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tips for parents

What to Pack for a School Field Trip

The weather is improving and the school year is starting to wind down: It’s prime time for teachers to plan school field trips.

If your kids are heading out for a day trip with their class, their teacher may send home a list of items to pack. However, experienced parents know that those lists often cover just the basics. Here’s what your kids really should bring on a day trip:

  • Backpack or string bag: This pack should be a bit smaller and lighter-weight than their everyday school backpack. Be sure your family’s last name is clearly marked inside the bag. Security-conscious parents suggest you not mark your child’s first name in the bag. A sketchy adult could see and use your child’s first name to suggest that they know each other. (“Hey, Jake, remember me from your dad’s work?”) Include your phone number or email somewhere inside the bag in case it gets lost.
  • Cell phone (if allowed): Some schools prohibit or strongly dissuade kids from bringing phones. Instead, you may get a list of the teacher’s and chaperones’ cell phone numbers, and they’ll have your contact info. If your child takes his/her phone, consider sending them with a portable phone charger, too. The kids probably won’t have spots where they can recharge their phones during the day.
  • Cash or debit card for extras: Your school may have a policy about personal money. If students are allowed to purchase extra snacks or souvenirs on the field trip, send them with a modest amount of cash or a kid-friendly debit card.

It’s a good idea to make sure your child’s debit card doesn’t allow them to withdraw cash at ATMs or get cash back (for splurges or treating their friends). Even better are kid/teen debit cards that message you before authorizing your child’s purchases.

Be sure you have account information safely stored at home or work in case your child loses their debit card. Also, make sure your child knows to contact you right away (or have a chaperone do so) if they lose their debit card. That way, you can quickly get in touch with the card issuer or use a mobile app to disable the card.

  • Writing tools: Include a notebook and a pen or mechanical pencil with a clip on the side. Insert the pen/pencil into the metal spine of notebook (clip on the outside) for easy storage.
  • Disposable camera: Give your child a one-time-use camera marked with their last name. You’ll develop the photos the old-fashioned way when your kid gets home.
  • Wearables: Sunglasses are something most kids forget to pack but wish they had available. Depending on the weather, your child may also need a light wind or rain jacket and extra layers of clothing. An extra pair of socks is easy to carry and super helpful if it’s rainy or your kid loves stomping through any type of water.
  • Refillable water bottle: An inexpensive plastic one is fine. If your child is fussy about keeping their water cold, a small, insulated water bottle is great, too.
  • Packable snacks and/or lunch: If the school isn’t providing food, keep your kid’s options simple and disposable. That way, they don’t have to carry back bulky items like a lunch box or thermos.A brilliant idea: Pack your child’s lunch in one of the plastic clamshell boxes that often hold fresh fruit at the grocery store. These sturdy containers keep sandwiches and other soft items from getting squashed. Plus, your child can toss the whole container when they’re done. Need some lunch inspiration? Check out these ideas for disposable field trip lunches.

By the way, are you chaperoning a school field trip? Get the inside scoop here about field-trip volunteering, including stocking your own daypack with extra snacks, sunscreen, hand-wipes…you name it. If you actually survive taking a bus-full of kids to the art museum, planetarium or anywhere, you are a rock-star parent. Kudos to you!

(photo courtesy © Matt Stehouwer cc2.0)

What the Tooth Fairy Pays—Plus Some Great Non-Money Gift Ideas

When your kid turned six or seven, your household probably started getting visits from that teeny-tiny ambassador known as the Tooth Fairy, or the TF for short. In many cultures, the TF leaves kids money while they sleep in exchange for their baby teeth. Today’s average U.S. rate: $4.61 per tooth. That’s a pretty good return for something so tiny that can’t even be used again!

Fun fact: Apparently, the TF’s going price for teeth correlates with stock market ups and downs. When the stock market does well, the TF pays well. When the market takes a dip, so do the TF’s under-pillow offerings, according to Delta Dental.

The Tooth Fairy Can Leave More Than Just Money

Interestingly, the TF begins leaving money for kids before many of them fully appreciate what those coins and dollars can do. Some kids still intermingle money with their toys—a sure-fire sign that they don’t yet understand money’s value.

