Jana Says

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Family matters

9 ways to help build kids’ self-esteem

Yesterday I participated in a Twitter chat with one of my favorite sites, UpWorthy. The topic was parenting and raising good citizens and our concerns about both. Towards the end of the chat, I became involved in a discussion with some of the other participants about giving kids good self-esteem. She mentioned that she has an exercise that she’s done with her own sons–writing a list of 10 things they like about themselves–and has done with elementary school classrooms as well.

sharkThen she said that when she did the exercise with a class of third graders, there were some kids who could not think of one part of themselves they liked. This was a direct result of what the adults in their lives say to them or what they hear the adults in their lives say about them.

Take a minute to let that sink in. Eight and nine year old CHILDREN could not think of anything good about themselves because of the impact the adults in their lives had on them. That’s the power adults have. We have to power to make kids feel like they don’t matter, like they’re unimportant and that they have no good qualities. We have the power to destroy their self-esteem.

But we also have the power to do the opposite. We have the power to build them up and make them feel good; like they can conquer anything. We have the power to make them realize just how important they are–important to themselves, to us, to the world as a whole. And it doesn’t take a ton of time or effort. Or even money. Just doing some of the following:

  1. Praise them. Even if you think it’s for something mundane like homework or chores, tell them they did a good job. 
  2. Be present. Show up for a sports game or a music concert or if your kids are younger, offer to volunteer for an hour in the classroom or chaperone a school field trip. Your presence makes a huge difference to a kid, whether he admits it or not (and even if he says he’s embarrassed).
  3. Ask about their day. It doesn’t matter if it’s during dinner or at 5:00 the next morning when you’re both getting ready for school or work. Take 5 minutes and ask if they’re nervous for the test or if they have plans after school or who they sat with at lunch.
  4. Be involved. Not helicopter, hovering parent involved. But knowing what classes your kid is taking or who their friends are or even what music they like to listen to is being involved and shows that you care. Kids like it when parents pay attention.
  5. Show affection. It can be a hug, a high five, a smile…pretty much anything (obviously the level and type of affection will depend on the nature of your relationship).
  6. Offer encouragement. Tell the child you believe in him. Support his efforts. Be there to say “keep going. I know you can do it!” And do this unconditionally, even if his choices are not what you would have necessarily made for him (unless those choices are dangerous and/or criminal and/or self-destructive).
  7. Set them up to succeed. Play to their strengths, not their weaknesses (and for the love of all that is holy, never tell a kid “you’re not any good at that”). It’s like this quote:einstein fish quote
  8. Offer nice words. Kids want to hear people say nice things to them. Positive reinforcement is good. “I’m proud of you” goes a long way. Try to say at least one kind, positive sentence a day. And don’t always make it about their appearance. They need to understand that their self-worth is not always related to how they look.
  9. Include them in conversations about them. This is particularly important for older kids. If you’re at a meeting with a teacher, coach, school counselor, probation officer, or anyone else, and the kid is present, include them in the conversation. Ask her questions and ask for her input. Don’t talk about her like she’s not there. She is and she can hear everything you say. So choose your words carefully.

Now, we need to note that as parents, aunts, uncles, teachers, whatevers, we can do all of this and a kid can still turn out with low self-esteem. Peers can play a huge part in that, and, in that case, all we can do is provide a safe place for them to turn and for us to tell them what their classmates say isn’t not true. Unfortunately, we can’t make the kid believe us over their peers. But we sure as hell can try. And we sure as hell need to.

Don’t forget about Mom! She needs life insurance, too!

Since I’m off in Nashville this week, some of my incredible Bloggers Helping Bloggers participants have agreed to fill in for me. Today’s post is from one of our mentors, Jeff Rose who is a certified financial planner and an Iraqi combat veteran. He runs the blogs GoodFinancialCents.com and LifeInsurancebyJeff.com.

rubber stamp with inscription INSURANCEThe job of a stay at home mother is one that no salary amount could compensate for. From parenting to cooking, the duties are endless and determining the right amount of insurance coverage in the event that something happens to this person is key.

If you came to my house, it would be no different. Aside from the duties listed above, my wife is also a resident nurse, tutor, sports equipment manager, UFC referee (we do have have 3 boys 🙂 ), and much, much more.

Quick math shows that the typical $25,000-$50,000 policy would not be enough to even cover the lost wages of the breadwinner of the family. Heck, even a $250k-$500k policy might not be enough.

Adding the monetary value of some of the tasks that a mom performs on a daily basis brings us even further away from the range of a standard policy. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that most Americans to not have enough life insurance coverage.

