Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Countdown to Christmas - Daily Treats

This year we are doing something different for Christmas. Although the season is always full and fun, I want to make sure it is fun of memories for our children. Fun things that may make MY schedule full, but will build excitement for our children.

So each day, we will be doing SOMETHING holiday related.  And bonus - most of them cost nothing. =)
  • December 1 - Decorate the tree and pull out the Fisher Price Nativity for the kids to play with
  • December 2 - Attend Christmas musical that Chip is playing in
  • December 3 - Savannah Lighted Christmas Parade
  • December 4 - Shop for Angel Tree child and take Christmas pictures
  • December 5 - 8:00 Charlie Brown Christmas special (ABC)
  • December 6 - Pinecone Trees
  • December 7 - 7:30 How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated) (TOON)
  • December 8 - Bake and decorate Christmas cookies
  • December 9 - The Journey
  • December 10 - City Market Christmas in downtown Savannah
  • December 11 - Gingerbread Village
  • December 12 - Bake Treats
  • December 13- Watch 2 Christmas cartoon classics (Rudolph, Frosty, etc)
  • December 14 - Gingerbread House Kits
  • December 15 - Snowman from Socks
  • December 16 - 6:30 Mickey's Christmas Carol (ABCFamily)
  • December 17 - Make pottery for Nana for Christmas
  • December 18 - Bass Pro Santa's Wonderland and choose this year's ornament (kids get a new one they choose each year)
  • December 19 - Take treats to Police Station and Post Office
  • December 20 - Make handprint ornaments
  • December 21 - Watch 2 Christmas cartoon classics (Rudolph, Frosty, etc)
  • December 22 - Take Food to Fire Station
  • December 23 - Drive around and look at Christmas Lights
  • December 24 - Church, reading of The Christmas Story
What about you?  What are some fun things you do at Christmas to make it memorable?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Age Appropriate Chores

Yesterday I spoke about the chore system we are starting to use for our son.  I am a firm believer in children learning work and responsibility from a young age.  Whether or not you want to pay them for their work is a personal decision.

Please note that the handling of chores might vary with your child's maturity level and any physical limitations your child might have, so the ones I'm laying out are from experience and just to be used as a general guideline or a place to start. Regardless, these are tasks that may be age appropriate for your little ones.

1-2 Years (I told you - we start early)
  • Picking up Toys
  • Putting clothes in hamper/laundry basket
  • Putting dry food in pet bowl using a plastic cup
  • Brushing/flossing their teeth (with assistance)
  • Putting items in trashcan
  • Picking out their clothes for the next day (with guidance for weather considerations of course)
  • Help make their beds
  • Clean up spills they make
  • Put things back where they found them

3-4 Years (including any listed above)
  • Making their beds
  • Brushing teeth/flossing (supervised but unassisted)
  • Putting food and water in pet bowl using a plastic cup
  • Dusting (use a sock on their hand)
  • Dress themselves with minimal assistance.
  • Bringing in lightweight items from the car
  • Start learning how to sweep or holding dust pan for parent (no, the sweeping won't be pretty at this point, but they have to learn somehow), use dry mop on floors
  • "Help" wash the car
  • Help water plants
  • Clean own setting at table

5-6 Years (including any listed above)

  • Put away laundry
  • Sort laundry (colors/whites/etc)
  • Fold towels, socks, etc (some might even be able to clothing)
  • Sweep
  • Clip coupons
  • Clean windows (inside)/glass doors with supervision
  • Clean walls/baseboards, doors, doorknobs
  • Help wash the car
  • Water plants
  • Weeding (with supervision)
  • Hang up towels in bathroom
  • Pet's food and water
  • Load dishwasher (with supervision)
  • Dictate thank you notes for parents
  • Set table
  • Fix bowl of cereal
  • Prepare school items (backpack, homework, etc) for next day
  • Getting the mail

