5 money tips for parents with kids going back-to-school online

A year ago, back-to-school shopping was predictable: erasers, pencils, binders, you know the drill. This year, parents are doing the unimaginable. On top of back-to-school shopping for regular supplies, you’re searching for masks, desks, new WiFi packages and maybe these crazy new things called pandemic pods

Not sure what to do about it? Start with these 5 money tips for all you families going back-to-school online.

1. Address (but don’t stress!) the “what ifs” 

You and your kids might be playing the “what if” game right now, and a lot of your questions may be about money. Plan a day to hold a family town hall, and use this time to explain how virtual learning is affecting your finances. 

Answer your kids’ questions, ask them questions, and talk it out until you’re feeling ready to take on the new school year. You don’t need to pull up your master budgeting spreadsheet. Just show them how you’re cutting costs to afford new ones — or follow this helpful guide to make the conversation easier. 

2. Make savings goals as a family 

Young girl thinking

A recent Deloitte survey shows us a new spending category for back-to-school shopping this year: personal hygiene products and desks. You probably never thought you’d be buying masks and computer accessories for the new school year, did you? To make these new costs possible, saving will be important. 

Show your kids how you’re saving money. Then, set goals as a family! Maybe your goal is to limit spending on takeout or to put more of your paycheck in your emergency fund. Or maybe you’ll ask your kids to chip in for their school supplies — just have them set a savings goal in their Greenlight app. 

3. Divide and conquer (the house) 

Let’s be real — when you have a lot on your plate, one of the first things to take off your to-do list is household chores. You’re trying to work, teach, babysit, entertain and stay sane… and on top of that, you’re supposed to clean the house?!

Hand some chores over to your kids — we’ll get them all organized for you in your Greenlight app. Tell them they can earn more money if they double up on chores for the week (hello, negotiation skills!). Or explain to them that it’s part of their contribution to the house. 

This will save you time and give you a squeaky clean house. More importantly, it gives your kids a glimpse of the real world. They’ll have to choose how they want to manage their time, and they’ll get practice juggling different responsibilities. 

4. Team up with other families 

School supplies and calculator

It helps to know that you’re not going through this alone. Reach out to classmates’ parents, neighbors and family members for support and ideas about how to handle a semester of virtual learning. There are socially distanced ways to save money, time and hassle together — here are a few: 

  • Buy in bulk. Anything from school supplies to desk wipes can be bought in bulk so you and other families can save money. To keep your distance, you can quickly organize a bulk shopping drop-off. Smile and wave from afar!
  • Swap ideas. Some families are making private Facebook pages or group texts to chat about ways to save money and make virtual learning (and life!) easier. 
  • Join our Facebook group to connect with and learn from like-minded parents and Greenlight team members.
  • Start a group Pinterest board. Spread the knowledge with pictures, money-saving recipes and digital coupons. 

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help 

This goes for you AND your kids. We’re all experiencing challenges in different ways, and a lot of these challenges impact our money situations. We’re here to make saving easier, help you manage chores and set savings goals with your kids — but here are some additional resources that might be able to help. 

  • See if your family is eligible for benefits. There are lots of resources available on Benefits.gov.
  • Keep your kids busy, without extra work for you. We pulled together a list of resources that have worked for our Greenlight parents who are spending more time at home with their kids.
  • Access free books online. Wilbooks is a site with more than 2,000 free books online. They’re sorted by grade and language so you can quickly find books that are right for your kids. 
  • Use virtual afterschool programs. Mizzen by Mott is a free app that gives you lessons and fun activities to keep your students busy and engaged even when the school day is over. 

A hug from us to you

The best tip of all: take a deep breath when you need to. It’s hard to stay calm with questions and worries, but you’re not alone. We’re sending virtual hugs your way. Check back often for more tips on going back-to-school online — and if you haven’t already, download the Greenlight app and get started!

Meet Brynn, a 12-year-old entrepreneur using Greenlight to help kids beat cancer

You’ve probably heard: If you have a talent, use it. But how about “Use it for good?” That’s exactly what 12-year-old Brynn G. is doing. Not only does she make and donate custom face masks to schools, she also sells them — and gives 20% of sales to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Yep, that’s a whole lot of good.

Meet Brynn

Like most 7th graders, Brynn has plenty of energy. (Remember those days?) She spends her time cheerleading competitively, skateboarding and hanging out with friends — socially-distanced, of course. Here’s what makes her different: She runs a business. You heard that right — Brynn sews and sells face masks for her own company, B Creates. And she’s not planning on stopping any time soon.