A 2010 LIMRA study shows that 30% of American household have no life insurance at all and another 58 million are not insured enough.

Most that don’t have life insurance claim that it “cost too much”.

Really? Do these people not realize how cheap life insurance really is?

It is difficult to plan for an unfortunate event to happen but it should be looked at as a means to protect your family in the event that you cannot anymore. Of the women in the workforce, their life insurance coverage is far exceeded by their male counterparts. For stay at home moms, the amount is even less.

How Much is Momma Worth?

According to a study performed by Salary.com of 8,000 stay at home moms, it was determined that their value is equivalent to a salary of $112,962. Dave Ramsey came in with an estimate closer to $300,000-$400,000. I’m pretty sure why wife’s estimate is 3-4 times of what Dave’s is. 😉 (Jana’s note: trying to put a salary on the job of “mom” is one of my pet peeves, but I like Jeff so I’ll let this slide).

Regardless of where you value yourself as a stay at home mom, it is important to consider every task you perform as well as other considerations such as the cost of child care. The tasks that a stay at home mom performs have real economic value which is why life insurance for stay at home mom is so crucial.

Who’s Watching the Kids

In addition to the various duties of a stay at home mom, the duty of watching after children is by far one of the most expensive to pay someone else to do. Child care costs are extraordinarily high as is, but depending on where you live, they can eat a large portion of your paycheck each month.

In 2010, the average cost of care for an infant in Mississippi was $4,650. In the District of Columbia this cost was $18,200. We have 3 boys with an adoption pending. Imagine the cost for our family. <gulp> (Jana’s note: Where I live, it costs roughly $800/month for an infant. By the time my daughter stopped attending daycare last year, we paid $660. And, now that she’s in school, before and after care, we’d need to pay about $300/month. And let’s not even discuss the wallet abuse that is summer camp. When I talk about going back to “normal” employment, we often come back to this point).

It is important to take location into account when determining just how much life insurance you will need.

Other Important Factors For Life Insurance

Not only does life insurance help to pay for some of the duties that a stay at home mom performs, but it is also essential for funeral arrangements as well as children’s college tuition. Losing a loved is emotionally tough. It doesn’t have to be financially tough, too.

Even though I’m the bread winner in our household, having to raise my boys without my wife is something I don’t even want to ponder. She does so much for our family and if I had to replace her, I would spare no expense to make sure they had the best care until they were old enough to attend school.

Where Do You Buy Life Insurance?

In years past, the common thing to do was to call your local life insurance agent, have them come to your kitchen table, and buy your policy that way. While that still occurs, it’s much more convenient nowadays to hop onto Google and do your life insurance shopping that way. By Googling “term life insurance quotes“, you’ll find over 41 million results! Granted there not all good; but it’s a good indication on easy it is to shop online.

If you do buy life insurance online, be sure to identify a true independent agent that can work with dozens of different carriers. Many local independent agents and online sites claim to be independent, which they kinda are, BUT they may only work with 10 different carriers. In comparison, my agency works with over 60 different carriers which increases the likelihood of you truly getting the lowest rate. There are many other independent agents that do the same.

How do you find out? Just ask. If you get an agent on the phone, ask them how many different carriers they work with.

With all of this in mind, it is difficult to argue that stay at home moms do not need life insurance. Knowing that your family will be well provided for in the event that something unfortunate happens gives you peace of mind which to many is considered invaluable.

Overwhelmed and eliminating it, day 5: At home

homeHome is a funny place. Home is where we’re supposed to go to escape from the stress of friends, work, and the outside world in general. But home can also be a place of stress and feeling overwhelmed if you’re not careful. That’s why it’s important to do what we can to eliminate it as much as possible when you’re inside the 4 walls of your home.

While it’s not possible to control everything that causes anxiety and overwhelmedness (I’m starting to think I need to petition to make this a word), it is possible to take some action:

Have a budget. This goes without saying. One of the biggest causes for being overwhelmed is money. Bills, savings, long term planning, day to day expenses—money is part of our day, every day, whether we like it or not. And there is just so much to do! However, trying to do it all at once is frustrating so I recommend, like almost every other personal finance writer that has ever existed, have a budget. Having a budget will eliminate a good deal of your sense of being overwhelmed. You won’t have to figure out how much to pay the credit card company or decided what you have for groceries or put off that necessary haircut or contribute to savings. You’ll already know because you put it all on paper. If you don’t know where to start, Dave Ramsey’s website has a great free tool to get you started.

