Help Your Teen Find the Right Summer Job

During the Great Recession, teens faced stiff competition for summer jobs from older, more experienced workers who were happy to take any jobs just to be getting a regular paycheck. Now that the economy has stabilized and most mature workers are back to jobs more in line with their qualifications, the market for teen summer jobs is looking better than it has in years.
Check out what you can do to help your teen prepare to sang a great summer job:Prepare a Resume- Though many part-time summer jobs do not require it, preparing a resume is an important step in the job-hunting process. It will help your teen think critically about their skills and experience. And putting together a resume every summer is great practice for future job hunts. Make sure they include all work experience, including volunteering, and even odd jobs like babysitting and mowing lawns – anything that demonstrates they are responsible and willing to work. Be sure the finished product is free of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and typos.
Review Social Media-  It is a fact of life that prospective employers will look through applicant’s social media accounts. Go through your teen’s accounts with them and have them remove anything that could cause prospective employers to get the wrong impression. It is a good opportunity to remind young people that what they post on social media now will follow them for years to come, and could even be a factor in college admission and post-collegiate employment decisions.
Research the Opportunities-  Many teens submit applications all over town and take the first job they are offered. While that willingness to work is admirable, it might not turn out well for your teen or the employer if the position isn’t a good match. Have your teen research the positions they are interested in, find out what the job duties and expectations are, and make informed decisions about where to apply.
Rehearse the Interview- While it might feel a little awkward, role-playing the interview with your teen will help them nail it when they go through the real thing. Make sure to talk about the importance of a firm handshake, steady eye contact, good posture and being well-groomed. Help your teen come up with some insightful questions about the position, and remind them that asking about pay rates, breaks and time off are likely to raise a red flag for employers.
Create a Plan to Save – Nothing teaches teens the value of a dollar better than earning it themselves – and they are not going to want all that hard work go to waste by spending every last dime. Talk to your teen about what they plan to do with their earnings and encourage savings to be part of that plan. Whether it is contributing a portion to an existing savings account, adding to a college fund or putting the bulk of it towards a large goal, such as buying a car, help your teen come up with a plan to make their money work for them.
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The Best Budget-Friendly, Last-Minute Gifts

With Christmas approaching quickly, there’s a good chance your gift-buying budget might not be what was expected. Here are some easy, inexpensive and thoughtful gifts you can whip up yourself with minimal time and just a few steps. You might even have some of what you need on-hand already. And the best part? They don’t look or feel ‘last-minute’.
Christmas Stovetop Potpourri- The scents of citrus, cranberries and spice are unmistakably festive. Who wouldn’t love getting all the ingredients together in a jar, ready for simmering? It’s easy, fun and cheap, too. Put together a few jars for neighbor gifts or to have o- hand if guests drop by unexpectedly. Cinnamon Honey Butter- If you’ve been doing any holiday baking, chances are you already have everything you need to make this sitting in your kitchen: butter, cinnamon, honey and powdered sugar. It’s delicious on waffles, rolls, muffins, pancakes- just about anything made from dough. Whip up a batch, put it in cute jars, and you have several gifts. 
M&M Cookies in a Jar- Maybe you meant to bake but never got around to it. That’s OK. Layer all the dry ingredients in a jar, tie it up with ribbon and attach the full recipe for a fun and easy gift that will come in handy when post-holiday cookie cravings hit.
Movie Night- Get a classic holiday DVD like Elf or Home Alone, put it in a popcorn bucket with a few boxes of movie candy and some sodas, and you have a fun gift that is perfect for a wide range of age groups and interests. 
Money Tree- A gift of cash is always appreciated. You can make it creative by folding it into the shape of a Christmas tree. It’s cute, easy and makes cash so much more giftable. 
Mini Emergency Kit- There isn’t anyone who wouldn’t appreciate having a kit filled with those little things they can never find when they need them. Take a plastic travel soap holder or small metal box and fill it with a few Band-Aids, mini hand sanitizer, a Shout wipe, safety pins, lip balm, antacids, pain reliever and more. it might not be glamourous, but it will become someone’s favorite gift ever when they can find exactly what they need in a pinch. 

