The Honest Truth About Food Costs in This Country

If we just planned our food budgets better, we could all allegedly spend less money and get better quality food at the same time. But is that really true?

Food costs have long been the subject of many national debates. Americans may not be aware that food has come to occupy an ever smaller part of their budget. As recently as the 1960’s, Americans spent about seventeen percent of their income on food. This was down from more than 40 percent at the turn of the century.
Today,  the average American household spends about ten percent of their income on food. This is a relative pittance compared to some other countries. The French and Japanese spend a lot more than we do.
Food is everywhere in the United States and it is often far less expensive than our forebears might have dared imagine. For many contemporary Americans, the question is not the cost of the food we eat. It is the quality of the food on our tables.
Americans, we are told, eat too much and eat food that is of poor quality. If we just planned our food budgets better, we could all allegedly spend less money and get better quality food at the same time.
One recent meme posted on a popular website takes direct aim at American food spending habits.
Food Price Comparison 3
The top half of the meme has a fried chicken fast food meal. In this scenario, the buyer gets eight pieces of chicken, four biscuits, two small side dishes and that’s about it, all for twenty bucks. In the second half of the meme, the buyer has the same twenty bucks to spend. Only this time, the buyer gets a lot more for the money.
Gone are the fried chicken and side dishes. Instead, the buyer gets all kinds of healthy food. This buyer, we are told, will have two pounds of chicken, ten pounds of potatoes, eight ears of fresh corn, a gallon of skim milk, a pound of lean ground beef, eighteen ounces of oats, two pounds of frozen peas and a pound of dried kidney beans. For dessert, they get a pound of peaches and two pounds of yogurt.
On the surface, this would seem to illustrate the problems with American food consumption in a vivid and accurate way. Most people believe this meme demonstrates just how much Americans need to change their food buying and eating habits. After all, isn’t healthy, cheap food vastly preferable to unhealthy, expensive food? Shouldn’t we all think twice about how better to spend our food dollars and get even more food for less money?
One intrepid Chicago parent saw this meme and was inspired to find out the truth behind the pictures. Was it really possible to buy five or more single, healthy, nutritious meals for the cost of a single takeout meal? Could she buy all this food at her local area supermarket, all for a mere twenty dollars?
Nicole White is a working mother of two with a passion for health care and nutrition. As a nurse in a poverty-stricken neighborhood, she sees clients who struggle with funds for food each day during the course of her practice.
Her Community Nursing project was on obesity in the low-income Black community on the South side of Chicago, giving her a firsthand look at the problems that often result from the food that our poorest citizens consume.
She knows that perhaps her patients could use their food budget in ways that might make their food dollars go further. Yet, she was upset at the prospect of people blithely chiding others for failing to use their food dollars well.
With that end in mind, she looked carefully at the bottom half of the meme and headed to two places. Her first stop was to a Walmart in the same low-income neighborhood where she works. This particular Walmart, unlike full sized Walmarts that are denied permits, was allowed to open specifically because it is in the midst of a food desert. In short, it is no suburban gathering place but rather the store where the powers that be expect poor people to do their grocery shopping.
Her second stop was to the local outlet of her fast food chicken chain.
The net result of her little excursion?
At Walmart the two pounds of chicken ran her over thirteen dollars not the two bucks in the meme. Ten pounds of potatoes was nearly four bucks, not less than three, as was quoted in the meme.
While some items will be more expensive at this time of the year as it is not summer (three nectarines cost her over four dollars while eight ears of corn were about eight bucks) others are in season all year round and still far more expensive than stated in the meme. A pound of lean ground beef was more than five dollars, not the three asserted by the meme.
She also headed to her local fried chicken place where she bought a standard meal including a chicken and three large side items along with four biscuits.
The fried chicken cost? $22.10. The final tally for the food in the bottom half of the meme? A whopping $47.40. While you might think that perhaps costs food costs are higher than other parts of America, this is not true. Many food items like rice, tomatoes, and oranges come in below national averages. Moreover, again this is a Walmart specifically intended to serve the needs of the poor with good, nutritious, cheap food.
Similar food costs can be found all over the country.
Let’s be honest. No one is advocating eating junk food all the time or even more than a few times a month if that. Fried chicken and coleslaw are once in a while items and that’s it. Many Americans could well afford to revamp their food budgets and use them better. Even at about fifty bucks, the second food bill is still a far better use of money. Oatmeal, fruit, chicken, peas, fresh corn, potatoes, and yogurt are all more nutritious than a fast food dinner.
But that’s not why this meme was put out there. It wasn’t put out to remind us all we could choose to use our food dollars better. It was put up to shame people. It was put up to imply that some people spend their food dollars well and others don’t. And that is why, like so many other such assertions, it fails miserably.

