Saturday, August 19, 2017

New School Year Prep: What You Don't Need

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The beginning of a new school year is always a busy time for parents. This is all the truer if your child is moving to a new school, such as the transfer from middle to high school. There’s new planning to be done, new routes to be learned, and of course frayed nerves of your child to be soothed.

In the midst of all this, struggling families have to find space in their budget for all the school supplies they will be required to buy. There are so many suggested items in the ‘back to school’ section of stores, it can be tempting to think you need poor credit secured loans just to be able to buy the basics. The new school year is a time of renewal and excitement, but for parents of more than one child, it can be a stretch on the family finances. In 2015, for example, parents spent around $600 per child on specific back-to-school items - a huge amount of money for the majority of families.

Well, here’s the good news: some of the items that stores are trying to persuade you are essential are actually anything but. Of course, stores have a vested interest in convincing you that you’ve got to buy when you can actually skip sections of their suggestions. So rather than focusing on the items you need, here is a quick rundown of the things you don’t need to buy - bringing a little relief to stretched family finances.

You Don’t Need To Buy… An Entire Math Set

Math sets tend to come packaged together; a ruler, a pencil, a compass. All those things you know you knew how to use once, but have since become obsolete in your adult life. Of course, these items are required for a number of math-based subjects, but buying them all together is unnecessary. A lot of the time you’re going to be paying for the packaging and the convenience when it’s actually much cheaper to buy each item individually. eBay is a great source for inexpensive math equipment, so save yourself some money by sourcing each item individually.

You Don’t Need To Buy… A Whole Range Of New Outfits

There’s no doubt there is a joy in going back to school with a new wardrobe, but it’s simply not a reality - especially for parents of multiple children. While entire school uniforms are relatively rare, it is becoming more and more common for schools to implement a dress code. A dress code gives you a starting point for the basics you need to buy, but don’t be tempted - by stores or by the pleading of your child - to go overboard.

Bear in mind that the younger your children are, the higher the chance you will need to replace their school-appropriate attire throughout the year anyway. Kids grow, after all! Focus on a few school-specific pieces with the intent of getting them through to the fall break, rather than investing in an entire new wardrobe that’s meant to sustain them through to the end of the term.

You Don’t Need… These Stationery Items

We covered some of this with the math set, but here are a few more expensive stationery items that you don’t need to buy:

  • Note cards are rarely used, so it’s better to buy them when asked for rather than as a standard.
  • Mechanical pencils are as easily lost as the cheap standard version, so they’re a waste of money.
  • Whiteout is generally a waste of time and can be messy. Kids will usually just be encouraged to cross out their mistakes.

So skip these too, lowering your bill along the way.


You Don’t Need… Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is not a force for good in the world; they can help promote antibiotic resistance and are not particularly effective at preventing illness. Most kids - and teachers for that matter - will fall ill in the first few weeks of school as their immune systems are introduced to bugs they have never encountered before. This is to be expected, and it isn’t much you can do about it. If you feel you have to try and prevent illness, then a small bottle of basic soap and encouraging your child to wash their hands frequently with it, is the best idea.

The expense of back-to-school can make the onset of fall a trying issue for many families. Hopefully, this list will have helped you trim back some of the costs!


-----The best suggestion you can take is to see what your child's teacher specifically requests for their class(es). That is what we do in our household, wait to see what the teachers actually need the kids to have.

10 Handy Tips That Guarantee Your Gift Success

Picking a gift is difficult. At least, this is how most people think when they’re tasked with giving something special to a friend. How many times have you been stumped on picking a gift, only to go with a generic package like some perfume, chocolates or even going as low to present flowers to a friend you’ve known for 20 years? It’s saddening, it makes us feel upset and it’s a real problem. Even though your friends and family have probably accepted that you’re not great at giving gifts, it doesn’t make it any better. There are, after all, many things that could affect your gift and small signs that people can pick up when you give them something.