Budget Gifts with a Twist

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean the pressure to spend has gone with them. Retailers pull out all the stops this time of year to make us believe that everything they offer is a ‘must-have’ or the best deal ever. They’re so good at it, in fact, that the National Retail Federation predicts consumers will spend more than $6 billion on Holiday gifts this year. Seems excessive, right? 
The good news is you can still enjoy the thrill of exchanging gifts with friends and family, while staying out of the malls and big box stores. Using your creativity, innovation and a giving spirit, you can create moments of surprise and delight that mean more than any sweater, toy or gadget ever could. 
The Gift of Time- There’s no greater gift you can give than yourself. Offer the gift of your time to a friend, neighbor or relative you know could use your help. Whether it’s baby-sitting so your sister and her husband can enjoy date night, setting aside some time each week to take an elderly relative grocery shopping, or feeding the neighbor’s cat so she can enjoy a weekend away, your time means more than anything you can put into a box. Present the gift by creating a simple coupon or certificate, rolling it up like a scroll and tying it with a ribbon. 
Secret Ingredient: Love-Giving homemade treats as budget gifts is certainly not a new idea, but there are easy ways to make it fresh and unexpected. Instead of your usual stand-bys look for updated recipes that add a new spin on the old favorites- like a sprinkle of sea salt on your famous chocolate chip cookies or the kick of cayenne pepper and cinnamon in a batch of peanut brittle for a sweet, spicy surprise. 
Or try going in a whole new direction with a jar of homemade salted caramel sauce, a canister of spiced chai tea mix or a sugar bowl filled with flavor-infused sugar. They may sound complicated, but they are actually simple to prepare and sure to stand out. You can find loads of innovative recipes online. Just be sure to make a test batch if it’s something you’re making for the first time. 
A Gift a Month- In this age of digital everything, there’s something familiar and comforting about receiving a magazine in the mail and flipping through its glossy pages. And because of our migration to tech, hard copy magazine subscriptions are more affordable than ever – many ringing in at less that $10 for a full year. They make great, budget friendly, gifts and recipients will think about you every time a new issue arrives in the mail. 
Present the gift by rolling up a copy of the current issue and tying it with a festive ribbon. Most publishers also send recipients a postcard indicating when the fist issue is scheduled to arrive. 
Teachable Moments-  Maybe you know how to do calligraphy, or bake a perfect loaf of bread, or have a flawless golf swing. Whatever your special talent is, if you have a skill that others often tell you they wish they could emulate, teaching them how to do it is a budget gift that costs nothing more than your time. 
Whether you offer a full-day “immersion” session or spread the lessons out over time, you’ll get to spend time with someone you care about and teach them something you love to do. It’s really a gift for both of you. 
Make a Memory- Group buying sites like Groupon and Living Social are filled with fantastic deals on on, local activities – often priced at 1-for-1 or even less. You can find deals that make unexpected budget gifts like concerts, dining out, classes, wine tasting, hot air balloon rides- the list is almost endless. Of course, it will vary based on where you live, but you’re sure to find something new and interesting. The best part of giving an experience as a gift is the lasting memories you’ll create. Whether you go along and participate in the event or just hear the stories afterward, you  and your giftee will never forget it. 

The Rules of Regifting

If your gift-buying budget is running short and the list of gifts you need is running long, it might be time to consider regifting. But we’ve all heard the horror stories about someone giving a gift back to the person who gave it to them in the first place. Yikes!
The good news is, regifting doesn’t have to end badly. If you exervices some tact, care and common sense, regifting can help you stretch your gift budget this holiday season. Here are some simple rules for successful regifting. 
Know Your Audience- The most terrifying regifting scenario is to give something back to the person who gave it to you originally. To avoid this, regift outside the original social circle. For example, if a gift was given to you by a family member, regift it to a friend or coworker, rather than someone else in the family. Make it New and Nice- Only regift new items in their original packaging. If the packagin (or the gift itself) is dusty, worn, used or damaged, it’s a no-go. Be sure the gift is still usable, working order. Add new batteries or any other necessary accessories to ensure the recipient can enjoy it immediately. 
Be a Wrap Star- This is not the time to skimp on gift wrap. An impressive presentation will make the gift seem extra-special. Go for the beautiful wrapping paper or sparkly gift bag. Add a gift topper like an ornament, chocolate bar or scratch-off-lottery ticket. And be absolutely sure no trace of the original wrapping remains (check inside the box for cards or outdated gift receipts, too).
Know the Never-Evers- Certain things should never be regifted, including: partially used gift cards, handmade or custom items, or anything monogrammed or personalized and free promotional items (because that is just plain tacky). 
Demonstrate Grace Under Pressure- If you’ve taken the necessary precautions and it somehow still comes out that you’ve regifted, own up to it gracefully. Say something like: “This gift made me think of you when I first received it, because I knew it was something you would enjoy, and I wanted you to have it.”

