October 16th, 2013 - Category: Money
Did you know that the average U.S. family spends close to $1,300 a year on utilities? Sadly, (for your pocketbook and for our environment) a big portion of that energy is wasted.
We’ve all gone through our houses and turned off lights, checked for leaky faucets, and inspected weather stripping. But here are a few things that you maybe haven’t thought about before that can help you save even more.
Take advantage of the sun. Keep draperies and shades open on south facing windows during the heating season to allow sunlight to enter your home and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
Don’t heat or cool empty space. Turn down the thermostat or turnoff the heat for unoccupied rooms.
Keep registers, and filters clean. And make sure they aren’t blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
Be patient. Your house won’t warm up or cool down any faster if you crank up the thermostat past your desired temperature. And it’s easy to forget to turn it down, which wastes more energy.
Plant trees or shrubs to shade air conditioning units – but don’t block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses about 10 percent less electricity than the same one operating in the sun.
Lower the thermostat on your water heater. Water heaters come from the factory with high temperature settings, but a setting of 115 degrees Fahrenheit provides hot enough water for most uses.
Take showers instead of baths. Bathing uses the most hot water in the average household. You use 15 to 25 gallons of hot water for a bath, but less than 10 gallons during a 5-minute shower.
Install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to reflect heat away from your house.
Clean your windows to maximize solar heat that can be gained.
Landscaping is a natural and beautiful way to reduce your energy bills. A well-placed tree, shrub, or vine can provide shade or act as a windbreak and reduce overall energy bills.
Plant trees that lose their leaves in the fall. When selectively placed around a house, they provide excellent protection from the summer sun but permit winter sunlight to reach and warm your house.
Let your dishes air dry. If you don’t have an automatic air-dry switch on your dishwasher, prop the door open a little after the final rinse so the dishes will dry faster.
Use a microwave or toaster oven to cook small portions.
Put a lid on your pot. This reduces cooking time and energy use.
Place the faucet lever on the kitchen sink in the cold position when using small amounts of water. Turning on the hot water for even a second uses energy to heat the water even though it never reaches the faucet.
Match the size of the cookware to the heating element.
Dishwashers use less water than washing dishes by hand, about 6 gallons less per load.
Front loader washing machines use about a third of the energy and less water than a top-loading machine. They also remove more water from you clothes during the spin cycle which means less energy will be used to dry them.
Use the moisture sensor when drying your clothes. The sensor automatically shuts off the machine when your clothes are dry. This not only saves energy, but it will save wear and tear on your clothes caused by over-drying.
Information taken from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy.
October 2nd, 2012 - Category: Money
Have you ever told your children that you couldn’t buy them something because you didn’t have the money? Only to have them look at you confused, and point out that the plastic cards that you always buy things with are in your wallet.
I don’t know about you, but I rarely have cash in my wallet anymore, but I do have several debit and credit cards lining both sides. After my child’s response to, “just use your credit card Dad,” I realized that I needed to teach them what exactly a debit card was, what a credit card was, and how they related to having money to spend.
Here are some definitions that are easy to understand that you can use when explaining to your children the difference.
When we work and get paid, we put our money in the bank. The bank holds our money in an account until we are ready to use it.
A debit card is a plastic card that is used to buy something. When we use our debit card, the amount that we have to pay the cashier is immediately taken out from the bank account that it is linked to.
A credit card is different from a debit card because purchases are made on credit, which means that the money is not ours, it is borrowed. We have to pay back the money that we use, plus extra money, that the bank charges us for borrowing it.
You can set up an online chore chart and assign each child chores to do. When they finish their chores, they can choose to save, or put their money in the bank, share with online charities, or spend it, just like using a debit card.
And what’s even better, is that as a parent you have the ability to track, encourage, and teach them about their choices all along the way.
September 25th, 2012 - Category: Money
Parents are so excited when their child finishes all of their chores. But does the reward always have to be about money? There are lots of rewards you can give your child that don’t have to cost you anything (or at least, not much). Here are some ideas to consider.
Written Words: A thank you note in their lunch. A letter of appreciation left on their bed. A posted note where everyone can see it. Maybe on the fridge or the bathroom mirror.
Positive Attention: Praise them in front of others. Give them a Certificate of Recognition.
Time: Give them some time off of chores. Let them stay up half an hour later than usual. Extra TV time, computer, or game time.
Parents: Kids get to pick a family outing. They get to pick a date with mom or dad.
Food: Let them pick a meal. They get to pick out dessert at the grocery store. Give them the opportunity to pick the restaurant for dinner.