7-9 Years (including any listed above)
  • Pet's food, water, and exercise
  • Vacuum rooms
  • Wet mop rooms
  • Wash windows (inside) and doors without supervision
  • Put away dishes from dishwasher
  • Help prepare food (with supervision)
  • Pour drinks
  • Make PB&J sandwiches
  • Get own snacks
  • Help use coupons at store
  • Help put away groceries
  • Take out trash
  • Rake leaves
  • Weeding
  • Answer phone
  • Write thank you notes
  • Dry dishes by hand
  • Learn how washer and dryer work
  • Clean own room entirely
  • Clean mirrors
  • Help pack lunch for following day
  • Basic organization
  • Prepare own bath

10-14 Years (including any listed above)
  • Solely responsible for homework (parents can check over, but should not have to remind)
  • Get self up and ready in morning
  • Wash dishes by hand
  • Launder own clothes
  • Iron clothes (with supervision at first)
  • Learn to fold fitted sheet (yes...this is a skill)
  • Wash windows inside (and out if your windows fold inward)
  • Change sheets on bed
  • Deep clean own room
  • Put away all groceries
  • Change light bulbs
  • Clean kitchen (with supervision at first)
  • Clean bathroom (with supervision at first)
  • Mow the lawn
  • Help make grocery list
  • Cook a basic meal (reheating, grilled cheese & soup, etc)
  • Bake cookies and cakes
  • Older of group can baby sit in some states
  • Prepare lunches for following day
  • Change a litter box (for cat owners)
  • Give dog a bath
  • Basic home repair (painting, hanging picture, etc)
  • Learn basic car repair/maintenance

15-18 Years (including any listed above)
  • Cook a meal
  • Landscaping (edging, trimming, etc)
  • Run errands to grocery store
  • Make shopping list
  • Run carpool errands for young siblings
  • Baby sit
  • Purchase own clothes
  • Maintain their vehicle (gas, oil, possibly insurance)
  • Deep cleaning appliances (oven, fridge, defrost freezers, etc)
  • Check and replace vacuum cleaner bags
  • Clean gutters
  • Chop wood
  • Clean fireplace
What do you think?  Any I should add?  Any I should shift around? 

Photo credit: hortongrou

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our Chore System

Now that our son is six, we've decided to start giving him an allowance. He often wants to buy things and we don't like to buy things "just because" but really do understand that he should have the right to buy something he wants if he has the money and he should learn how spending works.

 Before we get into an argument around here about whether children should be paid for their chores or not, let me give you a few different views on the matter.
  1. Yes - Children should be taught to equate work with money and learn that hard work = payday.
  2. No - Children should do chores because they are a member of the family and should not get paid for their chores.
  3. No - Children should get paid each week to have spending money but not in direct response to the work they have done. However, lack of work or behavior problems can result in lack of payment for the week.
And us?  We're kind of doing a combination of the three above. 

Here is what our plan is.  Patrick already has some chores that he does just because he is a member of the family.  This includes setting the table, cleaning up after himself after dinner, putting away his clean laundry, picking up all toys before bedtime, putting all clothes in the hamper when dirty, and picking out clothes for the next day of school. He will be making his bed as soon as we have him in a full size bed at the beginning of next year (currently he sleeps on a daybed without any covers - by choice). Other things come up, but those are the usual culprits for him.

We've decided that we're going to leave those alone.  General tidiness is something that I expect from all members of our family pertaining to their body and their living space.  I don't think people should get paid for being neat.

We are going to add some tasks though that he CAN get paid for.  What?  Yep - none of his chores will be required work, but will only be done if he wants to earn money.  They will be weekly chores that Chip or I currently do, but our son is capable of doing. Harder chores will be worth more money. If he wants to earn some money for the week, he will do those chores. If he feels he does not want to do those chores, he will not earn any additional money that week and we will do those chores ourselves as we always have.  And - money will be deducted from his weekly total with behavioral problems that come up.

I think this will teach him the following:
  • Work = Money
  • Hard Work = More Money
  • No Money = No Spending
  • How to do the tasks in question by practical hands-on learning.
  • Stupid choices (behavioral problems) can cost.
Also - it will just help us out because we won't have to do it that week.

To put this into practice though, I am using a system that I saw on Pinterest.  I am modifying it slightly by not specifically using chalkboard paint and weighting each chore the same, but the same concept applies.

