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It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year to Save and Budget

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us! There’s no better time than now to take up the topic of budgeting and saving with the family. The National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday retail sales will be up 4.2% over 2018, for a total of $730.7 billion spent on gifts for family and friends! Before your kids make their holiday gift lists, start conversations on how to set budgets and save up.

Bring on the budget

Setting a clear budget for the holidays and sticking to it will show your kids they don’t have to go into debt to have a holly jolly holiday season. The average American took on more than $1,000 in debt during the holiday season in 2018, so showing kids the importance of setting a budget, planning for the budget (calculating how much everything will cost for the season and how much they will need to save) and how to stay within the budget will serve them in the future. 

Make a list (check it twice)

Lists aren’t just for Santa Claus to find out who’s naughty or nice during the holiday season — they’re the perfect tool to help stay on budget when it comes to spending.

Before heading out to a store or logging onto Amazon, ask your kids to make a list of who they want to buy presents for and if they know what they plan to get each person (if so, have them add their gift idea to the list). To make sure your child doesn’t run through their holiday budget, ask them to look into the price of what they want to buy before they plan to shop for it.

Having a list to work through will keep shopping focused, both in-store or online, if you’re out shopping on Black Friday or going after deals on Cyber Monday, teach your kids focus is key.

Set a savings goal 

Within the Greenlight app, encourage your kids to set up Saving Goals, specifically for holiday. Perhaps they name it their Christmas Fund or their Gift Goals. Here’s how to set up a Saving Goal: 

  1.     Navigate to your “Save” tab.
  2.     Tap “Add a Savings Goal.”
  3.     Enter a title or description of what you will be saving for.
  4.     Enter a goal amount.
  5.     Tap “Add Savings Goal” to complete the set-up process.

Parents, remember that your kids need permission to spend their savings. As they move money out of their Saving Goals into a spending greenlight, they’ll send you a request. Be on the lookout for when it’s time for them to cross holiday shopping off their to-do list.

The season for deals and shopping steals 

After your kids have saved to meet their holiday Saving Goals, it’s important to talk them through smart spending. The holidays are a great time to teach bargain shopping (especially with a budget in mind). Here are the three shopping days you and your family should consider for deals and steals: 

  • Black Friday: The day after Thanksgiving is considered to be one of the busiest retail days of the year and it’s known for its big sales, discounted prices and often crazy in-store crowds. Black Friday is a good day to teach your kids how to navigate in-store experiences and what it’s like to shop with specific items in mind. It’s never too early to start shopping Black Friday deals, you can check out a comprehensive guide here.
  • Small Business Saturday: The Saturday after Thanksgiving (also known as Shop Small Saturday) is an opportunity to teach your kids about supporting locally owned businesses and small, unique brick and mortars in your neighborhood.
  • Cyber Monday: The Monday after Thanksgiving, known as Cyber Monday, is the hottest day for online retailers to offer some of their best deals for the season. Can’t make it to the mall on Black Friday? Consider shopping Cyber Monday deals from the comfort of your own home. 

Talking to kids about sales, coupons, discounts and the benefits of when to shop in-person and online can help create savvy shoppers for life. 

A little thoughtfulness won’t break the bank 

Gift giving often becomes a major focus during the holiday season, but not all gifts have to come from a store. Some of the most thoughtful gifts come straight from the heart. When your kids are making their holiday gift giving lists, make sure to have the conversation that small, thoughtful gifts can go a long way. 

Cookies, DIY ornaments, arts and crafts projects, handwritten cards and random acts of kindness to those we know and love won’t break the bank. And the warm and fuzzy feeling they bring about is what the holiday season is all about after all.

Add Parent-Paid Interest 

Parents, to encourage saving, consider adding Parent-Paid Interest within the Greenlight app. 

Greenlight offers parents the opportunity to set and pay interest rates on savings to demonstrate the magic of compound interest. Here’s how to set up parent-paid interest!

Get ahead for the holidays with Greenlight

Join Greenlight today to encourage wise saving and smart spending ahead of the winter holidays. Set up a holiday specific savings goal today!

The Fundamentals of Wants and Needs

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were financially-smart kids. The secret to setting your kids up for a solid financial future is to start with the basics. Deeper than the value of a dollar, budgets and why it’s so important to save lies the very basic lesson of: wants and needs are not the same thing. 

While the difference between wants and needs may feel straight forward to grownups, the concept can be complex to kids. Breaking down needs, wants, the fine line between the two and how to make trade-off decisions is critical for instilling money management and financial planning skills. 

