Whose Kids Know How to Turn Off Lights?

I got a good chuckle when I received today’s first reader tip from “Dad.” For a split second there I could hear my own father asking the age-old parent/child question: Don’t you know how to turn off the light when you leave the room?

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MOTION SENSOR SWITCHES. Apparently, my kids don’t know how to turn the lights off so I have installed motion sensor switches in the bathrooms, laundry room and basement. Installation was very easy, and now those lights turn on and off automatically depending on whether anyone is in the room. This has lowered our power bill tremendously. More than that, our home is a happier place now that dad has stopped harping at the kids to turn off the lights. Dad

HANDY PAINT CONTAINER. I was disappointed when my favorite brand of  coffee began coming in a plastic container instead the old familiar metal coffee can. I’d use those empty metal cans for everything from holding screws and switch plates to soaking paint brushes. But I discovered that the molded handle on the new plastic container made it the perfect container for paint—especially when needing to do a touch-up. The plastic coffee “cans” are easy to carry up and down ladders and the plastic lid seals well enough to keep paint fresh until the project is done. Johnny Read more

Get Your Kids on the Road to Financial Independence

Have teens? Are they always hitting you up for money? The next time they come sweetly beseeching you for cash, place this book, The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens: 8 Steps to Having More Money Than Your Parents Ever Dreamed Of, in their hands. These financially savvy authors, creators of the award winning site Fool.com, came up with this hip, funny and right-on book. Unlike their other great reads, though, this one is geared to teens.

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The Brothers Gardner give teens the wherewithal to make some serious money by the age of 21. There are numerous testimonials by teens who have followed the Fools’ advice and have built up impressive portfolios! These are not rich kids dipping into daddy’s till, either. For the most part, they are high school kids working part-time. The difference between them and their peers who work and never seem to have a dime is that these kids are investing in the stock market, not blowing all their hard-earned cash on the latest Jay-Z CD or trendy footwear.

The authors do a great job of getting teens excited about saving money. That alone is worth the price of the book. Starting off by helping them set goals, they explain the glories of compounded interest. Your teen is reminded that by setting goals he can achieve his dreams. No goal is too large or too small; whether it’s to retire at age 40, pay for college, buy a car or a cool stereo, this book will convince your teen that he can realize his dreams.

After firing up your child’s enthusiasm, the authors explain the virtues of working. They offer some fine ideas for your child to brainstorm when it comes to getting a job. They encourage teens to tap into their areas of interest and look for ways to create a job from that (see Chapter 2). Read more

How to Protect the Kids From Identity Theft

Dear Mary: I have been following your column for years. My husband and I recently signed up for LifeLock based on your recommendations and I thank you for that.

Just this past week, he has had numerous credit-card offers taken out in his name and the alerts have been coming through. Orders were also placed for several thousands of dollars for computers in his name.

I believe at one time you recommended LifeLock protection year for children in case someone steals their information and tries to open accounts in their names because you might not know their identity has been stolen for a while since they are not applying for loans or credit cards yet.

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photo credit: Madmezza

We have 6 children and at $5 per month per child, that adds up to $360 annually just for the kids. I value your opinion and would like to know what you think. Robyn

Dear Robin: You recall correctly. Protecting your children’s identities is vital, and for the reason you state. I’ve read case studies of young people applying for their first credit card or home mortgage, being shocked to learn that someone has been using their SS number to open lines of credit for many years—accounts that have gone to collection, been written off and any number of horrific black marks. Before they even get started in life, their credit is ruined.

Sure it is illegal, sure you can fight to get all of that off one’s credit report. But can you even imagine the hassle? The stress, headaches and total nightmare such a thing would be? It kinda’ boggles my mind to even think about it. It can take up to seven years for negative items to finally clear. Read more

Best Toys for Kids Ages 3 to 7

I saw the most amazing thing recently. A little girl I’m guessing to be about 2-years-old, reached for her daddy’s iPhone, turned it on, input the password then sat back to watch something that required no effort on her part. It was seriously cute for about 20 seconds, until I realized that wasn’t the first time she’d done that.

I watched that little child go from being actively engaged with her parents and her surroundings to being a totally passive observer. Which brings me to the subject of toys.

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The best toys–and the ones we should be vigorously introducing to children from a very young age–are toys that promote creativity and stimulate mental development, while at the same time are fun to play with.

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What Kids Need to Know About Thankfulness

If you are committed to teaching your kids how the world operates, teach them about money.

photo credit: wikimedia commons

photo credit: wikimedia commons

You can use financial principles to teach everything from math problems to social issues. That’s because money is about values, relationships, choices and self-worth.