Having a budget sounds like a lot of work and it is. But the outcome is worth the effort, and your stress level will thank you.

Create a meal plan. I was not blessed with the ability to look at raw ingredients and whip up a meal at a moment’s notice. I know this because, for a while, I tried. I would go to the supermarket, buy what I wanted, and hope that meals would come out of it. They did not. And I would get overwhelmed because I knew I had to feed my family but I couldn’t figure out what so I would maybe freak out a little, perhaps throw in a bit of yelling, and then declare I was not cooking and we needed to order in (like the dad in A Christmas Story. “Everybody, upstairs. Get dressed. We are going out to eat”). Needless to say, it wrecked our budget.

So I decided that I needed to meal plan. And while meal planning does help keep our grocery budget under control, it mainly gives me a sense of calm regarding what to make for dinner. I don’t get overwhelmed at the thought of having to cobble something together that would probably taste terrible and my freak outs are kept to a minimum. Everyone appreciates that.

Organize. We’ve already discussed why it’s important to get organized and methods to do so I’m not going to rehash that. However, I do want to add a bit. Getting organized at home makes everything run much more smoothly and it prevents those “everything is going crazy all at once and I need a break or I’m going to build a blanket cocoon and stay in there with my wine and only my dog is allowed to visit me” moments (although, admittedly, that does sound like a pretty good day). Having your home organized means you’ll get out the door on time. Having your home organized means you won’t have to buy a birthday present 20 minutes before the birthday party nor will you have to feverishly search for wrapping paper. Having your home organized means you get free time back because keys don’t get lost, backpacks aren’t misplaced, and bills are paid on time (you can also accomplish this by automating your bills, something I highly, highly recommend). Having your home organized means you can do activities as a family in peace instead of chaos (controlled chaos is okay. Actual chaos, not so much).

In fact, being organized is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a Pinterest worthy organizational system. It just has to be something that works for you and your family. (Note: lists are my go-to organizational tool. Actually, I love lists so much I have a whole post planned discussing how lists can keep you from feeling overwhelmed).

Whether you live in a household of 1 or 10, there’s opportunity to become overwhelmed. Stressors come with every circumstance and it’s important to find a way to combat that.

Readers, what do you do in your household to keep from feeling overwhelmed? 

5 frugal ways to celebrate an anniversary

Today is my 9 year wedding anniversary (insert well wishes, congratulatory sentiments, and statements of shock and awe here).  Over the years, my husband and I engaged in some pretty extravagant activities to commemorate the day we got married and maybe we incurred some debt to do so (cough…trip to Key West…cough). But not this year. This year we got a little smarter and decided that it’s possible to celebrate our anniversary in a special way without spending a fortune.


Here’s what we did (or plan on doing):

  1. Went out for breakfast instead of dinner. Although we plan on going out to eat this weekend (probably paid for as an anniversary present from the in-laws), we decided to do something today. So we decided to go get bagels rather than going out to dinner. This saved us money on two fronts: breakfast is way cheaper than dinner when you’re at a restaurant and we didn’t have to pay for a babysitter because our daughter is in school.
  2. Bought cards, not presents. Six weeks elapse between my anniversary and my birthday. And there’s Mother’s Day in between. I’ve absolved my husband of expensive (or any, for that matter) anniversary presents for that reason. But we make sure to give each other cards. Lots of savings to be had there (on occasion, we’ve even made cards but ain’t nobody got time for that this year). 
  3. Stay home and had drinks. Well, not really drinks as I haven’t had a drink since the red wine incident of 2012. However, my husband found cocktail flavored jelly beans and we plan to have those as a substitute. It’s a tiny little pack of jelly beans which cost a fraction of a cocktail at a bar or restaurant. I just hope it’s as tasty.
  4. Did a craft. I know this sounds weird but stick with me. Apparently, the 9 year anniversary is the pottery anniversary. Instead of going somewhere and getting all Ghost, my husband went to the craft store and bought us plaster ice cream cones and paint for us to do at home (not quite pottery but close enough). So much less expensive and I don’t have to contend with other people complaining about how they suck at art. Double bonus!
  5. DIY present. I can’t divulge too much detail because the husband sometimes reads my blog. Even though I don’t ask him to get me a present, I still like to do something for him. I have something planned this year that involves Pinterest, Snapfish, and the Dollar Store. It will probably cost me all of $5, a few hours of my time, and it’ll be more valuable than any golf club I could buy.