Favorite Things: First dibs at their favorite toy or game. They pick out the movie that weekend. Have a treasure chest with inexpensive toys and snacks that they can choose from.
Friends: Their friends get to come over for a play date or a sleepover. Their friends get to come along for an outing.
When you use My Job Chart, kids really start to understand how to spend responsibly. A point equals a penny and the more points add up, the more money they have to spend.
As kids earn points they are able to “spend” those points. They can spend them by moving them to the SPEND category within My Job Chart. The points can be spent on monetary rewards using our integrated Amazon.com store, or they can spend them on non monetary rewards like the ones mentioned above.
Once a reward is redeemed, our system will send you an email letting you know what they have decided to spend their points on. If the reward is a non monetary reward, like the ones mentioned above, then it’s up to you to make sure it happens.
If you have other ideas for non monetary rewards, please feel free to leave a comment below. And if you are looking for a way to easily manage your child’s chores. Be sure to check out our free online chore chart at MyJobChart.com.
August 1st, 2012 - Category: Money
My son Spencer is almost three years old. During the first two years of his life, when I wasn’t trying to catch up on sleep or doing laundry, I was writing a book about the history and nature of money, especially the tactile stuff. You know: cash. I had decided to investigate whether it makes sense for society to keep cash around. It’s expensive, germy, deliciously useful for criminals, and most costly for the poor. Details on all that some other time.
Don’t get me wrong: I still respect cash’s purchasing power. If you have it in mind to buy a copy of my book with a fistful of greenbacks, by all means—have at it. I also don’t think we could ditch cash tomorrow or even in 2016. We need to be able to tip waiters and street musicians, and we don’t yet have an equally fast and widely accepted medium of exchange to turn to in the event of a three-week blackout. Still, I wanted to put cash in the hot seat, while also exploring the monetary frontier. Now, for better and for worse, I am the Cashless Guy.
So it was something of a stunner the other day to hear Spencer ask—no, begged—to play with the “little money circles.” Since when does this little blond stegosaurus-worshipping monster of mine have an interest in what economists call “physical representations of sovereign currency in various denominations” and that the rest of us call cash?
In retrospect—and I say this as a absolutely neutral observer—I think Spencer’s descriptor was ingenious, considering he has been with us here on firma terra for all of 33 months. Yet when he first said those words, it took me a moment to realize what he meant. As for where the sudden obsession with little money circles came from, it’s safe to say that, like every cold, chewed wood chip, or endearing expression like “GO AWAY,” he must have picked it up at daycare. He certainly didn’t come to it at home.
I said yes to his request, of course, and proceeded to rummage for a few coins that had long ago sunk to the bottom of a mug on my office shelf. (An Australia dollar, a 2-ruppee piece from India, and a Canadian quarter, for those of you keeping tabs.) I also decided that, because he’s a youngin’, I would spare him further discussion of what I’d learned while researching The End of Money. Soon enough–maybe when he’s four?—we can knuckle down for a chat about how emperors debased currencies of old, why it’s impossible for Americans to have a level-headed conversation about retiring the penny, and the inane fact that the US Mint currently produces pennies and nickels at a staggering loss. $0.026 and $0.11 per unit respectively, the last time I checked.
But just so you don’t think I’ve gone completely overboard with this cash v. cashless stuff, let me pause briefly to add that the whole “money circles” thing was fun. It’s not like I loathe coinage per se; what I dislike is uncritical thinking. In fact, when I was a kid I found coins to be pretty interesting, and my dad was something of a collector, at least for a few years during his childhood.
This moment with the money circles taught me that it’s never too early to think about and begin planning for how we are going to teach our children about money. The word money is an easy enough stand-in for notes and coins; we adults use it all the time. But we often lose sight of the fact that cash is merely one form of money, a thing representing the idea of monetary value. And it is the idea that we need to teach, and teach well.
Spencer’s seemingly simple request also got me wondering about what scientists and social scientists know about when and how children develop an understanding of such abstract ideas like money, value, and debt. (I’ve sent out some feelers to a couple of academics who can speak to this question and will follow up when those conversations bear fruit.)
Very little kids are just curious about the objects, sure, and it doesn’t take too long to grasp the concept of payment: I give you this much money and you give me an ice cream cone. But when and how do they start to build an understanding of the relationship between money and the world around them, and come to see money as necessary for a.) essentials like food and shelter, and b.) leisure and, well, all the fun stuff that kids care about? Perhaps most of all, I want to know how I can gently steer Spencer toward the discovery that work and money are inextricably linked—and provide him with lessons that will help him be responsible with both.
