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tips for teens

Spring Break Money Lessons for Kids

Teaching your kids about money might not be at the top of your Spring Break to-do list. However, if you think about, a spring break trip—or any vacation—is an ideal time to increase your child’s money IQ. Your family makes a lot of financial choices when you travel—from which daily activities you choose to how much money to spend on souvenirs.

Here are some great ways to use your Spring Break trip to give your kid hands-on lessons about money.

Give Vacation Cash Bonuses For A+ Behavior

You can always let your kid earn extra spending money for your trip by doing some extra chores ahead of time. However, have you considered any of these smart ideas for encouraging kids to earn—and be more pleasant humans—while you’re traveling? Consider giving kids an extra buck or two for:

  • Trying a new food (bonus: it makes kids more enthusiastic about experimenting at a new restaurant instead of a familiar chain)
  • Trying a new activity they might otherwise skip, from snorkeling to rollerblading
  • Not squabbling with siblings on the plane or while you’re driving
  • Being quiet for an hour in the afternoon while you rest (they can draw, read or quietly play on electronics)
  • Doing a good deed, like opening a door for another hotel patron, or letting a younger child in front of them in line at an amusement park

And don’t worry—you’re not bribing your kids. When you bribe someone, you give them money to do something they shouldn’t. These payoffs are rewards: You’re giving your kids money for doing something right.

Establish a Souvenir Budget

Rather than listening to your kids beg for money every 15 minutes, give them a set amount of money upfront. If you have young kids, you may need to release their souvenir money to them every few days, so they don’t spend it all at once.

Give older kids an amount that has to last the entire trip. (If they want to bolster their fun allowance with the extra money they’ve saved, that’s fine.) To prevent teens from carrying a big wad of cash, consider loading their souvenir allowance onto a prepaid debit card, like Greenlight. Don’t refill the card once your teen spends their entire budget. When the money’s gone, it’s gone.

Let Teens Make Family Activity Choices

Some families give their teens an assigned trip day and budget, and let the kids decide the family’s schedule. This can be done ahead of time (if you’ll need to book advance tickets, for instance) or at the very beginning of your trip.

This exercise helps teens see that having a budget means making smart choices. For instance, would they rather spend the family’s entire daily budget on tickets to an indoor wave pool and a movie afterward (with a no-frills dinner back at the condo), or a less expensive activity that leaves money for a fun dinner out? Encourage your teens to look for coupons and other deals online.

Get Creative About Other Money Choices

Every family and kid is different. You may think of some family money rules that work especially well for your Spring Break trip. For instance,

  • If you have a kid who constantly snacks: Try a “one purchase a day” rule—snack or souvenir. They get to choose between the two; they’ll never get both. (And if your kid is truly hungry, they’ll be happy to take the apple and nuts you pack with you!)
  • If the trip is extra spendy: Tell kids well ahead of your next trip that they’ll need to save up birthday and holiday gift money to pay for souvenirs. You’ll pay for everything else.
  • To discourage a spending frenzy: Offer your kids a match on any money they bring home from your trip unspent. This is a great incentive for kids to skip buying tchotchkes that will just end up gathering dust.

What money strategies have you used with your kids on Spring Break or another vacation? We’d love to hear from you.

(photo courtesy © Carissa Rogers 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)

Five Top Ways High Schoolers Are Wasting Money!

Think back to when you were in high school. How did you spend the money you either earned or received from your parents? Chances are you spent it on some silly things. Like that shirt you wore just once, or the colossal burger you couldn’t possibly finish today. I’ve got news for you. Your kids are wasting money in the same ways we used to! But there is hope. You should help your children identify how they are wasting money and teach them how to make good choices. Here are the top five ways your kids are wasting money today.

New Clothes

Do you have a son or a daughter? This spending area will affect both. Clothing trends are going to vary each year and your kids will be exposed to them. Male or female, they are going to go through fads with clothing. Remember when Abercrombie & Fitch was all the rage? Not so much today as trends have changed. When your teenager says they don’t have anything to wear, this would be a great opportunity to break out the photo album and show them your “clothing purchase mistakes” of the past. That double popped polo collar probably wasn’t popular to begin with, but it will certainly give you and your teenager something to laugh about. If they insist on a particular style, encourage them to find a cheaper brand. Kids are highly affected by advertising, but can generally find the same type of clothing in a lesser known brand. By the way, your kids grow really fast. Unless you want to be in the business of hand-me-downs, this is another topic you can bring up with them.

Impulse Purchases

Your kids are going to find themselves in a number of situations where they want to make an impulse purchase. Part of this can be attributed to peer pressure when they are out with friends and classmates. But, it’s also an important part about being a kid. Your kids need to learn when it is appropriate to make such a purchase. Teach your kids to communicate with you in these situations. Apps like Greenlight can help by providing a simple interface to not only communicate but authorize or decline those impulse purchases.

Gaming & Entertainment

When you grew up, there were board games, card games, and video game consoles like Nintendo. Kids these days have the same games, and a whole lot more. Your kids have smartphones, tablets, and computers to provide them even more entertainment. While video games have always been expensive, they have gone up in price with the expansion of online gaming and additional purchases that enhance the experience. Now that games can be played online, your kids are going to want the next new game and console to play with their friends. Of course these games and consoles are coming out faster than ever before.

One-Click Purchases

Speaking of big changes, your kids have a lot of opportunities to make purchases faster and easier than ever before. Amazon, mobile apps, iTunes, and other services have simplified the process to make purchases. While this adds convenience, it is also one of the areas kids waste a lot of money. While some purchases are mistakes, most are legitimate, whether it was a good idea or not. This can be scary because your kids may not be thinking about how much money they are spending when purchases are so simple. Restricting your kids from these types of purchases or reviewing them ahead of time will go a long way to ensure they don’t waste their money.

Fast Food & More

Your kids are going to eat…a lot. Unfortunately, they won’t just eat healthy food either. They will spend a lot of money on fast food like McDonalds, coffee from Starbucks, and chips from vending machines. These purchases add up quickly and can be one of the largest hidden expenses to your kids. While your kids may not see a problem with spending money in this category, they should be aware of how much they are spending. Make a plan with your kids regarding how often they can eat out and how much they should be spending.

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.