How Thinking Like a 10-Year-Old Helped Me Buy a House

Breaking the cycle of poverty is no easy task. But looking to our kids for inspiration can give the strength and means to do just that.

I never thought I’d see the day as a first time home buyer. Each month for eight years, I’d make the bus ride to the rental office to save the 20 dollar processing fee, no matter the weather.

I cursed and muttered, wondering again: when will our last day be? When will it be the last day living in a small two-bedroom apartment facing four garbage bins, a nursing home, and tons of street noise?

At that point in our lives, my husband and I could only fantasize about a dream home for our family. Meanwhile, our 10-year-old son started crawling up the walls of our too-small apartment.

“Why can’t we live in a house like all my other friends?” he wailed one day. “Why do we have to be so different?”

For eight years, he longed to build a snowman in the front yard, dig his heels in the soft earth in the spring, and play with the neighborhood children outside until dark.

I answered him, whispering in his ear, “You know we can’t afford it.” 

He looked hopelessly at the kitchen floor.

For five long years I was trapped in a cycle of negative self-talk that started one day in 2009, when one of the maintenance men came to fix our ceiling fan. As he bolted the last of the screws, I asked if the management company rented three-bedroom houses. With two kids now, we needed the extra space.

“Yes,” he said. “You mean, like three bedrooms and an extra bathroom?”

“Yes.”

He then turned, looked me straight in the eye, and said something totally unexpected. “But those are really expensive. You wouldn’t be able to afford it.”

I thought he was kidding at first, but I could see the intent in his face as he looked directly at me. I tried to avoid choking on the tears. Why would he say such a thing to a complete stranger?
For the next three years, my son would repeat those words every time we passed by a charming house for sale in our neighborhood. 

The words “you can’t afford it” took over not just my life, but his life, too. Each time I expressed how badly I wanted that three-bedroom house, I quickly reminded myself that I was teaching my son lessons in self-worth. Would money be a sticky point for him as it had been for me all these years? Clearly, I had allowed this stranger’s words to determine our family’s reality.

I cried in my pillow at night. I needed to make a change. It was time to break the “poverty mindset” for everyone’s sake. There had to be another way… but how?

I wanted to give my son and now daughter the feeling of a home, not just a rented place. Could it be I was still struggling to feel worthy and deserving of abundance, and teaching my son that abundance is always a struggle?

One day, I took my son aside. “I’ve been lying to myself – and to you – all these years. I’ve been telling myself that we can’t afford our dream house. I’m really sorry. It’s time to break those lies.”

He looked at me as if I’d poured juice over my head.

“You know…our dream home…the one I keep telling you we can’t afford.”

Many of my son’s friends come from wealthy families. We’re the only family that lives in an apartment. My son has gradually accepted that fact, but I knew how badly he wanted that home.

On a piece of paper, I wrote down what we’d need for a down payment, and showed him the number. 

He looked at the number. “That’s not a lot,” he said stiffly.

“What do you mean that’s not a lot?!” 

“Well, it’s not a lot. Why don’t we just save everything and sell anything?”

He was right. 

I couldn’t see past the poverty mindset that had started in childhood and emotionally paralyzed me an adult. I wanted to feel free of money worries, and my son believed it was possible. Together, we could break this cycle. We put a plan in place. 