One will be a bucket of chores using craft sticks to note the chore and the amount that chore will earn.  The other bucket will be completed chores.  After he finishes a chore, he can move the stick from one bucket to another.  At the end of the week we will tally up the completed, deduct $0.25 for each red stick in the completed bucket (indicating a behavioral problem) and pay him.  From this total we will teach saving and tithing, but that is a post for another day, as this one will be long enough as it is!

Currently, this is the list I have for weekly tasks:
  • Bring trash from upstairs bath and his bedroom downstairs to big trashcan - $0.25 (once a week)
  • Sweep kitchen - $0.50 (once a week)
  • Sweep living room - $0.50 (once a week)
  • Feed dog - $0.25 (up to 4 times a week) - she doesn't eat a full bowl a day
  • Fold laundry (towels only) - $0.25 (once a week)
  • Fold laundry (his and his sister's - all) - $1.00 (once a week) - it's one load for the two of them combined. And he actually folds laundry really well.
  • Dust - $0.25 per room, up to 6 rooms
That would total up to $5.00 if he did every task possible.

And I have ideas for specialized tasks that are not every week deals, but will be added to the bucket on an as-needed basis:
  • Clean baseboards (all) - $1.00 per level of the house (we have 2 stories)
  • Clean windows (all) - $1.00 per level of the house (we don't have that many windows)
  • Clean storm doors - $0.25 per door (we have 2)
  • Help wash car - $0.50 to $2.00 depending on amount of participation
  • Clean doors/doorknobs/scuffs on walls (all) - $1.00 per level of the house; $0.25 for small jobs
  • Clean cabinet fronts - $0.25 per bathroom; $0.50 for lower level of cabinets in kitchen
  • Water plants - $0.25 (we don't have that many plants - it would increase with more plants)
  • Put away groceries - $0.50 - $1.00 depending on level of participation. Not a weekly task because we often grocery shop while he is at school.
For those variable tasks, we can incorporate our other colored craft sticks (that we already own) by color coding the amount.  For instance, move the "Clean baseboards" stick to the completed bucket and two blue "$1.00" sticks if he does all of the baseboards on two levels.

We'll modify it as we go.

But that's the plan.

What do you think?  Do you pay children for their chores?  What type of system do you use?  What other tasks could our 6 year old do?

Friday, November 11, 2011

In Honor of Our Veterans

In honor of Veterans Day, I am posting this email forward I received. I confirmed it on Snopes to be true. Enjoy!

Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School, Little Rock , did something not to be forgotten.

On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom. When the first period kids entered the room, they discovered that there were no desks.

"Ms. Cothren, where's our desks?"

She replied, "You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk."

They thought, "Well, maybe it's our grades."

"No," she said.

"Maybe it's our behavior."

She told them, "No, it's not even your behavior."

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period...still no desks in the classroom.

By early Afternoon, television news crews had started gathering in Ms.Cothren's classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and, as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the desk less classroom, Martha Cothren said, "Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you."

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it. Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.

Martha said, "You didn't earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it's up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don't ever forget it."

By the way, this is a true story.

Thank a soldier and their family today.  If you've been part of a military family, you understand the sacrifice that these people make.  If you haven't, be grateful that someone in the past was, and still today is, willing to sacrifice so that you could be free. Free to learn, free to earn, free to believe - or not to believer, free to speak, free to read, free to write, free to gather, free to vote, free to work, free to spend, free to save.  You are free to make every choice you make in our nation because thousands were willing to die for the dream of those freedoms. Enjoy your freedoms and do not take their gift for granted.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Handmade Christmas Gifts to Save You Money

If you are anything like us, you are finding yourself this year on a more limited budget than you might have found yourself in the past.  Or maybe you're just attacking debt.  Or maybe you're doing fine financially but decided there is no reason to spend a lot of money on Christmas presents when you can make some that mean more to the recipients.

Regardless of why you're reading this post, obviously you are looking for some low cost alternatives for Chritsmas presents.  Here are some ideas that I've run across (mostly on Pinterest) for some great gift ideas that won't break the bank.

Click through below (sorry - I didn't want all of the photos clogging up my front page).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Our Financial Status - Update #21 - October 2011

If you don't love to read this bland update, I understand. It's how I keep myself accountable (knowing it will be posted publicly even if no one reads it!).  If you don't want to read, just enter some giveaways (listed in right sidebar) and come back tomorrow for a real post.

