Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Does My 11 Year Old REALLY Need a Phone?

I am struggling.  My daughter is about to enter middle school and she feels that she needs a phone.  I on the other hand have told her that she doesn't but I'm not sure which of us is right.

Let me give you some background on the situation.  The school she is going to is right behind our house.  In fact, she doesn't even need to cross the street.  99% of the time I'll be home when she gets home so I really don't see why she NEEDS a phone.

She feels she NEEDS a phone because all her friends have them (not sure this is accurate) and she may go somewhere after school and need to call me (hello - can you say "pay phone") or call me when she does arrive home.  My smart alec remark to that was that if she calls me from our home phone when she arrives home then I know she is safely home because it shows on my call display but if she calls from her cell phone she could be kidnapped and half way across the world for all I know.  Okay, I get that's a little drastic but I really am struggling with  this whole decision.

I think a big part of my fear is that I know a cell phone isn't just for calls, it is for texting, she'll soon want a data plan, and instagram, etc.  I know that we are laying down strong morals and values with our kids but the internet and technology are hard to navigate for even the best of kids.

I found this great resource from Telus that helps parents guide their decisions regarding a child's readiness for a smartphone.  In it they talk about it not being about the child's age as much as their maturity that should be the determining factor.  Here are their 4 guiding questions to determine if your child is ready.

  1. Have you set limits for use of iPods, tablets, computers, gaming consoles?  If yes, does your child understand and respect these limits?
  2. Does your child need a phone to stay in contact with you in case of an emergency?
  3. Can your child be trusted to not use their phone at inappropriate times? (i.e. in class)
  4. Have you laid the foundation for responsible smartphone behaviour and talked with them about sharing inappropriate pictures and posts?

I found these questions really helpful.  Instead of it being an emotional decision (me freaking out "no" and her freaking out "yes")  that we are making, it becomes a decision based on needs and readiness.

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Mom's Morning Quickie

Sometimes all I feel like is a morning quickie.  I'm tired, I don't really have time or energy to put into the real thing, I'm in a rush but I still have a need.   The need is real and I can't leave home without taking care of it.  That's when I turn to the kitchen.  I know, crazy as it may seem, the kitchen holds the answer for me.  The kitchen you wonder?!?  Oh, I get where you think I was going with this...no...it's my hair!  

Some mornings I wake up and my hair just looks a little too greasy for my liking.  It's not really dirty but just a little limp around the roots.  The ends definitely don't need another wash (yes, maybe a little over-processing there) but the roots are crying out for help.  I know there are a million dry shampoos on the market and I've tried a few but in all honesty, nothing has worked better for me, this solution is inexpensive and always on hand.  The key is cornstarch.

So, here's how it works.  
  1. I take my box of cornstarch, sprinkle a little on my brush.  
  2. Turn my head upside down so my hair is hanging towards the floor
  3. Start brusing from the back of my head forward* 
  4. Flip my head back up and brush into my hair into place
* That way if I have a little too much cornstarch on the brush it doesn't end up thick at my hairline or sprinkled on my face.  

The bonus for me is that I have pretty thin hair and this tends to give me a thicker look.  It also makes my hair much easier to style.

I've tried with baby powder too and while I love the smell, it tends to leave my hair full of electric static which is then a new problem I have to deal with.  Cornstarch is the secret recipe to my "quickie" morning hair routine for sure.  

Here's to great looking hair and a morning quickie!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A fun AND affordable summer with your kids - is that an oxymoron?

"Summertime, and the living is easy" - okay, that's how the song goes but as a mom, you know just as well as I do that summer can actually be a really stressful time for families. Not only are we stressed finding ways to keep our kids entertained (while many of us are still at work 8 hours a day) but the costs associated with camps and summer outings add stress to the family budget as well.

School's Out - now what?  Time for camp!

According to a recent TD survey, 55% of Canadian parents with children under the age of 18 take on additional costs during the summer; in fact, 71% of them spend up to $999 per child. Ouch - that's a lot of money when you multiply it by the number of kids in your family.

