Hope for your financial life and beyond

This Alternative to Christmas Gifts Was Our Best Decision Ever

Are you looking for an alternative to Christmas gift giving? I get it. Christmas is one of the highlights of our family’s year. In my mind nothing beats it for family togetherness and sharing expressions of love through giving gifts. Even with that though, there have been times where my wife and I were frustrated with the presents we put under the tree.

alternative to christmasWhy was that? Because we found ourselves hit with a January hangover effect. We watched as the majority of the presents our kids received lie dormant in the corner of the room, not being touched.  I would say that over 80% of the toys my wife and I purchased for our kids each Christmas were played with a couple of times and then left to collect dust. That was frustrating considering the money we shelled out for them.

So one year, we were simply tired of the whole thing. We didn’t want to waste money on things we thought were great but that they weren’t going to use. So we decided to do something different. I’d even call it radical.

We decided not to buy any Christmas presents! Sorry Santa. 

To our surprise, when we told the kids what we were doing, they were 100% enthusiastically behind it. How could that be? Because we had an alternative to Christmas gifts that, as it turns out, they would never forget.

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When It’s a Challenge to Say I Am Thankful for You

Have you ever reflected on people who meant a great deal to you a long time ago? Sometimes these people fade from our memories as time passes. We may have lost track of them and forgot how much they impacted our lives. It would be great to reconnect with them and say I am thankful for you once again.

One such person in my life was a youth pastor. Not only did he become a mentor through my middle and high school years, but became someone I considered a friend (as much as a teen can have an adult i am thankful for youfriend). I don’t know where I would have ended if not for his guidance and counsel.

I did move away and distance kept us from interacting much into my adult life. But we did reconnect a few years ago and had a wonderful conversation about our past and current lives. So before I left our time together, I said to him how I am thankful for you being in my life.

That reconnection reminded me that I don’t say I am thankful for you often enough to those I see everyday. There are so many people who support me, encourage me and flat out love me no matter what. Life would be a challenge and quite frankly no fun without them. Family, friends, work associates – they lift my spirit on a daily basis. I am thankful for them being in my life.

But there is more to this thankfulness business than we think. Are we only to be thankful for those people who are close to us or that we would consider good?

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Why I’m Thankful for First and Second Chances

We’ve all had moments in life when we were granted first and second chances even though we probably didn’t deserve it. Remember that first big break? Can you relive the feeling? You were emotionally on cloud nine after being given your first chance to show the world what you were made of.

More than likely, it took a long time and a lot of effort for you to break through and secure your first opportunity. But still, that first chance to prove yourself happened fairly early in life, sometime in your 20s.

second chancesThere is no logical reason why anyone would give a person in their 20s a chance. Generally speaking, 20-somethings have no money, no experience, and no patience. They are idealistic to a fault, thinking they alone hold the key to changing the world. They disdain older generation, thinking they are pessimistic, set in their ways and out of touch with contemporary culture.

Of course I’m exaggerating with this characterization. Many 20-somethings are not like this. I was though, even though it may not have appeared so to those around me.

Yet someone still gave me a first chance.

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Why Parents Should Never Give Kids Money for Good Grades at School

Parents (and some schools) have often given money for good grades as a tool to motivate their kids to do well in school. During my years as teacher and principal at several private schools, I’ve known about it happening at all levels, from kindergarten through high school. I heard rates that varied from $5 – $100 being offered by parents for kids earning A’s in a class.

money for good gradesYes, you read that right. $100 per A, per semester!

Start calculating that out over 6 or 7 classes and it makes me want to go back to school. Seeing that I was a straight A student I would have made a killing.

Some parents I’ve heard have a higher standard that requires their child to get A’s in all classes in order to receive any money. The theory behind that approach is to develop a well-rounded child who excels in everything.

Neither of these options ever felt right to me. So early on my wife and I decided we would never give our kids money for good grades. Here’s our reasoning and what we chose to do instead.

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Secret Advice For Teenagers Who Love to Spend Money

You know who you are – a teenager who loves to spend money like it’s going out of style. You spend money faster than it takes a Snapchat to disappear. Money comes into your hand one minute and flows out like water the next.

spend moneyAnd you like it that way!

If that’s you, I have some special advice today. It’s unusual, maybe even secret advice. I’m pretty sure you’ve never heard any adult say this to you before. In fact, your parents may hate me for saying this because it might go against how they have instructed you to handle money. So I’m actually running a big risk here.

But before I reveal this big secret about spending your money, you have to promise me something.

The promise I’m asking you to make is to read this entire post. You are going to love what I have to say about spending money,  but you can’t take it as stand alone advice without understanding the bigger picture. As they say, the devil is in the details. So I’m asking for five minutes of your time to help you avoid a huge potential failure when spending money.