Know your needs

Needs are essentials. When teaching your kids how to determine what a need is, it’s important to highlight what is a true necessity and what is a needy request —it’s all about perspective. Here are the categories we consider bare necessities: 

  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Food
  • Water

We find that getting as specific as possible when explaining necessities helps kids master the concept and begin to apply it in real-life trade-off decisions. 

Tell me what you want, what you really, really want

If you’re a parent, you’re probably used to hearing the rally cry “I want _____” from your kids. Wants can be described as the things your kids may circle in a magazine or put on an Amazon wish list for the holiday season. Greenlight mom Bonnie Koon even shared that her son once requested $10,000 via his Greenlight app. 

Wants are often inspired by peers, pop culture and hobbies. Here are some hopeful requests made by Greenlight kids. We’ll wait while you have a giggle or two.

When raising financially-smart kids, it’s important for parents to let their kids know that wants are a part of life but making smart choices around those wants will set them up for success. 

The gray area 

No lesson in needs and wants with a child is going to be easy peasy lemon squeezy, so it’s important to get specific for clarity’s sake when dealing with such an abstract conversation. 

Is ice cream a food? Yes, but ice cream is certainly not a necessity. Are Yeezy’s shoes? Yes, but $300 for a pair of shoes is not necessary or a requirement. 

It’s important for parents to let their kids know that it’s okay to want certain things. But making smart choices around those wants will set them up for success. In general, having a discussion around “wanting” things in life can be a powerful and inspirational discussion. You can want to make the soccer team. Want to be president. Want to have a family when you grow up. It is wants and dreams that put humans on the moon and brought us Beyonce. But when it comes to finances – you can’t always get what you want.

Being able to tackle these types of questions head-first will help kids understand the true meaning of a necessity instead of something they very much want, crave or think they need to meet the status quo. 

One way to help kids fully understands wants and needs would be to have them write a list of what they think are needs and what they think are wants. From there, break down needs — if they are a true necessity or not — and tackle what goes into getting a want (such as saving for that pair of Yeezy’s or picking up extra babysitting opportunities to help pay for the spring break trip to New York City). To take it a step further, discuss a budget of $1,000 with your child and include a mix of needs (rent/groceries/phone or car payment) and wants (a new iPhone/concert tickets/new shoes) to showcase that all needs must be met before money goes to wants. 

Want it? Save for it 

Wants and needs make a perfect opportunity to teach the importance of saving money to reach a goal. Want a new pair of jeans? Save for it. Have $100 extra each month after covering necessities? Add extra money to your savings goal to buy a new MacBook. These wants can act as perfect motivators to increase saving.

Setting up clear savings goals with Greenlight will not only teach kids how to set a savings goal and budget to meet their desired goal, but it will motivate them to save more in the long run. We’ll be talking more about saving in November, so stay tuned for tips from Greenlight families on how to have the right money talks.

Save with Greenlight 

Set up a Greenlight savings goal today!

Stops on a summer roadtrip.

Summer Spending & Saving with Greenlight

Summers are busy. Between visits to grandma, beach trips, summer camp, and the inaugural summer job (!), your kids may be spending tons of time away from home. Throughout the coordinated chaos, Summer offers great opportunities to continue money talks with your kids.

Family Vacations

Many families go on summer trips. In fact, 68% of you fine American families* will hit the road before school starts. 

Use this as an opportunity to talk to your kids about the value of saving. Discuss the tradeoffs you made throughout the year to fund your excursion and talk about the specific costs associated with you trip. 

Scholastic has a lesson with a couple handy worksheets – including a trip cost calculator in case you need a bit of help. (Don’t worry – we also learned a thing or two.)

Summer Jobs

For parents of teens, this summer may be the first one employed, and may it be the first of many. Before your kids pull out their Greenlight card to spend all of their Friday paycheck on Fortnight Battlepacks, remind them of the practice of saving. 

Work with them to develop a distribution plan for their paychecks. How much will they put into Save, Spend and Give accounts on a regular basis?

The first job is probably the first time your kids encounter the not-so-simple world of income taxes. And before you click away from this page in search of safer waters, know that the earlier you approach the subject of Uncle Sam with your kids, the more prepared they’ll be when the leave the house. 

Going over their pay stub is a great way to show teens how taxes impact their take-home pay. Talk with them about the purpose of social security, medicare, federal, state and local taxes. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a simple guide to the anatomy of a paycheck that may help. Remind them that smart budgeting (see savings tip above), helps you account for the tax you pay.

(Side note: did you know teens can directly deposit their paychecks into their Greenlight accounts?)