What I've learned over time (and with the great advice of some super savvy financial ladies) is that there are many simple ways that we can minimize the stress of summer and still provide a fun and safe environment for our kids.

5 Ways to Make Summer Camps More Affordable

1.  High/Low:

In our family we always employ the high/low method of selecting camps. If the kids want to go to a specialty camp (that always come with a high price tag) then we offset it by selecting a local municipal or church based camp that is less costly.

2.  Early Bird Savings:

Many camps offer early bird pricing if you pay in full before a certain date. It can add up to big savings for the summer if you do it for each of your kids.

3.  Multiple Week Discounts:

Another way to save is to take advantage of the multiple week discounts that many camps offer. By sending your children to the same camp for a longer period of time, there is often a great cost savings to you.

4.  Multiple Child Discounts:

Here's where the idea of bulk buying comes into play. Send your kids to the SAME camp. Not only does it take away a ton of the logistical stress of drop off and pick-ups, it also saves you money. Most camps offer sibling discounts so make sure to ask.

5.  Referral Credits:

We all know that our kids like to go to camp with friends. Take advantage of the referral credit a lot of camps offer when you refer one of your kids' friends to the camp. It's a win/win - your child has a buddy for the week and you have a few extra dollars in your pocket.

Okay, so you've saved a bit of money taking advantage of the cost savings above but you still have summer bills to pay. Where do you get that money from? You aren't alone when you ask that question.

Did you know that 51% of parents find budgeting for additional summer costs stressful and that only 28% of parents save ahead of time.

TD Savings, Summer Savings, Paying for Camp

I spoke with Linda MacKay, Senior Vice President, Retail Savings and Investing and Shirley Malloy Associate Vice President, Acquisition & Sales Management from TD Canada Trust and got their advice on how to help you prepare for the cost of summer.

5 great tips from the experts at TD Canada Trust to help you prepare for the cost of summer ahead of time.

1.  Make a habit out of saving:

Throughout the year you can put away a little money each week to help offset the summer expenses. A really easy way to do this is to set up auto-payments into a savings account so you automate those savings. A Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) is the perfect place to save for summer.

2.  Put the Universal Child Care Benefits to use:

As of January 2015, the Canadian government pays each family $160/month for kids under 6 years of age and $60/month for kids between the ages of 7 and 17. If you set aside that money and earmark it specifically for summer activities, you will have $720/school aged child ready to use towards summer camps or activities.

3.  Put Your Points to Work:

Points! I love paying for things with points! It feels like such a bonus. Take a look at your credit card and decide if the reward system aligns with your family's needs. Some cards give you cash back once a year - set that money aside in savings for summer activities. Other cards allow you to trade your points for products. Theme park tickets, flights, restaurant vouchers and more can be purchased with some credit card points. You can't pay for camp with points but you can pay for a lot of other fun summertime activities with your points.

4.  Work Together with Friends:

You probably have friends who are in the same boat as you; they need their kids to be taken care of during the day while they go to work. See if it is possible for you to take off different holiday weeks during the summer and take each other's kids for that week. You both save money on child care and we all know, it's WAY easier to entertain your kids when they have a friend. So, coordinate those calendars early.

5.  Make tax time work for you:

File your receipts – some summer costs could be tax deductible as a child care expense or under the Child Fitness Tax Credit on your tax return. When you get this money back next year, put that money aside immediately to be used for 2016 summer activities.

Summer is supposed to be fun, stressing over how to finance it can definitely take away some of the excitement and joy. After speaking with Linda MacKay, Senior Vice President, Retail Savings and Investing and Shirley Malloy Associate Vice President, Acquisition & Sales Management, experts at TD Canada Trust I now know how important it is to prepare yourself this summer and put some of the suggestions above into play to help you save money on your summer activities and save for those expenses ahead of time.

Get back to basics and remember, a great game of hide and go seek paired with a popsicle is a great way to spend a summer evening! Have a great summer with your family! 

This post has been sponsored by TD Canada Trust, but the opinions are my own.
For more information, please visit http://www.tdcanadatrust.com.

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