Wedding Gift Giving Etiquette: Engagement Parties

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Starting the Celebration: Engagement Parties

Wedding season is no longer restricted to the balmy, breezy days of early summer. These days, couples are planning their weddings all year round. What does this mean for you as a guest? For one, budgeting for weddings isn’t as easy as it used to be. Secondly, the expectations and etiquette of these joyous occasions have changed as well.

Don’t worry – we’re here to explain the ins and outs and do’s and don’ts of all wedding-related events, including the big day. For part one of our Wedding Gift-Giving Etiquette series, let’s discuss engagement parties.


And So It Begins

Your phone rings (or dings) and your friend or family member has big news – “We’re engaged!” If there were ever a reason to celebrate, this is it. Engagement parties typically occur within the first few months after the proposal. Traditionally, the party served to introduce the two families coming together through the marriage and was hosted by the bride’s parents. However, anyone can take it upon himself or herself to host a celebration these days, especially close friends or siblings. Some couples even throw their own engagement parties but usually only because circumstance, such as a tight timeline or distance, makes this necessary.

If you decide to throw an engagement party, you’ll need to get the bride and groom involved sooner rather than later. And, to keep costs and expectations reasonable, set a budget before you set a guest list. Lastly, it’s important to note that it’s bad form to invite anyone to the engagement party who won’t make the final guest list for the wedding (unless it’s a destination wedding, but we’ll get to that occasion later in this series – stay tuned!).


Be Their Guest

As an engagement party attendee, you’re not expected to bring a gift, especially if the party is a surprise. Some guests do choose to bring a small present, such as champagne flutes, a book about wedding planning, a bottle of wine or simply a card. Since engagement parties don’t typically have a gift-giving portion, like at a bridal shower, there’s really no pressure to bring anything other than your selves.


When it comes time to shower the bride (or the couple) in gifts, do you know what the rules are about gift giving? Our next installment will cover everything from registries to properly approaching invitations to multiple showers.

Tips to Organize Your Home

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Organizing your home does not need to be difficult.  Check out these great tips from our help you get your home organized in no time at all!


School is back in session and the messes from summer still remain. Now that there’s a little free time in the day, maybe organizing can take place. Whether you have a spot for everything already or you’re trying to become more organized, it’s easier when nobody is home to undo what you just did. So what are some easy ways to organize?

We posted this question on our weekly Penny For Your Thoughts post on our Facebook page. Here are a couple of the tips which were shared by our readers.

“One room at a time, start at top & work my way down.” – Koren C.

“Clearing out old clothes and eBaying or fb selling what hasn’t been used in over a year.” – Cassie M.

“If you have children, label spots in their room where their things belong. Labeling will help with the, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it.””

“Start in one section of one room and continue until it’s done and then move on. Don’t try to tackle a whole room at once because it can seem overwhelming and you won’t see progress right away, especially if there is a lot of stuff.”

“Get rid of things you don’t need or use, these items take up a lot of space.”

These tips to organize your home can make life a little easier. We’re actually starting a 21 days to organize your home series soon here on Penny Pinchin’ Mom so if you’re looking for step by step or room by room help, stay tuned!!

Make sure you watch Facebook each Monday for our newest question and share your ideas.  You may find your name and tip featured each week on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!

Tips to Save when Shopping for the Holidays!

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The holidays can be stressful for many.  It isn't the events, but often times the money it may cost.  When you start to plan ahead, you can really save a LOT on your holiday gift giving.  Check out these reader tips with ideas to really stretch your budget!


Oh my… We officially have 14 weeks until Black Friday and 18 weeks until Christmas!! If you’re already starting to think about the holidays know that these last couple of months with fly by, especially with school being back in session! If you buy gifts for the whole family then you may be wondering how to save when shopping for the holidays…

We posted this question on our weekly Penny For Your Thoughts post on our Facebook page. Here are a couple of the tips which were shared by our readers.

“I shop clearance sections throughout the year or after the holidays for the next year. Then it’s all done.” – Melissa B.

“We shop during the year, usually start in June and make our own salsa and other goods to give away. We have found the people we buy for don’t really need more stuff.” – Christine G.

“I make my own! I start in June and finish by christmas.” – Lucy V.