Use the Holidays to Teach Kids About Money

With holiday ads already flooding the airwaves and ‘wish books’ of all kinds crowding the mailbox, the season madness has arrived.Whether you’re a can’t-get-enough-of-Christmas person or someone who’s just shy of bah-humbugging your way through the season, you might be surprised to learn that the holidays are actually a perfect time to teach kids about money and personal finances. 
The season is loaded with teachable moments that can be used to help kids understand the concept of wants vs. needs, how to budget, the importance of giving back to the community and more. Here are some ideas for using the holidays to teach kids about money. 
The 4-Gift Rule- Kids are conditioned from an early age to view the holiday season as a time of excess. The idea that more is better when it comes to gifts is pervasive. If you’d like to curb that kid consumerism and keep gift giving expectations reasonable, try the 4-Gift Rule, which gives kids the opportunity to ask for gifts in four specific categories:

Something I Want
Something I Need
Something to Wear
Something to Read

Limiting gifts to four categories is definitely a money and time-save (less shopping, less wrapping), and it also helps kids focus on and understanding the concept of want vs. need. They can still create a wish list with multiple items in each category, but with the understanding they will receive one thing per category, rather than all of them. 
Budgeting for Gifts- Kids love to be involved in buying gifts for others, which is a perfect way to introduce the concept of budgeting. First, decide on a total amount they’re allowed to spend (whether it’s money they’ve saved, money you give them, or both). Then sit down and write out a list of the people they need to buy gifts for and some ideas for each. Spend some time together researching prices and comparison shopping online, then help kids to make the best purchasing decisions based on the budget. 
‘Tis Better to Give- Why not use the holiday season to teach kids about helping those in need and becoming involved in the community? It helps to take the focus off wanting and puts it on giving instead. There are always plenty of opportunities for giving back this time of year, including: faith-based efforts, adopt-a-family programs, Christmas Angle donation drives and more. Even explaining to kids the meaning and purpose of the ubiquitous Salvation Army bell-ringers is an opportunity to talk about the importance of helping others. 

Keeping your 2017 New Years Resolutions

For many of us, New Year’s resolutions often vanish in days – weeks at most.

“Weight loss” is the No. 1 New Year’s Resolution with 21 percent of respondents, followed by “improve finances” with 14 percent. Nearly half are successful by the six-month marker; the rest give up during that timeframe.

Your personal finances require a better outcome. Even if you’ve resolved before and failed, there are still ways to set a course and stay on track.

Resolution-keeping starts with good resolution-making. It’s one thing to say, “I want to pay off my student loans,” or “I want to retire early.” It’s another to measure the size of the challenge, identify obstacles and build a task list to make that goal happen. So if you’ve committed to a particular resolution, go through it again and identify the behaviors and practices you need to change.

For example, if you wonder whether you’re saving enough, maybe your first resolution is to make or review your budget to get a realistic picture of where your finances stand at all times.

Want to add some fairly easy money resolutions that can help your finances overall? Consider the following:

Know your net worth. Budgeting involves day-to-day tracking of finances, but having a quick way to determine your net-worth – your assets minus your liabilities – offers the biggest picture of how you’re doing and what next steps you might take to improve your circumstances. Make this calculation an annual kickoff to the New Year.

Build an emergency fund. If you don’t have money equal to three-to-six months of daily expenses set aside, make that a priority. Shoring up an existing emergency fund – and evaluating whether it’s still adequate to your needs – is probably one of the best ways to keep other financial goals on track. After all, when emergencies happen, it pulls funds away from bills you need to pay as well as savings and investment goals.

Automate. Depending on your comfort level with all things digital, virtually every aspect of your financial life can be managed online or with computer-based software. From setting up a basic online calendar to track pay dates, bill due dates and deposit dates for savings and investments, automation could help you create a daily series of reminders and action items that will keep your money issues on time and on track.

Recommit to retirement. If you’re employed or self-employed, here’s how to make a retirement savings resolution stick. First, make sure you’re signed up for a 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan at work or a corresponding SEP-IRA, self-directed 401(k) or other self-employment retirement plan that fits your tax and financial situation. Then check what your maximum contribution is for your respective plan. Finally, through budgeting or a plan to bring in more income, determine how you can come as close to your maximum contribution as possible for the coming year. And of course, don’t forget about Traditionial or Roth IRAs that you can contribute to independently of these employer-based plans. All of these options can improve your retirement prospects while saving you considerable money on taxes.

Review your benefits and insurance. For most employed and self-employed people, open enrollment for health and other company benefits wrapped up before year-end. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spend time reviewing the choices you’ve made for health insurance, retirement savings or flexible spending plans, as well as reviewing your personal home, auto, life and disability coverage for potential savings and/or better coverage. If you work with a qualified financial planner or tax professional, you might want to bring up some of those questions with them.

