase the time spent with words by reading magazines, junk mail, shopping lists or whatever is at hand. Making rhymes is also a good way to play with words and engage your child. In addition, help your child learn to recognize some common sight words, like “stop” and “go.”

 

  1. Practice physical skills. Your child should know how to grip a pencil or crayon correctly as well as how to use basic art materials such as scissors, glue and paint. In addition, your child should know how to handle his bathroom needs by himself.

 

  1. Talk about kindergarten. Build enthusiasm by explaining what fun things your child can expect in kindergarten. If possible, take him or her to the school beforehand to check out the classroom. Have your child help shop for school clothes or supplies.

 

For a more detailed list of 33 ways to prepare your child for kindergarten, divided by groupings such as social or language development visit the I Can Teach My Child website. (http://www.icanteachmychild.com/2012/03/71-things-your-child-needs-to-know- before-kindergarten/)

 

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Introduction to the 529 College Savings Plan

College Savings Plan

Have you started your family and are wondering how you’re going to pay for college in the next 15 to 18 years?  Many families’ are facing this as well.

One of the best things you can investigate is the possibility of contributing to a 529 college savings plan.  But what, exactly, it is that and how can it help you?

Here’s some information to get you started learning about the possibilities for saving for your child’s college education.

What It Is

A 529 college education plan is something operated by your state or educational institution to allow you to save money now for future college expenses.

It got its name from the section of the internal revenue code that provides for this kind of savings.  These savings plans began in 1996.

How to Start

Do a little research and find out if the state in which you reside has at least one 529 college savings plan.  Some states offer more than one plan and you’ll also want to investigate the educational institutions you think your child might be interested in.

Obviously, if your children are very young, it’s nearly impossible to figure out where they would like to go to college.  But, you can start with your alma mater and see what kind of 529 savings plan they offer.

State Specific?

Fortunately, you can live in any state of the union and invest in a 529 savings plan.  The choice of school is not affected by the state in which you live.

For instance, you can be a Texas resident, invest in a college savings plan in New York and then send your college student to school in South Carolina.

The Tax Benefits

Having a tax benefit for contributing to a 529 college savings plan is one of the biggest incentives for doing it.  The plan you choose needs to satisfy some basic tax requirements and some states even offer tax incentives to investors as well.

Your contributions to a 529 savings plan are not deductible on your Federal tax return but your investment will grow in a tax deferred manner and distributions to help pay for your child’s college costs are federally tax free.

The state in which you live may also offer some tax breaks such as an upfront deduction for your contribution or an income exemption on withdrawals.  Check with your state to see if there are any benefits for you.

How Plans are Categorized

529 savings plans are usually set up as either prepaid plans or savings plans.  What’s the difference?

Savings plans: The savings plans work very much like a 401 K or an IRA by investing your contributions in mutual funds or something similar to that.  Your fund will go up or down in value based on the stock market and you should certainly investigate the level of risk particular plans offer.

The prepaid plans: You can prepay all or part of the costs of a state public education with one of these plans.  This can also be used for private and out of state colleges as well.

A 529 college savings plan started early can help defray ever rising costs of a college education.

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What to Do When You Can’t Sleep at Night

Insomnia

You know what this feels like.  You start falling asleep in front of the TV and decide it’s time to head to bed.

You get in bed, snuggle down and ba-bam.  You’re awake.  Maybe you even flop like a fish turning over and over until you can’t stand it anymore.

We’ve all been there and it’s even more stressful at the holidays.  Here are some tips to help you get disease you need every night.

Make It a Priority

You need to get serious about going to sleep.  This means you don’t turn on the TV after you’ve gotten in bed or play Words with Friends on your iPad.

Yes, it’s fine to read for a little bit.  But then close your book and close your eyes.

Avoiding the Caffeine Buzz

It’s fine to have those requisite cups of coffee in the morning but, to be able to fall asleep easily at night, you’ll want to take a pass on caffeine after noon.