Three years later, we had enough for a down payment. I had several jobs, and saved every penny that I could. My son contributed by doing odd jobs in the neighborhood and, each week, dumped a jar of coins on my bed.

In December 2014, our family had to make a decision: would we sign the lease for another year? I took a deep breath and approached my husband. No longer would the hurtful words of a stranger hold me captive. 

“There’s no way I’m going to renew our lease for the coming year.” I said, standing up. “It’s time to buy our own place.”

I started to cry.

“What’s happening?” my husband asked.

I’d never told him the story of the maintenance man, and how ashamed his words made me feel. It all poured out – a relief to finally be sharing it with my husband, who loved and supported me.

On March 31, 2015, we closed on a three-bedroom house perfectly situated on a quiet street complete with a backyard, garden, deck, and front porch – everything a starter home should have for our children. Our dream house.

On moving day, my son kicked off his flip-flops and dug his feet in the soft grass while my 20-month-old daughter frolicked in the garden. A few days later, I happily took my laptop outside to work, drinking in the smells and sights of spring.

This is my house. This is my home. 

It’s still hard to believe I’m a homeowner. I didn’t understand how much my own beliefs had limited me, and I couldn’t see how to break the cycle, until my son showed me. I’ll no longer be a victim of negative thoughts or fearful emotions. I don’t have to be.

Some dreams do come true. Open the door – see them, trust them, believe in them.

What Happens When Kids Think Work is More Important Than They Are?

For a lot of families, spending more hours at work than waking hours with our kids is a way of life. But it doesn’t mean they have to feel less important.

“Dada, The Monkey King is tied up!”

My son was updating me on the latest going-ons in the lives of his toys, and catastrophe was afoot. His beloved Monkey King had been captured and there was, he assured me, no escape. Even when I suggested that the other toys might come to the rescue, he shook his head. There was no way.

“They can’t save him,” he told me. “They’re too busy. They have to go to work.”

After work, he explained, his toys would have to clean the house and go shopping for groceries. They simply didn’t have the time in their busy schedules to rescue a suffering friend – and so they had no choice but to leave the Monkey King to die.

It was one of those moments in the life of a parent that are equal parts cute and soul-crushing. My son had been watching us and forming his idea of how the world worked – and he had accepted that people who work are so busy that they have to abandon their loved ones.

Our culture tells us that a man’s primary role is to provide.

When I work, I think I’m helping my family. In my mind, I’m doing what I have to do to scavenge together the pennies my family needs to survive. I’m putting food on their plates, a roof over their heads, and paying for the education that’s going to give my son a better life.

In my son’s mind, though, I’m betraying him. I’m supposed to be his father, who loves him and plays with him, and I’m leaving him alone because there’s something else out there that is more important to me than he is.

This is how I was raised. When I was a child, my father worked all the time – and he taught me that a man should work hard to take care of his family. He would travel around the world for weeks at a time working. For one year he even spent his weekdays living in a separate town, working at a higher-paying job away from home and scrounging up the money his family needed.

Today, I’m the same way. When my colleagues call me “hard-working” they say it with a note of concern instead of admiration. My mind is constantly filled with worries about our debt and about the costs of our future, and I’ve gotten to a point where I feel like I’m wasting time when I squeeze in a full eight hours of sleep at night.

Talking about why money’s important doesn’t fix it.

When my son abandoned his favorite toy, I was forced to look for the first time at how this was affecting him. Huge parts of his day are spent with his grandparents while my wife and I work, and slowly he’s starting to spend more time with them than he does with us. He’s growing more attached to them and he’s learning from them – and not from me.

When I explained to him that Dada needs to work so that we can eat, I saw the cogs of understanding slowly turning in his mind – and it worried me. I could see him putting a price on all of his possessions and the idea of money being more valuable than all other things hit him like an epiphany. I scared myself, wondering, What am I doing to him? Am I turning him in to somebody just like me?

There are things my child needs more than money. He needs to be held more than he needs new clothes. He needs his father to teach him more than he needs new books. And he needs to know that his parents love him more than anything in the world more than he needs things.