How Brynn got started

Brynn honed her stitching skills alongside her grandma, who handed down the sewing machine she uses today. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that Brynn turned sewing into a business. One day at home, she used the extra material from cropping a shirt to make a face mask. Her mom posted it on Facebook and word got out: This girl’s got talent. So, she started making and selling custom masks. And just seven weeks later, she had already sold 569 masks!

Brynn gives 20% of her sales to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — to help save kids’ lives. Did we mention she chose that charity all on her own? Major kudos. Brynn has also donated 20 masks to her local elementary and middle school… because everyone deserves a cool, custom mask, right? Think: colorful leopard, purple cosmic swirls and our personal favorite, llamas.

While Brynn sews the masks herself, she passes over the iron to her mom, Janice, who’s been supportive since the start. At first, Brynn wasn’t so sure about her business idea. She thought she’d get 20 orders, if that. Talking it over with her parents gave Brynn the confidence to really go for it.

After seeing how much money Brynn was making from masks, Janice decided to open her a Greenlight account to track it all. Janice can transfer money from Facebook sales right to Brynn’s Spend or Save accounts — empowering her to take matters into her own hands. So while Brynn is in the business of creating, she’s also learning. And you can’t put a price on that.

What’s next?

Right now, Brynn is using her Greenlight account to save up for a new sewing machine, so she can make more masks and raise more money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The jury is still out on where she’ll buy the new machine, so Janice set her Greenlight account to Spend Anywhere, giving Brynn the “green light” to exercise responsible spending
 
If you’d like to support Brynn’s mask-making business, head to the B Creates Facebook Group. All of her masks are washable, reversible and only $5. And remember: 20% of sales go to help kids who are battling cancer.

6 signs your kids are ready for their first debit card

Letting your kids graduate from handling cash to carrying a debit card is a big milestone. And that leaves us with a big question: When’s the right time?

With the holidays around the corner and gifts to be bought, we’d venture to say right now is the perfect time. If you’re still on the fence, look out for these 6 signs that your kids are ready for their first debit card.

Sign #1: They’re always asking for cash (or worse, your debit card)

Hand them cash and they spend it. Lend your debit card and they lose it. Okay — we’ll give them more credit than that, but you can probably relate. While these options may get the job done, they don’t give you a long-term solution for sending money to your kids. 

With cash, kids won’t learn how to track their balances and set a budget. That’s where a debit card comes in handy — but instead of lending yours, you can get them a special one made just for them.

Sign #2: They’re starting to earn money

Vacuuming once a week or making the bed every day? We’ll leave that up to you. If your kids are starting to earn money — whether it’s an allowance or a part-time job —  they’re going to need a place to put it. And no, we’re not talking about piggy banks.

As soon as your kids start to earn, get them set up with the Greenlight card and app so they can complete chores and get paid an automated allowance. Ready for the best part? When they earn on their own, they’ll start to learn why it’s important to take good care of their money.

Sign #3: They’ve got spending down, but they could use help with saving 

Alright, so they’ve started spending money. That’s great! Spending wisely is a big life lesson on its own. But we have to ask… How are they doing with their savings?
 
The good news is you don’t have to have a long lecture about saving. They’ll learn all about it when they get a debit card and start handling money on their own. Plus, you can help them make saving a habit with automatic saving tricks, like Round Ups (so they send extra cents into savings) and Parent-Paid Interest (so you can set an interest rate on their savings).

Sign #4: They’re ready to buy things on their own

When your kids are starting to order pizza delivery or buy things online, they’ve already made the first step at managing their money. The next step is letting it happen — and putting guardrails in place to make sure they’re spending wisely and safely.
 
Every family is different, so you can use your Greenlight app to set spending limits that will work best for your kids. Let’s say one of your kids is already driving. You can set spending limits for gas only (no sneaky snacks from the gas station). Or maybe you have a child who loves spending at Target. You can set spending limits so those shopping trips don’t get too out of hand.

Sign #5: They’re thinking ahead

Ask your kids if they have anything big they’d like to save up for. Who knows? They may have big plans for their money. If they don’t, help them come up with savings goals. These savings goals can be short-term or long-term. 

Not sure where to start? Here are some of the most popular savings goals from our Greenlight families:

  • AirPods
  • Car 
  • Sneakers
  • College
  • Video games

Sign #6: They’re ready for the money talk

They’re asking you the difference between debit and credit. They’re wondering how much money you make. They’re buying you gifts for your birthday.

While these things may feel uncomfortable at first (talking about money is hard!), this is actually a sign that your kids are ready and willing to learn. Kids learn by doing, so there’s no need to sit down and have a napkin-math lesson on money management. That’s boring! Instead, get your kids their own debit card and let the learning happen naturally — with the help of Greenlight’s balance monitoring, real-time alerts and automated allowance to make your life easier at the same time.