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.

Friday, June 19, 2015

5 Summer Safety Essentials for Kids

If your family is anything like mine and you live in an area that has more cold days than warm ones, the moment the sun shines we're all like a sunflower arcing to face the sun.  That being said, our skin is delicate and exposure to those rays can cause burns.  Here are 5 simple essentials for keeping safe in the sun this summer.

The earlier you start implementing these practices, the more routine they'll become.  In fact, I had to laugh; I asked my 8 year old to bring in the recycling bin from the curb and he grabbed his hat before he headed out for this one minute job.  I guess it's ingrained in them now!

1.  Sunscreen:

Image: Fear No Beauty

I can't say enough about finding a good sunscreen and using it diligently. 

You see products that say they're safe for UVA and/or UVB rays.  But, what does that really mean? Here's a great way to remember; UVA are the Aging rays, the ones that cause us to develop wrinkles, etc.  UVB rays are the Burning rays, those that cause us to end up looking like a lobster.  So remember - A for Aging and B for Burning.  You really want to look for Full Spectrum Sunscreens that provide 100% UVA and UVB protection.

I love this sunscreen for the face, it is my absolute favourite.  It is easy to apply, doesn't feel heavy, has a nice scent and most importantly, it works!  

For their bodies I insist on a cream sunscreen.  The sprays seem so much more convenient but it is also very easy to miss areas and I never feel like you get a thick enough coating.  A personal fave at our house is this one.  I think part of that is because of the tropical smell but it has never let us down.  If you need fragrance free, this one is great too.

Remember, no matter which sunscreen you use, keep reapplying throughout the day, about every 2 hours or after swimming. Sweat, swimming, etc. will all decrease the effectiveness or wash away the sunscreen altogether. Don't forget those easy to forget spots either - your ears, knees, calves, elbows and the tops of your feet.

NOTE: I know this post is about keeping safe in the summer but really we should all be protecting ourselves from the sun year round and wearing sunscreen daily.  

2. Put on a pair of Sunglasses:

Images: Real Kids

Your children's eyes are just as sensitive as their skin.  I love this shop for kids' sunglasses.  They have 5 sizes ranging from from baby to tween (and super cute age appropriate styles too), they're shatterproof, they provide full spectrum protection and they aren't expensive.  

3.  Practice Water Safety:

Our kids LOVE the water and always have but it takes no time at all for a fun day at the pool or beach to go very wrong.  Here are a few basic tips to remember this summer:

  • Never leave kids unattended near water
  • Set clear rules and enforce them; i.e. no one allowed in water alone, no touching other people in water, etc.
  • Ensure gates are latched around pools - with all the comings and goings, this sometimes gets missed.
  • Wear proper PFD when out on boats, etc.
  • Don't push kids to pass deep end tests if they're not ready
  • Take lessons throughout the year to prepare for summer months. This means parents too.

Obviously this is just scratching the surface.  Make sure to follow all rules at waterparks, pools and beaches to ensure your family is safe.

4. Hydrate:

A water bottle works better but hey, we'll take hydration any way we can get it.

Get them a water bottle they love (or a few if your kids tend to leave them places like mine do).  Keep it filled with WATER.  Yup, good old water is the best way to keep them hydrated.  If they're out on their bikes, make sure their bike has a bottle holder so they are never without.  

5.  Take time out of the sun:

Image and instructions: Blue House Joys

The sun is at it's hottest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.  Obviously this is a key time for days at the zoo, the waterpark, etc. but it is important to take time out of the sun too.  Find a shadey spot under a tree and play some games, visit some of the inside exhibits at the zoo, find a story-time (or make one of your own) at the library or even make a trend of the mid-day movie.  How about building your kids a simple hoola-hoop tent that they can use as a mini-fort to get out of the sun, play board games, read, and just hang out.  

Have a safe and fun summer!

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