Are your kids at this early stage—or would your family just prefer that your kids earn their money rather than have it magically appear under their pillow? If so, the TF is quite open to non-monetary ideas. New York Times columnist Ron Lieber agrees with her that losing teeth shouldn’t always be about the money. Here are some alternatives:

  • Tooth certificates: The TF is more than happy to leave your child a special recognition certificate to commemorate a tooth upgrade. If money is still expected, the TF is open to the option of loading reward money on your child’s prepaid debit card.
  • Tiny letters: The TF is pretty small, we understand. So it’s pretty cool when she leaves a personalized little letter for your child, honoring his tooth loss. Of course, the TF’s letters are proportionately tiny. Your child may need a magnifying glass to read them. That adds to the fun.
  • TF books: What’s the story behind the mysterious dental enthusiast anyway? What does she do with all those teeth? Does the TF do things differently in other countries? She loves leaving kids some great reads to help them with their research.
  • Foreign currency: Speaking of other countries, the TF is a global phenom. That means she has access to coins from all around the world. Sometimes she leaves those foreign coins for her gap-toothed friends. She encourages them to start a coin collection, get enthused about future travel and more. She has access to the same kinds of coins you might find at a bank with a foreign currency department, or churches that collect interesting types of coins in their weekly collections—hint, hint.
  • Dental supplies: The TF is all about tooth health. So it makes perfect sense that she’d love an excuse to leave your child some fun supplies. Think flavored dental floss, electric toothbrushes bearing images of favorite characters—or even cute little boxes or pouches for future lost teeth.

Whatever gifts the TF leaves, expect to see a bit of fairy dust. The TF is a big fan of leaving bits of glitter behind. That girl knows how to make a grand exit.

(photo courtesy © Michael Bentley cc2.0)

6 Signs That Your Kid is Ready for a Prepaid Debit Card

Letting your kid “graduate” from handling cash to carrying a debit card can be a big milestone in a family’s life. After all, handing over that shiny piece of plastic is a signal that your child or teen is moving to a new stage in their financial life.

If you’re still the primary owner on your child’s debit card—which you really should be, as a parent—your child’s financial life is still on training wheels. However, you’re allowing your child or teen to begin making some more independent decisions with their money.

So how do you know if your kid is ready for debit card? First, you know your own child. You’re the best judge of their maturity level and spending habits. However, if you’re a bit on the fence about a child or teen prepaid debit card, here are some good readiness indicators:

1. They’ve successfully handled cash for a year or two.

It’s actually not a great idea to give kids debit cards until they’ve had some hands-on time with cash. Financial expert Dave Ramsey suggests a cash practice period, too. Why? You want proof that your kids fully understand the value of money and the concept that “when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Kids and teens also need some experience separating actual cash and coins into at least the three basic categories of Spending, Saving and Giving. Using separate jars or envelopes for this task gives kids a visual picture of the budgeting process.

On the other hand, if you let kids start their money lives with debit cards, money may not seem as real to them. Plus, their funds are all lumped together into a single account they think of as “mine to spend.” So be sure give kids and teens a solid cash training period before upgrading them to debit cards.

2. They can keep track of their belongings.

Carrying a debit card is a privilege and a responsibility. Kids who constantly lose things, from their coats to their phones, may not be ready for one. Today’s EMV chips do make it much harder for thieves to use lost/stolen debit cards, since they also need to enter a PIN code to complete transactions. However, who wants the hassle of dealing with a lost debit card?

Wait until you see signs that your kids can keep their valuables safe. However, if your kid does lose a debit card, be sure you know how to quickly “freeze” it so thieves can’t use it. Greenlight makes it easy: Simply log into your mobile app and turn off the card. Then let us know that you need a replacement card.

3. Your kids responsibly handle “school bucks.

Many schools let you load funds onto kids’ ID cards to pay for school lunches and snacks. Unfortunately, you may already have dealt with that shocking first semester when your middle-schooler drains all their prepaid lunch money by buying extra junk food or feeding their ravenous friends.

This experience isn’t unusual and it doesn’t mean your kid is a financial deadbeat. However, it is a sign that they don’t fully understand the responsibility of having funds attached to a card. So first, talk to your kids about your expectations for how they spend lunch money. And wait on the debit card until your kids prove they can spend their school bucks carefully.

4. Your kids need to be able to make purchases on their own.

For many kids, this is about the same time they get a cell phone. You’re no longer with them 24/7. They’re getting more independent, so you give them a cell phone to get in touch while you’re apart. Entrusting them with a debit card so they can buy a movie ticket or get lunch with friends can also be a nice convenience.

5. Your kids need to buy things that cost more than a latte.

If your teen is doing his own back-to-school shopping, he’s going to need to carry more in his wallet than, say, $5. When your kid starts carrying enough cash that it makes you a bit nervous, that’s the time to consider a special child or teen prepaid debit card. The safety factor alone may be worth it.