And while teaching your kids important values to guide their lives is of the utmost importance, when all is said and done those values are more likely to be caught than taught.

You have to live what you teach.

If there is one thing that will ruin your kids’ lives, it’s greed. Teach them while they’re young how to pull the plug on greed, and you will have prepared them in a very important way to not only survive, but to also thrive in the real world.

Lesson for Kids: When you give, you defeat your enemy greed

The feeling of desire, of wanting everything you can think of is called greed. Greed is not a good thing. In fact, it’s like a very bad disease. It starts small and if allowed to grow it will take over your life. Greed will make you a very miserable person. Greed causes temper tantrums and makes people self-centered and arrogant. And it is very sneaky. Read more

16 Totally Awesome Gifts for Teens Under $16

Finding the perfect gift for teen boys and girls is almost impossible. Teenagers like what they like. Funny thing. I’m kinda’ the same way. So what do teens like? Here are sixteen ideas. Before you read on, make sure you have your sense of humor handy.

This Gift Guide for Teens is nothing if not a lot of fun, no matter your age. Oh, and one more thing: At writing, all of these gifts as linked to Amazon, were priced below $16. Make sure to check because prices can and do change.

Teen Gifts #1

1. TEEN COOK

Remember what I said about teens liking what they like? Well, they’ll only eat what they like, too. With Teens Cook, your teen can learn to cook those foods he or she likes to eat. What a concept. With more than 75 recipes for what kids like including breakfast, snacks, sides, dinners and desserts—this is the perfect cookbook to inspire young adults to take interest in their diets by giving them a tasty hobby!

2. HERE I AM T-SHIRT

I’m thinking of getting this T-shirt for myself, that’s how funny it is. Emblazoned across the wearer’s chest: Here I am! What are your other 2 wishes? This Trendy T comes in 31 colors and 9 sizes. Caution: Reviewers say it runs small, so order accordingly. And while you’re at it, go ahead and get one for yourself. Just make sure a teenager never, ever catches you wearing it.

3. HEADPHONES

These over-the-ear stereo headphones are just perfect for teen girls. Look at that pretty lavender and white style. The lightweight design makes for excellent comfort. And they fold up, too. Compatible with any device that uses a 3.5mm output. And for the price, the sound is amazing, too.

4. DETANGLING BRUSH

Honestly, I was not aware of anything known as the Official Product of the 2014 Kid’s Choice Awards Swag Bag, but this lovely hot pink detangling brush holds that distinction. Just look how sleek and beautiful it is. And tell me, when was the last time you knew of a hairbrush to garner 568 5-star reviews? That speaks to me in a big way. Whether your teen girls have long hair or short this brush will make her very happy. Trust me on that.  Read more

Every Kid Should Have a Real Bank Savings Account

Dear Mary: My son is saving cash in envelopes. That seems kind of cumbersome. What is your opinion? Why not in a savings account and keep tract of the amounts for each category? Dick

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Dear Dick: I agree. Kids need savings accounts. In my book, Raising Financially Confident Kids, I recommend that kids be required to save at least 10 percent of everything they receive in a real savings account, in a bank or credit union.

Of course your son could save more than 10 percent, and keep a record for how much in his savings account he is allocating for say “College Savings,” or “New Bike,” “Summer Camp” an so forth.

Since most banks now allow customers to track their accounts online, your son could watch his money closely via computer or other mobile device.

Tell him that I’m proud of him and those envelopes! Not many kids are aware of how important it is to take good care of their money. But now he needs to learn about a real, live bank, too, by keeping some of his money there. Read more

Bargains on Stuff Kids Need for School

Most people aren’t paying attention in the middle of summer when stores like Office Depot and Staples go crazy nearly giving away school supplies with their one-cent sales. How can they do it? They’re willing to bet that most customers will grab up the bargains and then add a few full-priced items as well before they get to the checkout. 

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The way to really save on all of your kids’ back-to-school needs is to start early so you can cherry pick all the stores. Load up as you can to last the entire school year because you won’t see these kind of bargains again until this time next year.

School supplies. The Grocery Game has added a school supplies category to its lineup. Check it out: First log in at TheGroceryGame.com (you can get a 4-week free trial, and you should), then in the upper left select all stores in your area. Above the list items, click your mouse in the “Search” box, which will open up a “Category” box with drop down menu. Select “School Supplies.” Just look at the bargains! New items and deals constantly change, so log in each week and pick up the deals as you do your regular shopping.  Read more