So to help you out, here are 10 useful tips that will help you pick the perfect gift every time.


1. Don’t give advice books

Advice books, such as on relationships, dieting and so on, never make good gift ideas. Not only does it send a subtle message to them that could be unwanted, the chances of them actually relying on it and looking at it are very slim. In fact, many people could consider an advice book to be an offensive gift. In short, this is one of the major “don'ts” in gift giving.

2. Always look at the occasion

The occasion is important. If you’re planning a wedding gift for a couple, then get something useful they could use in their new life together or something fancy like a beautiful painting. Don’t show up with a gag gift because a wedding is a serious situation, not something to be made fun of.

3. Don’t give something to change appearance

Don’t give things like makeup, hair dye or even a voucher at some fancy hairdressers. Much like giving advice books, this sends a subtle message that could be taken as an offensive statement, and you don’t want this to happen if you want to remain friends (or even family members!) with your recipient. These are far too personal, so avoid these unless you specifically know the person and they asked for it.

4. Don’t give wearable items unless you specifically ask

If you give someone an item of clothing that is too small or too big, then it can send the wrong signals. Personal items such as clothing should never be used as gifts unless it’s personalized and fun in some way. If you have to get a friend something like a designer clothing item, then make sure you ask them their size first. This does, however, ruin the surprise a bit.

5. Consider experiences and days out, not just physical gifts

Consider a pampering gift such as a day out to a spa. As long as the place you’re sending your friend too isn’t too personal, then an experience day or a pampering day certificate makes a wonderful and memorable gift.


6. Put more than just thought into it

People usually say it’s the thought that counts, however, a lot more than thought has to go into a present. Put effort into finding a present, research your recipient's likes and dislikes and put yourself in their shoes. If you find yourself working overtime to pay for your recipient’s gift, then that effort is going to show in the final gift and it will make it that much more special. If you’re thinking of creating your own gift, such as knitting a scarf or hand-crafting their birthday card, then that will also show that you’ve put more than just thought into the gift idea.

7. Interests are important, so write them down and remember them

Brainstorm a list of interests that your recipient has before you decide to give them something. Look up the kind of interest they have, learn what it is they like about their hobbies and try to give a gift that they could either use or be interested in. If they like animals such as hedgehogs, then shop for hedgehog gifts such as mugs, coasters, and bags. If they enjoy video games, then look up the latest releases and search for something that will fit their tastes.

8. Use “care package” gifts with caution

Many people like to put together a bunch of different items, such as makeup, snacks, and sweets to create a care package gift. However, as explained above, things that change appearance can often be taken the wrong way, and it’s sometimes seen as lazy to mash together a bunch of cheap items and call it a present. Of course, this all depends on the items you’re stuffing into the care package. If you recently came back from a trip to Japan, then gathering a bunch of unique Japanese treats could make a wonderful gift for anyone who’s interested in Japanese culture. On the contrary, filling a box with regular treats you could find at a supermarket isn’t much of a gift.

9. Pick a gift depending on your relationship

Your relationship with the recipient will determine the types of gifts you can give them. If you’re trying to pick a gift for your partner, then pick something memorable that could mark an anniversary date or something similar. If it’s a friend, then pick something that reminds you of your friendship.

10. Personalised gifts aren’t for everyone

Getting a shirt for a friend with a gag message is fine, but if you try that with someone you hardly know then you’re going to get weird looks. Only pick gag gifts or personalized items if you know the person and if they’ll understand the joke. However, if it’s a sentimental personalized gift, such as a picture frame, pillow or even something that you made yourself, then those are perfectly acceptable gifts that you can give to your friends and family members without worrying too much about them accepting or declining it.

Save Your Pennies By Buying Personal Presents

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Need to buy someone a birthday gift, but strapped for cash? This shouldn’t be a reason to resort to cheap meaningless gifts like socks and toiletries. Personal gifts can often be more appreciative than something expensive whilst costing very little. Here are just a few gift ideas for those on a budget.