Children need love more than anything else.

I can’t stop working. My family needs to live, and my child needs to be able to afford his future. Still, I can make the time I have with him count.

I need to let him know that he’s the most important thing in my life. When I go to work, I need to let him know that I miss him. When I’m at home, I need to play with and teach him – and let him see that this means more to me than money. I need to make sure that he’s getting everything that he needs, and that he’s getting it from me.

I haven’t perfected it yet. There are times in our lives when we struggle more and I have to work harder – and my son gets more distant. Still, there’s one thing we always keep sacred. Every night, no matter how much I have to do, I take him to his room, help him get dressed, and read with him.

And every night I kiss him on the head, wish him a goodnight, and remind him:

“I love you more than anything in the world.”

Why and How to Include Your Kids In the Family Finances

Losing your house makes you really appreciate the importance of money management. Now I pass those values and skills on to my kids through everyday tasks.

You know what sucks? Being broke.

My husband and I learned some cold, hard lessons about life when we were first married and paid no attention to where our money was going. We lost over half of our income (and our house) when we were hit with an unexpected job layoff. We were not prepared.

It took us five long years to recover and pay off our debts, and we had to make big changes in our spending.

Those were emotionally trying times and now we want to do everything we can to keep our kids from knowing that kind of pain in the future. They’re young still – three and eight – but we’ve already started teaching them about handling money responsibly.

You don’t have to go out and buy an expensive kit to teach your kids about money, you can simply let them look over your shoulder to observe the things you do every day for the household.

Kids like to be included in what it takes to run a household, and it increases the chances of them being willing to contribute when asked. There’s no better way to learn than jumping in on real-life, hands-on situations. These suggestions really helped our family:

1 | Let them see you doing the bills.

Invite them to sit down with you as you pay bills, and note the amounts in key areas: housing, vehicle payments, and groceries. Kids are also often surprised at what utilities cost, and that you have to pay for things like electricity.

The amount spent in these areas directly impacts the budget, and determines what is left for “fun money,” activities or entertainment afterwards, and it’s great for them to see that. 

2 | Give them responsibilities at home.

They may groan at having a chore list, but stress their value in the home and the pride of contributing to the household. Toddlers especially like to feel important by helping to fold simple things like washcloths or bringing clothes baskets to the laundry room.

Pay them for the tasks they complete on a chart and let them see their money build up in a jar. Pay can vary depending on age and task, but a good rule of thumb is 50 cents or a dollar per chore.

3 | Let them spend their earnings.

There are a lot of great teachable moments at the store about the cost of different toys and staying within their means.

If they have 10 dollars to spend and a toy they want costs $9.99, you can have them choose something else that costs less, or leave the store and come back after they have earned the rest. It can be hard in the moment not to just spot them the tax, but having them wait or choose an alternative teaches them valuable lessons about patience and spending only as much as they have to spend.

4 | Let them help shop for groceries.

Write out a shopping list and ask them to help you compare prices and brands to stay within a target amount. It’s easier to do this when you have a short list, or just need to pick up a few things.

It’s a great learning experience for them to see how much individual groceries cost, and to compare prices for different versions of the same type of product. I keep a running estimate on the list as I go for what the total will be at the checkout.

It’s also great for them to see the cost when it comes to extras like cookies and soda. Let them study the receipt and talk about how every item might not cost a lot on its own, but it all adds up in the end.

5 | Let them help make dinner.

After seeing how much groceries cost, talk about consumability. The rate at which groceries are consumed and used in recipes directly effects the grocery budget and how often you will need to go back to the store. You can also discuss the expense of eating at a restaurant versus cooking at home.

These are great learning tools for kids that don’t take a lot of time in the long run, and can help set your kids up for success. You can’t predict the future, but you can teach your children to adapt to whatever their circumstances are at any given time.

It gives them a very realistic view of how things work when it comes to running a household and staying within a budget. It’s also a great way to spend quality time with your kids while teaching them real world values they won’t learn in school.