“I’m mixing homemade gifts and small purchases this year. Friends love my baking and treats so everyone’s getting a box of nuts and tin of cookies. Then something on the low end of the $ spectrum that the kids have been wanting. Watching sales all year long.” – Kristen S.

“I shop clearance and sales all year. I set a budget and stay in it (although I do go over sometimes for my kids I don’t for anyone else). I make a lot of my gifts.” – Tiffany J.

“I make some gifts and for the adults, consumable items only like treats, mixes, Bath and Body Works, etc. Kids I make a list and stick to it. I’m not a good shopper anyway thanks to ADD so I want in and out of a store quickly lol.” – Susan B.

Not only are these great ways to save now but there were quite a few people who had ideas on ways to save starting right after Christmas, meaning you start thinking about next years holidays while you’re still celebrating this years. Their tips to save starting at the holidays are below…

“I take money from my tax returns and put it in a savings account. I don’t touch the money until Christmas shopping. That way I don’t have to worry about it. I always use coupons on top of the Black Friday sales. I also do those free offers from shutterfly. They make great personable gifts.” – Sabrina A.

“I shop after Christmas sales and get things dirt cheap. I got some awesome stuff for the boxes I am sending for the kids, stocking stuffers, and stuff for those work parties and people who drop by. I also got tons of bags, paper, boxes, treat bags, ribbon, tags and bows. I still have presents to buy, but, I saved my state income tax check to take a chunk out of that.” – Luann N.

“Oh, another thing I do is keep 2 piggy banks. One is for pennies and one is for silver coins. People can do their own 2 piggies and spend the pennies on themselves and silver for family for the holidays. If you start on Jan. 1, you could have a few full piggies.” – Matthew G.

“I buy stuff for my 3 year old all year long that way it’s not overwhelming me.” – Misty G.

I shop sales and clearance all year. Christmas shopping for the next year starts the day after the present Christmas. Not only does it allow me to wait for good deals, but it’s much nicer on the bank account to spread out Christmas expenses over 12 months. A tip I read in Pinterest that I thought was a good idea was to purchase a small gift card with every paycheck. That way, when Christmas arrives, you have a whole bunch of gift cards to buy presents with and won’t be racking up debt on the credit card.” – Kristen E.

These tips are really good and will help anyone save some much needed funds… Also, if you’re in a large family you could suggest that all adults buy for the kids only to help take some of the strain off purchasing for everyone. Then, the adults could all bring one gift, wrapped, and do an exchange of sorts… make sure you set a minimum, maximum, gift limit. :)

Make sure you watch Facebook each Monday for our newest question and share your ideas.  You may find your name and tip featured each week on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!


List of Senior Discounts and Deals

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The best way to easily save money is to know where you can get savings and discounts.  If you are 55 or older (or know someone who is), this list is the one to check out!  We've put together all sorts of offers from stores to restaurants and even travel and entertainment!  Remember that these may vary by location and you may need to ask to get the discount.

If you are 55 or older you’ve not only learned a lot in your lifetime, but you also deserve some breaks!  Many retailers and restaurants actually offer discount and deals for people who are 55 or older.  Check out this list and bookmark this page so that you can check back to it later!

