Back To School

School Shopping Tips
Make a list and get your child involved.
Use the recommended or required supplies from your child’s school or teacher as a starting point. If you don’t have a list yet, check with parents at your school who have older kids. They might have good advice about what is required in your child’s grade. Or check our recommendations for elementary, middle, and high school. Sit down with your child and go over your list together. You’ll be teaching her how to get organized, a skill that applies to much more than shopping.

Separate wants from needs.
Most school supplies don’t go out of style, and your child will happily use the unsharpened pencils his older sister didn’t use. But as any parent with last year’s superhero notebook knows, beware the power of trends. Rather than getting into an argument with your older child about whether a backpack with headphones is essential because “everybody is getting one,” try setting a budget for supplies. It will help your child set priorities, learn how to manage money, and start saving his allowance for the items your budget won’t allow.

Take inventory.
Sort through last year’s supplies to see what is left over or can be reused. (Having trouble finding last year’s stuff? Resolve to set up a place to keep your school supplies together this year.)

Start early and look for bargains throughout the summer.
The best bargains are often available at back-to-school sales. Keeping your supply list in your car, your purse or on your PDA will help you shop for supplies as you do your other errands.

Buy basics in bulk.
You know you’ll need paper, pencils, glue sticks and notebooks. Dollar stores, warehouse stores, and even eBay are sources for buying these and other basics in bulk. You and a group of other parents might be able to negotiate a group discount from an office supply store. Then set up a supply shelf or storage container in your home that you can use all year long. You’ll be able to avoid late-night shopping trips to buy notebook paper when you run out. And you’ll know where to find unused notebooks and pencils when it comes time to shop for back-to-school supplies next year. If you set up this storage area near the place your child will do homework, you’ll be modeling good organizational skills and he’ll have what he needs nearby.

Get your kids into the recycling habit.
Now that environmentally-friendly living is a hot topic, it’s easier than it used to be to convince trend-savvy kids that reusing an item is cooler than buying a new one. Help them add pizzazz to last year’s plain notebook with stickers or photos. Set up a scrap paper bin so that paper with writing on just one side can be reused. Check out garage sales, which can be a source of good-quality used items.

Watch for promotions.
Some discount office supply stores offer free shipping on online orders. Local health departments in some areas offer free basic school supplies to parents who bring their children in for immunizations. Hang on to flyers and ads that advertise supplies at a particular price. If the store where you’re shopping charges more, ask the sales clerks to match its competitor. Some stores that don’t offer price matching will still do it.

Figure out when quality counts.
Leaky pens will cost you more in ruined clothes than some more expensive varieties. In the event that a strap or zipper breaks, a backpack with a warranty might be a good investment, even if it costs more.

Help your school while you shop.
If your school participates in a program like eScrip or OneCause, you can shop for supplies from a participating merchant who donates a percentage to your school.

Plan now for next year.
Some schools send a back-to-school list home with kids on the last day of school so that parents can shop for the best bargains. If your school doesn’t do this, get together with other parents or your parent organization and talk to administrators about how you can help your school put together a list earlier next year.

At some schools, parent organizations negotiate with a supplier and buy supplies for the whole school at a discount. They often add a small extra charge that goes to support the parent group.

Finances – Debt and Equity Investments
What are debt and equity investments? Are their markets that different? Don’t know? No worries, we got you covered! This section of finance this month will be discussing the differences between the markets for debt and equity, along with quick info on their investment opportunities.

Their markets:

The basic differences between the debt and equity markets include the type of financial interest they represent, the way in which they generate profits for investors, how they are traded and their respective risk levels. Both debt securities and equity investments have the potential to deliver significant returns. Overall, equity investments represent an ownership interest in a company, while bonds only represent a financial interest.

Debt investments:

Investments in debt securities typically involve less risk than equity investments. However, they also typically offer a correspondingly lower potential return on investment. These investments fluctuate less than the stock market between highs and lows, thus making them less volatile than common stocks.

Debt investments are not centrally traded but are traded over the counter or OTC. Bonds also referred to as fixed-income, are the leading form of debt investments, although mortgages are also included in this asset category. Mortgage investments are secured by the underlying real estate as collateral.