Back to School

In 2018, Deloitte estimated families spent $510 per child**, on average, on back to school expenses. Between clothes, electronics and general supplies, that’s a hefty penny. And also an opportunity to reinforce the conversation of budgeting, especially when it comes with the price tag of a new school year. 

Later in July, we’ll talk about how to instill healthy money habits into routines as the kids go back to school. Follow us on social media for the latest tips and tricks about money talks and recent updates to the Greenlight app.

Don’t have Greenlight yet? 

Get started by signing your family up today.

*2019 AAA Travel Survey

**Deloitte 2019 Back to School Survey


Greenlight Kids Save 3 Times More than the Average U.S. Household

As the average U.S. household debt continues to rise, Greenlight families are seeing a different trend. We’re thrilled to announce today that Greenlight kids have saved more than $1 million dollars using Greenlight Savings, The Educational Savings Account for Kids. Official story here. With the average U.S. household savings rate at 2.8%, Greenlight kids are saving a whopping 8.4% of their money on average. That’s triple the national average!  

The Educational Savings Account for Kids allows kids to see real growth in their savings account, how interest works over time, and the impact of spending versus saving, which helps them understand the importance of saving for the future. Not only that, but parents can set their own interest rate and pay the interest automatically within the child’s Greenlight Savings. The national average interest rate for bank savings accounts is 0.08%, making it difficult to educate kids on the value of savings. The average interest rate set by Greenlight parents is 19.84% enabling kids to see the benefits and importance of savings almost immediately.

Since April, Greenlight kids have more than quadrupled the amount of money in their savings accounts. We are proud to continue offering new features like the Educational Savings Account for Kids as an option that is convenient for families and offers flexibility for each family and each child’s unique needs. We are helping parents teach their kids to be smart about money and set them up for success financially, and are hopeful that impact can change the financial course for a new generation.

We’re on a mission to help parents raise financially-smart kids and are thrilled to see so many families using Greenlight Savings to teach their kids the importance of saving. But, we’re not done just yet. We have several new features that we’re excited to release in the near future. Stay tuned!

 

Greenlight Savings: The new way to teach your kids the value of saving money

The money conversation. It can be one of the hardest conversations we have with our kids (let’s be real: it can be one of the hardest conversations we have with anyone). But it’s also one of the most important conversations we have to have as parents.

4 Ways to Help Big Spenders See the Value of Saving

Many kids see saving as the most un-fun part of having their own money. Totally understandable. Many adults aren’t wild about saving money, either. However, saving is definitely an important 1/3 of the Key Three Money Skills: spending, saving, and giving.

To be fair, the saving skill may be a bit harder to teach kids who are natural-born spenders. And yes, it is possible for a human to be wired as either a natural spender or a natural saver. Parenting odds being what they are, there’s also a pretty good chance that your kid’s inborn money temperament is the polar opposite of yours. So if you’re a great saver, your kid probably can’t wait to spend his green on anything that floats in front of him.

If your child happens to be a natural saver or even an over-saver—appreciate your good fortune! But if you’re raising a happy-go-lucky spender, these tips are just for you:

1. Create a saving system

Spenders can be impulsive with their money. Nuf said. So make it easier for your child to do the right thing by putting up some financial guardrails. You essentially want to create automatic habits, or systems, to guide your kid to save.

Every time your child gets an allowance, earns money from work, or gets money gifts from relatives, make it a rule that 10% (or whatever ratio you choose) of it always goes into savings. No exceptions.

Next, make sure your child’s savings are in a separate account, jar, bank or digital category from any spending money. The guiding principle here: “Out of sight, out of mind.” Kids aren’t as tempted to spend what they don’t see. And by the way, the system of automatically transferring money from a spending account to a savings account works great for natural-spender grownups, too. Just sayin’.

2. Incentivize Their Savings

This is the reward system at its best, used to teach your kid financial smarts. Whenever your child puts money in savings, consider matching a portion of it. If they put in $1, you add an extra 50 cents. If they save $10, you add another $5 to sweeten the pot. Your kids will quickly come to see the saving habit as a very, very good thing.

Yes, your child will earn some interest on their money, if they put it into a savings account of some type. However, interest rates are low enough right now that your child might not get excited about earning an extra 12 cents a month. Your match makes savings much more exciting.

3. Teach Kids About the “Future Value of Money”

This is a good conversation to have with kids who are in late grade school or middle school. The main lesson: Over a long period of time (years, not just months), the build-up of compound interestand perhaps parental matching fundson your child’s savings means they’ll earn lots of extra “free” future money.

