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Getting Ahead
3rd Quarter 2008

In this issue:

Tips to Prepare Kids for Back to School

Save Money By Controlling Household Budgets

Making the Most of Your Family's Summer Vacation
Tips to Prepare Kids for Back to School
"Will my teacher be nice? Where will I sit? Will the other kids like me?" Many kids get nervous about heading back to school. With a little preparation, parents can help. Here’s how to make your child’s transition a smooth one.

Remember routines. Family routines tend to slip in the summer and it can be hard to readjust come fall. Well before school starts, get your children—teens included—back into a routine of regular bedtimes, exercise and meal times.

Get ready! Don’t underestimate the fun and importance of new stuff for the big day. Younger kids will be satisfied with a bag full of school supplies, a new backpack and a few new items of clothing. For tweens and teens, allowing one or two affordable “must-have” trend items will add some excitement.

Show them the way. For children who are new to the school, show them where the classroom is located, what entrance and exit to use and where the bathroom is located. Young children who take the bus should visit the bus stop location and understand how to get on and off. Show them the drop off and pick up spot at school too. Call the school ahead of time to confirm the appropriate place.

Prepare the teacher. Inform your child’s teacher about any specific behavior or health issues (i.e. bladder infection, allergies, etc.).

Talk, talk, talk. Think of all the positive things your children like about school and talk about them as much as possible. Ask about friends they haven’t seen over the summer. Make note of anything different that their friends will notice, such as a new hairstyle or if they’ve grown over the summer. Avoid mentioning homework or teachers they weren’t crazy about.

Be organized. Ease back-to-school anxiety by being prepared. Help children lay out their clothes and pack their backpack the night before, and continue this routine throughout the school year.


Save Money By Controlling Household Budgets
Household budgets are feeling the strain these days. Gas prices are soaring, the cost of food is rising and interest rates on credit cards and mortgages are up. Do you feel like you're headed for a budgetary meltdown? Don't despair. Almost every household budget can be trimmed, which eventually frees up more money for savings.

The following ideas from ClearPoint can jump-start your family's budgeting efforts:

Rein in utility costs.
  • Keep air conditioning thermostats at 78 degrees. Also, invest in ceiling fans, they allow you to set the thermostat at a higher temperature.
  • Check for leaks around doors and windows; replace weather-stripping. Add insulation in your attic if needed.
  • Take shorter showers, reduce the temperature on your water heater and install a low-flow showerhead. Repair leaking faucets and toilets.
  • Wash only full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine.
Save at the grocery store
  • Buy store brands. They cost less than name brands and are of acceptable quality.
  • Plan your meals before shopping, take a list to the store and stick to it.
  • Coupons can save you hundreds of dollars a year on grocery bills. Take advantage of specials and store loyalty cards.
Curb entertainment expenses.
  • Eat at home more often. Make double portions when you can and freeze the extra meals to reheat on nights when you don't feel like cooking.
  • If you're used to dining out with friends, substitute potluck dinners and take turns eating at each other's homes.
  • Consider some low-cost family outings (museums, free concerts, nature walks, etc.).
Watch those credit cards!
  • Always pay more than the monthly minimum and you'll knock down that balance (and save on interest costs) much more quickly.
  • If you have balances on multiple credit cards, repay the ones with the highest interest rates first.
  • Pay with cash. Try living without your credit cards for a week or two; you might find it much easier to control your family's cash flow. You'll also learn how to distinguish between "wants" and "needs."
By following these money-saving tips, and seeking professional credit counseling guidance, your budget will be on the road to recovery in no time.

Source: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

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Making the Most of Your Family's Summer Vacation
Don't let the high cost of gasoline and airline tickets keep you from treating the family to a nice vacation this year. Family trips don’t have to be expensive. The key to finding great deals is planning.

Use the Web to find the best bargains in air travel and the cheapest rates for car rentals, hotel rooms and vacation packages, whether you travel in the U.S. or internationally. Also check sites that specialize in family travel. Travel With Kids lists promotions each month, as well as deals at major resorts, and has loads of vacation ideas and tips.

Go outside of your comfort zone and visit "off-the-beaten-path" destinations. You can save up to 70 percent and avoid the crowds by choosing a vacation spot that isn't a tourist Mecca. Being flexible with your time can save you a lot of money. Find a great deal on flights and lodging then determine where and when you'll go rather than picking a location and time frame, then trying to find affordable flights and lodging there., which predicts whether fares on 2,000 domestic routes will go up or down, has a flexible-search option that lets you see a range of prices for flying on different dates and from different airports. Enter your itinerary, and the site will say whether you should buy your ticket now or if a better fare is probably on the way.

If you have a large family and buying airline tickets for everyone is out of the question, choose vacation spots within driving distance—within just a few hours drive away. In addition to saving money, you'll minimize the times you'll hear that inevitable question coming from the back seat: "Are we there yet?"

Another way to save is on meals. Eat breakfast where kids eat free and split meals. This can mean an enormous saving for a family of four or larger. Children are many times too excited or tired to eat much at a time. Restaurants that are kid friendly are more than happy to accommodate special requests for extra plates. Take snacks to satisfy those between meal hunger pangs. Eat lunch in your room. You'll be surprised how good a peanut butter sandwich, chips, and fresh fruit tastes away from home, and everyone gets a needed break from the heat and crowds of tourist destinations.

Finally, take advantage of coupons. Whether it is for lodging, food, or attractions, coupons save money. Find them online, in local newspapers, at convenience stores, motels and other locations.

Sources:, MSN Money Central

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Saving Tip: If you save $3.00 a day from July through Thanksgiving, you’ll have about $425 to spend during the holidays.