My 7 year old son is reading aloud! I should be so proud. Yet, he is reading the prose of Super Baby Diaper 2, another semi-literate installment in the Captain Underpants series.
I cringe at every sentence beginning with “Me want…,” and yet I’m glad he’s reading something other than those other puerile Scholastics “classics,” the retelling of Star Wars by Lego characters.
At the same time I’m hearing him read aloud, I am reading an opinion piece in the Saturday Wall Street Journal Review (my favorite section of the week) on the power of memorization of poetry and prose (“How Memorization Makes Words Live“). Memorization has become an ante-diluvian concept in our internet-ready world, looked on as backward as bothering to learn the multiplication tables. Yet, I believe, as the author does, that poetry is learned in a different way when you carry it around with you, ready to jump out at the strangest times and with the most abstruse connections. Popular music does this the same, at least when it’s written well. The lyrics of Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Joni Mitchell are for me as close as the words of Frost, Yates, Eliot, and Prévert. Kids can find their analogues in modern music (God knows where) to understand the power of holding words inside themselves.
And this is where I connect reading to money. In posts long ago, I’ve pondered the use of allowances. As the wise Harvey Beck, of ActiveAllowance.com, once told me, the way parents give allowances is often a reflection of their political and economic beliefs. Some parents give an allowance for doing jobs around the house, connecting cash with work. Others communicate that the family is like a commune; every person does their jobs and an allowance is part of the bargain, but isn’t paid for getting the work done. Still others may just pay for specific tasks. We give our kids an allowance responsibilty-free,which I suppose reflects the effect of living in San Francisco for fifteen years. The kids get money for some tasks, especially those associated with work experience and things I’d rather not do myself, like stuffing envelopes. But the real money-maker for them is in reading and poetry. $2 for every “real” book they finish and $2 for every poem over 20 lines. Motivated kids could make a mint that way. Instead my son is happily reading “Super Diaper Baby 2, The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers.” Go figure. He’s done the price/value correlation and has decided that entertainment trumps industry, at least before noon on a Saturday.
Daddy Troy and Daddy Clay offer a few strategies on how to pay for college tuition and other school expenses. Learn about options including savings, financial aid, and 529 plans for financing higher education.
Here are five more things to consider when paring back expenses this year.
1. Be cooperative. Coops of all sorts are a great way to cut spending Kids clothes and toys are a very popular trade and use category. And babysitting is a natural since it’s almost always easier to take care of your own kids when they have someone to play with. Take the lead and organize these activities at your church or school where you have a lot of like-minded parents. But don’t neglect also the help of seniors who may babysit in exchange for other help (computer aid, CPA advice, etc.)
2. Kill extra credit card charges. Everyone always makes this suggestion because it’s true. Paying credit card interest fees is stupid, since you can get cheaper money almost anywhere.
- If 20% annually seems reasonable, at least pay it to a relative who wouldn’t be able to earn 20% anywhere else in this market.
- At the very least, look for cards that charge lower interest and monitor the rates. CardTrak.com publishes a monthly list of credit card rates and Bankrate.com keeps a updated list of the best credit card deals, divided into categories: no-fee cards, low-interest cards, and mileage cards.
- If your card wants an annual fee, call them and negotiate it lower or eliminate completely. It’s always good to ask. Set your automated bank payments to send a small amount every month to your credit card issuer. Even if you pay extra interest, now you’ll never have to pay a late charge on top of it.
3. Cut back on the restaurant habit or find ways to cut back on costs. Entertainment books are a great way to save money if you eat at those restaurants anyway. Restaurants.com also has money-saving coupons for good restaurants that make sense if you do a little planning. Set your restaurant budget and then cut it by 20% so that you actually use the coupons.
4. Increase insurance deductibles for auto and home coverage. You’re the best judge as to how much risk you can handle, but it’s better to have $1000 deductible on your insurance rather than $500 if you’re a pretty safe driver and if the one-time hit in case of an accident wouldn’t wipe you out.
5. Cancel the gym and get a Wii Fit. You have to find the best routine that works for you and motivates you to put in at least 30 minutes per day of physical activity. A gym membership is a beautiful thing if you use it, but if you’re paying for it month after month without spending any time there, you’re not really burning any calories are you. We got a Wii Fit and I find it easier to fit in a workout at home. Plus I don’t waste time and gas getting to the gym.
Shopping for kids clothes is not only never-ending, it’s also very expensive. There are ways to reduce the latter problem, by shopping sales that occur as the season is just getting underway, for example.
Another way the internet makes possible is clothes swapping sites. Try www.SwapThing.com for example This Bay Area company si a site for trading all kinds of services and products. SwapThing.com makes it easier to find and list item you are searching for, or need to get rid of.
Another site is Swapbabygoods.com. This free site lets you list clothes or other baby times you have for swap or sale and makes it easy for others to find them by sorting by size and other options. You can also see a wish list of sellers/swappers so you can quickly see if your closet holds the key to their happiness (and a better deal for you).
If these sites aren’t your cup of tea, search Google or look in your local paper for local swap events. These events let you see clothes first hand so you can inspect for quality and cleanliness before you get involved with shipping.
Using these types of services doesn’t have to be like a trip to Goodwill, where clothing often looks like it was thrown away. These options can help you find clothing, especially for babies and toddlers, that still is almost new because the child was only that size for a few short weeks or months. If it’s hard for you buy “used,” consider it very positive recycling.
There are certainly days when I look forward to the kids moving out and giving me a little peace and quiet. That day will come soon enough – they are 5 and 9 now – and off they will go to college. More and more in this economy, kids are moving back home after school after they find that jobs are scarce, or maybe that mom or dad will still do their laundry.
How much should you charge a returning prodigal son or daughter? Experts agree: It depends.
If your son or daughter has a job, you should charge something akin to the going rate based on real estate prices in your neighborhood. Especially if this is the first “on their own” experience, it’s important that they understand living within your means before they develop bad habits based on an unreal situation. It’s nice to live rent free at Casa Mom and Dad and spend all that extra money on cars and parties, but that’s not the way life works.
On the other hand, if no job is to be found, it’s still important that your kids pitch in in a way that goes beyond their responsibilities before they started school. You might give them some slack if they are deep into the first throes of looking for a job, but still ask for help with household expenses or extra chores. You’ll have to decide what is reasonable, but it might be important to make it clear that this is just a temporary situation until the economy improves.
If you decide to “rent” to your child, remember that technically that is taxable income and should be reported. Inter-family finances are not an area that the IRS scrutinizes, however, though you should not try to generate big rental losses on the depreciated second bedroom you rent for $100 to your tenant child.