The Experience is More Valuable Than Money

We have to teach our kids that when you spend money, you’re not always buying “things,” sometimes you’re buying an experience.

Today my 12-year-old surprised me. She and my four-year-old finally found something that they both enjoy and my oldest decided she would run with it. 

She asked me to take her and her sister to the store so she could buy them some particular toys to play with together.

I did. I was so proud of her for spending her own money to make this happen, to share this bonding experience with her little sister. Being so far apart in age, they have very little in common, and this made me so happy.

Her sister was elated to have this much attention from her big sister and they excitedly opened their toys sharing smiles and laughs.

It was a beautiful, amazing, and fun time. I wouldn’t give up that experience for the world.

A couple of hours later, though, it hit my oldest that she had impulsively just spent more money than she had intended to on “junk,” and she suddenly regretted her decision. She was in tears – disappointed in the choices she had made.

I sat next to her and brushed her hair from her face, and then I shared with her what I wish someone would’ve shared with me a long time ago: When you spend money, you’re not always buying “things,” sometimes you’re buying an experience.

When you take your kids to an amusement park, you’re not buying the rides; you’re buying the opportunity to see their smiles and hear their squeals of glee. When you buy ingredients to make your family meals, you’re not buying food; you’re buying the opportunity to supply your family with nutrition. When you buy gifts, toys, and clothes, you’re not buying gifts, toys, and clothes; you’re spending your hard-earned money on the honor of providing for your children, your family, and your friends.

I’m not suggesting you spend your money all willy-nilly. As I reminded my daughter, she does not have any monetary responsibilities and was not saving up for anything special. Add that to the fact that, because of her age, she often receives money as gifts, there was no reason not to spend her money like that. I told her that what she did today, the experience that we shared, to me, was worth three times what she had spent.

Maybe I’ve been too money-conscious in front of her. Most definitely the dollar doesn’t seem to go very far these days and I’ve certainly said aloud, “Well, that’s really expensive,” on an occasion – or 15 occasions. 

This made me realize that I need to be more aware of how I talk about spending money. The importance my daughter was placing on money was sucking the positivity out of the experience.  I can only imagine how many times I’ve done that. I don’t want to imagine how many times I’ve done that. 

It must be difficult for those around me to enjoy whatever it is we’re doing/buying thanks to the tension in my face caused by my focus on spending that money. How often have I placed value on exactly the wrong thing?

Again, let me reiterate, I am not suggesting that we all throw caution to the wind and spend, spend, spend. What I am saying is that once our bills are paid, our obligations are met, our charity is given (if we choose to do so in a monetary manner), then it’s perfectly acceptable to spend money to enjoy our lives. 

I believe very little in this life is free (even to play board games as a family, you first have to purchase the board game), and if spending money on something brings us happiness, even in this economy, then let’s do it. 

4 Money Lessons Kids Can Learn on Vacation

Even as you put your feet up and relax, you can also teach your kids valuable lessons in money – what it takes to save and stick to a budget.

When you imagine your next family vacation you probably picture yourself lounging on a beach as the kids play in the sand, or taking in the culture and sights of a new city, or simply riding the Big Loop roller coaster after a generous serving of fried dough.

Wherever you go on vacation this summer, you’re hoping the experience will be relaxing and fun and a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

But even as you put your feet up and relax a little, you can also teach your kids some valuable lessons in money – what it takes to save for something big and stick to a budget.

Since only 17 U.S. states require students to take a class in personal finance, it’s up to parents to teach kids how money works. A family vacation can be a great way to get started.

Here are four ways you can teach kids about money on your next vacation.

1 | Involve kids in planning the trip – including the budget

Start by letting your kids know how much you have to spend on the trip and which destinations reasonably fit within that amount (Hawaii’s out but the California coast is in). Once you decide on a destination, let older kids research what the family can do and see at the destination. Next, look over the cost of each activity and determine what’s affordable within your family budget. It could be eye-opening for kids to realize that going hiking is free while spending the afternoon at the aquarium is over $100.