Here’s an example. The average kid gets an average allowance of $68 per month.

If your kid hypothetically could save that entire allowance from age 8 to age 18, they would have a whopping $14,230* by the time they go to college—without even taking on a part-time job.

The “future value” of your kid’s humble $68 monthly allowance becomes more than $14,000 in 10 years. And more than $6,000 of that sum is “free” money from interest and parental matches. That’s a pretty compelling reason for kids to save.

Put another way: If your child spends every penny of their $68 allowance, they’re also erasing more than $6,000 in future money. Yikes!

4. Walk the Talk

You’re your kid’s best teacher. If you want them to understand how to save, let them see you do it. Talk out loud about saving money for that new flat-screen TV or your next family vacation.

Better yet, create a colorful savings graph and post it prominently on your refrigerator. Mark your family’s progress toward that family vacation. Celebrate your savings milestones along the way.

Help your kids (and yourselves!) see that good money things come to those who save.

* Assuming a 10% return, compounded monthly

(photo courtesy © Rich Brooks cc2.0)

5 Rules for Kids Who Buy Things Online

Spending habits have shifted significantly over the last decade. High adoption of smartphones, social networking, tablets, and more are several reasons why people make less purchases in physical stores than ever. While you may have participated in this transition, your kids are growing up with online spending as the norm. Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, Ebay, and other services have made it as simple (and affordable) as possible for their customers to make online purchases rather than going to the store. With kids spending more than 1.6 hours a day online according to online safety provider Norton, it is critical that you set ground rules for your children to follow.

  1. No Purchases without Parental Approval

            Regardless of how old your kids are, they should be comfortable talking with you about their online purchases. Setting a rule that they must check with you first for approval gives you an opportunity to verify that the website or app they are using is safe, and the purchase is appropriate. As your kids get older, you can relax this rule to teach your children about trust. For example, you could allow your kids to spend their allowance when they want online, provided they use websites you have pre-authorized.

  1. Approved Websites & Services

            Sit down with your kids and walk them through which websites and services they are allowed to access, and which sites they should not be using. This can be supplemented by parental controls, but not every mobile device or PC has these capabilities or makes it simple to use. A spending card and app like Greenlight can simplify this process through its simple interface while teaching children about good money habits.

  1. Purchasing Amount Limits

            Sit down with your kids and set strict limits on how much money they are allowed to spend online at any given time. Limiting how much your child can spend at one time or each month will significantly reduce the possibility of an unwanted purchase. Link this amount to your child’s allowance because you can review their spending monthly and teach them better money management skills.

  1. Category Limits

            Much like a dollar restriction, select specific categories your kids are allowed to purchase from. For example, you may allow purchases related to gaming, clothes, and music, but restrict purchases to junk food, R-rated movies, and more. Several allowance systems allow you to set up categories for spending which could be used to enforce the restriction further.

  1. Time Limits

            Whether your kids are using cell phones, tablets, or a computer, set specific time limits for how long they can spend on any of the devices. In addition to limiting access, set specific hours that they are allowed to have screen time. Your kids should learn when it is appropriate to use online devices, and occasions when it is not appropriate such as family time. A general rule of thumb is allowing a maximum of one to two hours per day with an online device after they have completed their homework. Establishing a cut off time is also important so your kids don’t impact their sleep schedule.

(photo courtesy © Lucélia Ribeiro cc2.0)

Back to School Savings - Deals for Back to School

Be Smart and Save Money: 5 Tips for Back to School Shopping

First and foremost, when you’re shopping for back to school supplies, make sure you know what you have. Go through your kids’ rooms and take inventory of their clothing and any supplies they might have laying around. Clean out old backpacks and school bags. Take stock of supplies in your home office, in your kitchen drawers, in the hall closet. This way, you won’t continue to buy a protractor every year when you have a forgotten pile of them tucked away somewhere in your house.

Once you have a list of what you already have, you’ll be more focused on what you need. Using your inventory list, create a new list of items your kids absolutely need for the upcoming school year. Make copies of your finalized need list and give them to everyone in your family. If you and your family are tech-savvy, consider creating a shared google doc, or something of the like, so that you and your children can edit it together. This way, there should be no confusion on what’s been purchased and what you still need to buy.

Start buying early and plan your time

Planning ahead is really the best way to save money on back to school shopping. If you start looking at supplies and prices early, you’ll be better equipped to recognize and take advantage of the best sale prices.

Also, if you make a plan ahead of time, deciding which stores you and your kids will need to visit to get their supplies, you can track those stores easily by subscribing to their Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. Often, stores will post reminders of sales or even surprise offers to their subscribers. Following these stores early and often will help you get the most for your money.