Historical data show that both bond and mortgage markets have been exposed to far fewer significant changes in price than stocks. Also, in the event that a company is liquidated, bondholders are the first to be paid.

Equity investments:

Equity investments involve the buying and selling of stock and are conducted on trading exchanges such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or Nasdaq. No matter the kind, all stock markets have the potential to be volatile and experience dramatic fluctuations in share values. These substantial price swings can sometimes have very little to do with the stability and good name of whatever corporation’s value they represent; instead, they are sometimes caused by social, political, governmental or general economic issues occurring within the origin country of the corporation.

Equity investments can essentially be viewed as taking on a greater risk of loss for the chance to earn a potentially higher return. To be successful, equity investing requires a substantially higher level of research and monitoring. There is generally a much higher turnover rate in the holdings of equity portfolios than there is in bond portfolios.

This article is for information, illustrative and entertainment purposes only and does not purport to show actual results. It is not, and should not be regarded as investment advice or as a recommendation regarding any particular investment action.

Personal Interest – Fall Home Prep
With the start of school comes a familiar time of year. Think orange. Think yellow. Both are vibrant colors that represent the start of Fall! Are you ready for it? If not, check this section for how to prepare your house for the Fall season!

Examine your roof/gutters/downspouts for debris:
Your roof is often forgotten because it is not at eye-level to give you a subtle reminder every time you walk past it. Clear leaves, dirt, and pine needles from gutters; and examine downspouts for damage or loose pieces. Check the flashing around your chimney and any openings in the roof, such as skylights, for leakage problems.

Examine the grounds of your property:
Before the grass is covered with snow, or it is too cold to venture outside, check walkways for cracks and loose paver material. Fix walkway and entryway areas before slippery weather can cause a tripping or falling accident.

Change the filters in your home:
If you have a central air conditioning system, change the air filter regularly. If you have a window air conditioning unit, remove it from the window or place a waterproof cover over it to prevent damage. Change filters in stove vents, clothes dryers, and room fans if applicable. Clean air filters will keep your family healthier in the Fall months.

Still, have leaky faucets? Repair them now:
Before the temperatures start to dip low, examine leaky faucets in the kitchen, bathrooms, and utility room locations. Most likely the time and money spent now to fix it will be less than a broken pipe in the dead of winter!

Prepare your fireplace:
For people who use their fireplace more than their central heating in the fall and winter months, be sure to discard old ashes and ensure the damper is open to allow air to freely move through the chimney. When the air becomes cold, close the damper again after cleaning. Check the damper handle and springs to ensure the flue is operating correctly. Hire a professional chimney sweep if needed.

Drain your water heater:
If you live in an area with hard water, extra amounts of sediment could be building up in your tank. Now is a perfect time to drain your water heater and make sure rust is not developing in your tank as well. If your water heater is extremely old or rusting, consider purchasing a new one that will be more cost effective and energy efficient.

Check windows and doors for drafts:
The majority of conditioned air in your home is lost through the windows and doors. Go through your home and open windows to ensure the seal and caulking around the window frame is in good condition. Think of adding heavier drapery around windows that are extra drafty, to help block some air infiltration.

Clean and store seasonal outdoor furniture:
Once you have taken your last plunge in the pool this summer, power washes outdoor furniture and cushions. Once dry, store cushions in a dry area to prevent cracking, and fading over the fall and winter months. Once spring comes along next year, you will be pleased that you stored them and they’re ready for use!

Have garden power tools serviced:
Once your grass begins to enter the dormant stage, take your lawnmower, trimmer, and other tools to get their blades sharpened and fluids topped off. If you’re in the market for new garden power tools, buy now when the season is almost over… you will find great deals!

Take care of your irrigation/lawn needs:
Depending on where you live, the climate for your lawn and its irrigation system may need to be checked. Consider having an irrigation service professional fix broken heads before the cold weather sets in. If you want to prevent spring weeds and winter lawn damage, don’t forget to fertilize. Visit your local garden center to find out information on what type of fertilizer to use and when to spread it.

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