Friday, April 15, 2016

Your Tax Refund: How Will You Spend It [infographic]

Are you one of those lucky people that almost always gets  a tax refund? It's exciting to think about how you are going to spend it.                                               You feel like a kid in a candy store the day your tax refund check comes in the mail or shows up in your back account, at least I know I do. What plans for that money have you already been thinking about, what dreams you have slept on for weeks?
In your head the possibilities are endless for spending money, but then reality sets in (or your spouse chimes in) and you realize that any influx of money to your budget whether large or small, might need to be spent wisely with some thought first to the budget.
There are many options to maximize your refund depending on your financial situation. Most of us don't have the luxury available to just "blow" our newly acquired funds on frivolousness, even though we so want to buy those cute shoes or take a "just me" vacation to the white sand beaches of Bora Bora (on my bucket list...lol).  

Here are 5 of my top common sense tax refund spending tips
  1. Put it in savings ( a higher rate of interest savings account if possible) and create an rainy day or emergency fund just as the infographic below describes.
  2. Pay on all of your credit cards, pay them off if you can.
  3. Refinance your home while mortgage rates are lower, having a lower payment makes much more sense. If you can refinance right now, try to pay some on the principle, extra payments will help in the long run.
  4. Add some of that money to your retirement fund, it will be here before you know it (depressing isn't it, lets go to Bora Bora now)
  5. Splurge just a little on yourself, just do it smartly. Take your spouse out to a nice dinner for date night, this will recharge your batteries and your marriage.
Our friends at US Tax Center have created this awesome infographic with the advice of their financial experts to help show us how we can spend our tax refunds wisely. Please feel free to comment with your ideas and suggestions on how you maximize your refund money, do you have any tips or tricks that work for your family?

"Visit the US Tax Center at irs.com and see all the wealth of information that is available on their site and some convenient options for filing taxes online.

I hope you have a blessed day and wonderful weekend!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Parenting in the Social Media Age: Don't Fall Behind!

The Social Media age is a major part of our life now and our children's lives now, usage increases among younger children every year. What can you do as a parent? Have you caught up yet? Don't fall behind mom and dad, it is your responsibility to keep your kids safe. I know it is not easy, we are struggling everyday 
with the same things you are. I am right there with you with a pre-teen and teen daughter that are glued to their iphones and laptops everyday.
The best thing you can do as a parent is keep the lines of communication open, dialogue about social media with your kids is one of the best tools you have. Keep your conversations open and very honest, let them know just how you feel (they can't read your mind, just like you can't read theirs). They need to know the consequences and real dangers that are out in our world today. Don't think that bad things only happen to other people, it can easily be you.

This info-graphic credit "Teen Safe" shows some great thoughts. 

Creating some ground rules from the beginning about how your kids will use social media, how you will monitor their computer and cell phone usage will help you tremendously later on. 
I like the statement that online lives should never take priority over real lives. Keep that in mind and have family nights often, no phones allowed, even you mom & dad. Remember kids will watch and do just what you do too (remember monkey see monkey do?)
Are you always face- deep in your smart phone? Do you post online photos, messages or tweets that are not becoming of the person you want your child to be or see?

How is your social media and phone use, what example do they have to follow. Don't be the bad monkey!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Social Media and Tech Savvy Kids: Can You Catch Up?

Now, I love the internet and my social media sites, they are not ALL bad if they are used in the right ways.
The growth of the internet has opened the world to so many opportunities for learning, education and connection. As a homeschool family we use the internet daily for learning and education, but we also know that being online can be a huge time waster if we don't watch out.
As a mom I have tried my best to keep up with the latest technology and social media sites that my children might be visiting. All three of my kids are tech savvy and have a passion for being online.
I realized that I must stay at the same level with them and educate myself about all the possible social media sites out there. This includes knowing what apps are on their phones and what sites are visited via their laptops.

How technology and socially savvy are your kids? How close do you watch their activity on social media sites? You may think you are a media smart parent, but even the smartest of parents may not know just what those kids are up too. Letting your guard down even for a little while can have dire consequences.
Long gone are the days that we worried about our kids sneaking out and meeting others down the street in the middle of the night. Today they can be talking to anyone, anywhere in the world, right in their bedroom via their cell phone. With the advancements in technology our smartphones have almost gotten too smart. Webcams, cameras, gps tracking devices and many different apps can tell a child predator exactly where your child is and just how to lure them out and away from the safety of your home.
Case in point 13 year old Nicole Lovell, a middle school student who was killed by 2 college students just recently after being lured by one of them via the social media app named "KiK". Apparently the 13 year old was social media savvy and a victim of bullying, the college student took advantage of that and used it against her for his own selflessness. Such a beautiful young life gone.....
Middle schooler "Nicole Lovell" age 13 stabbed to death

Do you regularly check your children's phones? laptops, tablets etc? why not? Do you ask them what they are doing? Do you discuss the risks of posting online photos, tweets or posts that might not be smart or might harm someone else?

Parental controls can also be a tool to use for parents, many cell phone and internet providers have this. Control when and how your kids are accessing the internet. No cell phones at bedtime, it is proven to affect their sleep. 
Educate yourself on all the latest social media sites, apps and language that is used in text messaging. You are the parent, you pay the bills remember that. 
Tomorrow we will explore more of those social media and smart phone apps that you might need to know about.....stay tuned

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