Reset savings and bill repayment goals. By now, you’re probably getting a very good indication that most of your financial decisions are linked. Get some assistance in determining how best to address the amounts and types of bills you have so you eventually free up more money for savings and investments.

Set regular reviews. It’s generally a good idea to review your budget performance monthly to identify unusual items and plan for expenses you’ll have to tackle in the future. You may want to take an overall look at your finances in January and June to make sure spending, savings and investment goals are on track.

Bottom line: Making financial resolutions makes you feel good. Keeping those resolutions feels a lot better. Develop long-term money habits that position you for success.

Be on the Lookout for Senior Financial Scams

Financial scams are an unfortunate fact of life. While no one is immune from them, seniors can be especially vulnerable. Many scammers target seniors, assuming they are not tech savvy or that they have high balances sitting in a checking or savings account.
Whether you are a senior citizen yourself or have friends and family who are, you should be aware of some of the most recent financial scams targeting seniors.Telemarketing- According to the National Council on Aging, seniors make two times more purchases over the phone than the national average, which leaves them especially vulnerable to telemarketing scams. While there are infinite variations of these kinds of scams, recent ones include:

Grandchild Needs Money- Someone calls a senior claiming to be the person’s grandchild who is stranded or injured and needs to have money wired to them. They will often start by saying, ‘Grandma (or Grandpa), do you know who this is?’ When the person responds with a name of one of their grandchildren, the scammer is off to the races. If you receive a call like this, simply hang up. You should also ask your grandchildren to identify themselves by name when they call so you do know it’s really them.
Charity Scams – There is always some version of this scam going around, but they always spike after a national tragedy or international disaster. If you feel moved to donate to any cause, do so on your own, rather than responding to a phone call soliciting funds.

Unsolicited Home Repairs- Usually working in teams of two or more, scammers go door-to-door in neighborhoods with high populations of seniors and claim they have spotted an urgent home repair issue they can fix. They demand payment in cash up front, then proceed to do shoddy, unlicensed work that often creates a problem where there wasn’t one to begin with. If someone you haven’t contacted yourself comes to your door offering home repair, tell them you already have a trusted handyman who does that work and send them on their way.
Reverse Mortgage Scams- The popularity of reverse mortgage has skyrocketed in recent years, opening the door to fast-growing financial scams targeting seniors. Scammers offer seniors unsecured reverse mortgages and promise homeowners cash on their vacation homes (neither of which actually exist) in exchange for the title to their property.
If you feel you or your loved one has been the victim of a financial scam or ID theft, there is help available. First, file a police report, and in the case of identity theft, visit the Federal Trade commission’s website and follow their detailed instructions for creating an identity theft report.
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5 Ways to Save on Kids’ Birthday Parties

There was a time when kids’ birthday parties were simple affairs, with cake, punch, a few games and goodie bags. But in the age of Facebook and Instagram, the desire to capture and share those picture-perfect party moments has created the perception that parties need to be over-the-top perfect to be a success. Of course, perfection comes at a steep price, and many parents fall into the trap of overspending for a party kids might not even remember.
Take a look at these easy, practical ways to save on kids’ birthday parties (and still have a great time):Establish Reasonable Expectations-  Kids follow their parents’ lead when it comes to party expectations. Keeping them in check can go a long way to ensure kids are happy with the type of celebration you have. With younger kids, talk about how keeping the party affordable will help allow for other family activities, like vacations or tickets to sporting events. With older kids, you may want to let them choose: have a party or use the money to fund a bigger savings goal, such as saving for a car or college tuition.
Set a Budget (and stick to it!)- Decide on the total amount you want to spend and plan accordingly. Give yourself plenty of lead time to shop around and compare prices to make sure you are getting the best deals. Use coupons, shop warehouse clubs and browse dollar stores to get the most bang for your buck. It can be tempting to overbuy food and drinks to avoid running out.
Create DIY Décor- Kids love theme parties featuring their favorite Disney characters, superheroes, or video games, but buying all that officially licensed merchandise adds up quickly. Instead, purchase less expensive decorations and paper goods in the character’s color scheme and buy only one or two licensed items – such as a cake topper or poster. You will achieve the look you are going for without the expense.
Combine Food and Entertainment- To save time, money and energy, multitasking is the way to go. Kids love to play with their food, so make it the centerpiece of the party. Set up a make your own mini pizza bar, a top your own cupcake bar, a mini pie bar, or let the kids cut out and decorate premed sugar cookie dough. Just be sure you have enough adult hands around to help clean as you go.
Do Yourself a (Party) Favor- Goodie bags don’t have to cost a fortune. Keep them simple, fun and useful. Rather than filling them with cheap plastic toys that fall apart immediately, load them up with yummy snacks and fun basics like granola bars, fruit snacks, bulk candy, crayons, stickers, erasers in fun shapes, cookie cutters and crazy straws.
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How to Evaluate a Job Offer