LocationDiscount Offered
*May vary by location
Details Location Type
Alamoup to 25% off for AARP membersTravel
Alaska Airlines10% off65+Travel
Albertson's10% off first Wednesday of each month55 +Grocery Store
AMC Theatersup to 30% off55+Entertainment
American Airlinesvarious discounts65+, call before booking for discountTravel
American Discount Stores10% off every Monday50+Retail Store
Amtrak15% off62+Travel
Applebee's15% off60+Restaurant
Arby's10% off55+Restaurant
AT&TSpecial Senior Nation 200 Plan $19.99/month65+Entertainment
Avisup to 25% off for AARP membersTravel
Banana Republic30% off50+Retail Store
Bealls20% off first Tuesday of each month50+Retail Store
Belk's15% off first Tuesday of every month55+Retail Store
Ben & Jerry's10% off60+Restaurant
Bennigan'svaries by location60+Restaurant
Best Western10% off55+Travel
Big Lots30% offRetail Store
Bob's Big Boyvaries by location60+Restaurant
Bon Ton15% off on senior discount days55+Retail Store
Boston Market10% off65+Restaurant
Budget10% off; up to 20% off for AARP members50+Travel
Burger King10% off60+Restaurant">Busch Gardens Tampa$3 off one-day tickets50+Entertainment
CJ Banks10% off every Wednesday50+Retail Store
Cambria Suites20%-30% off60+Travel
Carmike Cinemas35% off65+Entertainment
Chick-Fil-A10% off or free small drink or coffee55+Restaurant
Chili's10% off55+Restaurant
CiCi's Pizza10% off60+Restaurant
Cinemark/Century Theatersup to 35% offEntertainment
Clarion Motels20%-30% off60+Travel
Clarks10% off62+Retail Store
Comfort Inn20%-30% off60+Travel
Comfort Suites20%-30% off60+Travel
Denny's10% off, 20% off for AARP members55+Restaurant
Dollar10% off50+Travel
Dress Barn20% off55+Retail Store
Dunkin Donuts10% off or free coffee55+Restaurant
Econo Lodge20%-30% off60+Travel
Einstein Brothers10% off baker's dozen of bagels60+Restaurant
Enterprise5% off for AARP membersTravel
Fry's Supermarketfree Fry’s VIP Club Membership & 10% off every Monday55+Grocery Store
Fuddruckers10% off any senior platter55+Restaurant
Gatti's Pizza10% off60+Restaurant
Golden Corral10% off60+Restaurant
Goodwill10% off one day a weekdate varies by locationRetail Store
Great Clips$8 off hair cuts60+Beauty
Greyhound5% off62+Travel
Hallmark10% off one day a weekdate varies by locationRetail Store
Hampton Inn & Suites10% off when booked 72 hours in advanceTravel
Hardee's$0.33 beverages everyday65+Restaurant
Harris Teeter5% off every Tuesday60+Grocery Store
Hertzup to 25% off for AARP membersTravel
Holiday Inn10%-30% offdepends on location, 62+Travel
Hy-Vee5% off one day a weekdate varies by locationGrocery Store
Hyatt Hotels25%-50% off62+Travel
IHOP10% off55+Restaurant
InterContinental Hotelsvarious discounts at all hotels65+Travel
Jack in the Boxup to 20% off55+Restaurant
Jitterbug$10/month cell phone service50+Cell Phone
KFCfree small drink with any meal55+Restaurant
KMart40% off50+, Wednesdays onlyRetail Store
Kohl's15% off60+, TuesdaysRetail Store
Krispy Kreme10% off50+Restaurant
Kroger10% offdate varies by locationGrocery Store
Long John Silversvarious discounts at locations55+Restaurant
Mainstay Suites10% off with Mature Traveler’s Discount (50+); 20%-30% off (60+)Travel
Marriott Hotels15% off62+Travel
McDonald'sdiscounts on coffee everyday55+Restaurant
Modell's30% offRetail Store
Motel 610% off60+Travel
Mrs. Fields10% off at participating locations60+Restaurant
Myrtle Beach Resort10% off55+Travel
National Rent-A-Carup to 30% off for AARP membersTravel
Publix5% off every Wednesday55+Grocery Store
Quality Inn20%-30% off60+Travel
Regal Cinemas30% offEntertainment
Ripley's Believe It or Not$2 off one-day ticket55+Entertainment
Rite Aid10% off on Tuesdays & 10% off prescriptionsDrug Store
Rodeway Inn20%-30% off60+Travel
Ross Stores10% off every Tuesday55+Retail Store">SeaWorld Orlando$3 off one-day tickets50+Entertainment
Shoney's10% offRestaurant
Sleep Inn20%-30% off60+Travel
Sonic10% off or free beverage60+Restaurant
Southwest Airlinesvarious discounts65+, call before booking for discountTravel
Steak 'n Shake10% off every Monday & Tuesday50+Restaurant
Stein Mart20% off red dot/clearance items first Monday of every month55+Retail Store
Subway10% off60+Restaurant
Supercuts$8 off hair cuts60+Beauty
Sweet Tomatoes10% off62+Restaurant
Taco Bell5% off; free beverages for seniors65+Restaurant
TCBY10% off55+Restaurant
Tea Room Cafe10% off50+Restaurant
Salvation Armyup to 50% off55+Retail Store
Trailways Transportationvarious discounts50+Travel
US Airwaysvarious discounts65+, call before booking for discountTravel
US National Parks$10 lifetime pass; 50% off additional services including camping62+Entertainment
United Airlinesvarious discounts65+, call before booking for discountTravel
Verizon WirelessVerizon Nationwide 65 Plus Plan $29.99/month65+Cell Phone
Village Inn10% off60+Restaurant
Waffle House10% off every Monday60+Restaurant
Wendy's10% off55+Restaurant
Whataburger10% off62+Restaurant
White Castle10% off62+Restaurant