One thing I can already tell is the need for more precise vocabulary. Earning points for chores instead of just an amount of money, for instance, is a huge step in the right direction as far as disentangling the meaning of money from value. I was in Toronto to give a talk two weeks ago, where I met a woman who not only loves cash, but even dreams of having a bathtub full of $100 bills. She’s certainly not alone in this wish, I realize. What fascinated me, though, was how convinced she is that a bathtub full of ornate pieces of rectangular paper equals wealth.
So I told her this story about a counterfeiter. A man I’d recently written about had done this same thing, surrounding himself with a mountain of paper money. He would be the first to tell you, though, that he wasn’t a penny richer because the paper has no value. She didn’t want to talk about the mysteries of value, though, or the silliness of money as end goal. Not that I expected to convince her. The Beatles hadn’t (“Can’t Buy Me Love”), and it’d doubtful she has ever snuggled up with a copy of The Philosophy of Money by famed German philosopher Georg Simmel. I wish she would. Simmel illuminates how money is all about motion, and that when it ceases to move—to be exchanged—it ceases to be money.
After all, we work hard to earn it to so that we can do with it, or set it in motion: spend, donate, invest, treat, share, and more. How to elegantly and effectively deliver that kind of message to our children is no easy feat. Those little money circles, I suppose, might be as good a starting point as any.
David Wolman is a contributing editor at Wired and the author, most recently, of The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers – and the Coming Cashless Society (Da Capo Press, 2012). He tweets at @DavidWolman.
June 15th, 2012 - Category: Money
Have you ever thought to yourself that if no one is watching then it’s not as important to act appropriately? Let’s hope not, but let’s face it… it happens with kids sometimes.
Well, when you use the MONEY Debit card that ING Direct offers with MyJobChart.com you get an added level of visibility with what your kids are doing with their money. Keeping an eye on that spending will start to improve their spending decisions
With this debit card, that can be used for kids that are 8 and older you get the ability to receive an text message every time the card is used. Wow, that’s cool. So just think for a second… your son does his chores, earns points and then converts those points into dollars on his very own debit card. Then takes that card and goes out with a friend to a store and buys something. When he does, you get a text notifying you of the amount and where it happened. This is a great way to make sure that responsible spending is taking place and if it isn’t then this is a great conversation starter. You spent how much, where?!! haha.
Visibility = Accountability … and that all leads to Responsible spending habits.
March 15th, 2012 - Category: Money
Everyone wants their kids to be happy. If you asked a dozen people, especially children, to define happiness you would most likely get a dozen different answers. If you look up happiness in the dictionary, the word contentment comes up the most and if you check contentment, you get “a feeling of satisfaction.” Let’s go one more … look up satisfaction and you get “the fulfillment of one’s wishes, expectations or needs.”
If you are content and satisfied with your life, you are bound to be happy. Few things cause more discontent than money woes. Even very young children can be taught the value of working for something and appreciate the happiness it brings. MyJobChart.com can help you teach your kids the value of work and its rewards the very first time you use it. As your kids establish patterns of completing their jobs (chores) and earning whatever reward you set up as their parent, they begin to experience a feeling of satisfaction. They learn to work for what they want. Other tools on My Job Chart help them learn how to handle the money they earn, helping them to be happy kids.
The lessons children learn today about handling their finances will carry over into adulthood. A 2010 iVillage survey of online U.S. moms indicates that more than half of moms (61%) are the primary money managers for their households. 41% revealed they wish they were more informed about being financially responsible. This is information they would like to pass on to their children. Many moms turn to the Internet these days and 37% of those interviewed wished for more access to online articles and discussion forums with trusted financial experts.
[iVillage, iVillage and PASS from American Express(SM) Partner to Launch The Talk to Mobilize Moms to Talk to Teens About Money, September 15, 2010, http://about.americanexpress.com/news/pr/2010/thetalk.aspx]
Can we count on the schools to prepare our young people to handle their finances? A 2010 Visa survey shows that 93% of Americans believe all high school students should be required to take a class in financial education. Yet, just a handful of states have adopted varying degrees of financial literacy curricula. At the time of the survey only four states required high school students to take a semester-long course in personal finance.
[Visa, Back to School Survey Shows Americans Want Personal Finance Taught in the Classroom, July 20, 2010, http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/about/press/releases_2010/0720.php]
In light of this information, it really falls on the parents to teach their children financial literacy, even if they have to do some study on their own first. In these challenging economic times, it behooves all of us to learn good money management skills so we can handle our finances better and share those skills with our children. Well known financial adviser, Suze Orman, says on her Money Matters column for Yahoo Finance that “The single most important step in raising a money-wise child is simply for parents to be money-wise adults themselves. And that’s where so many well-intentioned moms and dads seriously drop the ball.”