2 | Set up savings goals for the trip

While researching the trip your kids might discover that going whale watching and visiting Disneyland would stretch the budget too far – this is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how spending goals can be reached by cutting back on other expenses and earning extra money.

Ask your kids if there are ways the family could afford to pay for both activities, and then offer a few suggestions. Maybe you’ll agree to seek out less expensive dining options at your destination or decide to cut back on movie theater visits before the trip. Kids could also flex their entrepreneurial muscle to earn money toward the goal by mowing neighbors’ lawns, pet sitting, or setting up a lemonade stand at the local farmers market.

3 | Get kids involved in booking airfare and hotels

Not all kids will have the patience to sit down and pore over airfare and hotel fares, but as much as possible, getting kids involved in booking airfare and hotels will be a good lesson in comparison shopping. Is the family willing to take a 6 a.m. flight to save $400? And while the resort with the cool pool might be appealing, is it worth it to splurge on accommodations instead of spending that money on attractions?

4 | Designate a daily spending budget for kids

The temptations are endless on vacations. First there’s the cotton candy, then the glow-in-the-dark souvenir magnet, and let’s not forget the tie dye t-shirt. Kids will understandably want it ALL. But if given a budget of say, $20 or less a day, kids will have to make decisions about what’s worth spending money on and what’s not.

And if your kid sees something for more than $20 that they can’t live without, encourage them to either bring along allowance money or earn extra spending cash before the trip.

5 | Real Memories

Family vacations provide a host of lasting memories, like the time the whole family parasailed over the Caribbean or got lost in the back trails of Yellowstone. That’s part of why we take vacations – to bond as a family.

But with very little effort, kids can (often unknowingly!) also gain valuable financial skills. These lessons will serve them well as they enter adulthood when they need to save and budget for bigger purchases  – ones that go beyond the amusement park fried dough.

Buying in bulk and thus saving money is out of reach of many low-income shoppers

Many low-income shoppers, a study finds, miss out on the savings that come with making purchases in bulk.

Many low-income shoppers, a study finds, miss out on the savings that come with making purchases in bulk.

“One of the great ironies in modern America,” writes Mehrsa Baradaran in her 2015 book How the Other Half Banks, “is that the less money you have, the more you pay to use it.”

Her point—that when people don’t have much, a single dollar in some ways doesn’t go as far as it otherwise would—extends to several other parts of Americans’ financial lives, including how they shop.

Two of American shoppers’ (and marketers’) favorite money-saving strategies, the limited-time offer and buying in bulk, come with savings that are more accessible to some consumers than others. Choosing to buy things when they’re on sale or packaged in huge quantities is something lots of shoppers may take for granted as a matter of preference, but for many, these purchases—and the savings that come with them—are out of reach.

Source: The Privilege of Buying 36 Rolls of Toilet Paper at Once

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Do This One Thing So Your College Student Can Manage Money

Knowing how to manage money and stay out of debt can alter the future of any adult – especially those just starting out.

Over the next few weeks, college-bound high school seniors will be walking the stage dressed in cap and gown, receive their diplomas, and begin preparing for their first year of college.

For many of them, this will be the first time they will live independently – do their own laundry, hopefully keep their room in order (yeah, right), and manage their own finances.

While the first two aren’t make-it-or-break-it life skills, knowing how to manage money and stay out of debt can alter the future of any adult – especially those just starting out.

With about 70% of college students accumulating $28,400 in student loans, today the stakes are even higher for college students to manage their money well. The moment these students graduate from school they will need to determine how to pay off these loans while living within a budget they can afford.

The one thing parents can do to set teens up for success

So how can parents ensure their teens are ready to handle the responsibility of managing their own money?

According to the 2015 Money Matters on Campus report, that surveyed 42,000 college students, other than taking a financial literacy class in high school, the one experience that proved to make teenagers feel most prepared to manage money was having their own checking account.

As the report says: “Respondents with a checking account, especially an individual account…were markedly more prepared than those who [didn’t have one].…experience with managing a bank account is a key component of developing independent financial capability.”