And definitely don’t order a post-dinner cup of coffee when you’re at a restaurant or even sip a cappuccino at home before bed.

Why?

Because it takes as much as seven hours to get a stimulant out of your system depending on your sensitivity.  Too much caffeine at night can also stimulate overnight urination which means you have to wake up to go to the bathroom.

Exercise

There is tons of research that supports regular exercise as a means of good sleep.  And you know that when you sleep well, you have more energy for your day ahead and can that helps you keep up with your exercise routine.

It is suggested, however, that you do not do vigorous exercise in the evening because that ramps up your adrenaline and could keep you from falling asleep easily.

Watch the Booze

Nightcaps be really tempting, can’t they?  When it’s cold outside, coming in for a hot toddy or having a bit of brandy or cognac before bed is often a welcome treat.

Research studies shows that too much alcohol will destroy your REM sleep which is the cycle that gives you the most refreshing slumber.

And, just like any other liquid, drinking alcohol just before bed or even in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep sets you up for bathroom visits all night long.

Try to Relax

Making a transition from your stressful workday into a more relaxing evening is sometimes difficult especially if you’ve home to a mountain of bills or family issues.  If you find you’re having more and more days that are packed with never ending to-do lists, make sure to do something for yourself in the evening like a warm bath or having a cup of herbal tea.

Evening is also a great time to add some meditation into your schedule.  Tell your family you need half an hour and find a quiet place where you can sit by yourself.

Adding in these surefire steps to your life will help you sleep like a baby tonight.

 

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Kid Friendly Restaurants

Kid Friendly Restaurants

When you think of the phrase “kid friendly” and pair it with restaurants, it really has everything to do with their menu.  Having options for younger kids and even older ones makes taking your children out to eat so much more fun.

Here are some ideas for kid friendly restaurants.  Not all of them will be in the area where you live but, hopefully, some of them will be.

Denny’s

This restaurant may be the butt of some jokes in TV commercials, but is a fabulously kid friendly restaurant.  Who wouldn’t love pancakes for dinner?

One of the things we’re really like about Denny’s is that they make an effort to give diners nutrition and allergy information right on the menu.  This is really helpful if you have a kid who’s allergic to nuts and you need to make sure that a particular dish is safe for her.

Red Robin (Yum!)

Besides having a very catchy theme song, this restaurant is a great place to take the family especially for a kid’s birthday.  They have a mascot that comes out and makes a special appearance and there are tons of balloons for your birthday girl or boy.  They are always enhancing and changing their child’s menu and even adding some healthy options like veggie burgers and side dishes of fruit and vegetables.

Is your 6 to 12 year-old a future top chef?  Every year, Red Robin sponsors a recipe contest that goes into their cookbook.  All proceeds from cookbook sales go to charity.

Chili’s

This popular chain has been adding to its kids menu steadily for years.  There are some entrees like grilled chicken, pasta and pizza.  They also have side dishes like corn, mandarin oranges and pineapple.

Mimi’s Café

If you come into the restaurant with some hyper kids and you really need to get some food into them quickly, this is the restaurant for you.  They have a free appetizer plate that includes Cheerios, oranges and crackers.  Just the thing to quiet down some antsy kids.

Their kids’ menu options include choices like soup and salad and spaghetti.  Side dishes include mashed potatoes, fruit and applesauce.  Bibs and hand wipes are given to all families with young children and there are changing tables in all of the restrooms.

Soup Plantation

This chain also goes by another name outside California which is Sweet Tomatoes.  The thing we adore about this chain is that it’s perfect for frugal families.  Adults can eat for less than $10 and about five bucks for kids three and over.  It features a pasta station, soups and a 55-foot long salad bar with plenty of fruits and vegetables.  And they don’t forget the dessert in their fabulous bakery section.

Chuck E. Cheese

This wouldn’t be a kid friendly restaurants blog post without mention of Chuck E. Cheese.  This seems to be the place to take kids for blow-out birthday parties and fun entertainment in addition to fantastic pizzas.