We decided to do it this way because a) we’re on a much tighter budget this year than ever before and b) we’re trying to save money for a big 10 year anniversary celebration. We want to go on vacation, with our daughter, and doing that is going to require spending a good amount of cash. By saving money this year, that gives us a little more to put away for next year’s big one.

For us, the most important part of celebrating our anniversary is not how much money we spend or the presents we have to show off. No, for us, the important part is doing something that’s meaningful and special. And that can be free.

Readers, how do you celebrate your anniversary in a frugal fashion? Any tips for us for upcoming years? 

How to teach your kids about money

Although I am rarely at loss for worded or topic ideas, readers are the main focus of this particular blog. Yes, my story is somewhat interesting but for the most part, I like writing what you want to know. One way I sought to accomplish that was to ask the members of a financial Facebook group I belong to what questions, information, or advice they'd like to have. One of the members asked for information on teaching kids about money, hence this post. If you have anything you'd like me to write about, or have any questions you'd like me to answer on the blog, please don't hesitate to contact me (note: I am not a certified money counselor, financial planner or anything remotely related to that. I am a mother and that's pretty much my only qualification on this topic).

If you have a child, you probably want them to understand money. You want them to know all the things you know, and maybe some that you don't, so they can be financially successful adults (however you define successful). In order to do that, you need to give your kids a solid financial education at home. School may touch on the topic but their attitudes and habits towards money are behaviors learned at home. In order to give them a great financial education, here are some suggestions:

  1. Include them in financial discussions. Bear in mind, this is dependent on the child's age but even a kindergartner can participate in conversations about saving money for a vacation, how much to spend on a birthday present, or what's a fair rate for her allowance (or salary. My friend does this instead of an allowance and I love the idea). Allowing them to participate in budget discussions not only shows them that talking about money is not taboo but it makes them feel empowered and responsible to be part of the family's money.
  2. Give them autonomy. Although many will disagree with me, I think gift cards for a kid are a great idea. It's a very basic beginner budgeting tool (as there's only a finite amount of money to spend and they have to figure out how to get the most from it), it gives them the freedom to dictate how they spend that money. Giving them the leeway to choose how they spend birthday money, part-time job money, or any other money that they come into is a good learning experience. And practice for later on, when they really have to manage their finances carefully.
  3. Make it fun. Let's face it. Money can be a pretty boring subject to discuss. Many adults hate talking about it and that's why they don't. But managing finances is as much a life skill as doing laundry and cooking and it needs to be taught. In order to do that, the learning should be shrouded in things that are engaging and entertaining. Playing games like Life, PayDay, and Monopoly are great learning tools for kids of all ages. In my house, we read books like Sweet Pickles Elephant Eats the Profits and Just Saving My Money. There are also some good money apps and websites you can use (our favorite is the Money Savvy Pig). Participating in these activities is tons more fun than giving a lecture on compound interest.
  4. Model the behavior you want them to learn. If you want to have a kid who's a healthy eater, you need to show them that fruits and vegetables taste good by eating them yourself. If you want to have a kid who exercises, they need to see you going out for a run or taking an exercise class. If you want to have a kid who reads, they need to see you sitting down and reading a book. The same goes for being financially responsible. If you want to have a kid who doesn't fritter away money, can separate needs from wants, knows how to save, is charitable (with either time or money), and is smart with investing, you have to do all of this. The whole “do as I say not as I do” routine is completely ineffective and will most likely perpetuate the cycle of poor money management.
  5. Make it age appropriate. This was mentioned in point 1, but it is crucial. What you can teach a 16 year old about money is completely different than what you can teach a 6 year old. If you are too basic for an older child or too sophisticated for a younger one, you'll lose their interest and the message and lesson will get lost. If you are at a loss for ideas or activities fore teaching kids–particularly the younger ones–about money, Pinterest has some great ideas. One favorite activity in our house is to play grocery store. We put out food all over our living room, give our daughter some play money and let her go shopping after she makes her list. It's fun, it's family time, and it teaches a valuable lesson. However, if she were 16, we'd probably do something entirely different to get our point across.

One essential element that you need to consider before teaching your kids about money is the child's readiness and eagerness to learn. Some kids are ready and willing to digest the information at a much younger age than others, and you need to work within that. Trying to force kid to learn before he's ready might actually wind up defeating the purpose. Although I'll admit that you won't know that until you try.

As parents, we need to not shy away from giving out kids a financial education. What they learn as a child will impact their future and we need to set them up for success the best we can.

Readers, how do you teach your kids about money? If you have adult kids, what worked and what didn't?