In other words, having the experience of managing the deposits and withdrawals of a bank account BEFORE college – and before students’ financial lives become even more complex – means one more thing college-bound teens can feel confident about when they head off to school.

But don’t do this

But what about credit cards? Shouldn’t teens also have experience with credit before leaving for school?

According to the Money Matters survey: “Feeling prepared to manage money in college was not related to a student’s experience with credit cards – it actually decreased as they got cards earlier in life.”

While the report doesn’t say why this is the case, managing credit can in some ways be easier (in a bad way) than managing a bank account – credit cards permit delaying payments until later whereas a bank account is a zero-sum game – either you have enough cash in your bank account or you don’t. Hard choices have to be made when there is little money left in a bank account, while those same decisions rarely exist with access to thousands of dollars in credit.

Don’t forget to have the talk

Beyond giving your teen a bank account, don’t forget to also talk to your teen about how to manage finances.

According to a survey by H&R Block, 75% of teens say their parents are their most important source of financial information. And kids whose parents frequently discuss money with them reported feeling more knowledgeable about personal finance, than kids whose parents don’t discuss money with them.

These financial talks can range anywhere from how to write a check to the impact student loans can have on a graduate’s financial future. It’s also a good idea to explain how credit cards work and the real cost of an item if the card isn’t paid off at the end of each month. Even if your teen won’t have a credit card in college, now is the time to educate them.

The value of a good education

While going to college is certainly a major accomplishment, both for the student and the parents who got them there, being well-educated in basic personal finance can be equally impactful on a student’s future. If a student is unable to manage money, it really doesn’t matter how high-paying a job they land after college.

So while you prepare your teen for college, make sure they are also educated in personal finance – have them open a bank account, hopefully before their senior year – and find the time to educate them about the ins and outs of basic personal finance.

Dear Moms, We Are Dropping Serious Cash on Toys

This year, the smart/connected toy market will hit 2.8 billion. Toymakers can thank moms for that. Here’s what we buy and how we buy it.

The smart, connected toy market is set to hit 2.8 billion this year. And toymakers can thank moms for that.

In a study done by MediaPost and presented at the Digital Kids Conference, 65% of moms will pay more for a smart, connected toy vs. a traditional toy.

Another 23% of us would be willing to lay out 80+ bones for those smart toys.

And what drives our toy-buying, above all else?

An ask. As in, 53% of mothers purchase toys simply because our kid asked us to buy it.

In related news: If I start asking people to buy me things — handbags, BMWs, vacations, whatnot — will I get a yes at least half the time? THAT WOULD BE SO RAD.

Barring a direct ask, moms buy toys that come with the promise of education. Think: STEM — the hottest toy trend of 2015.

Hey, at least our intentions are good.

We research our purchases too. Over 65% of moms sought blog recommendations and read reviews before purchasing.

We were happy enough to ignore the reviews, however, if another mom-friend offered a recommendation.

Awww. That’s sweet! Sisters before stars, am I right?!

Only 28% of us actively look for toys that promote creative and imaginative play.

Of course, imaginative play enhances a child’s cognitive flexibility, encourages the exploration of feelings and ideas, and supports problem-solving skills.

But — hey — no prob.

Maybe we just keep props and costumes in mind when we’re unloading our collective billions on toys this year.

Source: MediaPost
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Who Dares Discuss Paid Parental Leave in the USA?

A perspective on the surprisingly controversial topic of paid parental leave in the US, from a mother who has experienced it from multiple angles.

Writer, coach, and postpartum specialist Allison Chawla offers her perspective on the surprisingly controversial topic of paid parental leave in the US, having experienced it from multiple angles.


In a recent article on the Huffington Post, I asked why mothers in the US are expected to raise the future of our nation without any financial compensation.

After all, infant brain development depends in part on receiving love and having their needs met in the first few months of life. Multiple studies show that a child’s self-esteem, ability to trust, and ability to have healthy relationships as adults are all developed in the first year of life as they’re nurtured by their mother or caretakers.