Ten Simple Ways To Save Money On Utilities

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There are simple things that we can each do to help knock down the cost of those utilities.  Make sure you head over and read these 10 MUST KNOW tips to help save on your monthly utility bills!

One of the easiest things you can do to drop your household expenses and make your budget work, is to save where you can.  There are a lot of things we know we can do such as cutting back on dining out or using coupons at the store.  However, there is even more you can do!

Just take a look at your home – namely – your utilities.  Believe it or not, there are things you can do to help lower your monthly expenses on these must have items!  Here are ten things you can do:


1. Adjust your thermostat.  During the summer months, turn your thermostat up when you are not home (and do the opposite in the winter months).  You will consume less energy while you are away.  Then, when you return home, you can drop it down a few degrees to cool it down — or throw on a sweatshirt or sweater if your house is too cool in the winter months.  It shouldn’t take too long to get the house back down to a comfortable temp.

The simplest way to do this is by using a programmable thermostat.  Yes, there is initial cost, but it will eventually pay for itself in energy savings. Find one with options you can program for seven days a week.  It is also wise to set your thermostat to adjust to your comfortable room setting around 3 or 4 pm — before peak consumption kicks in at around 5 pm.

2. Unplug items when not in use.   Did you know that appliances still draw electricity when they are not in use?  If you unplug that lamp or TV when you are not using them you can cut down on your utility bill.  We actually have a power strip that shuts down our TV, satellite dish and Bly-ray player when the TV is off.  So none of those draws juice when not in use.   Something as simple as leaving the television on when you are not in the room is wasting you (and the environment) precious electricity, which equals money.  Just get into the habit of shutting everything of when you leave the room, you can begin to save money.



3.  Lower your water consumption.  This may sound simple, but do you leave the water running whenyou brush your teeth?  Why not shut it off when you are brushing and not actually rinsing?  Do you need to spend 10 minutes taking a shower?  Why not try to shave off 5 minutes from your shower time and see how much water you can save.

You might look at putting a brick or jar filled with rocks (make sure it has a lid on it) into your toilet tank so that less water is required to fill the tank.  You might also invest in low-flow shower heads to reduce water usage while showering.  You can even put an aerator on your kitchen faucet, which can save money on your water use.

In addition, it is a good idea to nix watering your lawn.  When summer brings it’s sweltering heat, we all see our plants and yard suffering.  While having a gorgeous green lawn is wonderful (I love mine too), a little brown won’t hurt.  So, don’t spend hours watering your yard.  If you have a sprinkler system, be sure that it first of all has a rain sensor and doesn’t kick on when you’ve recently received moisture.  Secondly, be sure you do not water more than once or twice  week and for a short period of time – if not at all.

If you must water, do NOT water in the heat of the sun.  Water in the very early morning (5:00 am if you can) as your precious water will not evaporate away.   I’ll admit that by mid-July, a lot of my plants start to look a little wilted, so I will put some water on them from time to time, but it is certainly NOT a daily occurrence.

4.  Check for leaks.  Be sure to check for any leaky faucets or toilets in your home.  It may not seem like much water loss, but it doesn’t take much to create a gallon of wasted water, which is money your are pouring down your drain (literally).  The cost for a new faucet will outweigh the cost of your wasted water.

light switch

5.  Turn it all off.  When you leave a room, turn off the lights.  Keep your ceiling fan turned off if you aren’t sitting beneath it.  While you might think that turning lights off and on draws more energy, that is simply untrue.  Turning a light on draws nor more energy than leaving it on.  Therefore, turning off those lights when not in use is an easy way to save money!