6. Your kids start asking questions about debit cards.

Now, no one is implying that kids who show interest in cards automatically are ready for them. However, kids’ questions often are good indicators of changes in their development. A kid who asks about debit cards may be starting to notice how you use your debit card, or may see friends getting debit cards, and be curious.

This is a great time to open the discussion about when and why you will allow them to start using a debit card. Even if your child isn’t quite ready for a card, use this time to show them how you responsibly use your card, how you check your account balances, and to talk about the big difference between debit an credit cards. By the time your kid is ready for a card, they’ll be well versed in how to use it with care.

If you’re ready to teach your kids to be financially independent, check out the Greenlight Debit Card for Kids here to learn more!

 

(photo courtesy © NASA Goddard cc2.0)

4 Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Money

Are you as uncomfortable talking to your own kids about money as you would be talking to your in-laws about it? It almost seems so, judging from the results of T. Rowe Price’s Parents, Kids & Money survey. In that study, 71% of parents were some degree of reluctant to talk to their kids about financial matters.

Maybe you’re holding back from money chats with your kids because you’re not confident you’ll say the “right” thing. If that’s you, relax. Most kids’ money questions are simpler than you think, says Rachel Cruze, co-author of Smart Money, Smart Kids, with her dad, Dave Ramsey.

Here are some strategies for handling family money conversations with a bit less stress.

1. Care but don’t scare.

Aim to be as honest with your kids as you can be about money. Just don’t freak them out with too much adult detail. Money conversations, like all talks with your kids, need to be age appropriate, says Cruze.

Not only should you talk differently to a 14-year-old than a 4-year-old, “some kids are just more mature and can handle a more intricate money conversation,” says Cruze. “However, other kids are in different stages of development, and you shouldn’t feel you have to open every detail of your financial life to them.”

2. Avoid the phrase “We can’t afford it” unless it’s really true.

Case in point: When your child asks for that extra package of cookies or an unplanned toy while you’re at the store. You probably can afford the item, but you don’t choose to do so. The better answer, says Cruze, is: “That’s not in our budget right now. We didn’t plan for it.”

The lesson to your kid is that money is finite. If you’ve already allocated your money to groceries, it’s not available for extra toys. One other idea: “’No’ can actually be a complete sentence,” adds Cruze. “You’re the parent. You don’t always have to explain any further.”

3. If money suddenly gets tight, don’t lie.

Maybe one parent has been laid off. Or perhaps you’ve made a proactive choice for one parent to quit and stay home. If you try to hide the fact that you’ve slashed your budget, your kids will suspect that something is up anyway, says Cruze. Your better bet is to set clear expectations about how you’ll handle having less money coming in.

For instance, you might say, “Because Dad’s hours were cut at work, we’re only going to eat out every couple of weeks, instead of every Friday.” Or “To save money, we won’t be going to many movies at theatres for a while. Let’s see what great movies we can get from the library.”

4. If your child asks “Are we rich?” or “How much money do you make?”, dig deeper.

A great response is: “Why do you ask?” In most cases, your child probably isn’t asking to see your W-2 form. They might be scared. They could be wondering if your family is financially secure because a friend’s family recently had money problems. “Reassure your child that you’re always going to take good care of them, no matter how much money is coming in,” Cruze says.

You also can tell your child that pretty much anyone who lives in America is wealthy, compared to many people in other parts of the world, suggests Cruze. “To have a house, food and car is considered ‘rich’ by many people’s standards,” she says.

(photo courtesy © State Farm cc2.0)

Kids’ Allowances: What Rules and How Much to Pay?

Some interesting allowance statistics:

While these general guidelines are helpful, most parents still have lots of questions about allowances. Of course, there’s no single, “right” way to structure your child’s allowance. However, these tips might help you decide what works best for your family:

When should I start giving my kid an allowance?

Most parents start around age 8, according to a T.Rowe Price survey. This is a good rule-of-thumb age. One tip: If your child mixes in cash and coins with her toys or routinely leaves money sitting around the house, she’s not yet ready for an allowance.

How often should I give it?

Weekly for younger kids and allowance beginners. They’ll have trouble making their money last much longer than seven days. Switch to giving your kids a monthly allowance when they’re about 11. This requires them to budget their money over a longer amount of time.

How much should I pay?

Although the current U.S. average is $67.80/month, that’s for kids of all ages. Your mileage may vary. For instance, you may want to pay a dollar or so per year of a child’s age, and give raises at every birthday. By high school, you might prefer to give your teen enough money to cover his own costs for clothing, personal supplies, bus, etc. You can base the amount on how much money you think is reasonable for your child to spend, rather than just his or her age.