Ready for the big, secret advice? OK, here goes…

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7 Tips on How to Handle a Teenager’s Car Accident

Calls in the middle of the night are never good. Neither is the one when you say “Hello” and your teenager is crying on the other end. Your heart immediately drops because you are scared and know they are hurting. That was my experience anyway when I got a call from my daughter after her first car accident.

car accidentShe had just left basketball practice and was traveling at the legal speed on a country road. As she came up over a small hill and cars were stacked up four deep waiting for someone to turn left. She wasn’t on her phone but admittedly was a little tired from practice. By the time she realized what was happening in front of her, it was too late to brake in time. The truck she was driving rear-ended the last car in the line. The driver of that car had her foot slip off the brake and hit the accelerator, propelling her down into the ditch. On the way, she clipped the car in front of her.

As rear-end car accidents go it wasn’t pretty. My daughter’s airbag in the truck deployed. The car she hit obviously had damage in the back end but also in the front, as it hit a telephone pole when it went to the ditch. The third car had minor bumper damage. In the end, our used truck – that we had owned for less than a month – was totaled.

Thankfully, everyone was OK. No hospital visits were needed. And the people involved were pretty nice about it. I think they could see how upset this 16-year old girl was having caused her first accident.

I hope I never have to take that call again from any of my other kids. Odds are though I will. But as the oldest child often does, she broke new ground and helped us figure out how to deal with a teenager’s car accident. So here are 7 things I learned from the incident.

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The 10 Best Summer Jobs for Teens and College Students

Memorial Day marks the official beginning of summer. For teens and college students that means one of three things. Either you are:

a) continuing school by choice (to get ahead) or out of necessity (because you failed)… summer jobs for teens

b) looking for a summer job to earn money or…

c) in for a really boring summer sleeping in and playing video games.

We all know that teens and college students love money. But we also know that some of them NEED money in a bad way. They have lots of expenses, from gas for the car, to eating out with friends, to paying for college tuition and expenses. Many times, parents are unable to fully fund (or refuse to fund) these expense categories. So teens and college students are left to support themselves. And the time to rack up the big money in a paycheck is over the summer when they are out of school.

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How to Determine If People Really Want Help With Money

I have been interested in personal finance for quite some time now and love to help with money. I could teach the subject and dish out solid advice for hours. In fact, that’s what I do at my full-time job as high school economics and personal finance teacher. Teaching my students satisfies my appetite on the topic of money.

help with moneyThe funny thing though is, in everyday life, I rarely get into conversations about money.

Why?

Because people rarely ask. Every once in a while someone will approach the subject because they know my interest in it. But not often.

And even more rare are those times when I bring up the subject to someone else. I even resist when I see them making a poor personal finance decision. I’ve learned that when I initiate conversations about money it doesn’t go well.

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7 Positive Lessons from Job’s Friends on Helping Hurting People

Ever felt like you had no clue how to help someone who was hurting? It doesn’t matter if the pain is physical, emotional or spiritual. Too often we simply freeze, not really knowing how to best help our friends in need.

Should I give them advice? Try to cheer them up? Give them a hug? Offer to help them in some way? Who really knows, right? It’s simply hard to know the appropriate way to respond so as not to hurt or offend them further.

jobs friendsThe Bible records a story for us about a man named Job (pronounced “jobe”). In his story, we see him experiencing some of the deepest emotional and physical pain one could be dealt. In his distress, three of his friends came to be with him. The initial steps they took serve as an example to us all on how to respond when one of our friends is hurting.

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The Best Definition of Teamwork You’ll Ever Read

Like all other sports enthusiasts, I am starved for athletic competition right now. In recent months, the spread of COVID-19 has disrupted sports around the world. I’ve always enjoyed playing and watching sports, mostly because it consistently reminds me of what it means to work as a team. That reminder points me back to perhaps the best definition of teamwork I’ve ever heard.

definition of teamworkIronically, the quote is not from someone related to sports. Rather he was a successful businessman turned philanthropist after he generated an incredible fortune in the steel industry. He believed that great wealth was a sacred trust and that the possessor of such wealth was bound to use it for the good of the community.

If you’ve guessed Andrew Carnegie, you’d be correct.

Being a successful businessman, Carnegie must have known something about leading teams. So it’s no surprise he came up with this definition of teamwork:

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6 Shocking Things Your Broke Friends Need to Hear You Say

If you’ve ever gotten into conversations with broke friends about money, you know how hard it is to determine if they actually want your help. There are several ways to figure that out and perhaps lead your discussion to a deeper level. If that happens, you’ll learn more about your friend’s financial struggles and perhaps be able to offer some counsel.

However, the counsel part is when it gets really tough. If you’ve had success with money, the answers seem obvious. You know what must be done.

broke friendsChange your habits.

Spend less and save more by following a budget.

Get out of debt.

Invest, invest, and invest some more.

The sad thing is your broke friends might not want to hear any of that. They are in financial trouble for a whole host of diverse reasons. And those reasons have a grip on their life that will make it hard to break free.

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