6.  Don’t close your vents. This is probably the opposite of what you thought, but it actually saves more money to leave your vents open.  The reason is that HVAC systems are designed to be balanced.  When one of the supply vents is turned off (aka – closed), it can put a strain on the other areas, which can actually result in more energy consumption – not less.

air filter

7.  Keep the dust away.  Make sure you clean your lint trap on your dryer frequently so that it will more efficiently and not draw as much energy.  The same holds true for the filter on your HVAC system.  Replace them a few times a year and not only will your system run better, you’ll even reduce dust and allergens in your home (an added bonus).

8.  Don’t pre-rinse the dishes.  If you have a newer dishwasher, these are designed to actually break down the food particles left behind on your dishes.  When you pre-rinse your dishes, you are wasting water (and money) since your dishwasher can do this for you.  Of course, that doesn’t mean you should leave large amounts of food on the plate.  Just scrap off the excess food and then load the dishwasher and you’ll be set!

9. Update to energy efficient appliances.  If you are in the market for new appliances, make sure that you opt for those which are energy efficient.  You might be surprised at the difference they can make on your utilities – in just the first month!  They can quickly pay for themselves.


10. Drop services. You can completely eliminate your telephone bill by shutting down your land line.  This is becoming more and more common place for families.  You are already paying for the cell phone service, so why pay for two different phone numbers?  This may not be an option for your and your family, but one you might want to seriously consider if you need to shave some money out of your budget.

It is smart to just take a look at your own home and you might find some simple ways (in addition to those listed above) to help you save!

What other ways have you found to cut your utility bills?

How to Save on Birthday Gifts

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Birthday parties are fun for kids, but can get expensive when you have to bring gifts.  We asked our readers for some of their BEST tips to save on gift giving -- they share them here!
It’s that time of year again… the kids are heading back to school. Our kids are excited to see their old friends, and make new friends too. While making friends is great, the influx in birthday party invites may start to leave your pocketbook looking a little bare. Have you ever skipped out on a birthday party for your childs friend because you didn’t have a gift or couldn’t afford one? It happens, but there are a few ways to help you save on those extra birthday gifts for the kids, so you can still attend.

We posted this question on our weekly Penny For Your Thoughts post on our Facebook page. Here are a couple of the tips which were shared by our readers.


Yardsales sometimes have brand new toys and such still in the package never been opened. (Like lil girl makeup sets, pack of hotwheels, etc)
Sometimes the clearance section at Walmart is great (occasionally the items are lower than the price it says, j
ust scan what you get here and there and see!) Otherwise, If it’s summer or winter I go to the dollar tree (all for one store) to make up a fun basket if all else fails. I like to promote outdoor play during the summer so I make up a nice gift bag of chalk, water guns, bug catchers, glow sticks, bubbles, notepad, pretend dress up stuff. If winter I pick up things from there that they can do inside like coloring books, activity books, reading books, puzzles, board games, dress up, crafts (they have easy ones that require no glue or scissors, a parents dream at times).” – Lauren B.

“Target toy clearance twice a year. Then I always have a gift ready to go.” – Janna F.

“I buy clearance at Christmas time from their gift sets.” – Amber G-C.

“Hit Amazon, usually get some good deals there. Stick to childhood staples (coloring books, bubbles, things like that).” – Katie S.

“50% off coupons used at Joann’s! Play dough, art supplies, Melissa and Doug, dress up, puzzles etc. Awesome place, great savings!.” – Nicola Z.

“Gift cards to dairy queen, family video, five below etc..” – Ami C.

“Target bins, clearance section.” – Nicki B.

These are all great ways to save and could help you get a couple of items for the price of one originally… allowing you to attend more than one party. I would say a healthy mix of boy/girl items would prepare you for any party you’re invited too.

Make sure you watch Facebook each Monday for our newest question and share your ideas.  You may find your name and tip featured each week on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!


How to Get the Most Out of Your Trip to Silver Dollar City!

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Getting Most out of Silver Dollar City Coupon

Whether you’re from Missouri, or another state, Silver Dollar City is a famed amusement park destination! Named as one of the Top Ten Amusement Parks in America last year, it’s definitely worth checking out, if you haven’t yet! We’ve put together some ways for you to save some money, and get the most out of your trip(s)!