Let’s spend some time tightening up our own financial skills so we are better able to prepare our kids to handle their money. Albert Schweitzer said, “There are only three ways to teach a child. The first is by example, the second is by example, the third is by example.” Only if we are using good money management skills can we show our kids how to do the same.
June 20th, 2011 - Category: Money
Father’s Day was yesterday. And if you’re like me, you’ve received all kinds of cards, ties, tools, and other manly gifts. At first, your wife undoubtedly purchased your presents. Once children understood the meaning of the holiday, they drew pictures for you. But now, with your child a little bit older, and making an allowance, what are you getting and who is paying for it?
Seems problematic, doesn’t it? You and your children determine what chores they will complete. You decide what items they will purchase with the money they earn and which things you’re willing to pay for. But in all the time you spent discussing allowances and expenses, you probably never factored in gifts.
But just look at this list of possible gifts your child might need to cough up some cash for:
-Birthdays (for family and friends)
-Christmas (for mom, dad, siblings, grandparents, and friends)
Ouch! It’s difficult for us as adults to spend money on wedding gifts and shower presents. So is it fair to expect a child to pay for special occasions? Sure, they’ll be expected to as adults. But do you want their efforts at completing their chores to be the means whereby they show their love to friends and family right now?
Alright, I’ll be the one to say it: it isn’t fair. Then again, neither is paying $5 to $20 for your child’s best friend’s birthday party. Especially if you have more than one child and they have more than one best friend.
So is there a comfortable solution? Not really. But here are some great ideas for making this a learning experience (even if you have to fork out some cash).
Limit gifts to $5. Offer to give your child $5 for those special occasions. If they choose to spend more, let them spend their own money. A decent gift can be purchased or made and you’ll hardly notice the five bucks from your wallet. What you may notice is that your child becomes more aware of how much things cost and look for bargains.
Offer them extra chores. You don’t want to be a scrooge, but you can’t just hand out money either. Let them learn what you already know…extra expenses require extra work on your part. Make sure they understand the difference between regular chores and allowance and the chance to make some extra money. Extra is extra.
Keep a box of options. Have you ever picked up random items at a garage sale, or held on to toys, clothes, and gifts your children have outgrown? Well, if they’re in good condition, you should keep a box of those extra items to be used as gifts for friends or younger siblings. If your children need a gift for someone, allow them to rummage through box and see if anything will work. No one needs to know you’re in the habit of re-gifting. Have your child pay you what you paid for the item. (If it’s a hand-me-down, then obviously it would be free).
Help your children think of “Free” gifts. With enough thought, your children can up with some pretty good ideas. And no, we’re not talking about an “I Owe You” booklet either. You could teach your daughter to sew and have her make a blanket out of dad’s favorite, old shirts. An older brother could spend some time in the garage turning a simple piece of wood into a sling-shot for a younger brother. Sometimes, homemade items make the best gifts.
And of course our best advice is…avoid special occasions altogether. No, we’re kidding. But this is going to be a learning experience for both you and your children. As you work together, you can come up with solutions that will work without being too unfair to any one party.
Good luck and happy…whatever the occasion is.
June 7th, 2011 - Category: Money
During a recent grocery store visit, a little boy picked up a package of candy and said, “Mom, can we get this?” The mother said no and continued her shopping when the boy ran up to her, bag of candy still in hand.
“But mom,” he said this time, “I still have $3 at home. Can I buy this?” The mother relented and added the bag of candy to her grocery cart.
Now, your mind is probably racing. You may have already formed some opinions about this situation, but here are a few more details: the boy was only 6 or 7 years old and was noticeably overweight, the mother’s cart already included several snack foods, and the bag of candy was at least two pounds.
So where does a parent’s responsibility lie? Should the mother stop her child from purchasing something he wants with his own money? Or, should she let him determine how his money should be spent? Will he miss out on important financial lessons if his parents stop him from moving forward with bad choices?
In all honesty, we don’t have any answers to those questions. Partially because each child is different and will likely react differently to parental interference and partially because there are lessons to be learned either way.
So what is the answer?
Our take is that you help your child make choices about how to spend allowance money before situations like these ever come up. One of the things we love about MyJobChart.com is that it does so much more than just help kids track their chores. It allows them to save money, put money towards purchases they would like to make, and even donate money to those in need.
By spending a little extra time with our children as we create their chore chart, we can help them make good decisions ahead of time. We can monitor their choices and make positive suggestions.