Should I tie allowance to chores or grades?

There are different schools of thought on this.

  • Tie to chores, yes: Some parents advocate paying kids “commissions” so money remains connected to working hard.
  • Tie to chores, no: Kids could decide to skip chores if they don’t need money.
  • Pay for grades, yes: This practice can teach kids that good work leads to rewards.
  • Pay for grades, no: It could take away their sense of pride, or be tricky for kids who truly struggle academically.

Should saving and/or donating be part of the allowance picture?

Most experts say definitely yes on this point. Give kids jars, envelope, segmented piggy banks or help them set up digital budget categories for Spend, Donate and Save. Older kids might also need bank accounts or digital categories for saving larger amounts of money—for a car, college, etc. Your goal is simply to help your kids see that money is never just for spending.

(photo courtesy © James Thompson 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

 

Allowances: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The way I see it, there are three main options for giving your kids an allowance.

Option One: Give them an automatic allowance. With automatic allowances, parents will usually set a standard amount of money for their kids to receive, weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly, and their child will receive that money no matter what (for the most part, of course).

Option Two: Don’t give your kids any allowance at all: self-explanatory.

Option Three: Have your kids earn an allowance. Many parents use this option and assign certain tasks or chores to their child, which upon completion, will result in a rewarded allowance. Of course, you’ll find pros and cons of any decision you make as a parent, including the decision about allowances. However, out of these three main options, I think there is a clear, front-runner that is beneficial for both parents and children.

Through the course of my life, and my more recent research and inquiries into this topic, I have been exposed to numerous variations of the allowance situation. Two stories stuck with me, though, as extreme, yet surprisingly realistic examples of the negative consequences of giving your kids an automated allowance or not giving them an allowance at all.

Extreme Scenario #1: The Jean-Ralphio and Mona-Lisa Saperstein Story

Parks and Recreation is a sit-com that recently went off the air in 2015. It follows the quirky and endearing Parks and Rec. department of Pawnee, Indiana through the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of life.  While most of the characters are lovable and good-hearted people at their core, there are two characters, Mona-Lisa and Jean-Ralphio Saperstein, who should serve as a warning to any parent considering the automatic allowance option. Mona-Lisa and Jean-Ralphio come from a rich family, headed by a father who clearly does not regulate the money they receive.  It is quite evident that, in their fictional lives, they’ve probably never heard the word “no” before as a response to any request, thus resulting in their annoying and outrageous request of “Money please!” This demand is made often, without remorse, and almost rarely without an affirmative answer from their father. They are so used to receiving money whenever they want, automatically and without any effort, that they perfectly illustrate an extreme consequence of giving your kids an automatic, no-strings-attached allowance.

While this is obviously an extreme example, taken from a fictional TV show, there is some real truth that lies at the core of Mona-Lisa and Jean-Ralphio’s roles. If you don’t require any effort from your children in order for them to receive their allowance, then what’s to stop them from taking it for granted? What lesson will they learn about how to get money? Will they turn out like Mon- Lisa and Jean-Ralphio, assuming that all they need to do in order to get money is sit around and wait for it, and then if it’s not enough, just whine until they get more? Do you, as a parent, really want to hear “Money please!” all the time, even after you’ve already given your child money? I don’t think so.

Extreme Scenario #2: No Allowance: The Story of Put-Back Pancakes

My aunt and uncle adhere to a much different philosophy than that of fictional father, Dr. Saperstein, from Parks and Rec.  They didn’t believe in giving their kids an allowance at all. So, my cousin, let’s call him Jim, had to figure out another way to get money. As many teenagers do, Jim turned to the job force and got a part-time job as a carhop at Sonic. He worked at Sonic all 4 years of high school, and in this time, he learned to budget and save his money since he knew his parents weren’t going to be his main source of income. So far, so good, right?

In almost every way, my cousin is a perfect example of how not giving your kids an allowance is a good option. He learned the value of hard work. He didn’t bother his parents for money all the time. He had a good head on his shoulders and was able to understand the basic principle of saving money, which is advanced for a teenager. However, there are two things wrong with this story. Number one, my cousin is an anomaly. He represents a small population of teenagers who are stable and level-headed enough to make these responsible decisions, like finding and maintaining a job and saving the money he made at this job. Other teens may not be as dedicated as he was to earning and saving money during those carefree, teenage years.