You spent countless hours searching, you aced the interviews, you waited patiently and it finally comes – you have just been offered a new job. Congratulations! Few things can match the prospect of a new job for excitement. But before enthusiasm takes over and you sign the offer letter with a dramatic flourish, slow down. You need to evaluate the complete offer before making your decision. Remember, the time to ask questions and negotiate is before your first day of work. Here are several things to consider when evaluating a job offer.
Salary- chances are, the hiring manager has already asked your salary requirements, so the offer should be in that general neighborhood. However, if it comes in too low, it is time to negotiate. Be sure to do your research so you have facts and figures on your side, rather than just an arbitrary total. If the employer absolutely refuses to budge, consider asking for a signing bonus (they are not just for professional athletes) and find out if there is the potential for any quarterly or annual bonuses based on individual and or company performance. If money continues to be a sticking point, negotiate for other things that work in your favor, such as working from home one or more days a week.Benefits- When evaluating the benefits, remember to take into account more than just health care coverage. You also need to consider whether you will have the chance to participate in a retirement plan, whether or not the company matches your contributions, and the amount of vacation and sick time you will receive along with how and when it is grated. Also be sure to find out when the benefits begin; some employers make new employees wait as long as six months. Will you be able to cover the cost of insurance on your own in the interim?
Deal Breakers- Something that may not seem like a big deal initially can become one when you’re faced with it day in and day out. For example, if you are not a morning person but you’re expected to be at the office, ready to go at 7am every day, you’re probably not going to be very happy in the long run. Or if you work best on your own in a quiet room but the work environment is a giant collaborative work space, you migh have a hard time concentrating. Remember to find out all those important day-to-day details before making your final decision.
Unexpected Expenses- Will you suddenly have a longer commute? That means spending more on gas and vehicle maintenance. Moving from a jeans and t-shirts environment to a business casual setting? You are going to need to spend more on clothing. Are you expected to dine out with coworkers for lunch regularly? Those costs will add up. These are all things to consider as you are evaluating your offer.
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How to Save Money During Cold and Flu Season

There are plenty of good reasons to love fall – cooler weather, fun outdoor activities and pumpkin spice everything- but there’s one thing fall brings that no one loves: cold and flu season. Coming down with a nasty bug is not anyone’s idea of a good time, and to make matters worse, being sick can be expensive, too. But it doesn’t have to be. With some planning and care, it’s possible to save money during cold and flu season. Here’s how:
An Ounce of Prevention- The best way to save money is to not get sick in the first place. Keep your immune system strong by getting plenty of sleep, eating healthfully, and staying well hydrated. Keep germs from spreading by washing your hands frequently or using hand santitizer if you can’t wash them right away. Regularly wipe down keyboards, door knobs and light switches with antibacterial wipes. Do your best to stay out of tightly packed crowds and areas where people are coughing and sneezing. If you’ve been around someone you know is sick, change clothes and shower as soon as you get home. Plan Ahead-  There’s nothing worse than waking up with a sore throat and a pounding headache only to realize the cupboards are bare and you don’t have any of the things you need to feel better. Stock up on essentials such as tissues, cough drops, canned soup, tea bags, honey, and whichever over-the-counter medicines you normally use to relieve your symptoms. You will have peace of mind delivered if you’re too sick to get out. 
Buy in Bulk-  You might not need- or have room to store- a 500-count bottle of Tylenol or 24 boxes of tissues. but you’ll save a lot if you buy cold-and-flu basics in bulk. Split the cost of those purchases with a friend or family member and you’ll both be prepared for what’s to come. 
Choose Generic- When it comes to over-the-counter medications, it’s the active ingredients that count, not the recognizable names or clever commercials. Fortunately, most drugstore chains and discount stores display their generic versions of medicines very near their branded counterparts, making it easy to compare ingredients (and prices). You’ll be amazed at how much you can save by buying the store brands. If you have questions or need further reassurance, ask the pharmacist. 
Talk to the Pharmacist- Speaking of pharmacists, they can be a great resource and actually help you save money. A consultation with the pharmacist is free, and they can help you determine which over- the-counter medications are best suited to your symptoms. If you take any prescription medications, talking with the pharmacist before taking anything else can help you avoid potentially costly and dangerous drug interactions.