How to Save on 1 Day Tickets

Regular priced one-day tickets for adults are $60.00+ tax through Silver Dollar City. There are a couple of options to save on one day tickets, though! For a small amount of savings, you can bring in a participating McDonald’s receipt for $5.00 off a ticket. A local, favorite option is to go on a Thursday, and purchase your ticket ahead of time at Price Cutter grocery store (local to the Springfield, MO metro area). You can get a one day ticket (valid for Thursdays, June 11th – August 6th, 2015) for only $40.00+ tax!


How to Save on Multiple Day Tickets

The best tip is to get a one day ticket, at a discount (see above) and go after 3 pm! If you check in to the park with your ticket at 3 pm or later, the next full day at the park is FREE! That means you can get a day and a half for the price of one (discounted) day! Valid through October 30th.


How to Save on Meals & Drinks

This one is super simple: bring your own. You can even bring food and drinks in with you, so you don’t have to go back out to the park to eat! It’s totally legal, and acceptable to bring in your own food and drinks and can save your big money if you’re on a budget!


Best Times to go to Silver Dollar City

Silver Dollar City has different festivals throughout their open season that are themed. One you can’t miss is World Fest! It’s full of amazing shows, vendors and foods from around the world! Christmas is another time to go. If you’ve never been, it’s spectacular! It’s a top holiday destination in the nation, and it will definitely put you in the holiday spirit! The light shows are top notch and worth every penny to see it!


Silver Dollar City App

Did you know Silver Dollar City had an app? Whether you’ve been to Silver Dollar City a thousand times, or you’re planning your first visit, you need this app! It’s available for Android and iPhones and is an incredible asset. The app will not only give you a list of restaurants and rides, but will also tell you the wait times in real time for your planning! This is great to know if you will have to wait for an hour, or ten minutes to get on your favorite ride!

Did we leave out any important information? Leave your comment below and let us know what we missed!

Lunch Ideas for Back to School!

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Coming up with ideas for kids' lunches can be tough...but we've got a great list of fun things you can make for your own kids' lunches!!!!

School will be back in session before too long and that means packing lunches will be on the every day agenda… but what do you pack for lunch? Personally, the beginning of the year always starts off good and as the year progresses I find myself getting lazier and less health conscious when putting lunchboxes together. So, I’m truly curious on what your favorite lunches to pack for your kids are?!

We posted this question on our weekly Penny For Your Thoughts post on our Facebook page. Here are a couple of the tips which were shared by our readers.

“We usually roll up lunch meat and cheese, pretzels and fruit.” – Amanda B.

“Lots.of fruit, pudding, a slim Jim, gogurt…luckily this year our school is providing FREE breakfast AND lunch!” – Christy G.

“Cut up chicken breast, strawberries, chips and triscuits. I never thought my daughter was a picky eater until I had to pack her lunch!” – Martha K.

“Turkey sandwich with bag salad fixings & ranch, fruit, gold fish/ cheez its & water bottle.” – Francis

“Whole grain pasta with olive oil and parmasan. Fruit and a yogurt stick.” – Orli G.

“I always enclose a frozen muffin and water or juice in a water bottle 3/4 full and frozen. They act as an “edible” ice pack. I add in a container of veggies & dip, and some fruit and a sandwhich OR we do leftovers from previous nights supper.” – Apirl U.

“Egg salad sandwiches, lunchables, apples, bananas, grapes, salads, pretzels, yogurts, homemade pizza sticks, soups in thermos.” – Stephanie P.

I think this is quite the popular topic as we had several people following the posts for more ideas. Hopefully, if you’ve been considering switching things up a bit this will give you more of a variety to choose from.

Make sure you watch Facebook each Monday for our newest question and share your ideas.  You may find your name and tip featured each week on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!

Money Tips for Your College Bound Teen

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Kids are excited for college and take the time to pack, shop and get ready for classes.  As parents, we also help them get prepared and ready to go.  However, one thing many forget to cover are financial issues.  Check out these FIVE must know tips to share with your college bound teen.

As you get ready to pack up your child to head off to college, you know to pack the books, clothes and other things they need.  You know you’ve taught them how to be safe on campus (and off), how to cook (even if just a little bit) and the things they need to know to take care of themselves.  The one thing that parents may overlook is finances.