The second thing wrong with my cousin’s story is the end. Jim managed to save more money during his high school years than I think most high schoolers could even comprehend. But, this resulted in him being extremely stingy with his money, to a fault. Perfect example: his honeymoon. After my cousin got married, he and his wife vacationed in Mexico for their honeymoon. One morning, at breakfast, Jim piled his plate high with food from the buffet, taking full advantage of an “all you can eat” meal. However, before he went to sit down to his feast, he was stopped by the cashier at the end of the line who told him that breakfast was not actually included in his room rate and that he’d need to shell out a rather hefty sum for his overloaded plate. My cousin, the too-money conscious man that he’d become, looked at the cashier, turned around, and dumped his food back in each, individual serving pan from which he’d taken it just minutes before.

The moral of Jim’s story is this: not giving your kids an allowance might be a good idea. They might find a job, work hard for their money, and learn valuable lessons about managing their own finances. Or, they might end up like my cousin, dumping pancakes and scrambled eggs back into hot plates in Mexico, effectively embarrassing himself and his new wife on what should’ve been a lovely honeymoon.

Solution:

So, what do you do as a parent then? Ultimately, the decision is up to you and what you think is best for your family. However, considering the pros and cons of each side, setting up a system for your kids to earn their allowance seems like the best, least painful, and most beneficial way to go. By having to earn their allowance, kids will hopefully learn the lesson of working for what they get. Ideally, they’d value their money more because they had to work for it, thereby making them more conscious about spending and saving. And finally, the system of working for their money at home will mirror their future, independent lives when they have to work for their paychecks and balance their adult finances. Exposing your kids now to the realities of money management and working to earn their money is an invaluable experience, and you can easily start by implementing an earned allowance policy in your house today!

(photo courtesy © Carissa Rogers cc2.0)

These are the Most Parent-Friendly Brands that Teens Love

“Teen tested. Mom and dad approved.”

Buying clothing for your teenager, or approving their purchases, is all about compromise. It is important to strike a balance between how you want your teen to dress and how your teen wants to dress. We’ve rounded up a list of clothing brands that accomplish just that. They offer clothes that are stylish, age appropriate, and affordable.

  1. H&M: A massive Swedish fast fashion brand, H&M is a step above Forever 21 (a highly similar brand). It offers runway-inspired clothing at affordable prices. It also has regular high fashion collaborations, most recently with Balmain.
  2. Forever 21: Perhaps a slight cut-below H&M in terms of quality, Forever 21 is beloved by many a mother and teen alike because it offers trendy fashions at highly affordable prices. Visit twice in the same week, and you’re still likely to find something new on the second go-around.
  3. American Eagle: This brand has been a go-to for teens for quite some time. It has a nice selection of highly wearable looks and quality-made basics.
  4. Madewell: One of my personal favorites, Madewell is well-suited to the teen who likes to dress like she’s “13 going on 30.” It can be a bit on the pricier side, but regularly has sales. They also have an amazing selection of fun-yet-mature clothes.
  5. Urban Outfitters: Long synonymous with “hipster,” Urban Outfitters offers trendy apparel of a different vintage (quite literally) than H&M or Forever 21. In addition to a wide assortment of clothes, Urban also sells décor, accessories, and footwear.
  6. Free People: Much like Urban Outfitters, Free People appeals to the teenager who wants to rock more of a bohemian, free-flowing look. While its prices do tend to run rather high, a savvy shopper can typically find items that have been substantially marked down at stores like Neiman Marcus Last Call and Nordstrom Rack.
  7. J.Crew: Much like Madewell, J.Crew appeals to the teen who likes to rock a more sophisticated and mature style. J.Crew has a wide variety of staples that you will want to keep in your wardrobe for years to come.
  8. Nike: Athletic wear is no longer only for the gym. On any given day, at least half of the students in my classes are decked out in some sort of athletic wear (and something tells me they didn’t all just come from the gym). Nike is the largest apparel retailer in the United States, constantly producing new, brightly-colored fashions.
  9. Topshop: Topshop is all about quantity (and it does so without sacrificing quality). It has a wide selection of hip, of-the-moment clothes. Like H&M, it also frequently does collaborations with famous figures, such as Kate Moss, and other stores, such as Nordstrom.
  10. Brandy Melville: I first learned of Brandy Melville when my younger sister diverted a family vacation to visit one of its stores (yes, apparently their clothes are that cool). Brandy Melville is known for offering “one size fits all” fashions that cater to a simple and carefree look. Its staples include crop tops, cut-off denim shorts, and loose-fitting tops. It is an Italian company, so their retail locations are a bit hard to come by in the United States, but ordering online is always an option. And with only one size to choose from, why not?