Go DIY

If you have the skills, the ultimate personal gift may be to make something yourself. This could be anything from custom jewelry to hand-stitched clothing to your own home-brewed beer. A custom gift takes time to make and the receiver will appreciate the efforts you went to. A custom gift is also unique – in this case, a pair of homemade socks could be a good present as they’ll be unlike any other pair of socks out there.

Be sweet

Chocolates and sugary snacks are always a good gift for someone with a sweet tooth. You could buy a selection box from the shelf or you could try something a little more personalized such as a unique chocolate display from a company like Chocogram. You may also be able to theme sweets around someone’s hobbies or interests. Search online for football-themed chocolates or guitar sweets and you’re sure to find something.

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Share good memories

If you and the person you’re buying a gift for share special memories, why not theme your present around those memories? The cheapest and most effective way to do this is through photographs. Rather than buying a single framed photograph, consider using a service such as PhotoBox to make your own digital collage or buy an album and fill it with snaps. You can use images to make custom birthday and Christmas cards.

Play on private jokes

A gift based on a private joke could be a cheap and meaningful gift option. Try not to make this about a personal weakness of theirs that they could take offense to, but rather a funny experience you both shared or something funny you discussed. The gift might even be funnier if it’s something they’re likely to have forgotten such as gift you both laughed about in a shop.

Accessorize

Sports game tickets or a musical instrument or a new car may be too expensive. However, there could be cheap gift ideas out there related to these hobbies such as a sports team scarf for going to games or a customised guitar plectrum or a keyring of their favorite car. This accessory will still relate to their interests and have a practical use while costing little. The more personal you can make this gift, the better. By searching online, you may be able to find a gift that relates to two of their interests at once such as a rugby-themed beer tankard or a cat-themed guitar strap.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

4 Ways to Make a Holiday Both Fun and Educational

Going on a holiday with children doesn't need to be a chore, and it doesn't always need to be about fun and games. Many parents take their children abroad to destinations such as Spain, France and the United States without much thought about how they can turn an otherwise fun-oriented holiday into something educational as well.

So to help you get the best of both worlds next time you go on holiday, here are 4 ways to make a holiday both fun and educational for you children.


Mask your intent behind something else

The first major tip you should follow is to mask your intent to make the trip educational. There are many fun activities that can help teach your children something new, be it something scientific, based on history or even about maths. A good example of this is taking them to a museum or somewhere educational such as the NASA space centre. Not only will your children get to see lots of different space relics and technology, but they’ll also get to learn about the history of space travel. The moment you mention study, however, things will go downhill so you don't want to mention it being educational.

Learn their interests and pick something that suits them

Your child probably has hundreds of interests and hobbies, which is why it's important to learn them so you can pick something that resonates with them. For instance, if your child loves art, a holiday to an iconic location such as Paris would be an excellent learning and eye-opening experience. If they prefer cartoons and comics, then a trip to America or even Japan would be a great option. Maybe your child loves animals and learning about them. If that’s the case, you can take them on a trip to a zoo to learn about exotic animals and wildlife in the country.

Organise a school trip with their friends

Having a school trip with friends is going to be a lot more fun than just going with family. Although it takes a lot more planning, school trips to Italy and France or other local destinations can be a lot of fun and educational at the same time. There are many things to learn especially when it comes to language, art or even a tour of monuments and museums. There are plenty of cities around Europe that offer some unique cultural experiences, and while it’s not part of their academic program, it’s also not a bad learning experience just to explore more of what life has to offer.

Weave educational visits with fun ones

No matter where you go, there are plenty of tourist destinations that allow you to learn something with your child. For instance, if you visit an exotic location such as China or Japan, then there are plenty of workshops that will teach you everything from cooking to the language. These can be eye-opening experiences that will forever change your child’s view of the world assuming they’re able to accept what they see and learn more about the culture. However, as mentioned in the second point, you need to be able to pique their interest or else it will become a waste of time.

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