Are they still going to want a bag of candy at the grocery store? Absolutely. But with their allowance being distributed online, they don’t have extra cash lying around. And the excuse of “Well I have my own money,” is replaced only with a request.
If you have not tried MyJobChart.com yet, you may want to look into it. It certainly has changed the dynamics of chores, allowance, and spending habits in many homes. And is well worth a try.
May 24th, 2011 - Category: Money
Today on MSN, there was a great article that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to comment on. The article was written by Liz Westin and outlined these three research study results:
-Kids who received allowance were no more likely to save their money than kids who did not.
-Unconditional allowances seemed to be correlated to lower literacy scores and less chances of having work experience before graduating from high school.
-Many kids who receive allowance look at is as entitlement money.
That’s a lot of information to take in. And it really makes you wonder which is better: giving your children an allowance or encouraging them to make their own money. Or does it make any difference at all. Because this seems to be a no-win scenario.
After reading the comments and thinking about the success so many families have had with MyJobChart.com, we came to the following conclusions:
- Assigning chores and rewarding your kids with an allowance is not enough. Children still need you to teach them critical lessons about saving, spending, and being financially responsible. Sometimes it may be difficult for you to reveal, but sharing some of your own financial burdens with your children will help them understand what it will be like on their own.
- You need to make chore and allowance decisions together. If your children don’t understand the connection between doing their chores and being rewarded with an allowance, they won’t experience that job-salary connection either. Once they’re old enough, sit down with your kids and discuss what they think is fair in both the chores they do and the allowance they receive. And let them give some input about the types of activities/purchases they should be responsible to pay for.
- Reinforcing financial lessons will always be a good idea. You are going to have moments when your kids come begging for money. Whether it’s to go to the movies or to buy a video game, they will want more money than they’ve saved. You’ve got to decide how you will handle those situations and what lessons you want your children to learn. It will be difficult to stick to your guns but there are lessons to be learned.
- Realize that circumstances will change. Be aware of your children and the changes they are making in their lives. What works this year may not be the best solution next year. Especially when your children get more involved in school and with friends.
- Consider not giving cash as allowance. How else are you going to give your kids their hard-earned money, right? When you deposit money into a saving account or use a system like MyJobChart.com, your children have to really think about what they want before spending their money. Cash is too easily burned through. With MyJobChart.com, your kids have the option of saving, saving for something, spending, or even giving some of their money to charitable causes. And you get some insight into what money decisions they’re making.
The article we read today did make us pause. Obviously every parent wants to make sure they aren’t wasting money on their children. And they’d like their children to learn great lessons. With the tips we shared, we feel confident you can make good decisions and be pleased with the results you see in your children.
May 17th, 2011 - Category: Money
It’s almost that time of year again. The time when your kids are home from school for three whole months. While you may enjoy having your kids around more, it could end up being exceptionally expensive for you.
With all that time off, your kids are much more likely to:
And don’t forget the family trips you’ve got planned. It can really add up. But unless you want to listen to your children whine about being bored, it’s probably a good idea to talk to your children about what you can and can’t afford.
Here are some ideas for making that family discussion go a little bit more smoothly.
Be honest about your circumstances. Children can be more understanding than you may expect. And telling children now what you’re able to afford saves you from being badgered later down the road.
Discuss your summer plans. If you are planning a family vacation, let your children know. That way, they can save their chore money for souvenirs and you won’t have those last minute arguments when they want to buy a bumper sticker or stuffed animal. Giving them an idea of how much things cost would be a good idea as well.
Offer them alternatives. Instead of a night at the movie theater, you could borrow the neighbor’s projector and create an outdoor theater on the side of the house. Something out of the ordinary may satisfy their need to “do something” and keep you (and them) from spending a lot of money on entertainment.
Encourage summer jobs. If your child is old enough you should encourage your children to make their own money. If they start now, they might be able to secure a few lawn mowing jobs or get a summer job as a lifeguard. This will teach your children a few great financial lessons…and keep them occupied for the summer.
Give them extra chores so they can make extra money. You know you have projects that have been waiting months to get done – like cleaning out the closets. Knowing your children will want extra cash, give them an opportunity to earn it rather than just giving in to their requests.
Ask them to help you save for the summer. If you put a plan in place during the year, you could have a penny jar filled with possibilities for the summer. Teaching your children to save (even change) during the year will show them the benefits of being money-savvy.
Your summer should be just as enjoyable as your kids’ summer. Talking with your children before those summer holidays begin is a great way to make sure you are working together.
Enjoy your break!