Teaching and Developing our Children

With growing cultures in silicone valley and the spreading knowledge of the importance of education for children, educational toys are growing rapidly. From STEM centered toys to sociological educational books and more, learning is at the center of some of the most popular of today’s toys.

The best way to teach your children is to make sure they are enjoying themselves while learning. This simple task may at first sound difficult, but with all the products out there and the vast amount of things to learn you can really do almost anything. Popular video games have some knowledge in them as well so make sure that you first do you research in what the game is about but games that focus on buildings and crafting are actually quite great when it comes to children learning, especially spatial memory.

Another kind of toy you should think of getting your children are STEM toys. These toys concentrate on certain jobs in the STEM area, but much like video games, you must make sure that they are age appropriate. This, unlike videos games is only because some stem toys can actually be quite difficult. However you should add challenges to your child’s education so that they push themselves to do and be better learners.

You can also add reading to your child’s game time but this one can be a little more difficult. However the success with this is all about you. You should make reading sound and be fun and you should start reading to them when they are younger. This is a fantastic way to enrich your child’s life with the enjoyment of knowledge.

When you’re all done researching and finding the right toys for your children, treat yourself to something nice like a pair of Express jeans which can definitely make a difference in the look and feel of your pants.

50 Excellent Tips to Improve Your Finances Part 3 of 5

Hello and welcome back to part 3 of our 5-part blog series about improving your finances. People are looking for financial solutions anywhere and everywhere that they can these days and, if that’s you, our first 2 blogs are worth going back and taking a look at. For now however we have another 10 tips (and the usual bits of advice) that you can start using today to save money, spend less, pay down debt and otherwise get your financial train back on track. Enjoy.

  1. One of the easiest ways today to save money is to cook your meals at home. The fact is, restaurant food is not only expensive but also quite unhealthy in most cases. If you can replace those restaurant meals with home-cooked meals you’ll literally save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year. There’s really no excuse today either with the plethora of cooking shows, apps and other useful tools that will show you how to cook like a pro in no time.
  2. Going to the movies can be a lot of fun but, these days, can be ridiculously expensive also. Taking a family of five to the movies, including snacks, is approximately $75 and, when you consider that the average movie lasts less than two hours, makes movie going  something that most families must do quite infrequently. When you consider that the cost of big-screen TVs is dropping rapidly, and that you can stream movies for relatively inexpensive costs on Hulu, Netflix and other providers, it makes putting money into your home entertainment system a decent investment.
  3. One of the biggest costs for most families as their energy bill and, if your home is leaking cooled or heated air like a sieve, you’d do well to focus on some home improvements to stop that from happening and stop your money from leaking as well. Leaky windows and doors, un-insulated attics and so forth can be quite costly whereas having extra insulation put in, installing a programmable thermostat and also some smart power strips could actually cut your energy bills by up to 30%.
  4. Do you know that a survey by the National Retail Federation found that, when it comes to gifts, the majority of people surveyed said that they’d like a money or gift card more than any other gift. While this may sound impersonal, it will cut down on a lot of time, gasoline and energy wasted and, since most gift cards offer loss protection and have dropped their fees, giving gift cards for the next birthday or holiday could very well be an excellent financial decision.
  5. One of the worst feelings that a homeowner can have is right after a storm has damaged our home and they find out that their homeowners insurance policy isn’t going to cover the damages adequately. The fact is, the average homeowner has no idea how their homeowners insurance policy works or exactly what it covers and, for this reason, asking your insurance agent to explain your policy to you so that you know exactly what it covers is extremely vital. If you find that you are not as well covered as you thought, at least you’ll know and be able to make a decision on what to do about it.
  6. Identity theft is on the rise and, as thieves figure out even more clever ways of gaining your important information and data, the risk of losing your identity (and your money) increases. Most financial experts suggest that you change your passwords every few months, review your bank statements every single month and check your credit  report at least every six months to make sure that any new applications for credit were made only by you.
  7. This one’s easy; stop making frivolous purchases. Do you really need that new juicer? Is a new pair of shoes going to enhance your life or just take up more room in your closet? Do you need that television in the kitchen? If your answer isn’t “yes, definitely!” then buying whatever it is that you have your eye on isn’t necessary. Do yourself a financial favor and just walk away.
  8. Be aware of any email (or other type) of solicitation where a company tries to convince you that they are an official government agency and that the you’ll be ‘fined’ if you don’t act. In nearly 100% of all cases these are scam emails and, if you give your credit card information or pay the fees they’re asking, you’ll  really want to kick yourself in the morning.
  9. Many people donate 10% of their income to the church and other charitable causes. While we’re not saying that this is a bad idea we will tell you that, in lieu of money, charitable donations can also include your time, you used furniture and clothing and even your blood. Donating a few hours a week to charity can sometimes be worth much more than just a check or cash anyway.
  10. While this may not affect your bottom line or your budget, teaching your children about money and how to handle it is an excellent idea. Research shows that when parents teach their children about handling money, said children go on to make much better financial decisions as adults. (Plus, if they’re successful they’ll be less likely to come looking for money when you’re retired.)

Can you believe it?! We’ve come to the end of another blog. We hope you’ve enjoyed this one and that some of the tips and advice that we shared with you today will be useful and helpful. Please come back and join us soon for part-4. See you then.

Get Those Taxes in Order

Ahh the month of January is usually cold and dark, and not just because of the weather, but rather because it’s the start of the dreaded tax season.  Taxes often come with negative connotations, even though many Americans receive a tax refund eacy and every year.  Though there are the people that still end up owing the tax man at year end, and quite proudly I am one of them.  Every penny the government owes you at year end is equivalent to a tax free loan they have been putting to work for their own use.  On the other hand, every penny you owe the government is a tax free loan they provide to you.  Hopefully you have been wise enough to save and invest this additional money and you have achieved a healthy return on it throughout the year.  But wehther you owe, or are owed money, you have a limited amount of time to get everything in order.  So in the haste of doing your taxes, here are some tips to consider before filing.

Sometimes a little early consideration can save you a ton of headaches in the long run.  It’s only January, now is the time to consider tax deferred investments like a 401K account, or an IRA.  Many employers offer free matching programs and if you aren’t taking advantage then you are throwing away free money.  Also, they lower your year end tax bill!  I’m not talking about an interest free loan here, I’m talking about money you owe in taxes…period!  Lower your taxable income and you lower the amount of taxes paid.

Make sure you consider each and every deduction and credit!  If you have a year full of medical bills, or charitable donations, now is the time to pull out every receipt you have.  Are you, or a child of yours, attending an institution of higher learning?  Consider the benefits of educatin credits.  The mortgage interest deduction is the largest tax benefit I receive each year.  I hate paying interest on anything, but the mortgage interest deduction lowers a nice chuck of my tax bill each year.

Are you married?  If so, consider efiling jointly rather than seperately.  The tax benefits of being married far outweight the single life.  Other than the higher standard deduction, you may be eligible to file for credits and deductions that were once phased out based on filing under single status.  I hadn’t been able to write off my student loan interest for quite a few years, but once I got married I was able to claim it once again.

I highly suggest you seek out a tax professional so they can analyze your specific situation.  Online tax software is good for single taxpayers with little to no assets or write offs.  However, the benefits of a tax professional become increasinginly more aware with a more complicated tax situation.