So get ready, pack up those kids and take them to your nearby kid friendly restaurants for family fun and a great meal.

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Skip the Pets for Easter

Rabbit bunny and duckling are friends

Every Easter we’re inundated with images of cute chicks, ducklings and baby bunnies. They’re used to sell candy, Easter baskets and to advertise holiday sales. If you’re a mom and your child is old enough to talk, you’ve probably heard pleas for a pet rabbit or chick for Easter. It’s hard to say "no" to a child’s holiday request, but in this case, you should skip the pets for Easter. Here are some reasons for you to use to explain to your children why buying a baby rabbit, duck or chick is a bad idea.

Baby Animals Need Their Mother & Extra Care

Even very young children can understand the concept that babies need the care of their mother. Chicks and ducks may not live long on their own. It would be heartbreaking for a child to find their pet dead. Chicks must be kept warm and fed properly. If not, they’ll get sick and vets are unlikely to be able to treat a sick baby chicken. Baby rabbits may fare slightly better than chicks if they aren’t very young, but they can still suffer separation anxiety, refuse to eat or get sick.

Babies Grow Up

You’ll need a coop outside for a chicken, and both indoor and outdoor accommodations for a grown rabbit. Children will almost always lose interest in caring for a grown chicken. Adult rabbits need large habitats and need to spend time outside. Are you prepared to set up a chicken coop and care for an adult chicken for the remainder of its life? Does your neighborhood (and climate) allow livestock? Is your child old enough to keep a rabbit’s cage clean and spend time with it outside? Do you have time to clean a cage daily and take the rabbit out if your child can’t? The answer to all of those questions is probably “no.” Keep in mind that adult rabbits, chickens and ducks can also be aggressive. A peck or a bite often results in the animal being taken to a farm or shelter.

Almost every town or city has a petting zoo where children can interact with all sorts of small farm animals. You can often find petting zoos at local farms or regular zoos. Explain the needs of chicks, ducks and bunnies to your children, and then buy stuffed animals instead. It’s better for the live animals and your family!

 

Holidays: Giving and Sharing

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The holidays are a very exciting time of the year, especially for children. It is a time when we spend time with the people we love and enjoy good food. It is also a time where we have the privilege of giving and receiving great gifts. However, it is very easy for us to forget about those who are less fortunate during this time of the year. Many people lack the basic necessities, and others have been affected by the poor economy, so it is important for people to make a tradition of sharing with those in need if they are able to help.

You should also teach your children the importance of sharing and giving. If you teach your children about giving now, then they will most likely continue to help people when they get older. Below are some of the ways that you and your children can help others during the holidays:

Help a Food Drive

Many non-profit organizations hold food drives throughout the holiday season and are in need of people to donate food. You should buy some food for a food drive and take your children with you. Explain to your children that some people are unable to purchase food and need other people to help them. Canned meat/fish, canned packaged meals, canned fruit, vegetables, peanut butter and boxed meals are examples of some of the items that you can donate to a food drive. Many grocery stores and businesses have food barrels during the holidays, but food banks need help year-round. You may also want to consider volunteering at a food bank. Donating your time is just as important as donating food!

Buying Presents For A Toy Drive

Many children would not get anything for Christmas if it was not for the generous donations of other people. That is why you may want to consider buying some presents for a Christmas Giving Tree Project or local toy drive. Donations typically need to be new and unwrapped. This is another way that you can teach your children to help other children, who are less fortunate.

Donate Warm Coats

Warm coats are something that most of us take for granted. You should donate unneeded warm coats to people who are less fortunate. One Warm Coat is an organization that accepts coat donations for people who are in need, as well as gloves and scarves.

Hopefully your children will better appreciate what they have and come to enjoy giving to others.