The Secret Behind Your Teen’s Stash of Cash

Parents, picture this:

You’re cleaning house. You know you’ve told your teenager a thousand times to clean his room. At the very least, you hope he has put the painstakingly folded laundry away in the dresser. But, as you look into his room, you see clothes everywhere. Instead of fighting this battle for the 50th time, you give in. You pull out the top dresser drawer, a handful of socks poised and ready to finally be back where they belong, but you stop short. There is cash everywhere. Ones, fives, tens, and twenties fill the spaces in between your teenager’s mismatched socks. What’s your first thought?

Panic

Of course, your mind goes directly to the worst case scenario, speeding straight past rationality. Where did all this money come from? Is my child involved with drugs? Is he stealing? Is he part of a band of teenage bank robbers who have somehow evaded the attention of both police officers and parents?

What if the answer isn’t as sinister as you think? What if, instead, a drawer full of cash is cause for concern of a different kind? In this moment of surprise and panic, you don’t remember that your teenager has a job, gets an allowance, and often receives birthday cash from distant relatives. So, what if a drawer full of cash is actually a small, yet significant sign that your child needs help managing his money?

My Story

When I was in high school, I did not have a drawer full of loose cash. Instead, I had a manila envelope stuffed between some books on the nightstand by my bed, full of money. No, I was not involved in selling drugs. I’ve never stolen money from anyone, and I was not busy robbing banks with my friends after school let out. I was, in fact, quite the opposite. Smart in nearly every facet of my life, I seemed to be one of the good kids who had it all figured out, and I loved that people thought of me that way. So I worked hard to maintain my status as a good, responsible teenager. I made great grades, had a steady, part-time job, excelled as a student athlete, and maintained a solid relationship with my family. But I was an absolute idiot when it came to managing my money. When I started working at my first part-time job, my mom would help me cash my checks, and then she trusted me to handle the cash responsibly. But I didn’t have the slightest idea what that meant, and I was too ashamed to ask her for guidance. I didn’t want to tarnish anyone’s opinion of me, least of all my mother’s. If she trusted me enough to manage my money, then shouldn’t I be able to manage it?

Enter, manila envelope. I knew I needed somewhere to physically keep all my money, and since I did not yet have a bank account, I figured I should keep it somewhere relatively safe. Thankfully, our house was never broken into during this time, or else I’m pretty sure a bulky manila envelope, awkwardly shoved by some books on a nightstand screams: I CONTAIN LOTS OF UNGUARDED CASH!

Result

It seems rather obvious how this story should end, right? Eventually, one way or another, I would figure out how to get a bank account, deposit all my money there, and be well on my way to living a financially healthy life. Sounds perfect, right? Well, it also sounds idealistic and untrue. Yes, I did end up getting a bank account, and my money was tucked safely away in a vault. But I was still the same stubborn person, still too concerned about how others viewed me to risk asking questions about my money.

Unfortunately, my teenage ignorance lead to a young adulthood filled with multiple instances of blindly hoping that my debit card or credit card wouldn’t get declined because I was always too nervous to actually look at my bank account and try to balance my money. I have been guilty of simply deleting emails from my bank and throwing away correspondence, unless it looked too important to risk it, all because I was uninformed. I didn’t know what I would do if there was a problem with my account. I didn’t want to think about how to find more money to augment a low balance. I had no clue how to actually establish and grow a saving’s account. So I ignored everything and hoped for the best.

Takeaway

Parents and teenagers alike, I urge you, please do not let this happen to you! It took me entirely too long to understand my own finances, and my lack of knowledge was a true detriment to me because it has required me to spend the last few years playing catch up and educating myself, instead of saving and spending wisely.

The task at hand is quite simple: talk to each other. Parents, if you find a drawer of cash, or a manila envelope, don’t automatically assume that your child has gone rogue and gotten into a messy, illegal situation. Likewise, don’t assume that your teenager knows how to be financially responsible just because he’s a great kid in all other areas of life. Leaving something this important up to assumptions and chance could condemn your teen to a lifetime of money troubles.

And teens, please don’t be afraid to talk to your parents! Take it from someone who tried so hard to be good at everything, and in doing so, totally failed at being good with money. Knowing how to actually manage and use your money is going to make your life so much less stressful and so much more enjoyable. So just ask. I promise, it’ll only help.

(photo courtesy © Pictures of Money cc2.0)