You can’t put a price on something as essential as that.

In writing that piece, I wanted to highlight a practice that’s already working with great success for other countries. I knew that this would be a controversial topic; I expected both negative and positive feedback.

Unfortunately, many comments seemed to be knee-jerk reactions instead of pondered thoughts. They were higher in number, and far beyond anything I imagined:

“Entitled, much?”

“Get real!”

“What a joke. Everyone with their hand out for money from the tax payer. I suppose if heaven forbid their child passes away, they would want unemployment because they now do not have any job to do.”

“I’d like to point out that the Nazis paid mothers to stay home and have children. Are you saying you want a government like that?”

“In the U.S. you would see some women pumping out babies like guppies.”

“Sorry, you lost me at ‘all mothers matter.'”

Newborn baby sleeping on the chest of his mother

[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]ome background: two days a week I work for an agency that trains and places women in various blue-collar jobs. These women have been displaced in society and are unable to find employment themselves.

They’ve missed the opportunity for education, they have lost spouses, have fallen behind with any skills that would allow them to acquire employment, experienced domestic violence, and fallen into poverty, often despite their partners working. The tragic list goes on and on.

Initially, I couldn’t understand how so many of these people had gotten themselves into such a difficult positions. But within a very short period, I understood that many people, no matter how hard they work, don’t get the same opportunities as others.

They don’t get the best of choices. Others get no choice at all. And despite what many of us think or believe, having a choice is a great luxury.

Not everyone has a partner that’s employed. Not everyone has a partner. People leave. Relationships end. People die. Not everyone gets a 401k or a severance package for the work they do.

The United States Welfare System, in its current state, has been failing for many years. It continues to fail. The same goes for a successful paid maternity or paternity leave program – because the United States hasn’t had one.

Just 5% of US companies offer fully paid maternity leave. There is no set leave for parents after childbirth in the US. Some people get three months while others only get eight weeks, and in certain circumstances, some parents do not get any at all.

[stag_icon icon=”external-link” url=”” size=”14px” new_window=”no”]  Read “The Great Divide in Workplace Benefits” in the New York Times by Claire Cain Miller.

The majority of the population that gets a minimal amount of leave is the same population that struggles to survive on one income or are single parents.

The U.S. is only one of three countries in the world that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave.

The other two countries are Papua New Guinea and Suriname.

There are many other countries like Canada, Sweden, Holland and Britain that have paid maternity/paternity leave and measurable, positive socio-economic and social outcomes as a result.

Countries that offer paid leave for parents have higher rates of people completing college educations, lower rates of unemployed, lower rates of crime, lower rates of divorce and higher rates of parents returning to work after childbirth.

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s essay “A Toxic Work World” in the New York Times meticulously details how the lack of societal support for raising kids or caring for elders in the US forces huge numbers of talented, driven men and women to abandon careers to take care of family.

baby-hand

States are taking the lead on paid leave.

Washington passed a paid family leave law in 2008, (although its enactment has been delayed to 2015 because of budget constraints).

In 2014, new parents in Rhode Island became eligible for paid maternity leave. This was only the third state, after California and New Jersey, where this right was granted. New York and Massachusetts have bills pending in their state houses.

At the national level, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn, but the United States is still one of the only developed nations that does not provide paid parental leave.

Women, who have traditionally been the ones to take family leave, now hold more seats in Congress than ever before. But if the nearly 10-year debate over unpaid leave (finally passed in 1993) is any indication of the way things are going, it is safe to say that we are behind to say the least.

Many citizens are completely unaware of these facts and I believe would think very differently if they had the information.

I don’t blame them, though. Paid parental leave isn’t an issue talked about on TV, or consistently on the radio or in many print publications.

Where it is being discussed it’s also being argued (complete with name calling, based on my experience of talking about it.) I can only hope that so many who are fearless in speaking up for themselves will begin to speak up for others.

It’s time to open our eyes and minds to circumstances that may not affect us directly, but affect our nation as a whole.

Thank you all.