Another benefit to starting your shopping early is the option of shopping online. Many times, you can find great deals shopping on Amazon, Overstock, even eBay or Craigslist. And, some stores offer online specific sales with better deals than you can find in store. So, don’t wait until the last week of summer to scramble and get your kids their supplies! Give yourself time to browse the internet too, and leave plenty of time for the great deals you find to be shipped to you.

Shop Tax Free Weekend and End of Summer Sales (but beware…)

Shopping on tax free weekend and during end of summer sales can be great ways to save money on back to school supplies. Parents should absolutely be aware of when tax free shopping occurs, and they should keep track of when their (and their kids’) favorite stores hold their end of summer sales.

However, it’s also a good idea to be critical of these seemingly fabulous sales. I worked at Old Navy throughout my high school and college years, so I have firsthand knowledge of some of the sneakier sides to summer sales. For example, sometimes stores will mark their prices up to full value during tax-free weekends, and other stores will actually run better sales before and after the big advertised “summer sale.” So be wary of the sales you see, and take the extra time to determine whether you’re getting the best deal. Don’t be fooled by the “tax-free” excitement of saving 7% on a shirt that costs $25 when it will be 50% off during next week’s less advertised sale.

Avoid unnecessaries and compromise with your kids

Fancy pencil pouches? Your kid has a backpack… that’s a pencil pouch right there. Cute, trendy, or graphic covered binders that cost 4x the amount of a regular, plain, binder? Who needs it? Chances are, your kid is going to either stuff some papers in there to keep for later, draw on it with markers or pens, or never take it out of his/her locker. Cutting down on the unnecessary items your kid wants but doesn’t need is a surefire way to save money.

But, if your son really wants the expensive backpack with a built in organizer, a hard-case pocket for his laptop, and a cool design on the front, compromise with him. If your daughter will not stop asking for the Vera Wang lunch bag she saw online the other day, compromise with her. Strike up a deal that they have to pay the difference between the backpack or lunch bag you want to buy for them and the one they want. They could cover this difference using saved up holiday money, allowance money, or by doing extra chores.

Be wary of teacher required lists

This last tip is a little variable, but here’s a secret from someone who’s taught high school for the past 5 years: Take our “required” school supply lists with a grain of salt. Again, this is the experience of just one teacher, but honestly, sometimes we don’t even know what our students will need for the entire year. My best advice is to buy the basics: pens, pencils, paper. Your child will always need something to write with and something to write on, but hold off on any excess- colored pencils, glue sticks, a binder for each class, rulers, etc.- until you know exactly what they’ll be using on a day-to-day basis

 

Finding Style Without Breaking the Bank

Tips for Parents from a Self Proclaimed Stylish College Student

Whether you’re shopping for the classy Southern belle or the modern boy, here are some tips and tricks to keep your kids looking stylish on a budget.

1. Ask In-Store for Promotional/Seasonal Items

Sometimes it’s best to plan ahead and shop for the outdated clearance racks! As the seasons change, look to buy for items that are out of season. They may not be worn for some time, but they will be in your kids closet when they ask for more money to buy clothes the next year!

2. Factory Stores

For the non-shopper savvy parents out there, factory stores are a blessing from up above. Factory stores are essentially all of the excess clothes that they produced that never make it to the retail stores. Most people think that the quality isn’t as good, but the clothes are usually 50% off, and are the same quality as if you were to buy them in a regular retail store.

3. Sign Up for Email Newsletters

They might be annoying and email you every single day on what new styles they have on sale, but you can usually set the emails to be sent once or twice a week/month. The sales that they offer are usually not available in stores.

4. Thrift Stores

Thrift stores might be the most interesting stores to shop in because you never know what you’re going to find. One of my friends found a Harlem Globetrotters jumpsuit. Another one of my friends found multiple Polo shirts that looked brand new, while others just found really hip and unique shirts. Visit your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or community thrift store. One of them is bound to have some appealing options.

5. Discount Codes

Most online stores have a little box available for promotional codes during checkout. Visit Google and type in: (Name of the Store) coupon code.

6. Shop Online. It’s the 21st Century.

Online shopping is one of the best ways to shop in my opinion. You can do it from the comfort of your couch with a cup of joe in your hands. If you aren’t already shopping online, it will become the best thing since sliced bread to you once you give it a chance. Going shopping with the kids isn’t ideal when you have a 13-year-old middle school kid who doesn’t want anything to do with shopping, and an 8-year-old kid who bounces off the walls in big crowds.