 

Party Drinks for Kids

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Holiday parties are a time for family and friends to get together to celebrate. Hosting a party is fun and rewarding, but it takes a little extra consideration to make sure that everyone feels included. Non-alcoholic party drinks for kids will let them feel like a part of the grown up crowd.

Tropical, Fruity Drinks

Children are attracted to bright colors, which makes tropical fruity drink variations a sure hit at any gathering. Sweet punches are easy to make and can be modified in ways that appeal to the younger taste, and also fit the theme of the holidays.

Lime Sherbet Punch

  • 2 Quarts of Lime Sherbet
  • 2 Liters of Ginger Ale or Sprite
  • 1 Can of Pineapple Juice
  • Assorted Fruit (orange slices, Maraschino cherries)

Mix all of the ingredients into a big bowl. This punch is a bright, festive green color. The additional fruit and floating sherbet dress up the presentation, intriguing kids to take a taste. If they're old enough, let them stir up the punch. You can also make ice cubes in advance using the juice instead of water.

Mocktails

Non-alcoholic versions of popular drinks are perfect for teenagers who want to taste classic recipes but are not yet old enough for liquor. Consider having a signature cocktail for the night, one for adults and one suitable for the kids to drink. A Pina Colada is simple to make, and can be dressed up for a holiday party with creative garnishes.

Virgin Pina Colada

  • 1/4 Cup of Ice
  • 1 Cup of Pineapple Juice
  • 1 Cup of Coconut Milk
  • 1 Cup of Pineapple Chunks

Blend all of these ingredients for up to 4 servings at a time. To make a few batches ahead of time, repeat the recipe and add the finished product into a punch bowl.

Serving Tips

Let the kids use fancy cocktail glasses or holiday theme glasses for their drinks, but be sure they are easy to distinguish from the ones used by adults. Let them have fun decorating their drinks with an assortment of garnishes that can be set out buffet style. Demonstrate how to add a wedge of fruit to the side of the glass. Also create small skewers of cherries, grapes, and other small fruit to make non-alcoholic drinks as fun as real cocktails.

 

Getting Ready for School (Yea!)

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With fall quickly approaching, many moms can become daunted by the idea of beginning the school year without enough supplies and clothing that will last for the next nine months. With enough preparation and budgeting, it can become easier to afford clothing and supplies for multiple children without having to cut corners.

Save Money on School Supplies

Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the long list of supplies requested by your kids' new teachers, plan ahead by clipping coupons and stocking up when deals are available during the summer and when the supplies are in low demand. Ditch the dollar store when looking for crayons and pencils for preschoolers, which are low-quality and will likely need to be replaced after just a few uses.

Companies like Wal-Mart and Best Buy also work to price match, making it easier to make larger purchases for teenagers, who may need more than the family computer. Simply bring in the ad from a competing store to obtain the same price by either of the retailers.

Prepare for the year by shopping with stores' discount programs, such as Cartwheel at Target, which can help rake in more savings. You can use any coupons and your Target Red card savings (5% off) in addition to the Cartwheel discounts. Target often has their own coupons online for products which are also on sale that week, so a little prep work can save money.

Buy Used Items

Purchasing used items at thrift stores, second-hand stores, or even yard sales can provide an effective way of getting enough clothing for the entire year. It will make it easier to stay current with the latest styles for teens without feeling bad about how many items are purchased.

Try to pass down clothing through siblings as much as possible, which will relieve extra pressure on the budget and make use of quality items.

Stock Up By Doubling Coupons

If you are lucky enough to have stores in your area that double coupons, take advantage! Several blogs and newsletters provide information on when specific stores have products that are selling at low prices by doubling coupons. Purchasing pencils, folders, and even uniforms for kids in grade school can cost less with both a store coupon and manufacturer coupon used, making it easy to stock up and never pay full price.

Exchange Uniforms

Uniforms can often be the most expensive purchase when it's time to prepare for the coming year, costing hundreds of dollars on pieces that can only be worn for several months to a year. Take advantage of uniform exchange programs, consulting with consignment stores or even looking online.