It is very important to sit down with your child and talk money.  It is something that many will have more exposure to when getting away from home and the last thing you want is for them to make financial mistakes which could follow them for years to come.  Here are things you should cover with your teen:

1. Budget.  Sit down and help your son or daughter with a budget.  It should be in writing and be something they can follow.  Make sure you include items such as fees, rent, food, car payments, insurance, etc. has a great free template that you can download (or even follow) to create a budget.

You can set up a budget for each month or even for the entire semester, depending upon your teen and how he or she handles money.  You may also want to arrange for a monthly meeting (skype or call) to go over the budget and check in.

2. Credit Cards.  These can be very tempting for a teen.  The idea of being able to get things without having the cash in hand can be tempting….and can lead to debt and financial headaches.  Take the time to talk to your child about credit cards and how to use them wisely.  Make sure that they use them in a manner which will allow them to be paid in full every month.

You can even show them how long it would take to pay off a $500 balance if you pay the minimum each month (see this free calculator from GoBankingRates).   When they see that a $500 balance with a 15% interest rate will take 74 months to pay in full, if you pay just $10 per month, they tend to take notice!

3. Don’t forget to save.  It can be tempting for a teen to spend their money without planning ahead.  Help them set money back for emergencies and those unexpected expenses.  Help them learn how to set back at least 20% of their income from all sources.

4.  Identify wants vs. needs.  This can be tough for kids.  They may think they “need” that new electronic device, but it may really be a want.  They may also think they need to go out to dinner with friends, but that is really more of a want.  Doing this helps them follow their budget and save as they should.

5.  Watch bank statements online (keep identity safe).  With technology, having access to bank statements on phones and tablets is very convenient. Teens (and even parents) can always monitor spending and make sure that there is enough money in those accounts for when it is needed.

Not only is it wise to check your statements for cash flow, but your teen should also know how to watch this for possible theft.  They need to know if they see small transactions — usually less than $1.00 — that could be the sign of something sinister.  If they see this, they need to make sure that they did not authorize the transaction.  If they did not, contact your bank at once so that they can help change account details before any large sums of money are stolen.

Finally, make sure you teen also knows to never share PINs or account information with anyone.  Statements and other forms of ID should never be left out in the open as you never know if someone may stop by and be up to no good.  They should also make sure they sign out of all accounts when done, be it on their phone or computer.   They may also want to update passwords more frequently, in order to be proactive against possible theft.

All of these are simple to do and do not take much time, but can truly help your child get on the right path financially.

What else do you have to add to our list?

Getting Organized For A Seamless Back to School Transition

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It can be tough to get into that routine for school.  We've got some great tips to help EASE back into that schedule!

Back to school is coming up — soon!  It can be stressful to get everyone back into the routine, but there are things you can do to help make a more seamless transition from summer to school.

We actually do all of these about 2 weeks before our first day and it really makes a difference.  It helps their brains focus on the routine that we will have each and every day and gets them use to getting up and getting ready to go!

Plan your shopping trip. See what supplies you have at home before you head out. Might try to save last year’s backpack for a few weeks until they are all on sale. Shop your closet to know what you need. Make a list of the clothes and sizes you should buy for your kids.

Start your Back to School Routine early.  Around 7 – 10 days before school starts, you will want to get your kids into this schedule.  That means school bedtimes and even waking.  Have your kids get up, eat breakfast at their school times and actually be ready to go out the door by the time they would normally leave.

The way we do this is we ease back into that bedtime.  For example, if school bedtime is 8:30 and they are up until 9 or 9:30 in the summer, we start to back down bedtime by 10 – 15 minutes each night so that they get use to going to bed a bit earlier.

The same holds true for the morning.  If they need to be up at 7 for school, but sleep until 8:30, start to wake them 15 minutes early each day, until they are waking at 7 am.

Create a family calendar that is visible. Talking about all of the school activities and events being on a centrally located calendar that the entire family can view and/or update.  That way, everyone will start to watch the calendar and will know what is going on from registration to practices and even that first day of school.

Get papers ready. If you know you have to show residency, vaccinations, health or physical forms when you register, start to work on the list now so that you have it ready when you enroll.

Create a school center. Find an area where you can set backpacks, shoes, coats, etc every day so that they are ready to go in the morning. Each night, get your kids into the habit of putting everything they need there – saves time and chaos in the morning.