So this month we made just a little headway on our debt and a couple of costly purchases. Let's take a closer look:

Our income was right on target.

Pharmacy: $5 under budget. Since I only have a $5 budget, this works out well. =)
Home Supplies: $0 spent in this category this month as well. Hooray!
Childcare: $40 under budget for the month because of some awesome friends who watched the kids while we went out for our anniversary! Love them!
Hair: $25 under budget.  I'm actually WAY under the rolling budget because these days I'm cutting Patrick's hair, Chip is buzzing his own for the Army and I haven't had a haircut in far too long. I'm hoping to get it cut this month though, so it will be over my $25 monthly budget but certainly not eat up the $131 rolling budget I have built up here.  Looks like it's time to lower this budget!
Auto Insurance: No surprises here.
Television: As usual.
Doctor: Patrick went for his annual check up and was perfectly healthy. Hooray!  Since I get reimbursed for this visit, this will soon go away making the rolling budget more friendly.
Term Life Insurance: Done
Alarm Monitoring/Pest Control: Regular charges here.
Mortgage/HOA/Timeshare: On course. This budget went up a bit thanks to a larger payment on our new loan for our timeshare (that's seriously not a complaint - read here for why).
Toiletries: On budget for the month.

Gas/Fuel: $89 over budget. This actually isn't that bad. Gas prices just won't seem to come down but I was hoping we'd be okay. Obviously not. I might have to adjust our overall budget to raise this one a bit.
Auto Parts/Services: $145 over budget.  I needed a new windshield.  While trying to kill a mosquito in side the car on my windshield, with my fist, it seems that the mosquito was perched directly on a chip in the windshield. Results was me appearing to be She-Ra as I shattered my own windshield with my fist. Found a great deal on the part and installation though by a great company.
Mobile Phone: $6 over budget This is usually in that no-brainer "on budget" category but we got a $6 surprise charge this month.  It seems that Abigail purchased some ringtones while playing with Chip's phone.
Electricity/Water: $180 over budget.  The good news is, we were only $50 over budget for the month. And then I paid next month's bill early, so next month will be way under budget and eat most of this $180 overage. So the rolling budget should look good in about 2 months.
Groceries: $196 over budget. WHAT?!  I know. See, I don't coupon like I used to and this is a huge indication that I NEED to get back into it. Imagine what I could have done with that $300 if we had not wasted it by being careless with our food money.
Eating Out: $100 over budget. This actually is not bad at all considering that we spend $150 on an annversary dinner cruise and drinks.  We would have otherwise been under budget. And since it was our 10th anniversary, I really don't feel too bad about this overage.
Baby Supplies: $42 over my monthly budget, but since the rolling budget is underway in this category, I had more than enough to cover the overage. Hopefully after the beginning of the year, we will be done with diapers and can cross this one entirely off the list! Hooray for saving $20!
Clothing: $80 over my monthly budget. I found some great sales on a winter jacket for Patrick as well as some clothes for Abigail for next summer and spring. This will roll off since I rarely spend money on clothes.  I do have to buy Patrick a couple more things for the winter, but that should be it for several months.

  • Sent over $360 more than usual to credit cards to pay them off. Every bit helps.
  • Spent just over $100 on county fair and Halloween carnivals as well as $15 on tickets for Patrick's school's fall festival.  The $15 will count as a donation with the $100 as well spent family time invested in memories for our children. Healthy small doses of this spending is fine with me.
  • $130 spent on Christmas gifts that take care of some in-laws as well as the kids' stockings. Love getting ahead and getting deals.
  • Had to spend $52 on a new cell phone for Chip. Either he or Abigail lost his old one and after 2 weeks of looking for it, we bit the bullet and bought one off eBay. I didn't put this in our "Mobile phone" category up top because it is a serious anomoly that won't roll out of the budget, but I am noting it here.
  • Spent $20 on birthday gifts this month.
Debt Paid off Since September 2011: $573.20
Debt Paid off Since October 14, 2009: $22,634.12
Change in Networth from September 2011: + $4023.22 (hooray for gains in retirement plans)
Change in Networth from October 14, 2009: + $43627.21

How'd you do this month?

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